Skip to comments.Purgatory: An Objection Answered
Posted on 10/26/2012 2:28:43 PM PDT by NYer
In Catholic theology, Purgatory is a state (or a process, not necessarily a place) to which one’s soul travels if one has died in a state of grace, but nevertheless retains unremitted venial sins and certain ingrained bad habits and dispositions.
That is, Purgatory is a state for the redeemed who are not yet perfected. It is not a halfway house between Heaven and Hell. In Purgatory, you willingly undergo the quality and quantity of pain and suffering that is uniquely prepared for you so that you may enter Heaven unblemished.
But the dead in Purgatory do not go through this alone. Those of us who are living may provide assistance to them by offering prayers, alms, Masses, indulgences, etc. without, apparently, undermining the point of Purgatory.
Some Protestants, even those who are Purgatory-friendly, have raised an objection to this account. They argue that, if undergoing the pains of Purgatory is necessary for a soul’s purification, then wouldn’t the assistance of the living impair that purification?
That is, if I fast and pray for the poor souls in Purgatory so that they may receive some relief from their suffering, how is that helping their purification if the process requires a particular amount of agony?
The mistake the critic is making is that he is thinking of Purgatory in terms of distributive justice, that the assistance of the living is a rival to the performance of the deceased as if the entire enterprise were a zero-sum game.
He is, of course, not entirely to blame, since the Church and its theologians sometimes use the juridical language of satisfaction and debt to describe Purgatory, its punishments, and the role that the living play in diminishing those punishments.
Nevertheless, as a technical matter, the Church’s understanding of the justice exacted in Purgatory has always been teleological. “Justice,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, “is so-called inasmuch as it implies a certain rectitude of order in the interior disposition of a man, in so far as what is highest in man is subject to God, and the inferior powers of the soul are subject to the superior.”
Atonement from the Ship in Purgatory by Joseph Anton Koch, c. 1825
This is why two Church councils – Orange and Trent – employ the metaphor of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-17) in order to express the relationship between the members of Christ’s body, both living and dead, as they assist each other on the journey to Paradise. The Council of Trent affirms:
For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches, continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace….
Perhaps a concrete example will help. Peter is a child growing up in the midst of a broken home. As a consequence, he develops vices that lead him to a life of crime and debauchery.
Suppose as a young adult he undergoes a conversion experience, though he finds it difficult to change his old habits. He often finds himself tempted to return to his former life, though he knows that it will destroy him.
Fed up with this internal struggle, he pursues a cloistered life of spiritual discipline that includes rigorous fasting, prayer, studying, meditation, devotion to the poor, and self-flagellation.
After many years, he has acquired a level of self-mastery that truly astounds him as well as the numerous friends he has made in the monastery. But then he has an epiphany that causes him to well up with tears of deep gratitude.
For he looks around and sees, really sees for the first time, what he had taken granted for the past decade: the wonderful architecture, the mountains of books, the opulent sanctuary, the scores of friends he now calls family, all expressions of the love and selfless giving that made his journey possible.
Although the donors, volunteers, and fellow monks that contributed to these magnificent surroundings are often described by others as having helped relieve the burdens of its residents, it would not be accurate to think of this assistance in merely distributive terms, and in fact Peter cannot bring himself to see it that way, or at least not anymore.
Yes, there was pain and suffering, all deserved, of course, and Peter knows that if not for this overabundance of charity his agony would have been worse. But he does not, indeed he cannot, view this charity as a mere amelioration of what could have been.
Rather, he sees his experience as an organic whole, ordered toward both his good and the good of those with whom he lives in fellowship. The charity and the suffering worked in concert for a proper end.
If you understand this story, you understand the Catholic account of Purgatory.
Dear Lord Jesus
Amen. Thank you for posting this wonderful article.
I think we all have died, and are in purgatory right now.
It explains the ‘world’ around us much better.
Where in the Holy Scriptures is Purgatory described, or mentioned?
Sometimes I think this too..and how well we accept or fight the boulders placed in our path...some of us have a heavier load of troubles than others..Maybe we have been here before and if we have less troubles than others, maybe we have been better at perfecting ourselves...less griping and just taking on whatever hand is dealt us to the best of our ability..
Shortly after my mom’s death, my dad lost his leg. Yet he never said negative things, he didn’t complain, was not bitter that his “ golden years” have been trashed. When I asked him about this, how it is he was not angry with God, he said, “ No I am not angry with God. I see all of this as God’s way of fitting me for heaven.” I have not forgotten that though I don’t do quite as well has he did as I soldier on with my husband who has Alzheimer’s Disease along with other health issues and have no help from family as there is none nearby.
