As I sat, eating my lunch yesterday, a man was telling another about how Catholics’ belief in Purgatory was an example of Catholics mongering on fear. He told the younger man how Catholics need to “buy” their way into heaven and no matter how good one is, all Catholics go to Purgatory.
As he continued to talk, I became more and more agitated with his conversation. I have been witnessing more and more as of late, other Faith Christians doing their best to discredit my Catholic Faith. They always tend to use the phrase, “It’s non-Biblical” or “Jesus did not say or command it” when arguing their point.
So, what exactly is the truth when it comes to Purgatory?
All souls are judged immediately upon death. Those without sin or clean of imperfections will go to heaven without delay. Those whom still have some “explaining” to do and some “repentance” will go to Purgatory, where they may atone for their sins and cleanse themselves thoroughly.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
This guy sitting across from me argued, “The word purgatory is nowhere found in Scripture, where does Jesus talk about purgatory?” Though true, nothing is there in scripture to disprove the existence of purgatory as well. Words in scripture may not always be clearly written, such as the words TRINITY or INCARNATION, yet both are clear doctrines of most Christian Faiths. However, Scripture does teach us purgatory exists.
Christ refers to the sinner who “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of one’s sins. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering (“fire”) there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory alone explains this passage.
As a Catholic man, I take the statement from Scripture “nothing unclean shall enter heaven” very seriously. This tells us a less than cleansed soul will not enter through the gates. The soul needs to be cleansed or “purged” of its remaining imperfections. Catholic’s definition of Purgatory offers this opportunity.