Casey is surprised about this story that reports of Pope Benedict XVI offering relief from purgatory to Roman Catholics who travel to Lourdes over the next year. I thought that it might help to show this diagram and the following excerpt from catholic.com:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030). It notes that "this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1031).

The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
From Wikipedia:
Mortal sin, according to the beliefs of Roman Catholicism, is a sin that, unless confessed and absolved (or at least sacramental confession is willed if not available), condemns a person's soul to Hell after death. The phrase is used in I John 5.16 -17:
"If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one - to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal." (NRSV)
In all Catholic moral theology, a mortal sin, as distinct from a venial sin, must meet all of the following conditions:
Its subject must be a grave (or serious) matter;

It must be committed with full knowledge, both of the sin and of the gravity of the offense;

It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent.
I am not an expert in this but thought that it would be helpful to understand this theological difference when discussing the afterlife with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.. and please do not use this post as an opportunity to bash Catholicism.. though Luther objected to the selling of indulgences.. we Protestants have our own issues around the raising of money.


  1. But all our sins are forgiven by Jesus once and for all when we become Christians, so how could a mortal sin send us to hell?

  2. I think they're wrong about Pergatory, but that's not really what bothers me. What bothers me is that any mortal human being would presume to make promises to another about what he can do for them in the afterlife. That's outright blasphemy if you ask me.

  3. Wow, this brings back memories! I was raised Catholic, even went to Catholic elementary school. I walked away from it at age 13.

  4. Michaela.. most Protestants would probably say that the sin of not believing in Jesus is a mortal sin that sends them to hell.

    Casey.. Protestants also make promises about the afterlife.. they couch them in bible verses but often it is just their own interpretation of those verses.. Calvinism or Arminianism anyone?

    Barbara.. yeah, the Pope's actions brought back memories for many of us.

  5. Making a statement about what we can expect in the afterlife based on the Bible is something completely different, Bob. The Pope is not telling us what heaven is going to be like based on God's word. He's telling us that he can guarantee that we will spend less time in Pergatory if we do this particular thing for him. You don't think that is usurping God's authority? How can any human being promise to do anything for us in the afterlife?

  6. I don't disagree with you Casey.. from a theological perspective. I just think that it not too different for a Southern Baptist preacher to adamantly say things like..

    "if you pray what I say to pray you will always be saved"

    than it is for the Pope to say

    "if you do this then you will escape purgatory"

    ..salvation is a heart thing and often religious leaders like to make pronouncements about things that they are clueless about.

    Hope this makes sense.. I am not defending or agreeing with the Pope's actions.. just saying that it is not all that different from what other leaders do.

  7. I thought you said a mortal sin is one you commit with full knowledge and it's really serious and on and on. That isn't specifically not believing in Jesus.

    And Bob, you are right and not right at the same time. Protestants do say stuff about people's eternal salvation but when that pastor says, "pray what I pray" it's from the Bible. It includes saying that you believe Jesus is your Lord and Saviour and He died on the cross to save our sins, etc. Of course, in the Bible it doesn't say we need to say a little prayer to be saved.

    But I don't really like debating about purgatory because the idea of purgatory is only in the Catholic bible. So what are you supposed to say? You're reading two different books.

  8. A lot of Protestants do say, "Pray the Sinner's Prayer and you will be saved." Even if you were to argue that the Sinner's Prayer is not in the Bible, the point is that these people are basing their statements on what they believe the Bible says that God will do.

    The Pope, however, is claiming this authority for himself. The whole point of this offer is that "It is the latest initiative to get more pilgrims to the shrine...The offer comes as the shrine prepares to commemorate the 150th anniversary..." It's not a valid comparison, in my opinion.

    Now, if you had a Protestant church that was saying you had to come to their church to be saved or that visiting their church could guarantee salvation, I'd call that blasphemy, too, and there are cults that do that.

  9. Thanks Michaela and Casey for hanging in there with me on this.

    Of course I agree with most of what you have both written and I do think that most Protestant churches are representative of your sentiments.. however I do think that there is a subtle message.. especially in fundamentalism.. that you have to come to Jesus in the narrow way that they ascribe to.. you have to pray a certain formulaic prayer.. be baptized in a certain way.. believe certain "biblical" truths.. well you get the idea.

    These churches are not generally considered cults but certainly have cultic practices. Their pastors often act in ways similar to the Pope in that they are accountable only to God for what they say and do.. and they say some pretty outlandish things.. especially when they speak of money.

    Well, I probably have exhausted my reach in this one.