You have hit the thumb on the nail. The conspicuous absence of this and other “traditions of men” promulgated by Rome is the reason the whole enterprise of Rome is a cult. The message of the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith is non-existent in the RCC.
"In Purgatory, you willingly undergo the quality and quantity of pain and suffering that is uniquely prepared for you so that you may enter Heaven unblemished."
What strikes me immediately is the inference that somehow the efficacy of Christ's blood is not quite enought to cleanse from all unrighteousness! I mean, if the saved have to go to purgatory in order to be 'finished' then God's perspective on Time is limited. Whereas, The God WQho Created all has a temporal perspective which includes all of time, past, present, and future, so the inference that somehow when one is saved God can only cleanse from past sin is, in my honest opinion, blasphemous! But of course, such teachings make the Catholic Church even more powerful, almost the 'thing' God has to have in order to be 'omni'.
But the Catholic Church has been adding stuff to the Bible teachings for twenty millenia, so this is just that much more dross to be burnt away at the final judgement, where every man's deeds will be tried as if by fire.
Oddly, I've never had a Catholic, priest or otherwise, able to explain how it is that those who are alive and remain at the coming of the Lord will be'purgatoried' if they are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump? If believers need Catholic purgatory in order to be made perfect enough, how does that work at the last trump, when the dead in Christ bodies rise first then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up into the clouds to meet the Returning Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with The Lord???
Thank you very much for posting this article.
I do understand the story and will work to understand it even better.
Here’s a way to view it.
For the redeemed, the current earth is the closest to hell we are ever going to be.
For the lost, the current earth is the closest to heaven they are ever going to be.
Depends on your perspective.
Unchristian and according to Scripture of no benefit. One of those forms of a mock humility. (Col. 2:23)
But then so is the idea of purgatory, monasteries, priests, the lot.
And some think Mormonism is a humorous religion..
The RCC has some very strange memes of it’s own..
Not any less humorus than the Mormon Angel “Moron-i”..
However the death cult of Islam takes the cake..
A brief visit to latin america will raise your eyebrows..
Extremely stange rites and practises of the RCC down there..
The Copts and Maronites have their surprises as well..
It's quite enough. All Catholics know that and would never question it.
Here is a simple simile to help you understand Purgatory:
Think of Our Lord's Blood tragically flowing down the upright of the Cross, from the wounds in His Feet/Ankles.
When the Holy Blood comes to a prominent knothole, it flows around the edge, like an island diverts a stream. Even though The Lord is quite capable of causing His Blood to flow right through the obstruction, He allows it to be temporarily displaced on its way to the bottom of the Cross, for the useful work that can be completed during the diversion. That island is like Purgatory.
I am not a theologian or even rhetoritician, so I won't attempt to explain the concept further.
Then a rich man can buy his express ticket through Purgatory by paying people left behind to perform penance, fasting, prayer, rosary, novenas and masses? Isn’t that like buying indulgences?
I suppose a rich man could pay people left behind to pray for him, but in reality all prayers to God should come from a true heart with humbleness, faith and love. Without that I don’t think prayers would really work. Afterall, God knows our heart’s real motivations and our true intentions.
Same place as the Internet and beer in a can.
(...If believers need Catholic purgatory in order to be made perfect enough, how does that work at the last trump, when the dead in Christ bodies rise first then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up into the clouds to meet the Returning Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with The Lord??? )
I think those in Purgatory would still be “with the Lord”. Going through a purification process doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t with you. It’s a temporary place and God is with you there too as He was during your earthly time. My earthly parents may have punished me from time to time as a sort of discipline, but they were certainly still with me in every sense, and never abandoned me.
....Some Protestants, even those who are Purgatory-friendly, have raised an objection to this account. They argue that, if undergoing the pains of Purgatory is necessary for a souls purification, then wouldnt the assistance of the living impair that purification?
"Some Protestants" have raised this as an objection? Really? This third-rate argument? The biggest objection that I've ever heard raised (bigger even than "where's that in the Bible") and would like to see addressed is this one:
Which sins or offenses are not covered under Christ's shed blood, that cause post-death "pain and suffering" to be created for and endured by the presumptive purgatory denizen?
"Having read [Francis Beckwith]s book, I am appalled at the blatant misrepresentation of both the Reformed teaching as well the teaching of Roman Catholicism. His lack of knowledge on historical issues is forgivable, given his ignorance, but to misrepresent and caricature the Reformed faith and to misrepresent the salvation teachings of Rome is simply irresponsible and dishonest..."
