Purgatory “Debatalogue” Notes


I had another stimulating “debatalogue” with Tony Arsenal on the “Theology Matters” podcast, this time on the subject of Purgatory (you can listen to the podcast HERE). Below are the notes I prepared for our talk (N.B. – these are not my notes on the discussion nor are they a commentary on it). There are six major sections (*2, 3, and 5 corresponding to Tony’s specific questions):

  1. Introduction to the Dogma of Purgatory
  2. Biblical Evidence*
  3. Christian Tradition / Historical Evidence*
  4. Common Protestant Objections
  5. The Treasury of Merit*
  6. Important Distinctions Often Missed by Protestants

1. Introduction to the Dogma of Purgatory

Some imagine that the Catholic Church has an elaborate doctrine of purgatory worked out, but there are only three essential components of the doctrine:

  1. purification after death exists
  2. purification involves some kind of personal suffering
  3. purification can be assisted by the prayers and offerings of the living

Whether a particular “place” amount of time to accomplish are speculations rather than dogma. For example, Thomas Aquinas (who devoted only two articles to the subject in his massive Summa Theologiae) said, “Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question.”

Here are the official teachings of the Catholic Church on Purgatory:

First Council of Lyon in (1245)

Finally, since Truth in the Gospel asserts that “if anyone shall utter blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, neither in this life nor in the future will it be forgiven him” [cf. Matt. 12:32], by this it is granted that certain sins of the present be understood which, however, are forgiven in the future life, and since the Apostle says that “fire will test the work of each one, of what kind it is,” and ” if any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire” [1 Cor 3:13,15], and since these same Greeks truly and undoubtedly are said to believe and to affirm that the souls of those who after a penance has been received yet not performed, or who, without mortal sin yet die with venial and slight sin, can be cleansed after death and can be helped by the suffrages of the Church, we, since they say a place of purgation of this kind has not been indicated to them with a certain and proper name by their teachers, we indeed, calling it purgatory according to the traditions and authority of the Holy Fathers, wish that in the future it be called by that name in their area. For in that transitory fire certainly sins, though not criminal or capital, which before have not been remitted through penance but were small and minor sins, are cleansed, and these weigh heavily even after death, if they have been forgiven in this life.

Second Council of Lyon (1274)

Because if they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for (sins) committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death by purgatorical or purifying punishments, as Brother John * has explained to us. And to relieve punishments of this kind, the offerings of the living faithful are of advantage to these, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, alms, and other duties of piety, which have customarily been performed by the faithful for the other faithful according to the regulations of the Church. However, the souls of those who after having received holy baptism have incurred no stain of sin whatever, also those souls who, after contracting the stain of sin, either while remaining in their bodies or being divested of them, have been cleansed, as we have said above, are received immediately into heaven. The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.

Council of Florence (1439)

[I]f truly penitent people die in the love of God before they have made satisfaction for acts and omissions by worthy fruits of repentance, their souls are cleansed after death by cleansing pains; and the suffrages of the living faithful avail them in giving relief from such pains, that is, sacrifices of masses, prayers, almsgiving and other acts of devotion which have been customarily performed by some of the faithful for others of the faithful in accordance with the church’s ordinances.

Catholic Catechism

1030. All who die in God’s grace, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031. “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence (1439) and Trent (1563). The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire. As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” [St. Gregory the Great]

1032. This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture [2 Macc 12:46]. From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.

1472. “To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the ‘eternal punishment’ of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.” 

Vatican II

“The doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated or cleansed. . . . in purgatory the souls of those who died in the charity of God and truly repentant but who had not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge away their debt.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia

“A place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”

2. Biblical Evidence

Basic Outline

  • Few attain perfection in this life.
    • Romans 6:22 – “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life
    • James 2:10 & 3:2  –  “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. . . . We all stumble in various ways.”
    • 1 John 1:8-10 – “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

Calvin “since no perfection can come to us so long as we are clothed in this flesh, and the law moreover announces death and judgment to all who do not maintain perfect righteousness in works, it will always have grounds for accusing and condemning us unless, on the contrary, God’s mercy counters it, and by continual forgiveness of sins repeatedly acquits us.” (Inst. II.14. 10)

    • In Heaven, everyone is perfected.
      • Hab. 1:13 “[God is] of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong”
      • Eph 5:5 –  “everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
      • Hebrews 12:14   “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord”
      • Hebrews 12:23 – “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect”
      • Rev. 21:27“nothing unclean shall enter the Kindom of God”

Sanctification via Suffering 

    • Matthew 3:8; Luke 17:3; 3:3  – Almsgiving, fasting, etc. are the fruits of repentance.
    • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.
    • 2 Thess. 2:13-15 – God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”
    • Rom. 5:3–5 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.”
  • Philippians 2:10-12 & 3:10-12 “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” … “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” … “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling” . . . “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own
    • Note: If those in Hell will never confess Jesus is Lord, what does “under the earth” refer to?
  • Col. 1:24 – “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church”
  • 1 Peter 1:5-9  –  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation . . .  the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
    • From Sirach 2:1-6 – “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of adversity. Cling to him, do not leave him, that you may prosper in your last days. Accept whatever happens to you; in periods of humiliation be patient. For in fire gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation.”
  • Heb. 12:5-15-And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? –“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God
  • 1 Peter 4:1  –  “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”

Calvin:  “Those whom the Lord has destined by his mercy for the inheritance of eternal life he leads into possession of it, according to his ordinary dispensation, by means of good works” (Inst. III.14.21).

