Temporal debt of suffering


Let me see if I can explain it this way. Sin is like a nail driven into a board. Absolution removes the nail but the board is still harmed. The debt that is owed to God is like the hole in the board. The board, on its own, will never be able to repair itself. Because we cannot repair ourselves, and we are no longer perfect because of the sin (which has been forgive though its mark is still there), we need purgation.

Okay so, the thing that removes the hole in the board is suffering? This is the temporal punishment? Purgation = suffering?

The Church talks is terms of debts and treasury of merit because we can understand that. The reality if beyond what we can understand

I thought it talked about it that way because it actually quantifies the process. Isn’t there a cleric in the vatican in charge of the Holy Treasury or something like that? Don’t indulgences come with actual numbers of days or years of penance served? Couldn’t you actually keep a leger it’s so detailed?

All sin has suffering attached. As far as when it occurs, that depends on the sin and on when we die.

Of course all sin brings a measure of spiritual death which could be described as de facto suffering, but does the RCC require the suffering as a necessary condition for the sin to be completely forgiven?

Let me give you an example. Two women have abortions. Both regret it and go to confession. Both are absolved. On the way home, one dies in a car accident. The other does not. The one who lives goes through life with sorrow for the loss of her child and mental and emotional issues that she as to deal with. If both were forgiven, why was one spared any further suffering from the sin? Catholic thought on this is that the other may need to spend time in purgatory because of the need for justice.

“need for justice” So God does require the suffering then. The one who died… the “hole in the board” to use your earlier analogy, this required suffering to be healed?

Also, would not both women have been given penances to perform? If they were to both have performed the prescribed penances then one would die than one woman would suffer more than the other anyway. Are you saying that each and every sin has an amount of suffering attached to it and in the eternal scheme of things each sin committed will be suffered for accordingly? So that at the end of things even if the woman who died did her penances the priest gave her she would still serve in purgatory because “devine justice” (which I assume is dictated by God) dictates one woman can not suffer more for the same sin than another has suffered? So they must all suffer equally who commit the same sin? Is this true?

The sin itself is forgiven at absolution. That does not mean the issues arising from it are gone.

Those issues carry over past death, and suffering is the solution to them? Is this correct?


Purgatory means healing or purification, not suffering.

Sometimes we suffer when being purified or healed. If we do then it’s a side effect of purification or healing, not the goal. A drug addict going through withdrawl is in pain. The pain is not the end but merely a side effect of the treatment.

And even if it doesn’t hurt when all those holes we’ve driven through our soul each time we sin are being healed, just knowing that we’re so close to union with God but are not yet experiencing the Beatific Vision would seem to be rather painful to me. But that would be a pain we cause ourselves to experience, not a pain God causes us to feel.

There used to be days attached to indulgences. The days didn’t represent how much “time in purgatory” was remitted but how efficacious the action was. If action X was associated with 20 years, then it meant it was the equivalent to the spiritiual healing we would expect from 20 straight years of prayer or going on a pilgrimage once every day for 20 years or the like.

Nowadays things are treated much more simply by being classified as partial or plenary. Partial indulgences remove some of the temporal punishment or do some of the healing. Plenary indulgences do it all. That makes sense because we don’t have a way of knowing how pristine or damaged our soul is. Only God knows how efficacious any partial indulgence is, or if we’re truly disposed to receive a plenary indulgence.

Purgatory is not necessary at all. One could die with a perfect soul and go straight to heaven. We only go through purgatory before heaven if our soul is in a state of grace when we die but is not yet perfected.

God only “requires” suffering if it’s necessary for our salvation and purification. If we need to suffer to be perfected, God will have us suffer. If we need to not suffer to be perfected, then we won’t. It’s that simple. Whatever happens will be both perfectly just and perfectly merciful, with neither too little pain nor too much.


Are you saying that the RCC understanding of Purgatory is NOT that it is a place of suffering? I thought the RCC taught that purgatory was a place of temporary suffering for sin? Can you site where this is not the case?

Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

How do you explain this statement from Catholic Encyclopedia? Is punishment not the same thing as suffering?


