OBJECTIONS ANSWERED. PART 2
In this objection, too, we deny that there is a parity of reasoning in the two cases which are put forward. The remission of sin in adults, cannot be had without a proportioned disposition in them; because such remission appertains to their intrinsic sanctification. This disposition, which is necessary for them, requires their own action. It is different where the remission of the temporal punishment alone is concerned. Since this remission does not render a person more holy, it can be obtained by extrinsic action, or by the payment made by one, and communicated to another.
Again, they press their objection, and say that, as the debt of punishment can be contracted only by one's own work, and not by the work of another, so, on the contrary, the payment of this debt can be made by one's self alone, and not by another.
We deny the conclusion. Because the debt can be contracted only by one's self, it does not follow, that another may not be able to pay it. Were this to follow—were one not able to pay another's debt; it would equally follow that Christ could not make satisfaction for us, which would be heretical. The guilt of temporal punishment is contracted only by actual sin, which cannot be communicated to another. On the other hand, the payment of this punishment is made by good works, which can be, and are, communicated to others.
They object further against us, that the punishment which is due to our sins, must be medicinal, that is, that it must tend to render us better, and to effect greater purity in us. If it is medicinal, they observe, that no man is cured by the medicine, which is applied to another, or rendered purer by his good works.
The first part of the objection, which asserts that the punishment due to sin must be medicinal, can be denied. Punishment is sometimes merely vindictive, as in the case of the souls in Purgatory. In their case it is only vindictive, since they cannot become better, or worse; they cannot advance in virtue, or fall into vice. To the second part of the objection, it may be answered, that no one is cured intrinsically by the medicine which is applied to, or taken by another. Still one can obtain pardon of his debt by the liberality of another, who pays it for him. The only two conditions necessary for this purpose are, that another should offer the required sum ; and that the creditor would accept his payment in discharge of the debt. Now this is no more than Christ did for us. He paid our debts, making atonement for our sins. He also granted us the great privilege and advantage of being assisted by our brethren, of having our debts paid by them, as well as their debts paid by us.
Our adversaries object still further, that the dead cannot be assisted by us, since we learn from the story of the rich man in St. Luke (xvi.) they cannot be assisted even by the saints.
The reader will find no difficulty in this objection, when he distinguishes between dead and dead. He will see immediately that the damned, such as that rich man who is described by St. Luke as buried in hell, are deprived of all succour. They are deprived of all communication with the Church, militant or triumphant, and can receive assistance neither from the faithful on earth, nor from the saints in heaven. The reader will as quickly see, that the souls suffering in Purgatory can be succoured. They retain communion with the Church, militant and triumph ant, and can be assisted by us and by the saints.
The reader may desire to learn whether the per son who makes satisfaction for another is thereby deprived of the fruit of this satisfaction, so as not to obtain the remission of his own debt or punishment.
Theologians in general, after St. Thomas, (xvi. +In 4, distinct 45, q 2. art. i, Quaest. 1.) answer this in the affirmative. They teach that one who makes satisfaction for another is deprived of the remission of his own punishment, which would correspond with such satisfaction ; and they very properly observe, that there is nothing absurd in this. As satisfaction is a work of finite value, when it is applied to another, and equivalent to his debt, it is exhausted in the payment of this. It is other wise if there be question, not of satisfaction, but of impetration. The latter may be equally of advantage to another, and to the person who impetrates. The reason of this is, that in impetration the chief thing, to which we are to attend, is the beneficence and liberality of God, and not the equality of the work, that is performed, to produce the effect. Observe, moreover, that there is nothing repugnant in making satisfaction for another, and acquiring merit for yourself at the same time. Satisfaction and merit are founded on two different principles. Satisfaction is founded on the penalty of a work, or on a work inasmuch as it is penal. Merit, on the other hand, is founded on the goodness of an act, that is, in its being good in itself, its circumstances, and the end for which it is performed. Suarez very well explains the difference between satisfaction and merit.
7. They object again, that it is better for one to make satisfaction for himself, than to make it through another. From this they conclude that we should not pray for the dead, lest we may lessen their reward.
The answer to this objection is, that it is better for us to make satisfaction for ourselves, than to make it through another, whilst we are in this life ; because by making it for ourselves we acquire, at the same time, an increase of grace and glory. But it is different when we come to speak of the souls in Purgatory. They cannot acquire an increase of grace or merit; and yet they are retarded from entering heaven. To hasten the time of their enjoyment of God, it is better for them to make satisfaction by another, than by themselves.
