You wonder, at times, how it is that those who listen regularly to Roman Catholic apologists do not notice the wide range of differences between them on important matters of theology and practice. Don’t they cringe just a little when they hear the “sola scriptura is a blueprint for anarchy” silliness knowing that they are using a double standard? We can hope some do, and that the Lord will use that as a means of showing them His truth.
In any case, in modern Romanism in America it is common to hear a Westernized, softened view of purgatory. You see, there is no escaping the fact that Roman Catholics of the past viewed purgatory as a time of suffering and purification. The fact that indulgences were measured in “days” is not just some odd measuring system, as Tim Staples has suggested. This is obvious due to the fact that despite all the historical controversy over the “Sabbatine privilege” and the Carmelite Order, for many years people believed, and practiced, a belief in indulgences that included Mary descending into purgatory to release the person who died wearing the scapular on “Saturday.” Whatever else you do with that, it’s hard to get to “Saturday” without the passage of time. The modern “it’s not really a place, and there’s no time there, it’s just a state of mind” type of thinking flies in the face of everything we know of the beliefs of the leaders of the Roman Church in the past. It relies upon the ignorance of the audience who allow today’s speakers to mediate their knowledge of church history to them, chewed up and predigested.
With that being said, I was pointed to an answer given by Robert Sungenis to the question “What will Purgatory be like?” If you thought indulgences were dead and gone, well, read this:
R. Sungenis: John, the truth is, we don’t know what Purgatory is going to be like. The Church has received no revelation on its specific character, and there is no detailed information in the Bible. All we know is that it will be a time of purgation and punishment for unconfessed venial sins.
But there is another factor we, as Catholics, should consider. Here it is: Good Catholics have no excuse for going to Purgatory. If they are really pay attention to their Catholic faith and take advantage of all the Indulgences that are continually being made available to escape any and all punishment in Purgatory, then it stands to reason that no good Catholic should go to Purgatory. If they do, then it’s their own fault for not taking advantage of the graces God has given us. The Church has given us a multitudinous array of penances and prayers we can do in order to get a plenary Indulgence. They are just dripping, waiting for us to gather them up. So, don’t worry about Purgatory. Spend your time taking advantage of the Indulgences God gives us through the Church.
First, note the phrase, “it will be a time of purgation and punishment for unconfessed venial sins.” I confess I have no idea how you can have “satispassio,” the suffering of atonement, without the passage of time, but I will leave that to our modern Roman Catholic advocates to figure out. It looks like Sungenis is not among them.
Next, think through what it means that the punishments due to “venial” sins—which can keep you out of the presence of God due to your impurity—can be removed through the blasphemous practice of indulgences. There are few things that show the reality of Romanism more than indulgences, that is for certain. Every noble attempt to make Rome’s gospel look like it is just close enough to slip by the anathemas of Scripture falls to ruin upon the most basic examination of the horrific complex of doctrines that is purgatory and indulgences. That Christ’s atonement does not remove my impurity, but my climbing up stairs on my knees does, is more than enough to close the door on Rome’s gospel, to be certain.