-- from the internet article Why Scripture and the Facts of History Compel Me, a Former Roman Catholic, to Remain a Committed Evangelical Protestant
I would NOT want to be the priest, bishop, cardinal or pope who stands before THE LORD JESUS CHRIST to be judged after they spent their life and ministry telling people that the BLOOD OF CHRIST was not sufficient to provide full and complete Salvation!
Of course, the planet has long been hip to the fact that the whole “purgatory” schtick was a scam to fleece the suckers, who would pony up ca$h to “buy” their loved ones out of there.
God is NOT at all amused by this fraud!
The problem with imaginary scenarios like you offered, though a beautiful imagery, is that it fails because of the poor understanding of dimension Time. Though you and I were made by God such that we sense only events that have passed, God does not have that temporal limitation. All of time and thus your entire life is open to God all at the same time, so when you accept the Christ, God is not limited to atoning through Christs blood only your past behaviors/sins.
God cleanses you from ALL unrighteousness by the efficacy of Christ's blood, not by an deeds which you may do, lest any man boast. If God could not cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness at the moment you first believed on Him (Christ as your Redeemer), then Satan would have more than enough room to snatch you from God's hand. But that is impossible because you are reborn, a new Creation in Christ Jesus, thus the new you is unassailable.
'Whether I live or die matters not, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Nevertheless I remain for your sakes though I would rather to be with the Lord.' The old nature inherited from Adam will in NO WAY be acceptable to enter into the Lord's presence. No purgatory can make it 'cleaner' for God's Presence. ONLY the new you will be present with the Lord.
God needs nothing to perfect your salvation. Jesus paid it all, all to Him you owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as 'grey'? ... Hardly. Purgatory is a man-made concept probably for empowerment reasons known only to the authors of the scheme.
Is The Catholic Church a force for salvation of men? Absolutely, for these vagaries like we're discussing do not Save or lose you, they only confuse you.
Catholics believe in the efficacy of Christ's blood! Belief doesn't exempt us from discipline, does it? Doesn't Hebrews 12 tell us that God disciplines those he loves? Chastises every son he receives? That discipline is what a loving parent does to his children? Do you believe this discipline means that Christ's blood was not efficacious?
if the saved have to go to purgatory in order to be 'finished' then God's perspective on Time is limited.
The saved don't "have to go to purgatory in order to be 'finished.' " What Catholics believe is that those of us who still clung to various sins will choose to undergo a final discipline (purifying, purgation, sanctification) before entering into the glory of heaven. And we think of it not as a period of time (it could be instantaneous) or a place but a state of further purification in preparation to behold the vision of God forever. And it's something we choose more than something we're sentenced to.
Whereas, The God WQho Created all has a temporal perspective which includes all of time, past, present, and future, so the inference that somehow when one is saved God can only cleanse from past sin is, in my honest opinion, blasphemous!
It isn't that God can't cleanse me whenever he likes. It's that I chose to cling to some of my dirt. Purgatory is his final, loving discipline, a great act of mercy. He's treating me as his child before presenting me to his glorious kingdom. And it is only because of the merit of Christ's sacrifice that I get that final sanctification or the entry into his kingdom afterward.
Peace be with you. Say what you will about us Catholics, but my parish will be meeting tonight for a prayer vigil as we do every Friday evening before the elections. Will you unite with me in prayer this evening, for even a moment, to pray for our nation? Thanks :)
Peace be with you ...
But what concerns me most at this moment is: Praying to get this Nation of Purgatory.
What great sin did this nation commit to deserve such a horrendous punishment these past 4 years?
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the answer is that a clear majority of us voted 4 years ago to put this pestilence in the WH.
Pray that the number of "Fool Me Twice, .... uhhh ... what was the question again?" voters is small.
What do you consider to be holy scripture?
1 million children executed for the crime of being inconvenient to their mothers isn’t enough?
There are many objections to the construct of purgatory, this one (that assistance would impair the purification process) is down the list, but Beckwith’s answer that “grace” thereby abounds seems a sick twist on the antinomianism that Paul forsees in Rom. 6:1.
The good works set forth by Beckwith seem to be for the glory of the RCC rather than the glory of God.
Infants entered into the Covenant in the OT when they were eight days old so it's obvious that they should enter into the New Covenant through baptism while infants as well. But lots of people like to pretend that since it there is no explicit example of an infant being baptized that it's wrong to do so. Wrong in spite of the fact that whole households are baptized and a household encompassed everyone in the family and even the slaves they owned.
