CCC 1475 - those who are expiating their sins in purgatory

I was discussion Purgatory with a Baptist. I gave him CCC 1431
The section on purgatory is 1031
CCC 1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect.

He said the Catholic teaching that sinners expiate their own sins in Purgatory was false.

I told him that the souls in purgatory can’t do anything on their own behalf, sure I was on solid ground.

He said to look at CCC 1475, which I did
In the Communion of Saints
1475 In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory

Well, now I’m stuck. Is this an error or mistranslation? Is there a revision that corrects this?

What do you think expiate means?

According to Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary

Atonement for some wrong-doing. It implies an attempt to undo the wrong that one has done, by suffering a penalty, by performing some penance, or by making reparation or redress. (Etym. Latin ex-, fully + piare, to propitiate: expiare, to atone for fully.)

Without a further explanation I am at a loss. The sense I am getting is that your Baptist friend equates it with forgiveness which is a misunderstanding of what purgatory is. I need more.

That’s an odd position for a Baptist, who generally deny that Purgatory even exists.

I told him that the souls in purgatory can’t do anything on their own behalf, sure I was on solid ground.

The souls in purgatory cannot pray on their own behalf. But whatever sufferings they endure, in whatever way they endure them, expiate their sins. We don’t need to wait for purgatory for this - our sufferings on this earth can expiate our own (venial) sins, and even our mortal sins (as part of the penance of Sacramental Confession).

Any soul in purgatory is guaranteed heaven. Even the “poor souls” who have nobody to pray for them.

Or, more to the point, that they are doing it on their own, without the intervention of God. Those in Purgatory, through the process of their sufferings, are being cleansed by God so that they might be perfected and able to enter heaven.

If the OP’s friend takes ‘expiating’ to mean ‘earning heaven through their own efforts,’ he misunderstands what the catechism is saying. :shrug:

It’s not an error, but it has to be properly understood. To understand what the Church is saying, I would point your friend to 2nd Corinthians 7:1 where the Bible actually says something pretty similar:
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.*

According to St. Paul, we cleanse ourselves from every defilement. Does that mean we save ourselves without God’s grace? Obviously not. We can’t possibly cleanse ourselves by our own power. It’s only through the grace and merit of Christ’s death on the cross that this is possible. But at the same time, insofar as we participate with God’s cleansing action, it truly can be said that we ‘‘cleanse ourselves.’’

That is how we need to read this paragraph. The souls in heaven ARE expiating their sins. (i.e. cleansing themselves from every defilement.) Not through their own power, but through Christ’s.

I don’t know that much about Purgatory. Good to know that any soul in Purgatory will eventually make it to Heaven.

Yes, that’s where we started, I cited CCC 1031 "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect " and told him that it was God doing the purging of impurity. He then came back and said to look at CCC 1475, that “those who are expiating their own sins in purgatory” and that is the Catholic teaching, that they, not God, does it.

They are working together with God, and going thru God’s system of purification, to be purified of their own sins.

Yep, that makes sense – he’s picking up on the ‘reflexive’ in that sentence, and misapplying it. The mention of ‘their own’ in that sentence identifies that it is their own sins and only their own sins – that is, no one else’s – that the souls in Purgatory are being cleansed of. However, as many have stated here, it’s not the case that they being cleansed by their own power.

The context of this quote from Indulgentiarum doctrina is a discussion of the ‘treasury of the Church’ and the relationships in the communion of the saints. In that context, we see that the various groups aid each other:
]the saints in heaven pray
]the prayers of the saints aid in God’s expiation of the sins of those on earth and those in Purgatory[/list]
]those on earth pray and do good works
]these prayers and acts aid in God’s expiation of their own sins (there’s that phrase, again! :wink: ) and the sins of those suffering in Purgatory[/list]
]those in Purgatory are suffering
]their suffering aids in God’s expiation of their own sins (only)[/list][/list]

So, the force of the phrase “their own sins” speaks not to the agency of the souls in Purgatory, but rather, to the fact that it is their own sins only (and not those of others) that are being cleansed.

There are a couple of things, though, that might need further explanation for your friend:

First off, the prayers and good works that are being offered do not have power on their own merit. Rather, it is the merit of Christ’s suffering that is powerful and efficacious for us. Our prayers rely on Christ’s merit for their ‘effectiveness’ and our good works proceed only from our cooperation with Christ’s grace (not our own ability to do good works). Therefore, anything that we do, simply asks Christ to apply His own merit for the good of humans.

Second, the reference to ‘sins’ that are being expiated probably requires some explanation. Your friend might believe that his sins – past, present, and future – have all been wiped clean by Christ’s finished sacrifice on the Cross, and therefore, no sin requires additional forgiveness. The Church teaches (following the words of Jesus in John 20) that it is necessary to be forgiven of the sins one commits.

However, to your friend’s ears, this discussion of Purgatory might sound like we’re saying that sins have to be re-forgiven in Purgatory. That’s not the case at all. In Purgatory, sins that have been forgiven remain forgiven – what is expiated is the effects of those sins. In other words, by sinning here on earth, we hurt others and predispose ourselves to sin more. Our sins might be forgiven, but the damage remains. (It’s the old “broken window” example that CCD teachers like to use all the time. You can be forgiven by your neighbor for breaking his window, but even after the forgiveness, there’s still a broken window to repair!) So, Purgatory cleanses us of these imperfections that we have created in ourselves through our own sins.

Purgatory also expiates the venial sins of the person who was not forgiven of these sins while he was alive. (Not mortal, mind you – just venial.)

Hope this helps!

It’s always good to go back to the original.

The part of CCC 1475 you cite is a quote from Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences by Paul VI, Indulgentiarum doctrina 1967, #5. The entire context of #5 is the removal of temporal punishment due to sin, in this case, the purification of the elect as they enter the presence of God. “Expiation” is the word they use for this. The words the CCC generally use for Christ’s redeeming work are “atonement” and “reparation.”

Your friend is confusing these two processes. Even Baptists believe that we grow in sanctification through the Lord’s discipline and that that process does not occur unless we work with Him. We have to consciously choose to live by Gospel teachings and thereby over time grow in Christ-likeness.

“Their own” in the quote in question means not by somebody else, i.e., others praying for them, as is clear from #5 read in its entirety.

IDK, I would think those in Purgatory would be able to pray for themselves, just like we do now, why would they not be able to, They still have free will…?? I dont think God would take away someones free will upon death, after all, at our births he gave us this gift, and our souls are immortal.

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