Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven. 

The word "purgatory" is derived from the Latin word purgatorium, which refers to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.

In the Catholic church, Purgatory is the final purification of all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified.

Excerpt from Read Me or Rue It by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan

It is a prison of fire in which nearly all [saved] souls are plunged after death and in which they suffer the most intense pain.

Here is what the great Doctors of the Church tell us of Purgatory:

So grievous is their suffering that one minute in this awful fire seems like a

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Prince of Theologians, says that the fire of Purgatory is equal in intensity to the fire of Hell, and that the slightest contact with it is more dreadful than all the possible sufferings of this Earth!

St. Augustine, the greatest of the Holy Doctors, teaches that to be purified of their faults previous to being admitted to Heaven, souls after death are subjected to a fire more penetrating, more dreadful than anything we can see, or feel, or conceive in this life.

"Though this fire is destined to cleanse and purify the soul, " adds the Holy Doctor, "still it is more acute than anything we could possibly endure on Earth. "

St. Cyril of Alexandria does not hesitate to say that "it would be preferable to suffer all the possible torments of Earth until the Judgment day than to pass one day in Purgatory. "

Another great Saint says: "Our fire, in comparison with the fire of Purgatory, is as a refreshing breeze. "

The other holy writers speak in identical terms of this awful fire.


1. The fire we see on Earth was made by the goodness of God for our comfort and well-being Still, when used as a torment, it is the most dreadful one we can imagine.

2. The fire of Purgatory, on the contrary, was made by the Justice of God to punish and purify us and is, therefore, incomparably more severe.

3. Our fire, at most, burns this gross body of ours, made of clay; whereas, the fire of Purgatory acts on the spiritual soul, which is unspeakably more sensitive to pain.

4. The more intense our fire is, the more speedily it destroys its victim, who
therefore ceases to suffer; whereas, the fire of Purgatory inflicts the keenest, most violent pain, but never kills the soul nor lessens its sensibility.

5. Unsurpassingly severe as is the fire of Purgatory, the pain of loss or separation from God, which the souls also suffer in Purgatory, is far more severe. The soul separated from the body craves with all the intensity of its spiritual nature for God.

It is consumed with an intense desire to fly to Him. Yet it is held back. No words can describe the anguish of this unsatisfied craving.

What madness, therefore, it is for intelligent beings to neglect taking every
possible precaution to avoid such a dreadful fate.

It is puerile to say that it cannot be so, that we cannot understand it, that it is better not to think or speak of it. The fact remains always the same -- whether we believe it, or whether we do not -- that the pains of Purgatory are beyond everything we can imagine or conceive. These are the words of St. Augustine.


Part 1. Catholic Doctrine 

Purgatory (Latin, "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching, is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's Grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

The faith of the Church concerning Purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Roman Catholic Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent:

"Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers [of the Catholic Church], taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this OEcumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the Faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar [i.e., the Mass]..." (Roman Catholic Council of Trent, Decree Concerning Purgatory, Session 25, Wednesday, December 4, 1563).
Further than this the definitions of the Church do not go, but the tradition of the Fathers and the Scholastics must be consulted to explain the teachings of the Councils, and to make clear the belief and the practices of the Faithful.

Temporal Punishment

That temporal punishment is due to sin, even after the sin itself has been pardoned by God, is clearly the teaching of Scripture. God indeed brought man out of his first disobedience and gave him power to govern all things (Wisdom 10:2), but still condemned him "to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow" until he returned unto dust. God forgave the incredulity of Moses and Aaron, but in punishment kept them from the "land of promise" (Numbers 20:12). The Lord took away the sin of David, but the life of the child was forfeited because David had made God's enemies blaspheme His Holy Name (2 Kings 12:13-14).

In the New Testament as well as in the Old, almsgiving and fasting, and in general penitential acts are the real fruits of repentance (Matthew 3:8. Luke 3:3; 17:3).

The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (Session 24, Canon 11) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God.

Venial Sins

All sins are not equal before God, nor dare anyone assert that the daily faults of human frailty will be punished with the same severity that is meted out to serious violation of God's law. On the other hand whosoever comes into God's presence must be perfectly perfectly pure for in the strictest sense His "eyes are too pure, to behold evil" (Hab., 1:13). For unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death, the Church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory.

So deep was this belief ingrained in our common humanity that it was accepted by the Jews, and in at least a shadowy way by the pagans, long before the coming of Christ. (Aeneid, VI, 735 sq.; Sophocles, Antigone, 450 sq.).

