Letters | Universal salvation, ‘Spotlight’


Albert B. Hakim’s recent article on universal salvation (“Hell, Population Zero,” December 18) proved an engaging read. While the article leans on philosophical arguments, Scripture also offers clues: “He will make all things new again”; “If I sink to the netherworld You are there”; and “every tear will be wiped away.” The last is particularly telling. It suggests that we will retain our essential natures in heaven. Mothers will be mothers, and I cannot imagine a mother, aware of her child’s condemnation, ever being consoled. How could she attain complete happiness apart from her child?

Yet many scriptural passages depict damnation for the unjust. Perhaps punishment comes to an end after it has completed its purpose—a kind of purging? Might this be the deeper magic that C.S. Lewis speaks of in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? But there is moral hazard that comes with universal salvation. Scripture is ambiguous; hell reminds us that we are accountable for our actions. And if all are saved, what is the point of the trials of this world and the struggle against evil? Why evangelize? We should hope for universal salvation (as I suspect our Creator does) while being aware of the idea’s downsides.

John O’Neill
Cedar, Mich.



There is something missing from Albert B. Hakim’s very fine essay on universal salvation: prayer. The church is not in a position to teach the doctrine of universal salvation; yet it is not only allowed to hope for it, but according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is also enjoined to pray for it (1037, 1058, 1821). This is in line with Scripture. Just prior to 1 Timothy 2:4–5, which Hakim cites, we read: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (I Timothy 2:1). This is the context in which we read that “God desires all human beings to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”

George Hunsinger

Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, N.J.



In his review of Spotlight (December 18), Richard Alleva rightly praises both the movie and the Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative team at the Boston Globe whose reporting exposed the sex scandal among Catholic priests in Boston and the cover-up by the archdiocese.

However, there is a problem. Not everything in the movie is true or accurate; it makes up characters and dialogue that never happened and has defamed at least one real-life person (a trustee of Boston College High School). Globe columnist Kevin Cullen reported that when he asked Tom McCarthy, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay, what he had to say about this complaint, McCarthy replied by email, “We feel confident, based on our extensive research, that the movie captures a high degree of authenticity the nature of events, personalities, and pressures of the time.” When Cullen asked McCarthy for an interview to ask specifically, “Why make a real person look bad with words he didn’t say?,” McCarthy’s spokeswoman said they would limit their response to the email. The film confirms the Pulitzer quality of investigative reporting at the Globe, but in the process it has damaged an innocent man’s reputation.

Gerald H. Anderson
Hamden, Conn.

Published in the January 29, 2016 issue: 

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