hell

(probably from Anglo-Saxon: helan, conceal)

Theologically, a place of privation and punishment after death. In the strict sense of the term, hell (infernus) is the place of eternal punishment for the damned, whether demons or men. In a broad sense it may mean:
  1. the limbo of infants (limbus parvulorum), where those who die in original sin, but without personal mortal sin, are deprived of the happiness which would come to them in the supernatural order, but not of happiness in the natural order;

  2. the limbo of the Fathers (limbus patrum) where the souls of the just who died before Christ awaited their admission to heaven, which had been closed against them in punishment for the sin of Adam;

  3. purgatory, where the just who die in venial sin or who still owe a debt of temporal punishment for sin are cleansed by suffering before their admission to heaven.
Under this heading only the strict sense of the word will be treated. The existence of hell is shown from innumerable passages of Holy Scripture where it is referred to, not only as a place of punishment, but as a place of eternal punishment of fire for those who die in the state of mortal sin. The chief punishment is of course loss of God. The location of hell has never been revealed and is a matter on which the opinions of theologians differ. That there should exist a place of punishment as well as a place of reward for men after death is readily admitted by all who believe in the existence of God and the immortality of the human soul. Human reason, however, unaided by revelation, could not know with certainty all that is actually known of hell. Although this is the case, there is no contradiction between faith and reason. One of the most common objections offered to belief in the eternity of hell is that it is repugnant to Divine goodness. This objection is often due to the fact that men fail to remember that God is infinitely just and holy as well as infinitely good; no man will be damned who does not deserve it; God is infinitely wise, and it would be repugnant to this infinite attribute for Him to establish laws which man can violate with impunity in this life without endangering his eternal happiness; the damned persevere forever in their evil dispositions and impenitence.

New Catholic Dictionary

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