Punishment may include suffering, but it has a higher goal. Punishment is meant to alter behavior or desire.

We are taught that Purgatory is just that: a place where our desires are fixed towards God through some means of Purgation not known to us


Sometimes we must endure purgatory within this life, it’s to purge ourselves from the world and all of it’s grip on us, so it’s not a bad thing. God wants us to be acceptable to him, not only just washing our sins, but washing our very nature, and we will endure suffering in this life which in turn avoids suffering in the next, ie. shorter purgatory times. Also, think about it this way, if you were a parent and did not discipline your children, what do you think they will turn out to be like? It’s the same thing here.


This should help:


Temporal debt of suffering

Okay so for the RCC believer it follows this way?

  1. They sin
  2. They go to confession and the priest absolves their eternal punishmet because this was paid for by Christ
  3. The priest gives them penances to purify their soul which is also called “temporal punishment”
  4. They could also do something to gain an indulgence
  5. If they don’t do either of the above for a particular sin than they must be in purgatory.
  6. Purgatory is not a place where people suffer even though it is a place of punishment.
  7. Once they are perfect and have been punished for all thier sin, they go to heaven which is also a place where there is no suffering.

Is this right? It’s very confusing to me that there are many references to purgatory in all sorts of Catholic books which seem to strongly indicate the necessity of suffering and yet you are telling me suffering is not necessary, and may not even exist in purgatory.

This idea that suffering may not exist in purgatory seems to be a new idea. Certainly those at the formation if the idea thought it was suffering. Why the change?

  1. True
  2. True
  3. Yes
  4. Sort of. Temporal punishment may include other things not given by the priest
  5. Probably
  6. Not what we are saying. What we are saying is that we should not look at purgatory as a place of suffering but as a place of cleansing and refinement. It is not “a little hell.”
  7. Correct

Is this right? It’s very confusing to me that there are many references to purgatory in all sorts of Catholic books which seem to strongly indicate the necessity of suffering and yet you are telling me suffering is not necessary, and may not even exist in purgatory.

Again, that is not what we are saying. Suffering occurs because of sin. If we do not sin, we still suffer because of other people’s sin, but only on earth.

This idea that suffering may not exist in purgatory seems to be a new idea. Certainly those at the formation if the idea thought it was suffering. Why the change?

It is not a new idea. It is a teaching change that was needed because people focused too much on the suffering aspect and not enough on the preparation part


How does the RCC define suffering in Hell? Is that too merely suffering as a result of the realization of ones separation from God or is there more to it?


I think that your original question actually was (paraphrased): Can one deny certain truths taught by the Roman Catholic Church and still be considered Catholic?

Unfortunately, especially in this trying age of ours, there are many, many Catholics who fall into this category. They are sometimes referred to as “cafeteria Catholics” because they “pick and choose” what doctrines they will accept and believe and which they will reject. However…

Simply calling oneself “Catholic” does not suffice. It is necessary to live as a Catholic, and this implies adherence to all the doctrines taught by the Church established by Christ. When He said “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”, He meant just that. Jesus has entrusted His own powers to His Church on earth in order that men might defend and preserve Truth from one generation to another.

Since it is Christ Himself Who teaches and leads us - through the agency of His Church on earth and its authority - you are asking, in fact, if one can be called a true Christian if s/he rejects part of what Christ has said. Of course, the answer is “no”.

Speaking practically, however, many who doubt or deny certain teachings of the Church are, in fact, in a stage of spiritual education and growth. That is, they may for a time refuse to accept a certain teaching of the Church. But, as they come to understand more clearly the meaning of that teaching and its necessity, they may also come to accept it as a guideline in their lives. In this sense, these “cafeteria Catholics” may yet come to the fullness of the faith, with the help of the Holy Spirit’s continual graces.

This being the case, we are not to judge those who claim to be Catholic while not fully accepting or living Church teaching - no more than we are to idolize those who seem to be perfect in their practice of the faith. Only God can know the human heart and mind and only He can know the extent of one’s responsibility for one’s state of development.

