2cornucopias

Dabbling With Dogma

In 12 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/06/21 at 12:00 AM

Several years ago, I volunteered to teach a religion class for adults. No one inquired as to whether or not I was qualified to teach the class – or even about my orthodoxy. I had volunteered and that was apparently sufficient qualification. Years later I read in a book that when the teacher of a class designed for prospective converts was asked about the dogma of Purgatory, she replied, “We don’t believe that anymore.” Apparently, once again, the fact of volunteering qualified her to teach converts.

It would be interesting to know just who she meant by “we” because Purgatory is a doctrine of the Church and always has been. Yet, some Catholics seem to think they have some divine right to declare some doctrines and morals as passé. If a particular doctrine fits their mindset, fine; if not, they ignore it. The problem is that Catholic doctrine and the moral code are not of human origin. A lawmaker can change his own laws, but not those of higher authority. The Supreme Court can declare abortion legal, but God does not agree. Thus, no human can decree that any official doctrine is defunct today. To do so is a direct challenge to divine authority and wisdom. No human or group of humans has the intelligence to debate or outthink God . . . although, nowadays, many will dispute this.

As noted above, Purgatory is very much a part of the Church’s teaching. There are references to it in both the Old and New Testaments. The Protestant Bible does not contain the books that refer to Purgatory, so they do not accept Purgatory. The entire month of November in the Church calendar is devoted to the souls in Purgatory who are awaiting their release into Heaven.

For that teacher to claim that belief in Purgatory is passé is rather risky because Purgatory affects so many people after death. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Church did in fact drop the doctrine of Purgatory. What are the implications? (Ideas do have consequences.)

Purgatory, in Catholic doctrine is a place where the dead who have not atoned sufficiently for their sins while on earth go to make up what is needed. Since God is a HOLY God, no one can be is Heaven who is not holy. That means, without any taint of past sin. Sin and Heaven are totally incompatible. (It is said that true martyrs and those who obtain a plenary indulgence at the moment of death may be exempted from this rule. )

Without Purgatory, there would be only Heaven and Hell as eternal destinations. That is unreasonable for a good God because some people may be sinners (we all are), but they do not deserve Hell. Human life consists of grades of existence. There is good, better and best. Report cards range from A to F. Manufactured goods often have different grades of the same product. Thus, for God to declare that at the point of death, one must be able to go right to heaven is just about impossible for the average human. To consign that person to Hell for relatively small sins would be cruel and not part of the divine nature.

I’ll bet that the teacher who denied Purgatory assumes that when she dies, she will find herself in Heaven forthwith. Since a heretic is also a sinner, according to her doctrinal idea, she must be sent to Hell. There are many people, like her, who pick and choose doctrines and fully expect that God is such a pushover that He can’t bear to send anyone Hell; therefore, everyone gets to Heaven – at least eventually. One reading of the words of Christ in the Gospels will dissuade you from that nonsense.

We are all aware that the broad Christian world is in a mess, most of it caused by picking and choosing what doctrines and moral laws to follow as individuals.

Thus, large numbers of Catholics do not attend Sunday Mass; large numbers use contraception; some support abortion. Many of those who do attend Church have no sense of reverence at all and act las though they are at a social event.

The problem is that while people may redesign God to suit themselves, God cannot be redesigned and His established rules do not change. To forget that we are merely creatures made by God, who is the Master of all, invites spiritual catastrophe. Once we die, there is no opportunity to repent or change ideas. The exam we call life is over, and grades are given out.

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