Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism


941. What is purgatory?

An Anglican clergyman, Reverend Vernon Staley, describes it very well in his Manual of Instruction for Members of the Anglican Church. He there says that "for those who depart this life and who are neither good enough for heaven nor bad enough for hell, a place of mercy is provided in the intermediate state, in which the evil will be completely purged, and the good perfectly developed." No Catholic could quarrel with this Anglican statement of doctrine for Anglicans. The very word, purgatory, really tells us what the intermediate state after death really is. Purgation means purification or cleansing. Those who go from this world without having fully expiated the sins of which they have repented will complete their expiation of them in purgatory. In this life, of course, sin and suffering are very unevenly distributed. Many, with few sins, have much suffering. Others, with many sins, have little suffering. But God is just, and all will be balanced in the next life. Purgatory, then, is a state after death in which some souls will expiate their sins during a period of suffering before their admission to heaven.

942. I have never seen the word purgatory in the Bible.

The Bible does not use the word purgatory any more than it uses the word Trinity. But just as it gives what is described by the word Trinity when we are told to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, so it gives what is described by the word purgatory when it tells us that souls not bad enough for hell, and not good enough for heaven, will be purified after death in order to fit them for heaven. Thus St. Paul tells us in I Corinthians III., 15, that the soul which does not satisfactorily stand the test of judgment will be saved, but so as by fire. Whatever the nature of the fire of purification, it will mean a cleansing by suffering as opposed to the pleasures of the sins rendering it necessary.

943. If there is a verse in the Bible to which you can give an indirect meaning in favor of a purgatory, a Protestant is not only able to discredit that meaning, but he may find more verses to discredit it.

No Protestant ever has found, or ever will find, anywhere in the Bible, any statements in any way opposed to the Catholic doctrine that there is a purgatory.

944. In Isaiah XLIII., 25, God says that He forgives us our sins when we turn to Him in obedience.

That is true. But He does not say that He will not exact reparation of our evil conduct. Though He promises forgiveness, nowhere does He say that we can therefore get away with sin without any fear of further consequences. He both forgives and punishes. Since you are quoting the Old Testament, look up II Samuel XII., 14. When David said to Nathan the Prophet, "I have sinned against the Lord," Nathan said to David, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because of this deed, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." So God forgave the guilt of the sin, yet exacted expiation.

945. In Luke XXIII., 43, Jesus said to a person who had disobeyed one of His Father's commandments, "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." He didn't go to purgatory.

From the viewpoint of logic, and granted your interpretation, your text would not prove that there is no purgatory. It would prove merely that that particular man did not go there. But from the viewpoint of Catholic doctrine there are a few things I want you to notice. In the first place, the Catholic teaching that there is a purgatory does not imply that every soul must go to purgatory before entering heaven. According to Catholic doctrine, perfect charity or love of God means full and complete expiation of all sins. One therefore who dies in dispositions of perfect love for God does not go to purgatory at all. Purgatory is for sinners who die repentant, but who have not attained perfect love of God. In the second place, according to Catholic doctrine, sin can be expiated in this life by voluntary acceptance of sufferings in a spirit of faith and love. Such sufferings are the equivalent in this world of sufferings which otherwise would have to be endured in purgatory. It is not surprising, therefore, that Our Lord said to the good thief, "today thou shalt be with Me in paradise." If you were crucified, and accepted your crucifixion with the faith and love and resignation to God's will manifested by the good thief, I would certainly be prepared to say that you had endured your purgatory in advance, and would be spared further painful purification of soul in the next life. One thing you cannot say of that dying thief. You cannot say that he was admitted to paradise without undergoing a very painful expiation of his sins.

946. The Epistle to the Romans says that eternal life is a free gift.

Correct. But that has nothing whatever to do with the question of purgatory, unless you really think that we have no obligation to earn our heaven by being good, and that it does not therefore matter how much we sin. If they are your ideas, of course, yours must be a very comfortable religion. But it is not the Christian religion. St. Peter writes, "Brethren, labor the more that by good works you may make sure your calling and election." Evidently good works are a contributing factor towards our salvation. St. Paul says, "With fear and trembling work out your salvation." Your mistake lies in thinking that salvation is a free gift not requiring our cooperation. The truth is that our opportunity of salvation is the free gift of Christ which we could never have deserved. But granted that He has made salvation possible for us, it is necessary that we earn the right to benefit by it. Without Christ, no good works could have enabled us to save our souls. With Christ, our good works can do so; and He demands them of us; forbids sin; and will exact from all of us an account of the sins we have committed. And though we die with our sins forgiven, yet we will expiate them in purgatory. That blocks any idea that we can trade on God's forgiveness and continue to sin whilst there is time to do so. Apart from revelation, the Catholic position is the only reasonable one, and thinking Protestants are beginning to realize it more and more. That is why the High Church party in the Church of England is rapidly restoring the practice of prayer for the souls of the departed who may still be suffering in purgatory for their sins committed whilst on earth.

947. How beautiful is the Protestant teaching that the spirit of the believer, relying entirely on the merits of Christ, goes immediately into the Divine Presence, and is forever with the Lord.

There is nothing in Scripture to warrant such a belief. Firstly, how does reliance solely on the merits of Christ fit in with the clear words of St. James, "Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." 11, 24. Secondly, where is this immediate entry to the Divine Presence when St. Paul says every man's work will be tried by God, and that he whose work fails to come up to requirements will suffer, yet be saved so as by fire? 1 Cor. III., 13, 15.

