Juridical Purgatory and the Temporal Punishment of Sin


“The doctrine of purgatory,” writes Jerry Walls, “did not drop, fully formed, out of heaven, or hell, or for that matter out of somewhere in between” (Purgatory, p. 9). The history of the doctrine is complicated and cannot be rightly understood apart from the equally complicated history of the penitential practices of the Latin Church. If one is looking for an example of the “development of doctrine,” here it is. In its medieval form purgatory became a point of contention between the Latin and Eastern Churches at the Council of Florence and then later between the Latin Church and the 16th century Reformers. What is perhaps less well known is the presence within Latin Catholicism of two distinguishable models of purgatory that have competed for dominance.

In his article “Outlines of the Doctrine of the Mystical Life,” published in 1916, Dom Savinien Louismet distinguishes between what he calls the popular understanding of purgatory and the theologically correct understanding:

There are two views about the state of a separate soul which has to undergo the punishment of Purgatory. The first view is that which finds favor with the popular mind; the second, that which is the expression of strict theological truth. The first view is equivalent to what we say of the sun when we speak of it as rising and setting and moving, according to the time of the year around us through all the signs of the zodiac; the other is equivalent to the bald statement that it is not the sun which moves, but that it is the whole world of planets which moves around the sun. … The popular mind about Purgatory is that one finishes there gradually to become pure, gradually to become a saint, whilst the truth is that one not a reprobate at the moment of death becomes a full-fledged saint the moment after, whatever be his debts to the divine justice, which indeed will have to be paid to the very last farthing. (American Catholic Quarterly Review 41 [1916]: 91)

Whereas Catholic imagination thinks of purgatory as a process of transformation, by which one who has not died in a state of mortal sin is gradually purified of all remaining sinful attachments, Catholic theology accurately states that “the truth is that on the one hand the tepid soul which is finally saved arrives at the end of her life undeveloped, but that the development after death is made in instanti and not progressively, whatever length of time that soul may have to abide in Purgatory” (p. 91). At the moment of the separation of body and soul, God reveals his divine goodness to the soul, thus eliciting from her “an act of perfect charity, which does away at once with all past blemishes of the soul” (p. 92). The soul is thus constituted “in full and absolute moral rectitude.” But if she is instantaneously made holy, why is she then detained in purgatory? Louismet answers: “Simply to pay the debts incurred during the days of her vanity. Can we not conceive the case of a personal friend of a King, loving his sovereign perfectly, and still more loved by his sovereign, and yet detained for some time far from him in order to purge in prison some previous condemnation, so that perfect justice be done? This, then, is how the case stands with the poor souls in Purgatory” (p. 92).

A few years later, Fr Maurice Francis Egan responded to Louismet’s formulation of instantaneous transformation and offered a defense of the medicinal-purification theory:

The object of the present article is to support the popular view so summarily dismissed by Dom Louismet, that Purgatory is a place of purification as well as of punishment: that the souls entering it, though they are God’s friends and lovers, are yet clogged and stained by the effects of their sins, and cannot attain to the embrace of Infinite Purity until they have been cleansed in the punitive fires. The distinction between the two theories is a sharp one. According to the one, the Holy Souls are, in themselves, perfectly fitted for the vision of God; they are kept back because of a debt which has to be paid to the last farthing. The other theory does not deny the debt and the payment, but it asserts that the payment is the means, the normal means, by which God cleanses their sores and gives them the perfect spiritual health which their future life with Him requires. (“The Two Theories of Purgatory,” Irish Theological Quarterly 17 [1922]: 24)

Egan cites the 16th century scholastic Francisco Suarez as the most prominent exponent of the retributive construal:

Suarez maintains that when a soul passes into eternity bearing upon it the guilt of unrepented venial sin, the ‘remains’ of mortal sins forgiven but not altogether purged, and imperfect or evil inclinations due to past sins, all these are completely obliterated by the act of divine love which that soul immediately elicits. Nothing remains except the reatus poenae, the debt of justice. (pp. 26-17)

Here is the purpose of purgatorial suffering, according to Suarez and Louismet—to make satisfaction for the temporal penalty of sin. These sufferings do not purify or heal; they are purely expiatory. Though the lost souls of purgatory exist in a state of grace—they are saved and have been perfected in sanctity—they must still endure the just punishment of their sins. Only after proper reparation has been freely offered will they be admitted by God to the Beatific Vision.

