Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Responses to 13 Anti-Purgatory Arguments by Mark of Ephesus, et al

OBJ. 1: 2 Macc 12:42-46 and Mt 12:32 only prove that some sins are forgiven after death but it is not certain if it is by means of punishment by fire.
ANS. 1: 1 Cor 3:15 is enough to show that leftover venial sins are purged by fire in Purgatory (more on that below), but there are many more. In Jude 23 God snatches people from the fire, but people in Heaven are not in the fire and God does not snatch the damned from Hell. In Wis 3:5-6 God tries and disciplines the departed faithful by fire so that they might be pure and able to enter Heaven. In Sir 2:5 the analogy is drawn between the testing of gold in the fire and the testing of acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. The damned are not acceptable and those already in Heaven are not in a testing, i.e. purifying, fire. Those Western Fathers who spoke of a purifying fire include St. Cyprian of Carthage, Archbishop St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (Doctor), Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Stridon (Doctor), Bishop St. Augustine of Hippo (Doctor Graciae), Lactantius, St. Caesar of Arles, and Pope St. Gregory I the Great of Rome. The Eastern Father St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the three Cappadocian Fathers, spoke of a purifying fire.

OBJ. 2: The weight of the opinion of the Latin Church is inconsistent with the topic of Purgatory.
ANS. 2: The Roman see has always been the immovable seat of orthodoxy as is clear from the Ecumenical councils and the consensus of the Eastern and Western Fathers; see Huysman, Will R. "Seeds of Papal Infallibility Dogma Pre-Vatican I." The Banana Republican. 9 Sept. 2008. 17 Sept. 2008 < The Roman see alone has never fallen into heresy. See Huysman, Will R. "." The Banana Republican. 3 Sept. 2008. 17 Sept. 2008 <>. The see of Constantinople was plagued by Arianism (Eusebius, Eudoxius), Semi-Arianism (Macedonius), Monophysitism (Acacius, Phravitas, Euphemius, Timothy I, Anthimus), Nestorianism (Nestorius), and Monothelitism (Sergius I, Pyrrhus, Paul II, Peter, John VI). The poisonous smoke of Satan billowed into the see of Antioch in the form of Docetism, Modalism=Sabellianism (Paul of Samosata), Arianism (Eulalius, Euphronius), Nestorianism, Monophysitism (Peter the Fuller, John Codonatus, Palladius, Severus, Sergius, Paul the Black, Peter Callinicum), and Monothelitism (Anthanasius, Macedonius, Macarius). The see of Alexandria succumbed to Monophysitism (Dioscorus, Timothy Aelurus, Peter Mongo, Athanasius II, John II, John III, Timothy III, Theodosius, Damianus) after its wicked rejection of the canons of the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451, and was also preyed upon by Monothelitism (Cyrus). Jerusalem succumbed to Monophysitism (Juvenal) and Origenism (Eustachius).

OBJ. 3: St. Paul the Apostle cannot be speaking of the Purgatorial fire because "if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss (zemiothesetai)" means that the damned lose the beatific vision, because those who are purified do not lose anything but instead gain much because they are "freed from evil, and clothed in purity and candor."
ANS. 3: St. Paul the Apostle is not talking about the preservation of the existence of the damned because "he will be saved" in Greek is "sothesetai" which indicates eternal salvation, not merely continued existence. "Yet so" in Greek is "houtos" which translates to "in the same manner," so St. Paul the Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches that the soul receives eternal salvation in the same manner via a cleansing fire.

OBJ. 4: Nothing is said of any intermediate place for temporal punishments in the parable of Lazarus wherein Heaven and Hell are mentioned.
ANS. 4: This is a fallacious argument from silence because plenty of other New Testament and Old Testament passages speak of an abode that is not the Hell of the damned but a place for the expiation of venial sins by fire.

OBJ. 5: The sacrament of penance/reconciliation does not continue after death.
ANS. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas replies [Summa Theologica, On Purgatory, 2:4:4a], "After this life there can be no merit in respect of the essential reward, but there can be in respect of some accidental reward, so long as man remains in the state of the way, in a sense. Consequently in Purgatory there can be a meritorious act in respect of the remission of venial sin."

OBJ. 6: There is no Purgatory; rather, souls are cleansed via death itself or after death when the souls are temporarily confined to Hell, from which they are released due to the prayers and liturgies of the Church and good deeds on their behalf by the faithful.
ANS. 6: Natural death is not sufficient to cleanse the venial sins, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out [Summa Theologica, On Purgatory, 2:4]:
bodily defect, such as obtains at the last moment of life, does not remove the corruption of concupiscence; nor does it diminish it in its root but in its act, as instanced in those who lie dangerously ill; nor again does it calm the powers of the soul, so as to subject them to grace, because tranquility of the powers, and their subjection to grace, is effected when the lower powers obey the higher which delight together in God's law.
Actual sin cannot be "remitted without an actual movement of contrition."

Indeed the souls are temporarily confined to the hell of Purgatory and released more speedily dye to the prayers and liturgies of the Church and good deeds on their behalf by the faithful, but they must also expiate the guilt of their venial sins by undergoing punishment in that part of Hell (cf. Summa Theologica, Supplement, Appendix II, art. II).

