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Page4: Revised 09/09/1999

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On This Page: | What is Purgatory? | Questions about Purgatory | Ground Rules for Discussion | | The Machabee Question | Who Pays for My Sins? | Am I Really Forgiven? | | Who Forgives: God or Priest? | Indulgences | Where's the Penance? | Did Jesus Miss the Boat? |

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What is Purgatory?

The Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory was defined by the Council of Trent (1545 -1563). This doctrine postulates a place of incredible suffering somewhere between this life and Heaven. The doctrine essentially denies the efficacy of the death of Christ by demanding that we, and not Christ, must pay the price for our sins.

This netherworld of torment is found nowhere in the Bible. It is, however, found in the pagan mystery religions, and parallels similar places of purgation described in the 'Tibetan Book of the Dead,' and other, similar documents found in Buddhist, Hindu and other Eastern religions. On this page, we shall study the official Roman Catholic documentation about Purgatory, and compare it with the teaching of the Word of God. You will learn here that the doctrine of Purgatory not only isn't found in Scripture, but also that it contradicts Scripture, and is contradicted by Scripture. It is for you, the reader, to determine who to believe: God or Rome.

The following table contains exact quotes from the most recent edition of the Roman Catholic Catechism(1) regarding the doctrines of purgatory and forgiveness of sin (sic., confession). Since they arise naturally, the doctrines on penance and indulgences are also included. These four are inextricably interwoven in Catholic teaching - you just can not separate them!

[Ref. 1] (Pages 268-9) 1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

[Ref. 2] 1031 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgement, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39: PL77, 396; cf. Mt 12:31)

[Ref. 3] 1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." (2 Macc 12:46) From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The church also commends almsgiving, Indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.


[Ref. 4] 1459 Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance."

[Ref. 5] 1460 Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They [the penances, the 'works'] allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, provided we suffer with him.


[Ref. 6] 1471 The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance. An indulgence is a remission before God of the 'temporal' punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. [The Catholic Church] is the minister of redemption, [and it] dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.

[Ref. 7] 1484 "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God..."

[Ref. 8] 1495 Only priests who have received the faculty of absolution from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ.

Facts, or Ground Rules for Discussion

Before continuing, we need to establish the basis for our evaluation. To do this, I here list some assorted facts based on what the Roman Catholic Church declares in writing, and some sound methods for understanding Scripture. Please consider these carefully before you continue.

1. Christian doctrine must be based on Scripture.

2. The Catholic church equates its own tradition with the Word of God, making them equal.

3. When trying to decide if a given doctrine is valid, we must examine it in light of Scripture.

4. If a conflict arises between Scripture and Catholic tradition, Scripture must prevail.

5. If Scripture agrees with Tradition, the doctrine can be believed without question or doubt.

6. If scripture is silent on the doctrine, it can be believed with some reservation.

7. The Catholic church teaches the existence of a place called Purgatory (Ref 1, 2, 3).

8. The Catholic church bases its doctrine of Purgatory on its own tradition, and not on Scripture (See Ref. 2 in box above).

9. The Catholic Church declares that the only way one can be forgiven of sins (and thus saved) is by confessing one's sins to its priests in the confessional (Ref. 7, 8)

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Questions that Arise About Purgatory

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The Catholic church admits that its doctrine on Purgatory is based on its own tradition and not on the Word of God (Ref. 2). They state that the 'cleansing fire' of Purgatory is not a scriptural fact, but rather the idea of one of its saints, named Gregory the Great. This gives rise to certain questions.

Question 1. Does Scripture support or agree with the concept of Purgatory?

Answer 1. No, Scripture does not support or agree with the concept of Purgatory.

Question 2. Doesn't the Church refers to a Scripture to support the concept of Purgatory?

Answer 2. Indeed it does. It refers to a passage in the book of Machabees, where Judas Macabee offered prayers for the dead (Ref. 3.).

