Friday, 28 August 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 48.


1. They who are adverse to prayers for the dead, raise an objection against them from Ecclesiastes, (ix 5-6.) where it is said : " The living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more, neither have they a reward any more .... neither have they any part in this world, and in the work that is done under the sun."

The sense of this passage is, that the Wise Man speaks of the goods of this world, and says, that the dead know nothing more of the things which they shall have left after them in this life. They cannot now use, or enjoy them, or exercise any action whatever in regard to them. They can neither par take of them in eating or drinking ; nor distribute them in alms. For this reason it is subjoined in the same passage : " Go, then, and eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with gladness." What argument can be drawn from this against prayers or suffrages for the dead ? Because the dead cannot dispose of the goods which they possessed in this life, it does not follow that we cannot assist them by our prayers and good works.

2. That text of St. Paul to the Galatians : (vi. 5.) " Every one shall bear his own burden;" and that other one to the Corinthians : (ii. Cor. v. 10.) "Every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done," are quoted by our adversaries against prayers for the dead; but to no purpose.

The sense of these texts in this, that no one shall be condemned for the sins of another, unless he has had some part in them, or has made them his own in some way. Moreover, after the last judgment, no man shall suffer any pain, unless one that is personal, or cannot be remitted or alleviated by another. Observe furthermore, that the texts which have been quoted above against us, are to be understood under this tacit condition, unless another may render assistance before the day of judgment. Were they understood in any other sense, we should be forced to concede that the suffering souls could not be relieved by indulgences, or even by sacrifices; but this would be heretical.

3. Descending from the Scripture to the Fathers, they, who are opposed to suffrages for the dead, quote St. Ambrose as being on their side. The holy Doctor says : (Lib. i. de Abraham, cap. 9.) " Let us not adhere too long to the dead; but let us offer them as much assistance as is enough." The mind of St. Ambrose, according to them, would appear to be that we should not continue to remember the dead, and, consequently, should not pray for them.
To this we answer, that they mistake, or pretend to mistake, the mind of St. Ambrose. His object was, to moderate the sorrow ; the mourning apparel; the pomp and pageant of funerals. He wished to check such things, and not to check prayers for the dead. So far was he from wishing to put a stop to the latter, that he believed we could not pray too much for them. It was in this spirit that, in his funeral oration on Valentinian the Younger, he addressed this apostrophe to Gratian and Valentinian, who were dead : " Happy shall you both be, if my prayers will be worth anything; no day shall pass by you in silence, no night shall run over you without being presented with some effort of my prayers; I shall go often to you with all my offerings." Nothing could be clearer than that it was the practice of St. Ambrose to pray, offer Mass, and make other suffrages for the dead.

4. They also oppose to us St. Jerome, who, in explaining that text of St Paul to the Galatians: (vi. 5.) "Everyone shall bear his own burden," uses the following language: "By this short sentence we are taught a new^tenet, which lies hidden; whilst we are in this world we can assist each other, whether by prayers or by counsels; but when we shall go before the tribunal of Christ, neither Job, nor Daniel, nor Noe, can entreat for anyone, but every one shall bear his own burden." They say that this sentence of St. Jerome is opposed to the Catholic doctrine of making satisfaction for the dead.

We deny that the sense of St. Jerome is opposed to the Catholic teaching. In the sentence which has been quoted, that distinguished Doctor of the Church either alludes to mortal sin, or to the last judgment. If to the former, to which Gratian (Can. In Praesenti, 13. Q. 2.) refers the sentence, he offers no difficulty, as the doctrine of the Church is, that there can be no suffrage of any kind, nor intercession, for those who die in mortal sin. If St. Jerome alludes to the last judgment, there is no difficulty either in what he says. Theologians, drawing their conclusion from Scripture, teach that Purgatory shall cease on that day. When Purgatory comes to an end, suffrages also shall come to an end with it. Whichever St. Jerome alludes to, there can be no doubt, other wise, as to his opinion on the utility of our suffrages to the dead. In his book against Vigilantius, he, with his accustomed severity against the enemies of Catholic doctrine, sharply rebukes him for having falsely asserted that our prayers, while of advantage to the living, are of no advantage to the dead.