Part 2. Errors 

Historically, in the early days of the Catholic Church, some heretics denied the existence of Purgatory.
Epiphanius (haer., lxxv, P.G., XLII, col. 513) complains that Acrius (fourth cent.) taught that prayers for the dead were of no avail.

In the Middle Ages, history repeated itself in the sects known as the dualist Cathars and the 
dualist Albigensians, and also the Waldenses, and Hussites, each of which rejected the actual existence of Purgatory.

Saint Bernard (Sermon 66 On the Canticles, P. L. CLXXXIII, col. 1098) states that the so-called Apostolici denied Purgatory and the utility of prayers for the departed.

In the 16th century, Father Martin Luther, O.S.A. [Schmalcaldic Article, Pars. II. Art. II, Sec. 12-15], and Father John Calvin [Instit. III 5, 6-10], taught a predestination which denied the existence of Purgatory. This is why, today, most Protestants reject Purgatory but do accept the false predestination taught by Luther and Calvin.

The Eastern-Rite Orthodox, e.g., the Greek Orthodox, seem to have a vague and indefinite notion of Purgatory [cf. Confessio Orthodoxa of Petrus Mogilas, P.I., q. 64-66-revised by Meletios Syrigos, and the Confessio of Dositheos, Decr. 18]. In the aftermath of Synod Vatican 2, held in the early to middle 1960's, the new humanistic church which Synod Vatican 2 put together with the help of six very active Protestants, which has been called the Vatican 2 Church, by praxis-in actual practice, despite what they say and write-accepts and believes this Protestant heresy of predestination.

But for members of the Catholic Church, belief in Purgatory fosters piety among the Faithful and deters one from venial sins of commission and omission. It also begets a true spirit of penance, and gives the Faithful a solid reason of why they need to practice charity for the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, especially for the souls of their own relatives and friends in particular and everyone else in general.

It likewise awakens within each person, especially those who are devoted to helping the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, salutary thoughts of the life to come. Such charitable persons also realize that if they help the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory now, that after they die, if they have the misfortune to end up in Purgatory, for whatever time, God, in His Infinite Mercy and Justice, will inspire those still in this life to have Holy Masses offered for those souls who had the most compassion on the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory when they were yet still in this life.

It is therefore wise and prudent to try to outdo each other in the charity you extend to the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory by having as many Holy Requiem Masses [Masses in which black vestments are used along with the Propers for the Daily Mass for the Dead] as you can afford, to be offered for the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory by a Priest or Prelate whom you know has been validly ordained by a valid Bishop.

Part 3. Proofs 

The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory supposes the fact that some die with smaller faults for which there was no true repentance, and also the fact that the temporal penalty due to sin is it times not wholly paid in this life.

The proofs for the Catholic position, both in Scripture and in Tradition, are bound up also with the practice of praying for the dead. For why pray for the dead, if there be no belief in the power of prayer to afford solace to those who as yet are excluded from the sight of God? So true is this position that prayers for the dead and the existence of a place of purgation are mentioned in conjunction in the oldest passages of the Fathers, who allege reasons for succouring departed souls.

Those who have opposed the doctrine of Purgatory have confessed that prayers for the dead would be an unanswerable argument if the modern doctrine of a "particular judgment" had been received in the early ages.

But one has only to read the testimonies below to feel sure that the Fathers speak, in the same breath, of oblations for the dead and a place of purgation.  One has only to consult the evidence found in the Catacombs to feel equally sure that the Christian Catholic Faith there expressed embraced clearly a belief in judgment immediately after death.

"Intercession has been made for the Soul of the dear one departed and God has heard the prayer, and the Soul has passed into a place of light and refreshment. Surely, such intercession would have no place were there question not of the particular, but of the final judgment." (Wilpert, Roma Sotteranea, I, 441.)

Some stress too has been laid upon the objection that the ancient Christian Catholics had no clear conception of Purgatory, and that they thought that the souls departed remained in uncertainity of salvation to the last day; and consequently they prayed that thoese who had gone before might in the final judgment escape even the everlasting torments of Hell.

The earliest Christian Catholic traditions are clear as to the particular judgment, and clearer still concerning a sharp distinction between Purgatory and Hell. The passages alledged as referring to relief from Hell cannot offset the evidence given below (Bellarmine, De Purgatorio, Book II, Chapter 5).

Concerning the famous case of Trajan, which vexed the Doctors of the Middle Ages, see Bellarmine, De Purgatorio, Book II, Chapter 8.

Old Testament

The tradition of the Jews is put forth with precision and clearness in 2 Maccabees.

