THE NATURE OF THE PAINS OF PURGATORY PART 2
3. In the Book of Wisdom (xi. 17.) it is said : " By what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented." Men are accustomed to commit sin through the inordinate desire of sensible delights or objects. But as men are accustomed to abandon God for sensible delights or objects, so should they be punished by sensible things. Hence we may in fer that the fire of Purgatory, by which souls are punished for their sins, is sensible or corporeal.
4. We discover from the Gospel of St. Matthew (xxv. 41.) that the bodies of the damned shall be tormented by fire after the general judgement. Christ shall then address the wicked : " Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." There can be question here only of corporeal fire; for the bodies of the wicked can be touched by no other fire. But the fire by which the bodies of the wicked shall be punished after the general judgement, is the very same by which their souls are at present punished. This is beyond doubt; because after saying: " Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire," Jesus Christ immediately adds in St. Matthew : " which was prepared for the devil and his angels" Then the fire, by which the bodies of the damned shall be tormented after judgement, is the same by which their souls, as well as the devils, are at present tormented. If the fire of hell be corporeal, why may we not suppose that the fire of Purgatory is likewise corporeal ? The one, as well as the other, is created to punish sin. Why should we not conclude, then, that one, as well as the other, is corporeal ? The argument is strengthened when we take into account the general opinion of theologians, who hold that the fire in Purgatory is corporeal, and the opinion of St. Thomas, who asserts that it is the same fire which torments the damned and the souls in Purgatory. Surely, then, it is not stretching the argument unduly, to infer that the fire of Purgatory is likewise corporeal.
II. It is true that we in this life cannot know how corporeal fire can act on an incorporeal and spiritual substance, such as the soul is. Even St. Augustine (Lib. 21. de Civitate Dei, cap. 10.) had to confess that he did not understand this, when he said that the soul is tormented by fire in wonderful, but true, ways. St. Gregory (Lib. 4, Dialog., cap. 29.) also says that the soul suffers invisible pain from visible fire He calls it invisible pain, because it is hidden to us. It is no objection to its existence that it is hidden to us; for there are many things, even on this earth, that we cannot see or understand. Nature is teeming with truths or realities, that are mysteries to us.
To go no farther, we have an instance of this in our selves. Man is the union of the soul, an incorporeal and spiritual substance, with the human body, which is mere matter. The soul not only gives life to the body, but even rejoices and suffers with it. It is a mystery to us, how this union of soul and body takes place; but we know very well that such a union exists. Neither do we know how the soul rejoices and suffers with the body; and yet it is beyond all doubt—it is quite certain—that it does rejoice and suffer with it. Bear in mind that the soul and body have nothing in common between them. There are not two substances in nature, not even fire and water, so opposite. Who can tell how the soul gives life to the body, or why there is such harmony and sympathy between them, since their nature is so opposite, and their inclinations are so different? Who can understand how it happens that the soul feels the sufferings of the body, and is affected by it ? As a spirit can be, and is, united to flesh and suffers with, and from it, so can a spirit be united to fire and suffer from it; though we cannot understand how either union occurs, or how one suffers from the other.
III. It is uncertain whether the souls in Purgatory are tormented by the demons, or not. On this point theologians divide into two opposite opinions. One opinion, with St. Thomas,(In 4, dist, 20, arctic 5.) holds the negative. Those scholastics who are of this opinion—that the souls are not tortured by demons—are influenced by the following reasons:—
First, those souls overcame the devil in their last conflict with him, and went out of this life bearing the palm of victory over him. It would not become the Divine Justice to give him in future any power over them, or to allow them to endure affliction at his will. It would be unfitting to have those souls be troubled or tortured by the very enemy, whom they conquered.
Secondly, the devil tempts and harasses perfect souls in this life for the sole reason of leading them to the path of sin. So long as they are here, he has this wicked hope of drawing them away from God, and leading them astray. But after they depart hence he can have no such hope, for he knows very well that they are then confirmed in grace and can sin no more. He can, therefore, no longer have any inducement to harass them.
Thirdly, not only would the devil have no motive to harass those in Purgatory, but he would have a strong motive to refrain from so doing. The more he would afflict and torment them, the more should he hasten their liberation from punishment, and their translation to the joys of heaven. Then it would seem scarce credible that those holy souls are afflicted by the agency of the demons.
There is another opinion, however, which says that those souls are punished by the demons. This opinion is embraced by St. Bernard and others. St. Bernard gives his name to it in this sentence : (Serm. 42 de Diversis.) " I shall go into this region, and I shall see this great vision, after what manner the pious Father may leave his children, who are to be glorified, in the hand of the tempter not for slaughter, but for purging," &c. Further weight is given to this opinion by many revelations, such as those found in Denis the Carthusian; (Lib. de Quatuor Novissimis ; Lib. i. Vitae beati Bernardi.) and the remarkable and interesting ones of our own Irish saint, Fursey, which are found in Venerable Bede (Lib. 3, Hist. Angl., cap. 19.) and other writers, and are detailed at full length in that valuable and researching work, "The Lives of the Irish Saints," by the Rev. John O'Hanlon.(Part 4, January 16, page 248, & c.) They who hold this second opinion quote also, as favourable to it, the Liturgies of the Church. In the Offertory of the several Masses for the dead, the Church thus prays for the souls in Purgatory: "Deliver them from the mouth of the lion." In fine, the sponsors of this opinion say it is congruous that these souls should be afflicted by the demons. It is only meet that they who yielded to the enticements of the devil, and so were partly overcome by him, should in the other life suffer punishment at his hands, and be also in part overcome by him.
It is not easy to judge which of these two opinions is correct. If, on the one hand, we should be inclined to favour the first, because it may not seem likely that God would permit those, who die in His grace", to be any longer troubled by the devil, or in anyway subject to his power; on the other hand, we should bear in mind that it would not be unreasonable to suppose that the demons, or some of them, would be in Purgatory, and would discharge the cruel, but to them gratifying, office of torturing the poor souls. Thus, whether these are tormented or not by the demons, must remain a matter of doubt to us whilst in this life. Hence Bellarmine (De Purg. Lib. 3, cap 13.) concluded: "Therefore, let this too remain among the secrets which shall be disclosed to us in their own time."