5. Again they say, in order that our suffrages may remit the pain of the dead, it is not enough that we should impetrate this remission of their pain, and merit it as a matter of congruity; but it is necessary that we should pay their pain, by making satisfaction for it: which is beyond our power.
Against this objection, we shall have to speak at some length. Suarez (Disp. 48, Sect. 2.) states, without giving their name, there were theologians who held that the suffrage of one faithful could not be a satisfaction for another; that he could only impetrate and merit, as a matter of congruity, that God would remit the other's punishment; and that this punishment would be remitted, either immediately, by forgiving it gratis on account of the prayer of another, or by giving some aid, on account of the same prayer, by means of which one may do good works to obtain this remission. Regarding this opinion, Suarez (V. 4.) says: " I judge it to be false, and very new in theology, and therefore to be avoided altogether in so grave a matter." He quotes in favour of his own opinion the authority of St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, Durandus, and very many other theologians. Then he concludes with the words of the Roman Catechism : (De Sacramento PoenitentiƦ, n. 61. in quibusdam 108.) " In this the supreme goodness and clemency of God is to be declared with the greatest praises and acts of thanks, who granted this to human imbecility, that one may be able to satisfy for another." The Catechism continues to explain how one can make satisfaction for another, and proceeds thus: " They who are indued with divine grace, can in the name of another pay freely what is due to God : wherefore it happens that in some manner one may seem to bear another's burden. Nor indeed is there left room for doubting of this to any one of the faithful, who confesses the communion of saints in the Symbol of the Apostles." As it was fit that God should punish one in another, for instance, King David in his son on account of adultery ; so also was it fit that, in His great mercy, He would accept the penal works of one in satisfaction for the punishment of another. This is but in conformity with the belief of the Church, which has always understood the Communion of Saints to mean, that the different member of the Church can assist each other, and that, consequently, as the souls in Purgatory are still members of the Church, can transfer to them our penal works. The doctrine of the Church on Indulgences supposes that the infinite satisfactions of Christ, and the superabundant ones of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, can be transferred to others, and applied to them, so as to expunge or alleviate their punishment. Moreover, it is the constant belief of all, that one can make satisfaction for another from the merits of Christ. But what is the meaning of making satisfaction for another ? Does it mean to impetrate the gratuitous remission of his pain ? No ; this is not satisfaction in the proper meaning of the word. Satisfaction, in its strict and proper sense, means to pay the debt due to God on account of sin. The saints can impetrate for the souls in Purgatory, as well as for us; but they cannot satisfy for them, or for us. They can intercede for us with God, and pray to him to be propitious to us; but because they are now beyond the state of making satisfaction, and can perform no penal works, they cannot pay the debt that is due of us, or make satisfaction for our sins. Add to these reasons, that there are only two ways in which one can, by way of impetration, obtain from God the remission of any debt for another. The first way is, to impetrate God to take away another's debt without any satisfaction or gratuitously. The second is, to impetrate grace for another, by means of which he may be moved to do some good work, so as to obtain the remission of his debt. But neither one nor other of these ways constitutes satisfaction, as, after St. Thomas, it is understood by all theologians. The first does not constitute it, because it is not be coming that one, who is able to pay his debts, should ask the gratuitous forgiveness of them, or
seek a dispensation from the law laid down by God's justice. Also, a man cannot obtain for another what he cannot obtain for himself. But no one can obtain for himself the gratuitous remission of the temporal punishment due to his sins. Then he cannot obtain it for another. In fact, much less can he obtain it for another, since prayer is a more effectual means of impetration for one's self, than for another. Furthermore, when Christ who was God, and infinitely more worthy than we, came to save us, He did not obtain for us the remission of the punishment due to sin, otherwise than by Himself suffering, or satisfying for us. The second way of obtaining, by impetration, the remission of another's debt, is, to impetrate grace for him, that may move him to do some good work, which may obtain for him the remission of his debt. Neither can this way of obtaining the remission of debt, constitute satisfaction, in the proper meaning of the term. If it did, one of the faithful could satisfy for the sins, mortal and venial, of his brother members; because he could impetrate for them grace, which would dispose them to make satisfaction for these sins. But no one admits, or can admit this kind of satisfaction. Moreover, such satisfaction could not find place in the souls in Purgatory. These cannot perform any good works, so as, by way of satisfaction, to be able to efface their sins, or expunge their debt. From all these reasons, it is evident that our suffrages for the remission of the temporal punishment due of others, cannot profit these otherwise than by way of satisfaction, or payment of their debt. These reasons too con firm the Catholic doctrine of satisfaction for the dead.

6. Persisting in their objections, our adversaries say that, the punishment due of the dead is a personal debt; and that being such, it can be paid by no one but him who owes it.

We grant that the punishment which the dead owe is a personal debt, in this sense, that of itself it binds the person who owes it, renders him liable for it, and can be lawfully exacted of him. We deny however, that it is personal, in the sense that it cannot be discharged or paid, except by the suffering, or some action of the person alone, who is liable for it, to the exclusion of all others. Our sins, and the punishment due to them, are personal to us; and yet, in atonement for them, the satisfaction of Christ can be applied to us, by way of satisfaction. So, also, can our satisfactions be applied to the dead in satisfaction for their debt, though this is a personal one, for which they are held accountable.

Nor will it do to say that, as man deserves punishment for himself, and not for another, so should his punishment be paid by himself, and not by another. It is of no avail to reason thus; because we should remember that this punishment is so taxed, that it need not of necessity be paid, in his own person, by the one who owes it; but that it can be paid either by him, or by the pious works of another. This but holds up to our praise and admiration, the blessed communion of Saints, and the great mercy of God. It is, also, only in imitation of Christ, our head, and the head of all the faithful. As He was able to satisfy for all the members of His mystic body, by paying the punishments which they deserved, so should the members themselves be mutually able to pay their punishments, one for another.

Pursuing the objection, they say that the merit of grace, as well as of glory, is personal. It is so personal, that no one can transfer to another this merit, by which he acquires glory. For a similar reason, no one can wipe away the temporal punishment for another.
We deny that there is a parity of argument in the two cases. The merit of grace requires, in the per son who receives it, a proportioned disposition, which cannot be supplied by another. According to the ordinary dispensation of Providence, this merit of grace cannot be received by anyone with out his own action, by which he produces the required disposition. It is quite different when we come to speak of the remission of temporal punishment, which does not require any new intrinsic sanctity, or any particular virtuous disposition. Thus, the temporal debt of the souls in Purgatory can be remitted without any new disposition on their part.