Doctrine of Purgatory - explaining Catholic belief


#1

I am not at all sure I am in the right Forum! The month of November is dedicated to The Souls in Purgatory and I came across these links which seem to be a comprehensive explanation of what we believe and how to explain it, although I have not read all of them by far:

Documents

The Doctrine Of Purgatory — John A. Hardon, S.J.

How To Argue the Existence of Purgatory — Jason Evert
A Most Reasonable Doctrine — James Buckley

Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November

— Jennifer Gregory Miller Purgatory: Service Shop for Heaven — Fr. Anthony Zimmerman, STD

[LEFT]Holy Souls Online - Purgatory Resources
Purgatory! A Biblical Treatise
The Biblical Reality of Purgatory [/LEFT]

[LEFT]I am not going to be around much at all over the coming few days and hope to catch up with unanswered posts on my return. Apologies!
Barb:) [/LEFT]


#2

Barabara…thanks for these links.


#3

I just can’t understand how protestants can reject purgatory. In its most basic description, it is a logical necessity when you consider the following universal christian beliefs:

  1. All us humans have sinned.
  2. God will never take away our free will. He always waits for us to choose him (OK, there ARE a few die hard Calvinists still out there who dispute this).
  3. Almost no human has been so completely sanctified by the time of death that he has absolutely NO inclination towards sin left in him.
  4. Heaven is a place of perfection. No sin, no pain, no hurting, no tears.

Item 4 cannot happen if people like me are allowed into heaven as I am. My presence as I exist would make it NOT heaven anymore! Thus, there MUST be some sort of transformation that occurs between my death and entering heaven. Since item #2 rules out God simply forcing us into perfection, there must be a purgatory.


#4

And the bible talks of a cleansing fire. It was Jesus that said it, clearly.

And many other more.


#5

Ooh! Ooh! Can I jump in here? This is one of the question marks in my mind about Catholicism. So, maybe I can explain the perspective of the typical Protestant and then I can learn something of the Catholic view regarding Purgatory.

As I have always viewed it, from a Protestant background, a person comes to “saving faith” at a single point in time. When a person recognizes and confesses Jesus as their Savior and Lord, they are cleansed of Original Sin and they become a new creation in Christ and are sealed with the Holy Spirit right then and there.

The rest of their life ***should ***be marked with continual growth and spiritual development and moving into God’s will and plan for their life.

So, for Protestants, in our theology, there is not much room for thinking that a Christian has to “do stuff” (forgive my lack of beautiful words) to earn their way to Heaven, because we don’t believe that we can ever be good enough to earn Heaven anyway. It is only God’s unmerited favor that grants us entry into Heaven.

And every single person sins, in some way or another - by commission or omission - sins every single day. Even the good works that a person might do may be borne from personal intentions (i.e., a feeling of guilt over some other wrong done; a desire for recognition and praise).

So there’s no room for the idea that a person has to “work off” their sins. You are either saved or you’re not.

Now, let me throw in my own personal caveat. Many Protestants are in the Once Saved Always Saved camp.

I’m not so sure I’m there anymore.

There are lots of people today who claim they were once Christian and are now Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, … whatever. I can’t imagine that a person who has “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” and now rejects that experience and DENIES the risen Christ goes to Heaven.

So I’m kinda in the middle on this one.


#6

My view of purgatory is this:

As all of us who are married know, adjusting to marriage is a very difficult task, learning how to love more deeply. We have to give of ourselves more fully, risk more than we ever have. Learning to love deeply can be very painful!

Imagine 2 elderly married couples.

Couple number 1 fell in love in High School, got married soon thereafter, were pretty much a “perfect fit”, and loved each other madly their entire lives.

Couple number 2 met later in life in a bar. They were both pretty rowdy and loved to have a good time, not necessarily with each other. As time passed however, they knew that they would have to make a choice, and eventually decided upon each other. They grew together gradually in love, hitting many speedbumps due to selfishness and a variety of other bad habits that had to be “unlearned”. Eventually, later in life, they came to truly appreciate each other, and now, near death, they are at the same place in their relationship as couple number 1.

