What Every Roman Catholic Needs to Know
Salvation, Part 5
Purgatory and Vicarious Suffering
By Anthony Pezzotta
We have already proved how the doctrine of purgatory, apparently considered a not-so-important teaching by Catholics and many Protestants, is a practical denial of salvation by faith and of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. Far from being a minor doctrine, it has an extremely important part in the life of Catholics.
The doctrine was officially introduced by Pope Gregory I in AD 593, but it was defined a dogma only during the Council of Florence in AD 1439, and solemly confirmed over a century later at the Council of Trent. This doctrine is the reason why many Catholics, especially rich ones, spend a lot of money to have masses celebrated for their departed loved ones. They believe that almost all adult Catholics who do not go to hell will have to spend some time in purgatory before being admitted to heaven. Masses and indulgences allegedly get people out of purgatory and into heaven.
Only baptized infants and little children go straight to heaven after death! Extremely few adults make it straight to heaven – only those privileged “saints” who die without any unconfessed big or small sin after doing complete penance of any sin they may have committed. One can never be sure that his penance is complete! Therefore, living relatives spend sacrifically to offer as many masses and prayers as possible so that their time of suffering in purgatory may be shortened.
Many Roman Catholics, particularly nuns and monks, offer their lives and sufferings for the salvation of others! During my high school and college days in the seminary, I was frequently encouraged to choose voluntary sufferings and hardships and offer them to God as payment for the sins of some bad relative either still living or dead. Such practices are quite common in the Church of Rome, and many canonized saints are praised for suffering in this way! The famous Padre Pio, considered a living saint because of his bleeding hands during mass, once wrote to his Provincial Superior:
“My dear Father, I want to ask you permission to do something. For some time past I have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. I have begged the Lord to pour out upon me the punishment prepared for these souls, so that they may be consoled and quickly admitted to Paradise.” (Newsletter: The Padre Pio Foundation of America and the Mass Association, August 1988, p. 2)
I had similar noble desires when I was young. But these desires reflect a total ignorance of the true Gospel. Such belief and practice is nothing short of an insult to the all-sufficient vicarious sacrifice of Jesus, and an outright denial of the Gospel of Grace. It also attaches a very presumptous attitude – thinking ourselves better than others and imagining that God will accept our sacrifices as payment for other people’s sins. The truth is we cannot even pay for our own!
Padre Pio was famous the world over. Innumerable thousands of tourists and pilgrims visited him, trying to assist at his mass! He claimed one time that millions of souls of the dead had attended his masses, and had “stopped in his cell to thank him for his help on their way [from purgatory] to Paradise!” He claims to have literally seen them with “physical eyes!” Obviously he was deluded by Satan and filled with spiritual pride.
 Ibid, p. 3.