If your exposure to constructions of purgatory has been limited to C. S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and post-Vatican II theologians, you may well be shaking your head at this point. I didn’t even know there was a satisfaction model of purgatory until I read Jerry Walls’s comparative analysis (Purgatory, chap. 3). Walls cites Fr Martin Jugie’s Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It as a modern example of the satisfaction model. So I ordered the book through interlibrary loan and quickly read through it.

Jugie begins with the Catholic Church’s magisterial teaching on the particular judgment. At the moment of death, the eternal destiny of the individual person is definitively decided: if the soul is entirely free of mortal and venial sin, having made sufficient penance for sins committed after baptism, it is immediately admitted to the Beatific Vision; if the soul is constituted in a state of enmity with God, it is condemned to eternal perdition; if the soul dies in a “state of grace and amity with God, but is as yet unworthy to be admitted to the Beatific Vision—either because of venial sin unrepented, or the lack of sufficient penance for both mortal and venial sins, or both—it must pass some time, long or short according to the amount of its debt, in an intermediate state between the state of beatitude and that of damnation” (p. 2).

Jugie thus identifies two reasons for admission to purgatory—inadequate repentance for specific venial sins and insufficient expiation for the temporal punishment of sins (or some combination of the two). The mention of inadequate repentance might seem to admit into purgatory a dimension of penitential process, but Jugie quickly scuttles this possibility. Brought into the presence of God, the soul immediately “strains towards Him with ardour and hates intensely all that displease Him” (p. 4). This perfect contrition eradicates all disordered dispositions and wipes out the guilt for venial sin. “It follows from all this,” Jugie goes on to explain,

that the principal—one might even say the unique—reason for the existence of Purgatory, is the temporary punishment due to sins committed after Baptism, since neither venial sin nor vicious inclination survives the first instant that follows death. Immediately on its entering Purgatory, the soul is perfectly holy, perfectly turned towards God, filled with the purest love. It has no means of bettering itself nor of progressing in virtue. That would be an impossibility after death, and it must suffer for love the just punishment, which its sins have merited. (p. 5)

So while it is not inaccurate to speak of the purgatorial state as purgatorial—it does, after all, accomplish the sanctifying transformation of the believer—it is best to focus on its expiatory function:

If the purification, properly so called, which one attributes to Purgatory, is realised from the first instant of its entry into that state, it follows that the rest of the time the soul spends there is consecrated to one single object—to expiation. Expiation is a debt for sins committed, which is paid by suffering; it is a reparation offered to the holiness and the justice of God, offended by sin. The payment of a debt does not merit a reward. The repairing of an injustice cannot bring with it any personal profit, for one merely rights a disturbed order of justice, at one’s own expense. This is exactly the situation of the souls in Purgatory. They are debtors, bound to reparation for sins they have themselves committed. The pains and sufferings which they endure do not procure for them any merit, any progress in charity or in virtue. All the profit they draw from them is the removal of the obstacle to their entry into Heaven. (pp. 8-9)

If sanctification is achieved at the moment of death, then the interpretation of purgatory as a progressive sanctification must be wrong—it contradicts, says Jugie, any “sane theology.” We must not project our schemas of spiritual growth in this life (purgative, illuminative, unitive) onto the the condition of those in purgatory. Jugie is emphatic and clear:

It is impossible to conceive how the soul, clothed with charity, should not from the moment of its separation from the body, utterly detest sin in all its forms. Divine love, in the soul separated from its body, takes on immediately all its efficacy and the fulness of its extension. It kills all that could turn the soul from God, and renders it perfectly pure. When Jesus could say of His Apostles in the Cenacle: “You are clean,” with how much stronger reason can the words be applied to the soul in Purgatory, utterly possessed by divine charity. (pp. 11-12).

