Baptism & purgatory


I have read that purgatory, while sometimes referred to as punishment, is intended to purge not only venial sins, but sinful attachments. As I understand it, baptism remits all temporal punishment, so if a person was baptized and happened to die immediately afterward, not having sinned, the person would go directly to heaven. But if that person still had sinful attachments, would they not still need purification? How does that work? This is the only aspect of the doctrine I really struggle with.


**Catechism:**978 "When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them. . . . Yet the grace of Baptism delivers no one from all the weakness of nature. On the contrary, we must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil "523

523 Roman Catechism I, 11,3.

Blessed Pope John Paul II General Audience
Wednesday 13 October 1999

  1. In ancient Israel the fundamental commandment to love God was part of daily prayer: …

The Book of Deuteronomy recalls two essential characteristics of this love. The first is that man would never be capable of it, if God did not give him strength through “circumcision of the heart” (cf. Dt 30: 6), which frees it from every attachment to sin. The other is that this love, far from being reduced to sentiment, is concretely expressed by “walking in the ways” of God and by keeping “his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances” (ibid., v. 16). This is the condition for “life and good”, while turning the heart to other gods leads to “death and evil” (ibid., v. 15).


As I understand it, baptism remits all temporal punishment, so if a person was baptized and happened to die immediately afterward, not having sinned, the person would go directly to heaven. But if that person still had sinful attachments, would they not still need purification? How does that work?

OK. Let’s take this one point at a time.

As I understand it, baptism remits all temporal punishment, so if a person was baptized and happened to die immediately afterward, not having sinned, the person would go directly to heaven.


If they died a month later and sinned they may have a “temporal account” that they must pay as Jesus said in Matthew 12.

If they died immediately,“concupiscence” in and of itself is not a sin. They would immediately go to Heaven.

But if they gave into their sinful attachments before dying they would have sin to atone for (if they did not carry out reparation).

Incidentally. Don’t look at this all as a legalistic ticking time bomb.

You can do good works (in Christ by His grace) and not have to go to Purgatory at all.

This going to Purgatory bit is not what you want.

The Catholic Church teaches you MAY go straight to Heaven. Yes you MAY have to go to Purgatory, but if we respond to grace appropriately we do not have to go to Heaven via Purgatory. We can go straight to Heaven.

The other thing is, after your Baptism you are in grace, so you can elevate the place you have in Heaven for all eternity too.

I am paraphrasing St. Therese of Lisieux: In Heaven all our cups (tumblers) will be full. But some will have bigger cups than others.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. 20


Isn’t purgatory also meant to cleanse sinful attachment and not just punishment for punishments’ sake? Would this be taken care of in heaven? I don’t understand.


I did more reading and aLso came across similar questions as mine on Catholic Answers so I am going to clarify my last question.

Purgatory is concerned with temporal punishment/consequences and not attachment to sin in itself (the tendency to sin), at least that’s how I understand what I’ve been reading. So I suppose if the baptized person who dies right after (say they had an emergency baptism) and goes to heaven still has a tendency to sin this would be gone in heaven because in heaven there is no sin.

So in this case there is no need for purgatory but lingering attachment is gone in heaven. Does that sound right?


On death, any remaining unhealthy attachment to creatures must be purified in the state called Purgatory.

See Catechism of the Catholic Church1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. 83


How does that apply to a person who died right after emergency baptism, thus having all temporal punishment remitted, who still has an unhealthy attachment to creatures? I’m not getting that part.


Well… yes and no. If by ‘venial sins’ you mean unforgiven venial sins, then yes; but if you mean ‘venial sins previous forgiven’, then no.


Logically that person cannot at that moment have an unhealthy attachment to creatures. What kind of sins can occur after baptism? In western terms, mortal or venial, and both lead to temporal punishment.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that: 1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. 66 In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

66 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1316.
DS = Denzinger-Schönmetzer (Enchiridion Symbolorum)

So here is the statement from the Council of Florence (Session Six: 1439 A.D.) Here “in their bodies” means when alive and “outside their bodies” means after departing.Also, the souls of those who have incurred no stain of sin whatsoever after baptism, as well as souls who after incurring the stain of sin have been cleansed whether in their bodies or outside their bodies, as was stated above, are straightaway received into heaven and clearly behold the triune God as he is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits.