Question 2a. Isn't that enough evidence that prayer for the dead (in Purgatory) is valid?

Answer 2a. Not at all. There are two very good reasons why.

Just because Scripture reports a thing does not mean that thing is valid or right to do. For example, Scripture reports that the Apostles rolled dice to decide who to pick as a replacement for Judas. Does that mean it is proper for us to roll dice whenever we have a decision to make? Certainly not. Scripture only reported what was done, it did not promote the action. And, in fact, their choice for a replacement for Judas was wrong, because God himself later chose Paul to fill the empty Apostle slot.

The single 'scripture' (Ref. 3) used by Rome to justify three of its major doctrines (Purgatory, Indulgences, Prayer for the dead) is in a book you can find in the Roman Catholic Bible.... but in no other! There are dozens of bible translations and transliterations, and all of them, save for the Douay-Rheims (the official Catholic translation) they all reject the books of 1st and 2nd Machabees! Why? Because all bible scholars agree that these books are spurious, as they contain much material that is contradicted by the rest of the bible!

It is a general rule among Scriptural scholars that one must never base an entire doctrine on a single, unsupported passage of the Bible. Yet that is exactly what Rome has done! And when that passage is contradicted by hundreds of other passages, which it is, you reject it out-of-hand. Yet Rome embraces it. Go figure.

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Machabees: Another Contradiction from Rome

While we are on this subject, I must point out yet another glaring contradiction from the Roman Catholic Church. To see it, we must examine the Scripture passage in 2 Machabees 12. Here we have Judas Machabee offering money on behalf of his dead soldiers. Now notice that those same soldiers had been killed because of their idol worship, or idolatry.

Idolatry was then and is now, a capital sin, or, as Rome terms it, a mortal sin. To support the fact that idolatry is a mortal sin, the Church quotes this Scripture:

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal 5:19-21 KJV)

Think about this. First, Rome says that those who die in mortal sin go directly to hell. Second, the soldiers prayed for died in mortal sin. Third, Rome approves the action of Judas Machabee enough to base the doctrines of Purgatory, confession, and indulgences upon it. Fourth, Rome declares that the dead can have sins forgiven and be saved by prayers, indulgences and money. What is the logical conclusion here? Simple since Judas Machabee did the right thing (according to Rome), it must be possible for those who die in mortal sin to yet be saved! According to Rome, even those in Hell can go to heaven! See the inherent contradiction?

Question 3. Does Scripture contradict the concept of Purgatory?

Answer 3. Yes, it does. In many ways and places. Here are some examples.

Answer 3a. "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." (2 Cor 5:8 KJV)

Here the apostle says that there are only two states: living (present in the body) and dead (absent from the body). He also states that when we are dead (absent from the body), then we are present with the Lord. There is no 'in-between' state such as Purgatory.

Answer 3b. Remember the 'good thief?' Here is what Jesus said:

"And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42-KJV)

Now, according to Roman Catholic teaching, that thief, while he may have been 'forgiven' of his sins, still had time to do in Purgatory, right? Yet Jesus told him that on that very day, he would be in Heaven! You don't hear a word from Jesus, either in this incident or anywhere else in Scripture, about artificial distinctions between 'mortal' and 'venial' sins, nor of the artificial distinction between the 'corporal' and 'temporal' punishment due to sin! If the concepts of Purgatory, 'corporal' punishment, etc., were valid, why did Jesus here contradict it? So who is right, Jesus or Rome?

According to the doctrine of Purgatory, that thief had a whole lot of 'temporal punishment' to pay off in Purgatory. Had that thief confessed to a Catholic priest, he would have been told to go do some penance, and that he would also have to suffer in Purgatory, despite the forgiveness. Thus, the 'forgiveness' of Rome is no forgiveness at all! Rather it is a trap for guileless Catholics, enticing them to pay for masses etc.

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Forgiveness of Sins-Who Pays the Price?

