951. I am interested in your dogma concerning purgatory. Must I be a Catholic before I can understand that invention of your Church?
No. You must be a non-Catholic to suspect that the Church did invent it. The idea that there is no purgatory is the invention of Protestants. The reformers corrupted the true doctrine, and many good Protestants, realizing this, are returning to the Catholic religion of their forefathers even as I myself have done. Meantime, if I could discover, or you could show me, when and where the Church invented this doctrine, I promise to spend the rest of my life exposing the Catholic Church as a merely human institution making outrageous claims upon men.
952. Why make people afraid of such a horrible place as purgatory, when you know that it does not exist?
I know that it does exist. And if you deny it because to you it seems a horrible place, you must deny hell also because it is far more horrible. And if you deny hell, you deny Christianity. And is it not a more horrible thought that there would be no purgatory? In that case you would have but heaven and hell. All not quite fit for heaven could not hope to escape hell. It is a much more pleasant thought that there are people not quite good enough for heaven, yet not bad enough for hell, and that these are sent to purgatory until they are purified sufficiently for heaven.
953. What is the nature of your doctrine on purgatory?
It can be summed up very briefly. At death the soul of man, if quite fit, goes at once to heaven; if not quite fit, to purgatory; if quite unfit, to hell. The soul which has repented of all its sins, and has fully expiated them in this life, is quite fit for heaven at once. The soul which departs this life in a state of unrepented mortal sin can never be fitted for heaven, and goes to hell. But a soul which has sincerely repented of its sins, yet has not fully expiated them, secures immunity from hell by repentance, and goes to purgatory until it has expiated all its deficiencies.
954. Does God want to roast you merely because you have the misfortune to be alive? He knows that you had no say in the matter.
God does not want to roast me. It is not a misfortune to be alive, though it is blameworthy to have misused one's existence. Nor did I want a say as to whether I should receive the gift of existence. People can leave me a fortune tomorrow without consulting me. But I did have a say in my infidelities to God's grace, and for that I am responsible and do not wish to excuse myself.
955. Have you been so atrociously wicked as to deserve purgatory?
There is no need to be atrociously wicked in order to need purification, any more than there is need to be on your deathbed before you need medicine. But there is need to attain to a high standard of purity and holiness before one could be fit to enter the glory of God's presence.
956. Do the souls of Protestants go to purgatory?
All souls, whether of Protestants or of Catholics, or of any other religion, will go to purgatory if they are not good enough for heaven at the moment of death, nor bad enough for hell. Non-Catholics may deny purgatory, but that makes no difference to purgatory.
957. Would God destine so good a man as General Booth for purgatory just because he was not a Catholic?
Purgatory is not a final destiny. Every soul that goes there is saved, and is ultimately admitted to the very Vision of God. Good Protestants as well as good Catholics will go there if they are not quite perfect at death. There is no dispensation. And where is the man who has not his imperfections?
958. A man has every chance to repent in this life.
He has. And if he does not, he will not even go to purgatory if his sins be grave. Purgatory is not a place for repentance, but for purification. If two men repent on their death-beds, one of whom broke one commandment and the other, all the commandments often, both are saved by their repentance. But they are not both equal before God. They will suffer relative purifications in purgatory.
959. This dogma of purgatory was invented by Pope Gregory in 600 A.D., and was made an article of faith by the Council of Florence in 1439.
If not invented until 600 A.D. why did St. Monica, in the 4th century, implore her son St. Augustine, as she lay on her dying bed, that he would pray for her soul whenever he went to the Altar to offer the Mass? And how would you account for the inscriptions in the Catacombs recording prayers for the dead offered by the Christians of the first centuries? Or, if you would go back earlier, what will you do with the teaching of Scripture itself? The Council of Florence merely recalled previous definitions.
960. What is your Romish reply to the challenge of Art. XXII in the Book of Common Prayer?
That Article of the Church of England says that the Romish doctrine of purgatory is grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but is rather repugnant to the Word of God. The reply is that the Article is quite erroneous, and that many Anglicans realize the fact. Thus an Anglican clergyman unsays that Article definitely in his book entitled, "The Catholic Religion — a Manual of instruction for members of the Church of England." He speaks of a place of mercy "provided in the intermediate state, in which evil will be completely purged. When this purification is accomplished, such souls enter into perfect peace," p. 193. On the following page he suggests that, at the Reformation, men were too eager and rejected much that was true — including the intermediate state. In no less than six different places he urges prayer for the dead just as Catholics pray for the dead, and, as he shows from Scripture, both the Jews and St. Paul prayed for the departed. On p. 379, he writes, "Still more desirable is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for the repose of the soul of the departed." Thus this Anglican clergyman goes back to the Romish doctrine of purgatory. I am not quoting from a book unacceptable to the many. My copy is of the 19th edition, completing 207-thousand.