Edwards:  “Even after conversion, the sentence of justification in a sense remains still to be passed, and the man remains still in a state of probation for heaven.” (Miscellany 847)

Indications of Intermediate State + Judgment

  • Matthew 5:25-26 – “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.”
    • The Greek word for prison, phulake, is the same word used in I Peter 3:19, to describe the “holding place” into which Jesus descended after his death to liberate the detained spirits of Old Testament believers.
    • Our Lord Himself gives the example of a man who had been forgiven, afterward acted unjustly, and finally was handed over to repay all that he owed.
  • Matthew 12:32 – “And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:11-15“For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
      • Cf. Malachi 3:1-3 “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.”
    • Gold and silver, when placed into a furnace, would be purified; wood and hay would be burned away. As this is done, Scripture says we will suffer loss, but be saved as through fire.
    • Sins = bad works (see Mt. 7:21-23, Jn. 8:40, Gal. 5:19-21)?
    • zemiothesetai (“suffer loss”) in the Septuagint is used only in reference to punishment.
    • If these “works” do not represent sins and imperfections, why would they need to be eliminated?
    • It is impossible for a “work” to be cleansed apart from the human being who performed it.
    • Both the works of the individual and the individual will go through the cleansing “fire” that “he” might finally be saved.

Salvific Actions Performed for the Dead

  • 2 Macc.12:39-46Prayer for the Dead
    Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen . . . under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.”

    • Note: even if not considered canonical, still must be considered  historical. (i.e.,  the Jews believed in praying and making atonement for the dead shortly before the advent of Christ.)
      • Orthodox Jews today recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one for their purification.
    • Did the idols indicate mortal sin?
      • These may have been like a good luck charms – indicating a lack of trust in God, not worship.
      • They fought for God, (12:32-34).
      • They broke the Law (12:40), but there is no indication that they apostatized.
      • Judas believed they had hope of eternal life (12:45).
  • 2 Tim. 1:16-18 & 2 Tim 4:19Prayer for the Dead
    “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me — may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. . . .  [4:19] Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.”

    • Onesiphorus died before 2 Timothy was written:
      • Paul does not indicate that Onesiphorus is with him any longer;
      • Paul prays that the Lord will grant him mercy at the final Judgement
      • Paul asks Timothy to greet the household of Onesiphorus, but not Onesiphorus himself.
      • Affirmed in Protestant commentaries:
        • Word Pictures in the New Testament  (4:615) by A.T. Robertson
        • The New Bible Commentary (1178) by Guthrie, D. and J.A. Motyer.
        • Anchor Bible Dictionary (Freedman, D.)
        • Commentary, Critical and Expository, of the OT & NT (Fausset and Brown)
        • Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Walter Elwell)
        • Pastoral Epistles (169f) by JND Kelly
        • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Bromily)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:29 – Baptism for the dead
    • This may have been an early and somewhat extravagant form of liturgical prayer for the departed.
    • Paul may be using the word “baptism” in this passage metaphorically to refer to the baptism of earthly trials  (cf. Mk 10:38) offered up on behalf of the departed by the early Christians.
    • In any case, he offers no correction to the practice.

Passages said to be Contrary to Purgatory

  • To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (Non-Existent)
      • 2 Corinthians 5:6-8  actually reads: “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord”
      • Philippians 1:21-23 actually reads: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far”
  • “He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3-4)
    • Temple language covering sins did not make the person righteous, but provided for forgiveness.
      • “making purification for sin” (ESV)
        • “made purification of sins” (NASB)“accomplished cleansing sins” (NET)
      • Even so, this was prior to the faith of many.
      • Does not mean the purification cannot be lost.
  • Hebrews 10:10-14 – “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . one sacrifice . . . has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”
      • No one is perfect / holy right now, therefore they must be purified.
  • Hebrews 10:18 – “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
    • Context  – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24: and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . . 26: For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27: but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. . . . 30b: “The Lord will judge his people.” 31: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. . . .  35: Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36: For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.”
  • 2 Peter 1:9 – “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (KJV)
    • This refers to being cleansed from past sins (i.e., Justification).
    • A passage concerning present and future Sanctification:
      • 1 Peter 1:3-8 – “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2. Christian Tradition / Historical Evidence