8. They object, that a man cannot enjoy the satisfactory works of another, any more than he can be punished for his sins. But one cannot be punished for the sins of another, for we read in Ezechiel (xviii, 20.) that " the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son." Hence, neither can one enjoy the satisfactory works of another.
We answer this, by denying that one can no more enjoy the satisfactory works of another, than he can be punished for his sins. Justice forbids to punish one for another's sins; but mercy may allow him to enjoy his goods. To punish one for the sins of another, in which he had no part, either by consent or imitation, is simply the height of injustice and cruelty. If one indeed participate, either by con sent, or imitation, in the sins of another, he is punished for them. It is to such participators in the crimes of others reference is made in the Book of Exodus, where the Lord declares that He punishes children, unto the third and fourth generation, for the iniquity of their fathers. This is to be under stood with the reservation, when children imitate their parents. It is thus the passage in Exodus is understood by such Fathers, as Jerome, (In cap. 18. Ezechiel.) Augustine, Chrysostom, (Hom. 29, in Genes.) and Gregory. (Lib. 25, moral, c. 22.) As to one enjoying the goods of another, there is nothing absurd in this. That any one, who so wishes, may enjoy the goods of another who wishes him to do it, is no more than mercy and liberality. It is only reason able that one could enjoy the goods of another, with the consent of both. Now this consent is had in the present case. The souls in Purgatory long to be assisted, and we wish to assist them.
9. They yet advance against us, that we do not know where the dead, for whom we pray, are; and that it often happens, that those, whom we believe to be in Purgatory, are in heaven, or even in hell.
This objection has been anticipated by St. Augustine, ( Lib. de cura pro mortuis, cap.) and answered by him. As he observes, it is better that suffrages should be superabundant for those who do not need them, than that those, who really need them, should be deprived of them.
In the distribution of alms, we sometimes have to give them to people who are not deserving objects of charity. Is it not better to give alms to a feigned beggar, than to deny them to one who is truly poor? Abstracting from this, the alms are meritorious to the donor, though the recipient of them may have feigned charity ; for a good work is meritorious to the person who does it, though it may be of no benefit to the person for whom it is done.
10. The objections of our adversaries are not yet exhausted. The dead, they say, can receive no assistance from their own prayers. Therefore, they conclude, they cannot receive it from ours.
There is no parity in the two cases. In fact there is a disparity between them. The disparity consists in this, that the dead, inasmuch as they have passed the term of merit, cannot satisfy for themselves, be cause they cannot, by any action of their own apply to themselves the satisfactions of Christ. The living are, so far, more fortunate. They can, by means of penal works, apply the satisfactions of Christ to themselves, and to others. Thus, though the dead cannot be assisted by their own prayers they can by the prayers of the living.
11. They press the objection in this manner. The sentence pronounced by the Supreme Judge on the dead, cannot be corrected. Therefore our prayers cannot profit the dead.
The answer is supplied with the remark, that the sentence, which is pronounced by Jesus Christ on the dead, is commensurate with their good works whilst alive; but that this sentence, however, is pronounced with the reservation, that it can be mitigated by the suffrages of the living. It is not unusual with God to pronounce sentence under condition. Thus, He doomed Ninive to destruction at the lapse of forty days. The prophet Jonas on the part of God preached to the people of the great city: "Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed." (Jonas, iii, 4.) Still this sentence was conditional. It was pronounced on condition that the people of Ninive would not do penance. But listening to the voice of the prophet, they did penance in fasting and sackcloth, and thus averted their doom.
12. Finally, they object, that, if the suffering souls be relieved by sacrifice, it can scarcely happen, taking into account the great number of Masses that are celebrated throughout the Church, that Purgatory should not be evacuated daily.
Though a great number of Masses are offered up daily, it does not follow there-from that Purgatory should be evacuated. In the first place, I would say, there is not more than a certain proportion of the Masses, that are said, offered for the dead. Secondly, I would add, that though all the Masses, celebrated every day, were offered for them, it would not still follow, that Purgatory should be evacuated at once, or daily. The value of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, according to the most probable, and the more received opinion, is finite. God accepts the sacrifice for the souls in Purgatory according to His own will—according to the rule laid down by Him—which is, that Purgatory should not be thus vacated at once. Moreover, it was the will of Jesus Christ, that the sacrifice should be frequented and often repeated. For this reason, He would restrict its effect. Hence, notwithstanding the great number of Masses that are offered for the dead, Purgatory is by no means vacated, and some souls may be, and doubtless are, detained there for a very long time.