Saturday, March 21, 2009

Clearing up misunderstandings about Purgatory

Please also read "All Souls Day" for a better understanding of what indulgences are.  Then read "Saints Passed Through Purgatory; Will You Avoid It?"

First, a brief overview on the ‘selling indulgences’ controversy

Indulgences developed from reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation. The Church's authority to grant them flows from her divinely instituted authority of bind and loosing (St. Matthew 16:19). They are a way of shortening the penance of sacramental discipline and were in use centuries before money-related problems appeared.

In the past, indulgences have allowed the giving of certain sums for various causes (e.g. to build churches). Although such practices may have led to abuse, the concept of giving money for an indulgence is not contrary to reason - just as a criminal might have to pay a fine rather than perform community service. It is important to remember that the sins were already forgiven and any money given was not to forgive sins.

But the financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an (unjustifiable) excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There was no outright selling of indulgences, however it is easy to see how abuses crept in. Among the good works, which might be encouraged by being made the condition of an indulgence, almsgiving would naturally hold a conspicuous place. It is well to observe that in these purposes there is nothing essentially evil. To give money to God or to the poor is a praiseworthy act, and, when it is done from right motives, it will surely not go unrewarded, yet abuse was sure to follow.

The Council of Trent instituted severe reforms in the practice of granting indulgences, and, because of prior abuses, in 1567 Pope Pius V cancelled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions. This act proved the Church’s seriousness about removing abuses from indulgences.

Biblical proofs of Purgatory

First I want to point out that the number one argument offered by Protestants is "Where in the Bible does the word Purgatory show up?" This is a bogus argument. We all know God is Three divine Persons in one God, and we call Him the Blessed Trinity. Blessed Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible, but we have verses, which indicate the truth of this doctrine to us.  We will be using quotations from the Douay Rheims Challoner translation (the KJV has been used previously to prove other Catholic doctrines, so there is no need to use it again here).

St. Matthew 28:19: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

The same is true with Purgatory.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15: “For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

"Upon this foundation"… The foundation is Christ and his doctrine: or the true faith in him, working through charity. The building upon this foundation gold, silver, and precious stones, signifies the more perfect preaching and practice of the gospel; the wood, hay, and stubble, such preaching as that of the Corinthian teachers (who affected the pomp of words and human eloquence) and such practice as is mixed with much imperfection, and many lesser sins. Now the day of the Lord, and his fiery trial, (in the particular judgment immediately after death,) shall make manifest of what sort every man's work has been: of which, during this life, it is hard to make a judgment. For then the fire of God's judgment shall try every man's work. And they, whose works, like wood, hay, and stubble, cannot abide the fire, shall suffer loss; these works being found to be of no value; yet they themselves, having built upon the right foundation, (by living and dying in the true faith and in the state of grace, though with some imperfection,) shall be saved yet so as by fire; being liable to this punishment, by reason of the wood, hay, and stubble, which was mixed with their building.

Those who have not made satisfaction for their sins in this life, though they may have faith, are not able to enter heaven. This is an important concept, as it relates directly to the doctrine of Purgatory.

Apocalypse (Revelation) 21:27: “There shall not enter into it any thing defiled, or that worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb.”

Nothing defiled shall into heaven, no soul that has not first made satisfaction for sins committed during this life. King David sinned against God (adultery with Bathsheba, the death of Uriah the Hittite), and upon his contrition received forgiveness, but was still punished for his sin.

2 Samuel 12:13-14: “And David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin: thou shalt not die. Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee, shall surely die.”

Purgatory is only for people who die in the state of justification/grace. That means that anyone who dies in mortal sin cannot go to heaven, not even by going through purification in Purgatory. Only those whose mortal sins are forgiven. St. John alludes to the concept of those dying in mortal sin or final impenitence.

1 St. John 5:16: “He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him, who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death: for that I say not that any man ask.”

1 Corinthians 3:17: “But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.”

This verse refers to dying in mortal sin, those sins described by St. Paul in the following verse:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God.”

Apocalypse 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

St. John 20:23: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”

Confession to a priest of Apostolic succession is the means by which we are absolved, or perfect contrition with the resolution to go to confession as soon as one is able. This forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we are not still going to receive temporal punishment for our sins.

St. Matthew 5:25: “Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.”

For his faults he is cast into prison until he pays for his debt. This is exactly like Purgatory. Jesus also teaches that certain sins may be forgiven or made up for in the next world.

St. Matthew 12:32: “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.”

St. John and St. Peter both explain that our faith and works (bearing fruit) will be exposed to purification.

St. John 15:2: “Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

Jesus is showing us that those who bear fruit will be purged so they may bear more fruit; be purified.