There are two doctrines which are generally associated with the name of a Father of the fourth and fifth centuries, and which can show little definite, or at least but partial, testimony in their behalf before his time,—Purgatory and Original Sin. The dictum of Vincent admits both or excludes both, according as it is or is not rigidly taken  . . . On the one hand, some notion of suffering, or disadvantage, or punishment after this life, in the case of the faithful departed, or other vague forms of the doctrine of Purgatory, has in its favour almost a consensus of the four first ages of the Church, though some Fathers state it with far greater openness and decision than others. It is, as far as words go, the confession of St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Perpetua, St. Cyprian, Origen, Lactantius, St. Hilary, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ambrose, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and of Nyssa, St. Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Paulinus, and St. Augustine. . . .  whereas no one will say that there is a testimony of the Fathers, equally strong, for the doctrine of Original Sin
(J. H. Newman, 
Development of Doctrine, 15-16)

1st Century

  • Rabbi Yose says: “(At Judgment) those altogether righteous shall not be put through a purgatory; those altogether wicked shall not be put through a purgatory. Who then will be put through a purgatory? Those betwixt and between . . . The School of Shammai says: Those betwixt and between shall go down into Gehenna, be purged there, be singed, and come up therefrom; as it is said, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried” (Zech 13:9).” (cited in Aboth de Rabbi Nathan 41)
  • 1 Enoch 21-22  –  “I went to another place, which was still more horrible than the former, and I saw … a great fire there which burned and blazed, and the place had a crevice as far as the abyss, being full of great, descending columns of fire … Then Uriel … one of the holy angels who was with me said … to me, “This place is the prison of angels, and here they will be imprisoned forever.  From there I went to another place with a mountain of hard rock. … Raphael, … one of the holy angels who was with me, said to me, “These hollow places have been created for … the spirits of the souls of the dead, … yea, that all the souls of the children of men should assemble here. These places have been made to receive them until the day of their judgment.
  • Revelation 20:14  –  Hades is thrown into the lake of fire.
    • Purgatory is sometimes thought to be a product of the early church belief that Hades was not emptied at the resurrection but is waiting to be emptied at the judgment.
  • Catacombs: Christians during the persecutions of the first three centuries recorded prayers for the dead.

2nd Century

  • Epitaph of Abercius (A.D. 190)“Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. . . . May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius.”
  • Acts of Paul and Thecla (A.D. 160) – “And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again receives her. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: Mother, thou shaft have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the just.”
  • The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitias, (A.D. 202) – “This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age? Who died miserably with disease…But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp . . . Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.” (2:3-4)
  • Liturgies – the most ancient liturgical texts for the Eucharist that we possess, from both the eastern and the western Mediterranean, also contain prayers for the departed.
  • Polycarp, martyred in 156 A.D., prayed “for all those whom he had ever known.” Polycarp was 86 at the time of his martyrdom.
  • Clement of Alexandria – “Accordingly the believer, through great discipline, divesting himself of the passions, passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, viz., to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance from the sins he has committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more–not yet or not quite attaining what he sees others to have acquired. Besides, he is also ashamed of his transgressions. The greatest torments, indeed, are assigned to the believer. For God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness is righteous. And though the punishments cease in the course of the completion of the expiation and purification of each one, yet those have very great and permanent grief who are found worthy of the other fold, on account of not being along with those that have been glorified through righteousness.” (Stromata, 6:14 A.D. 202).

3rd Century

  • Tertullian –  
    • We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]” (The Crown 3:3 [A.D. 211]).
    • “It is therefore quite in keeping with this order of things, that that part of our nature should be the first to have the recompense and reward to which they are due on account of its priority. In short, inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, Matthew 5:25 and as we also interpret the uttermost farthing to mean the very smallest offense which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.” (De Anima, 58)
  • Cyprian of Carthage – It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord” (Letters 51[55]:20 [A.D. 253]).
  • Origen  – “For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (1 Cor.,3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones; neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works.” (Homilies on Jeremias, PG 13:445, 448 A.D. 244).
  • Apostolic Constitutions,  –  “Let us pray for our brethren that are at rest in Christ, that God, the lover of mankind, who has received his soul, may forgive him every sin, voluntary and involuntary, and may be merciful and gracious to him, and give him his lot in the land of the pious that are sent into the bosom of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, with all those that have pleased Him and done His will from the beginning of the world, whence all sorrow, grief, and lamentation are banished.” (8:4,41)