As we have seen, following St. Thomas, the souls in Purgatory are instantly fully purified from venial sins not cleansed on earth, as well as from their evil inclinations and their disordered habits. They attain, from the first instant of their entry, that degree of perfection and sanctity which will be theirs for eternity and which will measure in heaven, the degree of their glory. No longer for them will there be an imperfection, any resistance to their being engulfed by the love of God, no longer any disorder. … Henceforth, perfect order reigns in them, for in nothing do they resist the divine wishes. All that now remains is for them to expiate their past sins, and doubtless one is at liberty to call this expiation a purification, in the broad sense of the word. But, in fact, they have no moral stain. All impurity has been removed by the consuming fire of divine love. (p. 64)

I confess that I was surprised by Jugie’s rejection of sanctification interpretations of purgatory, but I attribute my reaction to my relative ignorance of Counter-Reformation theology. Again Jugie: “The conception of Purgatory as having for its sole end the amelioration, the progressive purification of the subject, must therefore be regarded as false. Rather is it, before all else, a reparation for sin by a chastisement proportioned to its gravity” (p. 12). Jugie confidently asserts this as the authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.


Given this juridical interpretation of purgatory, the medieval practice of indulgences makes perfect sense. He who has been offended by the the sins of his creatures, namely, the divine Creator, is free to remit the punishment incurred by offenders through authorized agents. Prayers for the poor souls also make perfect sense, as petitions addressed to the divine Judge for clemency.

But does juridical purgatory make sense according to the gospel?

Most Catholic theologians today would answer in the negative. The once-dominant model of satisfaction has been supplanted in contemporary catechesis and theological reflection by a model of sanctification and progressive healing (see Neal Judisch, “Sanctification, Satisfaction, and the Purpose of Purgatory“).

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27 Responses to Juridical Purgatory and the Temporal Punishment of Sin

  1. mary says:

    As may be evident from my other comments, I am not a hair-splitting theologian – have little interest in the like and not nearly enough knowledge. However, it seems to me that the notion of purgatory is not so very complex.

    We know that God has already done everything for us in Christ. This is true whether we are living or dead. We are forgiven even before we repent because His mercy does not require our repentance – though our acceptance of it does.

    Thus, when I sin, if I but turn to God and ask His forgiveness, it is there for me immediately and totally. It does not require any “work” on my part. However, that does not mean that no work is required of me! Although the forgiveness is complete, I have still damaged myself and others through my sin. If instant forgiveness were given and I had no work to do, how easy it would be to keep sinning, knowing that I could immediately be freed of any consequence.

    This is where the concept of “indulgence” comes in, a greatly misunderstood (and previously misused) practice. It is not that we need to – or even could – buy time off from purgatory but rather that we, as part of our repentance, have work to do to correct what is wrong in us. Why else would the great saints (Catholic and Orthodox alike) practice the ascetic disciplines they do if no work were needed?

    And so, while in this life, we work – by prayer, by acts of charity, by ascetic acts performed out of love and so on. This is part of the synergistic relationship of God and humanity in our salvation. He accomplishes our salvation but requires our participation, our full choice.

    The notion of purgatory, in my own uneducated opinion, is the continuation of this work if it is incomplete during our human lifetime. Some saints have reported experiencing this “fire” of God’s love while still alive. But it is a gift, for it enables us to complete the work that we must do to fully give ourselves to God.

    God has already fully given Himself to us, saint and sinner alike. But the wedding feast is so much more joyful when we have fully given ourselves back. Purgatory enables us to do this.


  2. The problem with indulgences is the “legal layer” that is put on top of the personal purification that comes from good works of repentance. For example, to attain a plenary indulgence, i.e. the complete remission of temporal punishment due to sin, one must fulfill certain requirements. One of those requirements is complete detachment from venial sin (the others being sacramental confession, prayer for the pope, and eucharistic communion). Apparently, in this scheme, detachment from venial sin – which certainly entails a form of purification – is insufficient to rid oneself of the temporal punishment due to sin. To have temporal punishment removed, it still requires confession, prayer for the pope, eucharistic communion, AND performance of the “indulgenced work.”