The first thing I want to do here is to point out another contradiction in the teaching of Rome. Compare Ref. 4+5. In Ref. 4, Rome states that "the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance." This is pretty clear, isn't it?

Question 4a. Who, according to the Catholic Church (Ref. 4), 'expiates' (pays the price for) my sins?

Answer 4a. I do!

Now see what Rome says in Ref 5: Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They [the penances, the 'works'] allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, provided we suffer with him. This too is very clear, isn't it? It says that Jesus, and only Jesus can 'expiate' or pay the price for our sins.

Question 4b.. Who, according to the Catholic Catechism (Ref. 5), 'expiates' (pays the price for) my sins?

Answer 4b. Jesus Does!

Question 4c.. Which is correct? Rome's teaching that the sinner must pay the price for (expiate) his/her own sins, or the Bible's teaching that only Jesus can do that?

Answer 4c. [Rome is right.] [The Bible is right.] Take your pick!

You can not have it both ways! Either You do it yourself, or Jesus did it for you. For my part, I choose to believe what the Bible says, not what Rome says. What do you believe?

If Rome is correct when it says that sinners "must do something more to expiate (pay for) our sins,' then I must conclude that what Jesus did was not enough! That would be absurd.

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Forgiveness of Sins-Am I Really forgiven?

Question 5. Is the Catholic person really forgiven when he/she goes to confession?

Answer 5. No, not according to Catholic theology. The Catholic church makes an arbitrary, and artificial distinction between two types of punishment for sin... corporal and temporal. (Please note that God makes no such distinction!)

In confession you are forgiven for the 'corporal' punishment due to sin but not for the 'temporal punishment due to sin.' In short, no matter how good your confession, no matter how often you go, you always leave the confessional unforgiven! And this, despite the words of the priest who says, "I absolve you in the name of the ....." By his own theology, the priest is lying to you in the confessional. It's something to think about, isn't it!

Question 6. All other things aside, is the concept of Purgatory as a place to expiate our sins, logical from a simply rational perspective?

Answer 6. No. Rather the concept is both illogical and irrational. Compare, if you will, the positions of the repentant sinner and of the repentant thief. Let's say that you steal a thousand dollars worth of scratch tickets from a store. You get caught. The store owner says, for all to hear, "I forgive you for stealing from me. I no longer hold this against you."

Now, in this incident, you are free to go, right? Right! But what if the store owner next says, "However, even though I forgive you, I am asking the judge to send you to jail for three years to 'expiate' the crime?

What kind of forgiveness is that?! If you must spend time in jail to atone for your crime, you were not forgiven at all. The idea of 'forgiveness' here is absurd, don't you agree?

Now compare the 'forgiven' sinner as she or he exits the confessional. The priest has said, "I absolve (sic., forgive) you of your sins...." So when you leave, the 'price' for your sins has already been paid by Jesus, right? And if you get hit by a bus in the parking lot, you go straight to Heaven, right? No, according the Rome, you go straight to Purgatory (jail) to pay the price for your sins.

So you have to ask yourself, is this reasonable? Is it rational? Can you really buy into such self-contradiction?

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Forgiveness of Sins: Who Does the Forgiving?

The Roman Catholic Church reserves for itself and its priests the power and the right to forgive your sins (Ref. 7, 8). The church boldly declares that "Only priests...can forgive sins..."

Question 7. Does the Bible agree with or contradict the Catholic Church's position on the forgiveness of sins?

Answer 7. The Bible contradicts the Catholic Church's position on the forgiveness of sins. Here are just a few of the many Scriptures showing what God says about it:

"Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7 KJV)
"And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." (Luke 11:2-4 KJV)
"In whom (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" (Eph 1:7 KJV)
"If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 KJV)

Question 8. Since the Bible contradicts the Catholic Church's position on who you confess to and who forgives your sins, which will you believe:

Answer 8. [I believe what the Church says.] [I believe what God's Word says.] Your choice?

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Question 9. What are Indulgences?