4th Century

  • Lactantius – “But also, when God will judge the just, it is likewise in fire that he will try them. At that time, they whose sins are uppermost, either because of their gravity or their number, will be drawn together by the fire and will be burned. Those, however, who have been imbued with full justice and maturity of virtue, will not feel that fire; for they have something of God in them which will repel and turn back the strength of the flame.” (Divine Institutes, 7:21:6  A.D. 307.)
  • Basil  –  “I think that the noble athletes of God, who have wrestled all their lives with the invisible enemies, after they have escaped all of their persecutions and have come to the end of life, are examined by the prince of this world; and if they are found to have any wounds from their wrestling, any stains or effects of sin, they are detained. If, however they are found unwounded and without stain, they are, as unconquered, brought by Christ into their rest.” (Homilies on the Psalms, 7:2 –  A.D. 370).
  • Cyril of Jerusalem – “Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out” (Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]).
  • Gregory of Nyssa – “If a man distinguish in himself what is peculiarly human from that which is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, overcoming the irrational by reason. If he has inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire” (Sermon on the Dead [A.D. 382]).
  • Ambrose  –  “Give, Oh Lord, rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest Thou hast prepared for Thy saints….I love him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living; I will not leave him till by my prayers and lamentations he shall be admitted unto the holy mount of the Lord,to which his deserts call him.”(De obitu Theodosii, PL 16:1397  –  A.D. 395).
  • John Chrysostom –
    • “If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).
    • “Weep for those who die in their wealth and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extent of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it may be, yet let us somehow assist them. But how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating others to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. When the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith” (Homilies on Philippians 3:9–10 [A.D. 402]).
  • Augustine –
      • Temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment.” (The City of God, 21:13).
      • That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 [A.D. 421]).
      • The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death” (Sermons, 172:2).
    • Monica, Augustine’s mother, asked him to remember her soul in his Masses.
  •   Aërius (an Arian heretic) was first to teach that prayers for the dead were of no avail (Epiphanius, Haer., lxxv)

5th Century 

  • Gregory the Great – “Each one will be presented to the Judge exactly as he was when he departed this life. Yet, there must be a cleansing fire before judgment, because of some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. Does not Christ, the Truth, say that if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit he shall not be forgiven ‘either in this world or in the world to come’ (Mt 12:32)? From this statement we learn that some sins can be forgiven in this world and some in the world to come. For, if forgiveness is refused for a particular sin, we conclude logically that it is granted for others. This must apply, as I said, to slight transgressions.” (Dialogues, 4:39  – A.D. 594).

15th Century

  • Council of Florence (1439-43)  –  “Seventhly, the decree of union concluded with the Greeks, which was promulgated earlier in this sacred council, recording . . . what is to be believed about the pains of purgatory and hell, about the life of the blessed and about suffrages offered for the dead.”
    • The Greeks argued against the existence of real purgatorial fire, but were assured that the Roman Church had never issued any dogmatic decree on this subject.
  • Albigenses, Waldenses, and Hussites – Heretical splinter groups such as the reject the doctrine of purgatory.

16th Century Reformers

  • Martin Luther Originally unopposed to Purgatory
    • Nothing opposing Purgatory in 95 Theses although indulgences were a major theme.
    • 26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.”  (95 Theses)
  • John CalvinOpposed to Purgatory but admitted prayer for dead is ancient practice  
    • “As to purgatory, we know that ancient churches made some mention of the dead in their prayers, but it was done seldom and soberly, and consisted only of a few words.” (Letter to Cardinal Sadoleto)

19th Century Eastern Orthodoxy

  • Met. Macarius Bulgakov of Moscow  (Eastern Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)
    • The Orthodox Church teaches, like that of Rome:
      • a) that the souls of some of the dead, namely those who died in faith and repentance, but without having had time to bring in life fruit worthy of repentance, and therefore, did not manage to receive from God complete forgiveness of their sins and be purified, undergo torments until they are deemed worthy of forgiveness and cleansed ;
      • b) that in such cases the souls of the dead are benefited by prayers for them from those of their brothers in Christ who are still living, their works of charity, and especially the Offering of the Bloodless Sacrifice.

20th-21st  Century Anglican, Baptist, Reformed Scholars

  • C. S. LewisUpheld Purgatory
    • Our souls “demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know.’ ‘Even so, sir.’” (Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, 108)
  • Roger Olson (Baptist professor) – Is not opposed to a view of Purgatory
    • “For some years now I’ve been wrestling with the concept of purgatory and wondering whether evangelical Christians should adopt some version of it. . . . The question that bothers me is this: How can we picture men (and perhaps some women) who absolutely hated people entering into the joys of paradise without some kind of correction?(source)
  • Jerry Walls (Reformed Professor HBU) – Holds to a view of Purgatory
    • If salvation essentially involves transformation”and, at that same time, we cannot be united with God unless we are holy” what becomes of those who plead the atonement of Christ for salvation but die before they have been thoroughly transformed? These people will have accepted the truth about God and themselves through repentance and faith, but their character will not have been made perfect. Their sanctification has begun but it remains incomplete. Such people do not seem to be ready for a heaven of perfect love and fellowship with God, but neither should they be consigned to hell. . . .  Protestants, by and large, have traditionally rejected the notion out of hand. The roots of this rejection go back, of course, to the Reformation . . .  the prevailing doctrine of purgatory at the time of the Reformation was related to some of the worst abuses in the Church . . . it is long past time to reassess purgatory and the theological problems it was originally intended to solve . . . all believers, regardless of tradition, who have experienced as joy the purging involved in drawing closer to Christ can view the concept of purgatory not only as a natural doctrinal development, but also as a gracious gift of love. ” (source)

