It is often stereotyped that Roman Catholics believe in Purgatory and Orthodox/Protestants do not. In reality, the Orthodox position is far closer to the Roman Catholicism’s than Protestantism’s. Both Orthodox and Roman Catholics affirm that after death, there is some sort of struggle where the soul confronts her/his past sinfulness and that the prayers and offerings of the faithful are helpful to such a soul (just as our prayers and offerings are helpful to people when they are alive on Earth.) The two main differences are as follows:
1. An understanding of merit’s role after our deaths, and
2. Each sides choice of imagery and describing the struggle after death.
In this part, we will be focusing on the Patristic and Roman Catholic view of merit, offering some brief comments on the doctrine of Purgatory afterwards.
A Patristic Understanding of Merits. When Saint Augustine gave an interpretation of 1 Cor 3:12-15, the famous Roman Catholic proof-text for the doctrine of Purgatory, he gave an inconvenient interpretation. For one, Augustine saw the passage as pertaining to saved Christians before death experiencing the sufferings of letting go of worldly goods and things they are passionate about for the sake of Christ (“the work of the latter is burned, because things that are enjoyed with desire cannot be lost without pain,” Handbook of Faith, Hope and Love, Chap 68). It is worth noting that other fathers, such as Saint Chrysostom, interpreted the passage to be speaking about eternal hell-fire: “That the punishment then is eternal is plain from all that has been said” (Comments on 1 Cor 3:12).
Second, Augustine like Chrysostom uses the same passage to speculate about what happens to men after they die:
[I]t is not impossible that something of the same kind may take place even after this life. It is a matter that may be inquired into, and either ascertained or left doubtful, whether some believers shall pass through a kind of purgatorial fire, and in proportion as they have loved with more or less devotion the goods that perish, be less or more quickly delivered from it. This cannot, however, be the case of any of those of whom it is said, that they
shall not inherit the kingdom of God, unless after suitable repentance their sins be forgiven them. When I say
suitable, I mean that they are not to be unfruitful in almsgiving; for Holy Scripture lays so much stress on this virtue, that our Lord tells us beforehand, that He will ascribe no merit to those on His right hand but that they abound in it, and no defect to those on His left hand but their want of it, when He shall say to the former,
Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, and to the latter,
Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire (Chap 69).
For those familiar with Augustine’s thought, he incorporated Neoplatonic elements into his understanding of who God is. In Book VII of The Confessions, Augustine dedicates the whole chapter to how reading Neoplatonist books helped clear up what was for him mainly cosmological questions, the size of God (a concern that only makes sense if one is immersed in the philosophy of the day), and whether evil has substance. Because Neoplatonism gave a rational, and more compelling, explanations to the questions he had (i.e. the universe is made by a single creator, evil lacks substance, God is not big or wide, is not all, but is in all), Augustine was able to finally understand the Christian worldview fully elucidated in the Gospel of John.
In Augustine’s mind, Neoplatonism can bring us to God, but only the Scriptures can give us a full understanding of Him due to the mystery of the incarnation.
The preceding being said, it is questionable how much Platonist understandings of purgatorial fire weighed in on Augustine’s speculation of there being a a similar fire after death “for some believers.” Plato and Virgil, writing on the same topic, were explicit in their belief that the purgatorial fire lasted “years” and “torments pay the price for former sins.” In short, Purgatory is pay-back to God, who is owed some amount of virtue as recompense for wrongs done.
Augustine’s Purgatory is clearly different. The fire, which he speculates and admits is possibly “doubtful,” burns the dross of our passions that was not worn off by our repentance in our worldly lives “in proportion as they have loved with more or less devotion the goods that perish.” Augustine viewed the process as “quick.” As we shall see in Parts II and III, this has much more in common with the modern Orthodox elucidation of what happens after we die than the dominant Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.
Interestingly enough, in the same passage he viewed almsgiving as more crucial to one’s salvation than even “suitable repentance,” as those who repent and not give alms are damned. He viewed almsgiving as meritorious and necessary for salvation. The implication in the passage in question is that merits are necessary for salvation, but their significance is not so much that they act as payment to God, but rather these good works free oneself from Earthly passions that preclude heavenly enjoyment. (This is an interpretative stretch, trying to reconcile that Augustine is talking about both merit and becoming dispassionate in the passage.)
While modern Orthodoxy and ancient eastern church fathers only rarely invoke the concept of merit, the western church fathers were comfortable with speaking of Christians doing meritorious works which in effect please God:
You have heard, O parents, in what virtues and pursuits you ought to train your daughters, that you may possess those by whose merits your faults may be redeemed. The virgin is an offering for her mother, by whose daily sacrifice the divine power is appeased. A virgin is the inseparable pledge of her parents, who neither troubles them for a dowry, nor forsakes them, nor injures them in word or deed (Saint Ambrose, Concerning Virginity, Book I, Par 32).
