September 18th, 2012The Necessity of Purgatoryby Joseph Pearce

It continues to baffle me that Protestants have an aversion to purgatory. Not all Protestants, it must be conceded. C. S. Lewis, for instance, made no secret of his belief in purgatory and even declared on one occasion that he believed that he was going there! Lewis was, however, a very non-Protestant sort of Protestant; indeed, one might almost say that he was a very Catholic sort of Protestant. For most Protestants, however, purgatory remains anathema, a doctrine that reeks of papist superstition.


In spite of such strong objections, it must be insisted that purgatory is a necessary consequence of God’s ineffable justice and mercy.


My most recent meditating on the necessity of purgatory was prompted by the writing of my recent post, “Travelling with Orcs”. In that post I wondered whether those who had been cursed to have orcs as parents and who had suffered constant habitual abuse at the brutal hands of their orcish parents throughout childhood, could be expected to grow up with a sense of right or wrong, or with an understanding of virtue. We cannot be blamed for the parents with whom we are blessed or cursed or shackled. We have no choice in such matters. We are presented with a fait accompli.


If the abuse we suffer as children warps our ability to see the goodness, truth and beauty in the world around us, or the Hand of a Loving God in its Creation, can we be blamed? If we are not to blame, can we warrant eternal damnation? On the other hand, if we are so brutalized that we have become brutes, mirror images of our brutish parents, can we go to Heaven? How do we make sense of this impasse? How do we solve the problem of the homelessness of the brutalized masses who have been corrupted by the sins of others? Do such habitués of the gutters of life have no eternal home?


Surely such people will not be cast out eternally by a just and merciful God. Their very existence illustrates the necessity of purgatory, a place where the hurt and dirt and the sin and grime are washed away. Nobody can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven until they are washed white in the Blood of the Lamb. Thanks be to God for the cleansing showers of purgatory!     

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  • September 19 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    There was a St. Margaret in medieval Italy whose biography refutes literally everything that could be claimed by those who would say that the treatment we receive at the hands of our parents somehow determines the destiny of our souls. It's not Margaret of Cortona and I can't find her now in New Advent's encyclopedia. Still, I have this to say--though it's been said so many times before that it shouldn't need repeating. The suffering we endure at the hands of those who are supposed to love and protect us does not ensure that we will become brutes, nor does it excuse our brutishness. Loving our children, protecting them from harm, and training them up as they should go will not neutralize their free will. Such children are fortunate, blessed even, but not protected from personal accountability. Just so, brutalizing children does not automatically mean they'll become brutes themselves. They still have freedom to choose for themselves. (Please God!)
    The St. Margaret I referred to is a perfect illustration of the sanctity attainable to brutalized children. As my cousin used to say, "God has no grandchildren--only children."