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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Purgatory

Matthew 12:32: “And whoever says 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 [world] or in the age [world] to come.” (Some sins can therefore be forgiven after death.)

1 Corinthians 3:13-15: . . . each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

2 Maccabees 12:45-46: (This is one of the Old Testament books omitted from the Protestant Bible). But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

Revelation 21:27: Nothing defiled can enter Heaven.

While many Protestant critics reject Purgatory because the word does not appear in the Bible, the actual reason is that such a teaching would make their view of justification by faith alone untenable. This Catholic teaching sustains our understanding of intercessory prayer for the dead, meritorious works done in Christ in reparation for sin, the temporal punishment due to sin, and transformation over imputation in Christ. Our justification is not a mere juridical rendering from God, but the elect are made into a new creation. They are changed. Purgatory allows this transformation to come to completion. The Scriptures uphold such a teaching, despite the protestations of so-called bible-Christians. The Bible teaches that some sins are forgiven in the world to come, on the other side of death. We are not talking here about mortal sin that damns the soul. The Scriptures indicate that some, although not all, are saved in the next world by fire. Literally the fire of God’s love purifies his own and makes them ready for heaven. In addition, the value of intercessory prayer for the dead is advocated by the Bible. Like a bride who wants to look her best before meeting her bridegroom, Purgatory allows us to undergo a cleansing or purgation of any residual stain— venial sin, the temporal punishment due to sin, and the tendency (habit) to sin.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

6 Responses

  1. Dear Paul,

    I suspect the pains of purgatory are contingent upon the level of conversion, mortification (penance) and faith that we know in this life. The Church proclaims saints who have already been perfected in this world and require no extended duration of purgation in the life to come. We should be more afraid of ourselves and our sluggishness in faith over any fear that God is out to get us.

    Sacrifices and acts of charity, like caring for the poor, the infirmed and the oppressed can play a mitigating role in terms of purgation, if pursued in a state of grace and as expressions of our faithful discipleship.

    The Church has always had both heroes and rogues among her numbers. Even Judas, one of Christ’s apostles to whom he would offer the priesthood, betrayed our Lord.

    Looking at the history of the Church, too much criticism is waged against the building of the great churches and St. Peter’s. Such were expressions of faith to give honor to God and not merely to men. Popes come and go, but the office of St. Peter remains and the Church continues to give God the glory. The architecture and artistic beauty of such edifices teach in themselves and raise our thoughts to heavenly affairs.

    As for me, you are wrong that I am a “hardliner,” as I would probably represent one of the more soft-hearted voices among orthodox Catholicism. I am too familiar with the many sins that afflict God’s people and their need for mercy to be damning in my sentiments. My pastoral demeanor gives some allowance for human weakness, brokenness and the formation of an anti-Christian culture. Yes, I believe in objective truths and certain moral values; however, I meet people where they are and try to assist with healing.

    God loves us and gives us what we most want. The tragedy of hell is that some do not love God or want any part of him. Admittedly, some of these people in this world might argue that such is not the case but their view of God is often fraudulent and their desires entirely selfish. They would not recognize the real Jesus Christ or want any part of the real heaven. The damned soul through mortal sin makes his hell in this world and takes it with him into the next. God will not force himself upon them. God can love them but he will not compel us to love him. Purgatory is a sign of God’s mercy made available to those who love God but not as fully as they should. Heaven is the ultimate abode of love; indeed it is a participation in both the divine love and life… forever.

    Blessings,
    Father Joe

  2. Dear Paul,

    Ours should always be a faith seeking understanding. However, we have to be humble enough to acknowledge that such comprehension will not be complete. After all, we are dealing with the mysteries of God.

