Pray for Hefner’s Soul: It’s a Dirty Job But Someone’s Gotta Do it


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.”

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author


Nate Madden is CRTV’s congressional correspondent. A convert to Catholicism and South Carolina native living in Washington, D.C., Nate is also an alumnus of the Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and a fellowship alumnus of both the John Jay Institute and the Claremont Institute. You can follow him @NateMaddenCRTV.


  1. Definitely important to pray for those we come in contact with on a day to day basis and those who we are not so familiar with such as various personalities. The power of prayer really is good for the soul and is another way to help others.

  2. Yes, I have prayed for him at times during my life. But I do feel it was also important that there were articles that countered the general tone of secular articles, which made him a hero. Yes, pray.

  3. Has there been anyone more influential than Hefner in leading an entire generation into lustful sin? Truly, he has trespassed against millions of men and women.

    It is difficult to want to pray for someone who led so many others into a life of grievous sin. Of his life’s work, one might say “better for him to have had a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Some people’s lives really do indicate a good fit for hell.

    As one of those temporarily infected with his deadly strain of narcissistic hedonism, it hadn’t occurred to me until today that I should include him among those who have trespassed against me; and I struggled for a while over whether I am called to forgive him, as the Lord’s Prayer seems to require. However, Luke 17:3-4 indicates that our forgiveness requires that the offender first repent.

    We can’t know Hefner’s interior attitude at his death, but we are taught that God’s mercy is only for the repentant (Catechism P. 1284). We know of nothing to even hint that he might have repented. Nevertheless, I said a Divine Mercy chaplet for him, knowing that, if prayers for Hefner are futile, God will use my prayers for those in most need of His mercy.

  4. No, I will not be praying for Mr. Hefner. If, by the mysteries of God, he should find himself in Purgatory, I leave it in the hands of our merciful and just God to determine what is necessary. On the other hand, should eternal judgment be pronounced against him, no amount of praying could change his fate.

    • Then God will use your prayers for another purpose. So praying never hurts or harms anyone and is never a waste of time.

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