    Secondly, applying this scheme to indulgences for the dead, which are described as offered “in suffrage for the dead” further complicates matters. For one, if those in purgatory are undergoing some kind of amelioration (which is the view of Benedict XVI in Spe salvi), what exactly am I praying goes away from their experience? If, as Jugie argues, purgatory is reparative chastisement, then we reduce God to a god who requires appeasement by punishing sinners for no other reason than to satisfy “justice.”


  3. mary says:

    Interesting. I’ve been a RC for 60 years (with 16 years of Catholic education) and no one ever told me the rules you are telling me here, alienus dilectus. One should certainly make every effort to stay close to the sacraments (Eucharist, Confession) – I cannot imagine repenting and not wanting the help of the sacraments – but pray for the Pope? We should always pray for the Church and its leaders but that is not a condition for our reconciliation with God.

    The way you are stating this sound as though it is a law – which I guess is your complaint about the “legal layer”. But I have never heard or experienced this as a Catholic. If it is written somewhere, it is not something the average person encounters.

    As to God punishing sinners to appease “justice”, read St. Catherine of Genoa’s revelations on Purgatory. Not at all what you are describing.


    • mary, Please read Paul VI’s document Indulgentiarum doctrina (1 Jan 1967) that lays out the modern indulgences reforms. They are likewise spelled out in the most recent edition of the Manual of Indulgences (published by the USCCB). Here is a selection from the “Norms” section of the aforementioned papal document:

      n. 1—An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.

      n. 2—An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due sin.

      n. 3—Partial as well as plenary indulgences can always be applied to the dead by way of suffrage.

      n. 4—A partial indulgence will henceforth be designated only with the words “partial indulgence” without any determination of days or years.

      n. 5—The faithful who at least with a contrite heart perform an action to which a partial indulgence is attached obtain, in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church.

      n. 6—A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once a day, except for the provisions contained in n. 18 for those who are on the point of death. A partial indulgence can be acquired more than once a day, unless there is an explicit indication to the contrary.

      n. 7—To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.

      If this disposition is in any way less than complete, or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be only partial, except for the provisions contained in n.11 for those who are “impeded.”

      n. 8—The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; nevertheless it is fitting that Communion be received and the prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff be said the same day the work is performed.

      n. 9—A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences, but Communion must be received and prayers for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence.

      n. 10—The condition of praying for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions is fully satisfied by reciting one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary”; nevertheless the individual faithful are free to recite any other prayer according to their own piety and devotion toward the Supreme Pontiff.”

      Source: https://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_01011967_indulgentiarum-doctrina.html


    • >>>>>We should always pray for the Church and its leaders but that is not a condition for our reconciliation with God.<<<<<
      Prayer is always a condition for reconciliation with God. When we do the morning prayer in our Anglican Church, we pray for all the bishops and the clerical leaders that they teach properly. Prayer for the Church is necessary for reconciliation with God because the Church is his earthly vessel, prayer for others outside is necessary because they are in need of salvation from the Church, prayer for self, prayers of thanksgiving.

      There are three means of reconciliation that I have learned from my own catechesis when I was exploring Catholicism–prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. When we pray, we should (not to say we’re good at it) do all the prayers and if prayer is necessary for reconciliation with God then it seems to follow prayer for the Pope is also necessary as he is one of the leaders of the Catholic Church.

      This is not to say I agree with alienus dilectus on God being a legal lawyer. I do not think the means of reconciliation that the Church prescribes are legalistic requirements to salvation but rather reinforcements on living a responsible Christian life and becoming in closer attachment to God. Why should Mass be obligatory? Because the Eucharist is the body of Jesus and we need to consume it for our spiritual healing. Of course God understands if we miss a day or two of Mass.


