Monday, 3 August 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 26.




V. Purgatory is also under the earth.

1. The first proof we shall bring forward to show that Purgatory is under the earth, is found in the all but unanimous vote of theologians, who, maintaining that it is situated there, freely subscribe to the doctrine of St. Thomas, (In 4, dist. 21, Q. i, art. Questione 2, Ad. 2 Q.) which he thus lays down :

" It must be said that there is found nothing expressly determined in the Scripture on the place of Purgatory. However, probably, and according to what agrees more with the expression of the Saints, and the revelation made to many, the place of Purgatory is twofold ; one, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is a lower place adjoining hell; so that it is the same fire that torments the damned in hell and that purges the just in Purgatory; although the damned, according as they are lower in merit, are also to be ranged lower in place. There is another place of Purgatory according to dispensation ; and thus sometimes it is read that some are punished in different places, either for the instruction of the living or for the relief of the dead ; that their pain becoming known to the living, may be mitigated by the suffrages of the Church." The great body of theologians admit this opinion of St. Thomas and follow it.

2. The second proof is derived from the sense or sentiment, and the acceptation of the Church, as these are made manifest in her prayers for the dead. These prayers are calculated to lead us to believe that she accepts the teaching of theologians, and that her own feelings are in harmony with it. Her anxious and earnest prayer is, that God may deliver " the souls of all the dead from the pains of hell, and from the deep pit." Thus she seems to suppose that the souls in Purgatory suffer torments in the lower parts of the earth or somewhere near hell.

3. The souls in Purgatory, as we shall see in a later page, suffer the pain of loss and the pain of sense. According to a common opinion, the sole difference between their pains and those of the damned, is that the pains of the damned are eternal, whilst those of the souls in Purgatory are temporal. If this be so, their punishments being alike, it is the most convenient and the most reasonable thing to suppose that they should be tormented in the same place and with the same fire.

4. Bellarmine and others look upon that verse in the Acts of the Apostles, (ii. 24.)  in which St. Peter, speaking of Christ, says: " Whom God hath raised, having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that he should beholden by it," as affording a proof that Purgatory is under the earth. Following St. Augustine and Epiphanius, some say that Christ, at his descent into Limbo, " loosed the sorrows " or pains of the souls in Purgatory and de livered them from further punishment. It could not be the sorrows of the reprobate, nor of those who were entirely just, that He would have loosed. It would have been impossible to loose the sorrows of the reprobate, for they shall last for ever. And those who were fully justified would have no sorrows from which they could be loosed. Hence the sorrows from which He loosed were those of the souls in Purgatory. Now the sacred text calls their sorrows "the sorrows of hell," that is, sorrows endured in hell. Therefore, the souls that bore these sorrows were in hell; and though they were not in the hell of the damned, they were bordering on it.

However, this text is rather obscure and not clearly in favour of the subterranean situation of Purgatory. Objections are raised against applying it to this purpose. Hence, Collet (Cap. 3, De circumstantiis Purg-.. 106.) admitting the force of these objections, observes: " It is not in one title that this exposition is difficult." (a) This exposition would read the words, " having loosed the sorrows of hell," as referring to Christ, thus making Him the cause of loosing the sorrows of hell ; whereas, from the passage itself, and especially from the Greek text, it is evident that it was God who loosed Jesus Christ, at His resurrection, from the sorrows of hell. (b) The words that are added, "as it was impossible that He should beholden by it," would seem to show that it was Jesus Christ, and no other person, that was loosed from the sorrows of hell. (c) Authors do not agree as to whether the souls in Purgatory were delivered from it at the descent of Christ into hell. Bellarmine, (Lib. 4, de Christo, cap. 16) after St. Thomas, holds that all the souls in Purgatory were not released from punishment at the descent of Christ, but only those who were then sufficiently purified and had satisfied the Divine Justice, or who, while on this earth, by their faith and their devotion to the death of Christ, merited to be delivered at His descent from the pains of Purgatory. Estius, however, is of opinion that all the souls in Purgatory were freed from further punishment and liberated by Christ at His descent into hell. Thus, He would himself first make use of the power of granting indulgences, which He was about to give to His Church.