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Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory, part 6—Indulgences and Necromancy
The Catholic Catechism States the Following Regarding Indulgences:
#1471 “What is an indulgence? ‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.’ [Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1] ‘An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.’ [Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; cf. Norm 3] Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.”
#1478 “An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.”
#1479 “Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.”
#1032 “…The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and communicate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”
Indulgences and Necromancy:
The Catholic Church technically forbids selling religious rituals; money is not exchanged for spiritual favors, at least not officially speaking. As with most Catholic doctrines what happens is that we end up in a maze of semantics. For example, the language that Catholics employ when requesting a Mass intention is that of buying a Mass or purchasing a Mass and asking how much it cost, never I would like to offer a donation of an unspecified amount for a free service. While officially intentions are neither bought nor sold the fact is that there is a set price for Mass intentions (ten dollars locally) that must be paid, a forced donation is not a donation it is a sale. If it was a donation then when the intention was requested the office staff would be trained to tell you that you could donate one dollar, five dollars, thirty dollars or nothing at all, yet they are taught to collect an amount specified by the local Archbishop. A Mass intention is when the name of a deceased person, a sick person, or a person having a birthday etc. is mentioned during Mass, which gains the intention for them. For example, a Mass for the deceased gains them time off of Purgatory.
The concept of indulgences is brilliant, as a money making scheme that is. Consider this metaphor, the concept is tantamount to advertising a product but the buyer never sees it and cannot know for sure if it exists or if it is functioning. Moreover, when the buyer comes to purchase the product they are told for example, that they are to pay ten dollars per month. Then when the buyer asks, “How much does it cost all together? How do I know when to stop paying the ten dollars per month?”
The response would be “You can’t know when to stop paying and we don’t either, just keep sending the money month after month always and forever.” This sort of abuse would never stand in the world of retail and it should certainly never fly in the world of religion. Yet, when we consider that indulgences were made immensely popular as a means to make money to use for the building of St. Peter’s church we should not be surprised.
Martin Luther retells the concerns of lay persons in his Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences commonlyknown as the 95 Theses numbers 81-83 state, “This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity; They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls?
This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?”
The Bible is extremely clear about buying and selling spiritual gifts:
Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’
Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin’ (Acts 8:17-23).
Father Oscar Lukefahr,
The Church applies indulgences to the deceased, following the biblical teaching of Paul that members of Christ’s Body can help one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and that the merits of one member can be applied to others (Colossians 1:24). 1
Due to reading preconceived notions into the text, Roman Catholic doctrine often makes connections where there are none to be made. No one would ever read a connection between the living and the dead from these texts from the plain and contextual reading. For example, consider that Paul states “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you…” (Colossians 1:24). Clearly he (a living man) is referring to the (living) people to whom he is writing in stating “for you” the (living) people who are reading his letter.
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.,
to have a Mass offered for a person is very powerful.…the person may be in purgatory, and then the Mass obtains either deliverance from purgatory, or lessens the time in purgatory, or finally, reduces the intensity of the suffering in purgatory. 2
What comes to mind is the question “How do you know?” This also contradicts the following quote.
Fr. Pat McCloskey wrote, “Prayers for the deceased are not a means of buying their way out of purgatory.”3
Most Rev. E. K. Lynch, O. Carm.,
a person could live for years in the state of grace and have the misfortune to fall into grievous sin. If death overtook him before he had a chance to go to confession or to make an act of perfect contrition, he would be lost. 4
This is the epitome of works based salvation. We are no longer saved by grace through faith rather; we are saved by the work of confession. What would happen if you were on your way to the confession and got into a car wreck and died? Who could live with such spiritual paranoia?
John L. Stoddard,
Scripture certainly teaches that souls in Heaven retain their love for us, and that they are, to some extent at least, aware of what transpires here. Jesus Himself assures us that ‘joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.’ He also tells us:—‘There is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.’…
in the Book of Revelation (viii. 3) we read of an Angel, whose duty it is to ‘offer the prayers of all saints upon the altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God.’ Moreover, in the same book (v. 8), we read of ‘golden vials full of perfume, which are the prayers of saints.’…
Now the prayers of the Saints and Angels can hardly be for themselves, but must rather be for those who need their prayers,—that is, for the poor sinners in this world…Just how the Saints and Angels are made aware of our petitions need not concern us. 5
Oddly enough he does not mention the one text that would come the closest to making his point, “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:9-10). It does not seem clear whether the souls under the altar have knowledge of what is occurring on Earth or if they are merely aware that all is not as it should be in heaven. Therefore, it seems to be somewhat speculative to state that Scripture certainly teaches that souls in Heaven…are, to some extent at least, aware of what transpires here.
