DOGMATIC AND SCHOLASTIC - THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS CONNECTED WITH IT CONSIDERED AND PROVED.
CHAPTER XIII. THE PLACE WHERE PURGATORY IS. Part 1.
I. There have been various opinions held as to where Purgatory is. There should be nothing to cause admiration in this, since the Church has not defined where it is. The situation of it is a question more of a speculative nature, than of any practical consequence. It does not much matter in what place Purgatory is, when we are certain that it exists. Still, though it is a speculative question, it is an interesting one, and therefore do we purpose to give it a place in this treatise.
1. Some have thought that Purgatory, as well as hell, is nothing else than the conscience reproving and punishing sin. St. Jerome, in his Epistle to Avitus, says that Origen held this opinion. It is shown to be false from this alone, that it would prove Purgatory and hell to be in this life, as well as in the next, since the conscience reproaches people and inflicts its remorse on them even here. This opinion would prove too much. It would prove that Purgatory exists even in this life ; and it is a maxim of philosophers that what proves too much, proves nothing.
2. St. Augustine ( Lib. 12, de Genesi ad lit.) at one time thought that the places where souls are purified, are not corporeal or material. However, he afterwards (Lib. 2, Retract., chap. 24.) retracted this opinion.
3. Some, like Chrysostom, and Gregory of Nyssa, were of opinion that the place in which souls are punished is some dark and cloudy atmosphere, wherein the demons dwell. But this place they believed to be neither on, nor in the earth.
4. The opinion of others is, that souls are punished in the very places on earth where they had offended God. This opinion does not appear to have any solid foundation. Many persons commit sin in many places—places which are sometimes far removed from each other. It is not likely that they shall be punished in all these places. Some who have travelled abroad may have committed sin, let me say, in Ireland, in America, and in the Antipodes. Is it reasonable to believe that they shall suffer punishment in all these countries, which are so remote from each other ? Moreover, St. Peter Damian, in his Epistle on the miracles of his time, relates that Severinus suffered his Purgatory in a certain river for a sin which he had committed in the palace of the emperor. This fact, which St. Peter Damian has left us with his pen, would go to disprove the opinion of those who think that the soul is punished in the place where it committed sin.
5. We learn from St. Chrysostom that others placed Purgatory in the valley of Josaphat, because he tells us they placed hell there, and Purgatory was believed to be near hell. Probably the reason for this opinion was, that hell is called Gehenna by our divine Lord. Gehenna was a place held in abomination by the Jews, who regarded it as the equivalent of hell. It was the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, and on this account, near the valley of Josaphat. It was so near Josaphat that it may be looked upon as forming a portion of, or one valley with it.
6. The opinion commonly held in the schools is, that Purgatory is in the bowels or interior of the earth, and near hell. The great bulk of scholastic theologians recognise four bosoms or enclosures, or whatever other name you choose to call them, within the earth, or at least one bosom or enclosure which is divided into four parts. They furthermore say that all pains in the other life are reduced to two, the pain of loss, or the pain of having lost God, or of being separated from Him ; and the pain of sense, or the pain by which each of the senses is afflicted. Again, these pains are either eternal or temporal.
One part, bosom, or enclosure, no longer occupied, was set apart for the souls of the just who died be fore the Passion of Jesus Christ. This is known in scholastic theology as the limbus of the fathers. (Limbus patrum.) In this limbo they felt the pain of loss, but this was only temporal, or lasting till the Ascension of our Lord into heaven.
A second bosom or part is set apart for infants who die without baptism. This is called the limbus of infants. (Limbus infantum.) In it infants suffer the pain of loss ; and this is eternal. But whether they suffer the pain of sense, or not, is a matter about which there exists a sharp controversy among theologians. Many scholastics, with St. Thomas, hold that infants dying in original sin do not endure the pain of sense, which they consider to be due only to personal sin ; whilst others, following the guidance of St. Augustine, hold the opposite opinion. The adherents of this latter opinion cite Scripture in proof of it. In St. Matthew (xxv., 41.) we read that Christ shall say at the last judgement to those on his left: " Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." In the passage where this text is found there are only two orders or classes to be judged, one on the right, the other on the left. But it is certain these infants shall not be on the right. Therefore they shall be on the left, and consequently condemned to eternal fire. Again, they cite in favour of this opinion the Apocalypse,(xx., 15.) where it is said that " whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the pool of fire." They would argue that as infants are surely not written in the book of life, they must be cast into the pool of fire.
A third bosom or part in, or under the earth, is that place in which souls are purified, known to us by the term Purgatory. There the souls that need purification before reaching heaven suffer the double pain of loss and of sense; but each is temporal, or lasting only for a time.
The last and deepest gulf, or part, is reserved for the reprobate, for all those who die in mortal sin. In this horrid gulf the reprobate suffer at the same time the pain of loss and the pain of sense; and both are eternal.
In this opinion Purgatory is situated between limbus, or limbo, and hell. Limbus is higher up than hell, having a great interval between it and the latter place. For in the Gospel of St. Luke ( xvi., 23.) it is written that the rich man, " lifting up his eyes," had seen Abraham : " Lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off." Three verses later it is also written, that a "great chaos " intervened between them : " Between us and you there is fixed a great chaos." To place Purgatory between limbus and hell, is conformable to the mind of St. Thomas.
Before the Ascension of Christ there were three places into which souls went—limbo, Purgatory, and hell. There are also three now—heaven, Purgatory, and hell. The term hell embraces the limbus of infants. There shall be only two receptacles for souls after the last judgment—heaven and hell.
Heaven shall be the inheritance of the elect, and hell the lot of the reprobate.
St. Thomas, who holds that infants who die in original sin do not suffer the pain of sense, has a distinct and special limbus for them. This he believed to be under the limbus of the fathers, but still a part of hell.
But as Protestants, and those who hear not the voice of the Church, laugh at this opinion, it is well to supply the reader with the arguments which scholastics advance to sustain it. We will take each of the subjects, which the opinion covers, separately, beginning with the limbus of the fathers.