If one lives his entire life in such a state of misunderstanding and rejection of “part of” Christ, it is clear that he is not in perfect union with God - he needs to be perfected in order to be in God’s full presence (the Beatific Vision of heaven). If one were to be transported to heaven without first becoming a saint, he would find that environment just as unbearable as would a man would who had descended to the depths of the ocean without wearing the necessary compression suit.

God did not invent purgatory to make us suffer for our sins. He allowed it so that those of us who have not yet become saints may have a place to “suit up” for the exhilirating experience of seeing God face-to-face. Only the perfect - the saints - can face God and continue to exist because He is so overwhelmingly glorious.


Yes. Hell is a separation from God in a real sense that causes suffering. The Bible also uses descriptions of fire. As a Catholic, either or both is fine. You must accept that this is a real punishment, though


To a degree, you are correct. We do not accept all of the aspects of their systematization of the doctrine.

I don’t see how. It touches more on the general conception of the nature of sin and absolution.


Not to a great deal. The RC understanding of original sin doesn’t really explain their understanding of Purgatory and the necessity of punishment for sins.

Not really. We reject the idea that a moral stain/guilt is conveyed to Adam’s descendants. We accept all other aspects of the doctrine.

No, we don’t. What you are espousing is Pelagianism.


No, we don’t. What you are espousing is Pelagianism

I’m not. I just didn’t expound enough. I’ll explain. The key difference between original sin which the RCC believe and ancestral sin which the EO believe is easily seen if you deconstruct the development of the doctrine of the Imaculate conception of Mary.

RCC believe that man at birth does not have access to the grace of God in any measure. Particularly man does not have grace suffient to lead the person to salvation. This is defferent than saying that all have a proclivity to sin as a result of the fall. This lack of grace is the result of the guilt of adams sin that is passed on. It’s the idea that if someone where to somehow commit no sins themselves they would still be guilty of Adam’s sin. EO don’t believe that we are guilty for anyone’s sin but our own even though we do inherit the fallen nature or procivity toward sin.

The problem with this is that if this were true, than Mary would not have been able to concieve by the Holy Spirit since the act required a certain kind of grace to be possilbe. (according to RCC) This is how the imaculate conception doctrine works. It basically says that she had grace no one else does, because everyone else is affected by original sin and it’s a miracle that she was born in a different state than the rest of fallen man, that somehow she had access to grace no one else did. She still had a fallen nature but not the guilt of Adam.

EO reject the immaculate conception of Mary because we don’t believe people are born without any grace as a result of Adams sin. We do inherit the fallen nature. But that is not the same thing.

Pelagianism is different. Pelagianism states that there is no fallen nature at all anymore and man has only to will himself not to sin. Of course that is not true.


Back to the original topic…

This issue of Devine Justice, explain exactly what you mean by this more. It’s my understand that it is devine justice that mandates temporal punishment. Doesn’t this equate to God punishing people for the sins that are already forgiven?


The RC understanding of original sin doesn’t really explain their understanding of Purgatory and the necessity of punishment for sins.

It seems loosely connected somehow in the sense that it is connected to what RCC believe about what happened on the cross. It’s my understanding that they believe that Christ’s suffering on the cross was the replacement of the punishment we all deserve for the guilt of Adam’s sin (original sin - the part we reject). There is some loose relation in that one can’t get very far in discussing punishment for sin without getting into original sin. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but there seems to be some relation at least in the minds of RC’s when talking to them. The two topics almost always come up together.

You bring up a good point though. Exactly why does the RCC believe there is a devine justice that requires punishment for forgiven sins. Why can’t God just forgive them and that’s it. You get what you get in the fallen world but once you are dead confessed sins never existed… as far as the east is from the west.


If you are a parent, and a child breaks a rule, they say they are sorry, and you forgive them, do you still punish them?


I do not generally punish them. We take a more pastoral route with the children. Because we are fallen and so are they, punishment for simply breaking the rule may be too harsh. There are times the rule itself may have been poorly thought out and is reconsidered.

