Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
AskACatholic.com
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Adoration
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
AskACatholic Disclaimer
Search the
AskACatholic Database
Donate and
Support our work
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New Questions
Cool Catholic Videos
About Saints
Disciplines and Practices
Purgatory and Indulgences
back
About the Holy Mass
About Mary
Searching and Confused
Homosexual Issues
Life and Family
No Salvation Outside the Church
Sacred Scripture
non-Catholic Cults
Justification and Salvation
The Pope and Papacy
The Sacraments
Relationships and Marriage situations
Specific people, organizations and events
Doctrine and Teachings
Specific Practices
Church Internals
Church History

Elaine Hervieux wrote:

Hello,

I was recently speaking to a very dear friend and fellow Catholic who told me that the Church is re-visiting the idea of Purgatory and perhaps may be changing its teachings on it, or eliminating it all together.

I have searched on-line to try and find out if this is indeed true or not. I don't believe it is.

  • Can you help me?

Many thanks!

In His Service,

Elaine

  { Are we re-thinking what we officially teach on Purgatory? }

John replied:

Elaine,

Thanks for the question.

Purgatory is a reality. Purgatory is not something that the Church can eliminate.

However, here in lies the confusion.

  1. Over the passed few decades members of the clergy or teachers have so de-emphasized Purgatory that folks have gotten the wrong idea.

  2. Heretics in the Church have spread such dribble.

Here are the facts. The Catholic Church has always taught that there is purification after death for those who are not fully sanctified and yet die in a state of grace. Later, led by the Holy Spirit, the Church formalized this belief into the doctrine of Purgatory.

Now this doctrine in actually pretty bare bones.

  1. Purgatory exists for those who die in a state of grace, but not having been fully cleansed from the effects of sin.
  2. It involves suffering.
  3. Those in Heaven or on earth can pray for those in Purgatory.
  4. Those in Purgatory can pray for us on earth.

Now, through out the ages this simple doctrine has been explained in different ways.
There are two models used.

  1. The punishment model. As in we go to Purgatory to pay for our sins. This model has been the most prevalent and often misunderstood by poorly educated Catholics and especially Protestants.

  2. The healing model. I prefer this method of explanation because it eliminates confusion about who paid for our sins. Jesus paid for our sins yet when we sin, we harm our own souls as well as break our relationship with God. When we repent, normally through the Sacrament of Confession, we are forgiven and our relationship is restored, but the damage we have inflicted on our souls must also be healed. That can either happen during our earthly lives, as we allow God's grace to work in us, or it is completed in Purgatory. So the suffering experienced in Purgatory is really a healing pain, or a growing pain.

Both models usually use fire as an illustration of suffering but in actuality it is the Love of God which the Bible describes as a burning fire which cleanses us from our sins.

John

Eric replied:

Hi Elaine,

No, it's not true — though see my qualifier.

Official Church teaching has not changed and isn't going to change.

  • First, what fundamentally, do we believe about Purgatory?

We believe that it is a state in which we are cleansed from our sins, and that those in Purgatory can be helped by our prayers. That, in sum total, is what we must believe about Purgatory.
This is dogmatic teaching and cannot change. Everything else is speculation.

It is possible that someone is getting Purgatory confused with Limbo.

Limbo was speculative theology and was never official doctrine of the Church. The Church has in fact been revisiting Limbo with a view toward eliminating it; there was a moment not too many months ago when Pope Benedict had the opportunity to act in that regard, but opted not to do so, just yet.

Limbo is the teaching that babies who die unbaptized necessarily are consigned to the highest level of Hell, a place of natural happiness without torment or pain.

The reason for this is because theologically, Baptism cleanses us from our sins, grants us divine life, and establishes us in a right relationship with God. Without baptism, formally speaking,
we cannot be saved. However, it is possible for the desire for Baptism to count as Baptism.

The classic example is the catechumen (a non-baptized person studying for the faith with the expectation of entering the Church) who dies before he has a chance to be baptize. The Church believes he intended to be baptized, and planned to do so, so that counts as Baptism. A similar argument can be made for infants whose parents had every intention of baptizing them.

Even the Catechism published a decade ago refused to acknowledge Limbo saying, about unbaptized infants, that the Church commends them to the Mercy of God.