Couple number 1 experienced a lot less pain in growing close, due to being more ready for their love. Couple number 2 still got there, but took a longer and much harder road.

And so it goes with us. Don’t forget, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Some of us will be ready for a perfect union with Christ in a relatively short time, some of us will need to be refined in the fire a little longer.

Purgatory is not a vengeful God throwing thunderbolts at us like Zeus. Purgatory is a necessary process to get ready to enter into a perfect (and intimate) relationship with God.


#7

This is an incredibly common misconception. Be assured, the Catholic Church does not teach, and has never taught, that anybody can earn their way into heaven.

And every single person sins, in some way or another - by commission or omission - sins every single day. Even the good works that a person might do may be borne from personal intentions (i.e., a feeling of guilt over some other wrong done; a desire for recognition and praise).

So there’s no room for the idea that a person has to “work off” their sins. You are either saved or you’re not.

Upon death, that’s exactly right. But you’re also either perfected, all-holy, without any attachment to sin, or you’re not. And it’s all the “you’re not” folks who, while saved and bound for heaven, require God’s final mercy which is to finish the job of sanctification and purification that the person did not finish on earth. I emphasize again, Purgatory is God’s final mercy to us. Even though we may blow chance after chance to sanctify ourselves on earth, God still fulfills his promises and finishes the job of preparing us for eternity with him in heaven, where no imperfect or unclean thing can exist. That is why it is his final mercy to us sinners.


#8

The above poster sums it up well. Purgatory isn’t a place where we work to get forgiveness for our sins. It is also NOT a place where we get one more chance to avoid hell. At death, everyones eternal destiny is fixed - heaven or hell. Purgatory is merely the process those who will be going to heaven must go through in order not to introduce the slightlest remainder of sin into heaven.

Protestants in my experience need to get over the legalistic idea of Christ’s righteousness being a ‘covering’ on us. That sells God short. The joyful reality is that we are going to be spending eternity in heaven as people truly and totally sanctified, not sinners covered by sanctity. We cannot ever get there on our own, which is why we need Grace. I’m sure you agree that most christians still have flaws and commit sins - even up to the day they die. But they WON’T anymore in heaven. What happens? They get PURGED of the vestiges of concupisence before entering them pearly gates. Not by a wave of God’s hand, because that would violate our free will. But by our learning to accept God’s Grace totally and fully in every corner of our soul.


#9

The way I see it…

God is our father… we are his children. Tell me any of you parents out there have not rejoiced when your children did something good for others? Tell me you haven’t punished them, not to hurt them, but to teach them not to do something again…

It really bugs me when some non-Catholics say that we think we can earn our way to heaven with good works… nobody believes that! Nothing we could ever do would be sufficient without the grace of God. Now…let’s look at it another way…

What is the highest form of prayer? Imitation of the life of Christ. So at baptism we receive the** graces** of the sacrament… it plants a seed in our hearts… Our parents nurture that seed by raising us to love and worship God… We have Faith because of this… we act upon that faith by worshipping… we praise, glorify and **imitate… being and bringing Christ to others… **

But we are human and we fall short… we ask for forgiveness… we are forgiven. We work to imitate the life of Christ… the sinless life… but our sin affects others… we have to make up for that… the temporal effects.

We live our lives in this cycle… at the moment of our death very few of us have achieved sinlessness. Since we cannot enter into God’s house unless we are pure and sinless… we have to be purified by the fire… and washed in the blood… then we can enter heaven.

Since God is timeless (outside the concept of time) prayers for those in purgatory are always helpful. In God’s infinite wisdom and mercy, he knows that even though my dad died 16 yrs ago… I would be praying for him this day… Most assuredly, God hears our prayers.


#10

Maybe this quote will help you off the fence. Rev. 3:5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Jesus warns that He can blot out the names that are in the book of life. This refers to those currently, not ultimately, justified.

Peace,

Ryan :slight_smile:


#11

Congratulations!!! You’ve won an EXTREME MAKEOVER!!!”