The spiritual life can be compared to a large block of rough marble and a stone artist.

When the artist begins, he uses his rough heavy chisels to take off large pieces. Then next he uses his light weight chisels to remove smaller pieces of marble. And finally, he uses his fine chisels to carve out the fingers, facial features, and other small details.

In the spiritual life the big pieces are mortal sins, medium pieces are venial sins, and the fine pieces are attachments and faults.

Jesus said “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” That is a tough word, perfect. Perfection is the goal in this life or the next.

So all of the bad stuff keeping us from attaching ourselves in perfect union with God has to go. That is what heaven is, perfect attachment and union with God.

Sometimes we don’t even recognize the attachments we have because we are blind to them. For example, someone could be blind to the fact that they talk too much and do not let others share in the conversation. They monopolize it. Yet don’t see this as a bit of uncharity to others because they see this as just being normal to them. They are blinded to their fault. In fact I believe some see this as a virtue in themselves. Everything should be in moderation. This is where prayer is important to ask God to open our eyes to the faults we don’t see.

Then too a person struggling with mortal sin is less likely to see venial sins, or if struggling with venial sins less likely to be looking for faults. But once sin is more or less under control, then God will show them their faults and imperfections and attachments. But they may choose or not choose to correct these. Then they may go forward or slide backward.

So in purgatory if we are still attached, that means there can be no perfect union with God until these are taken care of. So we may have more baggage or less baggage when entering purgatory.

So we should love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.

You may profit from this book, “Get Us Out Of Here” by Maria Simma, which is about purgatory.


I think I am understanding these concepts in general but think we might be understanding the word “attachment” differently.

What I mean by it is a weakness or tendency toward a sin. Right after baptism I could be ready for heaven at that moment, but I could still have a tendency toward angry outbursts for instance, even if I have not done so since baptism, and I would think of that as a tendency that needs purging in some sense even if since baptism I have merited no temporal punishment. What happens to that if I died right after baptism not having sinned since baptism? Is that not an attachment as the word is being used here?


Reading some of these posts make me wonder if Jesus is looking down at this blog, if that is what these posts are called, and thinking something like, ‘just like some of My original Apostles, so many wondering who will get the best seat in the house or who will get the nicest room, rather than if there are enough seats or rooms for all’.

I’d say that it’s a good thing that Jesus rose from the dead because it seems that He wouldn’t be just rolling over in His grave but would be spinning quite quickly seeing how His simple message and His all encompassing work on the cross being so misunderstood.

Christianity is not about one picking up their “get out of hell” card but it is about everyone, that needs one, having a “get out of hell” card.


That is quite unfair if you are imputing such an intention to me or those kind enough to explain this to me. I hope that you are not. I am merely trying to understand the theology and how exactly “attachment” is being defined. I would think that is an appropriate reason to make use of these forums, to better understand Catholic theology.


Concupiscence is not an “unhealthy attachment to creatures” to be purged. Catechism show how concupiscence works:1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.” 67 Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” 68
The “unhealthy attachments to creatures” result from sin because choosing sin shows a preference for an inferior good over God, which destroys, or wounds, charity in the heart of man.


I suppose my confusion has boiled down to the definition I had of attachment then. I suppose if all the temporal punishment is remitted then concupiscence simply ceases to exist in heaven (and maybe purgatory)?

Anyhow thanks for bearing with me. I suppose I need to explore the Eastern Catholic understanding as well.


There is no temporal punishment in heaven.

Temporal punishment itself is not concupiscence. Concupiscence “cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.”

Temporal punishment is an unhealthy attachment. This attachment is an emotional state that causes imagined outcomes which are no longer possible: a clinging to the past.


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