Prayers for the dead are clearly mentioned in the Old Testament, and purification as if by fire is clearly mentioned in the New Testament. So, it's there but not clearly singled out and specifically mentioned.
Therefore both Purgatory and infant Baptism are based on Scripture at the very least as much as the use of contraceptives to murder your children is. All three things are clearly part of the True Faith because Christ and the Apostles never specifically mentioned that they are wrong.
It's always really funny to see people who say murdering infants with contraceptives is fine because it's not mentioned in Scripture turn around and pontificate that something taught in the Old Testament is not true because it's not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament. It's funny because it's absolute proof of the fact that those who pretend to rely on Scripture Alone are never consistent.
They can't be consistent because in reality they rely on their own Self Alone rather than Scripture.
Anyone who starts with throwing out part of the Scriptures isn't basing what they believe on the Scriptures no matter what they've been taught to the contrary. They're relying on and worshiping their own, Most High and Holy Self who they grant the authority to ignore, twist, and even throw out Scripture if they don't like what it says.
As for standing before Christ, none of the folks you mention will have any problem due to believing in Purgatory because Purgatory is based directly on Scripture. Scripture the Protestant crowd threw out in spite of the fact that Christ and the Apostles never mentioned that there were any errors in the Old Testament.
The people who are going to have a real problem are those who have to explain why they saw nothing wrong with throwing out portions of the Scriptures, murdering their own children with contraceptives, and telling others that when incarnate on earth Christ was either too stupid to make Himself understood or a liar when He said, “this is my Body”.
What an ignorant question. You must be a Protestant.
And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour.  For we are God's coadjutors: you are God's husbandry; you are God's building.  According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus.  Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:  Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. (1 Cor. 3)
Are you saying that Paul laid the foundation for purgatory, annalex? He clearly states that he laid the foundation according to the grace of God that was given him. Wouldn’t that make him of greater importance to the Catholic Church than Peter?
No I am not saying that. Certainly St. Paul is not saying that: "neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." Since you ask, Jesus laid the foundation for the Purgatory by His death and Resurrection on the cross. St. Paul speaks of the foundation of the faith in Christ that he provided by his priesthood.
Jews had taught about Purgatory before Paul was ever born and understood there was a place where people would suffer for what they’d done while alive even though they were not damned to Hell. Paul is explaining that an existing understanding is correct and still in place under the New Covenant, not adding anything new at all.
St. Paul was a priest? Are all priests given the authority by God to lay foundations? Which foundation did Peter lay? Was it the same as Paul? But wait, it couldn’t have been. Because Paul said HE was given this foundation of grace to lay. He did NOT say he was building on any foundation that God have given Peter to lay. It was different. Both built on Jesus Christ. But Paul said he was a masterbuilder. He did not say he was contracting with Peter. Don’t you find that interesting?
Is that indeed what Paul is explaining? Because that is not at all what the Scripture annalex quoted says. Paul calls himself a masterbuilder of this foundation, not merely a gopher. According to the grace of God that was given to him. It certainly sounds like something big had happened to me.
Yes, all priests have an obligation to teach the Catholic faith and that is what St. Paul did, as well as any obedient priest, including of course St. Peter or the one in your parish, or mine. what does it have to do with Jim’s ignorance of the Holy Scripture as regards the Purgatory?
Or are you in this thread to make noise?
What of the New Covenant is new and in no way connected to the Old Testament and the Old Covenant?
What part of the promise of Christ coming was never made clear in the Old Testament?
What part of Christ being our only way to Salvation wasn't part of His being the Messiah as promised in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant?
Purgatory is a process not a place and while that's made more clear here and therefore a change from what the Jews already taught Paul isn't espousing any new doctrine not already understood even if it wasn't clearly understood. Clarifying and explaining anything that's at this point more clearly understood or altered in some way under the New Covenant is a new foundation the same way adding onto you house requires a new foundation for the addition to rest on.
I’m on this thread to understand why your church believes and teaches that purgatory is in the Bible. You used Pauline Scripture to prove your point. I am questioning that interpretation you have. Did Paul have keys to the kingdom, like Peter, since they were both laying foundations, based on Jesus Christ as the cornerstone?
LOL. Does that need something like, /rht, as in a rhetorical tag?
That depends on his heart not his purse, nor on the numbers praying for him. If during his life, he had one person bless him, that is worth more than gold.
Nowhere - in fact, quite the opposite: Jesus said to the thieves crucified with him that they would be with him today in Heaven.
“Until you have paid the last penny.”
