Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Filipino Episcopalians debate about purgatory while Catholics no longer bother about it!

This is how the Medievals thought about Purgatory!
At the Pinoy Episcopalians Facebook group, someone posted if "Episcopalians are to believe in purgatory". This post sparked a lively discussion which has touched on the relationship of Scripture and Tradition and how classical Anglicanism has received these and if these are relevant to the 21st century. Of course the debate extended beyond Purgatory but to the importance of Authority in the Church. This is so related to the troubles plaguing Anglicans now and how the Anglican Communion may be able to preserve her unity.

Here is how one Filipino Episcopal priest has it

"Luther did not oppose the idea. he only opposed the wrong means on how to pass through it. Purgatory is not for the lost, only for believers already on the way to heaven yet have to take the long journey to life because of their attachment to the world that they live in and a world they are leaving. Purgatory is connected to fire purification, which is really meant the fiery trial a Christian has to experience due to sanctification."

Thanks to depictions by countless artists throughout the ages, many Catholics and Protestants think Purgatory is a place where there is fire to cleanse sinners. This has led to many misconceptions but the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1030-1032) states that Purgatory is a condition rather than a place and states Scriptural references that support this understanding. Blessed Pope John Paul II restated the teaching in a papal audience. The Church however teaches that there is a "cleansing fire" in Purgatory and tradition is that this is understood not in a metaphorical sense but in a real sense. Mystics have understood this as a purifying inner fire, an understanding that Pope Benedict XVI appears to endorse.

The Thirty Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England in Article XXII explicitly reject the doctrine of Purgatory as being without "warrant in Scripture" However, the Articles are not binding on Anglicans as the CCC is upon Catholics. For many Episcopalians, the Articles are of historical interest. Thus there is a wide spectrum of belief among Anglicans as as the debate on Pinoy Episcopalians would suggest, many still adhere to the idea that Purgatory is indeed a condition where  souls are purified. However many Episcopalians will still have difficulty in accepting the Roman Catholic belief on indulgences. This is at the root of medieval abuses that brought upon the Reformation. A famous Anglican, CS Lewis accepted belief in Purgatory in the way the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman understood it.

But as I had posted I am amazed that Filipino Episcopalians debate about Purgatory when Filipino Roman Catholics hardly bother about it! In fact I have never heard the doctrine being the subject of a Sunday Mass homily in the last 20 years! It must be that the subject is too pre Vatican II and it deals with the afterlife rather than this life. And many priests don't want to scare the worshipers out of their wits with talk of eternal damnation and purification!

Some Roman Catholic priests tend to believe that we are experiencing Purgatory  right now, since we have a corrupt government and we ourselves are party to this and we have cut down all the trees and so we are in an environmental mess etc. Perhaps that is true but it misses out on what the Church teaches about it and the real costs of God's purifying love.

And so it takes our Anglican brethren to remind Roman Catholics of this teaching, at least to me. I have not bothered with that doctrine ever since I was received into the Church 25 years ago!


  1. Hello:

    Brother, it seams that you are boasting enough in this webpage.. by the way I am G-one T. Paisones; a member of Catholic Faith Defenders Incorporated; I am here to accept your challenge in a public debate in the topic of Purgatory... Please reply me via facebook so that we can set immediately the date, venue, rules of the said debate...

    Gob bless..

    Veritas Liberabit Vos (John 8:32)


    G-one T. Paisones

    1. It is never a good idea for Roman Catholics of the Anglican tradition to debate Roman Catholics from the Latin tradition about Purgatory since this will show that we don't agree to the teaching and that we are divided on it, which we are not. Please debate with Evangelicals instead!

  2. Historically and doctrinally speaking, anglicans do not accept the doctrine of purgatory in the same way as the orthodox (and anglican converts to orthodoxy) also rejected it. It is well known in history how the abuses connected with the sale of indulgences: once a coin clings to the chest, a soul from purgatory rises to heavenly rest-- became the reason for the protestant reformation and the subsequent rejection of protestant churches, including the anglican church, to the very idea of purgatory along with indulgences and mass for the dead. But as seen in present liturgical praxis and in the many contemporary devotional manuals in use by different anglican churches in addition to the prayerbook, there is now an understanding that the soul of the departed returns to the nearer presence of god and grows in that state of blessed rest, hence the return of the prayers of the dead... but insofar as the pastoral considerations for the bereaved and for the memorial thanksgiving for the life of the deceased, but any mention of purgatory or idea of obtaining salvation for the soul are expressly prohibited. Anglicans, like the orthodox, do not see nor consider sin and its effects as the same as those of late medieval catholicism, there is a growing trend of seeing it as more of a pedagogical rather than penalizinf experience, hence even though there is a need for repentance, ammendment of life and mercy that reaches out even in the moment of death, but then would not dare speculate nor impose a doctrine on this matter but leave it to the wisdom, mercy and grace of god which is far better than any doctrinal speculations and would be more pastorally prudent than to follow the example of that infamous dominican friar who peddled indulgences as a ticket to freedom from purgatory that sparked the protestant reformation.


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