Judas, the commander of the forces of Israel,

"making a gathering . . . sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Maccabees 12:43-46).
At the time of the Maccabees the leaders of the people of God had no hesitation in asserting the efficacy of prayers offered for the dead, in order that those who had departed this life might find pardon for their sins and the hope of eternal resurrection.

New Testament

There are several passages in the New Testament that point to a process of purification after death. Thus, Jesus Christ declares (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."
According to Saint Isidore of Seville (Deord. creatur., c. xiv, n. 6) these words prove that in the next life
"some sins wil be forgiven and purged away by a certain purifying fire."
Bishop Saint Augustine also argues
"that some sinners are not forgiven either in this world or in the next would not be truly said unless there were other [sinners] who, though not forgiven in this world, are forgiven in the world to come" (City of God, Book 21, Chapter 24).
The same interpretation is given by Gregory the Great (Dial., IV, xxxix).
Saint Bede (commentary on this text).

Saint Bernard (Sermo lxvi in Cantic., n. 11); etc.

A further argument is supplied by Saint Paul in 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."
While this passage presents considerable difficulty, it is regarded by many of the Fathers and theologians as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved. This, according to Bellarmine (On Purgatory, I, 5), is the interpretation commonly given by the Fathers and theologians; and he cites to this effect: 

* Saint Ambrose (commentary on the text, 
and Sermo xx in Ps. cxvii) 
* Saint Jerome, (Comm. in Amos, c. iv) 
* Saint Augustine (Comm. in Ps. xxxvii) 
* Saint Gregory (Dial., IV, xxxix) 
* Origen (Hom. vi in Exod.).
See also Saint Thomas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, Chapter 91. For a discussion of the exegetical problem, see Atzberger, Die christliche Eschatologie, p. 275.

Purgatory is firmly established by tradition and confirmed by the constant belief of the Church in the suffrages for the dead.

Tertullian's De corona militis mentions prayers for the dead as an Apostolic ordinance, and in De Monogamia (cap. x, P. L., II, col. 912) he advises a Widow:

"To pray for the soul of her husband, begging repose for him and participation in the first resurrection".
He also commands her:
"To make oblations for him on the anniversary of his demise," and charges her with infidelity if she neglect to succour his soul.
This settled custom of the Church is clear from Saint Cyprian, who (P. L. IV, col. 399) forbade the customary prayers for one who had violated the ecclesiastical law.
"Our predecessors prudently advised that no brother, departing this life, should nominate any churchman as his executor; and should he do it, that no oblation should be made for him, nor sacrifice offered for his repose."
Long before Saint Cyprian, Saint Clement of Alexandria had puzzled over the question of the state or condition of the man who, reconciled to God on his death-bed, had no time for the fulfilment of penance due his transgression.
His answer is:

"The believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God's justice is good, and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one, "yet" etc. (P. G. IX, col. 332).
In Origen the doctrine of Purgatory is very clear. If a man depart this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter.

"For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians, 3); but also wood and hay and stubble,what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works." (P. G., XIII, col. 445, 448).
The Apostolic practice of praying for the dead which passed into the liturgy of the Church, is as clear in the fourth century as it is in this century.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechet. Mystog., V, 9, P.G., XXXIII, col. 1116) describing the liturgy, writes:

"Then we pray for the Holy Fathers and Bishops that are dead; and in short for all those who have departed this life in our communion; believing that the souls of those for whom prayers are offered receive very great relief, while this Holy and Tremendous Victim lies upon the Altar."
Saint Gregory of Nyssa (P. G., XLVI, col. 524, 525) states that man's weaknesses are purged in this life by prayer and wisdom, or are expiated in the next by a cleansing fire.

"When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil."
About the same time the Apostolic Constitution gives us the formularies used in succouring the dead.

"Let us pray for our brethren who sleep in Christ, that God who in his love for men has received the soul of the depart one, may forgive him every fault, and in mercy and clemency receive him into the bosom of Abraham, with those who in this life have pleased God" (P. G. I, col. 1144).
Nor can we pass over the use of the diptychs where the names of the dead were inscribed; and this remembrance by name in the Sacred Mysteries.  This practice came from the Apostles themselves.  Patriarch Saint John Chrysostome considered this to be the best way of relieving the sufferings of the Faithful departed in Purgatory (In 1 Corinthians, Homily 41, n. 4, G., LXI, col. 361, 362).

The teaching of the Fathers, and the formularies used in the Liturgy of the Church, found expression in the early Christian monuments, particularly those contained in the Catacombs. On the tombs of the Faithful were inscribed words of hope, words of petition for peace and for rest.  Their anniversaries were observed by the Faithful who gathered at the graves of the Faithful departed to make intercession for those who had gone before them.  The bottom lines is that this is nothing less than the faith expressed by the Council of Trent (Session 25, On Purgatory), and to this faith the inscriptions in the Catacombs are surely witnesses.

