IMPRIMATUR: Joannes Gregorius Murray ArchiepiscopusSancti Pauli.
Written by Fr. Charles M. Carty Rev. Dr. LeslieRumble, M.S.C. Copyright 1976 by TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.
Originally published by Fathers Rumble and CartyRadio Replies Press, Inc. St. Paul, Minn., U.S.A.
1. Do the Scriptures speak about praying for the dead?
The Second Book of Machabees tells us that after Judas had defeatedGorgias, he came to bury the slain Jews. "Making a gathering, he senttwelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacri fice to be offeredfor the sins of the dead." 2Mach 12:43. Evidently Judas did not regardtheir sins to be grievous, for he says, "because he considered thatthey who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them."That praying for the dead was a Jewish practice is manifested in thesewords: 2Mach 12:45. "It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thoughtto pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." 2Mach12:46.
2. But the Books of Machabees are not contained in the Protestant Bibleso why quote it to prove your doctrine?
The reformers rejected these books from the Bible precisely becausethey taught the doctrine of pray ing for the dead. If you Protestants denythat the Books of Machabees are two of the inspired books of the Biblethen you must admit them as historical records of Jewish faith in prayingfor the dead.
3. Does the New Testament speak of your Purgatory?
Not in name but in fact. Mt. 12:32: "He that shall speak againstthe Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, norin the world to come." St. Augustine and St. Gregory gather from thesewords that some sins may be remitted in the world to come; and consequentlythat there is a Purgatory. St. Paul 1Cor. 3:13-15: "The fire shalltry every manís work of what sort it is. If any manís work burn, he shallsuffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." St.Paul tells us in these words that the soul shall be judged, suffer fora time and then be saved. The only place to suffer for a time before beingsaved is Purgatory. St. Mt. 5:25-26 speaks of the Prison, "and thoube cast into Prison. Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence,till thou pay the last farthing."
4. Did the early Christians believe in Purgatory?
The tombs of the martyrs and the catacombs are filled with definiteevidence to prove that the early Christians certainly believed in Purgatory.On their tombs we read: "In your prayers remember us who have gonebefore you." "Mayest thou have eternal light in Christ."Tertullian (160-240) speaks of anniversary Masses for the dead: "Wemake on one day every year ablations for the dead, as for their birthdays.""The faithful widow ... offers prayers on the anniversary of his death."St. Monica just before dying made this request of her son St. Augustine:"Lay this body anywhere; let not the care of it in any way disturbyou. This only I request of you, that you would remember me at the altarof the Lord, wherever you be." St. Augustine then petitions, . . ."And inspire, . . . that as many shall read these words may rememberat Thy Altar, Monica, Thy servant." Hence no sane student of historycan deny the fact of this universal custom of the early Church, i.e., ofpraying for the dead because she believed in Purgatory.
5. Did the Jews believe in Purgatory?
Certainly the Jews believed in offering prayers and sacrifice for theirdeparted friends and relatives and they still believe in this custom forthey are found always at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. In their liturgyfor funerals of Hebrews the prayers for the dead read as though they wereCatholic prayers for the dead.
6. Did Luther believe in Purgatory?
No. Fr. Conway in "Question Box," says, "Lutherís falsetheory of justification by faith alone led him to deny the distinctionbetween mortal and venial sin, the fact of temporal punishment, the necessityof good works, the efficacy of indulgences, and the usefulness of prayersfor the dead. If sin is not remitted but only covered; if the ĎNew Maníof the Gospel is Christ imputing His own justice to the still sinful man,it would indeed be useless to pray for the dead that they be loosed fromtheir sins. Lutherís denial of Purgatory implied either the cruel doctrinethat the greater number of even devout Christians were lost, which accountsin some measure for the modern denial of eternal punishment, or the unwarrantedassumption that God by Ďsome sudden, magical changeí purifies the soulat the instant of death. "Protestant prayers for the dead, if everthey pray for the dead, are a waste of time and are meaningless unlessthey admit a Purgatory.
7. Christ sent the good thief immediately into Paradise. I donít seethe need of your Purgatory.
The good thief gained Paradise immediately because of his perfect contritionand anyone dying in the state of contrition that is judged perfect by Godimmediately merits Heaven. Whether our contrition is perfect or imperfectdepends on Godís judgment. The Book of Wisdom (7:25) declares that "nothingdefiled cometh" into the presence of the Spirit of Wisdom. St. Johnin the Apocalypse describes the new Jerusalem and says (21:27), "Thereshall not enter into it anything defiled." This means that souls mustbe purified of slight blemishes of venial sins which involve temporal punishmentstill to be suffered. Common sense tells us that some are not worthy toenter at once into Heaven and that they are not bad enough to be doomedto hell. There must, therefore be an intermediate state where the soulis cleansed of its defilement. It is contrary to nature not to, pray forthe departed friend or relative. The instinct of nature creates a hopethat every thing is all right with the departed, and, if not, there isfound a latent urge to help with prayer and sacrifice. Purgatory robs deathof its terrors. When the Reformers denied this doctrine they drove a stilettointo the Scriptures and the unbroken tradition of the Christian Church.They choked and stifled the inherent cravings of our hearts. If I can prayfor my mother when she is alive then why not when she is dead, that she,too, be loosed of her sins? Can we not then hear the cry of Job: "Havepity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the handsof the Lord hath touched me." Job 19:21. Tennyson gives testimonyto the natural yearning of the human heart and to the Christian tradition,when he writes: "I have lived my life, and that which I have doneMay He within Himself make pure; but thou, If thou shouldst never see myface again, Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer Than thisworld dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me nightand day."
