Friday, 7 August 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 30.



III. Purgatory is due to those alone who go out of this life in the state of grace, and at the same time owe some debt to the justice of God.

This proposition is sufficiently proved from the two that have immediately preceded it. We have just seen that Purgatory was instituted neither for those who are fully or perfectly justified, nor for the wicked. If it was not instituted for either of these, it must have been instituted for another class—for those who, though free from mortal sin and the eternal guilt due to it, owe some debt to the Divine Justice, either on account of the temporal punishment due to mortal sin, or on account of venial sin. a They who are so indebted to the justice of God, have, as the Apostle says, built, along with gold and precious stones, " wood, hay, and stubble." They are detained for a while in Purgatory, because, as St. Basil (In Psalm vii) says, they have retained some wounds since their contests, or some stains, or some vestiges of sins : " So that if they may be found to have retained either wounds after the contest, or any stains, or relics of sin, they should be detained" Thus Purgatory was destined neither for those who are altogether just, nor for the wicked, but for those who, according to St. Basil, have retained either wounds after the contests, or any stains, or relics of sin. In other words, it is instituted for those who, being in the grace of God, owe some debt to His justice.

As against every other point of Catholic teaching, an objection has been raised to the first conclusion or proposition, which says that Purgatory was not instituted for those who are completely just, and thus owe no temporal punishment to the justice of God. They who are opposed to this proposition endeavour to sustain their objection by calling up some sentences of the Fathers, which at first view would appear to favour them. They cite some few of the Fathers, who seem to say that all the just must pass through the the fire of Purgatory.

St. Jerome (In cap. 7 Amos.) is cited by them as being of that opinion. But in the place which they cite, St. Jerome is to be understood as speaking, not of the fire of Purgatory, but of the fire of divine judgment. Through this fire all, no matter how just, must pass. This observation is sufficient to dispose of this objection as far as St. Jerome is concerned.

Some few Fathers, indeed, appear to have taught that all the just should pass through fire. They did not however teach that all should suffer or feel this fire. They were convinced that it was not to be suffered by those, in whom charity had consumed the relics of sin before death. This seems to have been the opinion of Lactantius. (Lib. 7 Instit., cap. xxi.) After having said, what our adversaries object against us, " When He shall have judged the just, He shall also try them in fire," he continues; "Then they whose sins shall prevail either in weight or number, shall be grazed by fire, and scratched ; but they whom full justice and the maturity of virtue shall have seasoned, shall not feel that fire. For they have in themselves some thing of God, which would reject and repel the force of the flame." The teaching of St. Paulinus of Nola (Epist. 28, ad Severum.): would lead one to believe that he held a similar opinion, which he thus evolves : " If we merit by these works to become fellow-citizens of the saints, our work shall not burn; and that discreet fire shall surround us who are to be punished with no severe heat as we pass through its test; but receiving us as commended, it shall flow gently by us with a soft touch that we may be able to say : we have passed through fire and water, and Thou hast led us forth into refreshment."