1 St. Peter 1:7: “That the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

In addition to Scripture, the early Fathers of the Church believed in Purgatory. St Augustine, for example, is honoured by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as a Church Father of the 3rd century.

Patristic proofs of Purgatory

St. Augustine, Sermons 411: "But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the SALVIFIC SACRIFICE, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH OBSERVES THIS PRACTICE WHICH WAS HANDED DOWN BY THE FATHERS that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the Sacrifice itself."

St Augustine, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 [AD 421]: "That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain PURGATORIAL FIRE."
And there are others:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical lectures, AD 350: "Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out."

St. John Chrysostom Homilies on 1 Corinthians, AD 392: "Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice (Job 1:5), 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."

Clearly taught in Scripture and believed by the Early Christians

Colossians 1:24: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.”

This verse might be a shock to non-Catholics who have not heard it. What he means is that many sufferings are wanting and needed for the members of the Church to work out their salvation which was made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus Christ's sacrifice was perfect, so what does this mean? It means His sacrifice does not do away with all worries about the possibility of future punishment due to one’s sins, or he never would have said this, nor would Jesus speak of the punishment for sins, as he so often did.

Apocalypse (Revelation) 22:18: “For I testify to every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book.”

Now for 2 Maccabees

Luther, the first Protestant, in addition to adding the word 'alone' to Romans 3:28, took it upon himself to reject 7 books from the Old Testament. The Bible properly has 73 books, not 66. Luther even criticized books that he didn’t remove, such as the book of James. These books were removed because they support doctrines that Protestantism rejects. Even though these books were part of the canon of Scripture from the ancient Church, onwards, the Protestant Bible doesn’t have them. The fact that these books are truly part of Scripture and should be included in any true Bible, is proven by the Bible itself.

For example there is something called the Septuagint, the famous Greek translation of the Old Testament made by 70 scholars a few centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ and it contains the 7 books the Protestants reject. There are hundreds of quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament which has come down to us. Some three hundred of those quotations are from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. In other words, the New Testament which even Protestants have, quotes the version of the Old Testament which accepts the Catholic books of the Bible (see chapter 13). This shows us that the New Testament writers themselves accepted the Septuagint and therefore the 7 books of the Old Testament which the Protestants reject. But there is more. In Hebrews 11:35 of the Protestant and Catholic Bible, we see a reference to an event which is only recorder in the 2 Machabees, chapter 7.

Hebrews 11:35: “Women received their dead raised to life again. But others were racked, not accepting deliverance, that they might find a better resurrection.”

This reference is found in only one place in the Bible. It is not found in the Protestant Bible. It is found In 2 Maccabees, chapter 7. This proves that 2 Machabees is part of the true Old Testament, and it is this same book that contains a clear and undeniable teaching on Purgatory:

2 Maccabees 12:46: “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

This verse could hardly be more clear. It says that it is a holy thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins. That means that there is a place after death where some of the faithful who will be saved will be detained and may be aided by prayer. That place is Purgatory and this verse clearly proves it. That’s why it was removed from the Bible by those who wanted to invent a new version of Christianity by those who anted to invent a new version of Christianity which is not conformable to Catholic tradition or the teaching of the Bible. In this message you have seen irrefutable evidence that Purgatory is taught in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 3:15 which speaks of a man being saved though fire, while he is suffering loss or punishment. We see that the remaining need to satisfy the debt of temporal punishment for sin even after being forgiven is taught in the Bible as in the case of David who suffers the loss of his child, even though God has forgiven him of his sin and tells him he shall not die.


We’ve seen that Apocalypse 21:27 teaches that nothing impure will enter heaven, so that purification for the remaining temporal punishments due to forgiven sins must be done through good works on earth or through suffering in Purgatory. We’ve seen that Jesus alludes to a place like Purgatory in St. Matthew 5:26. We’ve seen that St. Matthew 12:32 implies that sins can be forgiven ion the world to come. We’ve seen that 1 St. Peter 1:7 and St. John 15:2 speak of God using purging and fiery discipline to conform souls to Him.

We’ve seen that the early Christians, the Fathers of the Church believed in Purgatory, even quoting St. Augustine who is regarded with honour even by most non-Catholics who are familiar with the early Church. The testimonies of these early Church Fathers prove that Purgatory has been the teaching of Christianity from the beginning. Purgatory was also the practice and belief of the Jews of the Old Testament, a belief which even modern Jews who rejected the Gospel, did retain as part of their tradition. Finally we quoted the clear proof for prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:46. This book teaches Purgatory and is proven to be part of Sacred Scripture by Hebrews 11:35.

The Catholic Church teaches Purgatory. This is because the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ which is faithful to all of His teachings and all Biblical truth. You need to learn the true Catholic Faith, and convert to it, or you cannot attain salvation.

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