  4. mary says:

    To pray for the “intentions” of the Pope and to pray for the Pope are a bit different, I believe. Of course, as a Catholic, I should pray for the Pope. I was objecting to the implication that the RC Church was set up such that we could only be free of sin IF we prayed for the Pope personally, which makes it sound like a racket. To pray for his intentions is to unite ourselves to the Church, which surely we would want to do in our repentance.

    alienus dilectus, I am somewhat familiar with the text you quote. I believe the reason these reforms were outlined was because there was so much misunderstanding about indulgences, e.g. with people misinterpreting the language that was previously used as implying a lessening of time in purgatory. Hence, the re-writing removed “time” labels, for example, given to certain prayers or actions.

    I do think the Catholic Church has a tendency to write in great detail about things. I don’t feel the need for that – some people do. I simply want to repent, pray and love. (Very few words are needed.) Forgive me if I’ve stirred passions unnecessarily.


  5. It isn’t clear to me in what sense you are using ‘juridical’ here. The traditional view of indulgences for those in purgatory, for instance, as found in the scholastics, is that they do not work juridically, by an authoritative process of judgment, but by petition; but I take it that you aren’t intending ‘juridical’ in this sense.


  6. MorganHunter says:

    I must say that, compared to other misguided theological ideas, the satisfaction construal of Purgatory seems one of the most inexplicable. By contrast, I can at least understand how the Augustinian interpretation of original sin–and with it all the associated doctrines of infant damnation, predestination, and (eventually) forensic accounts of the atonement–emerged in a kind of tragically inevitable way as the seemingly only alternative to Pelagianism. I would be very grateful if someone with more historical knowledge would explain how the sanctification model–which I believe Walls says was originally dominant in the Middle Ages–became so altered. You mention Counter-Reformation theology, and it does make sense that at least some of it was an overreaction to the complete denial of Purgatory–but that very denial was itself an overreaction to the previous late-Medieval emergence of satisfaction as the predominant theme.


  7. cooperan says:

    Has this juridical view of purgatory and indulgences ever been held as “de fide” by Rome? Certainly it is not held to be now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      As far as I know, the Magisterium has never insisted upon a specific view of purgatory. The relevant dogmatic statements (Florence, Trent) are brief and clearly open to interpretation. My guess is that the juridical view was for a long time the dominant interpretation held by Latin theologians, but as you note, that is no longer the case.


      • cooperan says:

        That being said, indulgences certainly are “de fide,” and they don’t really make a whole of sense without this juridical view. Consider a plenary indulgence. To gain a plenary indulgence one must “have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin.” If one could have such a blessed disposition, what need of cleansing could one have?


  8. I have a hard time reconciling the juridical notions inherent in the indulgence system with the “new” definition of temporal punishment laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “…every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain” (CCC 1472).

    If post-mortem purification is the removal of unhealthy attachment to creatures and so-called temporal punishment is actually the bad consequences flowing out as a result of our own sins, what exactly is the indulgence remitting exactly? As I pointed out in my first comment above, the necessary requirements for a plenary indulgence (i.e. full remission of temporal punishment) include complete detachment from all sin, even venial, then what exactly is being remitted? Like I said, it’s like a pointless layer of legal jargon added upon the mercy of God’s forgiveness.


    • MorganHunter says:

      To be fair, Protestants could say the same thing about sacramental confession and absolution–why woudn’t God forgive you without priestly mediation if you were truly repentant?


      • I see the point; however, divine forgiveness implies a restoration of grace not a juridical acquittal of guilt. If temporal punishment due to sin is something that is remitted by the exchange of spiritual good by means of withdrawal from an imaginative treasury of merits, isn’t this the same as mere forensic imputation of righteousness?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Alienus, I agree that the sanctification model of purgatory, which most certainly has become the dominant model within contemporary Catholic theology and catechesis, has rendered incoherent the traditional justification for the indulgence system. Cardinal Ratzinger virtually admitted this in his interview published as The Ratzinger Report (p. 147). Pope John Paul II made an interesting attempt to reinterpret the practice in Incarnationis Mysterium:

