Do Priests have Power over Heaven and Hell?
In his homily a priest said, inter alia, that as an ordained minister he has the power to pray for people to enter heaven or to be sent to hell. This shook the foundations of my cradle Catholicism. Would he be praying to the most merciful God or Satan for our condemnation? BAA Bailey
It would have been helpful if you had provided some more information about the inter alia part of the homily.
Presuming that you understood him correctly, one has to ask, what was the context that prompted his remark? Did he betray a hint of vengeance in regard to some particular individual or group? Did he imply that, because he is an ordained priest, he has the power to bless and to curse? I am in ignorance about this, so I shall make only general comments.
You don’t need to be a priest to pray that someone will be given the grace to enter heaven.
We can all do that. But no one, not even a priest, can dare to challenge God and request him or tell him to curse someone and damn them to hell. The priest’s vocation is to work for the salvation of souls, not their condemnation.
At his ordination, the new priest is commissioned by the bishop to strive to discharge the priesthood in a praiseworthy manner: A priest’s duties are to offer sacrifice, to bless, to govern, to preach and to baptise. These are the priestly powers. They are all positive and for the good of souls, not otherwise.
St Paul was pretty clear. In Romans 12 he discourses on loving one another. Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them, he urges.
Then he reminds the Romans: Never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. And he closes by writing: Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
It is likely that in your experience you have heard bitter comments from an individual who really hates another, and goes to the extreme of expressing the wish that they may rot in hell.
Said unthinkingly in a moment of blazing anger, this frightful curse may be excusable.
Said with cold deliberation as a prayer, it indicates a dismal lack of the kind of love Jesus taught us: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you (Lk 6:27).
These words are directed to us all, clergy and lay alike.