Friday, March 5, 2010

French Jesuit Theologian Denis Petau, "The Fire Of Hell Is A Corporeal And Material Fire"

The learned Jesuit French theologian Denis Petau, or Dionysius Petavius, who in his treatise De Aiigelis (III. v. 7) says that
"All theologians in the present day, nay, all Christians also, are of one accord in the belief that the fire of Hell is a corporeal and material fire," 
though at the same time he allows that there is no definition of the Church asserting it. It would be tedious to go through the long list of theologians of the Society of Jesus who with one mouth proclaim the same doctrine. Toletus (in 1am partem S. Thomse, q. 64, a. 3); Lessius (De Div. Perf. xiii. 20); Theol. Wirceburg. (De Ang. iii. n. 66) ; Hurter (Medulla Theol. 1236-8) ; Mazzella (Be Nov. VI. vi. 80), are but samples of a long list that might be quoted. We rather turn to one or two who belong to other religious bodies, to show the prevailing unanimity among those whose learning gives them a right to carry weight in such a question as this. Thus the Dominican Bannez uses these words:
" The fire of Hell is a sensible and corporeal fire. This conclusion is so certain that the opposite is to be regarded as erroneous or proximate to error;" 
and Billuart (De Aug. vi. 3, 2) tells us that it is the opinion of the Fathers and of theologians generally (communiter) that the fire of Hell is a material and corporeal fire ; so that though the doctrine is not of faith, since the Church has defined nothing respecting it, yet it seems one that is to be held as certain. In the same way Estius (In Dist. iv. 44, 12):
" It is quite clear that the doctrine which lays down that the fire with which the bad angels, and the lost both before and after the Day of Judgment, will be punished is a corporeal fire, is the common doctrine, and therefore the doctrine of the Church, and one to which we must make no opposition," 
 while Patuzzi declares the opposite opinion to be " in the opinion of some heretical, in that of others, proximate to heresy, while all regard it as at least erroneous and temerarious in the extreme."1 There can therefore be no doubt that he who asserts the metaphorical nature of hell fire makes an assertion which, by the common judgment of Fathers and theologians, cannot be reconciled with the teaching of our Lord, and the repeated declarations of Holy Scripture, and the express proposition contained in the Athanasian Creed. It is not for us to brand the statements of the upholders of metaphor with any theological mark or censure, though we do not see how they can be regarded as men who are not in distinct conflict with the practical teaching of the Church.
Link (here) to The Month, published in 1893 the essay is entitled, Is the Fire of Hell a Material Fire? by Fr. R.F. Clarke, S.J.

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