What Trump's VP pick has revealed about his Christian faith and baptism

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President Donald Trump's running mate, Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), is now a practicing Catholic, but that was not always so.

Years before his baptism and reception into the Catholic Church, Vance told Deseret News he grew up in a "pretty chaotic and hopeless world. Faith gave me the belief that there was somebody looking out for me, that there was a hopeful future on the other side of all the things I was going through."

Vance's Pentecostal father would occasionally take him to church.

"Going to church showed me a lot of really positive traits that I hadn’t seen before. I saw people of different races and classes worshiping together," said Vance. "I saw that there were certain moral expectations from my peers of what I should do."

The future Marine, venture capitalist, and senator indicated that unlike the other children on his block in Middletown, Ohio, the kids his age at the evangelical church he would occasionally attend expected him "not [to] do drugs or have premarital sex or drink alcohol."

Although he found a supportive community through church that could serve as a check against the negative influences he encountered elsewhere, he felt that the particular kind of evangelical Christianity he practiced with his father encouraged "a cultural paranoia where you don't trust and want to withdraw from a lot of parts of the world."

Years later, when he entered Yale Law School, he indicated he "would have called [himself] an atheist." He elsewhere indicated that his reading Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris corresponded with this turn away from faith.

By the time of his graduation, however, he began exploring his faith again.

"Back home, kids who grew up to be relatively successful tended to abandon their faith," Vance told Deseret News. "All of my close friends growing up were all really religious but, with the exception of one of us, we all considered ourselves nonreligious by age 25."

At Yale, I was exposed to faith groups in which that didn't seem to be happening. Mormons and Catholics at Yale Law School, who were really smart and successful, were engaged with their faith. There was a moment when I was like, 'Maybe it is possible to have Christian faith in an upwardly mobile world.' You can be a member of your faith and still be a reasonably successful person. That's not the world I grew up in, but maybe that's true.

Vance hypothesized at the time that the practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Catholicism, contra the variety of Evangelicalism he was exposed to early on, did not apply the same type of "isolating pressures."

Months prior to the 2016 election, he indicated that he was "thinking very seriously about converting to Catholicism."

Rod Dreher, author of "The Benedict Option" and "Live Not By Lies," attended Vance's Catholic baptism in Cincinnati in 2019 and interviewed him about his spiritual life for the American Conservative.

'The hope of the Christian faith is not rooted in any short-term conquest of the material world.'

Dreher, who left Catholicism in 2006 ultimately for Eastern Orthodoxy, asked Vance, "Why Catholicism? Why now?"

Vance's answer loosely resembled that provided by G.K. Chesterton in "Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds": "I became persuaded over time that Catholicism was true."

"I was raised Christian, but never had a super-strong attachment to any denomination, and was never baptized. When I became more interested in faith, I started out with a clean slate, and looked at the church that appealed most to me intellectually," Vance told Dreher.

Dreher, who covered sexual abuse in the church for the New York Post, asked if Vance found "the Catholic Church's travails daunting."

I do in the short term, but one of the things I love about Catholicism is that it's very old. I take a longer view. Are things more daunting than they were in the mid-19th century? In the Dark Ages? Is it as daunting as having a second pope at Avignon? I don’t think so. The hope of the Christian faith is not rooted in any short-term conquest of the material world, but in the fact that it is true, and over the long term, with various fits and starts, things will work out.

When pressed on how his faith might affect his politics, Vance indicated his views "are pretty aligned with Catholic social teaching."

This appears to have helped inform his economic populism.

'Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that if I converted I would no longer be my grandmother's grandson.'

Vance hit on a theme in the interview that has also been explored by other past speakers at the National Conservatism conference, including First Things editor R.R. Reno and Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen: that the Cold War fusion between libertarians and social conservatives, which long defined the Republican Party, did not particularly benefit the latter.

"Part of social conservatism’s challenge for viability in the 21st century is that it can’t just be about issues like abortion, but it has to have a broader vision of political economy, and the common good," said Vance.

Vance indicated in a 2020 op-ed for the Lamp that he often wonders what his grandmother "would have thought about her grandson becoming a Catholic."

She was a woman of deep, but completely de-institutionalized, faith. She loved Billy Graham and Donald Ison, a preacher from her home in southeastern Kentucky. But she loathed 'organized religion.' She often wondered aloud how the simple message of sin, redemption, and grace had given way to the televangelists on our early 1990s Ohio TV screen. 'These people are all crooks and perverts,' she told me. 'All they want is money.' But she watched them anyway, and they were the closest she usually came to regular church service, at least in Ohio.

Growing up with "Mamaw," Vance indicated he was left with the distinct impression that "Catholics worshipped Mary," "rejected the legitimacy of Scripture," and would have the anti-Christ amongst their ranks.

Catholics didn't, it turned out, worship Mary. Their acceptance of both scriptural and traditional authority slowly appeared to me as wisdom, as I watched too many of my friends struggle with what a given passage of Scripture could possibly mean. I even began to acquire a sense that Catholicism possessed a historical continuity with the Church Fathers — indeed, with Christ Himself — that the unchurched religion of my upbringing couldn't match. Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that if I converted I would no longer be my grandmother's grandson.

