I was talking with David King in our channel and we were both expressing our amazement at the simple hubris of many who quite literally prey upon their audience while pawning off tired, oft-refuted, shallow arguments while ignoring the refutation of their errors, even when those refutations have appeared in print. I was considering the time and money invested by Pastor King in doing his research for his part in the three-volume work he wrote with Bill Webster (#1327 found here), and how often he would post items in channel that he was transcribing from Roman Catholic theologians like Yves Congar, for example. And though my attention, and my study, has been directed in a very different direction of late, I still attempt to stay current, and only recently obtained Peter Lampe’s fairly new work, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries (Fortress Press, 2003). Evidently, the effort taken by Reformed apologists in particular finds little or no counter-part in the popular Roman Catholic speakers. Evidently, we just aren’t important enough to be concerned about. Or, it is a lot easier to refute Jack Chick. Take your pick. In either case, I personally believe there is much to be learned from the vast difference in approach to be observed in this matter.
A few days ago I was looking at Madrid’s site and stumbled upon an evidently somewhat old article on purgatory. At least it appeared old, since most of the graphics on it did not even load. In any case, it looked like it was from 2004 or so. As I scanned through it I ran across this paragraph:
Second, purgatory is not a place where the soul works or earns or in any way does something to cleanse himself — all purification that takes place in purgatory is done by God to the soul. Or, to put it a different way, in purgatory, the soul remains passive as the saving blood of Jesus Christ washes away the impurities and temporal effects due to sin from the soul. This is because those who go to purgatory are assured of their salvation; there is nothing for them to do – Christ does it all in his merciful act of preparing his beloved to enter into the wedding feast.
Now, I had never heard a Roman Catholic describe purgatory as a passive reception of the “saving blood of Jesus” which is said to wash away “the impurities and temporal effects due to sin from the soul.” I would dearly like to see a magisterial statement in support of this statement. Where has the concept of punishment gone? Suffering? Where has Rome officially taught that the purgation of the soul is passive, involving the application of the merits of Christ? Ludwig Ott, a far more recognized scholar and expert on Roman Catholic theology, defines purgatory thusly:
The souls of the just which, in the moment of death, are burdened with venial sins are temporal punishment due to sins, enter Purgatory….Therefore, an intermediate sate is to be assumed, whose purpose is final purification and which for this reason is of limited duration….The remission of the venial sins which are not yet remitted, occurs, according to the teaching of St. Thomas (De male, 7, 11), as it does on this life, by an act of contrition deriving from charity and performed with the help of grace. This act of contrition, which is presumably awakened immediately after entry into the purifying fire, does not, however, effect the abrogation or the diminution of the punishment for sins, since in the other world there is no longer any possibility of merit.
The temporal punishments for sins are atoned for in the purifying fire by the so-called suffering of atonement (satispassio), that is, by the willing bearing of the expiatory punishments imposed by God….For the individual souls the purifying fire endures until they are free from all guilt and punishment. Immediately on the conclusion of the purification they will be assumed into the bliss of Heaven. (pp. 482, 484-485).
Likewise, Broderick’s The Catholic Encyclopedia (OSV), p. 502, says,
The purpose of purgatory is to cleanse one of imperfections, venial sins, and faults, and to remit or do away with the temporal punishment due to mortal sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. It is an intermediate state in which the departed souls can atone for unforgiven sins before receiving their final reward.
The same article refers the reader to Denzinger 464, from the Council of Lyons II. A quick reading of the relevant text supports Ott, not Madrid. Likewise, though the CCC is not as clear as previous dogmatic statements, there is nothing in reading sections 1030-1032, and 1472, that presents a passive, non-penal, non-punishing, non-suffering application of the blood of Christ as the cleansing mechanism of purgatory. In fact, in light of all the CCC says about indulgences, there would be no correlation to such a viewpoint of after-death purgation as presented by Madrid.
Is it possible we see here the same kind of “Westernization” of an offensive religious concept that we see in other religions? The Westernized version of reincarnation, for example, that leads silly women to claim they were once queens of some far-away ancient dynasty, is quite different than the more authentic form which may well have you coming back as a slug or a dog. And evidently, there is more than just a little bit of embarrassment in the Roman Catholic community about the doctrine of purgatory, especially when you take the time to read how that topic was addressed and handled by pious Roman Catholic writers up through the 19th century. The number of visions of those in purgatory is legion (lots of Popes seemed to be there—though, evidently, some did not even make it there!).
We have addressed the subject of purgatory in numerous venues. My debate with Peter Stravinskas on the subject is extremely useful. Also see this article on the misuse of 1 Corinthians 3 by Rome’s apologists.