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Reasons for purgatory
Question from PJ on 12/2/2013:

Dear Judie,

Since no one else is answering my question maybe you will. There have been two reasons given in Church teaching for the doctrine of purgatory: the need for detachment and purification from our sins AND the need for satisfaction of temporal punishment due to our sins. However, these two reasons are never mentioned together, it's always one or the other. I have yet to see or hear an explanation for exactly how these two reasons for purgatory go together, particularly on how receiving an indulgence would detach & purify us from sin (instead of short-circuit that process), and on what would happen when sacrifice and suffering sufficiently detach and purify one's soul but there is still much temporal punishment not yet satisfied. Please make sense of how these two teachings on purgatory mesh together, or direct me to somewhere that does. Thank you.

Answer by Judie Brown on 12/6/2013:

Dear PJ

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, 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.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

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.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 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.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, 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.611


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