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Pam Nelson wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What is the Church's position on purgatory and what, in particular, does the Church say about unbaptized infants?

I googled this question, but as you know, there are many opinions and contradictory statements on internet searches. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to waffle on this subject or at least I think so.

  • Is there anything wrong with me having my own opinion on this?
    I don't see it as Church doctrine anywhere.

  • If souls come from God by his Creation, why should they not go back just because someone decided to abort them?

Pam

  { What is the Church's position on Purgatory and unbaptized infants? }

John replied:

Hi, Pam —

Well, the issue of Purgatory and unbaptized infants are entirely different subjects.

Purgatory is a place or condition for those who die in friendship with God but who have not been fully perfected or sanctified. Most people go to heaven through Purgatory. That is not to say people somehow atone for their own sins or earn their way into heaven. The purification which happens is simply the Love of God purifying us. It, like the entire process of Salvation, is an act of Grace.

While the Bible doesn't specifically mention a place called purgatory, it does imply purification after death in both the Old and New Testaments.

As Catholics, we are bound to believe in purification after death and in purgatory.

However, throughout the centuries many models have been used to try and describe what is a Mystery of Faith. The models vary from a juridical model which paints purgatory as a place of temporal punishment to a healing model, whereby purgatory is a Holy Ghost Hospital. The pain suffered in the healing model is not punishment, rather it is a healing and growing pain.

Both models work and yet both are limited. The juridical model, I find most problematic and is a source of confusion to many Protestants and Catholics. But again, it is only a model; it is NOT the doctrine itself.

Now as for unbaptized infants, the Church entrusts them to the Love and Mercy of God, who desires all men to be saved. We understand that WE are limited to preaching the Gospel and baptizing people in order to bring about the New Birth necessary to have eternal life. We also acknowledge that there are exceptions to the rule. For example, the thief on the Cross, to whom Jesus said: "Today you will be with me in paradise", was not baptized.

Therefore while we are limited to:

  • preaching the Gospel
  • baptizing and
  • administering the sacraments as the normative means of salvation

God is not limited. He can save anyone, at anytime, in any way, He chooses. We also recognize that all Salvation comes to everyone in and through Jesus Christ and by His atoning sacrifice.
All of this applies to unbaptized infants.

We certainly cannot dogmatically say they are in heaven, but relying on God's Mercy and Justice, we can certainly presume it.

John

Mike replied:

Hi, Pam —

I just wanted to add to what my colleague John has said on Purgatory.

This is from my recent newsletter. You can sign-up on the home page on the right hand side.

Mini Catechesis

As Catholics we believe there are three "groups" in the Church which make up the Mystical Body of Christ:

  • the Church Militant: those of us bringing the Gospel to others on earth;
  • the Church Suffering: those in Purgatory, who, though they died in a state of grace, died with remaining self-love; and
  • the Church Glorious: the saints in Heaven.

Although the souls in Purgatory have been saved and are destined for Heaven, they still have self-love from this earthy life that must be purified to satisfy God's justice.

Purgatory has NOTHING to do with ones salvation or justification. It has to do with ones personal HOLINESS. Revelation 21:27 - Nothing unclean will be allowed to enter into heaven.

Purgatory in no way takes away from the finished work of Christ, rather it
medicinally applies the finished work of Christ to the Christian.

You said:
I don't see it as Church doctrine anywhere.

100 percent of Catechism of the Catholic Church IS the doctrine or Teaching of the Faith.
As the Venerable John Paul II stated in the introductory document, Fidei Depositum:

"It is a sure norm for the Faith."

Hope this helps,

Mike

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