Hope this helps.

Eric Ewanco

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Elaine,

It is Limbo that the Church is studying. Limbo was never more than a theological opinion, but was taught widely.

Purgatory is scriptural and also defined doctrine, so no change will come there.

Mary Ann

Mike and Brian of HelpersOfTheHolySouls.com replied:

Hi, Elaine —

I wanted to make a comment based on a statement that was attributed to us by a good friend of ours, Diana Walsh Pasulka, in her new book:

Heaven Can Wait: Purgatory in Catholic Devotional and Popular Culture

In it on page 156 she said:

According to Mike Humphrey and Brian Bagley of the Helpers apostolate, the weight of tradition points to Purgatory as a physical place: "there is a real fire in Purgatory. All the saints talked about it."

The Church does not officially teach that Purgatory is either a physical or spiritual place.
Our personal theological view as lay theologians is that Purgatory is the Holy Hospital of Heaven — more of a spiritual view.

When talking with friends and family on Purgatory, it’s important they know the basics:

  • Purgatory does exist.
  • Purgatory is not a third place along with Heaven and Hell nor it is a second chance.
  • Purgatory has nothing to do with (Limbo, which was only a theological opinion and never a doctrine of the Church.)
  • Like I said, Purgatory is like the Holy Hospital of Heaven.
  • Souls in Purgatory have been saved just as much as the souls in Heaven.

Purgatory refers to a temporary state of purification for those who have died in the state of grace but still need to get rid of remaining imperfections (venial sins, earthly attachments, self-love, self-will, etc.) before entering the perfection of Heaven.

Purgatory has nothing to do with ones justification or salvation. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved. 

Purgatory has to do with ones own personal holiness and the burning away of remaining self-love.  Revelation 21:27 It's our personal holiness because each person uses their free will differently in life to make good or bad choices on our pilgrimage to our particular judgment. The Scriptures tell us, Our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)

We believe that All Consuming Fire is Our Very Lord Jesus Himself burning away all the self-love from our souls.

Think of sin as a self-inflicted wound in your life.

When we physically hurt ourselves, many times we have to be brought to the hospital and the doctor or nurse will put an alcoholic disinfectant in our cut or wound. It will hurt ... a lot!!! but it's a good hurt; it's a holy hurt, that is needed to make us physically better.

We also have to distinguish between less severe physical injures where we cut ourselves and require stitches and more severe injures, like a NASCAR racing driver who gets into a major collision and ends up with third or fourth-degree burns over 90 percent of their body. There are varying degrees of damage that we do to our bodies, not only physically, but spiritually too!

Because Revelation tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27) and because God Himself is all Holy, we too, have to be all Holy to enter Heaven. To achieve this, any remaining self-inflicted spiritual wounds (meaning self-love) from our pilgrimage on earth has to be burned off, healed, and purified.

  • If our spiritual injures are along the line of just needing stitches, that healing period where our self-love has to be burned off will be short;
  • but if our self-inflicted injuries are along the line of third or fourth-degree burns, the healing process will take longer.

Saints in the past have had private revelations from the souls in Purgatory. They [the Holy Souls in Purgatory] have shared that, while the [healing|burning] fires of God’s Love in Purgatory are painful (Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 3:1-6), at the same time they had an internal, burning joy because they knew they were being conformed to the image of God and their final destiny would be total union with Him.

Instead of the good healing pain that the alcoholic disinfectant gave us under a doctor’s care to prepare us to re-enter the earthly world again, in Purgatory, we experience a holy, healing pain under Jesus’ Care which purifies our souls and prepares us to enter eternal life with God who is all Holy.

If one wishes to view Purgatory as a physical place and can understand this analogy:

Think of Purgatory as a suburb to major metropolitan city where Jesus is the major metropolitan city: like Vatican City. Though I hypothetically live 25 miles away from Vatican City, as my soul is being purified I'm being drawn closer to the center of Vatican City until I will be one with the Lord.

Then the three of us, me, Jesus, and the Pope can go downtown for a pizza or hamburger : )

Hope this helps,

Mike (and Brian)
HelpersOfTheHolySouls.com

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.