As the tidal wave of digital ink begins to recede, I find myself wondering: “Is anyone praying for Hugh Hefner?”
Some weeks ago, my wife and I were having dinner at a little Italian restaurant with another Catholic couple in Northwest Washington, D.C. when the subject of conversation somehow managed to wind its way to memento mori art, and praying for the dead.
We’re a real riot at parties, by the way.
But something the husband said struck me. He said that he always made a special point to pray for the repose of the souls of those deceased friends who had died outside of communion with the Catholic Church, especially for those whose families’ religious background made no point of doing so.
Because, he posed to us rhetorically, “Who else is going to pray for them?”
In the wake of Hugh Hefner’s death, this question brought its way to the forefront of my conscience. Because after reading column after column condemning the man’s work – few if any of which I could disagree with – I found myself asking a similar question: “Who is going to pray for Hugh Hefner?”
There is no shortage of condemnation of Hefner’s life and times. Nor should there be, from any sort of moral perspective. As many have already argued, that dirty old man in the captain’s hat left a truly disastrous wake behind him.
Hefner’s legacy, the mainstreaming of smut, tore apart souls and families at a rate nobody could have imagined when he embarked on his tawdry mission decades ago.
And the fact that anyone on any side of the ideological spectrum would celebrate this man’s legacy – which Ross Douthat ably takes to task – is evidence of a culture war that we are still stuck fighting for the sake of our society and the souls of our neighbors.
It’s both easy and necessary for the faithful to condemn the man’s actions, his aspirations, and his ideas.
His soul is another matter.
So, again, I wonder: Who is praying for Hugh Hefner’s soul?
Ideas have consequences, and modernity has shown us time and time again that bad ideas have very bad consequences indeed. It is the job of the faithful to combat actions like Hefner’s here on earth, to condemn and confront their effect at every turn, for the sake of the souls that may be ruined and tortured by the promulgation of these bad ideas.
But we know that it is also the duty of the faithful – a spiritual work of mercy – to pray for the dead, whether they die in the odor of sanctity or at the bottom of a moral and spiritual cesspool.
We also know that it is God’s desire that none of His children should be lost to the fires of Hell, and we know that it is never too late to pray for the repose of a soul.
What we do not know – as Fr. Dwight Longenecker elegantly reminds us through the visions of St. Faustina – is the state of his soul as it goes on to meet its reward. Finally, what we cannot comprehend, is the extent of a loving God’s mercy or His perfect balance of that mercy with justice.
After all, as Our Lady of Fatima instructed the three shepherd children to pray to our Lord: “Oh my Jesus, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”