Why "purgatory"? Is this indecision by God?

I am an atheist and do not quite understand the concept of purgatory. I always thought that sinners goto hell and the good goto heaven. Why the pitstop?

Purgatory is, as far as I know, a strictly Catholic concept. Souls in purgatory, I believe, are those who die with unconfessed venial sins. As heaven is a place of perfection, the dead soul, not being perfect, can not go there while his or her soul bears the taint of sin. Therefore, the soul goes to purgatory, where it is cleansed of its sins and able to enter heaven.

Yep, that’s about it. From http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/art12.html#FINAL"]the Catechism:

So it’s not indecision; the person is on his way to heaven but is purified on the way.

Well…why “jail sentences” for thieves? Is it indecision by the judges who can’t decide between freeing them or having them executed?

I was brought up Catholic. I’m not now.

It was told to me time and again that everyone goes to Purgatory. Some longer than others. It is a place of pain and suffering that is gladly endured because you know you will go to heaven.

Interestingly, your time in Purgatory can be lengthened by the actions of others. My mom yelled at me many times saying that my actions will cause her to spend more time in Purgatory.

When I was a kid, I imagined Purgatory as a place where you experienced the harm you caused others many fold and was a learning experience. That idea was never told me and purely my own invention.

Of course, it’s most likely a large hunk of Hooyey. You can see my ‘faith’ has slipped quite a bit…

--------Originally posted by clairobscur--------
**Well…why “jail sentences” for thieves? Is it indecision by the judges who can’t decide between freeing them or having them executed? **

No! That sounds a lot like following the guidelines of punishment for a particular crime.
What purgatory sounds like to me is just another way that the writers of the bible are trying to control the public by scaring them into submission.
“Stop being a sinner now and you still might get into heaven” (with a slap on the wrist)

mmm… Not quite. No person can cause another person to lose Grace (except by leading them astray).

The Church believes (based on II Maccabees) that our actions can reduce the amount of time that one is punished, but we cannot add to it.

I suspect that your mom’s comment was either that your actions were tempting her to want to wish harm upon you (which would cause her to sin if she entertained such thoughts)
that your behavior was already a source of punishment to her and that she was already experiencing a pre-death encounter with Purgatory by your very presence.

As to the general question in the OP, I took a crack at answering it in the What’s the Catholic Church’s position on this? thread a couple of years ago, including this comment:

No, that’s not it.

If you make it to Purgatory, you’re definitely going to Heaven, not Hell. You just have to do some community service first. :wink:

When I was little, I thought of it like a big carwash. They’d lay out your soul and sponge away any sins you might still have.

Even when I was young, I had a problem with the concept of Purgatory and the pleasantness experienced by many claiming to have a near death experience.

If Purgatory was real, wouldn’t all NDE be negative?

Well…I wouldn’t disagree on that. Since you’re a newborn poster, you probably don’t know that I’m actually a die-hard atheist.
My point was that it makes no sense to assume that an all-powerful god would for some reason be limited to only two options : eternal happiness or eternal torment. Actually, the concept of purgatory (viewed as a place for temporary punishment rather than a place of redemption) makes way more sense than a binary hell/heavens. Thinking that people deserve to be either tortured forever or to be forever happy looks crazy.
Like in my example of the judge who either sentences people to death or let them go free, serial killers and shoplifters alike.

I see where you’re coming from on that.
I was really just trying to point out the incompatibilities I constantly come across in the bible.
What a hard thing it must be, to be a good Christian!
Thank god I don’t have to worry

Why would this be necessary? It’s like saying what Jesus did wasn’t enough, we have to help pay for our sins by spending time in purgatory. Trust in Jesus and His sacrifice for us is supposed to cleanse from sin. It’s like we have to experience a little bit of hell to go to heaven? Doesn’t make sense to me. I know it’s a doctrine of the Catholic church but is it really in the Bible? All I see there is heaven and hell. What Jesus did was enough, I don’t have to go to purgatory. He paid for it all.

It’s indeed based on the bible…it’s even pointed out above : Maccabees…but in a part of the bible the protestants have decided wasn’t part of the bible precisely because it contradicted their belief that there was no purgatory (you know…these god’s words aren’t very reliable, so it make sense to censor the parts one doesn’t agree with :wink: )

Well, the Catholic answer would be, I think, that trust in Jesus’s sacrifice does forgive sins, so long as the person repents and wants his sins to be forgiven. However, forgiveness of sin doesn’t change the fact that sin still has consequences…that every sinful action weakens our soul, makes us more likely to get in a habit of sinning, and harms our relationship with each other and with G-d.

So, purgatory is the place for full realization and repentance
of sin and its effects, and because you’ve come to realization and repentence, you can be spiritually healed. One of the scriptures that Catholics base Purgatory on is 1 Cor. 3:9-15

Catholics would say that while the foundation that saves someone has to be faith in Jesus, it’s up to them as to how they live their life. If they live lives of charity, mercy, love, and virtue, that’s like building with jewels and precious metals, and that will survive. But if they live sinful lives, represented as wood, hay, and straw, their salvation will only come through suffering loss. That way, they’ll be purged of their sins.