    The faith is the faith, despite the failures and the sinfulness of people who make a claim of Christianity. Life is incredibly messy, not only because of human iniquity but because of weakness and the condition of the world. While we can fix or improve some things, much remains beyond our power or authority to control. Christ’s kingdom is breaking into our world, but it is not yet fully realized. I am sorely pained by all the stories I hear about abuse and the troubles in which young people find themselves, like your sister’s early pregnancy. I can well appreciate the hurt, fear and anger. The greatest tragedies of all are the violations against life, not only as with abortion but with matters like assault, euthanasia and suicide. I suspect that some find the living so very hard that they despair of it all. I suppose they want the pain to end or fail to find sufficient meaning to continue the struggle. We leave the final disposition of souls to the individual person and God, who is the judge of every one of us. While crimes against life are always serious, individual culpability is affected by many factors: awareness, freedom from duress, one’s emotional state, addictions, etc. We all fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners needing mercy. I would not be negatively presumptuous about your father’s place in the world to come; rather, I would recommend an element of hope and prayer. Who knows what was in his mind and heart during that last moment of mortal life?

    Catholics are urged to live in the sure and certain “hope” of their salvation in Christ. The notion that Catholics live in constant anxiety about eternal life is an aberration. We may pass through purgation but we have set our sights on heaven. During his Catholic stage, the Augustinian Luther bought into a piety that exaggerated human unworthiness. We see something of this in the historical Brethren of the Common Life and in the little book, THE IMITATION OF CHRIST. Do not get me wrong, it does us well to know holy fear and reverence as finite creatures as we approach the infinite majesty of the Almighty. However, we should not fall into any kind of Jansenism either where the goodness of creation is derided. While we might have a sense of ourselves as “a worm” before God; we should remember that we were made in the image of God. Divine grace restores us to his likeness, as well. We have a very high calling and are loved in the eyes of God. Should we really devalue that which God so highly prized that he sent his Son to join the human family? I think not. The Catholic Luther viewed man as so utterly depraved that he struggled with the notion that one could actually be saved. The Protestant Luther retained his negative appreciation of humanity and simply insisted that God imputed justification upon us because of his Son, not because we were changed in any way. However, that is not the view of Scripture or of the Church. God’s grace can perfect us and we can truly be remade as a new creation, born again. We trust that the same God, who had the power to incarnate himself into our humanity, has the same ability to give us a share in his divinity and life.

    As for prayers being answered, this dialogue we are having here might be part of God’s response. God answers all prayers, sometimes in very surprising ways. He does not give us everything we want; but I suspect that he makes available what we really need… yes, even as we pick up our crosses and follow him.

    Blessings,
    Father Joe

  3. Dear Fr Joe,
    I know that The Church never taught ‘the get out of hell free card’ theology, I remember the chatchism answer: “Those who die in Mortal Sin will go to Hell for all eternity”. But what The Church did teach, and teach me very effectively as a little child, was that I had to fear God and fear Purgatory; I would definately have to go there if I escaped the fires of Hell; that was a certainty and I believe it still and I fear it still. It will be truely awful and the suffering will be beyond anything experienced here on Earth.

    I know what you are saying is the true dogma of the Faith, and I know well the doctrines behind it (when I said ‘nasty’ I meant like cleaning old peoples bottoms in a nursing home as a trade-off to time in purgatory), but what I experienced as a child was very far removed from how you see The Church today.

    And there WAS terrible corruption within this Church centuraries ago………..St Peter’s in Rome was built and furnished to extraordinary opulence with at least some monies gained by the ‘trade-off’ just as the Church over the last few years has been shown to have acted very badly in hiding within her bowels the very perverts and child molesters that I experienced from Men of the Cloth for 8 years…….I hope that they may burn in the fires of Purgatory.

    No, that’s not true, I feel sorry for them really, and hope that they might meet their Saviour and that with Him they would share a ‘life review’ and in it experience some of the pain that they caused others.

    I know that you are a ‘hard liner’ and that’s why I respect your views, and the very nature of this blog must be one of truth, but the truth is also that, maybe not “The Church”, but distorted members of The Church definately, and deliberately, used fear, and fear of purgatory, in obtain control of little children……it happened and it still can unless people like you continue to demonstrate that the theory is not one of fear and vengeance but one of love and compassion.

