Saint Thomas Aquinas on Purgatory

Article 1. Whether there is a Purgatory after this life?

Objection 1. It would seem that there is not a Purgatory after this life. For it is said (Apocalypse 14:13): “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” Therefore after this life no cleansing labor awaits those who die in the Lord, nor those who do not die in the Lord, since they cannot be cleansed. Therefore there is no Purgatory after this life.

Objection 2. Further, as charity is to an eternal reward, so is mortal sin to eternal punishment. Now those who die in mortal sin are forthwith consigned to eternal punishment. Therefore those who die in charity go at once to their reward; and consequently no Purgatory awaits them after this life.

Objection 3. Further, God Who is supremely merciful is more inclined to reward good than to punish evil. Now just as those who are in the state of charity, do certain evil things which are not deserving of eternal punishment, so those who are in mortal sin, at times perform actions, generically good, which are not deserving of an eternal reward. Therefore since these good actions are not rewarded after this life in those who will be damned, neither should those evil actions be punished after this life. Hence the same conclusion follows.

On the contrary, It is said (2 Maccabees 12:46): “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” Now there is no need to pray for the dead who are in heaven, for they are in no need; nor again for those who are in hell, because they cannot be loosed from sins. Therefore after this life, there are some not yet loosed from sins, who can be loosed therefrom; and the like have charity, without which sins cannot be loosed, for “charity covereth all sins” [Proverbs 10:12]. Hence they will not be consigned to everlasting death, since “he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall not die for ever” [John 11:26]: nor will they obtain glory without being cleansed, because nothing unclean shall obtain it, as stated in the last chapter of the Apocalypse (verse 14). Therefore some kind of cleansing remains after this life.

Further, Gregory of Nyssa [De iis qui in fide dormiunt] says: “If one who loves and believes in Christ,” has failed to wash away his sins in this life, “he is set free after death by the fire of Purgatory.” Therefore there remains some kind of cleansing after this life.

I answer that, From the conclusions we have drawn above (III, 86, 4-5; Supplement, 12, 1) it is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life. For if the debt of punishment is not paid in full after the stain of sin has been washed away by contrition, nor again are venial sins always removed when mortal sins are remitted, and if justice demands that sin be set in order by due punishment, it follows that one who after contrition for his fault and after being absolved, dies before making due satisfaction, is punished after this life. Wherefore those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God: for which reason such a statement is erroneous and contrary to faith. Hence Gregory of Nyssa, after the words quoted above, adds: “This we preach, holding to the teaching of truth, and this is our belief; this the universal Church holds, by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins.” This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory: and whosoever resists the authority of the Church, incurs the note of heresy.

Reply to Objection 1. The authority quoted is speaking of the labor of working for merit, and not of the labor of suffering to be cleansed.

Reply to Objection 2. Evil has not a perfect cause, but results from each single defect: whereas good arises from one perfect cause, as Dionysius asserts [Div. Nom. iv, 4]. Hence each defect is an obstacle to the perfection of good; while not every good hinders some consummation of evil, since there is never evil without some good. Consequently venial sin prevents one who has charity from obtaining the perfect good, namely eternal life, until he be cleansed; whereas mortal sin cannot be hindered by some conjoined good from bringing a man forthwith to the extreme of evils.

Reply to Objection 3. He that falls into mortal sin, deadens all the good he has done before, and what he does, while in mortal sin, is dead: since by offending God he deserves to lose all the good he has from God. Wherefore no reward after this life awaits him who dies in mortal sin, whereas sometimes punishment awaits him who dies in charity, which does not always wash away the sin which it finds, but only that which is contrary to it.


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  1. “Reply to Objection 1. The authority quoted is speaking of the labor of working for merit, and not of the labor of suffering to be cleansed.”
    Fallible man would willingly wait in purgatory until he is made whole in the Truth of Christ.

  2. Probably not the place to put this but, Don, remove it if I have “crossed a line”.

    I just get texts from my oldest daughter asking me to pray for her youngest sister, L. She has serious “problems” that could end her life. She has told her older sister, A, that more or less, she is trying to die.

    This poor sweet child is the younger of the two from my wife’s long “meandering” and she is distant from both of her parents. I have pointedly told her that I love her, as my own but that I cannot replace her father, who was given to her by God. She is acutely aware of the “issues”. I held her snugly and as long as I could when we last spoke a little over a month ago and I told her how much I loved seeing her when I came down to visit her siblings, nieces and nephews. I asked her to take care of herself so that I could visit with her when I came down in the future.

    If any of you could find the time to pray for her, please do.