And the winners are overcome with joy, with tears and much gladness! Such is the popular TV show most of us are familiar with. The winners are chosen from those who cannot afford the luxuries that modern medicine can offer them.

A plastic surgeon cuts and slices the face, liposuction is done, chin implants, nose jobs, various other implants, followed by weeks of painful recovery.

Lasers are fired into the eyeballs to get rid of unwanted eyeglasses. Fitness trainers shape muscles with all manner of rigorous physical exercises, plus rigid diets for weight loss.

Dental surgery is done, teeth may be pulled, jaw bones re-shaped.

The nation’s top celebrity hair stylists and wardrobe designers do the finishing touch sparing no expense, and then…

The prizewinners are escorted by limousine, all done and beautiful. The family and friends await the grand entrance with much anticipation. With shock and awe, the transformed contestant is embraced by all the loved ones, with tears of joy, and much exaltation.

That’s my take on purgatory. It’s a prize from a loving Father, not a torture chamber from a mean, angry god.


#12

[Lady_K2;2911342]Ooh! Ooh! Can I jump in here? This is one of the question marks in my mind about Catholicism. So, maybe I can explain the perspective of the typical Protestant and then I can learn something of the Catholic view regarding Purgatory.

As I have always viewed it, from a Protestant background, a person comes to “saving faith” at a single point in time. When a person recognizes and confesses Jesus as their Savior and Lord, they are cleansed of Original Sin and they become a new creation in Christ and are sealed with the Holy Spirit right then and there.

This is incorrect. Just because a person comes to faith in Christ does not mean that they will necessarily stay in that relationship. Jesus will never leave, but we have free will and can and some do leave. If you need scripture I can certainly give it. 1 Cor 3:11-15 is but one verse that explains purgatory, which is the final step of our sanctification.

The rest of their life ***should ***be marked with continual growth and spiritual development and moving into God’s will and plan for their life.

So, for Protestants, in our theology, there is not much room for thinking that a Christian has to “do stuff” (forgive my lack of beautiful words) to earn their way to Heaven, because we don’t believe that we can ever be good enough to earn Heaven anyway. It is only God’s unmerited favor that grants us entry into Heaven.

You I’m afraid don’t know Catholic theology. Catholicism does NOT say we “earn” our way to heaven that is completely erroneous. We are saved by God’s grace (Eph 2:8-10), and His grace alone (sola gratia) however, we also in that grace MUST do good works and will be judged by those good works, (Rom 2:6) and Mt 25:34-46 explains the two differing groups who will either be saved because they obeyed (did/do) what God asked and required of them as He does for all of us. Those who have the “obedience of faith” as Paul says in sort of book end statements in Romans 1:5 and 16:26 are those who are saved.

And every single person sins, in some way or another - by commission or omission - sins every single day. Even the good works that a person might do may be borne from personal intentions (i.e., a feeling of guilt over some other wrong done; a desire for recognition and praise).

Right and does every person die completely sanctified? No, therefore there has to be some purification process (1 Cor 3:15) for heaven and sin are incompatible (Rev 21:27).

So there’s no room for the idea that a person has to “work off” their sins. You are either saved or you’re not.

Not “work off their sins” in a a strict sense; only Jesus can do that. However, what do you do about Phil 2:12?

Now, let me throw in my own personal caveat. Many Protestants are in the Once Saved Always Saved camp.

I’m not so sure I’m there anymore.

There are lots of people today who claim they were once Christian and are now Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, … whatever. I can’t imagine that a person who has “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” and now rejects that experience and DENIES the risen Christ goes to Heaven.

So I’m kinda in the middle on this one.

Well, that’s an honest response, I’d say. And you are correct that we can turn our back on God. Lot’s wife did. :slight_smile:


#13

Others have gone into some good explanations.

I am going to ask a couple of question of you that might help you to understand all these explanations better;)

Do you believe you are you saved right now? (My guess would be yes:) )

Do you still sin right now? Or think about sinning? (Most people do:( , so my guess would be yes again)

Will you even think about sinning in heaven?