8. I am interested in your dogma concerning Purgatory. Must I be a Catholicbefore I can understand that invention of your Church.
No. You must be a non-Catholic to suspect that the Church did inventit. The idea that there is no Purgatory is the invention of Protestants.The Reformers corrupted the true doctrine, and many good Protestants, realizingthis, are returning to the Catholic religion of their forefathers. Meantime,if I could discover, or you could show me when and where the Church inventedthis doctrine, I promise to spend the rest of my life exposing the CatholicChurch as a merely human institution making outrageous claims upon men.
9. Why make people afraid of such a horrible place as Purgatory, whenyou know that it does not exist?
I know that it does exist. And if you deny it be-cause to you it seemsa 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 horriblethought that there would be no Purgatory? In that case you would have butHeaven and hell. All not quite fit for Heaven could not hope to escapehell. It is a much more pleasant thought that there are people not quitegood enough for Heaven, yet not had enough for hell, and that these aresent to Purgatory until they are purified sufficiently for Heaven.
10. What is the nature of your doctrine on Purgatory?
It can be summed up very briefly. At death the soul of man, if quitefit, 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 expiatedthem in this life, is quite fit for Heaven at once. The soul which departsthis 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.
11. Does God want to roast you merely because you have the misfortuneto be alive?
He knows that you had no say in the matter. God does not want to roastme. It is not a misfortune to be alive, though it is blame-worthy to havemisused oneís existence. Nor did I want a say as to whether I should receivethe gift of existence. People can leave me a fortune tomorrow without consultingme. But I did have a say in my infidelities to Godís grace, and for thatI am responsible and do not wish to excuse myself.
12. 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 beforeone could be fit to enter the glory of Godís presence.
13. Do Protestants go to Purgatory?
All who die in the charity of Christ whether they have known Him ornot escape hell. If they are not good enough to enter Heaven they go toPurgatory. Between souls united to Christ in Heaven and on earth and inPurgatory there flourishes a most intimate relation. We ask each otherísprayers on earth; we do not believe that our holiest and best lose theirpower to pray for us merely because they have been transferred to Heaven,so we often ask them to continue so doing. In the Communion of Saints wehave the Church Triumphant assisting the Church Militant, and the ChurchMilitant by prayers and indulgences assisting the Church Suffering. Henceyou see that the Church has nothing to do with hell. But she has a veryintimate connection with both Purgatory and Heaven. The Church has nothingto do with hell, because it is no use praying for those who are in helland there is no need to pray for those who are safely in Heaven, it isobvious that there is a place of temporal suffering, or purification, orpurgation-Purgatory. Since Protestants admit only a Heaven and a Hell itis absurd and useless for them to pray for the dead.
14. Would God destine so good a man as George Washington for Purgatoryjust 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 Protestantsas well as good Catholics will go there if they are not quite perfect atdeath. There is no dispensation. And where is the man who has not his imperfections?
15. 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 hissins be grave. Purgatory is not a place for repentance, but for purification.If two men repent on their deathbeds, one of whom broke one commandmentand the other, all the commandments often, both are saved by their repentance.But they are not both equal before God. They will suffer relative purificationsin Purgatory.
16. 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 fourth century,implore her son St. Augustine, as she lay on her dying bed, that he wouldpray for her soul whenever he went to the Altar to offer the Mass? Andhow would you account for the inscriptions in the catacombs recording prayersfor the dead offered by the Christians of the first centuries? Or, if youwould go back earlier, what will you do with the teaching of Scriptureitself. The Council of Florence merely recalled previous definitions.
17. What is your Romish reply to the challenge of Article XXII in theBook of Common Prayer?
That Article of the Church of England says that the Romish doctrineof Purgatory is grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but is rather repugnantto the Word of God. The reply is that the Article is quite erroneous, andthat many Anglicans realize the fact. Thus an Anglican clergyman unsaysthat Article definitely in this book entitled, "The Catholic Religion:A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Church of England." Hespeaks of a place of mercy "provided in the intermediate state, inwhich evil will be completely purged. When this purification is accomplished,such souls enter into perfect peace," p. 193. On the following pagehe suggests that, at the Reformation, men were too eager and rejected muchthat was true - including the intermediate state. In no less than six differentplaces 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 forthe departed. On p. 379, he writes, "Still more desirable is the celebrationof 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 the19th edition, completing 207 thousand.
18. How can an Anglican clergyman who has sworn to accept the articlesof Religion, teach such doctrine?
I do not see how he can do so. Romish theologians are simple childrencompared with the capacity for mental gymnastics manifested by Rev. VernonStaley, 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 thatAnglicans must not use the word Purgatory. He admits the thing but notits terminology. He calls it a place or process of cleansing, but he willnot call it Purgatory, which means the same thing. It is as if we Catholicshad invented the word theatre. Then this exponent of Anglicanism wouldinsist upon using the word playhouse, and swear that he did not agree withthe Catholic Church concerning houses of entertainment. In substance hedeclares Article XXII to be false and unscriptural.
