The Third Rail
the Kingdom of Heaven
are many … “hard sayings” … in Holy Scripture.
That is to say, there are many passages, parables, and other
vital teachings of Christ and Holy Mother Church that,
if we heard them from the pulpit in Church —
and we don’t — we would rather not hear.
We will get into some, and we promise you that your modern,
perverse, and effete social sensitivities — together
with your State-mandated and carefully crafted (that
is to say, “educationally endorsed” and brutally
indoctrinated social correctitude — will be deeply offended,
even scandalized, and you will be outraged that the
Church and her God so much as uttered them — even made them
Following John XXIII’s infamous “aggiornamento”, or “bringing
up to date” what had never been outdated — the Catholic Church,
following Vatican II, largely
expunged concepts, doctrines, and even dogma deemed
“offensive” to the non-Catholic World, from Catholic teaching
— and while these core beliefs are
clearly and repeatedly indited in Holy Scripture,
Patristics, and the Sacred Deposit of Faith,
you will never hear reference to them: not at
Mass, not in any homily, not in CCD or Religious Education,
not in Catholic seminaries, and certainly not from the new
Vatican appended with a “II”.
Vatican II muzzled God — and instead of His untainted Word,
gave us a “revisionist”, sanitized, and vastly-abridged
rendition of the Bible more aligned with the prevailing
values of “the World” which ever hated Christ and
those who followed Him (“If
the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated Me before
(Saint John 15.18). This is not to say that such “hard” and
displeasing verses no longer exist in the Catholic
Bible, only that they are never appealed to or
so much as mentioned in any contemporary Catholic
religious discourse, either at the pulpit or the seminary.
Order of Battle
In the Book of Job we are
life of man upon earth is a warfare”
(Job 7.1) Holy Mother Church understood this from the
beginning, and testimony to this enmity between the World
and God is inscribed the in the blood of the
Martyrs. Holy Mother Church ever reminded us of this
Order of Battle and the array of our enemies: The World,
the Flesh, and the Devil.
But that is not taught anymore either.
When it was taught, it is notable that the “World” came first
(ideologies, social remedies, cultures, inculturation,
multi-culturalism, science, theories, politics, parties, public
policies, gender theories, hyper-egalitarianism,
sexual fluidity …). It was the logically necessary antagonist
to which the Church first succumbed. Once the “Windows of
the Church were thrown open” (John XXIII) to the World,
the miasma of the World flowed in while the
Faithful and the Religious flowed out.
After “the World” subverted the Church, the second onslaught
quickly followed: “The
Flesh” — “Free Love” … the mantra of the “groovy” 60’s
and 70’s which ushered in abortion, STDs, drugs,
derangement, “tune in, turn, on, and drop out”, hippies and “acid” —
leaving ravaged bodies and minds as so many tatters of a
concept once deemed a “Person” made in the image of God.
How “devishly” clever it was, as though following some
diabolically Hegelian dialectic (thesis, antithesis,
synthesis) — which brings us to the
third point and our third nemesis:
“the Devil” — who, of course, has never left, and who fanned the
flames of the accumulating madness that ensued — and now may even be
wearing pontificals in Rome.
Like Hell (his abode — to which no one goes after Vatican II),
he does not exist anymore either. As it has been often
stated, his greatest achievement is his convincing us that
he does not exist (of course with the help of the academic
“periti” and non-Catholics who advised and directed the
apparently stultified Council fathers). If satan does not
exist, eo ipso, Hell is a fiction, too. Fictions are,
in fact, routinely homilized at Mass (“Jesus loves you
just the way you are.”) — but not these
fictions. Why speak of what does not exist and which,
therefore, has no influence upon you, let alone an
How to Recognize 600 Volt Homilies at once:
They do not assure us of our salvation
They do not canonize us before we are dead. The question
of our trajectory and to what eternal habitation still
The devil exists and lusts
after your soul and will do anything and everything to
see you rot in Hell with him
Hell exists and people go
Mortal Sin is real and
many people are guilty of it. It is the death of the
soul to God. If you die in the state of Mortal Sin, you
will go to Hell.
Holy Confession is the
ordinary and necessary Sacrament for the remission of
A “third-rail” homily would begin with, let us say, Saint
Paul’s address to the Philippians:
“With fear and trembling work out your salvation”
1 — to mention nothing of the numerous
admonitions from our Blessed Lord that do not merely
“suggest”, but clearly warn us in no uncertain terms of
eschatological realities like Hell that we may find both
appalling and unacceptable — while being undeniably true.
Why do I call such Homilies and Biblical verses “Third
upon them and you are, as a pastor or priest, dead.
Speak of them and you will receive a call from your bishop
to “tone down the rhetoric” and subsequently restore the
cash flow. It is almost as deadly for the Catholic laity
who, understanding them to be part of the canon of Sacred
Scripture (which they, the few, have actually read)
understand them as realities, and in turn are understood
by their peers as (to use the term of Francis) “rigid”,
backward, traditional, pre-Vatican II Catholics more attuned
to the truth than Pachamama and “the environment.
