Temporal Punishment, Plenary Indulgence, and Detachment from Sin

Hello!

I am an evangelically-raised Christian who is thinking of taking RCIA and going Catholic. As such, I have a question concerning temporal punishment and its relationship to plenary indulgences and merits of the saints. It’s a bit of a hurdle for me right now, and I need help understanding it better.

  1. The purpose of temporal punishment is disciplinary, correct? It detaches the person being discliplined from committing those sins again. Hence, in purgatory, temporal punishment helps detach us from remaining sin. Am I right so far?

  2. My understanding of a plenary indulgence is that one has to have a perfect detachment from all sin in order to receive remission from temporal punishment for said sin in purgatory. Am I correct so far?

  3. If one is perfectly detached from sin already, why is there still temporal punishment due to be paid in purgatory? Surely you must have already paid it on earth in order to become detached from sin? If you’re already purified, why don’t you go straight to heaven if you happen to die right then and there? I realize there are consequences for sin, but surely they must have been paid already if the person is detached?

  4. If temporal punishment is supposed to help us detach from sin, then how do our prayers and merits remove another person’s attachment to sin? Why couldn’t God just do that in the first place?

  5. If such simple indulgences (compared to punishment due) can repay the debt, then why don’t we just do indulgences in purgatory rather than “suffer loss”? It’s all ultimately Christ’s merit, after all. Why doesn’t He use indulgences to apply it?

I’m sorry this post is loaded with so many questions. I just really need help wrapping my head around it all.

Thanks in advance for all your help!

  1. If one is perfectly detached from sin already, why is there still temporal punishment due to be paid in purgatory?

Ah, I think I see the reason for your confusion.

If a person has no (unconfessed) mortal OR venial sins at death, that person skips purgatory and goes straight to heaven.

Becoming completely detached from all sin (including venial sin) is what the Church calls achieving spiritual perfection. Three great Doctors of the Church have described it in detail, including one (St, Thérèse of Lisieux) who was made Doctor for her teaching that spiritual perfection can be achieved in the workaday lives of ordinary laypeople.

  1. If temporal punishment is supposed to help us detach from sin, then how do our prayers and merits remove another person’s attachment to sin? Why couldn’t God just do that in the first place?

There’s more to purgatory than purification. There is also the matter of justice. Purgatory itself is a reflection of God’s mercy, but God’s justice must also be satisfied. When Jesus told the parable of the man in prison who would not be released until the last penny had been paid, we believe that is a reference to purgatory. Not only do we purify ourselves, but we also accept penance for our sins. But, just as we can help pay the financial debt of another person, our prayers can also apply Graces to those in purgatory, lightening their burden of penance and satisfying God’s justice.

  1. If such simple indulgences (compared to punishment due) can repay the debt, then why don’t we just do indulgences in purgatory rather than “suffer loss”?

Well, wouldn’t that be convenient? It would practically make purgatory a mere formality.

Our fate is decided the moment we die. We don’t get a do-over.

Awesome questions!

It looks like you mostly have it, with the exception that, people can and do bypass purgatory.

Our soul must be cleansed completely before entering Gods presence. We can and should do that here, but if not, Jesus will cleanse us in purgatory after we die and make us perfect for heaven.

You can get partial indulgences if you don’t have complete detachment from sin. To receive a full plenary indulgence you have to have detachment from all venial and mortal sin.

Temporal punishment fulfills God’s justice. Without it we might just keep doing awful things since all punishment is removed in confession ( eternal punishment is removed).

ewtn.com/Devotionals/mercy/what.htm Here’s some information on indulgences

Aha! So temporal punishment doesn’t just remove current attachment to sin, but is also a preventative measure to ensure that you remain detached to sin once your heart is already set right?

No, not quite right. We cannot sin in purgatory, so we need not be detached from ongoing sin (because there is no possibility of ongoing sin in purgatory). We expatiate the (venial) sins we committed in our lifetimes and purify ourselves from the effect of those sins.

Everyone in purgatory has attained spiritual perfection (a complete detachment from all sin). The only thing that stands between us (in purgatory) and heaven is God’s justice (which is not to neglect God’s mercy - which placed us in purgatory in the first place, instead of hell).

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