He later determined, however, that "Catholicism [was] the closest expression of her kind of Christianity: obsessed with virtue, but cognizant of the fact that virtue is formed in the context of a broader community; sympathetic with the meek and poor of the world without treating them primarily as victims; protective of children and families and with the things necessary to ensure they thrive. And above all: a faith centered around a Christ who demands perfection of us even as He loves unconditionally and forgives easily."

Sohrab Ahmari, who similarly interviewed Vance earlier this year, recently told the National Catholic Register that Vance, poised to potentially become the second-ever American Catholic vice president, is "very open and proud about his faith, but it's not that gross over-piety that's kind of fake."

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Seismic shift in Catholic clergy:  'The liberal Catholic priest could ... be extinct' as young conservative priesthood rises

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A survey published last year in the journal Politics and Religion indicated that 53% of Catholic priests admitted to being more liberal than most of their parishioners. Where the Catholic Church in the United States is concerned, the days of the liberal priest are numbered.

There have been indications in recent years that progressivism among Catholic clerics is literally dying out — that the new generation of priests are no-nonsense conservatives, unapologetic about the traditions and moral teachings of the church, and altogether resistant to the ideological fads of the day.

The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., released an 18-page report in November indicating that in terms of theological self-identification, 85% of the youngest cohort of priests described themselves as "conservative/orthodox" or "very conservative/orthodox," with only 14% describing themselves as "middle-of-the-road."

The report, based on a census of 131 bishops and thousands of priests, indicated that this represents a seismic shift, given that "theologically 'progressive' and 'very progressive' priests once made up 68% of new ordinands. Today, that number has dwindled almost to zero."

"We are witnessing a major shift in the way priests in the United States view themselves and their priesthood. Younger priests are much more likely than their older peers to describe themselves as politically conservative or moderate," said the report. "Younger priests are also much more likely to see themselves as theologically orthodox or conservative than do older priests. These shifts can be a source of friction and tension, especially between younger and older priests."

The report concluded that "many of these trends have been decades in the making and show little sign of reversal any time soon."

The New York Times confirmed this week that the priesthood's return to orthodoxy continues unabated.

Brad Vermurlen, a sociologist who has long studied political shifts in the American priesthood, emphasized that the priests ordained since 2010 "are clearly the most conservative cohort of priests we've seen in a long time."

Vermurlen and his fellow academics have observed that these priests are, for instance, by the book when it comes to questions of the sinfulness of homosexual acts and female priests or deacons.

'They're trying to restore what us old guys ruined.'

Referencing the Catholic University of America's findings, the Times highlighted that not a single surveyed priest ordained in recent years has characterized himself as "very progressive."

Younger priests are not just theologically conservative but politically conservative. Whereas roughly half of Catholic priests ordained around the time of Vatican II identified as politically liberal, almost all priests ordained since 2020 are conservative or are at the very least "moderate."

This conservative generation is apparently not interested in sugarcoating or watering down church teaching and are instead keen to embrace challenging teachings.

Rev. Zachary Galante told the Times that numerous priests in the 1970s and 1980s "were looking at the world and saying, 'The world is changing; we need to change too.'"

Apparently neither Galante nor his peers are of the mind that the church ought to be unmoored by the zeitgeist.

Rev. David Sweeney, a 31-year-old priest who was ordained with Galante, raised the matter of the sacrament of marriage and secular hollowing-out of the institution.

"That's a core tenet of our faith that our culture has shifted drastically on in the last 12 years," Rev. Sweeney told the Times. "If we're saying that we're holding to eternal truth, something that is changeless, and the world changes, well, now I guess I've changed in my relation to the world."

Rev. Galante added, "Maybe we're more conservative now because the culture moved, not because we moved."

Earlier this year, Rev. John Forliti, a retired Minnesota priest, suggested to the Associated Press that the young conservative priests "say they're trying to restore what us old guys ruined."

The Times indicated that this restoration not only means that "the liberal Catholic priest could essentially be extinct in the United States" but that it "puts the rising generations of priests increasingly at odds with secular culture, which has broadly moved to the left on questions of gender, sexuality, reproductive issues, and roles for women."

Accordingly, there may be fewer priests like Rev. James Martin doubling as LGBT activists on cable news and more priests reinforcing church teaching on various issues of moral and spiritual consequence.

The generational diminution of heterodox leftists in the priesthood is likely the result of multiple factors, but Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, suggested to the Times that the tendency among increasingly secular liberal families to have fewer children means "there are fewer liberals in the pews with large families."

Alternatively, conservative families who have gone forth and multiplied have contributed more to the pool of potential priests and left a conservative mark on that pool.

There is reportedly also an emphasis on "normalcy" now in Catholic seminaries. Motivated by a desire to flush out potential predators, seminaries screen applicants for psychosexual maturity. It's unclear, however, whether seminaries' emphasis on normalcy and screenings against perversion have also served as checks against progressivism in the priesthood.

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WATCH: Woke church celebrates queer youth — ‘You are queer enough as you are’ — and then invokes the ‘queer ancestors’?!

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As the woke mob grows ever louder and crazier, some Western churches are bending the knee and embracing values contrary to biblical principles, especially when those values earn them the checkmark of approval from the LGBTQ+ community.

Pat Gray and the “Unleashed” team turn their gaze toward the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California, where at a recent service, a “call to worship” involved rejecting all messages that spoke against the LGBTQ+ agenda.