In the fourth century in the West, Patriarch Saint Ambrose insists in his commentary on St. Paul (1 Corinthians, 3) on the existence of Purgatory, and in his masterly funeral oration (De obitu Theodosii), thus prays for the soul of the departed Emperor:

"Give, O Lord, rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest Thou hast prepared for Thy saints. . . . I loved him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living; I will not leave him till by my prayers and lamentations he shall be admitted unto the holy mount of the Lord, to which his deserts call him" (P. L., XVI, col. 1397).
Bishop Saint Augustine is clearer even than his master. He describes two conditions of men;

"Some there are who have departed this life, not so bad as to be deemed unworthy of mercy, nor so good as to be entitled to immediate happiness" etc., and in the resurrection he says there will be some who "have gone through these pains, to which the spirits of the dead are liable" (City of God, XXI, 24).

Thus at the close of the fourth century not only:

1.  Were prayers for the dead found in all the Liturgies, but the Fathers asserted that such practice was from the Apostles themselves.

2.  Those who were helped by the prayers of the faithful and by the celebration of the Holy Mysteries were in a place of purgation.

3. From which when purified they "were admitted unto the Holy Mount of the Lord".

So clear is this Patristic Tradition that those who do not believe in Purgatory have been unable to bring any serious difficulties from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. The passages cited to the contrary either do not touch the question at all, or are so lacking in clearness that they cannot offset the perfectly open expression of the doctrine as found in the very Fathers who are quoted as holding contrary opinions (Bellarmine, On Purgatory, Book 1, Chapter 13).

The chief punishment of Purgatory consists in being deprived of the Beatific Vision, which is the Vision of God in Heaven. This punishment is called poena damni [pain of the damned] by theologians. Besides this, there is an additional punishment, called poena sensus [pain of the senses], which, according to the common belief of the Western Church, consists in a real fire.

The souls in Purgatory are certain of their salvation, and are also confirmed in good. This means that they can not commit any sin. Because of their perfect love of God, whatever their sufferings are, they bear them with patient resignation. According to many theologians, their love of God and their patient resignation to His Holy Will, help to lessen and mitigate the severest sufferings of Purgatory. But, except for gaining and applying a plenary indulgence for a particular soul in Purgatory, the most powerful way in which you can help a Poor, Suffering Soul in Purgatory is by having a Holy Requiem Mass offered for the happy repose of his or her immortal soul!

How many Holy Masses does it take to release a soul from Purgatory? This varies with the particular circumstances of each soul. However, it has been suggested that it is better to have one Holy Mass offered for yourself in this life while you are still able to help yourself than to wait until you get to Purgatory and to then totally rely upon the charity of others.

Although the answer to the question of exactly how many Holy Masses it would actually take to release a particular soul from Purgatory is normally not disclosed, except in very rare cases of private revelation, it has been claimed that one Holy Mass offered for you BEFORE your death is worth at least 1,000 Holy Requiem Masses offered for you AFTER your death!

Part 4. Duration and Nature 


The very reasons assigned for the existence of Purgatory make for its passing character. We pray, we offer sacrifice for Souls therein detained that

"God in mercy may forgive every fault and receive them into the bosom of Abraham" (Apostolic Constitutions, P. G., I col. 1144).
Bishop Saint Augustine (City of God, Book 21, Chapters 13-14) declares that the punishment of purgatory is temporary and will cease, at least with the Last Judgment.

"But temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment."

Nature of Punishment

It is clear from the Liturgies and the Fathers above cited that the souls for whose peace sacrifice was offered were shut out for the time being from the sight of God.

They were "not so good as to be entitled to eternal happiness".

Still, for them

"Death is the termination, not of nature, but of sin" (Saint Ambrose, De obitu Theodos.).

Tis inability to sin makes them secure of final happiness. This is the Catholic position proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Pope Leo X in the Bull Exurge Domine which condemned the errors of Luther.

Are the Souls detained in Purgatory conscious that their happiness is but deferred for a time, or may they still be in doubt concerning their ultimate salvation? The ancient Liturgies and the inscriptions of the catacombs speak of a "sleep of peace", which would be impossible if there was any doubt of ultimate salvation.

Saint. Bonaventure gives as the reason for the elimination of fear and of uncertainty by the Poor, Suffering Souls, the intimate conviction that they can no longer sin (lib. IV, dist. xx, p.1, a.1 q. iv):

Est evacuatio timoris propter confirniationem liberi arbitrii, qua deinceps scit se peccare non posse. (Fear is cast out because of the strengthening of the will by which the soul knows it can no longer sin).