Answer 9. According to Rome, an indulgence is a "remission before God of the 'temporal' punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven." (Ref 6).

Question 10. Who controls the passing out of indulgences?

Answer 10. According to Rome, the Pope is in total control over indulgences, and their disposition.

Question 11. If the Pope or the priests acting for him really has the power to shorten one's time in the terrible suffering of Purgatory (Partial Indulgence), or to get one out of there immediately (Plenary Indulgence), why doesn't he provide that service freely? Why does he keep our aunt Hattie burning in torment if, in a moment, he could stop it?

Answer 11. Rome really has no answer for this question. At least not an answer it willingly admits! And this, despite the fact that the Bible itself says to those who minister the Gospel:

"Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Mat 10:8 KJV)

However, the answer is obvious, is it not? If the Pope, with his great power and control over indulgences, were to freely grant a plenary indulgence to all Roman Catholics at their moment of death, Purgatory would be forever empty, would it not? And if Purgatory is always empty, there would be no incentive for you and I to buy a mass for Dad, Mom, Aunt Hattie, and so forth, right? No need to buy and light candles either. Rome perpetuates the myth of Purgatory and indulgences solely to make money.

Question 12a. What does the Bible say about our salvation (forgiveness of sins)?

Answer 12a. The Bible says there is only one way to be saved (i.e., forgiven of our sins) so we can go to Heaven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. See for yourself what God says:

"But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." (Acts 15:11 KJV)
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:9 KJV)

Answer 12b. The Bible says that we must repent and be baptized to have our sins forgiven and be saved:

"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:37-38 KJV)
"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:4 KJV)
"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47 KJV)
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet 3:9 KJV)

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Where's the Penance?

Look closely. Do you see either the term or the idea of penance here? No. You see instead the term and idea of repentance. According to the Bible, the forgiveness of sins comes with repentance not with penance. Repentance is a change of heart, and a change of direction, while penance is the performing of certain ritualistic works (saying a rosary or the stations, etc.).

Can you see how Rome has distorted the Word of God to its own ends? It has transformed repentance into penance as the prescription for forgiveness of sins! And to that distortion it has added the use of indulgences, which, for the most part, you pay $$ for as a means for sins to be forgiven. In short, Rome will sell you salvation for a price in both money and performance. In other words, in Rome you are 'saved' by works not by grace!

This is exactly opposite to what the Bible teaches!

See how Rome compares with the Word of God:

Salvation: Rome vs. God

According to Rome According to God
1. Confess sins to a Catholic Priest; 2. Do some penance (good works); 3. Have faith in the Catholic Sacraments; 4. Buy some masses (more good works); 5. Earn some indulgences (more good works).
  1. Confess sins to God alone; 2. Repent of your sins; 3. Have faith in Christ.

I don't know about you, but when I finally discovered this truth, I was, like, really angry, upset, exacerbated. There I was, a good Catholic boy who had been fed a pack of lies in the name of God! The church I was raised in had deceived me - she taught me the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Question 13. Now that you understand the contradiction between Rome and God, which do you choose to believe?

Answer 13. [I believe Rome.] [I believe God.]

Question 14. Do you now see that those who believe in Rome's teaching on confession and penance are denying God's own word, and the true value of the sacrifice of Jesus?

Answer 14. [Yes] [No]

Question 15. If you choose to believe God rather than Rome, what is the point of going to confession, doing penance, buying masses and candles and working for indulgences?

Answer 15. [A. No point at all.] [B. It feels good.]

[C. I resent you making me think.] [D. You are scaring me.]

If your answer is (A), why do you keep doing those things and offending God?

If your answer is (B), are the warm fuzzies reason enough to contradict God's Word?

If your answer is (C), where is the resentment coming from, and why?

If your answer is (D), where is the fear coming from?

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Did Jesus Miss the Boat?

Since Rome makes Purgatory such an important doctrine, we should expect Jesus and the Apostles to speak clearly of it, right? Wrong. Read the entire New Testament and you won't find a single word about Purgatory!