    Keep banging that drum father, but keep one eye on that ugly aspect that might just creep back through those hallowed doors. We, as Catholics, have done some terrible things over the long history of The Church, and that must never be glibly passed over, denied, dismissed or made little of. We have truely done some terrible things in the name of this Holy Roman Catholic Religion.
    With love, Paul

  4. Dear Fr Joe,
    I understand what you mean when you say that there are some things so deep in the soul that we don’t want to give them up. I know that when I went through a very depressed period a few years ago, and it was very severe depression for quite a long period of time, I remember a strangely ironic conflict that there was a certain ‘cold comfort’ in that awful depressed state, it was familiar even though it was life threatening.

    As an engineer and a very logical and reasonably intelligent Catholic I keep trying to understand ‘this God’ and suppose that if I can know Him I will thus have faith whereas if I had faith I would not need to understand. It’s a real dilemma.

    Also I suppose I’m angry and also fearful of God, and this especially with regard to my father. He was brought up in the Church of England and fought for the full 5 years in the second world war which I think did him long term harm, but whilst in Italy for a time during the conflict, he became attracted to the True Faith and converted to Rome after the conflict and married my mother, also a convert. He did what he thought was best for my younger sister and me, and as I’ve said before, sent me to a horrible boarding school run by the Irish Christian Brothers, and my sister to a Convent High School for girls. But somewhere things did not go well for either of us. I became a very angry young man, possibly as a result of those 8 years and my sister became pregnant at 14.

    This was back in the sixties where abortion was not readily available in this country, but my father insisted that his daughter have an abortion, and after another couple of years, despite me seeing him in desperate states and as a last resort to St Jude, he succeeded in taking his own life.

    The Church teaches that he has outlawed himself from God,, and must spend eternity in Hell Fire; Purgatory is not even an option.

    Added to this is the continual thorn in my side that despite constant prayers to have it taken away I fear that I must live with it, so the prospect of a terrible eternity minus one really is cold comfort to me. Some days it’s easier to just get angry with God and dismiss Him as irrelevant or, conversely, try to believe that the Catholic Church has got it wrong and He’s such a loving God that He will welcome everyone into Paradise as long as we say sorry.

    So I suppose I’m at the point where I need more Faith but I don’t know how to get it as my prayers never seem to be answered, and believe me, I pray every single day.
    With kindest wishes,
    Paul

  5. Dear Paul,

    Be careful about the lies and forgeries of those bigoted against the Church. Martin Luther was not the only churchman who saw abuse and wanted reform, but he and his kind were also part of the problem. He used the ambition and greed of secular princes against the Church. He was an insecure man who inserted his anxieties into his theories about justification and faith. Indeed, he was so filled with hubris that he inserted the word “alone” into the Bible in reference to faith and deleted any books he found disagreeable, even among the New Testament epistles. He was a man of vulgar tongue (cleaned up in translations) who conspired against just authority, misrepresented the arguments of others like Johann Eck, broke his solemn vows to God and the Church, and embraced scandal by attempting marriage with a former nun.

    As for indulgences, the Church never taught the “Get out of Hell Free Card” notion. You could not do something “nasty” and still benefit from the indulgence in regard to temporal punishment or purgatory. Remember, that an indulgence only functions at all if the person is properly disposed and not in mortal sin. We cannot buy salvation or the forgiveness of sins. Donations might be made to support the work of the Church, but all that Christ has given to the Church, she gives in turn as a gift to people of faith. Beware of the anti-Catholic propaganda and their distorted view of history.

    Just as the saints intercede for us, we can pray for others. The Church has the ability to apply the fruits of our Lord and the saints to needy souls. All this fits into the picture of the community established and empowered by Christ, as well as that of the communion of the saints. While there was apparently some unlawful trafficking in indulgences, the enemies of the Church would abandon this special mercy entirely or deride the popes. The catalyst for the reaction against indulgences was from worldly princes who wanted the money and resources for themselves and not for the Church. This played right into the hands of Luther and the other Protestant reformers.