The next issue is the statement the prayers of the Saints and Angels can hardly be for themselves. There is absolutely no mention in the Bible of angel’s prayers, angels communicate with God by coming right into His presence and speaking to Him face to face, they don’t need to pray.
What we also see is that because Roman Catholicism designates specific special holy people as saints (canonized saints) when Mr. Stoddard reads the word saint in the texts he quoted he automatically, by preconceived notions, thinks that they are (especially holy) dead people already in heaven. Note that the text states that twenty-four elders are offering the prayers of the saints to God. They are specifically numbered at twenty-four but Roman Catholicism has canonized hundreds of saints. There is also no particular indication that the prayers were directed at the elders or the angels and that they in turn are now interceding and giving them over to God.
A very important and interesting point to make is that Roman Catholics believe that they can pray to saints and even their own dead relatives because these people are already in the presence of God. However, the very same religious system that teaches them that also teaches that in reality they cannot know when these dead people have gotten out of Purgatory and have gone to heaven. Also note that even the Apostles of Jesus Christ are said to have gone to Purgatory. These people may be in Purgatory for years, decades, centuries, millennia or as the apparition as Fatima put it until the end of the world.6
Catholic apologist Tim Staples said,
In the book of Job, for example, God will not accepted the prayers of the men who are criticizing Job. He [God] asks them, ‘You pray to Job or I’m not going to hear your prayers.’ It was through the intercession of Job that these fellows had their sins forgiven.7
It must be noted here that there is a vast difference between Job’s friends or his children and those in Purgatory. While Job interceded for his friends and offered sacrifices for his children they were still living but those in Purgatory are dead. It is equally important to note there is absolutely no indication that once Job’s children died Job continued to offer sacrifices for them nor does he pray for them. King David prayed for his dying son yet, once the child died he never again prayed for him. It appears that Job’s actions are told to us in a descriptive and not a prescriptive manner.
Catholic dogma draws little or no distinction between the living and the dead. For example, Catholicism teaches that praying to dead people is acceptable because living people are told to pray for one another in the New Testament. Yes, living people are told to pray for one another but there is not one single verse that states that living people are to pray for the dead. Moreover, God makes it clear that making contact with the dead is an offense,
thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).
Necromancy is generally understood to mean communication with the dead. Technically it is “conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events.”8
It is clear that Roman Catholicism teaches that it is totally acceptable to contact the dead in prayerful state in order to ask them to influence the course of events.
Certain other offenses were punishable by death as well such as breaking the Sabbath however, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law, He is the Lord of the Sabbath (see Matthew 12:8 & Luke 6:5). There is no indication in the Bible that would make it acceptable to make contact with the dead. Also far beyond praying to Catholic Canonized saints Catholics also pray to their dead relatives, Mary, Joseph and angels,
O dearestSt. Joseph, I entrust myself to your honor and give myself to you that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation…O my good Guardian Angel, whom God has entrusted to be my guardian…St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our safeguard against wickedness and snares of the devil…”9
We should not be surprised that when a person engages in practices such as necromancy odd and Biblically un-approved things begin to occur. Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J., wrote,
Apparitions of the souls that are in Purgatory are of frequent occurrence. We find them often in great numbers in the ‘Lives of the Saints’; they happen sometimes to the ordinary faithful….God has allowed souls in Purgatory to appear on earth to plead for prayers, sacrifices, and Masses for their relief.10
Also, along with requests for buying Mass intentions (or even performing other acts which gain indulgences) we often see emotionally charged and guilt ridden pleas. For example, Hermano Juan Sandoval11 told a very common Purgatory-indulgence metaphor.
He said that if we were standing with a friend by a fire and our friend fell in who would not reach their hand out to pick them up out of the fire, he then applied this logic to those in Purgatory. In the actual word of God there is simply no such thing, not even any indication or slight hint, that dead people will or should appear to us to ask us to spend money for their sake or to ask us to pray for the dead.