Obj. 7: The Commentary of St. John Chrysostom the Great explains 1 Cor 3:11-15 thusly: (1) fire is eternal, not temporary, purgatorial fire; (2) wood, hay, and stubble are bad deeds which fuel the eternal fire; (3) day means the day of the last judgment; (4) "saved yet so as by fire" indicates the preservation and continuance of the existence of the damned while they suffer punishment.
Ans. 7: Granted. St. John Chrysostom the Great says the following in Homily 9 on First Corinthians:
1 Cor 3:15
5. And his meaning is, He himself shall not perish in the same way as his works, passing into nought, but he shall abide in the fire.
6. And so here in saying, "he shall be saved," he has but darkly hinted at the intensity of the penalty: as if he had said, "But himself shall remain forever in punishment."
So clearly the great saint interprets the Pauline passage as discussing those who suffer the eternal punishment of the Hell of the lost, not those who suffer the temporary punishment of the hell of purgatory.

However, it must be remembered that St. John Chrysostom the Great was idiosyncratic in his exegesis of these words of the Apostle. The consensus of the Fathers is that the words refer to Purgatory; see the commentary of Sts. Cyprian of Carthage, Ambrose the Great of Milan, Jerome the Great of Strido, Pope Gregory I the Great of Rome, and Augustine the Great of Hippo, etc. It also must be pointed out that the fire of Purgatory is the fire of Hell. Thus, the Greeks need to understand that the fire of Purgatory is everlasting in its substance but temporary in its cleansing effect, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out. Note that the great Chrysostom was also idiosyncratic in his exegesis of certain Gospel passages; he stated that St. Mary sinned. Elsewhere, however, he explicitly affirmed her sinlessness. See my post "Immaculate Conception of the Ever-Virgin Mary Mother of God."

Obj. 8: We are to agree with the Orthodox interpretation of St. John Chrysostom so long as none of the Greek Fathers demonstrably disagreed with his interpretation of 1 Cor 3:11-15, and reject the Western interpretation given by people who cannot understand Greek as well as the Greeks themselves.
Ans. 8: Q.V. #3 and #7 above and #11 and #13 below. St. Gregory of Nyssa disagreed with the idiosyncratic exegesis of St. John Chrysostom the Great, and #3 contains the true meaning of the Greek.

Obj. 9: Punishment and forgiveness cannot occur simultaneously, but this happens with the Purgatorial doctrine of forgiveness of sins via punishment by fiery tortures.
Ans. 9: This objection hardly makes any sense; how does one holding the presuppositions of the objector account for medicinal/remedial punishment?

Obj. 10: Even if St. Gregory of Nyssa affirmed Purgatory, he still could be wrong because he was a mortal writing privately and Purgatory had not yet "been examined ... or determined" by an Ecumenical Council.
Ans. 10: Of course St. Gregory of Nyssa could have erred on an individual point, as is true for any Church Father; Church Fathers are individually fallible. And different Fathers have different weight in different topics. However, there are enough other Fathers we can call as witnesses to the Catholic understanding of Purgatory to say that we have a consensus of the Fathers in favor of the Catholic doctrine. Furthermore, the Council of Lyons in 1274 fulfills all the criteria for an Ecumenical council. The fear and detestation of the spread of heretical Origenistic universalist speculations on the afterlife around the Fifth Ecumenical Council might account for the perceived silence of the Church on the issue of Purgatory. The Catholic perspective, however, suffers from no Origenistic influences, but is rooted in the solid and right exegesis of Scripture.

Obj. 11: The references to purification by Purgatorial fire are allegorical. A bodiless soul cannot suffer punishment by fire.
Ans. 11: There are plenty of other Biblical passages which form a solid basis for the belief that those in Purgatory are tried by fire, and there is no reason to think that these passages are merely allegorical; indeed all senses of Scripture are based upon the literal [Wis 3:5-6; Sir 2:5; Mal 3:2-4; Zech 13:8-9; 1 Cor 3:11-17; Heb 12:29; 1 Pt 1:6-7; Jude 23; Rev 3:18-19]. The early Fathers of the Church reached a consensus that the fire of Purgatory is a real and not merely allegorical or symbolic fire; read the commentaries of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Bishop St. Cyprian of Carthage, Lactantius, Bishop St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (Doctor), Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Strido (Doctor), Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo (Doctor Gratiae), St. Caesar of Arles, and Pope St. Gregory I the Great of Rome (Doctor). And witnesses from what in the Latin perspective is the post-Patristic age, include, but are not limited to, the wonderworking St. Thomas Aquinas (Doctor Angelicus), St. Bonaventure (Doctor Seraphicus), Bishop St. Francis de Sales of Geneva (Doctor), and St. Catherine of Genoa. Scripture, Tradition, and right reason would have us believe that those in Purgatory are punished by fire. Furthermore, St. Thomas Aquinas proves in his Summa Theologica 3S:70:3 that bodiless/separated souls can be punished by a real material/corporeal fire.

Obj. 12:.The quotations by the Latins of Bishop St. Basil the Great of Caesarea (Prayer for Pentecost), Bishop St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Hieromonk St. John of Damascus, and Bishop-Martyr St. Dionysius the Areopagite of Athens, do "not prove anything to the advantage of the Church of Rome."
Ans. 12: The quotations prove that there is purifying punishment after death which, when finished, results in the acquisition of the beatific vision.

Obj. 13: Regarding your quotations from the Western Fathers: we must remember (1) the circumstances under which they wrote could have led them into error; (2) they misunderstood the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Cor 3:11-15; and (3) "the difficulty of drawing a general conclusion from many circumstances (founded on visions)."
Ans. 13: How could so many great saintly doctors over the centuries have misinterpreted 1 Cor 3:11-15? How could the consensus of the Fathers be wrong? Is there room in your house for the Western Fathers or will you shut your door to them? Do you not know that the Fathers of the East and West are of one mind?

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