What changes in you that you go from saved yet still tempted to sin while on earth, to not even being tempted to sin when in heaven?

We are canal men even after we give our lives over to Christ. But in heaven this will no longer be so. Catholics would call this change, this purging of carnal desires, from temptation to no temptation, purgatory.

Of course if you have no carnal desires now, no temptations, or think that you you will still continue to have those desires in heaven, my questions won’t help:p

God Bless,
Maria


#14

So when Catholics go to confession or do penance, what is that really? I always looked at it as having to confess sins so you don’t put yourself in danger of going to hell if you were to die and, with the penance part, doing some good thing(s) to kinda make up for wrongs/sins committed.

But who is perfected? I’m not sure that I believe there was anyone who ever died who was “perfect” at death except Jesus Christ Himself.

Trying to wrap my mind around this one… So we are all trying to let God change us in this life and hopefully, at the time of our death, we’ll be heaven-bound but possibly taking a temporary stop in purgatory?

As I said in another thread, PLEASE forgive me if my words come off wrong or poorly worded. In any case where it seems I am being insulting or mean or harsh, please let your 1st assumption be that I just don’t understand something and don’t have the correct words to use.

*I assure you and every other Catholic here that I mean absolutely no harm at all; this is just all Greek (or Latin) to me. :smiley: *


#15

But is not sin tied to our fallen, fleshly natures? Without our natural bodies, does not the inclination towards sin disappear?

How so? How does it sell God short?

Doesn’t the Word of God tell us that we are now the Righteousness of God, even though we are yet sinful human beings? How else can we be declared righteous if it is not for Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us?

My belief has always been that when we see Christ, we will be made like Him and that’s how we end up completely free from sin in heaven.


#16

I had to go look up the reference, but I think Rev. 3:5 is a perfect scripture to point out my issue with the Once Saved, Always Saved viewpoint. It clearly says that “he who overcomes”, or endures, will be clothed in white robes. That would suggest that some might NOT endure till the end.

But then, this puts me on a slippery slope: If a person finds themself not acknowledging Christ any longer at some point in their life and then die while in that state, then they will not reach heaven, right? I guess this, then, starts pointing to the idea of mortal sin which is a concept almost totally foreign to me.

Hmmmm…


#17

True indeed. The Baptist church that I am at with my husband believes in OSAS. Whenever I ask someone what happens to a person who once professed Christ and later on goes to another religion, for example, I am given the overly simplistic response that they must not have been a Christian to begin with.

Hmmm… :hmmm:

Well, I have acknowledged this fact right up front. That’s why I am hoping to learn something here - along with my other studies on Catholicism outside of the forums.

Phil 2:12
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

I believe in a “single point in time” conversion of the heart. At that point, a Christian’s spirit is born anew and is saved from hell at that point.

There is also (again, according to what I believe) an ongoing process of of salvation on this earth. Our spirits are redeemed, but our mind/will/emotions will still tend towards sin. So we are to work on our thoughts, intentions, desires and bring them under the subjection and Lordship of Jesus Christ in this life. And this is what I believe Phil. 2:12 is referring to.

In the end, when we shed our mortal bodies, our bodies will ultimately experience a salvation, too.


#18

Matt. 12:31-32 - “Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven’ but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. This means that failing to persevere in Jesus’ grace to the end is the unforgivable sin against the Spirit. We must persevere in faith to the end of our lives.

I’ll try to post more when I have some more time.

Peace,

Ryan :slight_smile:


#19

True indeed. The Baptist church that I am at with my husband believes in OSAS. Whenever I ask someone what happens to a person who once professed Christ and later on goes to another religion, for example, I am given the overly simplistic response that they must not have been a Christian to begin with.

Hi Lady K.
The problem with that simplistic response is like saying no one can be assured they are a Christian to begin with. Such a response logically refutes OSAS. It’s like saying Satan was never a pure, holy, sinless angel to begin with.


#20

But what happens when you go to heaven and no longer “tend towards sin”?

What happens to a person who although saved, still has these tendencies, but no longer has them in heaven? We call this purging of tendency/desire to sin purgatory.


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