Jesus and the Apostles did speak of salvation, however. They spoke often about it. Jesus even gave us parables to explain it. Remember the story of the prodigal son? You can find it in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, verses 11-32. Here was the story of salvation in a nutshell. The errant son had a change of heart (repentance) and returned to his father (God). What a great opportunity for Jesus to tell us about purgatory, and the need to 'expiate' or pay the price for our own sins as taught by Rome.

Jesus missed the boat! He completely forgot about purgatory and the distinction between corporal and temporal punishment due to sin! Jesus overlooked the most important doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church! Imagine that! Well, maybe Jesus just had a rough day and forgot?

Jesus tells another parable of interest here - that of Lazarus the beggar, and the rich man who refused to help him. You can read this story in Luke 16: 20-31. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who taught me for eight years of grammar school, told me the rich man's name was Dives. Since its not recorded in Scripture, I guess that tidbit came from the infallible pope.

Anyhow, after you read the story of Lazarus, try your hand at the following questions.
QUESTION: Where did Lazarus go when he died? Your answer?
QUESTION: Where did the rich man go when he died? Your answer?

Yes, you are right. Lazarus went straight to 'Abraham's bossom' which is figurative language for the presence of God. You are right again if you said that the rich man went straight to Hell.

QUESTION: What happened to Purgatory?!

Good question! Once again Jesus completely overlooked purgatory! How thoughtless of him. How on earth could Jesus, who Catholics agree is God in the flesh, have such a memory lapse?

Could it be that it was not a memory lapse? Could it be that Jesus never once mentioned Purgatory because there is no such place? Could it be that the Roman Catholic Church invented purgatory, or borrowed the idea from pagan religions? After all, you do find such a place of 'expiation for sins' in most, if not all of the ancient pagan religions. Is it possible that Rome has deceived you? It's something to think about!

QUESTION: How important, or real is purgatory if Jesus failed to mention it?
Your answer?

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The Wrap-Up

Well, dear surfer, that's about it for now. I took a lot of time and space to put this together for you. Why? Because it is important that you see with clarity what the church of Rome has done to you, as it has to me and so many others.

If my questions make you feel uncomfortable, I am glad. They should do that. Whenever any of our cherished beliefs is challenged, we all feel that way, don't we! I just hope that you will use any discomfort to spur you to further examine the doctrines of Rome and that you will have the strength and courage to do what your own reason suggests about what you discover.

If your reaction is one of fear, I understand. I went through a lot of fear myself when I began to seriously consider the faith I was brought up in. Rome is nothing else if not a religion of fear! As she teaches, Rome gives a lot of press to Purgatory and its terrible pain and suffering. That alone creates deep-seated fear, especially when we are children. As we grow, the fear comes along for the ride.

Most Catholics, when they begin to question, are confronted with almost paralyzing fear and anxiety. After all, we were told from the beginning that the Catholic Church is the only true church, and that there is no salvation outside of it. We were given the fear of hell, the fear of purgatory, the fear of missing mass, the fear of missing confession, the fear of making a 'bad' confession fear, fear, and more fear. And not a word of truth to any of it.

What a startling contrast between the fear of Rome and the joy and freedom of Christ! How could anyone choose the fear and darkness of false religion over the light, love, peace and joy of freedom in Jesus Christ?

QUESTION: Would you like to review God's simple plan of salvation? Want to see how you can exchange the bondage of cannon law, the sacramental system, the confessional, penance, indulgences for the peace and joy of true salvation through Jesus Christ, and Him alone?
Your Answer?



Since you answered 'No,' I may have failed you in some way. I would really like to hear from you, and understand your reply. I invite you to visit my Message Board and leave any message that you wish. And, thank you very much for taking the time to read this page.

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End Notes

1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Copyright 1994, United States Catholic Conference. Imprimi Potest, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; ISBN: 0-8198-1519-5