John Lamont, who in 2004 wrote an article entitled "Why the Second Vatican Council was a Good Thing and Is More Important Than Ever," wrote a second article three years later, entitled "What was Wrong with Vatican II" (New Blackfriars, Vol. 88, 2007). In the latter article, Lamont basically concludes that the problem is not so much with anything that is stated in the Conciliar documents, but rather what was left unsaid. What was critically omitted, he suggests, was any unmissable statement, let alone elaboration, of the rationale for evangelization. In other words, the question left unanswered was: "Why evangelize?" The answer, of course, is that the world needs to hear and respond to the Gospel of Christ and His Church because of the very real possibility otherwise, as we put it in the Act of Contrition, of the "loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell."
What Martin points out, however, is that there are three sentences at the end of Lumen Gentium 16 that in fact do provide the needed rationale. They read as follows:
But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature",(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.The Council fathers were quoting here from the clear statements of St. Paul in Rm. 1:28-29 and the Evangelist St. Mark in Mk. 16:16.
For much too long we have been subjected to a regime of catechetical ambiguity and theological double-speak. Enough. Yes, Virginia, there is a Hell. If we had any compassion as Christians, Francis Schaeffer used to say, we should all be wanting to share the Gospel of salvation with others ceaselessly. The Gospel, in other words, is one starving beggar telling another starving beggar where to find bread.
But from the responses Martin has received in some quarters, one would think he had called for the return of the Spanish Inquisition and the canonization of Tomas de Torquemada. Even the celebrated Fr. Robert Barron, whose good work one might justly admire in almost every other respect, bent over backwards in his article, "How Many Are Saved?" (CNA, December 3, 2012), searching for a way to deflect the magnitude of this threat of Hell. He cites what he identifies as precedents for the notion of universal salvation that appear to be present in the writings of Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Maximus the Confessor. He refers to the writings of Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as the Pope's remarks in "Spe Salvi" (45-47). He adopts the now almost standard "liberal" interpretation of Lumen Gentium, and concludes by treating the matter at issue as though it were a debate over the moot point concerning the number of people of Hell:
It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s position – affirming the reality of Hell but seriously questioning whether that the vast majority of human beings end up there – is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising."Evangelically promising"??? But isn't this precisely the problem with the collapse of Catholic missions and the virtual disappearance of Confession lines today? Most Catholics are so oblivious to the reality of Hell they no longer "dread the loss of Heaven or the pains of Hell" either for themselves, their own families, or anyone else. What happened to the passion for lost souls that animated men like St. Francis Xavier, who dropped everything and hazarded travelling across the globe to win Catholic converts?
Ralph Martin's written response to Fr. Barron can be found here: "Comments by Dr. Ralph Martin on Fr. Robert Barron’s Review of Will Many Be Saved?" (Renewal Ministries, December 7, 2012).
Below is a video, entitled "The strait and narrow path of the new evangelization," in which Martin summarizes the thesis of his book:
There will doubtless be fallout from more than one side on this issue, especially in light of the continued mixed-messages one hears. Another of my colleagues told me today that he was offended by the way Michael Voris, in this connection, raises the question whether Protestants can be saved. My own thought is that I am more concerned at the moment with whether vast numbers of sacramentalized pagans who call themselves "Catholics" can be saved. Perhaps a better way for Voris to have formulated the issue would have been to ask whether there is any other Gospel than that passed down to us through the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church by which we may be saved; and the answer to that question is no.
And, yes, one very good reason to care about these issues is that there is a Hell, and it's possible for us to go there. Nobody in the New Testament speaks more frequently and consistently about this dread fact of "everlasting punishment" and the "fires of Hell" and the "wailing and gnashing of teeth" than -- you guessed it -- "Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild" (Mt.10:28; 13:41-42; 22:13; 25:41,46; Mk. 9:44; Lk. 12:5; 16:19-31; etc.). And, yes, this possibility of our going to Hell is the question to which Christ and His Church and His Gospel are the answer. Too long have we heard vague chatter about God's love and how, somehow or other, "Christ is the answer," while nobody seems to have stopped long enough to ask: "What is the question?"