WATCH: Woke Churches Abandon Faith for 'Pride' in BLASPHEMOUS Displayyoutu.be

Pat plays the clip of an adult church official and a child assistant standing in front of a rainbow Pride flag while reading the following blasphemous creed to the congregation:

Officiant: “In the image of God, You created everything and called it good.”

Child: “In abundant diversity, Your likeness is found in us.”

Officiant: “We reject all messages that belittle or degrade any among us.”

Child: “And so in faithfulness to God and one another we proclaim: Sacred are our bodies of every size and disability. Blessed are our sexualities, throwing us towards love of many kinds.”

Unsurprisingly, the creed also touched on gender and race.

“[God] created your body, so do whatever you want with it,” mocks Pat, who’s disgusted by the sacrilegious display.

In the same service, another pair got up on stage and proclaimed: “Help us mirror to one another that you are a God who makes no mistakes.”

Pat sees a glaring inconsistency.

“Right! He’s a God who makes no mistakes. ... If you’re a man, you’re a man; if you’re a woman, you’re a woman. He didn’t make a mistake, so what is the deal here?”

“For queer youth — you are beautiful and wonderfully made as you are. You are queer enough as you are. Your journey to discover who you are in your queerness is a gift to bear witness to and worthy of celebration. Keep going. Keep embracing yourself as you are in bloom. You are enough as you are, and you are a yes to God — always,” the duo continued.

If that wasn’t weird enough, the “queer ancestors” were addressed next.

“For queer ancestors — thank you for your relentless resistance so that advocacy, love, care, and justice could be manifested and continued in this moment.”

Unfortunately, this blasphemous madness isn’t isolated to the Pilgrim United Church. It’s something that is becoming quite common. To see what other woke churches are promoting, watch the clip above.

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What She Saw at the Holy See

Mary Ann Glendon's memoir of her Roman adventures—as head of the Vatican social-science academy, board member at the Vatican Bank, and briefly U.S. ambassador to the Holy See—is charming in all these respects. It is also a record of the Church's upheavals since Glendon was growing up in postwar Dalton, Mass., where the Protestants did the good works—the bake sales and the bus trips to the March on Washington—and the Catholics did the faith, observing a harsh Lent and piously reciting their novenas and rosaries. "With some five thousand inhabitants," Glendon remarks, "Dalton was the size that Aristotle envisioned for an ideal city," and you remember that she is also a professor at Harvard Law School.

The post What She Saw at the Holy See appeared first on .

Parents sue after Catholic hospital in Canada refused to kill their terminally ill daughter

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A Canadian couple is now suing a province and two health authorities after a Catholic hospital refused to euthanize their daughter who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Sam O’Neill, an avid runner and devoted vegan, was diagnosed with stage-4 cervical cancer in early 2022. The cancer was so aggressive that it eventually spread to her spine, breaking at least one vertebra. She also suffered from recurrent kidney infections and osteoporosis.

'You’re being told what you’re requesting is sinful.'

A year later, Sam's health continued to deteriorate. She was then admitted to St. Paul's Hospital, a publicly funded Catholic facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, owned by Providence Health Care, a Catholic medical organization. In spring of 2023, Sam requested — and was granted — assisted suicide services called medical assistance in dying, or MAiD.

Though MAiD has been the law of the land in Canada since 2016, the law provides exemptions for faith-based institutions like St. Paul's, which, in keeping with Catholic doctrine, does not kill its patients, even those with terminal illnesses. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is unequivocal about the evil nature of intentional euthanasia, calling it "murder," regardless of its "forms or motives."

Even with that strict prohibition, St. John Hospice, which is also owned by Providence Health, does kill patients in accordance with civil law. St. Paul's agreed to transfer Sam to St. John, which soon afterward did kill Sam. She was just 34 years old.

On Monday, Gaye O'Neill, Sam's mother and the administrator of her estate, filed a lawsuit against British Columbia through its minister of health, Providence Health, and regional public health authority Vancouver Coastal Health, claiming that the defendants had forced her daughter to endure added pain and suffering because St. Paul's refused to kill her upon demand.

"The circumstances surrounding the forced transfer and Ms. O’Neill’s access to MAID caused and exacerbated Ms. O’Neill’s egregious physical and psychological suffering, and denied her a dignified death," it said.

Gaye O'Neill also went into great detail about her final conversation with her daughter, which apparently took place in a bathroom shortly before Sam's transfer to the hospice.

"We were allowed to say a quick goodbye, so I said to her, 'Sam, I’m so sorry this is happening to you.' And she said, 'Well, it is what it is,'" Gaye recalled.

The family exchanged "I love yous" before Sam was given pain killers and sedatives to ease her journey to St. John. Sam's father, Jim O'Neill, accompanied her in the ambulance.

"It was really, really hard," he said. "You watch her writhing and moaning in pain, not conscious and she’s not going to be conscious ever again."

Jim O'Neill described the experience as "horrendous" and "cruel."

Moreover, the O'Neills claim, Sam never chose to go to St. Paul's in the first place. By refusing to perform MAiD, St. Paul's "violated [Sam's] choice of religion," Gaye claimed.

"They can’t go on hurting people."

In addition to Gaye O'Neill, the lawsuit has two other plaintiffs who seem to have animus against a Catholic hospital for abiding by Catholic teaching. One of the plaintiffs is an organization called Dying with Dignity Canada. Its vice chairwoman, Daphne Gilbert, a University of Ottawa law professor, accused faith-based hospitals of attempting to "stigmatize" the practice of assisted suicide and those who request it.