Saint Thomas (dist. xxi, q. i, a.1) says:

nisi scirent se esse liberandas suffragia non peterent (unless they knew that they are to be delivered, they would not ask for prayers).


In the Bull "Exurge Domine" the Roman Catholic Pope, Leo X, condemns the proposition (n. 38)

Nec probatum est ullis aut rationibus aut scripturis ipsas esse extra statum merendi aut augendae caritatis. (There is no proof from reason or Scripture that they [the souls in purgatory] cannot merit or increase in charity).
For them "the night has come in which no man can labour", and Christian tradition has always considered that only in this life can man work unto the profit of his own soul.

The Doctors of the Middle Ages, while agreeing that this life is the time for merit and increase of Grace, still some with Saint Thomas, seemed to question whether or not there might be some non-essential reward which the Souls in Purgatory might merit (IV, dist. xxi, q. i, a. 3).

Bellarmine believes that in this matter Saint Thomas changed his opinion and refers to a statement of St. Thomas (De Malo, q. vii, a. 11). Whatever may be the mind of the Angelic Doctor, theologians agree that no merit is possible in Purgatory.

Bellarmine says that the prayers of the Poor Souls in Purgatory avail with God because of merit already acquired:

Solum impetrant ex meritis praeteritis quomodo nunc sancti orando pro nobis impetrant licet non merendo. (They avail only in virtue of past merits as those who are now saints intercede for us not by merit but by prayer). (loc. cit. II, cap. iii).

Purgatorial Fire

At the Council of Florence, Bessarion argued against the existence of real purgatorial fire, and the Greeks were assured that the Roman Church had never issued any dogmatic decree on this subject.

In the West the belief in the existence of real fire is common. For example, Saint Augustine in Psalm 37, n. 3, speaks of the pain which purgatorial fire causes as more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life:

gravior erit ignis quam quidquid potest homo pati in hac vita (P. L., col. 397).
Saint Gregory the Great speaks of those who after this life

"will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames," and he adds "'that the pain be more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life" (Psalm 3, poenit., n. 1).
Following in the footsteps of Saint Gregory, Saint Thomas teaches (IV, dist. xxi, q. i, a.1) that besides the separation of the soul from the sight of God, there is the other punishment from fire.

Una poena damni, in quantum scilicet retardantur a divina visione; alia sensus secundum quod ab igne punientur.

Saint Bonaventure not only agrees with Saint Thomas but adds (IV, dist. xx, p.1, a.1, q. ii) that this punishment by fire is more severe than any punishment which comes to men in this life; Gravior est omni temporali poena. quam modo sustinet anima carni conjuncta.

Part 5.Succouring the Dead 

Scripture and the Fathers command prayers and oblations for the departed, and the Council of Trent (Session 25, On Purgatory) in virtue of this tradition not only asserts the existence of purgatory, but adds

"That the Souls therein detained are aided by the suffrages of the Faithful and principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar."
That those on earth are still in communion with the Souls in Purgatory is the earliest Christian Catholic teaching, and that the living aid the dead by their prayers and works of satisfaction is clear from the tradition above alleged.
That the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the departed was received Catholic Tradition, even as far back as the days of Tertullian and Cyprian, and that the souls of the dead, were aided particularly "while the Sacred Victim lay upon the Altar" is the expression of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem quoted above.

Bishop Saint Augustine says that the "prayers and alms of the faithful, the Holy Sacrifice of the altar aid the faithful departed and move the Lord to deal with them in mercy and kindness, and, this is the practice of the universal Church handed down by the Fathers." (Sermon clxii, n. 2.)

Whether our works of satisfaction performed on behalf of the dead avail purely out of God's benevolence and mercy, or whether God obliges himself in justice to accept our vicarious atonement, is not a settled question.

Suarez thinks that the acceptance is one of justice, and alleges the common practice of the Church which joins together the living and the dead without any discrimination (De poenit., disp. xlviii, 6, n. 4).

Part 6. Indulgences 

The Council of Trent (Sesssion 25) defined that indulgences are "most salutary for Christian people" and that their "use is to be retained in the Church".

It is the common teaching of Catholic theologians that: 

Indulgences may be applied to the souls detained in Purgatory; 
that indulgences are available for them "by way of suffrage" (per modum suffragii). 
(1) Bishop Saint Augustine (City of God, XX, ix) declares that the souls of the faithful departed are not separated from the Church, which is the kingdom of Christ, and for this reason the prayers and works of the living are helpful to the dead.

