THE NATURE OF THE PAINS OF PURGATORY PART 1.
THE next question we have to turn attention to is, of what kind are the pains of Purgatory? At the outset we may say that there are some things certain, and some things uncertain, regarding them. Let us separate the certain from the uncertain.
In the first place it is certain, as we have before now seen, that neither despair, nor the fear of damnation, constitutes any of the pains of Purgatory. The souls in that place are troubled by no sentiment, of despair, and no dread of hell.
In the second place it is certain that these souls suffer the pain of loss, which consists in the deprivation of the Divine vision. The soul is deprived of the vision of God. It is a great pain to it, that on account of its sins it is deprived of the enjoyment of. Him, to whom it ardently longs to be united.
In the third place, it is certain that, in addition to the pain of loss, the soul also suffers another pain, which theologians call the pain of sense. This pain proceeds, not from the bereavement of the beatific vision, but from another cause. Because the soul while in this life, in committing sin, turns away from God, and turns to a creature, or the object or motive for which it sins, it is but just that it should be afterwards afflicted, not alone by the bereavement of God, but even by some created object.
In the fourth place it is certain, from the words of St. Paul (I. Corinth, iii. 15.) : " He shall be saved, yet so as by fire; " and of Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospel (Matt. xxv. 41.) : "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire; " that in Purgatory, as well as in hell, there is the pain of fire, whether we are to take that fire literally or metaphorically, and whether we connect it with the pain of sense or with the pain of loss. Not alone in the Scripture, but even in the works of the Fathers, the pain of Purgatory is called a fire. So far we have seen what is certain. Let us now turn attention to things that are not absolutely certain, or that have formed matter of dispute.
I. It is most probable, or at least more probable, that the fire of Purgatory is corporeal. That is, it is a fire in the true and proper sense of the word, and of the same species as our fire.
This has been never defined by the Church, and consequently is not a matter of Catholic faith. The Greeks openly professed in the Council of Florence that they did not believe there was fire in Purgatory. Still the Council defined, in the last session, that there was a Purgatory, without making any mention of the fire. This notwithstanding, we should hold that there is fire in Purgatory. Dens says : (Tract, de quatuor Novissimis. ) "It is the opinion, constant and to be retained, of the Latins, that in Purgatory there is a material fire, similar to the infernal fire: hence the Church asks for the souls of the faithful not only a place of light and peace, but also of refreshment, verily against the great heat of the fire." Mangeart, (Tome 2, page 241.) while denying it to be of faith that there is a corporeal or material fire in Purgatory, defends it to be proximate to faith. Bellarmine uses milder language, and only says that it is " most probable." Lessius says (II. 18, page 827.) that the reason why Bellarmine does not use stronger language is, " because the Greeks in the Council of Florence, the last session, although confessing that they had always believed in Purgatory and prayer for the dead, nevertheless say they doubt whether they may be tormented with corporeal fire, or darkness only, or any other way, which opinion of theirs the Council tolerates."
I. The first proof of the existence of fire in Purgatory is found in the consent of theologians and scholastics. These, ancient as well as modern, have more commonly held that there is punishment by fire in Purgatory. Their opinion, as Bellarmine says, " cannot but rashly be contemned." It is extremely rash to run counter to it. This would be like opposing or contemning the general opinion of lawyers on a point of law.
Dupin, a writer of the beginning of the last century, well known for his inroads on Catholic doctrine, entirely misinterpreted the sense of St. Augustine, when he asserted that this holy doctor (Lib. de Octo Dulcitii Quaestionibus, q. i, n, 12 ; and Lib 21, de Liv. Dei, cap. 9, n. 2.) left it an open question to every one to believe that the souls in Purgatory, as well as those in hell, suffer from fire. After having discussed at great length the fire by which souls are tormented in the other life, St. Augustine sums up (Lib. 21, do Liv. Dei, cap. 9, n. 2. ) thus: "Let each one choose whichever of the two that pleases him, whether he may consider also that the worm of conscience extends to the body properly, or to the mind, the term being transferred from corporeal to incorporeal things . . provided, however, we in no way believe that those bodies are about to be such that they may be affected by no pains from fire" From this we easily infer that St. Augustine, no matter what sense Dupin may attribute to him, taught that there is a punishment by fire in the other world.