      Everything comes from Christ, but since we belong to him, whatever is ours also becomes his and acquires a healing power. This is what is meant by “the treasures of the Church”, which are the good works of the saints. To pray in order to gain the indulgence means to enter into this spiritual communion and therefore to open oneself totally to others. In the spiritual realm, too, no one lives for himself alone. And salutary concern for the salvation of one’s own soul is freed from fear and selfishness only when it becomes concern for the salvation of others as well. This is the reality of the communion of saints, the mystery of “vicarious life”, of prayer as the means of union with Christ and his saints. He takes us with him in order that we may weave with him the white robe of the new humanity, the robe of bright linen which clothes the Bride of Christ.

      This doctrine on indulgences therefore “teaches firstly how sad and bitter it is to have abandoned the Lord God (cf. Jer 2:19). When they gain indulgences, the faithful understand that by their own strength they would not be able to make good the evil which by sinning they have done to themselves and to the entire community, and therefore they are stirred to saving deeds of humility” [Paul VI]. Furthermore, the truth about the communion of saints which unites believers to Christ and to one another, reveals how much each of us can help others — living or dead — to become ever more intimately united with the Father in heaven.

      Ratzinger refers to this papal bull in his interview with Peter Seewald, published as God and the World: “Indulgence then means that we enter into the resources of the communion of saints, where there is an exchange of spiritual goods, in which we make a gift of our own and receive what others have to offer” (p. 424).

      This is an improvement over the older juridical construal, I think.


    • cooperan says:

      “As I pointed out in my first comment above, the necessary requirements for a plenary indulgence (i.e. full remission of temporal punishment) include complete detachment from all sin, even venial, then what exactly is being remitted?”

      Exactly. This has always bothered me about indulgences.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Here is the full Ratzinger citation from God and the World. I include both question and the Cardinal’s response:

      One derivative of the sacrament of confession is the so-called “indulgence”. The first indulgences were granted by the popes for taking part in the crusades, and the proliferation of the practice of granting indulgences ended in offering the practical occasion for Luther’s protest and, thus, led to the Reformation and to schism. I think there are few people today who would swtill have any idea what to make of this teaching.

      That is a very difficult chapter in Church history. In the Bull for the Holy Year 2000 the Pope tried to offer a new interpretation. There is the old distinction between sin and the punishment for sin. According to that, the sins are remitted by absolution, but the punishment for the sins remains. That strikes us as very mechanistic. The Pope reinterprets it by saying that even when guilt has been overcome, there remains what I have brought about by sin, that is, the hurt I have done to my neighbor, some kind of damage at any rate, the effects of whatever it was I said or did. And within me there remains, you might say, a repercussion, a twisting or distortion of my being.

      It is therefore a matter of dealing with the existential consequences of sin. Dealing with this can, in turn, only be undertaken together with others, because sin always reaches out beyond my own self. Indulgence then means that we enter into the resources of the communion of saints, where there is an exchange of spiritual goods, in which we make a gift of our own and receive what others have to offer. Understood in this sense, as a clearing of existential debts, as a sharing of support and of being supported, indulgence can continue to be a perfectly meaningful image. (pp. 423-424)

      Now compare Ratzinger’s existential interpretation of indulgences with the article on indulgences in the Catholic Encyclopedia.


      • MorganHunter says:

        Eleonore Stump’s paper “Personal Relations and Moral Residue” (available online at her website) takes a position similar to this, which she interprets Aquinas as supporting.


        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Stump has a very interesting take on the meaning of “satisfaction” for Aquinas. His understanding of it is clearly very different than Suarez and Jugie. I imagine they would say that the stain of sin is removed immediately at death when the soul is transformed by the love and light of God.


  9. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I do not know when I’ll get around to writing an article on what Jerry Walls calls the sanctification model of purgatory. In the meantime, take a look at Walls’s article “Purgatory for Everyone.”


