Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Sweet Jesus, Bless The Holy Souls
"The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?"
Purgatory is not a second chance. It is only for souls that are already on the way to Heaven. If you are going to Hell, then you are going to Hell. To the charge that Purgatory is unbiblical, there are four answers.
First, the idea of Christianity as baldly "based on the Bible" is purely sixteenth century, and it has been minoritarian and contentious from the day that it was first proposed. Secondly, the Second Book of Maccabees is part of the Old Testament Canon of historic Christianity, again undisputed for the first three quarters of Christian history to date, and again acknowledged by the great majority of the world's Christians at any given time.
Thirdly, the Catholic reading of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, which is the direct New Testament and indeed Pauline basis of the doctrine of Purgatory, is many centuries older than any Protestant reading of anything. And fourthly, those who charge that the doctrine of Purgatory is unbiblical almost invariably hold a view of life after death that cannot begin to be sustained out of Scripture, a view according to which newly disembodied souls entered immediately into their final, but incorporeal, bliss or torment.
For all the talk of oxymoronic "spiritual bodies", the people in the pews would be shocked to learn that many of their most revered leaders have held, and openly if obscurely continue to hold, the original Protestant position that the souls of the dead were unconscious until the General Resurrection, effectively as dead as their bodies. That can at least claim some relationship to Scripture, although only such as to bring us back to the first of our four points.
Martin Luther's theory of justification by faith alone is directly unbiblical. See instead James 2:24, all attempts to reconcile which with Luther's teaching are contrary as much to his own example as to every word on the subject before his relatively recent time. ὁρᾶτε ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον, as they say in Diocesan Safeguarding Offices.
According to Luther's theory, justification is merely forensic, with the righteousness of Christ only imputed to the saved, and not also imparted through the Church's ministry of Word and Sacrament. This is contrary to the very etymology of iustum facere, terminology that Protestants choose to retain. But it purports to remove the need for many things, including Purgatory.
There is no reason why a soul that God had declared righteous as a kind of legal fiction ought not to go to Heaven immediately at bodily death, although, as set out above, Luther himself did not believe that. But there is every reason why a soul that was still in the process of being brought to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" would have to continue that process, although now at no risk of being lost. "Be ye perfect," and who dies perfect? But just as you cannot be saved after death, so you cannot be damned after death, either.
Therefore, the Holy Souls are members of the Church. They pray for us, and we may, and therefore must, pray for them. The old Mass for the Most Abandoned Soul in Purgatory may call to mind the nul points of the Eurovision Song Contest, but it points to the sublime truth that no one in the Church has nul points. Whoever that member is, then there is someone praying for them. The Church, as such, is praying for that member, as for every other.
Seen in this light, indulgences make perfect sense. The grace obtained by the Salvific Work of Jesus Christ is superabundant both according to Saint John's Gospel and according to Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans, which are classically seen in Protestantism as exercising a kind of controlling influence within the New Testament. And according to the latter, "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
Yes, there is an element of pain to Purgatory. "God has created us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him." After all, this is a process of correction, after death as before it. That must be a punishment for sin, without which no correction would be necessary. Yet in the pain of correction, there is also the joy of improvement. To deny Purgatory is to deny that joy, that gift from God; the gift of being made, and not merely declared, righteous through the Church's impartation, and not only the imputation, of Christ's righteousness.
Certain Protestant tendencies do emphasise imparted righteousness, notably Methodism and its outgrowths in the Holiness movement, and thus in Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Renewal. The vocabulary there is of entire sanctification, of Christian Perfection, of "salvation to the utmost". Having lived in County Durham since the age of four, I have been around Methodists most of my life. But dear brothers and sisters, have you ever met an entirely sanctified person, saved to the utmost in this life? Perhaps very occasionally. Perhaps only once. Or perhaps never. And do you yourself realistically expect to die one?
Time cannot pass nowhere, so how can Purgatory exist in time but not in space? I wrestled for decades with petitionary prayer to the Immutable God, but He led me to the answer, and you can probably guess how. I always knew by faith that that answer was there; the same applies in this case, too. And in the end, so to speak, you either accept the Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church, or you do not. If you do, then you accept everything that is taught on that authority. Saint Augustine said that he believed that the Bible was the Word of God because that was what the Church taught that it was. Quite.
The scandalous allegation against me on 2nd March 2020 was recanted under oath at Durham Crown Court on 11th of that month, calling gravely into question my convictions the next day by exposing that key character witness as unreliable, a fact that was not mentioned in closing statements or in summation. Unless, as is widely assumed, the real reason for them is the content of this book, then the sanctions imposed upon me in my absence on 2nd March 2020 are void. I had not received a written apology by 30th September 2021, nor was any such thing to be published in full in The Northern Cross.
Financially, I would then have settled for the reimbursement of my victim surcharges. One would not wish to have to sue the Church. But while I am not yet in a position to act on it, I must now declare my intention in principle to do so. And if I were to be defeated at the next General Election, then I would seek to have that result overturned in the courts on grounds of undue spiritual influence by the Safeguarding Office of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, naming all relevant persons in the court papers. It has come to this.