Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 3


The Word Purgatory – Catholic Doctrine – Council of Trent – Controverted Questions

The word Purgatory is sometimes taken to mean a place, sometimes as an intermediate state between Hell and Heaven. It is, properly speaking, the condition of souls which, at the moment of death, are in the state of grace, but which have not completely expiated their faults, nor attained the degree of purity necessary to enjoy the vision of God.

Purgatory is, then, a transitory state which terminates in a life of everlasting happiness. It is not a trial by which merit may be gained or lost, but a state of atonement and expiation. The soul has arrived at the term of its earthly career; that life was a time of trial, a time of merit for the soul, a time of mercy on the part of God. This time once expired, nothing but justice is to be expected from God, whilst the soul can neither gain nor lose merit. She remains in the state in which death found her; and since it found her in the state of sanctifying grace, she is certain of never forfeiting that happy state, and of arriving at the eternal possession of God. Nevertheless, since she is burdened with certain debts of temporal punishment, she must satisfy Divine Justice by enduring this punishment in all its rigor.

Such is the signification of the word Purgatory, and the condition of the souls which are there.

On this subject the Church proposes two truths clearly defined as dogmas of faith: first , that there is a Purgatory; second, that the souls which are in Purgatory may be assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, especially by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Besides these two dogmatic points, there are several doctrinal questions which the Church has not decided, and which are more or less clearly solved by the Doctors. These questions relate

1) to the location of Purgatory;

2) to the nature of the sufferings;

3) to the number and condition of the souls which are in Purgatory;

4) to the certainty which they have of their beatitude;

5) to the duration of their sufferings;

6) to the intervention of the living in their behalf, and the application of the suffrages of the Church.

MLA Citation