Therefore, it is in this life that all the merit or demerit is acquired, which can either relieve or aggravate a man’s sufferings after this life. No one, then, need hope that after he is dead he shall obtain merit with God which he has neglected to secure here (Augustine, Handbook of Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapters 110).
Whence we gather plainly that the more you bring back fugitives to the service of Almighty God, the more merit you have with Him. And by how much the more merit you receive, the more fully can you obtain what you ask for (Gregory the Great, Book VIII, Letter 42).
In the minds of these fathers, merit simply was a heavenly reward for doing good. This is something we cannot doubt, as the Scriptures are clear that God is pleased by our good works (Acts 10:4) and that He accounts them in the judgement (2 Cor 5:10). Furthermore, was apparently transferable as we see in Saint Ambrose. It is not that Orthodoxy has no concept of this (there are plenty of stories of monks doing ascetic labors on behalf of the dead or living loved ones for their benefit).
The western fathers were careful to understand merits in a synergistic way where man pleases God only by the grace of God, because it is God who works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure. Hence, God is not rewarding us for what we do ourselves, but rather we attain to award entirely by what He does by His grace acting in us:
[T]he Apostle James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” And so no man can say that it is by the merit of his own works, or by the merit of his own prayers, or by the merit of his own faith, that God’s grace has been conferred upon him; nor suppose that the doctrine is true which those heretics hold, that the grace of God is given us in proportion to our own merit (Augustine, Letter 214, Par 4).
But that, when we do not always resist or remain persistently unwilling, everything is granted to us by God, and that the main share in our salvation is to be ascribed not to the merit of our own works but to heavenly grace (John Cassian, Conference 3, Chapter 18).
[N]o one should say, ‘How are we to be saved without contributing anything at all to the object in view?’ He shows that we also offer no small matter toward this, I mean our faith (Chrysostom, Comments on Rom 3:21).
In short, the fathers taught that we do not contribute anything to our salvation as even the good we do is in fact the grace of God, not us. We can only cooperate with that grace and allow God to work through us, or in the words of the fathers and Scriptures, have “faith.”
The Roman Catholic Church still teaches the preceding. As the Catholic Encyclopedia correctly points out, “Properly speaking, man possesses nothing of his own; all that he has and all that he does is a gift of God, and, since God is infinitely self-sufficient, there is no advantage or benefit which man can by his services confer upon Him. Hence on the part of God there can only be question of a gratuitous promise of reward for certain good works.”
In short, “the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds:’ eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good” (Rom 2:5-6) is not God rewarding us strictly because we earned a reward. Rather, God rewards us for His own good that He does through us, which makes the God’s rewarding of man entirely gratuitous.
However, it would seem historically that the Roman system’s “gratuitous promise of rewards” is effectually not gratuitous at all, but a matter of payment owed. This is why Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages until the 1960s devised exact calculations of years that can be subtracted from Purgatory through certain meritorious acts and indulgences. Meritorious works have been commoditized and continue to be (i.e. a few years back, going to one mass was awarded with a plenary indulgence that removed “all temporal punishment due to sin.”) Therefore, rewards for merits are only nominally gratuitous and are to be expected with a degree of scientific certainty. It reduces God into an accountant of sorts, where data is inputted and a result is calculated automatically.
This is not my imagination. Online Roman Catholic apologist Erick Ybarra remarked about Purgatory that “much hinges on whether the relaxations to canonical penance was understood to be 1-to-1 with a subtraction of temporal punishment due to the soul by God’s calculation.” You simply do not find Orthodox thinkers, nor the fathers (besides maybe Tertullian), speaking about God in such a calculatingly retributive way.
In my final estimation, Western thinkers took the concept of merit to its logical extent in the Middle Ages. So, even if the West is distancing itself from the concept in the last 100 years, it has left an indelible mark on the doctrine of Purgatory.
The Dominant Roman Catholic Conception of Purgatory. Sadly for you dear reader, this topic is something that I cannot give extensive and intelligent commentary on. What I can say is that Roman Catholicism teaches that there is “no merit is possible in Purgatory” and that the only opportunity for repentance in when we are still alive (2 Clement, Chap 8). In short, those in Purgatory are suffering but their sufferings are not payment to God that in effect earn us our salvation.
So what does Purgatorial fire do? Chiefly, it is a form of punishment from God exacted on the souls there which atones for sins. As we shall see, though it will take several articles to get there, it is this explicit purpose of Purgatory that does not correspond with Orthodox doctrine. The chief reason Orthodox and Roman Catholics differ on this matter, is that Orthodoxy views sufferings after death as the result of our own passions so that we in effect punish ourselves–God does not create a place of punishment as evil does not have a substance–but more on this later.
