In theological discourse, "damnation" is one of the terms, "hellfire" being the other, used in connection with the punishment of the demons and the damned. It signifies the technical concept of punishment of loss (poena damni ), the concept used to interpret the primary element in the punishment of the damned.
This concept of punishment of loss is the important contribution to the theology of hell made by the scholastics, but its value is apparent only when set within their thought pattern. There, its content is the punishment due for the loss of God, and this content is objective in the measure that it is meaningful to speak of the loss of God. Loss of the vision of God occurs in the letter Majores (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer [32d ed. Freiburg 1963] 780) of Innocent III as the punishment for original sin (for the problem of this punishment see limbo). Loss of God in the context of damnation has another meaning.
The last end is a major idea in the thought pattern of scholastic theology, where God is seen as the last end. Loss of God in this context means the loss of the last end. The concept of mortal sin when analyzed in reference to the last end is seen to involve the loss of the last end (Summa contra gentiles 3.143). Punishment for this loss is also worked out in terms of the last end. Because of the special relation between sin and punishment to the will (Compendium theologiae ad fratrem Reginaldum socium suum carissimum 121), it is seen to involve the sinner in deprivation of the divine illumination (Summa theologiae 1a, 64.1) by which God is effectively apprehended as the last end. This privation implies that the sinner, on his own determination and obstinately, is turned away from the goodness of God (Comp. theol. 174), a situation spoken of in scriptural statements as hatred (Jn 15.24). Elaborated in this way, punishment for the loss of God is understood as something more than the full unfolding of the devastation sin produces in the person and in personal relations (Gal 5.17–21). It is a punishment supposing the exercise of supreme authority (Comp. theol. 121) and is measured according to the fault it punishes. So the doctrinal statement (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, 858, 1306) about the disparity in the punishment of the damned is intellectually justified. The concrete setting the concept of punishment of loss or damnation is used to interpret is, in scriptural statements, associated with the appearance of the Son of God (1 Jn3.8) and the Holy Spirit the Advocate (Jn 16.8). And the effect this punishment produces in the sinner, spoken of in scriptural statements as the humiliation that is the contrary to the exaltation inseparably associated with the kingdom of god, is expressed in the concept of punishment of loss as the misery that is the contrary to the happiness entailed in the concept of the last end (Comp. theol. 174).
See Also: eschatology, articles on; fire of judgment; hell (theology of); judgment, divine (in theology); sanction; sanction, divine.
Bibliography: t. ortolan, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 4.1:6–25. m. j. scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, tr. c. vollert (St. Louis 1946) 684–694.
[e. g. hardwick]