Sunday, March 15, 2009

Translating Purgatory

"In Sacred Scripture, we can grasp certain elements that help us to understand the meaning of [purgatory], even if it is not formally described. They express the belief that we cannot approach God without undergoing some kind of purification."- Pope John Paul II

Translation: We have a theological concept without explicit proof, so any verse that sounds remotely close enough to that concept weighs in as affirmative Biblical evidence.

Purgatory= "The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven." Fr. John A. Hardon .

Purgatory= "The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence." Pope John Paul II

Translation: Pick one of these or both: a)Hardon was wrong b) The Pope was not intending to speak infallibly

"It may surprise you to know that the Church makes very few binding statements about what purgatory is. The sections in the Catechism of the Catholic Church are very short. The most important statement is: "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" (CCC 1030)."- This Rock, "Is Purgatory Found in the Bible?"

Translation: We have enough wiggle room to speculate or further develop this doctrine. That is, you can say almost anything about purgatory and still be in harmony with the Roman Catholic Church.

"Purgatory used to be seen as a waiting room or a jail cell where the soul pays reparation for the "temporal punishment for sin" by 'doing time.' In fact, some devotionals used to assign a specific number of years in Purgatory for each sin, and a certain number of years that could be taken off of our sentence in Purgatory for an act of indulgence. I do not know much about this practice, and if anyone knows more about it I would really appreciate if you could explain it more clearly by leaving a comment for this post. The vision of Purgatory as a waiting room or a jail cell has somewhat fallen out of favor among post-Vatican II theologians. One reason is the awareness that Purgatory is experienced before the resurrection of our bodies. Without a body, a soul does not experience time in the same way we do now."-Saint Peter Catholic Church

Translation: Understanding the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory will be different in each generation. That is, each generation of Catholic scholars are given the freedom to speculate and interpret purgatory however they'd like to.

"Just as the doctrine of purgatory flows from the Catholic understanding of grace, so misconceptions flow from a misunderstanding of grace. Errors concerning this doctrine are most prevalent among Protestants due to their teaching of sola fide."-Catholics United for The Faith

Translation: The Roman Catholic template of grace didn't match up to all the information presented in the Bible, so purgatory was put forth to try to make it all work. Sola Fide though can account for all the relevant Biblical passages without importing an extra-biblical concept.

"Certain Protestants, such as C.S. Lewis, have also held to the truth of the doctrine [of Purgatory]"-Catholic Culture

Translation: A smart Protestant believed the Bible and in Purgatory, so should you. Forget doing exegesis, or studying the Bible. Lewis was too smart not to be wrong on Purgatory, but we can't figure out exactly why he wasn't smart enough to be a Roman Catholic....


BillyHW said...

Why are Protestants so obsessed with purgatory?

Rhology said...

We don't believe in Purgatory. Romanists do - I'd say THEY are the ones obsessed with it. We're more concerned with stuff we DO believe, like sola fide, sola scriptura, etc.

James Swan said...

Why are Protestants so obsessed with purgatory?

Actually, if you search my blog, I havn't spent too much time with purgatory until recently. I began reading and writing more on the subject because I've been teaching on heaven and hell.

Andrew said...

I think the big question is this: Did Christ pay the price or did he not? Seems to me that scripture says he did. In that case purgatory is superfluous at the very best. I say that hypothetically though. Superfluous is too generous a word for this doctrine. It devalues Christ and his sacrifice. Think about it. If what Christ went through still leaves some left over sin on the souls of his people to be cleaned up through penance (which we do ourselves contra Galatians 3:3) or purgatory then the cross is a failed mission. This makes what Christ did an absurdity.

EA said...

Hi Andrew,

I agree with you.

I think that a Catholic would insist that the defect is not in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but in the imperfect way that Christians follow Christ.

Purgatory is necessary to Catholic theology because a believer can only follow Christ imperfectly. The Sacraments help revive and restore the relationship with God. But what of those believers that pass away between Sacramental "restoration"?

Of course, if you can also finance the construction of the Vatican by selling indulgences to free loved ones from Purgatory so much the better. Purgatory used to be portrayed as just outside the gates of Hell rather than the current final "washing" before entering Heaven. Medieval marketing; nobody beat the RCC at it!

Anonymous said...

Most of your translations are actually funny. They made me think.

If sola fide accounts for the relevant biblical passages like Heb 12:14, then why does the Wsmnstr CF quote this under Sanctification and not Justification ?

The Dude said...

"Pick one of these or both: a)Hardon was wrong b) The Pope was not intending to speak infallibly"

"Understanding the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory will be different in each generation. That is, each generation of Catholic scholars are given the freedom to speculate and interpret purgatory however they'd like to."

Donum Veritatis (crafted by Ratzinger and addressed to theologians) emphasizes the importance, in light of continuity with the past, of distinguishing between the solid immutable principles and contingent elements; indicating that recognition of the mixture of the two is sometimes only revealed with time:
"24. Finally, in order to serve the People of God as well as possible, in particular, by warning them of dangerous opinions which could lead to error, the Magisterium can intervene in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements. It often only becomes possible with the passage of time to distinguish between what is necessary and what is contingent.

In fact, the theologian, who cannot pursue his discipline well without a certain competence in history, is aware of the filtering which occurs with the passage of time. This is not to be understood in the sense of a relativization of the tenets of the faith. The theologian knows that some judgments of the Magisterium could be justified at the time in which they were made, because while the pronouncements contained true assertions and others which were not sure, both types were inextricably connected. Only time has permitted discernment and, after deeper study, the attainment of true doctrinal progress."

Janus said...

Sometimes I think it is hard to refute to the apologist of Rome because they don't use the Bible, correctly, about this topic we found a lack of Biblical support of the doctrine of the purgatory.
It is common found arguments pro purgatory, like "The purgatory is necessary", well, this is an effect when we have left the Word of God, as a norm.

Churchmouse said...


I don't think that Protestants are obsessed with it (even though it was a catalyst towards Reformation). I look at Purgatory this way: If the "infallible" church is wrong about a something she determined "infallibly" than she surely isn't as "infallible" as she claims to be. Hence, she makes errors in doctrine and the biggest domino falls.