4. Common Protestant Objections

  • Purgatory does not seem to be a biblical teaching.
      • Begs the question as to what counts as The Bible (e.g., 2 Macc.)
      • Many doctrines (including the canon of Scripture itself) are not based on Bible “proof texts.”
      • The Bible affirms biblical traditions (e.g., 2 Thess. 2:15 and 3:6).
      • It is biblical (does not contradict Scripture) even if it is not stated clearly (like many theological truths).
  • Purgatory seems to offer a second chance for the unsaved in this life.
      • No, only Heaven-bound holy souls experience Purgatory.
  • Purgatory seems to contradict the finished work of Christ.
    • Sin being forgiven of its eternal consequences does not necessarily relieve its temporal punishment.
      • Assumes the way in which our eternal debt of punishment is removed is also always precisely the way in which our debt of temporal punishment is removed.
      • Conflation of the distinction between eternal and temporal punishment for sin.
        • God forgave Moses, but denied him the Promised Land (Num. 20:12).
        • The Lord took away the sin of David, but his child died (2 Kings 12:13-14).
        • See Hebrews below re: chastisement.
    • The objection presupposes monergism [i.e. God alone acts] (such that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient and perfect only if it excludes the possibility of our active participation in it).
      • Through Christ’s work, our redemption is accomplished, it is finished, but the application is another story.
      • the remission of the debt of temporal punishment belongs to co-operating grace
      • Christ’s Passion is sufficient in itself to remove all debt of punishment, not only eternal but also temporal.
      • We are released from the debt of punishment according to the measure of our participation in the power of Christ’s Passion.
    • Objectively Christ’s death perfectly expiates the sins of the whole world, while subjectively we receive the grace He won for us on the cross.
      • In the Lord’s Prayer, which is the prayer Christ taught us to pray, not only do baptized believers ask for our “daily bread,” we also ask for the forgiveness of our sins, which would not make sense if all our future sins were already forgiven at baptism.We are called to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, (Rom. 12:1)
      • Christians are called to “purify himself, as He is pure.” (1 Jn. 3:3)
      • We participate in our on-going sanctification in this present life by working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)
      • Christ’s sacrifice does not mean that believers need not pray, forgive those who sin against them, care for widows and orphans, etc.
      • The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice was not to do all things for us.
    • Sanctification often involves personal suffering.
      • Scripture mentions a “fire” process by which we become holy (Ex 19:18, Is 4:4, 6:7, Mal 3:1-4, 2 Cor 7:1, 1 Thess 4:3,7, 1 Jn 3:2-3, Heb 12:29).
      • 1 Corinthians 15:29  “Baptism” is often a metaphor for suffering (Mk 10:38-39, Lk 3:16, 12:50), and
        • Paul might have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind – a very similar verse which explicitly teaches the propriety of prayers for the dead.
    • Even Protestants accept that salvation is in some sense a process that we are involved in.
      • Justification is by God’s grace alone.
      • Sanctification (which involves our actions) is all Purgatory concerns.
      • Glorification is guaranteed for those in Purgatory.

Salvation Tenses

Salvation    Past:



Eph. 2:4-6 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 1 Pet. 1:8-9 – ” . . . Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving . . . the salvation of your souls.” Rom. 13:11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed
Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. Phil. 2:12 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” 1 Cor. 3:15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Eph. 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace Mt. 6:12 “And forgive us our debts [present tense], As we forgive our debtors. Luke 21:28 “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.
Col. 1:13–14 “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. James 5:15 “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Rom. 8:23 And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for . . . the redemption of our body.
Eph. 1:7 “In Him we have . . . the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 1 Jn. 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Eph. 1:14 [The Holy Spirit] “is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Eph. 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of  redemption
Col. 1:14 ” . . . in whom we have . . . the forgiveness of sins.
Col. 3:13 ” . . . bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Sanctification  Past:



1 Cor. 6:11 “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Thes. 4:1 For this is . . . your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality . . . ” 1 Thes. 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Heb. 10:10 “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Heb. 2:11 “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren”
Heb. 10:29 “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”

Justification    Past:



Rom. 5:1–2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand…” Rom. 2:12 ” . . . for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;
Rom. 5.9 “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Rom. 3:20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
1 Cor. 6:11 “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

 Which time was Abraham Justified?

Gal. 3:6&
Rom. 4:3
Abraham “believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

Exact quote(s) of:

Heb. 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.”

Clear reference to:

James 2:21–23 “Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’.”

Clear reference to:

> Gen. 15:6 God’s promises of offspring. > Gen. 12:1-4 Call of Abraham to leave Haran > Gen. 22:1–18 Abraham’s offering of Isaac.