19. You speak of Scripture, but the Bible mentions only Heaven and hell.
It does not. It certainly mentions an intermediate state to which thesoul of Christ went after His death on the cross. 1Pet. 3:19. This statewas 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 mentioningonly London and New York could not prove the nonexistence of Paris. Itwould be a different matter if Christ had said, "There is no Purgatory."But He did not.
20. How do you prove the existence of such a state?
In Matt. 5:26, Christ, in condemning sin, speaks of liberation onlyafter expiation in the prison. "Thou shalt not go out from thencetill thou repay the last farthing." In Matt. 12:32, He speaks of sinwhich "shall not be forgiven either in this world or in the worldto come." Any remission of the effects of sin in the next world canrefer only to Purgatory. Above all St. Paul tells us that the ray of judgmentwill try each manís work. That day is after death, when the soul goes tomeet its God. What is the result of that judgment? If a manís work willnot stand the test St. Paul says that "he shall suffer loss; but hehimself shall he saved, yet so as by fire." 1Cor. 3:15. This cannotrefer to eternal loss in hell, for no one is saved there. Nor can it referto Heaven, for there is no suffering in Heaven. Purgatory alone can explainthis text. As a matter of fact, all Christians believed in Purgatory untilthe Reformation, when the Reformers began their rejection of Christiandoctrines at will. Prayer for the dead was ever the prevailing custom,in accordance with the recommendation of the Bible itself. "It isa holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosedfrom their sins." 2Mach. 12:46. Prayer for the dead supposes a soulnot in Heaven where it does not need the help of prayer, nor in hell whereprayer cannot assist it. Some intermediate state of purification and need,where prayer can help, is necessary. And the doctrine is most reasonable."There shall not enter into the new Jerusalem anything defiled."Apo. 21:27. Yet not all defilement should cost man the loss of his soul.Small offenses are punished by fines or by temporary imprisonment, afterwhich the delinquent is liberated. Those who deny Purgatory teach the harderand more unreasonable doctrine.
21. God would not demand expiation after having forgiven the sin.
What you think God would do or would not do cannot avail against thatwhich He does do. When David repented of his great sin God sent the prophetNathan with the message to him, "The Lord hath taken away thy sin.Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lordto blaspheme, thy child shall surely die." 2 Sam. 12:14. To forgivethe guilt of sin, and purify the spiritual scar and stain, which that diseaseof the soul leaves, by expiatory suffering, is better than to leave thesoul still unpurified and indebted to Godís justice. I, too, could fullyforgive a friend his offense should he have robbed me, yet still insistthat he make good the damage he has wrought me.
22. 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 dothese things. And the soul, with these capabilities, goes into a new stateof being as a separated spirit. And my true self, separated from the distractionsof this world, will perceive clearly and fully its own unfitness for Godíspresence, a perception which will mean unspeakable suffering. The exactnature of this suffering we do not know, but it is compared in Scriptureto the action of fire afflicting a sensitive body. Although it is not definedas a dogma that there is a real fire of Purgatory, it is the general opinionof theologians that there is a real fire somewhat analogous to the fireof hell. However it be explained, the fact that purgatorial suffering awaitsthe imperfect has been revealed by God.
23. 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 wasno Purgatory for them. Purgatory, then, was made when men began to sinand die with sins repented of, but not fully expiated by the sufferingsof this life. Men under the Old Law went to Purgatory just as those dowho live under the New Law.
24. Where is Purgatory?
God has not deigned to satisfy our curiosity on that point, and theknowledge is not of practical importance to us. The fact that there isa Purgatory has been revealed by God. And when He reveals a fact, we cannotsay to Him, "Well, I for one refuse to believe it until You tell memore about it." God proves a thing by saying it, for He is truth itself.We have but to prove that He said it.
25. How do you know that there are any souls in Purgatory?
I know that 100,000 people die daily. I refuse to believe that theyall go to hell, and feel quite sure that they are not all fit for immediateentry into Heaven. Moreover, you would find far more difficulty in endeavoringto show that there are no souls in Purgatory.
26. How do you know that you can help the souls in Purgatory by yourprayers?
God would not have inspired the Jews to pray for the departed if suchprayers were of no avail. Christians have always prayed for the dead, apractice fully warranted by the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. Andif we can pray for our dear ones who are in trouble in this life, our prayerscan certainly follow them in their future difficulties. All prayer is addressedto the same God who is as present to the souls of our dear departed asHe is to us.
27. Is your own personal conviction such that you will want others topray for you?
It is. All who have the Catholic faith believe in prayer for the dead.It is not a doctrine for the laity only. And I sincerely hope that friendswill pray for me and have Masses offered on my behalf when God has takenme from this world. I shall need them. Nothing defiled will enter Heaven,and if at death oneís soul is not absolutely perfect in virtue proportionatelyto the grace it has received, it is defiled by imperfection of some sort."If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truthis not in us." 1Jn.1:8. Masses and prayers offered for me after mydeath will help to expiate such imperfections as I unfortunately possess.
28. So you expect to get redemption on the nod! You are fortunate.
I am. And not a soul will be saved who does not owe it to the deathof Christ on the cross, and who will not admit that this was a purely freeand gratuitous gift wholly undeserved by men. Mass merely applies the satisfactoryvalue of Christís death to my soul. Meantime, those who deny Purgatoryand the necessity to expiation wish to obtain salvation much more "onthe nod," as you call it, than Catholics.
