[Lat.,=place of purging], in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the state after death in which the soul destined for heaven is purified. Since only the perfect can enjoy the vision of God (inferred from Mat. 12.36; Rev. 21.17), and some die in grace who have still unpunished or unrepented minor sins on their conscience, they must be purged of such sins. Those who have suffered already (especially the martyrs) may have undergone much or all of their punishment. Souls in purgatory are members of the church along with the living and the blessed in heaven and may be helped, as in life, by the prayers and works of their fellow members. This unity is the communion of saints. Prayers for the dead are therefore commonplace in Roman Catholic life; one form is the requiem
Mass (see also indulgence
). The duration of time and the nature of the state of purgatory are not defined; the suffering is different in kind from that of hell
, for the soul in purgatory knows that his punishment is temporary. The ancient Jews prayed for the dead (2 Mac. 12.43–46), and the Christians continued the practice, holding the concomitant belief in a middle state between life and heaven. The Eastern Orthodox Church maintains this position without adopting the Western terms developed in the Middle Ages. Protestants have generally abandoned it.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Purgatory, in accordance with Catholic teaching, is a temporary place or condition of punishment for those who, upon death, are not entirely free from venial sin. Fortean Picture Library.
Purgatory (religion, spiritualism, and occult)
The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory (from the Latin word purgare, meaning "to make clean or purify") affirms that there is "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."
"Venial faults" are those sins of human frailty that are not as serious as the more damning sins, such as murder, but still serve to render the person less than pure before God. Unrepented venial faults still need to be dealt with. That is the purpose of purgatory.
Purgatory exists as a way-station on the path to heaven. Prayers of the faithful on Earth help lessen the time spent there, and indulgences, or forgiveness, can still be granted by the pope. But the doctrine points out the Catholic view of the seriousness of sin and the purity of God. Even though sin is atoned for by Christ, the results of that sin carry over into actions and attitudes, and these must be dealt with.
The official Church doctrine lists page after page of arguments from the Bible and tradition, but points out that the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers decided that purgatory did not exist. It was a figment of Catholic imagination. As such, it is a doctrine unique to Catholicism.
The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.
according to Catholic dogma, a place where the souls of dead sinners can be cleansed of sins committed in life. The cleansing is supposedly accomplished through the sinner’s enduring various trials; it is also accomplished through the prayers and good works of the relatives of the deceased, primarily through their monetary contributions to the church. The doctrine of purgatory was adopted by the Council of Florence (1438–45) and was confirmed in 1562 by the Council of Trent.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.