Moreover, we are taught that we can suffer in the place of those in Purgatory,
St. Catherine of Siena, in order to spare her father the pains of Purgatory, offered herself to the Divine Justice to suffer in his stead during her whole life. God accepted her offer, inflicted the most excruciating torments upon her, which lasted until her death, and admitted the soul of her father into eternal glory. In return this blessed soul frequently appeared to his daughter to thank her, and to make to her many useful revelations. 12
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; renowned theologian, Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the former Holy Office), which is the most important Vatican curial office, charged with the preservation and promotion of Catholic orthodoxy, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, stated, “The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love.’” 13
Apparently our suffering in this world is not enough, Purgatory is the kind of dogma that encourages us to suffer even more in place of the dead (did Jesus not suffer for us?) our reward is that these dead people will appear to us and give us revelation. This is taught in direct opposition of the words of Abraham as told by Jesus, “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:31).
Within context the lesson of the text is that if we do not believe in the Bible we will not believe even if someone resurrects. In its connection to these necromantic and apparition teachings the point is that since we have the Bible we should not pray to or for the dead. We also do not need the dead to appear to us and give us new revelations. From everything we learn in the Bible if St. Catherine offered her own suffering for the sake of her father, God would have told her “My Son has accomplished His task. He specifically stated ‘It is finished-paid in full’” (John 19:30).
Note also that in number 29 of his 95 Theses, Martin Luther stated, “Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).” Not only is the point that there are Catholic traditions that teach that some in Purgatory are willing to be there for their entire stay but that they can help us who are still on Earth.
Pope Benedict XVI also places responsibility for the already dead upon the living when he stated:
‘The biblicism which was first developed in the Protestant tradition and which has rapidly come into Catholic theology as well. Here people maintain that those explicit passages of Scripture about the state which tradition calls ‘Purgatory’ (the term is certainly a relatively late one, but the reality was evidently believed by Christians from the very beginning) are inadequate and insufficiently clear.
But as I have said elsewhere, this biblicism has scarcely anything to do with the Catholic understanding, according to which the Bible must be read within the Church and her faith. My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it.’ Why? ‘Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread – at all times and in all cultures – as prayer for one’s own departed dear ones.’
‘…The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love.’ 14
We also get a hint at Roman Catholicism often dangerous syncretism. The claim is that Purgatory makes sense because all cultures pray for their dead, yet these are the same culture that have beliefs and practices that are condemned by God. The reason we stated dangerous syncretism is that what we often see in Roman Catholic practice is that it will bow down to and conform to culture rather than raising the culture up to excellence, which is the standard of the Gospel.
We also learn that living people visit Purgatory and are lead there by angels. What sort of angels these are may be answered by noting that Scripture tells us that, “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2nd Corinthians 11:14).
The vision of Purgatory has been granted to many holy souls. St. Catherine de Ricci descended in spirit into Purgatory every Sunday night; St. Lidwina, during her raptures, penetrated into this place of expiation, and, conducted by her angel guardian, visited the soul in their torments. In like manner, an angel led Blessed Osanne of Mantua through this dismal abyss. 15
In Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences commonly known as the 95 Theses, Martin Luther points out that even within the laws of Roman Catholicism there is a line drawn between living and dead, the dead are no longer under church laws.
#8, “The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.”
#10, “It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.”
#13, “Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.”
The point is clear, by its teaching on Purgatory the Roman Catholic Church is attempting to have some sort of control (apply canon law) over the dead.
The following quotes are from an article written by Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J., he points out that praying for the dead in relation to Purgatory is a relic of the pre-Christian past which was taught to native Americans by likening it to their own Day of the Dead and has likewise been used in Christianizing the concept of ancestor worship. He also demonstrates that All Souls Day is traced back to over 600 to 1300 years after Christ.