It depends what the rule is. We talk to them and attempt to keep reminding them of the rule. They may not be developmentally able to follow the rule perfectly. If they feel badly about having broken the rule and apologize than they are forgiven and not punished. If they made a mess and need to clean it up than they do reparations that are necessary but that isn’t punishment it’s taking responsability for the result of their actions for which someone must take responsability. If their actions did not produce any consequences and they are sorry for having broken the rule than they are forgiven and we move on with the day.

If for any reason the are punished it is only to bring them to a state of repentance. Once they are repentant and forgiven there is no further punishment or even rememberance. The only orther time they are punished is when I am week and lose it by the end of the day, which is my sin, not theirs or if whatever they have done has garnered such enormous imminent danger to their lives that they need to never ever ever do that again. I can count on one hand the times the later has happened.

In short we don’t punish them, we teach them. We try to help them to come to a place where they desire a relationship with God and discern right and wrong for themselves. Rules are only needed for those who don’t love and respect others. Actually we don’t even have that many “rules” as we don’t do blind obedience, they will learn eventually the value of being obedient to the Orthodox Church but not because they are forced to be obediant. They are only 3yrs and 18months… you would probably have to be in our house to see what I mean because most people who are not Orthodox and some who are don’t do it this way. We try to parent they way the Orthodox Church says our relationship with God should be. Of course we are imperfect and make mistakes but our parenting model is not based on punishment. It’s based on relationship. We do not believe God punishes us, or that every transgession must be punished even if there are not natural consequences. So far it’s working rather well so long as we don’t succum to the sin of impatience.

God’s love is never ending. He doesn’t sin, he’s not fallen and after we die we are no longer part of the material world, which is fallen. Isn’t it entirely possible that our sinful nature is delt with in a way that we are transformed without any punishment for sins that have been confessed?

Isn’t it possible that the sacrament of confession is so big that confession itself repairs the unseen spiritual damage of those confessed sins in conjunction with all of the spiritual discaplines we voluntarily participate in as a matter of life in Christ. Why is contrived punishment for confessed sins necessary?



Questions about this link which was given earlier in the thread:

This article seems to be an explaination of why innocent people suffer. It does not answer the question as to why contrived punishment is necessary for confessed sins.

Jesus made it known on more than one occasion that the concept of suffering, understood exclusively as a punishment for sin, is insufficient and even incorrect.

He made it understood that the misfortune that brings the suffering cannot be understood exclusively as a punishment for personal sins.

A judgment that views suffering exclusively as a punishment of sin runs counter to love for man.

The Vatican seems to indicate in the above quotes that while not all suffering is punishment for sin, some suffering is for punishment of sin (by the use of the word exclusively in every reference to suffering as punishment for sin). Someone earlier in this thread seemed to be indicating that punishment/purgation did not equate to suffering… so now I’m even more confused by the answers to my original question. Maybe I need a more direct question:

Why is it necessary for a person who has repented, confessed, and been absolved of their sins to suffer punishment for these sins according to RCC teaching?

Orthodox teaching says it is not necessary. A person might suffer in this life as a result of their sin or living in a fallen world, but it’s not necessary and so there is no addressing of those sins forgiven after death. By our understanding I suppose you could argue that our divine justice is forgiveness/mercy/love.

The difference between these two teachings is why I don’t understand the RCC teaching.

All human sufferings, united to that of Christ, complete “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body” (cf. Col 1:24). The body is the Church as the universal community of salvation.

Huh!? There was anything lacking in the passion of Christ? And suffering of the body of Christ is necessary to complete salvation??? News to me and has now presented me with a new thing I don’t understand about RCC teachings which however is outside the actual scope of this discussion but maybe I’ll post another thread when I’m done with this.

The only reason I’m even trying to understand RCC teaching at all is in fairness to some RCC relatives who think I “don’t understand”. I appreciate you all answering these questions because I really do want to be certain of my understanding of what RCC teaches. It will keep more peace in the family if they are not the ones helping me to understand. I will not have to ask them questions and they will not have to feel attacked by these questions.


don’t have time to get into all of it right now, but I will be back.

I will say this: St. Paul is the one who said something was lacking in the passion of Christ. That which is lacking is our cooperation. It was sufficient. Sufficient, however, does not mean lacking nothing. It means able to accomplish.

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