Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 2.



THE first enemies of Purgatory, of whom we find mention in ecclesiastical history, were that sect known by the name of Apostolicals. They were so called because they pretended to follow closely on the footsteps of the Apostles. Toward the end of the second century they denied that the soul could be purified after it departed this life.

In the fourth century Aerius, an Armenian and bitter supporter of the Arian heresy opposed the teaching of the Church on Purgatory. He sought the mitre of Sebaste, and because his ambition was not gratified he began to declaim against the episcopal dignity itself. One error drew him into others. He soon taught that prayers for the. dead and other "good" works performed in their favour were useless to them, and should be discontinued. As, however, Suarez very properly remarks, this error does not necessarily imply that he denied the existence of Purgatory. His words merely show he denied that the souls in Purgatory can be relieved by our prayers. It is one thing to deny that we can assist, the souls in Purgatory, and quite a different thing to deny the existence of such a state. Though one error approaches very near to the~ other, there is no necessary connection between them. These are the words of Aerius, as given by Epiphanius: " What reason is there for calling the names of the dead after death ? For that the living may pray, or dispense his goods among the poor, what advantage is this to the dead ? But if the prayers of those they leave behind them can assist those who have departed this life, no one would any longer live piously . . . but he will acquire for himself some friends . . . who may entreat God for him that he may not suffer any disadvantage there." In these words Aerius asserts that they who are in the other life cannot be assisted by the living; but he does not deny that they suffer some disadvantage, aliquid incommodi,  there. However, he may have denied the existence of Purgatory. Perhaps his words should not be understood in their strict logical sense. The enemies of the Church are not accustomed to reason closely; and therefore we cannot know from his words but he may have denied even the very existence of Purgatory.

In the seventh century the Armenian's asserted that there was no Purgatory in which souls may be purified, and that we should not pray for the dead.

The same errors were maintained by the Albanians in the eighth century. They were called Albanians from the country that produced them, Albania, a province of ancient Macedonia, and now a portion of Turkey in Europe. The heresy of the Albanians sprang up in the pontificate of Leo III., and was the worthy offspring of the errors of the Manicheans.

The sects known as the Petro-Brussiani and the Henriciani, which started up in the twelfth century, denied the utility of the prayers of the faithful for the dead. The Petro-Brussians were the disciples of Peter of Bruis, a Frenchman, who disseminated his errors about the year 1110. One of the principal contemporary writers against this sect was Peter, the venerable Abbot of Cluni. In a work addressed to the Archbishops of Arles and Embrun, and the Bishops of Die and Gap, Peter refuted the principal errors of the Petro-Brussians. In his preface to this work he reduces their errors to five, one of which was that prayers, alms and sacrifices were of no use to the dead. The Henricians were so called from Henry of Toulouse. He was Italian by "birth". After having embraced the monastic state, he became an apostate, and began to declaim against the doctrine of the Church. He denied the utility of prayers for the dead. He advanced his errors with arrogance in succession at Lausanne, Mans, Poitiers, Bordeaux, and Toulouse. The defender of the Church and of its time-honoured doctrine on this occasion was the great St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux.

The same errors, with some modifications, were put forth by the Albigenses. This sect took their name from Albi, a town near Toulouse. Like the Petro-Brussians and Henricians, they were the off spring of the Manicheans, on whose errors they shaped their doctrine. They corrupted a great part of France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They were remarkable for their ignorance, their brutality, and the confusion of their opinions. They were united in one thing, and that was in hatred of the Church, her external worship, and her hierarchy,. They propagated their errors with fire and sword.  The churches were burnt to the ground, the monasteries were demolished, and the clergy every where outraged.  Peter the Venerable, of whom mention is made above, tells us that among their other extravagances,[they rejected prayers, sacrifices, and other good works Tor the dead. And they not-only did away with Purgatory, but also with hell. They taught the most extravagant and antisocial errors. In the 27th Canon of the Council of Lateran, held in 1179, it is stated that "they respected neither churches, nor monasteries, and spared neither orphans, nor age, nor sex, but pillaged and laid waste everything like pagans." Such were the Albigenses, who, along with other errors, declaimed against the doctrine of the Church on Purgatory.

The Greek schism also fell into this error. One of the five articles, as instanced in the Council of Florence, in which the Greeks differed from the Latin Church, was that there is no Purgatory. It is beyond doubt that the Greeks fell into this error, for the Council of Florence, in its last session, condemned it. But the object the Council of Florence had in view was to condemn the certain or doubtful errors of the Greeks. St. Thomas, also, in his work against the Greeks, condemns this error. This he would not do unless the Greeks professed it. On the other hand, it is equally certain that the Greeks, in the first session of the Council of Ferrara, asserted that they did not deny Purgatory, its pains, and its darkness, but only its fire. They did not deny the existence of Purgatory, but the manner in which souls are punished there.

Luther who was so remarkable for his change of opinions", at first retained his faith in Purgatory. In his celebrated disputation at Leipsic with John Eckius, the defender of the Catholic cause, he said : " I, who firmly believe, nay I would dare say who know, that Purgatory exists, am easily persuaded that mention is made of it in the Scriptures." But we should not expect Luther to be consistent. His fickle mind cast aside dogma when it did not suit his purpose. Accordingly we afterwards find him changing his mind so far as to " firmly believe " and " know " that Purgatory did not exist. He says : " When you deny Purgatory, you condemn vigils, convents, monasteries . . . . to all I also give my approbation, per omnia etiam probo."

Like Luther, Calvin and all the other reformers of the sixteenth century rejected the doctrine of Purgatory. Calvin, whose rabid hatred of the most hallowed dogmas of the Church was so notorious, did not shrink from calling Purgatory "a mischievous invention of Satan, which makes void the cross of Christ, which inflicts intolerable contumely on the mercy of God, which weakens faith," &c. The various sects into which Protestantism has broken up have adhered on this point to the teaching of their first founders, the only exception, that I am aware of, being the Ritualists of our day.

Origen, who wrote in the third century, went to another extreme. He not only admitted Purgatory, but went so far as to recognise no other punishment after this life except that of Purgatory. Hence he promised salvation, after a just expiation, alike to the demons and the damned.

After this short sketch of its enemies, and their notions of it, let us see what is to be said in favour of the existence of Purgatory in the following chapter.