“Third Rail verses” in Holy Scripture, in short, are verses to be avoided at all costs: they are fatal to the one
touching upon them much as the third rail in an American
subway system exceeds 600 volts and, if you simply touch
upon it, will
instantly electrocute you. Such verses, of course, precede Third-Rail
Homilies — to be avoided for the same reasons.
of the Four Last Things
Judgment, and Hell (… but not
Few wish to hear of the first three. Your pastor knows this.
To preach about or to dwell upon such verses is likely to
cause “discomfort” — indignation and perhaps even “outrage”
within — and consequently diminish — the
congregation. They will go elsewhere, and find another
parish and another priest who will assure them of
their salvation (despite what Christ says), their
invincible goodness, and their being “The lights of the
world” and “The salt of the earth”. Such parishes and
priests, of course, abound.
Any hint that Heaven may be closed to some, if not
many, is mocked as “pre-Vatican II nonsense” — in spite
of Christ’s telling us so:
those who enter
by it are
… [and] the gate is
narrow and the way is hard that leads to
those who find it are
(Saint Matthew 7.13-14)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate
is wide and the way is easy that leads to
This is but one of many, many, third-rail verses
found in all four Gospels and most of the Epistles
“Surely”, we console ourselves, “a good, merciful, and
forgiving God would not allow such things to happen!”
Why, then, did He say them?
We do not seek God, but a heaven with a god to our liking
and made in our image. This is another way of saying
“We ourselves will be our own gods for we are more
merciful, more loving, more forgiving, more just, than the
God we find in Sacred Scripture. We will not bend our knee
before that God, but our own god: ourselves!
We will find or make priests and churches that “affirm us”,
comfort us, and tell us that our illusions are realities or
that reality is just an illusion.
This is further to say that we will continue to maintain the
illusions and fabrications that comfort us, but cannot
possibly save us — rather than defer to “hard sayings”
which are enunciated to the end of saving us and bringing us
to genuine happiness (Heaven).
Other factors enter into this obstinate refusal to accept
the “hard sayings”, and we point to them with the deepest
sorrow: these “hard sayings” do not simply involve us —
they involve those we have loved — who have died.
Some of them, perhaps most of them did not accept these
“hard sayings” either. Some of them led extraordinarily
sinful lives, heedless of God and man. Some were little more
than evil. Many simply did not believe, or would not
relinquish what they perceived to be their freedom to do as
they wish, or simply scorned religion altogether. But we
loved them — and love always invests us in the being of
another. Hence our pain.
All or None
Nevertheless, a choice was placed before them, as it is
placed before us now: to accept the “hard sayings” as
earnestly as we accept the more comforting ones. We cannot
choose which teachings of Christ we will accept any more
than we can choose what we wish to be real or true. We
must accept all of them or none of them. God does not
tamper with our freedom, nor interfere with our choices. We
are free to accept or reject, but in either case our choice
is total. We cannot accept or reject the part without
accepting or rejecting the whole, for the parts are integral
constituents of the whole.
Much more to the point, the terms are not of our own making
— they have been divinely instituted. Salvation is
not a referendum any more than Heaven is a democracy. The
means of attaining it have been clearly defined by Christ —
as well as the means of losing it. The choice is yours
they also come into this place of torments”
To return to the discussion of those we love and who have
died, here we encounter the most painful legacy imaginable:
our realization that the road they chose was the one that
was “broad and easy” … To imagine them in torment
everlasting is beyond our ability to comprehend without
verging on despair.
“How wicked of you”, you tell me, “to compound the
grief of those in bereavement! Have they not suffered enough
by the loss of one loved?”
No. It is not wicked. It is painful beyond words. It is
sorrowful beyond description. None of us may presume
salvation, for to do so is to presume upon God’s mercy,
itself a mortal sin! Indeed, I identify more with the
departed than the surviving. I have no assurance of
salvation, for I refuse to presume on God’s mercy and may yet
myself be accounted among the lost — even as Saint Paul
himself feared. (1 Corinthians 9.26)
Should I fear less?
There are indeed those who go to Hell — and likely
many (or Christ is a liar). We must allow this
realization to motivate us with all the more urgency to
bring those still with us to Christ, lest they, too, choose
“the road that is broad and easy” and add to our sorrow even
greater sorrow still.
This was the whole point of the Parable of Lazarus and
the Rich Man: the rich man in Hell implores Abraham
“send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, for I have five
brethren, that he may warn them, lest they also come into
this place of torments.”
(Saint Luke 16. 27-28)
We call our children out of a burning house — we will suffer
burns ourselves and incredible pain to save them — but when they verge on a
Lake of Fire that is the Second Death 1 from
which there is no return ... we say, we do, nothing.
We do not call them back. We do not rush in horror to
bring them back! Why? How is this possible?
So much for our own convictions; for the measure of
our own faith!
Now we come to it: the painful recognition that our love for
them is not greater than our fear of the frowning face of
“the World” ... that no longer has any room for God ... or His children.
Say it is not so!
Pay attention to the third rail!
Ignore it at your
This applies equally to priest and pew alike.
If you would smugly choose your “comfort zone” as a
Catholic, you would do well to consider ... well, its
location as well as its “duration”.
Geoffrey K. Mondello
Boston Catholic Journal
Printable PDF Version
1 Apocalypse 19-20