5. Treasury of Merit / Indulgences

Excellent summary: Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit and the Communion of Saints

  • Basic Argument
      • Sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice.
      • These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or “purifying” punishments.
      • Purgatory is punitive purification.
        • These punishments are imposed by the just and merciful judgment of God for the purification of souls,
        • It is therefore necessary for the full remission and — as it is called — reparation of sins not only that friendship with God be reestablished by a sincere conversion of the mind and amends made for the offense against His wisdom and goodness, but also that all the personal as well as social values and those of the universal order itself, which have been diminished or destroyed by sin.
        • Punishment or the vestiges of sin may remain to be expiated or cleansed and that they in fact frequently do even after the remission of guilt is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory.
        • In purgatory, in fact, the souls of those “who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but before satisfying with worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and for omissions” are cleansed after death with purgatorial punishments.
      • A supernatural solidarity whereby the sin of one harms the others just as the holiness of one also benefits the others.
        • A testimony of this solidarity is manifested in Adam himself, whose sin is passed on through propagation to all men.
        • the greatest and most perfect principle, foundation and example is Christ Himself who “committed no sin,” yet “suffered for us,” and “was wounded for our iniquities, bruised for our sins”
        • Following in the footsteps of Christ, the Christian faithful have always endeavored to help one another on the path leading to the heavenly Father through prayer, the exchange of spiritual goods and penitential expiation.
  • The “treasury of the Church”
    • “But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” (Matt 6:20; cf. Rev 19:8)
      • This is not a material treasure, but a treasure of merit.
      • The ability of any righteous man to merit anything comes from the merit of Christ.
      • Merit cannot be transferred, but meritorious acts can make satisfaction for another, by giving to God a gift of greater value than what was taken by the sin.
    • The infinite and inexhaustible value the expiation and the merits of Christ Our Lord have before God, offered as they were so that all of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father.
      • The debt of eternal punishment is forgiven only by the merits of Christ.
    • This treasury also includes the prayers and good works of all the saints, who following in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by His grace have sanctified their lives and fulfilled the mission entrusted to them by the Father. Thus while attaining their own salvation, they have also cooperated in the salvation of their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.
      • Just as in a physical body the operation of one member redounds to the good of the whole body, so it works in a spiritual body, that is to say, in the Church. Since all the faithful are one body, the good of one is communicated to another. (Aquinas)
      • “For all who are in Christ, having His spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him” (Eph. 4:16).
      • Paul – complete Christ’s sufferings (Col. 1:24).
    • Supererogation
      • The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper, “Whatever thou dost spend besides …,” quodcumque supererogaveris (Lk 10.35).
      • Zacchaeus in giving half his possessions to the poor and in quadrupling whatever he owed in restitution (Lk 19.8, 9).
      • St. Paul in supporting himself as a tentmaker (Acts 20.34; 1 Thes 3.8, 9).
    • Strictly speaking there is no “need” for the treasury of merit, as though no one could be saved without there being a treasury of merit to which persons other than Christ contribute.
      • At baptism, all the debt of eternal and temporal punishment is removed.
      • But venial sin committed after baptism accrues a debt of temporal punishment.
      • If after baptism one commits a mortal sin, and then repents, confesses and receives the sacrament of reconciliation, one also accrues a debt of temporal punishment.
      • Absolution in the confessional does not remove the debt of temporal punishment.
      • If a person never committed any mortal or venial sin after baptism, he would not need any aid from the treasury of merit or need to go to purgatory.
  • Indulgences
    • It is the common teaching of Catholic theologians that
      • indulgences may be applied to the souls detained in purgatory
      • that indulgences are available for them “by way of suffrage”
    • The remission of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven insofar as their guilt is concerned has been called specifically “indulgence.”
      • Indulgences do not pardon sin, only through the sacrament of reconciliation can a person achieve forgiveness of sins, but what it does do is atone for the temporal punishments due to sins committed.
        • No bad deed will go unpunished (Matt 5:26)
        • No good deed will go unrewarded (Rom 2:6)
    • The conviction existing in the Church that the pastors of the flock of the Lord could set the individual free from the vestiges of sins by applying the merits of Christ and of the saints led gradually,…to the usage of indulgences.
      • In an indulgence in fact, the Church, making use of its power as minister of the Redemption of Christ, not only prays but by an authoritative intervention dispenses to the faithful suitably disposed the treasury of satisfaction which Christ and the saints won for the remission of temporal punishment
      • Bellarmine: “the pope does not absolve the soul in purgatory from the punishment due his sin, but offers to God from the treasure of the Church whatever may be necessary for the cancelling of this punishment.”
        • That an indulgence may avail for those in purgatory several conditions are required:
        • The indulgence must be granted by the pope.
        • There must be a sufficient reason for granting the indulgence, and this reason must be something pertaining to the glory of God and the utility of the Church, not merely the utility accruing to the souls in purgatory.
        • The pious work enjoined must be as in the case of indulgences for the living.
        • St. Thomas says, “He who gains indulgences is not thereby released outright from what he owes as penalty, but is provided with the means of paying it.
    • Unfortunately, the practice of indulgences has at times been improperly used either through “untimely and superfluous indulgences” by which the power of the keys was humiliated and penitential satisfaction weakened, or through the collection of “illicit profits” by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed
      • The Church, in deploring and correcting these improper uses “teaches and establishes that the use of indulgences must be preserved because it is supremely salutary for the Christian people and authoritatively approved by the sacred councils; and it condemns with anathema those who maintain the uselessness of indulgences or deny the power of the Church to grant them.”
    • The preeminence of charity in the Christian life is confirmed also by indulgences. For indulgences cannot be acquired without a sincere conversion of mentality (“metanoia”) and unity with God, to which the performance of the prescribed works is added. Thus the order of charity is preserved, into which is incorporated the remission of punishment by distribution from the Church’s treasury.

