The Catholic Church’s stance on Purgatory offers a surefire guarantee of Protestant/Catholic debate.
The Catholic Church teaches that Purgatory is simply a time or place of purification before going to heaven. The work of redeeming the soul has already been done by Jesus on the cross. But the reparation for sins committed and forgiven is the purpose of Purgatory.
Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on the subject:
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” (Catechism 1030-1031)
The doctrine of Purgatory has been around since the earliest years of Christianity. In fact, it preceded Christianity. Orthodox Jews – even to this day – recite a prayer called the “Mourner’s Kaddish” for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that he/she may be purified. During the Reformation, the Protestants tossed out the doctrine of Purgatory and even took an entire book (Maccabees) out of the Bible because it referred to Purgatory.
Read the passage below from the Book of Maccabees that discusses prayers for the dead:
“In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin” (2 Macc. 12:43–45).
Fundamentalist Protestant teaching indicates that there is a contradiction between the redemption that Jesus accomplished on the cross and the process by which we are sanctified. They really can’t say that there is no suffering at the end of the sanctification process unless they say that there is no suffering at the beginning either.
Something to think about:
Don’t most people experience a certain amount of suffering during the dying process?
Catholics are not trying to take away from the work of the cross. Rather, the cross produces our sanctification, which then results in our suffering.
Purgatory is the purification process that readies us to stand before God. Since the inception of Christianity, it was practiced and continues to be practiced today. Catholics are encouraged to pray for the souls in Purgatory so that they, too, will attain the holiness to enter into heaven.
Prayer for the souls in Purgatory:
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
So, on the matter of Purgatory, what are your thoughts?