Spanish-speaking Catholics today popularly refer to All Souls Day as El Dia de los Muertos, a relic of the past when the pre-Christian Indians had a Day of the Dead; liturgically, the day is referred to as El Dia de las Animas. The French Jesuit missionaries in New France in the 17th century easily explained All Souls Day by comparing it to the local Indian Day of the Dead…
Ancestor worship was also well known in China and elsewhere in Asia, and missionaries there in times gone by perhaps had it easier explaining All Souls Day to them, and Christianizing the concept, than they would have to us in the Western world as the 20th century draws to a close…
The doctrine of purgatory, rightly understood as praying for the dead, should never give offense to anyone who professes faith in Christ…
When we discuss All Souls Day, we look at a liturgical commemoration which predated doctrinal formulation itself, since the Church often clarifies only that which is being undermined or threatened. The first clear documentation for this celebration comes from Isidore of Seville (d. 636; the last of the great Western Church Fathers)…
Pope Sylvester in 1003 approved and recommended the practice…from the 11th to the 14th century, it spread in France, Germany, England and Spain. Finally, in the 14th century, Rome placed the day of the commemoration of all the faithful departed in the official books of the Western or Latin Church…
November 2 was chosen in order that the memory of all the holy spirits, both of the saints in heaven and of the souls in purgatory, should be celebrated in two successive days…All Saints Day goes back to the fourth century, but was finally fixed on November 1 by Pope Gregory in 835.16
Note that Fr. Van Hove stated that, “the Church often clarifies only that which is being undermined or threatened.” Statements such as this are often made by Roman Catholics in order to explain away the vast amount of time (often millennia) that passes from the time of the Apostles from which they allegedly get their doctrine to the time that it becomes Roman Catholic dogma.
What he fails to mention is that when the Church formally defines dogma it goes far beyond clarifying that which is being undermined or threatened. What the Roman Catholic Church does in its official declarations is that it places anathema (condemnation) on those who do not accept the teaching as is. In the case of the inauguration of a Feast Day in relation to a new official dogma, the penalty for not attending Mass for that day places mortal sin upon the Catholic. According to the Catholic Catechism if one dies with unrepented mortal sin they will go to hell for all eternity unless they confess it to a priest. Even if they died with repented-forgiven mortal sin they still have to suffer for it in Purgatory. This is a flagrant disregard of Paul’s teaching about the freedom we have in Christ,
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it (Romans 14:5-6).
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you (Galatians 4:8-11).
1. Fr. Oscar Lukefahr, C.M., Director of Catholic Home Study Services, one of America’s most popular interpreters of Catholic faith and the Bible, “We Believe…” A Survey of the Catholic Faith, Revised and Cross-Referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori, MO.: Liguori Publications, 1990), Imprimatur Potest: William A. Nugent, C.SS.R. Provincial, St. Louis Province, The Redemptorists, Imprimatur: Monsignor Maurice F. Byrne, Vice Chancellor, Archdiocese of St. Louis. p. 66
2. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.; a leading authority in his field, he is also a professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies in Catholic Doctrine, Ask Father Hardon, catholic.net, Copyright 1998 Inter Mirifica
3. Fr. Pat McCloskey, O.F.M., “Ask a Franciscan,” St. Anthony’s Messenger, Nov. 2000, p. 48
4. Most Rev. E. K. Lynch, O. Carm. General of the Carmelite Order, The Scapular of Carmel (Washington: World Apostolate of Mary, AMI Press, nd) Nihil Obstat: Romae, 20 Januarii 1955, Kennetus Leahy, Censor Dep.. Imprimatur: E Vicariatu Civit, Vatic., 1 Martii 1955, Fr. Canisius van Lierde, Ep. Porphyr. Vic. Gen. Civ. Vat. p. 16
5. John L. Stoddard, Rebuilding a Lost Faith (New York: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, nd.) Nihil Obstat: C. Schut, D.D., Censor Deutatus. Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasteri, Die 21 Martii, 1922. pp. 180-181
6. John Vennari, A World View Based on Fatima, This edited transcript of a speech given at the Fatima: World Peace 2000 conference, October 1999 helps us better understand the real background to the full Fatima Secret. The Fatima Crusader, Summer 2000, Issue 64 (Published by the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada:), pp. 103-105
7. Quoted from a broadcast of The Bible Answer Man radio program
8. Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster
9.Alliance of the Two Hearts (Two Hearts Media Organization printed in the USA, 1997), pp. 5, 8, 17. Nihil Obstat: +Most Rev. Leo Drona, SDB, DD, Bishop of San Jose, Bueva Ecija, 10-13-97. Imprimatur: +His Eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, DD, Archbishop of Cebu 10-13-97
10. Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J., Purgatory, Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints (Rockford, IL.: Tan Books and Publishers, 1926, 1991 ed.), p. xxxvi, back cover. Nihil Obstat: H.M. Bayley, Censor deputatus. Imprimatur: +Herbetus Cardinal Vaughan, Archiep. Westmonasterien, 10-11-1893
11. At a class on Roman Catholicism held at St. Joseph on the Rio Grande Roman Catholic Church, Alb., NM. on March 20th, 2001
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