Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine is dead.
The Catholic Church teaches that at the moment of death the eternal destiny of each soul is determined. You go up or you go down.
Hugh Hefner led a life that was not only sexually self indulgent, but it objectified women, glamorized sin and caused millions to dive into sin with carefree abandon. He not only hurt women, but helped in the breakdown of marriage, the destruction of the family and contributed to the culture of contraception, abortion and death. Predictably, he is being hailed as a trailblazer, a man ahead of his time, an entrepreneur and a great American.
“Playboy” was an apt name because his hedonistic lifestyle encouraged millions of men to treat sex as play time and to remain boys–addicted to adolescent fantasies about sex. A man who sold women? Entrepreneur is one name. I can think of a few others. A trailblazer? What he did may have been daring, but it was not new.
But let’s cut to the chase. The man is dead. The question remains– is Hugh Hefner in hell?
It’s not for me, or anyone to determine that. Any soul, at any time, up to the last moment may experience the grace of repentance and faith. He was ninety one. In his final years of old age did he have regrets? Did he turn to the light? We don’t know. We can hope.
Saint Faustina had a private vision in which every soul, and the point of death, saw the merciful Christ who asked three times, “Do you love me?” and only the souls who refused his love three times would depart into the dark.
Maybe those who would condemn Hugh Hefner can see beneath the celebrity fornicator a lonely little boy looking for love. Maybe when he came face to face with the source of Love he said “Yes, this is what I have been looking for all my life…”
On the other hand, St Faustina was no softy when it comes to hell, and we’re not to conclude that everybody will say yes to Jesus’ invitation. FAustina warns soberly about the reality of hell and shares her vision of it. If you want to read what she saw go here.
Now, some have speculated that the choice St Faustina visualizes is the summary of all the soul’s choices on earth. If Hugh Hefner rejected his Christian upbringing and turned from the Beautiful True Love of Christ every time he was exposed to it in his earthly life, the hope that at the end he would make a different choice seems remote.
We don’t know. It is God’s mercy not our condemnation that matters.
Hugh Hefner’s death gives the opportunity to ask why the Catholic Church condemns pornography and the Playboy lifestyle.
“What’s wrong with looking at pictures of pretty ladies?” you might well ask.
There is nothing wrong with the naked human form as such. God made it and God doesn’t make junk. Certainly the classical understanding of the nude in art is that it is possible to appreciate the nude human form for its ideal beauty without eroticism.
However, this was not what Playboy was about and everybody knows it. This was not aesthetic appreciation of the human form, nor was it love. It was lust, and like all lust one thing leads to another. There is little doubt that we would be experiencing the epidemic of porn in our society if it weren’t for Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine.
Pornography is one sin in a long list of sexual sins: adultery, fornication, masturbation, prostitution, homosexual actions, pedophilia, artificial contraception, abortion…you know the whole list.
But why are these things wrong? Simply because some old men in red robes in Rome decided to come up with a list of naughty things to make people feel guilty about? Are they wrong because purse lipped puritans disapprove? Is it wrong because Christians think sex is dirty?
No. Something is wrong because it distorts or destroys something that is beautiful, good and true. Evil is nothing positive and good. It is always a good thing broken or twisted or destroyed. I explore this theme further in my book Praying the Rosary for Spiritual Warfare.
The sexual sins are wrong because they break the beautiful, true and good thing called marriage. God created man and woman to love one.another and give themselves to one another totally, and from this to bring forth new life and new eternal souls.
Marriage is a delicate and difficult gift. It breaks easily. It requires a lifetime of dedication, hard work and self sacrifice. A good marriage is a rare, beautiful and eternal incarnation of love in which both persons are treasured.
In sacramental marriage we experience the divine graces that give us a ladder to heaven. Marriage expresses the love God has for us. He is the bridegroom. We are the bride. Marriage is therefore a sacred, God given joy and the sexual act seals it and makes it complete. The sexual act is therefore, sacramental.
The sexual sins that Playboy promoted spit on all that. They trample that. They pull down the ladder to heaven and break it. The little boys playing with themselves and looking at pictures are avoiding true love and running from that sacrifice and that sacrament. The result is women treated as playthings. The result is unwanted pregnancies, abandoned women and aborted children.
Is Hugh Hefner in hell? I hope not.
If St Faustina’s vision is correct I hope he saw true love and said “I’m sorry. I accept your love. Let me go now and serve my time and be purified.”
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This article was originally printed on the website Patheos
Written by Father Dwight Longenecker
Fr. Longenecker is a former Evangelical, then an Anglican priest, now a Catholic priest. Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, riding his motorcycle and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate Lab named Felicity, a cat named James and various other pets. His website can be found here.