961. How can an Anglican clergyman, who has sworn to accept the Articles of religion, teach such doctrine?
I do not see how he can do so. Romish theologians are simple children compared with the capacity for mental gymnastics manifested by Rev. Vernon Staley, the author of the book, in his efforts to salve his conscience. He says in effect that the doctrine of purgatory is all right, but that Anglicans must not use the word purgatory. He admits the thing, but not its description. He calls it a place or process of cleansing, but he will not call it purgatory, which means the same thing. It is as if we Catholics had invented the word theatre. Then this exponent of Anglicanism would insist upon using the word playhouse, and swear that he did not agree with the Catholic Church concerning houses of entertainment. In substance he declares Article XXII to be false and unscriptural.
962. You speak of Scripture, but the Bible mentions only heaven and hell.
It does not. It certainly mentions an intermediate state to which the soul of Christ went after His death on the cross. 1 Pet 3:19. This state was neither heaven nor hell, but the Limbo of the Fathers of the Old Law. In addition to this, Scripture mentions the purgatorial state. In any case, it would not matter if the Bible did mention but two places. My mentioning only London and New York could not prove the non-existence of Paris. It would be a different matter if Christ had said, "There is no purgatory." But He did not.
963. But the Bible does not mention purgatory.
It does not mention the precise word purgatory. But the intermediate state of purification described by that word is there.
964. How do you prove the existence of such a state?
In Mt 5:26, Christ, in condemning sin, speaks of liberation only after expiation. "Thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing." In Mt 12:32, He speaks of sin which "shall not be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come." Any remission of the effects of sin in the next world can refer only to purgatory. Above all St. Paul tells us that the day of judgment will try each man's work. That day is after death, when the soul goes to meet its God. What is the result of that judgment? If a man's work will not stand the test St. Paul says that "he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." 1 Cor 3:15. This cannot refer to eternal loss in hell, for no one is saved there. Nor can it refer to heaven, for there is no suffering in heaven. Purgatory alone can explain this text As a matter of fact, all Christians believed in purgatory until the Reformation, when the reformers began their rejection of Christian doctrines at will. Prayer for the dead was ever the prevailing custom, in accordance with the recommendation of the Bible itself. "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." 2 Macc 12:46. Prayer for the dead supposes a soul not in heaven where it does not need the help of prayer, nor in hell where prayer cannot assist it. Some intermediate state of purification and need, where prayer can help, is necessary. And the doctrine is most reasonable. "Nothing defiled shall enter heaven." Rev 21:27. Yet not all defilement should cost man the loss of his soul. Even in this life human justice does not inflict capital punishment for every crime. Small offenses are punished by fines or by temporary imprisonment, after which the delinquent is liberated. Those who deny purgatory teach the harder and more unreasonable doctrine.
965. God would not demand expiation after having forgiven the sin.
What you think God would or would not do cannot avail against that which He does do. When David repented of his great sin God sent the prophet Nathan with the message to him, "The Lord hath taken away thy sin. Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, thy child shall surely die." 2 Sam 12:14. To forgive the guilt of sin, and purify the spiritual scar and stain, which that disease of the soul leaves, by expiatory suffering, is better than to leave the soul still unpurified and indebted to God's justice. I too could fully forgive a friend his offense should he have robbed me, yet still insist that he make good the damage he has wrought me.
966. What is the punishment of purgatory?
When the soul leaves the body, that which can think, remember, love, hate, be happy or miserable, has gone from that body. A corpse cannot do these things. And the soul, with these capabilities, goes into a new state of being as a separated spirit. And my true self, separated from the distractions of this world, will perceive clearly and fully its own unfitness for God's presence, a perception which will mean unspeakable suffering. The exact nature of this suffering we do not know, but it is compared in Scripture to the action of fire afflicting a sensitive body. Although it is not defined as a dogma that there is a real fire of purgatory, it is the general opinion of theologians that there is a real fire somewhat analogous to the fire of hell. However it be explained, the fact that purgatorial suffering awaits the imperfect has been revealed by God.
967. When did God make purgatory?
Heaven of course always existed. For where God is, there is heaven. Hell was made when the devil and his followers fell from grace. There was no purgatory for them. Purgatory, then, was made when men began to sin and die with sins repented of, but not fully expiated by the sufferings of this life. Men under the Old Law went to purgatory just as those do who live under the New Law.
968. Where is purgatory?
God has not deigned to satisfy our curiosity on that point, and the knowledge is not of practical importance to us. The fact that there is a purgatory has been revealed by God. And when He reveals a fact, we cannot say to Him, "Well, I for one refuse to believe it until You tell me more about it." God proves a thing by saying it, for He is truth itself. We have but to prove that He said it.
969. How do you know that there are any souls in purgatory?
I know that 100,000 people die daily. I refuse to believe that they all go to hell, and feel quite sure that they are not all fit for immediate entry into heaven. Moreover, you would find far more difficulty in endeavoring to show that there are no souls in purgatory.