29. Joseph McCabe says that Purgatory is the most lucrative doctrineever invented by priests.
He is the last man from whom you should seek information about the CatholicChurch. I am a priest, and know as much about the Catholic Church as JosephMcCabe ever did. And my judgment is not warped by hatred. The doctrineof Purgatory was revealed by God. It is not a lucrative doctrine inventedfor financial reasons. Popes, Bishops, and priests all believe in it onexactly the same footing as the faithful, and it is my consolation thatmany priests have already promised to offer Mass for me as soon as theyhear of my death. And they will receive nothing for doing so.
30. Yet priests accept offerings for Masses under false pretenses.
They do not. A priest will accept an offering on the understanding thathe will say a special Mass for the intentions of the person making theoffering. In accepting an offering from one person he forfeits the supporthe would receive from another in exercising his ministry on that otherísbehalf.
31. It is a source of revenue which no priest dare fail to utilize.The selling of Masses must be most profitable.
That remark shows that you do not understand the nature of Mass offeringsat all. Priests do not sell Masses, and the people do not pay for Masses.The Mass cannot be bought or sold. Even were I to say that the priest offersthe Mass and is paid, not for the Mass, but for his time and services,any evil element such as you suggest would be excluded. It matters littlewhether a chaplain be given a salary for a yearís service, or a specialoffering for a special service. However the explanation is deeper thanthat. In the Old Law the people brought tithes and percentages of theirgoods and dedicated them to God. The gift was directly made to God, andonce given, ceased to belong to the giver and belonged entirely to God.Then God made use of these gifts for the support of His religious ministers,inviting them to be His guests. The same spirit characterizes Catholicpractice. A Catholic wishes to offer the sacrifice of the Mass to God.He is not compelled to do so. Now the Mass is a sacrifice instituted byChrist, but it supposes the outward necessities, bread, wine, altar, vestments,and a living human being authorized by God to offer it in the name of Christand of the Church. The Catholic offers to God all that is necessary, andindeed offers a personal sacrifice by contributing towards the up keepof the altar and towards the very life of the priest who is to stand atthe altar on his behalf. Since he has made this offering to God, the Massis applied according to his intention. Thus, when you attack the idea thatthe priest sells the Mass to a Catholic, you are not attacking Catholicdoctrine or practice at all.
32. Your harnessing Purgatory to the idea of offerings to God is mostingenious. So the Church is equal to God?
I do not harness Purgatory to the idea of offerings to God. I give thesimple Catholic explanation, according to the doctrine of Christ as recordedby St. Paul. "They that serve the altar partake with the altar. Soalso the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live by thegospel." 1 Cor. 9:1314. And as a matter of fact Purgatory does notnecessarily come into it. It is a question of offering Mass for any intentionwhatever. Some Masses are offered for those we love and who have departedfrom this world. Nor is the Church made equal to God. She is but commissionedby God to attend to matters connected with His due worship. If I wishedto give a friend a valuable plant in his garden, I would not be elevatingthe gardener to the status of my friend.
33. How can you as an honest man support the extortion of hard earnedmoney from the poor?
I could not support extortion, but I can honestly say that only a personabsolutely ignorant of things Catholic could imagine that money is extortedfrom the poor for Masses.
34. Donít priests visit the bereaved and tell them that so many dollarsare required per week for Masses?
No. Catholics are taught the truth from the pulpit in general. Theyare told that it is good to have Masses offered for the dead if possible;as indeed it is. Apart from that, the matter is left to the spontaneousdesire of individuals. And they are never required to have such Massesoffered.
35. If you do not extort, you press home the fact that, unless suchMasses are said, the soul of the loved one will remain in Purgatory.
That is not true. There are many ways in which we can help our deceasedrelatives and friends, apart from having Masses offered for them. We canoffer our own assistance at Mass, and our Holy Communions; we can offerany prayers we wish, or our sufferings, and acts of Christian mortification.It is good to have Mass offered specially for them if possible. But thatis not the only way in which we can help them. Nor has anyone ever maintainedthat a soul necessarily remains in Purgatory until Masses shall have beenoffered.
36. Why donít priests pray for the souls of the poor without paymentof money which only the rich can afford?
Priests pray every day for the souls in Purgatory without payment ofmoney, and without any discrimination between the rich and the poor. Whensomeone asks for a special intercessory Mass, offering the customary stipend,the priest will comply with the request. But this is in addition to hispersonal prayers for the dead.
37. But would they say Masses for the poor?
Thousands of Masses are said every year for the poor by thousands ofpriests, when no offering at all is made. As a matter of fact the law ofthe Church obliges a parish priest to offer Mass every Sunday and on everyHoly Day of Obligation for his parishioners, excluding all private requestsand offerings And every priest in a spirit of charity, often offers Massfor the special intentions of poor people who cannot afford any offering.
38. The fact remains that the Catholic Church derives millions fromMasses, as Joseph McCabe points out.
Naturally the offerings of millions of people would amount to millions.That is to be expected. Nigh a million people in the Twin Cities contributesome millions yearly for various transport services; but the individualtraveler is not unreasonably burdened, and the officials do not receiveexorbitant remuneration. Your point proves nothing save the numerical strengthof the Catholic Church, four hundred times as numerous throughout the worldas the nigh million population of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St.Paul.