  3. Karl,
    Will do so. Intercession is what I do…for decades for serious sinners and criminals mainly five who tried to maim or kill me in several rough neighborhoods. See how Aquinas says that dying in Charity is the path to Purgatory. You by your interceding want God to have mercy on her so she gets there to Charity. Purgatory is a reward…not the default setting. ” He has mercy on whom He has mercy and whom He wills, He hardens”. Your job is to intercede constantly for her whatever God shows you is “constantly” for you. Ignore all modern funeral parlor optimism. There is no empty hell. She needs your constant work of prayer. I’m pretty sure I and one other person mainly…got one murderer into Purgatory after decades. God is missing monks. Become her monk so that she reaches the reward that is Purgatory. Moses murdered a man. God punished him with being a shepherd for forty years for another man’s sheep….after he was used to regal living. Intercede with that God because He antecedently wills her salvation…and vehemently according to Fr. Most.
    Tell that girl you want her to pray twice a day for the captured women under Islamic State. She’ll be working at love and she’ll be losing self pity as she sees their situation in her mind. Give her the work of love to do.

  4. Karl, we will pray for this young woman. Please do all you can too. Run up a large phone bill if you have to. Take her to dinner with your daughter if you can. The reason we make and save money is so we can burn it at a time like this. Been there, done that, so I know.

  5. Karl, I will add L to my prayer list. If by “issues” you mean she is depressed, she needs medical help and I will offer prayers for her and for a competent doctor to treat her. I think Bill Bannon has given you wise counsel.

  6. L’s parents seem unable to decide what to do. I have given the name of someone whose daughter was involved in similar activity, to my oldest daughter to forward to her mother, who is L’s mother. This person has the permission of her daughter to discuss whatever needs to be addressed. I have asked my daughter to assure her mother that I AM NOT involved with this in any way, other than trying to help a young girl to cope with her circumstances.

    Thank you all for the advice and the prayers, sincerely.

  7. Karl, There are a variety of situations wherein young people are told there is no way out and the young believe it, because they can’t see the way. There is always a way out. You post is so hopeful. More prayer.

  8. bill bannon: There was no response I knew how to make. “Give her the work of love to do.” is what I would have said, if I knew how to say it.
    To Karl: She is a minor child who needs a vocation. Bill Bannon’s counsel is excellent. “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE” I can hear the bells.

  9. Its interesting….there are many aspects of Catholicism I love (despite being a millennial man who votes and is liberal on a lot of things, I am 100% completely on board with “no sex till marriage” and WISH I was Catholic and believed this teaching in High School. Nothing happened, I just feel I would have felt spiritually liberated thinking this back then). There are other aspects and teachings that I do obey….but primarily out of fear. Purgatory is one of the aspects of Catholicism I love because it actually enables me to reconcile both our firm faith with my own theologically liberal instincts….

    In terms of the question “do you believe most of the people you know (who in my case are not Catholic) will go to hell?”, I now personally hope for it to turn out that rather than most of humanity going to hell, most in fact spend (potentially) LOTS of time in purgatory. I take comfort in an encyclical Pope Benedict published that Father Barron once mentioned talking about hoping that hell only has the worst of the worst. I like to think of purgatory more as an almost psychedelic alternate dimension where thought is made manifest as people confront themselves in a wonderland like maze. I like to think of what our faith might serve on such a plane, such as maybe making navigating said maze easier in ways we can’t see in our three dimensional universe.

    Those are just some thoughts and hopes on why purgatory is awesome! What do you think? What aspects of purgatory theology/its place in Catholicism do you like?

  10. “It is normal to BE abnormal in an abnormal situation.” (No excuse for sloppy proofreading.) The good doctor’s advice, by the way, made me feel normal. When I feel abnormal I just busy myself and make myself useful. The Holy Spirit provides. Prayers, Karl.

  11. on Brittany Maynard: One mentally disabled individual and homicidal enablers. Some people believe that death will cure them of pain and suffering, when, in fact, only God cures and heals and saves. What if, and I do not know, as death ends change and becomes the here and now forever, what if the pain and the suffering become eternally permanentized for the “assisted” suicide?
    Being assisted in suicide and assisting in suicide says nothing about the human being composed of mortal body and immortal soul. “Be afraid of those who would kill your immortal soul.” Only swine possessed by the devil run off a cliff into the sea and drown themselves.

  12. Pope Benedict XVI asked the laity to “pick a priest and pray for him your whole life”. It never occurred to me until several years later that Pope Benedict XVI, as a priest, was asking for our prayers. I did pick a priest and promise to pray for him my whole life. My pledge has been my companion for all this time.

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