"If, therefore, we can offer our prayers and our satisfactions in behalf of those detained in purgatory, because we are members of the great body of Christ, why may not the Vicar of Christ apply to the same souls the superabundant satisfaction of Christ and his saints--of which he is the dispenser?"  (Bellarmine, On Indulgences, xiv.)

This is the doctrine of Saint Thomas (IV, Sent., dist. xlv, q. ii, a. 3, q. 2) who asserts that indulgences avail principally for the person who performs the work for which the indulgence is given, if they but secondarily may avail even for the dead, if the form in which the indulgence is granted be so worded as to be capable of such interpretation, and he adds

"nor is there any reason why the Church may not dispose of its treasure of merits in favour of the dead, as it surely dispenses it in favour of the living".
(2) St. Bonaventure (IV, Sent., dist. xx, p. 2, q. v) agrees with Saint Thomas, but adds that such "relaxation cannot be after the manner of absolution as in the case of the living but only as suffrage (Haec non tenet modum judicii, sed potius suffragii).

This opinion of St. Bonaventure, that the Church through its Supreme Pastor does not absolve juridically the Souls in Purgatory from the punishment due their sins, is the teaching of the Doctors.

They point out that in case of those who have departed this life judgment is reserved to God; they allege the authority of Gelasius (Ep. ad Fausturn; Ep. ad. Episcopos Dardaniae) in support of their contention (Gratian, 24 q. ii, 2, Canon1).

But according to the same author, the suffrages of the faithful avail at times per modum meriti congrui (by way of merit), at times per modum impetrationis (by way of supplication) at times per modum satisfactionis (by way of satisfaction); but when there is question of applying an indulgence to one in purgatory it is only per modum suffragii satisfactorii.

If the question be further asked whether such satisfaction is accepted by God out of mercy and benevolence, or "ex justitia", theologians are not in accord--some holding one opinion, others the other.

Bellarmine after canvassing both sides (pp. 137, 138) does not dare to set aside "either opinion, but is inclined to think that the former is more reasonable while he pronounces the latter in harmony with piety (admodum pia).

If the State of Grace be not among the required works, in all probability the person performing the work may gain the indulgence for the dead, even though he himself be not in friendship with God (Bellarmine, admodum pia, p. 139).

Suarez (De Poenit., disp. Iiii, s. 4, n. 5 and 6) puts this categorically when he says:

Status gratiae solum requiritur ad tollendum obicem indulgentiae (The State of Grace is required only to remove some hindrance to the indulgence), and in the case of the holy souls there can be no hindrance.
This teaching is bound up with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, and the monuments of the catacombs represent the saints and martyrs as interceding with God for the dead. The prayers too of the early liturgies speak of Mary and of the Saints interceding for those who have passed from this life.
Bishop Saint Augustine believes that burial in a basilica dedicated to a holy martyr is of value to the dead, for those who recall the memory of him who has suffered will recommend to the martyr's prayers the soul of him who has departed this life

In the same place Saint Robert Bellarmine accuses Dominicus A Soto of rashness, because he denied this doctrine.  (Bellarmine, Book II, xv).

Part 7. Invocation of Souls 

Do the Souls in Purgatory pray for us? May we call upon them in our needs? There is no decision of the Church on this subject, nor have the theologians pronounced with definiteness concerning the invocation of the Souls in Purgatory and their intercession for the living.

In the ancient Liturgies there are no prayers of the Church directed to those who are still in Purgatory. On the tombs of the early Christian Catholics nothing is more common than a prayer or a supplication asking the departed to intercede with God for surviving friends, but these inscriptions seem always to suppose that the departed one is already with God.

Various theologians teach that the Souls in Purgatory really pray for us, and that we may invoke their aid.  In virtue of their greater love of God and their union with Him their prayers the Poor Souls in Purgatory may have great intercessory power, for they are really superior to us in love of God, and in intimacy of union with Him.  (Bellarmine, De Purgatorio, Book II, xv,)

"The Souls in Purgatory are holy, are dear to God, love us with a true love and are mindful of our wants; that they know in a general way our necessities and our dangers, and how great is our need of Divine help and Divine Grace".  (Suarez, De poenit., disp. xlvii, s. 2, n. 9.)

Scavini sees no reason why the souls detained in purgatory may not pray for us, even as we pray for one another. He asserts that this practice has become common at Rome, and that it has the great name of St. Alphonsus in its favour.  (Scavini, Moral Theology, XI, n. l74.)