"You’re being told what you’re requesting is sinful," she said.

Dr. Jyothi Jayaraman, a so-called palliative care physician and coplaintiff, also took issue with a hospital following its founding Christian precepts. "[Canadian Charter law] allows me freedom of religion, which also means that nobody else’s religious beliefs should be imposed on me," she insisted. "I think that is what’s happening, that Providence Health’s religious beliefs are imposed on me in such a way that I can no longer provide care in a medically appropriate and ethical way."

In a statement to Global News, Providence Health reaffirmed the organization's commitment to Catholic teaching and to refusing MAiD practices. However, it claims that it works with Vancouver Coastal Health facilities willing to perform them. "If there are issues or concerns with transfers, the two organizations work to improve the transfer processes wherever possible," Providence Health said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix gave a statement as well: "MAID is a legal end-of-life choice. In British Columbia, it’s strictly regulated, but it’s a legal end-of-life choice. And it’s our job to ensure that people have access to MAID in our province."

In an email to Blaze News, Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition noted that "Sam O’Neill was not denied MAiD," and indeed, received MAiD services at an alternate facility. He also suggested the only crime St. Paul's committed was "refusing to kill their patients."

Finally, he slammed the lawsuit as little more than thinly veiled political activism. "Dying with Dignity, Canada’s leading euthanasia lobby group, is committed to forcing every medical institution to provide euthanasia," he told Blaze News. "Dying with Dignity will not accept any dissent from their demand that all medical institutions must provide euthanasia."

"This story is about using the death of Sam in order to force all medical institutions, including religiously affiliated medical institutions, into providing euthanasia."

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'Cafeteria Catholic': Another prominent Catholic archbishop calls Biden out as a phony

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The Catholic archbishop overseeing the Archdiocese of Washington suggested in late March that despite claiming to be a devout Catholic, President Joe Biden had effectively subordinated his faith to leftist politics. The term Cardinal Wilton Gregory used to describe Biden and others with the tendency to pick and choose which nonnegotiable moral teachings to follow was "cafeteria Catholic."

In his recent speech at a Napa Institute event in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Robert Sarah — one of the most senior and recognizable leaders in the church — similarly slammed Biden, reusing Gregory's descriptor.

Cardinal Sarah, the former head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum under Pope Benedict XVI, noted at the outset of his remarks that the "West, while not the birthplace of Christianity, is home [to] much of what was once called 'Christendom' and much of what has become modern society, the roots of which are firmly European."

Sarah, a socially conservative West African, bemoaned the loss of distinction between the former and the latter, indicating that Catholics in the West have assimilated some of the same beliefs as "the general population."

The Catholic leader singled out Biden, now unpopular with the vast majority of American Catholics, as a poster boy for this kind of syncretism and willfully diluted faith.

"You have a self-identified Catholic president who is an example of what Cardinal Gregory recently described as a 'cafeteria Catholic,'" said the archbishop.

Blaze News previously reported that while Biden was celebrating the so-called "Transgender Day of Visibility" on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Gregory said that "like a number of Catholics, [Biden] picks and chooses dimensions of the faith to highlight while ignoring or even contradicting other parts."

'Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.'

"There is a phrase that we have used in the past, a 'cafeteria Catholic.' You choose that which is attractive and dismiss that which is challenging," continued Gregory.

Cardinal Gregory further suggested that "there are things, especially in terms of life issues, there are things that [Biden] chooses to ignore, or he uses the current situation as a political pawn rather than saying, 'Look, my church believes this, I'm a good Catholic, I would like to believe this.' Rather than to twist and turn some dimensions of the faith as a political advantage."

While Biden's position on gender ideology and homosexual unions certainly put him at odds with Catholic teaching and the church, his radical stance on abortion stands in direct opposition with millennia-old church teaching.

"Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable," says the Catechism. "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life."

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer and former prefect of the church's highest court, said in 2020 that on account of his antagonistic posturing against the church's moral teaching on abortion, Biden "is not a Catholic in good standing and he should not approach to receive Holy Communion."

Cardinal Sarah noted that it's not only Biden who is a "cafeteria Catholic."

"Many of you Catholic public officials are in the same category. Many of your Catholic hospitals and universities are Catholic in name only," said Sarah.

'The latter is a dangerous disease even if its first symptoms seem mild.'

The religious leader noted further that the "important witness to the fullness of our Catholic faith" in America "has been traded for cultural assimilation" and that the "uniqueness of the Catholic community" in America has been lost at the macro level.

However, Cardinal Sarah said that whereas the faith in Europe is "dying and in some places is dead," in part because some prelates are fearful of "opposing the world," the same is not true of the majority of church leaders in the United States.

"[The European prelates] dream of being loved by the world. They have lost the concern of being a sign of contradiction. Perhaps too much material wealth leads to compromise with the world affairs," said Sarah. "I believe that the church of our time is experiencing the temptation of atheism. Not intellectual atheism, but this subtle and dangerous state of mind: fluid and practical atheism. The latter is a dangerous disease even if its first symptoms seem mild."

Cardinal Sarah clarified that by "practical atheism," he meant a loss of the sense of the gospel and the transformation of Scripture into a tool for secular purposes.