Hmm, I’m familiar with that Scripture but I’ve always read it a different way. The suffering of loss I think to be that a person can lose any rewards they may have had, but not their salvation.
Jesus being the foundation, two people having Jesus (the same foundation) but one may build upon it the jewels, etc. and receive reward but the other may build upon it wood, hay, etc. and receive loss of reward but is still saved. That’s the way I look at it anyway. I believe Jesus’ sacrifice covers every sin, including those that we may not have had time to ask His forgiveness for before dying. Note: Personally, I feel it’s unnecessary to confess sin to a priest, I can go directly to the Father in heaven through Christ.

“a little bit of hell to get to Heaven”

that would be earth, IMHO.

So does the Catholic Church. The reasons for going to the priest are related to the notion of the healing of the Body of Christ, not getting forgiveness from God.

Yes, priests do forgive sins–and there is Scriptural support for the idea in:

There are, however, different aspects of how we look on forgiveness and what that forgiveness means and entails. I will again point to the linked post I provided, above.

When a person recognizes that they have sinned and they are sorry and repent of that sin, God forgives them.
For those who view the relationship between God and man as a solely personal relationship in which religions simply act as conduits for conveying the ideals and rules to the next generation of believers, that is the end of the event:
man sins, man repents, God forgives, done.

The RCC views the relationship between God and any person as more complex. Paul frequently used the phrase “Body of Christ” and the RCC has incorporated that concept into their teachings. The idea is that Jesus is present in the world in His people. (“Where two or three are gathered in my name…”) When a person sins, it is not simply an act of disobedience against God the Law-giver. Rather, it is a diminishing of the Body of Christ. If a person has sinned, that person has shut themselves off from the Grace of God; they cannot carry that Grace to other people. The Body of Christ is diminished to whatever degree that that person cannot bring the message of Jesus (by word or by example or by action) to other people. The sinner must be reconciled with the Body of Christ for that sin to be forgiven and healed.

The passages in Matthew and John have always been cited as the authority of the Church to forgive sins. This is not intended to mean that humans have the power to interfere with the forgiveness from God; it is indicative that the sin must be dealt with from the perspective of the community of believers (the Body of Christ) and that the Church has that authority.

Now, I will not claim that all people (or all Catholics) at all times have held this exact belief. There is ample evidence that there have been people who believed that if they died without being confessed they were in danger of damnation. However, the RCC is a big outfit and there is always a certain amount of confusion among the rank-and-file as to the meaning of all the teachings. The Church does not teach that only sins forgiven by a priest are forgiven by God.

I’d differ from “yes, priests do forgive sins,” Tom~, but only in a very restricted sense:

God forgives sins. He’s equipped His priests with the authority to pronounce forgiveness in His Name – you quoted the passage – the distinction, as I know you know but to get the word out for the use of the TM, being that that pronouncement is absolution.

And, again as you know but to make the statement for others, the rule that Catholics must make a sacramental confession to a priest once a year is a Law of the Church, done as a bit of pastoral discipline and changeable by Vatican fiat, not a bit of doctrine that Catholics believe unchangeable. Anglicans also provide for sacramental confession and absolution, but nobody is required to participate in it other than by personal vows (e.g., my wife must, but not because she’s an Anglican; rather, because she’s a member of a religious community, the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis whose general rule requires an annual private confession before a priest; I, not having taken formal vows in that order, need not).

As for the reason behind it, His4Ever, when it’s God who forgives sins, if you’ve ever done any lay pastoral care yourself, you will have run into someone plagued by scruples of conscience: “How can God ever forgive the awful things that I’ve done?” No amount of generalized statement or Bible quoting about God’s immeasurable love and forgiveness will bring it home to this poor person that his sins are forgiven. But, such is human nature that admitting those same sins and his repentance of them before a priest who then officially and formally says that they’re forgiven and tells him what to do to work off the burden of guilt – in one case where I felt that way, my penance was to read Psalm 104 and spend an hour meditating on it and what it says to me – that ritual will bring home to that person as no amount of discussing how God forgives everyone who is penitent or scattering Bible quotes around him will not, that God forgives him, even for that.

Do take clear note that no Anglican or Catholic has ever said (or, actually, meant) that a priest forgives sins – it’s God who forgives the sins, but He does it through the ministry of a priest, just as you or I have never converted anybody, but the Holy Spirit has used both of us as the vehicles to speak to people and lead them to conversion.

'Zat help?

Well, it helps me understand how you might come to some of these beliefs. I know what it’s like to feel the burden of guilt over something I’ve done, however I feel no need to do any “penance” or “work it off”. Why do we need to do any work or penance supposedy to make up for what we’ve done or help God forgive us? To me, this takes away from the substitutionary death of Christ for our sins. He’s already paid for them and taken the punishment and penalty for every wrong thing we’ve done. My belief is that when we realize we’ve sinned, we go to the Lord and repent and ask His forgiveness and that’s all that’s needed. Now if we’ve wronged someone or it involves someone else then of of course we need to make it right, but not in order to get God to forgive us, but because it’s the right thing to do. Works don’t help Him forgive us according to Ephesians 2:8-9. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Don’t know if I’m making sense or explaining this very well. I hope so.

Yep. Penance, as far as I’m concerned (and Tom~, I know this is not orthodox doctrine), is to ease the sense of guilt by giving the penitent sinner something to do in order to remove the burden of guilt. And it’s normally a spiritual exercise of some sort, aimed at better directing the growth in faith of the penitent.

It ain’t “salvation by works” – it’s God being merciful to our human frailness by, through His ministers, allowing us to do something in token that we are truly repentant.