§ 6. Opponents of Purgatory.
19. Whilst reason compels all nations to proclaim their unanimous belief in Purgatory, a certain class of gloomy and proud men, whose dull intelligence admits only of an intercourse through the medium of the senses, presumes to deny this consoling doctrine. It is deplorable to see men calling themselves Christians, and professing to have progressed far in general culture, walking in the darkness of unbelief. Like owls, whose eyes sparkle and shine, but do not see in daytime, such men surround themselves with the semblance of knowledge, deceiving by an appearance of brilliant scientific attainments, yet sitting in the dark. They do not see the day that dawned with Christ and advanced with the propagation of His doctrine till it now shines in meridian splendor. They resemble, says St. Ignatius, the fallen angels; for as these were incited to pride and brought to their fall by their sublime position, thus they are made enemies of Christ, enemies of revealed religion, by their pretended science and sham learning, thus sinking in the estimation of sound reason even below the most uncultured nations. For though it is not clearly demonstrated that the ancient Carthaginians, Egyptians, Celts, Slavs, etc., believed in hell, yet there is no doubt that they believed in a state of purification after death. Whence this remarkable fact? St. Thomas Aquinas says, that whilst real science renders its possessor humble and makes all things except ourselves appear great, false science puffs up and shows everything as small and insignificant, except self. Hence we know of no other explanation but the senseless fanaticism of such as revolt in rabid haughtiness against the existing order of things, at the same time considering themselves too good, and others too wicked for Purgatory; which spirit is the result of singularity, prejudice and obstinate adhesion to preconceived ideas, and of a mean, narrow mind, intent on measuring divine things by the rule of dulled human perception. Thousands of souls were led into a labyrinth of error and unbelief by pride and presumptuous inquisitiveness regarding the mysteries of religion, by negligence in fulfilling their religious duties, by wickedness of life, by the reading of bad books and papers, by promiscuous association with scoffers at religion, with infidels, and with others whose company endangers faith.
20. And as even some so-called Catholics are presumptuous enough to doubt the consoling doctrine of Purgatory, because, deluded by false logic, they believe the Church to be wrong on this point, we give a brief, comprehensive statement of the errors concerning Purgatory ; in order that they may have a chance to recognize more easily their indefensible position, rise above their prejudices, and put to flight the serpent of pride and error.
The Gnostics of the first centuries of Christianity believed that the human soul is destined to free itself by degrees from the dominion of sensualism by going through a kind of purification here on earth. These heretics retained but little of Christianity, and their system had no place for Purgatory. For according to them the soul, once freed from the body and purified by earthly sufferings alone, returns to God in the realms of light, whilst everything else is engulfed in the darkness of eternal night.
In the fourth century, Aerius, a follower of the heresiarch Arius, called the doctrine of prayer for the dead immoral, claiming that it caused men to abandon themselves to vice and sin in the presumptuous hope that they were enabled, by gifts of money, to obtain the prayers and good works of others to escape punishment.
In the twelfth century, the Waldenses were at variance amongst themselves concerning the doctrine of Purgatory. The Albigenses and Catharers, who followed Gnostic views, and denied a future life in general almost universally, were logically bound to, reject Purgatory. In southern France, the adherents of the apostate, Peter de Bruis, denied Purgatory, because they regarded themselves too good, and others too wicked for it.