948. Even priests, and all holy Roman Catholics are in purgatory until the last Peter's pence have been paid for their souls.

There is no connection between Peter's pence and purgatory. Not all holy Roman Catholics are in purgatory. There are multitudes of them in heaven. That many are in purgatory, I admit; and they will remain there until they have been purified of their sins either by their own sufferings, or by special graces secured for them by our prayers. I might mention that not only Catholics go to purgatory. If they have been fortunate enough to save their souls, Protestants also go there until sufficiently purified for their admission to heaven.

949. We read appalling stories of the long and severe purgatory meted out to bishops and priests.

I am afraid that such stories will make Protestants think that there is something to be said for purgatory, after all. However, whenever you come across stories and incidents introduced by the vague expressions, "It is related that" or "Once upon a time," you are quite free to regard them as illustrations rather than as history. The stories may not be true, though true ideas gave rise to them in the first place.

950. Revelations to St. Gertrude and other Saints concerning the severity of sufferings in purgatory make it appear that normally good people regard death with dread apprehension.

That is a wrong conclusion. Rather they show that abnormally good people apprehend, as others do not, the dread character of sin. I have assisted so many people when approaching death that I can vouch for it that normally good people are not filled with unusual dread. As regards what are known as the private revelations St. Gertrude and others claimed to have received, you must remember that the Catholic Church does not oblige us to accept them in all their details by any means. Above all, when they deal with purgatory, we must not forget that, holy as they were in their personal lives, they were children of the age in which they lived; and they were not experts at sorting out the natural, human, and imaginative elements from those interior psychological and spiritual experiences which were due to a truly supernatural grace. I, personally, do not believe in the descriptions of purgatory given by many mediaeval writers, even though they were Saints. In these private revelations they were not giving the official and authentic teaching of the Church, but their own thoughts for what they might be worth. At times they sincerely believed that they had intimations as to the sufferings of particular souls; and they spoke in terms of earthly time which are scarcely applicable to purgatory in any strict sense. Being so saintly, they had an intense realization of the evil character of sin, and that realization projected itself into their meditations. And not being very critical in the analysis of their spiritual and mystical experiences, they were often mistaken as to the source of the convictions that came to them, many of which could easily have been due to a merely natural association of ideas. Many of their revelations I personally view rather as parables providing edification as lessons on sin; I do not accept them as historical facts in all cases, save, of course, the fact that these pious souls sincerely thought their vivid imaginations to correspond with objective reality.

951. We are told that no sin, even venial, can be forgiven without true repentance.

That is quite correct.

952. We are told also that there can he no repentance after death.

That is true of one who dies in a state of mortal sin. But it is not true of one who dies with venial sins only.

953. Therefore a person with the guilt of venial sin on his soul cannot get to heaven.

He can do so after he has repented of his venial sins, and fulfilled his period of expiation.

954. How can one get to heaven who dies in a state of venial sin which he had no intention of abandoning?

His intention is rectified the moment he goes from this world; and after due expiation of the sins he has committed, he attains heaven. To understand this it is necessary to be quite clear about the nature of venial sin. It differs greatly from mortal sin. Of its very nature mortal sin cuts us off from the grace and friendship of God. But venial sin does not. In comparison with mortal sin, venial sin can be called a kind of minor disloyalty to God. Even in natural friendship, a man who would not for the world forfeit such a friendship entirely will often do small things which displease his friend. And they are things he would not do, if he thought they meant a complete rupture with his friend. Now, since venial sin does not forfeit sanctifying grace, it is reparable by its very nature. For example, a beautiful child permanently loses its beauty if you chop off its face with a meat-ax. But if it merely plays in the mud, and obscures its beauty with a veneer of dirt, its beauty can be restored by a good wash. So venial sin disfigures the soul, but does not destroy the life of grace, nor the predominant will to retain God's friendship. And the moment the soul goes from this life, all lesser inclinations automatically yield to this predominant will, whilst the principle of sanctifying grace which remains in the soul destroys all mortal guilt by a new ardor of charity, or love of God.

955. For how long do you pray to make departed souls perfect?

We set no time limit to our prayers. If those for whom we continue to pray, no longer need our prayers, then our prayers avail for others who do need the help our intercession can give. No sincere prayer is ever wasted. God hears all such prayers, and answers them in the way He knows to be best.

956. I wouldn't thank anyone to pray for me after my death.

That's how you feel about it now, owing to lack of knowledge. You'll change your opinion when you are in purgatory. However, the Catholic Church will pray for your soul then, together with all other souls there, and you will be grateful that the Church has not forgotten you even though your friends never offer a prayer for you.

957. Will the departed souls know who are praying for them?

They will certainly know, when they attain heaven. They could know, even whilst still in purgatory if God chose to manifest to them who their particular benefactors might be.

958. Are they conscious of the help they receive, and from whose prayers it comes?

Of course they are conscious of the relief they experience. Normally they would not be conscious of the precise person who had procured the relief for them, for they are not in contact still with this world by the normal medium of the senses, and have not yet attained to the Vision of God and the full knowledge that Vision supplies. If God chooses to manifest a knowledge of their benefactor to them whilst still in purgatory, they will know. But that is not very important. They know that someone has prayed for them, and pray in turn for that person. God hears their prayers on behalf of the one whom He knows to have prayed for them.



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