St. Bonaventure (Part 7 Breviloquii, cap. 2.) says ; "The purgatorial fire is a corporal fire, by which only the spirits of the just, who in this life did not perform penance and worthy satisfaction, are afflicted."
Cardinal Hugo (Super Matth. cap. 3. ) speaks of the fire of Purgatory, and defines it thus : "The fire of Purgatory is, where shall be purged, what is not here purged."
Richard of St. Victor (Part I. de Judiciaria potestate.) says of it: " The purgatorial fire "is that by which the rust of sin is consumed in those who are to be saved."
St. Vincent Ferrar (Part I. Serm. 2 Dom. Lex.) depicts it in the following strong language: " Purgatory is a house full of fire which by Divine virtue torments the souls more than if they were in a burning furnace."
2. The doctrine by far the more common among the Fathers, holds that the fire of Purgatory is corporeal. That this doctrine is common among them, the reader will be able to judge after a few quotations from their works.
Origen, speaking of one who has not perfectly satisfied the justice of God for his sins, and thus dies without being fully purged, writes: (Homil. 13 in Jerem.) " He is a sinner who needs the baptism of fire, who is cleansed by burning, that whatever he may have of wood, hay, and stubble, fire may consume" According to Origen, those souls that owe something to the justice of God at death must be purified by fire in the other life.
St. Augustine (In Psalm xxxi. 13.) writes: “Because it is said: He shall be saved, That fire is contemned. . . . How ever, that fire shall be more severe, than whatever man can suffer in this life." In another part of his works (De Civit. Dei.lib. 21, cap. 10.) he expresses himself in the same sense.
St. Gregory the Great (Lib. 4, Dialog., cap. 30.) says : " It must be believed that there is a purgatorial fire before judgment for some light faults." More than this, he expressly says (Cap. 29. ) that the fire, by which souls are punished in the other life, is corporeal. It is true that it is said in another part (Lib. 15, cap. 14 moralium) of his works that the fire of hell is incorporeal. But this is evidently the fault of the copyists, who wrote incorporeal, for corporeal. The fault clearly lies with the copyists, for St. Gregory immediately after says that those in hell burn corporally.
St. Cyprian (Epist. 59, ad Autonianum. ) writes: "It is one thing to be purged long by fire, another thing to have purged all sins."
St. Jerome also writes (In Psalm xxxvi. n. 26.) "Woe to me if my work shall have burned. . . . We shall be saved by faith, thus, however, saved as if by fire ; and if we be not consumed, still we shall be burnt''
The above quoted Fathers teach us that there is fire in Purgatory. They use the word fire in the literal sense as denoting corporeal fire. St. Gregory, in speaking of it, calls it corporeal fire, and even proves it to be such. He says : (Cap. 29 p. 417.) "If the devil and his angels, although they be incorporeal, are to be tormented with corporeal fire, what wonder is it if souls, even before they recover the bodies, can feel corporeal torments ? " Then St. Thomas, according to his custom, reasoned logically when he said : (In 4, dist. 21, q. I, art.) "It is the same fire which torments the damned in hell, and which purges the just in Purgatory." Not only the punishment of hell, but also that of Purgatory is called fire in Scripture and Tradition. The inspired Word and the writings of the Fathers constantly speak of the fire of Purgatory. It is a rule of interpretation laid down by St. Augustine, followed by Biblicists and theologians, and universally adopted, that Scripture and Tradition are to be received in their proper and literal sense, unless something absurd follows therefrom. But there is : nothing absurd to follow, if we understand the fire of Purgatory in its literal and obvious sense.