6. Important Distinctions Often Missed by Protestants

See Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement

  • Imputation vs. Infusion
    • Imputation
      • According to the Protestant conception of imputation, God justifies us not by infusing righteousness into us, but by crediting Christ’s obedience to our account, and our sins to His account. This forensic declaration does not make the person internally righteous during this life, hence the term external  (lit. ‘outside of us’). Justification is followed by a gradual process of sanctification, though a person is never in this life truly internally righteous until after death.
      • Catholics affirm imputation, but not external  imputation.
      • The problem is not imputation per se, but the extra nos conception of imputation, which, from a Catholic point of view makes God out to be either a liar or self-deceived.
    • Infusion
      • According to the Catholic Church, God justifies us by infusing righteousness into our hearts at baptism. Subsequently, by growing in grace and agape, we grow in righteousness and thus in justification, not by moving from a state of imperfect justification, but from perfect justification to more perfect justification, through a greater measure of sanctifying grace and agape.
      • As Trent teaches: the single formal cause is the justice [i.e. righteousness] of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills, and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation. For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the heart of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity.
      • Protestants confuse the paying of a debt of punishment by way of satisfaction, and the external imputation of an alien righteousness.
        • merit (whether that of Christ or the saints) cannot be imputed to anyone other than the person who merited.
        • Satisfaction, however, can be made on behalf of another, in order to remove a debt of punishment.
  • List vs. Agape Paradigms
      • List paradigm,
        • perfect law-keeping is conceived as keeping a list of God given precepts. According to this paradigm, perfect law-keeping requires perfectly and perpetually keeping (and not in any way violating) every single precept in the list.
        • Argument based on List:
          • (1) God demands absolute, perpetual, and perfect obedience for entrance into heaven.
          • (2) no Christian is absolutely, perpetually and perfectly obedient in this life.
      • Agape paradigm
        • Agape is the fulfillment of the law.
        • agape is the law written on the heart.
        • Agape is not merely some power or force or energy by which one is enabled better to keep the list of rules, either perfectly or imperfectly.
        • agape is what the law has pointed to all along.
        • To have agape in one’s soul is to have the perfect righteousness to which the list of precepts point.
        • agape fulfills the law, but the believer, having free choice, does not always live in accordance with agape. To have agape is already to have fulfilled the telos of the law, a telos that is expressed in our words, deeds, and actions because they are all ordered to a supernatural end unless we commit a mortal sin.
          • If he commits a mortal sin, he acts directly in opposition to agape, and so obviously does not fulfill the law, but violates the law.
          • If he commits a venial sin, he acts not directly against agape, and so not directly against the law, but neither does he act in perfect conformity to agape, and thus not in perfect conformity to the agape by which the law is fulfilled.
      • “If infused love fulfills the law, then why the treasury of merit and purgatory?” is “Because we choose to sin, not always living according to the agape within us.”
  • Guilt vs. Debt
      • Guilt is an intrinsic disorder of the will and remains until the person is forgiven, by way of the reordering of the will back to God in love.
        • The guilt of sin is not a generic disorder in the will; rather, it is essentially an internalization of the disorder of the act of sin against the Power (i.e. God) by which it was created and to which it is ordered, into the power by which the act was done (i.e. the will), by the person’s doing of that disordered act through that power.
        • This is why God cannot even implant guilt within a person without that person sinning, nor can God create a person already having guilt, and not having sinned. Any unwilled disorder would be extrinsic disorder (i.e. extrinsic to the will), and thus not guilt. To be guilt, the disorder must be willed disorder.
        • Catholic doctrine understands righteousness to be in the will, even while concupiscence and vices remain in other powers of the soul.
        • Sanctifying grace inheres in the whole of the soul, whereas agape is the supernatural perfection of the will (which is one of the powers of the soul) by which the will is ordered above its natural end to the beatific vision.
          • see Summa Theologica II-I Q.110 a.3-4.)
        • agape is a different mode of participation in the divine nature — that mode in which a created will gratuitously participates in the Good that God is as God is known to Himself.
      • Debt of punishment also remains after the act, until the debt is forgiven or paid.
        • The newborn infant, prior to baptism, has neither reatus culpa nor reatus poena. Rather, he lacks sanctifying grace and charity. That’s just what original sin is, namely, the absence of the original justice Adam and Eve had through sanctifying grace and charity.
        • absence of sanctifying grace and agape is not guilt.
      • Swapping sins and obedience between persons is something that God cannot do, because sins and obedience do not exist separately from persons –  sin is necessarily an act of a particular person, and therefore always remains essentially the act of this particular person.
  • Merit vs. Wages
    • Merit and reward refer to the same – merit is not wages.
      • Man’s merit with God only exists on the presupposition of the Divine ordination, so that man obtains from God, as a reward of his operation, what God gave him the power of operation for
      • Since our action has the character of merit, only on the presupposition of the Divine ordination, it does not follow that God is made our debtor simply, but His own, inasmuch as it is right that His will should be carried out.
    • Meriting Eternal Life?
    • Now no act of anything whatsoever is divinely ordained to anything exceeding the proportion of the powers which are the principles of its act; for it is a law of Divine providence that nothing shall act beyond its powers. Now everlasting life is a good exceeding the proportion of created nature (CONDIGN MERIT); since it exceeds its knowledge and desire, according to 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man.” And hence it is that no created nature is a sufficient principle of an act meritorious of eternal life, unless there is added a supernatural gift, which we call grace. But if we speak of man as existing in sin, a second reason is added to this, viz. the impediment of sin. For since sin is an offense against God, excluding us from eternal life, as is clear from what has been said above (71, 6; 113, 2), no one existing in a state of mortal sin can merit eternal life unless first he be reconciled to God, through his sin being forgiven, which is brought about by grace. For the sinner deserves not life, but death, according to Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” (Thomas Aquinas)

