Not in so many words, but what are we to make of this, from his apostolic exhortation In March of last year, Amoris Laetitia?
No one can be condemned for ever, be-
cause that is not the logic of the Gospel!
I had a column several decades past in National Catholic Reporter in which I (satirically) said Vatican Council 2 must have abolished mortal sin, because everyone was going to communion at mass, whereas before the council many held back, not having gone to confession.
I mentioned it to a Jesuit friend a few months ago, assuming he knew I had been attempting satire, and he erupted in a responding email message, among other things saying he “could go to hell” himself.
It was a stunning reply in view of his clearly upright, indeed distinguished long life as a Jesuit, but he was deadly serious.
As for what Francis said about it as quoted above, it is unsurprisingly among “key doctrinal errors” from Amoris, cited by Matthew McCusker, Deputy International Director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, speaking at the Rome Life Forum on 6 May 2016. The above statement follows this from the same document, “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever.”.
McCusker found it:
very difficult to make sense of these statements, because . . . it is precisely in the gospels that Our Lord Himself speaks many times about the possibility of men and women being condemned forever as a result of sin; “depart from me you cursed into the everlasting fire” he represents himself as saying on the day of judgment, “and these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.” (Mt 25:41, 46).
And, the Church, while always desiring and working for the conversion of sinners, nonetheless will refuse the sacraments indefinitely to those who fail to repent of grave sin.
It’s confusing, to say the least. Indeed four cardinals sent “dubia” (doubts) about this and other parts of Amoris to Francis, asking to meet with him — in the spirit of Paul “withstanding Peter to his face” in the matter of enforcing Jewish dietary and other laws on Gentile Christians — but Francis has not met with them and has not responded to their questions.