St. Alphonsus DeLigouri, in his work the "Great Means of Salvation", Chapter I, III, 2, after quoting Sylvius, Gotti, Lessius, and Medina as favourable to his opinion, concludes:

"So the souls in purgatory, being beloved by God and confirmed in grace, have absolutely no impediment to prevent them from praying for us. Still the Church does not invoke them or implore their intercession, because ordinarily they have no cognizance of our prayers. But we may piously believe that God makes our prayers known to them". He alleges also the authority of St. Catharine of Bologna who "whenever she desired any favour had recourse to the souls in purgatory, and was immediately heard".

Part 8. Utility of Prayer for the Departed 

It is the traditional faith of Catholics that the souls in purgatory are not separated from the Church, and that the love which is the bond of union between the Church's members should embrace those who have departed this life in God's Grace.

Hence, since our prayers and our sacrifices can help those who are still waiting in purgatory, the saints have not hesistated to warn us that we have a real duty toward those who are still in purgatorial expiation. Holy Church through the Congregation of Indulgences, December 18, 1885, has bestowed a special blessing on the so-called "heroic act" in virtue of which

"a member of the Church militant ofters to God for the souls in purgatory all the satisfactory works which he will perform during his lifetime, and also all the suffrages which may accrue to him after his death" (Heroic Act, Volume 7, 292).

The practice of devotion to the dead is also consoling to humanity and eminently worthy of a religion which seconds all the purest feelings of the human heart.

"Sweet is the consolation of the dying man, who, conscious of imperfection, believes that there are others to make intercession for him, when his own time for merit has expired; soothing to the afflicted survivors the thought that they possess powerful means of relieving their friend.  In the first moments of grief, this sentiment will often overpower religious prejudice, cast down the unbeliever on his knees beside the remains of his friend and snatch from him an unconscious prayer for rest; it is an impulse of nature which for the moment, aided by the analogies of revealed truth, seizes at once upon this consoling belief. But it is only a flitting and melancholy light, while the Catholic feeling, cheering though with solemn dimness, resembles the unfailing lamp, which the piety of the ancients is said to have hung before the sepulchres of their dead" (Cardinal Wiseman, Lecture 11).

The Sabbatine Privilege 

The name Sabbatine Privilege is derived from the apocryphal Bull Sacratissimo uti culmine of John XXII, 3 March, 1322. In this Bull the pope is made to declare that the Mother of God appeared to him, and most urgently recommended to him the Carmelite Order and its confratres and consorores. The Blessed Virgin asked that John, as Christ's representative on earth, should ratify the indulgences which He had already granted in heaven (a plenary indulgence for the members of the Carmelite Order and a partial indulgence, remitting the third part of the temporal punishment due to their sins, for the members of the confraternity); she herself would graciously descend on the Saturday (Sabbath after their death and liberate and conduct to heaven all who were in purgatory. Then follow the conditions which the confratres and consorores must fulfill.

At the end of the Bull the pope declares:

Istam ergo sanctam Indulgentiam accepto, roboro et in terris confirmo, sicut, propter merita Virginis Matris, gratiose Jesus Christus concessit in coelis.
(This holy indulgence I therefore accept; I confirm and ratify it on earth, just as Jesus Christ has graciously granted it in heaven on account of the merits of the Virgin Mother).

Our first information of this Bull is derived from a work of the Carmelite Balduinus Leersius (Collectaneum exemplorum et miraculorum in Bibliotheca Carmelit., I, Orleans, 1752, p. 210), who died in 1483 A.D.. The authenticity of the Bull was keenly contested especially in the seventeenth century, but was vigorously defended by the Carmelites. The chief opponents of its authenticity were Joannnes Launoy and the Bollandist, Daniel Papebroch, both of whom published works against it. Today it is universally regarded by scholars as inauthentic, even the Monumenta histor. Carmel. of the Carmelite B. Zimmerman (I, LĂ©rins, 1907, pp. 356-63) joining in rejecting it.

In 1379, in consequence of the hostility still shown to their order and especially to its name, the Carmelites besought Urban VI to grant an indulgence of 3 years and 3 quarantines to all the faithful who designated them and their order Ordinem et Fratres B. Mariae Genetricis Dei de Monte Carmeli (Bullar. Carmelit. I, 141); this was granted by Urban on 26 April, 1379. It is difficult to understand why, instead of asking for this indulgence, they did not appeal to the old promise and the recent Bulla sabbatina, if the scapular was then known and the promise to St. Simon Stock and this Bull were genuine and incontestable.

While the Bull of John XXII was ratified by some later popes in the sixteenth century (cf. Bullar. Carmelit., II, 47, 141), neither the Bull itself in its wording nor its general contents were thereby declared authentic and genuine...