39. So Purgatory has been able to extort millions?
It extorts nothing. The truth revealed by God inspires Catholics tohave Masses offered for their departed friends and relatives. And thoseCatholics, who can afford to do so, desire by personal sacrifice to renderthe offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass their own special offering toGod.
40. From offerings for Masses in England about a quarter of a millionis raked in yearly.
Proportionately to their numbers that averages a penny per week fromindividual Catholics, and yields about sixty cents per week to the individualpriest.
41. In the United States it means a sum of between one and two millionsa year.
The margin of difference is rather wide; however, taking the amountas two millions, for the Catholic population of the United States the averageis again less than ten cents a year from the individual towards the supportof priests from this source. And at McCabeís maximum, the individual priestwould receive the average income of one dollar per week from such Massofferings.
42. Setting out the millions at so much per head is unsound, if ingenious.Not everyone pays, and those who do are made to feel it.
My argument is not unsound. It is unsound to talk of millions withoutmentioning the distribution of the sources from which they come. Nor isany Catholic made to feel that he is paying. In fact, no Catholic is madeto pay in any sense of the word, for there is no obligation to have Massesoffered at all for oneís personal intentions.
43. Can any honest man be proud of all this? The New Testament saysthat he who serves the altar should live by the altar. 1Cor. 9:13-14. Andcertainly the man who devotes the whole of his life to the welfare of hispeople can quite honestly accept a small percentage from the earnings ofthose to whose welfare he is devoted. The priest has to live. He is moreconstantly at his work than the man who controls a transport system forthe convenience of citizens and who derives his living from the small contributionsof those who use those services. And the priestís work is more importantand more responsible. Moreover, the average priest barely gets a living,and many have to be subsidized or they could scarcely live at all.
44. At any rate, has not the soul of a rich man a better chance thanthe soul of a poor man?
We cannot make such a comparison. The rich man who provides for theoffering of Masses for the repose of his soul has a better chance of diminishinghis Purgatory than the rich man who makes no such provision.
45. I want my question answered. A rich man leaves $1,000 for Massesfor his soul. A poor man leaves but $ 1. Who has the better chance of enteringHeaven?
If both died in a state of unrepented mortal sin, neither of them hasany chance. If both died in a state of grace, both will certainly enterHeaven. All souls which depart this life in a state of grace will eventuallyenter Heaven. However, some souls need more purification in Purgatory thanothers. The question, then, is whether the wealthier man will secure themore rapid purification, and enter Heaven more easily than the poor man.Not necessarily. The $1 may easily have been the greater generosity relativelythan the $1,000. The dispositions of the poor man could easily have beenmore pleasing to God than those of the rich man. The very poverty and sufferingof the poor man in this life was already expiation; so much so that Christpractically says that Heaven belongs almost by special right to the poor,declaring that the rich with their life of comfort and self-indulgencewill enter Heaven with great difficulty. The poor man might scarcely needthe few Masses he asks, whilst the rich man, with all his Masses, may havefar more to expiate. Then, too, the departed can benefit by Masses andprayers within certain limits only. Anything over and above those limitswould be applied to other souls. St. Augustine clearly taught in the fourthcentury, "There is no doubt that our prayers can benefit those whoso lived as to deserve to be benefited by them." He recommends sacrificeon their behalf, whether of the altar, or of prayers, or of almsgiving,adding, "Although they do not benefit all for whom they are offered,but those only who deserved during life to benefit by them." But wecan safely leave the adjusting of all these things to God.
46. How do priests know when a soul escapes from Purgatory?
Souls do not escape from Purgatory as criminals from jail, or birdsfrom a cage. When they are sufficiently purified for the vision of Godthey are admitted to Heaven. And no one knows when this occurs, unlessGod gives a special revelation, a favor we have no right to ask.
47. Then you might he praying for a soul not in Purgatory at all!
That is quite possible. Granted that we believe in Purgatory, that ourprayers can help the dead, and that we do not know for certain whetherour dear ones are emancipated from their purifications or not, we continuepraying for them. We give them, rather than ourselves, the benefit of anydoubt. We argue that our prayers may possibly benefit them, not that theymay possibly be wasted. And we would certainly risk saying too many forthem rather than allow them to run the risk of being deprived of help.
48. On that score, Catholics would go on praying and having Masses saidas long as they live. Quite so. Is it a fault to be generous as long asone lives? And are such earnest prayers harmful?
I am a priest. My own mother has gone to God. I shall certainly offerMasses for her as long as I am able to do so and am free from other obligations.If, long before my death, her purification is finished and she is enjoyingthe happiness of Heaven, I know that not a single prayer or Mass will bewasted. There are other souls in Purgatory, and no Catholic begrudges theapplication of his prayers and sacrifices to other souls should his owndear ones have no need of them.
49. I must confess that I find all this rather baffling.
You are outside Catholicity, and no more under stand the spirit of theCatholic religion than a man standing outside a Cathedral can discern thewonderful beauty of the stained glass windows from within. But a reasonableman would say, "Well, I can hardly expect to perceive the real senseand design from here. But there must be something in it, and if I cannotenter the building I must be content to be without an understanding ofthat windowís real beauty." But you stand outside the building ofCatholic doctrine, stare at practices you cannot expect to understand fromoutside, and express astonishment that you see nothing in them.
