Thursday, December 29, 2011

Does Purgatory Disprove Roman Catholicism?

Purgatory is defined by the Catholic Church as the place of the final purification of the Elect. It serves the purpose of allowing those souls whose earthly life finished while they were imperfectly in God's friendship the final purification so they can enter Heaven in a state of perfect holiness (cf. Rev. 21:27).

In a recent post on his blog, Hiram Diaz, claims that Holy Mother Church's belief in such makes her claim of being the church founded by Christ a falsehood. According to the subtitle of his post it is a scriptural refutation; however in all of his bullet points I see only one mention of scripture (Jer. 31:34), and very little refutation.

I like this particular verse which says in effect that God will forgive us all of our sins and remember them no more. However in no way does this refute Purgatory nor Roman Catholicism. It seems to me that to disbelieve in the overwhelming scriptural evidence that would seem to support Purgatory is an attempt to deny God's eternal mercy.

First let's unpack that verse from Jeremiah and show how it in no way refutes Purgatory. The idea of Purgatory is that it is intended to help cleanse a person from all attachments to sin, from love of self, so that when they enter Heaven they will have only love of God.

In 2 Sam. 12 we see the story of King David's affair with Uriah's wife. David confesses his sin to the prophet Nathan, who tells him The Lord has taken away your sin and you shall not die (2 Sam 12:13). However as punishment for that sin the child conceived of that union dies (verse 18).

We also see in 2 Maccabees that Judas Maccabeus offers prayers and sacrifices for the dead (2 Macc. 12:43-46). Now, Mr. Diaz of course would dispute the canonicity of 2 Macc. however even if it isn't canonical it is no less accurate as a historical document. Thus showing that Jews in the time of Christ believed in offering prayers for the dead. Prayers which would not be efficacious for those in Heaven nor Hell, so they must be intended for those in a third place, i.e. Purgatory.

We also see Jesus mention this third state of post-Earthly life. Matthew 12:32 sees Jesus telling the disciples that speaking ill of the Son of Man can be forgiven; but that blaspheming the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in this age nor in the age to come. Which again shows that there are in fact sins which can be remitted after death, and also some sins so severe they can never be forgiven.

We also see in St. Luke's Gospel (Lk. 16:19-31) the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Now the rich man is suffering in his state, and wants to warn others. Since compassion is a gift of God's grace he is not in Hell as that would be the permanent removal from the grace of God. And he is not in Heaven since he is in fact in a state of discomfort. He must be in Purgatory.

St. Paul's epistles also feature numerous references to the idea (such as 1 Cor. 3:10-15).

It seems the flaw in Diaz's attempt to discredit Holy Mother Church comes from his poorly constructed straw man detailing what Purgatory is and is intended to accomplish.For as I have shown even scripture details that God can forgive us our sins, yet still require us to make reparations for them. Much like if a father loaned his son the car for the night and the son had an accident; the father might forgive the son for having the accident but still require him to pay for the repairs.

God is both boundless mercy and boundless justice. This is one of the many paradoxes of the faith that we must come to terms with. In His desire that all men shall be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) God is merciful. In His desiring reparations for all of our transgressions (Mt. 5:26) He is infinitely just.

Finally let's take a look at St. Augustine's writings concerning the idea of Purgatory:

"For our part, we recognize that even in this life some punishments are purgatorial,--not, indeed, to those whose life is none the better, but rather the worse for them, but to those who are constrained by them to amend their life. All other punishments, whether temporal or eternal, inflicted as they are on every one by divine providence, are sent either on account of past sins, or of sins presently allowed in the life, or to exercise and reveal a man's graces. They may be inflicted by the instrumentality of bad men and angels as well as of the good. For even if any one suffers some hurt through another's wickedness or mistake, the man indeed sins whose ignorance or injustice does the harm; but God, who by His just though hidden judgment permits it to be done, sins not. 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. But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come."  
Augustine, City of God, 21:13 (A.D. 426). 
"But since she has this certainty regarding no man, she prays for all her enemies who yet live in this world; and yet she is not heard in behalf of all. But she is heard in the case of those only who, though they oppose the Church, are yet predestinated to become her sons through her intercession...For some of the dead, indeed, the prayer of the Church or of pious individuals is heard; but it is for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not spend their life so wickedly that they can be judged unworthy of such compassion, nor so well that they can be considered to have no need of it. As also, after the resurrection, there will be some of the dead to whom, after they have endured the pains proper to the spirits of the dead, mercy shall be accorded, and acquittal from the punishment of the eternal fire. For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, "They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come.' But when the Judge of quick and dead has said, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,' and to those on the other side, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels,' and 'These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,' it were excessively presumptuous to say that the punishment of any of those whom God has said shall go away into eternal punishment shall not be eternal, and so bring either despair or doubt upon the corresponding promise of life eternal."  
Augustine, City of God,2 1:24 (A.D. 426).