    Happy Sunday, Bob

  10. As (your only?) visiting Catholic, I will point out that Luther RIGHTFULLY objected to the SELLING of indulgences. That was a stupid abuse and terrible theology, never sanctioned by the Church but had gotten really popular among people who decided it would be easier to buy their salvation, encouraged by some clergy who were either ignorant or greedy. Germany was a real center of this fashionable idiocy, so it caught Luther's attention, and rightly so.

    I should choose this moment to correct some mistakes: I would be happy to sling Scripture with you about the existence of purgatory (think of the man's works that are tested as though by fire), and I would be love to once and for all get the idea of people's heads of a "Catholic Bible" since it was the only Bible until Luther removed the Deuterocanonical books, which even appeared in the first King James' translation of the Bible, but you can do that yourselves with about thirty seconds' googling.

    But instead let me say that us bead-squeezers are assured of God's Mercy and riveted by God's Judgment, knowing, as Scripture teaches, that nothing unclean can be in God's presence, so who could ever be worthy? We have all sinned and fallen short.... but our Savior and Lord gives us without our merit the Grace to believe and persevere.

    But we also know that our sins have temporal effects, about which we must acknowledge and make amends (think of old Shorty Zaccheus who in his joy at meeting the Savior gives back fourfold all he stole - the impulse for remediation is part of God's Law written in our hearts). And sin has weakening effects on our conscience and will, and can only be countered with His Grace, and we need reminding of that constantly.

    Wanting to be faithful all my life, yet knowing that my human nature is damaged by sin, I look forward to meeting the fire of God's Love, to have all my temporal impurities, all the damaging sinfulnesses burned away. To be clothed in spotless white and stand before the Lamb in praise of His Glory.

    I know as a Catholic just like you do that Jesus saved me, saves me, and will save me by His Death and Resurrection. He opened the door of Heaven and provided the only Way. Only by His Grace can I believe in Him, hope in Him and love Him. Surely you don't think I believe anything differently than you?

    In Confession, I heal my relationship (NOT my salvation) with Him and with His people. It takes some courage to confess my mistakes, and the humility granted by that step of true remorse and developing conscience is a great healer. I started going back to Confession after a 25-year absence (I think they had to repaint the confessional!) and I am learning to actually love that special time of forgiveness.

    Thanks for posting this: I knew B16's speech would confuse my Protestant brothers and sisters, and some of my Catholic ones, too. It's hard to understand indulgences unless you have a good understanding of our different understandings of the role of God's Grace in our lives at every moment AND the differences in our uses of the words salvation, justification and redemption. Lots of theological ground to cover, there.

    No Protestant-bashing intended, but I felt I had to get some things understood. Everybody okay?

  11. i don't even thing purgatory has a biblical basis

  12. Oh my..I can't even comment on this. And there's a diagram to boot.

  13. Ok, you're right Bob. A lot of Protestants, even just Christians, say that you need to believe all these doctrines and stuff like that to be a Christian. But it's rather dumb to me. All you have to believe in to be a Christian is that Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, it says so in the bible ;) So you're right and I agree.

    And I also agree with Casey.

    So let's put it this way: no church is perfect and we all do stupid things.

  14. Believing that "Jesus is Lord". I am washed clean, as white as snow by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, who died for ALL sins. When God sees me, he sees the perfection of Jesus. No more work need be done.


  15. By the way, there is no diagram like that in the Catechism. Wikipedia should not be mistaken for careful composition OR catechism. Anybody can get in there and rearrange things, to their own taste.

    Question: if God sees Jesus instead of me, then why would Jesus ask for us to be meek, to be humble, to be poor in spirit? Why would he ask the rich young man to sell everything he owned and follow Him? Why are we admonished to take up our crosses? Why are we asked to be perfect as the Father is perfect? Why should we feed the hungry or clothe the naked? If God sees Jesus, don't we just have to stand still?

    I don't see any such instruction in the Bible, nor do I see the Acts church behaving in that fashion. We are knit into the Body of Christ: we all have need of each other, and if one part suffers, all suffer. Doesn't that consciousness make us aware of the effect our sins have on His Body now?

    Did "repenting" stop at some point?

  16. I'd be happy to remove the diagram if it is in error TZ.. just tell me what is in error.

  17. It's not an error, it's just not "official." It's kind of simplistic. It's fine, but our relationship with God and with His Body is rarely that clean-cut, is it?

  18. TZ, you're awesome... thanks for your comments here. :-)

    -MTR (or FTM, or whatever)


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