50. Purgatory would be a stumbling block for me were I to become a Catholic.
John L. Stoddard whilst in the quest for the sure light of religioustruth received this illuminating letter from a Catholic friend: "Thereis hardly a religious system of antiquity in which some similar provision(to Purgatory) is not found. It was left for the ĎReformersí of the sixteenthcentury to reject this immemorial dogma of the Church. When they deniedthe sanctity of the Mass and many other sacramental features of Catholicism,the doctrine of Purgatory went with the rest. If the souls of the deadpass instantly into an eternally fixed state, beyond the efficacy of ourintercessions, then all our requiems, prayers and similar practices arevain. But if, on the contrary, we believe in the Communion of Saints, thatis, in the intercession of the threefold Church, militant on earth, sufferingin Purgatory, and triumphant in Heaven, then we on earth can influence,and be influenced by, the souls who have crossed the border. Few, indeed,quit this life in a state of purity and grace which warrants their immediateentrance into Heaven. Still fewer, let us hope, are those to whom the blessedrefuge of Purgatory, that halfway house of our dead, is closed. I cannotconceive how Protestants can believe as they do on this point, nor is itastonishing that their rejection of Purgatory, has been followed in thecase of many, by the elimination of a belief in hell; for the latter doctrine,taken alone, is monstrous. In fact, all Catholic doctrines are interdependent;they stand or fall together. You cannot pick stones out of the arch, andexpect humane and beautiful conceptions imaginable. How many mothersí achinghearts has it not soothed and comforted with hope for some dead, waywardson."
51. Was this letter the cause of Stoddardís quitting Agnosticism forCatholicism?
It made a powerful appeal and served as one of the stepping stones tothe conversion of this famed lecturer and writer. In his book, "Rebuildinga Lost Faith," he says this: "The doctrine of the Catholic Churchin reference to Purgatory states that there is such a place, in which soulssuffer for a time, be fore they can be admitted to the joys of Heaven,because they still need to be cleansed from certain venial sins, infirmitiesand faults, or still have to discharge the temporal punishment due to mortalsins, which is as yet uncancelled, though the lasting punishment of thosesins has been forgiven and re moved through Christís atonement. Furthermore,the Church declares, that by our prayers and by the acceptable sacrificeof the Mass we may still help those souls, through the merits of Christ.Beyond this statement the Churchís formal doctrine does not go; but itis not an article of Catholic faith that there is in Purgatory any materialfire. It is generally believed that souls in Purgatory suffer spiritualanguish from the fact that they then feel acutely, as they could not doon earth, the perfect happiness from which they are for a time excluded,while they must also understand the enormity of the sins which they committedagainst their Heavenly Father and their Savior."
52. Why should suffering be required to cleanse us?
According to Rev. J. B. McLaughlin, O.S.B., in his book, "Purgatoryor The Church Suffering," we have this answer: "Some have thoughtof God as a hard creditor, fixing the tax of pain for every sin or everysinner. But we must not think that right and wrong are fixed arbitrarilyby God; for they rest on His very nature. Not, it is right that we shouldsuffer for sin, since God so commands; rather, He commands it because itis right. And in His goodness He has made us like Himself; giving us lightnot only to see what is His will, but also to see to some extent what Hesees. Therefore, let us try to see why it is right that after repentingour sins we must suffer for them. Consider a spirit, angel or man, thatdefies God and disobeys His will. Imagine that God consents to this; treatsthe rebellious spirit as a welcome friend, as a fitting companion for thesinless angels and for God Him self. Imagine that God creates spirits suchthat they can find eternal and untroubled happiness in defying their Maker,and can bask unrebuked in His love. Do we not feel at once that this isnot God that we are picturing? That in some way eternal justice would beviolated if these things were possible, and the holiness of God would beprofaned? If God be God, such defyings and rebellion and all unholinessmust be hateful to Him. His very nature requires that all sin shall bringits own punishment on the sinner. Again, consider the sinner who discoversand realizes what he has done in defying his Maker. He sees at once thatpunishment unthinkable is his due. Only two alternatives seem possibleto him: the despair of devils and of Judas, if he has lost all love forGod; or, if he keeps any root of love, then the wish to suffer to the limitsof his nature that in some way he may acknowledge the majesty and the holinessthat he has outraged. To him comes the gift of hope; the seemingly unbelievableyet certain knowledge that Godís all-mastering power can so change himfrom his sin that he shall be as if he had never sinned. The Magdalen shalldwell unabashed with the spotless Mother of God; yea, and with God Himself. With this hope to enlighten him, the sinner sees he is to make anatonement far ampler than he had thought. He will suffer now, and by hissufferings not only atone to the Majesty he had insulted; but also willrestore to God the servant and friend who seemed lost, rendering up hisown soul new made in the fires of Godís love."
53. What reasons do you give that there should be suffering for sin?
"There are, therefore, two reasons for suffering for sin: first,atonement to God; and second, the remaking of our souls. And we can seethat suffering for these purposes may well last long. If we look at thesuffering endured to atone to God, there is no reason why it should everend, except His mercy. And the remaking of our souls is slow. A wound orsprain is received in an instant, but very slowly is it healed. A sin iscommitted in an instant by an act of will, and forgiven in an instant whenthe will submits in love to God; but the mischief wrought by the sin inour nature is deep, and slow to mend." See McLaughlin, "Purgatory."