This practical atheism is growing increasingly popular among Catholics in other regions of the West, with the ostensible exception of the United States, said Sarah.

Cardinal Sarah added, "Too many do not take the faith seriously."

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Boston Celtics head coach knows exactly who to thank after winning NBA championship — and his postgame shirt says it all

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Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla is not confused about who deserves the praise after winning the NBA championship.

During Game 5 of the NBA finals, Mazzulla wore a black crewneck shirt on the court sideline. But after his team defeated the Dallas Mavericks in a 106–88 rout, Mazzulla stripped off the long-sleeve shirt to reveal a second shirt underneath.

'If we win the championship this year, we're flying to Jerusalem, and we're walking from Jericho to Jerusalem.'

That shirt communicated a powerful — yet humble — message.

"But first ... let me thank God," the shirt said.

Mazzulla, the youngest NBA head coach, is a devout Catholic, speaking frequently about the importance of his Christian faith. He is no stranger to public displays of faith either.

One of his pregame rituals, for example, includes going on a prayer walk around the empty TD Garden arena — the Celtics' home court in Boston — so that he can pray the rosary in peace.

And in a documentary that aired last month, the 35-year-old coach revealed where he planned to go if his team won the NBA championship: Israel.

"If we win the championship this year, we're flying to Jerusalem, and we're walking from Jericho to Jerusalem," Mazzulla said.

“And it will be kind of like just our reconnect. But we went last year, and we stopped right along this mountainside of the Kidron Valley, and you could see a path in between the mountain ... during the time, the only way that [Jesus] could have gotten from Jericho to Jerusalem was through this valley. And right there I was like, 'We have to walk that,'" he continued.

"Most people go to Disney World or whatever, but I think [the Holy Land is] the most important place to go back and recenter yourself," Mazzulla said.

In 2022, Mazzulla went viral when a reporter asked him about the "royal family" — Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton — attending a Boston Celtics game. Mazzulla told the reporter he is "only familiar with one royal family."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," Mazzulla said.

The coach also went viral last week when he shut down a reporter for asking a loaded racial question.

"For the first time since 1975, this is the NBA Finals where you have two black coaches. Given the plight, sometimes, of black head coaches in the NBA, do you think this is a significant moment? Do you take pride in this? How do you view this, or do you not see this at all?" the reporter asked.

"I wonder how many of those have been Christian coaches?" Mazzulla fired back.

Enough said.

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Blaze News original: Understanding hell — Part I

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The Pew Research Center indicated in a December report that 71% of Americans believe in heaven, 61% believe in hell, and 60% believe in both. Gallup and AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research surveys conducted last year turned up similar results. American Christians appear to be keeping these numbers north of 50%.

A 2021 Pew survey revealed that 92% of American Christians signaled a belief in the existence of heaven and 79% said they believed in the existence of hell. By way of comparison, 37% of the unaffiliated camp — which included atheists, agnostics, and "nothing[s] in particular" — said they believe in heaven and 28% said they believed in hell.

A survey now 10 years old indicated that American Jews, meanwhile, are on the whole far more skeptical than even the unaffiliated camp concerning the existence of hell: 22% said they believed in hell, and 70% said they didn't subscribe to the notion.

While many Americans believe that the moral choices they make today could prove eternally consequential for their immortal souls, there are some resistant to the possibility that they might one day face judgment and be found wanting. There are others yet who have taken an active role in reassuring believers that they have nothing to worry about in the way of eternal damnation.

David Bentley Hart, the philosopher who penned "That All Shall Be Saved," is among those keen to discount the existence of hell and shame Bible-citing cautioners. Hart suggested in the New York Times that the corresponding belief is not only biblically unjustified but an anachronistic "instrument of social stability."

Derek Ryan Kublius, an ordained elder in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, similarly figures the belief in hell to be a means of controlling people, blaming the belief largely on alleged biblical mistranslations.

While the likes of Kublius and Hart figure that when it comes to hell, it's more than just the gates that won't prevail, psychologists and bloggers working on eudemonistic presumptions about earthly priorities have warned that a belief in hell might adversely affect mental health and moods.

Given the stakes and the enduring controversy about hell, it is worthwhile reviewing what is meant by "hell" — is it a place, a state of being, or both? Is hell eternal or a temporary means to purification? What action could guarantee a man's placement "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"?

Blaze News put these and other questions to a Catholic cardinal; a British Old Catholic priest; a high-profile conservative member of the Presbyterian Church in America; an Anglican bishop; the executive minister of the Christian Universalist Association; a professor of Jewish studies; an Australian rabbi; and an American Reform rabbi.

In what follows, the accomplished constituents of this octet provide their respective views on the thing of nightmares that haunts the bottom of many a Renaissance painting and perhaps existence itself: Gehenna, the inferno, Hades – hell.

Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Thomas Collins

After earning degrees in theology and English in 1973 and becoming a priest the same year, Cardinal Collins studied at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, specializing in sacred scripture and the Book of Revelation. He received his licentiate in sacred Scripture in 1978 and a doctorate in theology in 1986.

Cardinal Collins has held various academic appointments and leadership roles in the decades since. In addition to his appointment to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, Cardinal Collins ran Canada's largest archdiocese from 2007 until last year.

'Dogma takes its stand on solid ground when it speaks of the existence of Hell and of the eternity of its punishment.'

