Purgatory according to Pope Benedict


What is the Pope’s (former Cardinal’s) position? Where can I get a precise statement of this? Is Purgatory a place, a process or both?


Would you expect his position to be different from the Church’s position?

Why are you asking, exactly? That might help get you better answers.


Purgatory is the final purification after death that makes us fit to be in the presence of God. Both the Pope and the Church adhere to this. As to details, it might interest you that then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the following, from his book Eschatology:*“The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of ‘short’ or ‘long’ duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The ‘temporal measure’ of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such Existenzzeit, such an ‘existential time,’ in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world.
. . .
”[Purgatory] is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints.
. . .
“Encounter with the Lord is this transformation.”…

–Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, p. 230-231*


There has been dicussion for some time re the exact status of Purgatory, mostly along the lines of is it a “process” or a “place,” or something of both. It’s largely a matter of emphasis, but it can have profound consequences for the practice of the faith in terms of Masses/prayers for the dead, indulgences, and the like. One person responded with Cardinal Ratzinger’s words from his book: Eschatology. I was wondering if there was somthing else. The genesis of my question is from one of the latest salvos in the “process” vs “place” debate (I’ll admit this is not the best way to frame it, but it’s the best I can think of at the moment.). The latest salvo was fired in the journal “First Things” when Fr. Richard John Neuhaus critiqued the book “Surprised by Hope” by Bishop N.T. Wright. Bishop Wright, a well respecte New Testament scholar, uses a reference to Cardinal Ratzinger both in his book and in response to Neuhaus to emphasize that then Cardinal Ratzinger’s views on Purgatory were at odds with a great deal of received Catholic piety on the subject. See, jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/21452.htm for a summary of this exchange.

If one emphasizes “process,” especially a quick process as Purgatory, then – according to Wright who claims to cite Ratzinger – Purgatory collapses into the Protestant doctrine that the faithful are cleansed of sin at the moment of death. That is, there is no “place,” thus Masses/prayers for the dead, indulgences, and the like are problematic.

Thus far, I have come to the conclusion that while the Church has committed itself as a matter of infalible dogma to the existence of Purgatory and what happens there, it has not defined with great precision exactly what it is.


With respect to process and state I don’t see any of the things you mention as “problematic” at all to tradition or practise. We already know that God is omniscient. Therefor God, who is outside of our limitation of time and space can see and hear all our petitions in our human time line at any moment in another’s time line and as “now” in the context of eternity. No prayer, sacrifice or pious act can ever be wasted. In fact we may assume that our inclination toward prayer is inspired by God himself as a means for us to co-participate in the satisfaction of helping a loved one on their journey to God. I am very convinced of this sharing aspect of God’s nature and how we are all co-bound with Christ into each other’s salvation as “family”.

Nor am I surprised that we don’t have a lot of specific detail on purgatory in the official teaching. Our salvation is shaped in the hear and now - purgatory is only a finishing act. However, if one wants to read the saints accounts there are a rich collection of insights and accounts that we can take in faith as worthy of belief if we chose to. The question to ask though is what benefit does it have for any of us to have specific and highly detailed information on purgatory if our only means of assistance there is known to be prayer, offertory masses etc.? Would it change our behaviour or our natural inclination to want to help our departed brethren in anyway we can? Would more official detailed information incite is to believe more deeply a matter that we are already required to believe or cause more to convert to Catholicism?



I don’t disagree with what you say re the saints and pious practices. Nor do I disagree with your concept of God’s sovereignty and his relationship to time. All of that may be correct.

Respectfully, my point is what did/does Pope Benedict say? Did/does he allude, as some Catholic theologians do to a kind of minimalist Purgaotory, i.e., one that is only a hare’s breath away from Protestant doctine? And, secondly most of what you suggest is not “defined” by the Church. I don’t find it unreasonable, but it’s not defined. Please read the Neuhaus/Wright exchange; I promise you will not be bored.

I think if the doctrine of Purgatory is to be saved from informed Protestant assault and various pious practices rendered intelligible we need a little more meat on the bone. :o


This is the Church teaching on Puragtory and the Pope cannot be at odds with that:


CCC 1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

CCC 1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

CCC 1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.


The doctrine of purgatory is a myth and it is not an original Christian doctrine. So I’m against it. There is no such thing as purification after death. While we are still living, we are responsible for our own purification by doing good works by faith which is according to biblical standards. There are no amount of prayers that can purify dead people. Therefore, praying for the dead is nonsense, we should pray for the living instead. There is no more connection between the world of living and the dead. Let God handle those who are dead and then move on!

To me, the very reason why this purgatory came up so that the catholic church can collect fees to pray for the souls of the dead. Which is by far a good business.

Whatever the explanation maybe, still the doctrine of purgatory is a myth, which connects to the doctrine of praying for the dead, which costs money from people!

I’m sorry, but this is what it is being visible and happening!


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