21. Until then the enemy of God made use only of one or the other of the objections to Purgatory hitherto mentioned, in order to gain adherents opposing-Purgatory. In the so-called Reformation of the sixteenth century, however, all these objections were united into one heresy denying the existence of Purgatory. For fifteen centuries the Church had offered up the Sacrifice of Expiation for the Suffering Souls, when Luther, an apostate monk, disturbed her peace and assailed her sacrifice by divulging a new doctrine. Of a morose and bitter disposition, he attacked the Catholic doctrine of indulgences, thus assailing the clemency of his spiritual Mother. Logically, he was soon led to deny the efficacy of her intercession, thus robbing the faithful of the consolation of her prayers after death by declaring that man, once justified, had no need of satisfying Divine Justice either in this world or in the next. Hence he denied the efficacy of prayer for the dead, and consequently the existence of Purgatory. But as he thus proclaimed a doctrine rejected both by Catholic faith and by reason, a doctrine that aimed at the same time at being consonant with divine truth and conniving at the sinful inclinations of man, hence Luther wavered in his position and in his teaching. Lies are unstable, but truth remains steadfast for ever. "The lip of truth shall be steadfast for ever; but he that is a hasty witness frameth a lying tongue." (Prov. xn. 19.) The Protestant theologian, Fritschel, in his "Review for Lutheran Theology and Church,' 9 mentions the conflicting views of Luther concerning the doctrine of Purgatory as follows: In 1518 and 1519 the " Reformer'' declares the existence of Purgatory as undeniable, and insists on its acceptance. In the following years, until 1530, his views underwent a change. He wished to retain Purgatory, but was not willing that it should remain an article of faith, "because," he maintained, "its existence can neither be proved, nor ought it to be denied." Then, in 1530, Luther published a "Denial of Purgatory;" a "powerful argument against this error*" as Fritschel calls it. In the Schmalkaldian Articles of 1537, the heresiarch calls Purgatory a "Devil's Mask." Nevertheless, he again wavers on other occasions, and in 1543, permits the insertion of prayers for the dead in the official edition of his Church Directory. No wonder that Fritschel repeatedly calls, Luther's position "remarkable." It must appear "remarkable" to every person capable of reasoning, no less so than the following prayer taken from his Directory: "O God, if the soul is in a condition to be assisted, I beseech Thee to be gracious towards it." Still more remarkable it is, that so many persons adhere to his wavering doctrine.
Calvin calls Purgatory "a dastardly invention of Satan, a blasphemy against Christ which annihilates His cross." Yet he concedes that prayer for the dead is an ancient and pious custom, and says that the souls of the just are detained until the last day in the bosom of Abraham. (Lib. Inst. 111. 5.)
Luther's illogical error was the result of wounded pride, nourished by intemperance like fire is fed by fuel. Smothering reason through exciting the passions, he aroused in his followers the seven-headed hydra of vice, causing them to show less logic than the Esquimaux and Greenlanders, by rejecting the consoling doctrine of a middle state in the next world.
The views and speculations concerning Purgatory, which originated in the diverging doctrines of Protestantism, are too manifold to be noted here. It is sufficient to mention that some of its adherents admit heaven and hell alone, others a place of purification and heaven, others again no hell and no purgatory, but heaven alone.
22. Nevertheless there are, and .always have been, a great many dissenters from the Catholic Church who, intent on living justly and uprightly, cultivate a profound logical religious sentiment, and hence agree with the learned Protestant Leibnitz who says: "It always was the the teaching of the Church that they that have departed this life, though acceptable to God through Christ and therefore elected to eternal life, must sometimes suffer natural punishment or purification for their sins, especially if they have not cleansed themselves sufficiently from their faults while on earth. True, the holy Fathers do not agree as to the mode of purification; but nearly all agree in the opinion that after this life a paternal punishment or purification, whatever its nature may be, will take place, by which the souls, after their departure from the body, are enlightened, and then, convinced of the imperfection of their past life and of the turpitude of sin, are filled with sorrow, and themselves desire it, unwilling to be admitted to the height of beatitude without having undergone it." And he concludes: "It always was a doctrine of the Church that we should pray for the dead, because they receive assistance by our prayer."
Collier, also a Protestant, remarks: "Prayer for the dead is one of the most ancient and best authenticated practices of religion. It quickens the belief in the immortality of the soul, draws the veil of darkness from the grave, and joins this world with the next. Had it been retained, most likely we should not have experienced so much scepticism and unbelief amongst us. I can not find a reason why a dissenting Church, which can not claim supernatural gifts, and is quite foreign to the early ages of Christianity, has rejected, or permitted the neglect of, a custom which is not condemned." True, the so-called Reformers, if they would be logical, could not admit Purgatory; but it was a rather hazardous proceeding to draw, by mere deduction, a negation of truths so firmly rooted in faith and so con-. sonant with reason and sentiment. Hence the untenable position of Protestantism, which loudly proclaims to the world that despite its doctrinal negation, many of its adherents unite with the Catholic Church in declaring: "There is a Purgatory; 'it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins.' "