Restless Pilgrim said...

I'm not sure about the assertion concerning the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Do you have any patristic support for this interpretation?

Michael said...

GREG. Now if Abraham sate below, the rich man placed in torments would not see him. For they who have followed the path to the heavenly country, when they leave the flesh, are kept back by the gates of hell; not that punishment smites them as sinners, but that resting in some more remote places, (for the intercession of the Mediator was not yet come,) the guilt of their first fault prevents them from entering the kingdom.

It seems this has a little less patristic support than I would have imagined, but there is some...

Good question, I guess I always took for granted I would find patristic support for that interpretation of the parable.

Restless Pilgrim said...

I'm not quite sure if this quotation from St. Gregory is an especially strong proof of Purgatory.

The main thrust of the passage appears to me to affirm that even the Just couldn't enter Heaven prior to Christ's descend into Hades.

It's an interesting point though - I'll ask around :)

Michael said...

As will I as I said I just more or less always assumed that the parable was concerning Purgatory so I figured there was likely patristic support.

Teach me to open my big mouth on my blog sometime won't it...:)

Restless Pilgrim said...

You mean you don't have the Catena memorized?! :-O


Batman said...

Nice post! I would disagree with using the rich man and Lazarus example, though, because in the parable Abraham states how there is a chasm separating Lazarus from him (i.e, implying that he cannot cross, whereas in Purgatory we can).

Apart from that, I think it's cool post. Have you read the book "The Biblical Basis for Purgatory" by John Salza? It's a great book. He looks at some of the teachings of Jesus and of St Paul, going right back to the original Greek. When read, the only conclusion we can walk away with is that Purgatory exists. It's amazing how Biblical it is!

Peace :)

Michael said...

No I unfortunately do not have the Catena memorized. For Shame!!!

Lol it's only what four volumes, you'd think I could handle that.

Thanks for the kind words Batman, I haven't read that book, but perhaps I need to add it to my list.

Anonymous said...

@Michael: Hiram is right. He just forgot to also include how 'confession' is quite the reminder.

take care

Michael said...

Hiram isn't right as Pilgrim, Batman and myself have pointed out the scriptural support for Purgatory is overwhelming.

Beyond Scriptural support the patristic evidence is also significant.

Please expand your argument beyond Hiram is right and I will happily address it.

Anonymous said...

@Michael: What do you mean? I did expand my argument. I mentioned that 'purgatory' AND 'confession' were reminders of sin. If going from one example to two examples isn't expanding an argument, then I don't know what is. - take care

Michael said...

Confession isn't a reminder of sin in anyway. Are we expected to remember our sins and confess them seeking absolution, sure.

Once that is done the sin is forgiven and that is that.

Following upon Hiram's ideology the sin would then be forgiven and forgotten.

However as Catholics rightly teach and profess if we have some sort of temporal punishment we owe for that sin, we must "remain until we have paid the last cent," as Christ Himself tells us.

Anonymous said...

@Michael: 'Confession' IS a reminder until you to to the 'sacrament'; and that's from a RCC perspective. Look, how many Catholics have a problem with going to a priest whether it be gathering the courage to go to confession for fear of no absolution, fearing the priest's harshness of penance, simply not feeling up to some stranger hearing your most inward/outward failings, as some examples? So to say that 'confession' is not a reminder in anyway is being unrealistic, to say the very least. A reminder of your sin is EXACTLY what 'confession' is, although maybe not as bad as 'purgatory'. Either way, neither exist since it takes from the New Covenant blessing that is the forgetting of sin as Isaiah, Paul, and others wrote of. [Plus, if Yeshua (Jesus) didn't rebuke the teachers of the law for saying only God can forgive sin, then what is the forgiving of sins by a priest in 'confession' and the release of souls in 'purgatory' because of the works of 'the church'? Sounds like man (and only man) forgiving sins.]

Michael said...

Addressing your points really requires a separate post, but I will give an abridged response here...

1. Your assertion that the act of confession constitutes a remembering of sin is true insofar as it requires us fallible humans to remember our sins this in no way negates the idea Hiram presents in his thesis that God forgives our sins and remembers them no more.

2. Christ tells us in several verses that He came to forgive sins. He later tells the apostles, the first priests of the new church He founded that He is sending them as the Father sent Him. Ergo men, who have been properly ordained by the successors of those apostles enjoy the same power.

The power to forgive sins in the name of Jesus acting as St. Paul says in the person of Christ.