      • there can be no condignity because of the very great inequality. But there is congruity, on account of an equality of proportion: for it would seem congruous that, if a man does what he can, God should reward him according to the excellence of his power.
      • The gift of grace may be considered in two ways: first in the nature of a gratuitous gift, and thus it is manifest that all merit is repugnant to grace, since as the Apostle says (Romans 11:6), “if by grace, it is not now by works.” Secondly, it may be considered as regards the nature of the thing given, and thus, also, it cannot come under the merit of him who has not grace, both because it exceeds the proportion of nature, and because previous to grace a man in the state of sin has an obstacle to his meriting grace, viz. sin. But when anyone has grace, the grace already possessed cannot come under merit, since reward is the term of the work, but grace is the principle of all our good works, as stated above (109). But of anyone merits a further gratuitous gift by virtue of the preceding grace, it would not be the first grace. Hence it is manifest that no one can merit for himself the first grace.
    • Merit in Purgatory
      • The authority quoted is speaking of the labor of working for merit, and not of the labor of suffering to be cleansed.
      • Do the souls in purgatory pray for us? There is no decision of the Church on this subject, nor have the theologians pronounced with definiteness concerning the invocation of the souls in purgatory and their intercession for the living (most theologians agree that no merit is possible in purgatory).
  • Mortal vs. Venial Sin (All sins equal?)
    • 1 John 5:13-17 “13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. . . . 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” (NASB)
    • Righteousness Paradigms
      • LIST”: For the Protestant, the “righteousness of Christ” means Christ’s own acts of obedience in His human will. This is righteousness as conceived of according to the list paradigm.
        • Protestantism “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation” (WCF XV.4), and sanctification is “yet imperfect in this life” (WCF XIII.2), it follows that according to [traditional] Protestant theology no regenerate person is, during this present life, ever truly internally righteous,
      • AGAPE”: In the Catholic paradigm, by contrast, we receive not the acts of obedience of Christ in His human will (these cannot be transferred anyway), but sanctifying grace and agape which is the essence of righteousness.
        • Agape is the fulfillment of the law, the righteousness required by God’s holy law.
    • Mortal sin always has a two-fold component. It necessary involves a turning away from God in some respect, and an inordinate (i.e. disordered) turning to some finite created good.
      • The turning away from God is the form while turning to created good is its matter.
        • Forgiveness of a sin is formal but justice demands material restoration also.
      • The nature of the sin determines the punishment of the sin:
        • in turning away from God, the just punishment is the loss of God.
        • if man turns inordinately to a mutable good, without turning from God, as happens in venial sins, he incurs a debt, not of eternal but of temporal punishment:
          • “since it is just that he who has been too indulgent to his will, should suffer something against his will, for thus will equality be restored.”

Catechism 1472: To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

Aquinas: Forgiveness of sin is effected by man being united to God from Whom sin separates him in some way. Now this separation is made complete by mortal sin, and incomplete by venial sin: because, by mortal sin, the mind through acting against charity is altogether turned away from God; whereas by venial sin man’s affections are clogged, so that they are slow in tending towards God. Consequently both kinds of sin are taken away by penance, because by both of them man’s will is disordered through turning inordinately to a created good; for just as mortal sin cannot be forgiven so long as the will is attached to sin, so neither can venial sin, because while the cause remains, the effect remains.