Thank you. It’s sister, by the way :) And peace to you too.
No he didn’t say heaven; he said Paradise.
Paradise was where all the souls of the faithful who had died were waiting for Jesus to be the first one into heaven.
Don’t you read the Gospels?
One of them talks about the souls who awoke from their graves and wandered about Jerusalem, visible only to the believers.......they wandered for three days while Christ was in the tomb.
Then on the third day, the Resurrection, Christ rose from the dead and opened heaven. At least that is what I have always been taught.
Then the people waiting in Paradise could also follow.
First Things - Purgatory for Everyone
What the Church means by Purgatory
Radio Replies Second Volume - Purgatory
Purgatory Exists. And It Burns
The Month of November: Thoughts on the "Last Things"
To Trace All Souls Day (Protestants vs Catholics)
Radio Replies First Volume - Purgatory
The Doctrine of Purgatory [Ecumenical]
The Heroic Act [Catholic-Orthodox Caucus] (Offering everything for the Souls in Purgatory)
MONTLIGEON MIRACLE: HOW PRIEST TURNED INTO 'TRAVELING SALESMAN' OF PURGATORY
IN BRUSH WITH DEATH, PRIEST SHOWN HELL, PURGATORY, DEGREES OF SUFFERING
Praying for the Dead [All Souls Day] (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
Purgatory: Service Shop for Heaven [Ecumernical]
Beginning Catholic: Catholic Purgatory: What Does It Mean? [Ecumenical]
OF GUARDIAN ANGELS AND THE ROLE THEY PLAY NOT JUST ON EARTH BUT IN PURGATORY [Catholic Caucus]
IN ANNALS OF SAINTS IS CONVERT'S STRIKING DEDICATION TO THOSE SOULS IN PURGATORY [Catholic Caucus]
Explaining Purgatory from a New Testament Perspective [Ecumenical]
PURIFYING THE SOUL ON EARTH IS WORTH 100X WHAT IT TAKES AFTER [Catholic Caucus] What Happens After Death?
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 12: Purgatory
The Doctrine of Purgatory
The Early Church Fathers on Purgatory - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Required for entrance to Purgatory? Personal question for Cathloic Freepers.
(Protestant) Minister Who Had Near-Death Episode Believes In Purgatory
Straight Answers: What Is Purgatory Like?
Do Catholics Believe in Purgatory?
Purgatory, Indulgences, and the Work of Jesus Christ (Discussion)
Prayer to Release the Souls of Purgatory
The Forgotten Souls in Purgatory
Praying for the dead [Purgatory]
just a wild guess, but you're (note spelling) a protestant...Right???
That is not the case; it is the basis of salvation and is much of the Mass. There are some add-ons that raise questions among those of us who have mixed religious training (I was baptized Catholic, raised Pentecostal, am married to a Catholic and a choir member and communicant in the Church). My core belief is that God looks upon the heart, not the form of worship.
My theory about Purgatory is that it is a "tradition of men" created with good intent: even though we are sinners saved by grace, if we fear the punishment maybe we'll sin a little less. I'm sure that HE will explain it to us later.
Luther's bogus song and dance about Christ sprinkling a bit of snow on a dung heap which the Father then winks at is itself a pile of dung that needs disposed of, not covered with something to hide it. Nothing impure will enter Heaven, not something hidden under some snow, not something with a Harry Potter invisibility cloak, nothing. That means those who die in less than a state of perfection need to be purified.
Given the frequency with which those who side with Luther mention that we're all still sinners and how often so many people take Luther's advice to sin boldly, there's no way such folks can even claim we're all pure when we die. The rare individual may be, but nearly everyone is still going to have a sinner's mind and frame of reference on things they haven't dealt with during their lifetime. How can anyone who claims to believe in Scripture, Scripture that says we're to be perfect even as the Father is perfect argue that when Paul said we would be purified as if by fire he wasn't serious and explaining that we need to be refined prior to moving on to Heaven?
Most of those who want to argue about Purgatory are arguing straw-men and their own misunderstanding of what Purgatory is. I know, I did that myself most of my life. If you open your heart and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, though, Purgatory and everything else the Church teaches is right there in front of you in Scriptures. The only thing in your way are the self imposed scales on your eyes.
If you die and are not dropped into Hell, you're in Paradise because you know you're destined for Heaven, you know nothing can keep you from getting there, and you know that Jesus Christ is waiting for you with open arm. If you have to undergo a process of purification before you get there it may be painful in some way but you'll still be far happier than you've ever been during your lifetime in spite of your grief over having offended God so much when you were alive.