In a homily delivered Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI stated, "Jesus came to tell us that He wants us all in heaven and that hell - of which so little is said in our time - exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to His love."
The warning about hell comes in the context of love. In fact, it is because of God's love that He warns us about the possibility of eternal separation from Him. God is, "above all, love," said the Pope. "If He hates sin it is because He has an infinite love for all human beings." The Lord's aim, said Benedict, was "to save a soul and to reveal that salvation is only to be found in the love of God."
While it is true that hell is rarely spoken of even from the pulpit nowadays, some bishops have been moved to warn about hell when motivated by love - by an overwhelming concern for the salvation of those entrusted to their care.
One such bishop, Fargo Bishop Samuel J. Aquila in North Dakota, gave warning in 2004 when the media was rife with stories of John Kerry defiantly receiving communion despite his pro-abortion stance. Addressing all Catholics and especially "'pro-choice' Catholics," the bishop said, "Jesus Christ has warned clearly within the Gospel that hell is a reality and that we are free to choose it. Catholics who separate their faith life from their professional and social activities are putting the salvation of their souls in jeopardy. They risk the possibility of hell."
Other bishops have said the same thing using the phrase "jeopardizing salvation." Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary Alberta issued a public warning in 2003 to then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who was referred to by the Canadian media as a "devout Catholic" despite his support for abortion and homosexual marriage. "He's putting at risk his eternal salvation. I pray for the Prime Minister because I think his eternal salvation is in jeopardy," said Bishop Henry.
Similarly Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs warned in 2004: "Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation." He added poignantly, "Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences."
Prior to his elevation to the pontificate, Cardinal Ratzinger too spoke of the consequence of hell proceeding from attacks on the sanctity of life. "When, as today, there is a market in human organs, when fetuses are produced to make spare organs available, or to make progress in research and preventive medicine, many regard the human content of these practices as implicit. But the contempt for man that underlies it, when man is used and abused, leads -- like it or not -- to a descent into hell," he said in an address in 2001 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Lifesite.net