Following a discussion with my good friend Dr Cooper, and the helpful comments to the previous post on this topic, I think I can take this discussion a step further. My apologies at this point to Pastor Mark and Matthias for not taking the discussion immediately to scriptural points – I feel that there is a little “prolegomena” required first on what we mean by “temporal punishments”, as this relates directly to the use of “penitential language” in the doctrine of Purgatory.
Sin itself is of different kinds (and Lutherans and Catholics define these slightly differently but agree on the matter):
a) Original sin (“inherited” from our first parents, the consequence of the Fall)
b) actual sin (commission or ommission)
c) Concupiscence (the “tendancy” to sin, which Trent said was not “sin in the proper sense”, and Lutherans tend to conflate with the effect of original sin – I refer the reader to Christopher Burgwald’s thesis on this)
Then we need to outline and clarify what the consequences of sin are. As I understand it, they are:
1) separation from communion with God (loss of “friendship” with God)
2) separation from communion with the Church (from God’s ekklesia, the assembly/communion of the saints)
3) attachment to sin
4) the effect of my sin on creation and on other people
5) the imposition of penance by the Church
Again as I understand it, when the Church speaks of “eternal punishments”, they are speaking of (1) separation from communion with God. When the Church says that the “guilt of sin” is forgiven, they mean that this eternal punishment is remitted, and the sinner is reconciled to God (1) and to the Church (2). From my reading of Trent and knowledge of the history of the development of Penitential practice in the Church, “temporal punishments” specifically mean (5) the imposition of penance by the Church. This penance is imposed by the Church by her authority to “bind and loose” (I did say in my very first post on this topic that an understanding of Purgatory required the belief that the Church does this with divine authority, and that this was one of the difficulties in the ecumenical dialogue).
That leaves (2), (3), and (4) above. I have a question about (2) (see the end of this post), but for now want I to concentrate on “attachment to sin” (3) and “the effect of my sin on the world and others” (4). These are clearly “temporal consequences” of sin, and it is my thought now that part of the “confusion” that Cardinal Pole finds in the Catechism is that it does tend to include these at times under the discussion of the “temperal punishments” of sin. Eg. in CCC 1472, “an unhealthy attachment to creatures” is described as “temporal punishment”. Reg is quite right, I think, in pointing out to us that “temporal punishments”, at least in the Tridentine teachings, refers specifically to (5) “the imposition of penance by the Church” – an imposition which is by divine authority.
My thoughts on this have been clarified somewhat by consideration of what it could mean when we say that Baptism removes not only Original sin (A), and forgives the guilt of all actual sin (B), but also removes all “temporal punishment”. The only reference I could find to this was in Sheen/Joseph “Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine” p476:
REMISSION OF ALL SIN AND PUNISHMENT. Sanctifying Grace, infused into our soul at Baptism, removes every trace of sin, original and actual, and extinguishes any debt of temporal punishment which we may have incurred through actual sin committed before baptism.
I would be very grateful if someone could point me to a document of the Church’s Magisterium that asserts this (Sheen/Joseph does not give any reference), but I am happy to accept that this is the Church’s teaching. That being so, “temporal punishments” here can only refer to (5) “the imposition of penance by the Church”. It cannot refer to “attachment to sin” (3) or “the effect of my sin on creation and other people” (4), since quite obviously baptism does not remove these temporal consequences. Only “a conversion which proceeds from fervant charity can attain complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain” (CCC 1472). Unless if we are to say that at the moment of baptism this “fervant charity” is infused along with Sanctifying Grace would it make sense to say that Baptism removes “attachment to sin” (3). I find it difficult to see how Baptism could remove “the effect of my sin on creation and other people” (4). But perhaps here it is important to see that what both Sheen/Joseph and the Catechism are talking about is the “debt” of “temporal punishment” as regards the soul of the individual sinner, and not necessarily the temporal consequence (4) itself.
In any case, the doctrine that Baptism removes the “debt of temporal punishment” seems to indicate that the “debt” in mind is the debt of “Penance imposed by the Church” (5). This indeed is true, for the catechumen who is baptised is not required to (and never in history has been required to) do “penance” for sin committed before baptism, that is, the newly baptised are never enrolled in the “order of penitents”. Penance is required only for sin after baptism. In this way, we can see that it makes perfect sense to teach that the full “debt of temporal punishment” extinguished by baptism. Nevertheless, only the attainment of “fervant charity” can actually attain to the “complete purification of the sinner”. I think that is something that surely both Lutheran and Catholic can agree upon. The guilt of sin is fully forgiven by true repentance (perfect contrition) and by absolution (even when the repentance, though sincere, may not be “perfect” – ie. attrition), but the individual human soul is only truly purified of all “attachment to creatures” (3) by “fervant charity”. And – to take Ratzinger’s line – the “fervant charity” that purifies the soul, the “fire of purgation”, is surely the soul’s encounter with the Love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
Co-relating all these strands is not an easy matter, and hence “confusion” will probably continue to reign on this matter. It helps if we remember that while the explicit doctrine of Purgatory arose in the West as a direct result of the penitential system (which began very early in the Church’s history, but developed differently in the East and the West), yet the penitential system cannot be said to have “created” Purgatory (although, perhaps, this is precisely what our dialogue partners may say). That would be to make the existence of an eternal and metaphysical reality dependant upon an historical development, rather like saying that the resurrection of the dead on the last day became “true” when ancient Judaism finally arrived (after centuries of reflection on the nature of Israel’s relationship with their God) at a developed doctrine of resurrection. For this reason, I continue to insist that while the categories in which the doctrine of Purgatory has been enunciatied and defined by the Church have been in terms of the penitential system, the penitential system as such cannot be regarded to be the essence of the doctrine, what Ratzinger refers to in his Eschatology as “the authentic heart of the doctrine”. He has sought to see the “heart” in terms of all the temporal consequences of sin, not only (5) penance, but (3) attachment and (4) effects on creation and others as well.
Nevertheless, whenever (such as at Trent) the Church has most clearly sought to speak of the doctrine of Purgatory, it has done so using language drawn from her practice of penance. Perhaps this passage from the Catechism which could again be helpful in this:
1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him” [Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent(1551): DS 1690].
“The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ … in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father[Council of Trent(1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8].
That rather brings me to where I want to be in this discussion in order to speak of the Scriptural witness to the doctrine of Purgatory. As Pastor Mark and Matthias and other concerned dialogue partners should note, there is ample reference in these passages to the Scriptures. I would like to look in the future at exactly how the teaching of the Scriptures supports the Catholic teaching of purgatory.
But enough for now. I would be obliged if you could offer your reflections on what I have written here. I would be particularly obliged if anyone could answer me this question: is (2) rupture of communion with the Church an “eternal” or “temporal” punishment?