At the outset of his phone interview with Blaze News, Cardinal Collins referenced three writers with penetrating insights into hell whom he indicated were worth readers' consideration.

The first: St. Thomas Aquinas, whose supplements 97-99 to "The Summa Theologica" detail the nature and physicality of hell and its torments; the will and intellect of the damned; and the endlessness of hell.

The second: the late American Jesuit priest James V. Schall, who noted in "The Modern Age," "Hell, in its original teaching, was a final guarantee of justice. If rightly understood, it is rather a positive teaching, even a freeing one. Hell has too few defenders, not that we advise anyone to choose the place."

The third: Pope Benedict XVI's 1977 book, "Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life," wherein the late pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, noted, "No quibbling helps here: the idea of eternal damnation, which had taken ever clearer shape in the Judaism of the century or two before Christ, has a firm place in the teaching of Jesus, as well as in the apostolic writings. Dogma takes its stand on solid ground when it speaks of the existence of Hell and of the eternity of its punishment."

Hell exists and is eternal

'The second death is a death over which we have some choice by how we live, and we would call that hell.'

Cardinal Collins confirmed to Blaze News that the Catholic Church believes that hell exists, that it is a place, that it is "eternal punishment for those who are guilty of what we call deadly or mortal sin," and that this understanding is supported by the sacred scriptures.

The cardinal highlighted several biblical passages referencing hell, including:

  • Chapter 16 of Luke, where the poor man Lazarus dies, then goes to the bosom of Abraham, whereas the rich man dies and goes to hell;
  • Matthew 25:31-46, which notes that Christ the judge will separate all the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats and will say to those at his left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"; and
  • Chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation, which says "Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire."

Cardinal Collins noted that whereas we all experience the first death, which is unavoidable, "the second death is a death over which we have some choice by how we live, and we would call that hell."

Infernal physicality

When asked about the physicality of hell, Cardinal Collins said that most of the imagery in the scriptures is natural and "comes from something physical on earth like Gehenna."

"So the imagery is there. It is fire. But immediately after death, we're spirits. We know the body is not there. At the resurrection, however, it is," said Collins. "I think the imagery [of hell as a fiery, physical place] is like angels' wings. It expresses something profoundly true, but the imagery being used is natural, it's earthly. It speaks to a truth, but we don't know."

Cardinal Collins underscored that "when we're talking about the ultimate things, the resurrection of the body, we're talking about something we don't understand. Even the risen body. What is it? What do we mean? The only example we have is Jesus after the resurrection, which we have descriptions of. So our mind is really not quite prepared to figure out what it means."

Choosing hell

Cardinal Collins indicated that hell is chosen.

'The collateral side effect of having the freedom to love is, obviously, we also have the freedom not to, and that can lead us away from God.'

"[Life on earth] is a time where we are challenged to make choices. We have free will. That's at the heart of the Catholic teaching on the existence and reality of hell — is free will," said Collins. "If we are to be free to love God, we have to be free to the alternative. Freedom is a key point here."

"The collateral side effect of having the freedom to love is, obviously, we also have the freedom not to and that can lead us away from God," said Collins.

While God wants us to be with Him forever and gives us His grace, Collins indicated sinners can nevertheless "swim against the stream" of His grace and love toward hell.

The unholy trinity

The sinners' damning rejection of the holy Trinity often takes the form of self-worship.

'We get caught up in these little islands of autonomy. Ego.'

Reflecting back on 51 years of hearing confessions, Cardinal Collins said that one of the common penances he gives is, "Say one Our Father and think on the words: 'Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,' because most frequently we say, 'My kingdom come, my will be done.' We get caught up in these little islands of autonomy. Ego."

"Instead of worshiping the blessed Trinity in whose image we're made — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three persons, one God, joined together in love — we worship the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. We implode into ourselves. And that moral spiritual black hole is hell. That's what leads to hell," said Collins.

Just as worship of this unholy trinity amounts to a pre-emptive descent into hell while still alive, Collins said heaven similarly begins on earth.

"It's not completed, but it begins on earth when we love other people with a generous love, when we live in the imitation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — the way the second person of the Trinity showed us how to do it in the midst of this wicked world," said Collins.

Guaranteeing real estate in hell

Cardinal Collins told Blaze News that Catholics believe that sinners can secure their spots in hell by committing "what's called deadly, fatal, or mortal sin."

For an action to qualify as deadly sin, Collins noted three criteria must be satisfied: the action must be seriously evil; the actor must know that the act is wrong; and the actor must commit it freely.

'If any of those things are missing, we're not talking about mortal sin.'

Cardinal Collins referenced the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 and other such massacres as "unspeakably evil" acts fulfilling, at the very least, the first criterion. He noted that extra to non-defensive killing, other actions that would qualify as intrinsically evil would be adultery and abortion, adding that Pope John Paul II provides great clarity on this matter in his encyclical "Veritatis Splendor."

In terms of the second criterion, Cardinal Collins raised the hypothetical of a child who unwittingly kills a number of people after picking up a gun. While the act itself is evil, the absence of knowledge means it is not a mortal sin. After all, even with conscience present, the child had no idea what effect the weapon would have.

The third criteria, that the act must be executed freely, might not be satisfied in cases of mental and medical compromise or coercion.