54. Are Catholics the only ones who believe in Purgatory?
The Jews have believed in Purgatory and even amongst the pagans we findthe same belief. "False religions," says McLaughlin, "suchas Buddhism and Spiritualism, have recognized this fact, that at deathmost men are not yet fitted for eternal rest. All false religions are builtof fragments of truth, built up into a nightmare of falsehood. Here thequestion they face is a real question. All our lives we see before us ahigh standard calling us to live up to it, and at death we have not reachedit; how are we to reach it after death? They invent wild and sometimesghastly answers. But the true answer is: by the power of God, through thepurifying power of suffering; and this we name Purgatory. These false religionsthink only of the perfecting of manís soul, not of giving God His due.And thereby they leave out the highest part of manís perfection.
Certainly man should grieve that he has lowered and degraded himselfby sin, and should rejoice to rise to better things. This grief is a necessarypart of the whole agony entailed by sins; but if it stand alone it is merelypride, part of a great rejection of truth. For the chief cause of agonyought to be the knowledge that he has ill-treated God, despised His majesty,outraged His holiness, rejected His love. The soul in Purgatory, realizingwhat is due to God, loving Him with its whole being, will wish above allthings to atone for its sin by suffering worthy punishment. If it couldbe content to leave in the smallest degree unrepaired the wrongs it hasdone to God, it would be far from the perfection that is possible to saintseven in this life. In Purgatory the soul longs to suffer in order to beclean, to suffer in order to reach God; but above all these is its longingto suffer in order to make amends to the Divine Majesty, Holiness, Love.For its love of God is everything to it now; its desire for its own purificationand happiness is part of its love for God."
55. What was Lutherís error on Purgatory?
"The Church had to condemn an error of Lutherís, that the soulsin Purgatory sin ceaselessly, by desiring rest and shrinking from theirsufferings. This error comes from not understanding that all sin is inthe will, and in the act of the will; the act whereby we choose definitelyto do this and not that. Besides this act of choosing, there are many otherdesires in our nature; and these may be the cause of sin, or the materialof sin, or the effect of sin; but they are not sin. Consider a man whohas a long-standing dislike of another, which has often led him to followtrains of thought hostile to that man, and ending in finding further reasonsfor disliking him. Sin was committed in the act of consenting to followthese thoughts. Suppose some day he recognizes that his dislike is unjust,and from that time resolutely shows outward kindness to the man, and turnsaway instantly from all thoughts against him. His will is acting rightly,but against the grain; for the old habit of dislike is still in him, readyto break out into action at any moment if he would allow it. It is truethat this dislike is a wrong one. And precisely because he sees that itis wrong, the man is constantly repressing it, doing all he can to wearit down and hoping some day to find that it is dead. The existence of thedesire is therefore wrong, a result of sin, but not sinful. And it is nolonger the cause of sins, but is now the material of virtuous acts everytime that the will resists it and acts against it. Such as this are thehabitual desires, attractions, and repulsions that the soul may carry withit to Purgatory, because they have not yet been worked out of its beingin this life. In Purgatory they must be removed from the soul; not nowby work, nor by the soulís resisting them and acting against them, butmerely by suffering. In Purgatory such a dislike could never lead to sin.For in this world it leads to sin because the soul is still in the body.Through the senses, through the humors and state of the body, the willis provoked or drawn to indulge these desires or dislikes; and at the sametime and for the same reasons, it easily loses sight of God and His love.
"In Purgatory all the distractions of the body are gone; and thesoulís love for God absorbs it continuously and prevents it attending toany other desire. The bad desire or repulsion is latent in the soul, asit is in this life at the times when it does not trouble a man. But inPurgatory there is no possibility of its ever breaking out into action.It is simply burning out slowly in the fire of suffering. Luther did notsuggest that the suffering soul could sin in this way, but in the veryfact of finding its sufferings painful. We have seen that to the soul itis intensely painful to be held away from God, to know that it has insultedHim and is unfit to approach Him. Plainly it is right that these thingsshould be painful to the soul; it would be wrong if the soul could be satisfiedwith them. And the soulís act of will is to accept this pain because itis right. This act of will is completely pleasing to God, but wins thesoul no higher place in heaven. For its place in heaven was won duringits life on earth."