We reproduce here the whole passage dealing with the Sabbatine privilege, as it appears in the summary approved by the Congregation of Indulgences on 4 July, 1908. It is noteworthy that the Bull of John XXII, which was still mentioned in the previous summary approved on 1 December, 1866, is no longer referred to (cf. Rescript. authent. S.C. Indulg., Ratisbon, 1885, p. 475). Among the privileges, which are mentioned after the indulgences, the following occurs in the first place: "The privilege of Pope John XXII, commonly [vulgo] known as the Sabbatine, which was approved and confirmed by Clement VII (Ex clementi, 12 August 1530), St. Pius V (Superna dispositione, 18 Feb., 1566), Gregory XIII (Ut laudes, 18 Sept., 1577), and others, and also by the Holy Roman General Inquisition under Paul V on 20 January, 1613, in a Decree to the following effect:

It is permitted to the Carmelite Fathers to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death -- especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin -- through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.

With this explanation and interpretation, the Sabbatine privilege no longer presents any difficulties, and Benedict XIV adds his desire that the faithful should rely on it (Opera omnia, IX, Venice, 1767, pp. 197 sqq.). Even apart from the Bull and the tradition or legend concerning the apparition and promise of the Mother of God the interpretation of the Decree cannot be contested.

The Sabbatine privilege thus consists essentially in the early liberation from purgatory, through the special intercession and petition of Mary, which she graciously exercises in favour of her devoted servants preferentially -- as we may assume -- on the day consecrated to her, Saturday.

Furthermore, the conditions for the gaining of the privilege are of such a kind as justify a special trust in the assistance of Mary. It is especially required of all who wish to share in the privilege that they faithfully preserve their chastity [according to their state in life], and recite devoutly each day the Little Hours [a.k.a. Little Office] of the Blessed Virgin.

However, all those who are bound to read their Breviary, fulfil the obligation of reciting the Little Hours by reading their Office. Persons who cannot read must (instead of reciting the Little Hours) observe all the fasts prescribed by the Church as they are kept in their home diocese or place of residence, and must in addition abstain from flesh meat on all Wednesdays and Saturdays of the year, except when Christmas falls on one of these days.

The obligation to read the Little Hours and to abstain from flesh meat on Wednesday and Saturday may on important grounds be changed for other pious works; the faculty to sanction this change *** was granted to all confessors [i.e. Priests and Bishops] by Leo XIII in the Decree of the Congregation of Indulgences of 11 June, 1901.

For the text of the Bull see Bullarium Carmelit., I (Rome, 1715), 61 sq.; for its defense cf. Carmelite authors, e.g. BROCARD, Receueil d'instructions (4th ed., Ghent, 1875); RAYNAUD, Scapulare Partheno-Carmeliticum (Cologne, 1658). For the explanation of the privilege, consult BERINGER, Die Ablasse (13th ed.), 659 sqq.

*** Editor's Note:  Because some of these requirements would put a tremendous undue burden and stress upon many of the Catholic Faithful today, when just trying to get through the day itself has become for so many Catholics an extremely heavy cross, as one of the said "confessors" to whom the faculty to sanction change has been given, I hereby abolish all requirements except for the daily wearing of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.) 
Biblical References to Purgatory 

Despite the fact that the Bible does not explicitly use the word Purgatory, the Bible presupposes the existence of Purgatory because it clearly refers to it.
Examples include:

"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Machabees 12:46).
Here is an evident and undeniable proof of the practice of praying for the dead under the old law, which was then strictly observed by the Jews, and consequently could not be introduced at that time by Judas, their chief and high priest, if it had not been always their custom.

"Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing" (Matthew 5:26).

Here, under the form of a parable, Christ warns everyone who does not fulfill the commandment of Christian brotherly love (in reality the 4th to the 10th Commandments) that they shall receive a just punishment from the Judge Judge. Tertullian understands the "last farthing" to be those petty transgressions which must be expiated in the prison of the underworld in the next world by the postponement of the resurrection to the millennial kingdom (Tertullian, De Anima 58; Saint Cyprian, Epistle 55, 20).

"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" (Matthew 12:32).

This leaves open the possibility that sins are forgiven not only in this world, but also in the world to come. "In this sentence it is given to understand that many sins can be remitted in this world, but also many in the world to come" (St. Gregory the Great, Dialogue IV, 39; also, Saint Augustine, City of God, XXI, 24, 2).

" If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (I Corinthians 3:15).

The Latin Fathers of the Church understand this passage to mean a transient purification punishment in the next world (Cf. Saint Augustine, Enarr. in Psalm 37:3 and Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 179).



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