I was wondering what is the official ontological explanation of the Catholic Church in regard to souls (of humans and fallen angles alike) suffering in Hell. I do not know whether God actively punishes them with His absence or whether it's something else entirely. I think it's plausible to assume that because all souls (and therefore angles and humans) were made in God's image (they are imperishable, eternal...), the active denial of God hurts the very essence of their Being. In other words, the very fact that Satan still exists is due to God and his creation — Satan's souls which was created good. Therefore, his very status quo, the state of opposition and denial of God goes against his essence, and this internal conflict burns him and everyone in Hell forever.

So, the suffering in Hell comes from not being able to bear God's presence. Or is Hell itself absence of God's presence? I don't know, though the first conclusion seems more logical to me, as God is omnipresent. Furthermore, God is Love, so I think that the suffering that comes from the free decision to turn away from Him is more plausible than God actively punishing sinners in Hell. After all, he is the just Judge, not a tormentor.

I hope that this speculation of mine is not heresy by Catholic standards. Thank you for your answers in advance.


Souls who die in mortal sin are actively punished, but others (e.g., those in the limbo for children, who died with original sin and no actual sin) are only passively punished (because deprived from the Beatific Vision).

St. Augustine writes (Enchir. xciii):

The punishment of children who die in none but original sin is most lenient.

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