Catholic Purgatory and Indulgences Forensic like Protestant Justification?


My understanding of the nature of purgatory and indulgences is that the guilt incuring temporary punishment and the expiation of that guilt is purely forensic. (Ironically, Protestantism seems to have inherited its doctrine on justification from this forensic nature of purgatory and indulgences.)

Is it possible to understand these doctrines without them being purely forensic?

If the answer is no, does this logically force Catholics to believe in retributive justice as being fundamentally true?

I’m just being my study on this subject, so any resources or books you know of would be very helpful.


Could you elaborate on what you mean by “forensic”?

Do you mean that purgatory isn’t actually accomplishing anything in our soul, but rather our time there is just sort of “racked up” as we sin in life? If so, that is not in line with Catholic teaching. We believe that sin does real damage to the soul, and purgatory is where this damage, and the tendency to sin that caused it, are removed from us.


Rather than forensic, it is juridical. After all, justice demands punishment, but it tempered by mercy. Consider: Where did our system of laws and courts came from?

Unlike the reformation communities, the Catholic Church as the power of binding and loosing - thus the power over sin, and the ability to grant indulgence.


Can you explain your distinction between forensic and juridical more?


I have never heard the term “forensic” applied.

juridical |jo͞oˈridikəl|
of or relating to judicial proceedings and the administration of the law.
juridically adverb
ORIGIN early 16th cent.: from Latin juridicus (from jus, jur- ‘law’ + dicere ‘say’) + -al.


forensic |fəˈrenzik, -sik|
of, relating to, or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime: forensic evidence.
• of or relating to courts of law.
noun (forensics)
scientific tests or techniques used in connection with the detection of crime.
• (also forensic) [ treated as sing. or pl. ] informal a laboratory or department responsible for such tests.
forensically |-(ə)lē|adverb
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin forensis ‘in open court, public,’ from forum (see forum) .

It may be a distinction without a difference, but the Church has canon law to administer the legal affairs which arise within the Church. Marriage tribunals are but one example.

Saint Paul addressed the power of the Church relating to disputes in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7.


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