"So mortal sin is serious evil, knowingly done with complete knowledge, and freely done. If any of those things are missing, we're not talking about mortal sin," said Collins.

The hell-bound society

Blaze News sidetracked the conversation to press Cardinal Collins about whether a society that regularly commits intrinsically evil acts, abortion in particular, would be hell-bound if its population was propagandized into thinking the acts amoral or even good, thereby putting a mortal sin criterion into question.

"Would somebody growing up with a society having their mind twisted by false teachings — swimming through a sea of lies — can they be held morally accountable as they should be for a mortal sin? I would say that's a very good point. I think that is a limitation on their freedom," said Collins.

'We have within us — everyone does, not just people of faith — a basic understanding of right and wrong.'

The cardinal said that on the one hand, "I think our society is so corrupt in its valuation that people can honestly, to some degree at least, they cannot know these things are wrong and/or they might have pressure to do them if they don't have the freedom."

On the other hand, Cardinal Collins emphasized that "there is still conscience."

"We have within us — everyone does, not just people of faith — a basic understanding of right and wrong," said the cardinal. "Now, it can be weakened and corrupted by society, but I think we can’t simply say, 'Oh well, society made me do it.'"

Heaven's antechamber

While Cardinal Collins said Catholics noted that while there are ultimately two destinations after death, there is also a purification process for heaven-bound souls.

"Purgatory is another part of Catholic teaching. It's not — some think of it as a temporary hell, you know, like fire and stuff like that, but just for a short time. That's not the way to look at it. It's not true," said Collins. "Purgatory, purification, is part of heaven. You might call it the antechamber to heaven, and it's a state of purification."

'There's no use praying for people in heaven because they don’t need it or in hell because they can't use it.'

Cardinal Collins indicated that purification can begin long before stepping foot in heaven's antechamber and can take the form of "the struggles of this earth."

Regarding the post-death variety of purification, Collins indicated Catholics pray for the souls of the dead who may not have been fully purified.

"There's no use praying for people in heaven because they don’t need it or in hell because they can't use it. We pray for people who have died and that's found in the Old Testament, in Maccabees," said Collins. "It's a good and noble thing to pray for the dead. That’s what we do at our funerals."

"That's why I don't like it, it's so wrong — I mean, it's understandable, but it's so inadequate — when our funerals are canonizations of people. ... We pray for people that if they are not fully in communion with God yet, they will be purified and they will be with the Lord," added the cardinal.

Hell's relevance

"Hell is part of our faith, but it's not the heart of our faith," Collins told Blaze News. "It's sort of an obvious corollary to freedom, and it's all over the scriptures. It's there in the faith of the church. Yeah, there it is."

In terms of his ministry, Cardinal Collins indicated that hell comes up quite frequently, as he regularly saysLeo XIII's prayer to St. Michael and asks Christ to "save us from the fires of hell" when praying the Rosary. However, he insisted that the Catholic faith is not centered on fear of hell but rather on the love of God.

"If we're dwelling on hell all the time, I think that's not spiritually healthy. But if we ignore it, I think we're naïve, and that’s also not spiritually healthy. The focus of our life is the love of God and living that way," said Collins.

Cardinal Collins summarized the matter thusly:

I would simply say that freely loving God is what God makes us for. If we're going to freely love God, the alternative has to be there that we don't. I think history and simple common sense reveal to us that that happens in life — that people totally go against the love of God.

Look at the horrible things — just look at the last century, at reality, at the horrible things done. And that reality to have the freedom to say no to God is the foundation for the fact, the reality of hell. But hell is not the main thing. We focus on the love of God.

Rabbi Aron Moss

Rabbi Aron Moss is the rabbi at Nefesh Center in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of "Can I Name My Dog Israel: Life Questions That Aren't So Black & White" and a prolific writer whose insights into a broad range of topics, including Jewish mysticism, frequently appear on Chabad.org as well as on his podcast entitled, "Two Jews, Three Opinions."

Rabbi Moss spoke to Blaze News over the phone about the Jewish beliefs regarding the afterlife and the idea of hell, specifically Gehinnom — alternatively pronounced "Gehenna" — as a "great kindness."

Hell exists by another name — but it's neither physical nor eternal

'To be able to get there you need to cleanse yourself of any negative residue that you accumulated during your lifetime.'

Rabbi Moss indicated that he and his congregation "certainly do believe in hell" but noted that hell is an English word with its own connotations. When responding to questions about hell, Rabbi Moss specifically referred to Gehinnom.

Unlike the hell described by Cardinal Collins, Rabbi Moss indicated that Gehinnom is a temporary state that prepares souls for heaven.

"So almost every human being leaves this world with some residue of negativity from their sins, the things they've done wrong in this lifetime," Rabbi Moss told Blaze News. "In order to be able to reach the afterlife, which we call the Garden of Eden, paradise — a place where we enjoy the closeness to God — to be able to get there you need to cleanse yourself of any negative residue that you accumulated during your lifetime."

Bodiless and on the go

Gehinnom serves as a "spiritual washing machine to rid the soul of the residue of negativity that accumulated while in the body," said Moss.

Despite its physical description in sacred texts, Gehinnom is completely spiritual, as is the rest of the Jewish afterlife.

'It's a good exchange rate that we have: A bit of suffering in this world is worth a lot in the next world.'

