At first time, through the intercession for the dead, the Church shows clearly, since its origins, its believing in Purgatory. Then, with a wise slowness, it would define its doctrine especially in the Council of Lyon II (1274), in the Council of Florence (1438), and also in the Council of Trento (25th Session, 3rd December 1563).
Theological note about PurgatoryHere there are the main themes of this doctrine:
- In Purgatory, the souls of right people pay their due to the Divine Justice by undergoing very painful purifying punishments. It is important to underline that the purification in Purgatory is not based on the fault, but on the pain. If the divine forgiveness permitted to the repentant soul delete the guilt, it does not make also the punishment disappear, and through the expiation man can find a solution for all the disorder caused by his sins. Here on earth, the soul undergoes freely the pain in shape of punishment; in the other world, in shape of obligatory purification.
- According to the doctrine of the Church, there are two kinds of punishments in Purgatory. The main one is the temporary privation of the vision of God. This privation is associated to an incredible suffering. The time of union is arrived: the soul burns in the desire of seeing God, but he cannot meet this desire, because he has not sufficiently atoned for his sins, before death. The expiation is completed in Purgatory and it has such a shape of suffering that is impossible to be compared with what there is on earth. In Purgatory there are other punishments, known as sense punishments. But the Church has never spoke about their exact nature; their aims is to repair the disordered wanting of creatures.
- Purgatory punishments are not the same for all the souls. They change, concerning their duration and intensity, and they depend on the guilt of each one. Souls in Purgatory receive peacefully the expiatory sufferings that God inflicts on them; actually, they only look for God’s Glory and they desire passionately to contemplate Him, who is their total hope. In Purgatory reigns a great peace, and also a kind of happiness, because souls are sure about their salvation and see their suffering as a meaning for glorifying God’s Sanctity and obtain the saint vision. Sufferings in Purgatory, which are no more meritorious, do not increase the charity of the soul who undergoes them.
- Church on earth can help, with its intercession, because the same love unite them in Christ. This union creates the opportunity of a merit communion. The souls in Purgatory, unable to reach by themselves the slightest relief, in this way they can take advantage of the satisfactory acts, which the living people do for them, in order to pay their dues. These act atone the sins of the souls in Purgatory by offering for them a compensation; God regulate the intercession for the dead in His infinite Wisdom. The Mass is the most effective help that the Church on earth can offer to the soul, who is purifying. Alms, prayer and all the kinds of sacrifice are, in the same way, a means to help the suffering souls.
- Purgatory will end with the Universal Judgement, as all the souls destined to th Glory will have satisfied, in a way or in another, the Divine Justice.
This is the essentiality of the Church teachings about the mystery of Purgatory. The Church let the theologians the duty to make some secondary questions clearer. Here we write some of them: where is the Purgatory? The sin is remitted at the time of death or during purification? Does the souls of Purgatory pray for us?
For the souls of right people, Purgatory is that situation or place of suffering where they atone for their sins (punishments are because of their venial and mortal sins, already remitted) and where their venial sins are remitted as their faults, if it was not so during their lives.
- The existence of Purgatory it is a truth of faith; Saint Tommaso of Aquino has no problems in saying that denying Purgatory means being against the Divine Justice and make a mistake against the faith. This truth of faith is based on the explicit teaching of the Holy Scriptures about the Judgement and the need for a perfect purity in order to enter Heaven.
According to the Catholic Church Catechism "Every man since the time of his death receives in his immortal soul the eternal reward, in a particular judgement that compare his life with the one of Christ, for this reason he will pass through a purification or enter immediately in the beatitude of the Skies, or he will be forever damned.
At the time of the particular Judgement, the soul does not see God, otherwise he will be beatified. He does not even see Christ’s Umanity – if so, only for an exceptional favour – but, trough a light, he meets God like Supreme Judge, and also the Redeemer like Jugde of the living and dead people".