Purgatory Museum?

Anne Catherine Emmerich


This morning I received an email from Saint Benedict Press and TAN Books that stated:

Gerard van den Aardweg’s “Hungry Souls” Feeds Longing for Understanding of Purgatory

After a week of hearing ghostly noises, a man is visited in his home by the spirit of his mother, dead for three decades. She reproaches him for his dissolute life and begs him to have Masses said in her name. Then she lays her hand on his sleeve, leaving an indelible burn mark, and departs…
A Lutheran minister, no believer in Purgatory, is the puzzled recipient of repeated visitations from “demons” who come to him seeking prayer, consolation, and refuge in his little German church. But pity for the poor spirits overcomes the man’s skepticism, and he marvels at what kind of departed souls could belong to Christ and yet suffer still…
Hungry Souls recounts these stories and many other trustworthy, Church-verified accounts of earthly visitations from the dead in Purgatory. Accompanying these accounts are images from the Piccolo Museo Del Purgatorio in Rome, which contains relics of encounters with the Holy Souls, including numerous evidences of hand prints burned into clothing and books; burn marks that cannot be explained by natural means or duplicated by artificial ones. Riveting!

Now the above implies demons may have been involved.  And I would tend to think that they have been.

One mystic who claimed to see people in purgatory was Anne Catherine Emmerich.  She also claimed to see Limbo, a place that Pope Benedict XVI says most likely does not exist (see What is Limbo? Is There Such a Place as Limbo? What Happens to Babies When They Die?).  Despite this, she was made a saint by the previous pope on October 3, 2004.

Since Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of limbo cannot be relied upon, neither should her visions of purgatory.

The Catholic Encyclopedia itself admits that early Christians did not teach its current concept of its purgatory doctrine:

Some stress too has been laid upon the objection that the ancient Christians had no clear conception of purgatory, and that they thought that the souls departed remained in uncertainty of salvation to the last day…There are several passages in the New Testament that point to a process of purification after death. Thus, Jesus Christ declares (Matthew 12:32): “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come”…(Hanna, Purgatory. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

So what was taught in the second century?

Essentially after the judgment, it was believed that unsaved humans (those who did not become saints in this life) who did not knowingly reject God’s way of life would have 100 hundred years to live (in accordance with Isaiah 65:20) and that nearly all would then accept God’s offer of salvation (apocatastasis).  Even Catholic saints, such as Irenaeus, taught this.

In the thirteenth century, the famed Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote the following:

Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question…

Some say, however, that according to the common law the place of Purgatory is where man sins. This does not seem probable, since a man may be punished at the same time for sins committed in various places. And others say that according to the common law they are punished above us, because they are between us and God, as regards their state. But this is of no account, for they are not punished for being above us, but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin (Aquinas T. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Appendix II, Article 1. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol. Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius eneralis. Westmonasterii. APPROBATIO ORDINIS Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L. Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ).

The above shows that even into the Middle Ages, the idea of purgatory was unclear, even amongst the leaders of the Church of Rome.

The Eastern Orthodox never accepted the Roman version of purgatory:

The modern Orthodox Church denies purgatory…(Hanna, Edward J. Transcribed by William G. Bilton, Ph.D. Purgatory. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Here are statements from two Eastern Orthodox bishops:

Today most if not all Orthodox theologians reject the idea of Purgatory (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, p.255).

Disavowing a belief in the Western “Purgatory,” our Church believes that a change is possible during this intermediate state and stage (Aghiorgoussis, Maximos. The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Copyright:  © 1990-1996. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8038.asp  viewed 12/25/07).

Purgatory was essentially adopted after certain teachings associated with Origen were condemned in the 6th century:

From the moment, however, that anti-Origenism prevailed, the doctrine of the apokatastasis was definitely abandoned. St. Augustine protests more strongly than any other writer against an error so contrary to the doctrine of the necessity of grace…(Batiffel, Apocatastassis. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

History suggests that after apocatastasis was condemned in the mid-6th century, something that resembles modern concepts of purgatory were being pronounced by the Roman Bishop Pope Gregory I around 600 A.D.

Partially because of that, I see no point going out of my way to visit a purgatory museum at this time.  The Church of God originally taught apocatastasis, not purgatory.

Some articles for further inquiry may include:

Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory? Is there a place called purgatory? Does God have a plan to help those who did not become saints in this life?
Close Encounters of a ‘Spirit’ Kind discusses some personal experiences I believe were (demon) ‘spirit’ related.
What is Limbo? Is There Such a Place as Limbo? What Happens to Babies When They Die? When did Limbo start being taught? What is the truth about dead babies?
Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Do you believe what the Bible actually teaches on this? Will all good things be restored? Does God’s plan of salvation take rebellion and spiritual blindness into account?
Hope of Salvation: How the Living Church of God differ from most Protestants How the Living Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
What Can We Learn from Private “Catholic” Prophecies? There have been those claiming Catholicism over the centuries that have accurately predicted many events, as well as have made many errors.  What might Catholic prophecies reveal about the future?  Will an antipope help take over the world?

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