"The body turns to the dust where it came from, the soul returns to God and on the way to its return to God may go through that cleansing, and it's a purely spiritual state," said Moss. "Any physical terminology we use, like, you know, the fires of Gehinnom or anything like that, are purely metaphorical to understand what that cleansing is."

What is described as fire may instead reflect the feeling that results from a soul's confrontation with its earthly past.

"One depiction of Gehinnom is that the soul has to face its behavior that it's done over its lifetime and by looking back at your behavior from the perspective of truth, when you're in the world of truth," said Rabbi Moss. "So just the shame and the embarrassment of looking back at our misdemeanors and our wrongdoings — that shame itself is like the fire of Gehennim, the heat that we feel in the embarrassment. The soul feels that embarrassment, and that itself is the cleansing."

Like Collins, Rabbi Moss indicated that purification can also take place on earth.

"If we go through pain and suffering in this world, then that is a cleansing of our soul, and a small amount of suffering in this world will exempt us from a large amount of suffering in the next world," said Moss. "It's a good exchange rate that we have: A bit of suffering in this world is worth a lot in the next world."

Some souls too dirty to launder

Rabbi Moss indicated that there are some souls too wicked to be allowed into Gehinnom.

'Once you've studied in Kabbalah, you can see it in the Hebrew Bible.'

"They may be sent back down in a form of reincarnation to fix things on earth. There may be unfinished business that rather than being cleansed, you maybe need to go back down and reverse it in another lifetime," said Moss.

When pressed about the nature of that reincarnation, Rabbi Moss noted that the Hebrew Bible does not go into great detail about what happens to the soul or discuss Gehinnom at length but does, however, provide hints.

"These ideas are much more found in the Kabbalah, the mystical side of Judaism," said Moss. "But once you've studied in Kabbalah, you can see it in the Hebrew Bible."

Rabbi Moss noted that the story of Jonah and the whale serves as a prime example.

"So the Kabbalists understand that as talking about the process of reincarnation. The soul that has a mission to fulfill in this world, and if you don't fulfill that mission, so you can be reincarnated in non-human form," said Moss. "You might find yourself in the belly of a fish. Eventually, you'll be spat up on dry land to be reincarnated in human form and to fulfill the mission that you didn't do last time."

While some souls too wicked initially for Gehinnom may be afforded the opportunity to settle their earthly affairs and try again, Rabbi Moss indicated there are other cases of people whose "evil is so entrenched, so connected to them, that Gehinnom — the sort of external cleansing is not enough."

"The [person's] soul would have to be completely destroyed," said Moss. "And that's a very extreme thing. We're not talking about the garden-variety person who may have done wrong. We've all done wrong. We're talking about somebody who is evil incarnate. I guess Hitler is the one we always use as the example. So someone of that level of evil: It's not enough for them to go through some time of cleansing. That's a different story.

Hell as a great kindness

Blaze News asked Rabbi Moss why hell was a "great kindness," which he has previously suggested elsewhere. He underscored that unlike the hell of eternal torment, Gehinnom is a short route to paradise.

Rabbi Moss noted that "ultimately, the journey of the soul is to reunite with God and to connect deeply and profoundly with our Divine source. That's really where the soul is headed to. In order to get there, we have to get rid of all of the blockages that would prevent us from joining that union with God."

Gehinnom is a kindness for aiding souls in that regard.

"It's not an idea of eternal damnation, and it's [in] order to get to a higher place," said Moss.

More prayers for the dead

Just as Catholics pray for the souls of the dead, so too do Jews. But instead of praying for souls believed to be in purgatory, they pray for the souls transitioning through Gehinnom.

"Jewish tradition believes that the average wicked person has twelve months of cleansing. So in our Jewish tradition, if somebody passes away, their friends will pray for the departed, and we actually say those prayers called Kaddish. It's a prayer that allows the soul to be elevated," said Rabbi Moss.

The rabbi noted that it is customary to pray for the departed for 11 months and not 12, to signal an understanding the decedent was not wholly wicked.

Gehinnom's relevance

While Jews generally believe in the afterlife, Rabbi Moss indicated they don't place great emphasis on heaven or hell.

"We do see it as an important element of faith, but it's not central to our belief system, meaning we do good because it's good, not because we're going to get rewarded," said Rabbi Moss. "We avoid evil because it's wrong, not because we're going to get punished."

Rabbi Moss acknowledged that the prospect of eternal punishment or reward can serve as an incentive and is "necessary for our moral structure" but, again, is not central — especially not a great deal more focus assigned to the here and now.

"We believe that being good and doing good is much more about this world — making this world into heaven rather than going to heaven, and also that the bad that we do makes a hell down here and creates suffering down here," said Moss. "That's much more our purpose — is the here and now."

In "Blaze Originals: Understanding hell – Part II," Rev. Fr. Calvin Robinson discusses the reality of hell from a British Old Catholic perspective; Rev. Dr. Lance Haverkamp discusses the Christian Universalist belief that all souls will ultimately be saved, possibly negating the need for hell; Bishop Stephen Andrews provides an Anglican perspective on the darker side of the afterlife; and Dr. Kenneth Green provides historical insights into Jewish views on Gehenna.

In Part III, Rabbi Shana Goldshein provides some Reformed Jewish thoughts on the prospect of hell and the afterlife; and American conservative talk radio host and writer Erick Erickson goes deep on the Presbyerian Church in America's views on perdition.

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