    Purgatory is a doctrine of mercy, not vengeance. However, as an element of imperfect contrition, we should all fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. The doctrine of justice is in regard to hell. We should be good because we love and want to please God. However, some men only behave because of fear of judgment. I cannot complain about that because such might keep us safe from the violence that evil people might otherwise commit against us.

    As for Albom’s book, it is quite interesting; but I would rather trust in God’s inspired Word. The notion of fire within purgation has to do with purification. If we are to be made perfect, than that which keeps us from God must be removed. We are talking about something more than a mole on the skin but a cancer buried deep in the soul. It hurts only because the extraction must go so deep. There is a part of us that does not want to give it up. It is for this reason that I think the reference to fire and the pains of purgatory are so appropriate. No one likes surgery or going to the hospital. However, we endure these things so that we might get well.

    Father Joe

  6. Purgatory, that great generator of wealth for the Church during another one of it’s troubled periods of history.
    Martin Luther was justifiably outraged by certain disreputable practices of my Church, and especially the sale of a certificate, signed by the Pope, to guarantee safe passage over the river Stix to a Catholic Heaven deviod of Heathens. The poor would have to suffer the fires of Purgatory for a little less than eternity before they had any chance of entry.

    I understand the theory of indulgences, and still say prayers with, perhaps, 300 days indulgence attached to them. Not that it lessens my ‘time’ in Purgatory by that amount, which is meaningless, but that my time in Purgatory would be lessened by the equivalent amount of time that doing ‘corporate works of mercy’ (another quaint expression) for 300 days would remit.

    So The theory was, and probably still is, that by me working hard doing something nasty whilst here on Earth I can ‘knock-off’ that time I will have to spend in Purgatory after death suffered in remission for the stain of forgiven yet not cleansed from my immortal soul, sins. Well, that sounds a reasonable interpretation of Scripture and a logical teaching by The Inspired Church.

    Now is the wobbly bit:- If I have a lot of money, I should be able to pay another to do the nasty bits, on my behalf, and still qualify for remission, theory being that I had to do nasty work to get the money in the first place (a bit like us wealthy nations using poor country’s carbon footprint credits to continue polluting this Earth),

    And the even more wobbly bit:- If I pay the Pope (acting as head of the Church), sufficient money to have a church built, or decorated, or works of art created, then that, too, would help my transition to the other world.

    And, for me, the bit so wobbly that I fail to stay upright:- If I give the Pope sufficient money he will give me, in return, a piece of paper signed by him and defined as a plennery indulgence, to guatantee immediate passage into Heaven. No wonder Luther felt more than a little outraged at what was going on in his church. OK so he went overboard in other ways, but there was certainly justification for his concern.

    So, not only is the concept of purgatory a possible money-spinner, it is also a means to be able to control us sinners; a wonderful concept to insure that young, impressionable children obey their teachers, and an awful tool to instill fear in the hearts of the vulnerable.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I do believe in purgatory, I believe that after my body has died, and that may not be too far away for me now, I will have to stand, naked, infront of a power so immense, so vast and unfathomable, a light so bright that the whole of creation pales before it, and face my daemons. However, Mitch Albom’s “the five people you meet in Heaven” seems more plausable an understanding than
    the Catholic one I was taught: that it is just as bad as the fires of Hell only you know that one day it will end and you will go to Heaven whereas in Hell Proper, the fires will go on for ever.

    Now I don’t think Albom’s book was necessarily from a Jewish perspective, but it does make greater sense than a pointless burning to anhilate the stains of sin forgiven and the venial sin not confessed, but felt sorry for. But as a little child, from my very earliest memories and certainly from 4 till 11 when I was educated and indoctrinated by the Nuns of LSU, the concept of a terrible, punishing God was used to control my behaviour by fear, and the fear of purgatory was right up there – top of the list.

    I’ll leave it at that for now and see what Father has to say.
    Paul

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