|Blessed Francis Venimbeni Celebrating Mass for souls in Purgatory|
It is hardly necessary to observe that one can be in the state of grace without being free from every venial sin. Besides it is a matter that has been doubted, whether the souls in Purgatory may have obtained the remission of all venial sins at the time of death. While some have denied, very many, with Suarez,(Sec. 7, n. 2.) have held that the guilt of venial sins is wiped off at the departure of the soul from this life.
Moreover, it may be observed that a person who is not now in the state of grace may owe temporal punishment for sins that were formerly forgiven him. This could happen in the case of one who, after having obtained the remission of former sins, has fallen again into mortal sin.
Having made those observations, we repeat that the person in whose favour suffrages are made must be in the state of grace to receive them. One who is in mortal sin cannot receive by suffrage the re mission of the temporal punishment to which his former sins, though afterward forgiven him, had rendered him liable. The first reason in proof of this is that the communication of suffrages is founded, as far as we are concerned, in the union of charity. One cannot communicate suffrages to an other, nor can the other receive them from him, unless both are united by charity. Suffrages cannot exist, or have effect, where charity is absent. This is what St. Thomas (Suppl. Q. 27, art, I.) meant when he said : "A dead member does not receive influence from other members." Secondly, the person who is in mortal sin is an enemy of God, and, as such, unworthy of any clemency, of any remission, whether of sin or of the punishment due to it. We can, it is true, pray that God may grant such a sinner the grace of con version ; that He may change his heart, and excite in him those congruous dispositions through which he may obtain the remission of his sins; but we could not, without sin, pray that he may obtain re mission of the temporal punishment whilst the fault itself remains. To pray thus would be to pray against the order of Providence, and, therefore, to commit sin. Thirdly, if we were to admit that the punishment could be remitted whilst the sin remains, we should likewise grant that Indulgences could be gained by those who are in mortal sin. But this is false. The sovereign Pontiff does not intend to grant Indulgences to such persons. He intends Indulgences, even particular ones, for those only who are contrite; but true contrition is repugnant with the state of sin. The Pontiff not only does not, but even could not, intend Indulgences for the enemies of God. Had he this intention, he would be acting contrary to the presumed will of our Lord Jesus Christ. This will is, not to relax His rights in favour of His enemies, nor grant them any advantage. It is evident then that it is necessary to be in the state of grace to receive profit from suffrages.
II. Suarez (Sect. 7.) says that venial sin must be forgiven before one can receive, by means of suffrage, the remission of the punishment due to it. He says that the punishment cannot be remitted before the sin, for as long as the sin remains it deserves punishment. He holds that no one except Christ could satisfy for venial sin, and that the most we could do would be to obtain grace for another by means of which he would dispose himself to receive, or would merit, the remission of his venial sins.
III. Another condition on the part of those who receive suffrages is involved in the question raised by theologians, whether baptism is necessary to render one capable of suffrages, or whether these can be made for catechumens who depart this life with contrition. Suarez is of opinion that the holy sacrifice, or that suffrage which works, or produces effect ex opere operato, cannot be offered for catechumens who have departed this life. Vasquez (Disp. 227, cap. 3 ct 4.) held the same opinion. He denied that Mass could be offered for catechumens, or those who were receiving instruction and preparing for baptism. De Lugo agrees with this opinion, which he says is unanimously held by theologians. He says (De Eucharistia, Disp. 19, Sect. 10, n. 166.): " It is the unanimous opinion of theologians that the fruit of satisfaction ex opere operato may not be communicated to such persons." By such persons he means catechumens, of whom he was speaking. The reason which he assigns for this opinion is that Baptism is the gate through which we can approach the other sacraments, or participate in their fruit. The holy sacrifice representing the fruit of the sufferings of Christ " inasmuch as it proceeds immediately from Christ it may be extended to all men even those who are not baptised; inasmuch, however, as it is applied by the Church and its ministers, it is communicated only to those who are members of the visible Church by Baptism, for it is to feed these that power is given to the Church." So De Lugo reasons.
On the other hand Bellarmine (De Missa, cap. VI.) holds that the sacrifice of the Mass may be offered for catechumens. He quotes Clement (Lib. 8, Constitution, cap. 18.) as teaching that the holy sacrifice was offered for catechumens by the Apostles. Bellarmine would seem to make a distinction, how ever, between catechumens who belonged to infidelity and those who belonged to heresy. While he would hold that Mass could be offered for the former, he holds that it would be unlawful to offer it for the latter, because this would be contrary to the law of the Church, (Cap. A Nobis, de sententia excommunicationis.) by which it is expressly for bidden to pray publicly for excommunicated persons. Amongst these heretics are ranked, for they are all excommunicated. Collet (De Sacrificio, cap. 8, art. I.) also distinctly says that the sacrifice can be offered for catechumens though they have no right to it. Dens (De sacrificio Missae, n. 12.) agrees with Bellarmine and Collet. He says : " The sacrifice of the Mass can be offered for catechumens and infidels, not only indirectly, v.g., by offering it for the propagation of the Catholic Church, but even most probably directly, that is for the good, either spiritual or even temporal, of the infidels themselves."
There seems to be no doubt that St. Ambrose would agree with the second opinion, and that he was accustomed to offer the holy sacrifice for the soul of Valentinian who was a catechumen. On the] other hand it is quite certain that St. Chrysostom is stoutly in favour of the first opinion, and that his custom was not to offer sacrifice for catechumens. He says (Homil. 3, in cap. I Epist. ad Philip, n. 4.) : " Catechumens are not worthy of this consolation, but are destitute of every aid except one. But what is this? It is lawful to give to the poor for them, and from this they receive some refreshment."
I have no doubt that opinion also would be equally divided with regard to those other suffrages which are called common, and are offered for the faithful, dead or alive, by the clergy, inasmuch as these are ministers of the Church. The same reasons could be advanced against and for offering these common suffrages for catechumens as are put forward above in regard to the sacrifice of the Mass.
We now come to particular or private suffrages. Particular suffrages are those good and pious works which are performed by the faithful inasmuch as they are private persons. It is held by theologians that these suffrages can be offered by each one out of his own satisfactions for catechumens who have had a pious death. Suarez (Disp. 47 Sect. 6, n. o.) himself is among those who hold this opinion. Three reasons are assigned to prove that catechumens are capable of private suffrages. First, because in their case we can have everything that is required for suffrage. There are three things required for this object, a union of charity, the intention of the person who offers suffrage, and the need of the person who receives it. All these conditions can combine in the case of deceased catechumens. Secondly, a catechumen can offer his suffrages, not only fora departed person who has been baptized, but even for another catechumen. With much stronger reason can a person who is baptized offer his suffrages for a catechumen who is dead. Finally, there is no need at all of Baptism for this effect. One can transfer his suffrages to another who is not baptized.