56. How long will souls be kept in Purgatory?
"It is the constant teaching of the Church," says Rev. J.B. McLaughlin, O.S.B., "that all purgation will be completed whenthe general judgment comes at the end of the world. All the souls thatare to go to Heaven will at that judgment be reunited to their bodies andenter into their everlasting reward. But as to the duration of the purgationof individual souls we know nothing from our Lordís teaching. He tellsus in a parable, Ďthou shalt not depart thence till thou pay the last farthing.íThis shows the need of perfect purity before we can enter Heaven; but revealsnothing about the length of time of imprisonment. The Church allows perpetualMasses to be arranged for one soul. This is because she does not know howlong that soul may be suffering, nor how much atonement God will accepton its behalf from men. We have to remember that all times are alike presentto God. There is nothing unlikely in supposing that prayers and Massesnow being offered for one who died before the Reformation were the meansof that soul entering into Heaven many hundreds of years ago, as our LordísPassion was the means of saving Adamís soul. The visions God has allowedof souls begging for prayers many years after their death are evidencethat these souls have been in suffering all that time. And if there areauthentic visions where souls have also told that their Purgatory was tolast many years yet, these also may be believed without fear of contradictingCatholic teaching. Those who are alive at the end of the world, and whosesouls are stained with venial sin or owe a debt of punishment, must havetheir purgation like other such souls before they can enter Heaven. Aboutthese, people have wondered over two questions, of which God has not taughtus the answers. First, as to their bodies. Are they to pass alive intoHeaven or hell, or are they to die and rise again at once? And as to theirsouls, when are they to suffer their Purgatory, since they are not judgedtill the general judgment, and after that judgment there is no Purgatory?This is ask ing Almighty God how His doings are to be fitted into the tinymeasures of time and space that He has made for our bodily life. He givesus glimpses to let us know how narrow is our vision, and that we must becontent to know that He is infinitely above our understanding. We mustnot attempt to limit what He can do in what we call the Ďmomentí of judgment.íOfthis one thing be not ignorant, my beloved, that one day with the Lordis as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.í And on our sidewe know that a moment of intense anxiety, waiting to know will a fallingstone crush a child, seems like an age. The work of purgation to be donein these souls is the same as in the souls of the mar tyrs. In the martyrsit is done in their sometimes brief dying. As easily can God do it at thelast day."
57. Was Purgatory always believed in by the early Christians?
"The belief in Purgatory is an excellent example of what is meantby tradition in the Church. When the belief is challenged, when we areasked to cease praying for the dead, it is sufficient to answer, ĎBut wehave been praying for them since the time of the Apostles.í The mere factof praying for them implies the belief that these souls are not yet inHeaven, nor hopelessly lost in hell; that they will reach Heaven in theend; that our prayers may help them. And this, duly weighed, is seen toimply further that the bond which holds together Godís spiritual familyor communion is not mere justice, but love. Once we realize that the workof His kingdom is to spread in our hearts love for God and love for eachother, it seems quite natural that those, who have offended Him shouldbe helped by each otherís prayers. All this belief is embodied in the mosteffectual way in the practice of praying for the dead; for by learningthat practice and the meaning of it, and by doing it, we learn it not simplyas a thing to believe, but as a fact to be dealt with, and calling foraction. In the Church from the be ginning there has been the practice ofpraying for the dead and offering the Mass for them. Very early we findrecorded the custom of offering special prayers and Masses on the thirtiethday and on the anniversary of death. The writers speak of these thingssimply as the established traditional practice of the Church. This traditionalpractice of the Church is a running stream of witness to her belief. Andwhen we find the earliest written references to it speak of it as the traditionaland unquestioned practice of the Church, we have an argument to show thatthe doctrine was believed and acted on from the time of the Apostles. WhenPopes and Councils are called on to define a doctrine that heretics arechallenging or perverting, they demonstrate what the Church has alwaysbelieved by examining the practices which the Church has followed or encouraged,and pointing out what truths are implied in these practices. The infallibledeclaration of Popes and General Councils is argument enough for a Catholic;for the living voice of the Church teaching even in St. Peterís time wasno surer nor holier than is the living voice of the Pope today, seeingthat always it is the voice of the Holy Spirit, leading Christís Churchinto all truth, and bringing back to her mind whatever Christ taught her.But it is sometimes an encouragement, and al ways a joy, to find St. Gregorythe Great or St. Augustine talking of the prayers and Masses offered forthis soul and for that, and the hope of benefiting such souls, in the samematter of fact and simple way as a school child talks of them today,"etc. See "Purgatory or The Church Suffering," by Rev. J. B. McLaughlin,O.S.B.
In his "Discourse on Purgatory," Dr. Forbes states:
"Let not the ancient practice of praying, and making ablationsfor the dead, received throughout the universal Church of Christ, almostfrom the very time of the Apostles, be any more rejected by Protestants,as unlawful or vain. Let them reverence the judgment of the primitive Church;and admit a practice strengthened by the uninterrupted profession of somany ages."
The noted historian, W. Mallock, in "Is Life Worth Living,"says:
"As to this doctrine of Purgatory which has so long been a stumblingblock to the whole Protestant world time goes on, and the view men takeis changing. It is becoming fast recognized on all sides that it is theonly doctrine that can bring a belief in future rewards and punishmentsinto anything like accordance with our notions of what is right and reasonable.So far from its being a superfluous superstition, it seems to be just whatis demanded at once by reason and morality, and a belief in it to be notonly intellectual assent, but a partial harmonizing of the whole moralideal."
Rev. W. T. Lardge, a nonconformist minister of Preston, England.
"It is a simple and self-evident truth, both from the Scripturesand common sense, that there must be an intermediate world between Heavenand hell immediately on leaving this world. This doctrine was at one timeacknowledged by the Church at large. As Christians you are bound to admitthe reality of that doctrine, if you believe in the Bible as the Word ofGod."
In the "Life of Johnson," by Boswell, the author asks a questionof the man whose life, he is writing, and receives this answer:
"What do you think, sir, of Purgatory, as believed by the RomanCatholics?" Johnson: ĎWhy, sir, it is a very harmless doctrine. Theyare of opinion that the generality of mankind are neither so obstinatelywicked as to deserve everlasting punishment, nor so good as to merit beingadmitted into the society of blessed spirits; and, therefore, that Godis graciously pleased to allow of a middle state, where they may be purifiedby a certain degree of suffering. You see, sir, there is nothing unreasonablein this."í