  10. elijahmaria says:

    If one begins to work through the teaching of temporal punishments, two tools are useful. The first is the understanding that the Latin word poena-translated as punishment- actually means loss. The nature of the punishment for ALL transgressions is the loss of God’s favor, and our loss of his sanctifying presence…certainly not the loss of his total presence or we would be as though we had never been. And the second excavation tool for these teachings is the understanding of divine justice as the good of Creation. So that if one speaks of the restoration of divine justice, or retribution for disturbing divine justice, one is speaking of, ultimately, the restoration of the good of all Creation that is marred by the consequences of sin.

    Now it is clear that not one human being, ever born, save the Incarnate one, has the power to restore Creation. That is a given and that is the central lesson. When we atone for our own sins, when we pray for the forgiveness for and salvation from the sins of all, we are assisting in the saving work of Jesus Christ. When we suffer the loss of his salvific presence, for a time or for eternity, if that be the case, then we are suffering as the Christ suffered to redeem us and all Creation from the consequence of sin and evil, and again we are participating in his saving acts.

    The actual To Do list and elements of timing are a nod to the historical actions of the Church with respect to sinners and penance. It gives people something tangible to do and think and become in a catechetical manner that is easier to digest than the food one gives to someone long and deeply experienced in the life of the Holy Spirit. Milk rather than meat.


  11. I’m going to throw some DBH into the mix. From his “The Myth of Schism”:

    “The Eastern church believes in sanctification after death, and perhaps the doctrine of Purgatory really asserts nothing more than that; but Rome has also traditionally spoken of it as ‘temporal punishment’, which the pope may in whole or part remit. The problem here is it is difficult, from the Orthodox perspective, to see how it could be both. That is, if it is sanctification, then it is nothing other than salvation: that is, the transformation of our souls, by which the Holy Spirit conforms us to God, through all eternity, and frees us from the last residue of our perversity and selfishness. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches are as one, after all, in denying that salvation is either a magical transformation of the human being into something else or merely a forensic imputation of sinlessness to a sinful creature: it is a real glorification and organic transfiguration of the creature in Christ, one which never violates the integrity of our creatureliness, but which—by causing us to progress from sin to righteousness—really makes us partakers of the divine nature. Very well then: what then could it mean to remit purgation? Why, if it is sanctification, would one want such remission, and would it not then involve instead the very magical transformation of the creature into something beyond itself that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches both deny? These are not, granted, unanswerable questions, but they are questions as yet unanswered, and there is genuine need for a serious engagement on what the doctrinal formulation regarding sanctification after death should be, and whether Roman and Orthodox traditions can be reconciled in a more than superficial way on this one issue.”


  12. elijahmaria says:

    I won’t repeat what I wrote above which is, from all that I’ve been taught over the years, Catholic teaching and understanding past an present. That we participate in the restoration of all Creation when we share in the suffering of Christ because of sin, our own and others, and that penance is a part of that suffering. How is that magical?


  13. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I was just looking at the article on purgatory in the online Catholic Encyclopedia to see which model it best reflects. It’s unclear to me, and I want to ask you guys to take a look at it and see what you think. I think it leans strongly in Jugie’s direction, as it appears to put the emphasis on satisfaction of divine justice.


  14. elijahmaria says:

    How is the Ratzinger comment on indulgences different from things that Francis de Sales said or John of the Cross of Teresa of Avila or Bonaventure or Aquinas or Bernard or Cassian, for that matter, when they say that we all share in the merits of Christ and in that sharing we add to it those “goods” that His graces have worked in us? What is the need to try to hard to avoid this simple teaching? Is there some benefit in working so hard to demonstrate that the Catholic Church has changed her teaching on this point which is the central point to indulgences. I am not trying to be provocative or mean-spirited in asking this. I really have never been able to figure out the need to point out how the Catholic Church has changed, simply because her theologians have argued various schemata and points?


  15. Erick Ybarra says:

    In this pre-Vatican 2 , very popular manual of Catholic for Catholic doctrine edited by Canon Dr. George Smith, there is an article on purgatory beginning at page 1141



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