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September 20, 2005

Ch. XXX. Q. 161. What becomes of the souls of those who die in grace but are not yet perfect?

THE SOULS of those who die in grace but are not yet perfect enter upon an Intermediate State of purification, called Purgatory, where they remain until they have been made perfect.1

2. The teaching of the Anglican Communion on this subject is embodied in the Commendatory Prayer, said in extremis (Office for Visitation of the Sick). In it the Church prays that, when the Father receives the soul of "our dear brother," i.e., after death, "it may be precious in [His] sight''; that He may "wash it", and that, its defilements "being purged and done away, it may be presented pure and without spot before [Him]; through the merits of Jesus Christ."
At the time of the Reformation this doctrine had suffered from excessive definition, especially in popular preaching and in popular theology. Thus it was taught that (a.) the inhabitants of Purgatory endure external and material torments, whereby the measure of temporal penalties inflicted by reason of their faults is filled up: (b.) These penalties may be shortened by known lengths of time through private masses paid for by the living, and through indulgences granted by the Church.2

4. Such teaching is repudiated in our Twenty-second Article under the phrase, "the Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory." The decrees of Trent, however, whatever their value may be, are neither condemned nor approved by that Article.3 That there is a true doctrine of purgatory is assumed, as we have seen, in our Prayer Book; and its contents are there implied—i.e., that souls which are accepted of God are washed and purged after their departure, through the merits of Christ, from all worldly defilements, and then presented pure and without spot before God.4

5. The manner and accompanying conditions of the purification of souls are unknown to us. That it should include some kind of suffering, however, seems required by the principles of justice and by the necessary laws of moral progress. But such suffering may be entirely internal, and may arise simply from a deeper sense of the sins which God has pardoned and of the defilements which He is purging away. Thus the exuberance of joy arising from complete assurance of salvation will be qualified, though not destroyed, by an acute shrinking from the privilege of entering the Holy Place of God's unveiled presence and glory.5

6. Such purification is moral; and presupposes a state of consciousness after death (Q. 158. 3). How long it will continue in individual cases is unknown to us; but the observed laws of moral progress lead us to infer that the time will be very long in some cases—e.g., when repentance immediately precedes death—and shorter when much progress towards perfection has been made before death. In any case the attainment of perfection appears to end the soul's exclusion from the beatific vision of God (Q. 160. 2).

1 S. Thos., III. sup. 69. 7, 8: 72: Schouppe, XIX. 48, 59-62, 99-106: Gruebers Church Militant, 121-140: Forbes' 39 Arts., XXII: Forbes' Considerations, Vol. II. 1-141: Percival's Digest, 168-170: Owen's Dog., XXX: Rede's Communion of Saints: Pusey's What is of Faith, 102-121.

2 Forbes' 39 Arts., 308-311: Pusey's Church of England, a True Portion, 190-198.

3 Trid. Sess., VI. can. 30: Sess. XXV. cf. Profess, fid. Trid. a Pio IV.

4 Forbes' 39 Arts., 312-353: Pusey's Church of Eng. a True Portion, 96-122.

5 S. Thos., III. sup. 70. 3: Newman's Dream of Gerontius: St. Catherine on Purgatory: Luckock's Intermediate State, ch. V-VII, IX: Moehler's Symbolism, § 23: Mason's Faith of the Gosp., XI. 2: Tracts for the Times, No. 90.

Posted by Trevor at September 20, 2005 07:47 PM