Similar to Orthodoxy, the purpose of Purgatorial fire does not exclude some sort of sanctifying element (i.e a baptism by fire). Nevertheless, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Whether our works of satisfaction performed on behalf of the dead avail purely out of God’s benevolence and mercy, or whether God obliges himself in justice to accept our vicarious atonement, is not a settled question.”
In short, in the Roman Catholic view is that our suffering satisfies the Father’s desire for justice. Monty Python’s monks smacking themselves on the heads with boards wasn’t funny for no reason–it spoke to a real defect in Roman Catholic thought. The clear implication of Roman doctrine is that the souls in Purgatory have sin that has not been atoned for yet. The fact that “God obliges Himself in justice to accept our vicarious atonement” shows how nominal the “gratuitous” grace of God really is in Roman Catholic theology.
The whole debate over indulgences in the 16th century ultimately was over whose merits are applied to the believer in which to satisfy God’s demand for justice, as it was taken for granted in western Europe that God obliges Himself to act in matters of justice and injustice. The Roman Catholic answer was Jesus Christ, the saints, and our own. The Protestant answer was Jesus Christ alone atoned for our sins by shedding His blood and satisfying the Father’s demand for justice.
Protestantism’s penal substitutionary view of the atonement was obviously a reaction against the Roman Catholic paradigm of merit vis a vis justice. The suffering of the Infinite One is always infinitely more efficacious that any other means of atonement–and so the idea a Purgatory is needed to give man additional atonement becomes superfluous.
Pardon me the observation that Roman Catholic view, if the preceding is accurate, poses us problems:
- The atonement is incomplete and somehow did not accomplish salvation for all men. Men, by their sufferings in Purgatory (and the divine allowance for the merits of others to be credited to the account of those suffering) please God to the point that they may then leave. This contradicts the fathers who taught unequivocally that the crucifixion is sufficient for all mankind. Saint Augustine himself wrote, “Great assurance has God given! Well may we celebrate the Passover, wherein was shed the blood of the Lord, by which we are cleansed
from all sin” (Homily 1 on 1 John, Par 5)!
- Merit is reduced to a transaction, instead of relational and synergistic. Roman Catholicism’s way of preserving their view of Purgatory with the early teaching that man cannot repent or attain merits after death, is to say man can have someone else’s merits added to his own. Hence, the meritorious acts on Earth (prayers, masses, indulgences) in effect please God so that He takes someone else’s merits which are in effect His own (as the Body of Christ is one with Him, the merits of the saints are identical to Christ’s) and arbitrarily ascribes them to the soul in Purgatory. God, being God, may surely do things “just because” but it casts a strange picture of God. A God who can simply shift merits to different accounts like a bookkeeper, but do this because He has to satiate His own wrath due to man’s injustice, is a twisted view of God that we never see the Scriptures or early Church take. It obviously gives rise to the God of Calvin.
I see some silver-lining in the preceding, however. Saint Philaret of Moscow writes about the atonement that Christ “offered Himself as a sacrifice strictly for all, and obtained for all grace and salvation; but this benefits only those of us who, for their parts, of their own free will, have fellowship in his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death [Phil 3:10]” (Longer Catechism, 209). In the spirit of charity, it appears to me what Roman Catholics may be trying to communicate, but using the terminology and understandings of their own Western tradition, is that sufferings in Purgatory bring those souls fellowship with His sufferings. This makes the atonement of Christ efficacious for the individual as it conforms the believer to His death.
Conclusion. If this part’s objections to the Roman Catholic elucidation of the afterlife can be summed up, it is as follows:
- The early Church did not have a concept of a Purgatory where suffering in effect placates a God who demands that extraneous sins be atoned for.
- A correct understanding of “merit” requires that we view such merit as entirely the work of God, and so man adds nothing to His salvation than His faithfulness to God. In effect, our faith saves us because faith is a trust in Christ that surrenders our will to His, so that we allow His grace to transform us into the image of Christ.
The core difference between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism/Protestantism is ultimately our view of salvation. Salvation is not a matter of having debts paid to God, but becoming like God. The Western Church, for whatever intellectual reasons, has always focused on the former instead of the latter. In doing so, it was only logical that they would systematize the Church’s practice of praying for the dead and the image of a purging fire after death into a literal station after death that deals with the issue of human debt.
This is not to say that the West does not have a conception of Theosis, but its emphasis is drowned out by the emphasis put upon merit and debt.
Of course, everything can always be considered from two points of view. From the point of view of God’s mercy, and from the point of view of God’s justice. In the Our Father, Jesus teaches us to ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. To the extent that we forgive, we are forgiven.
But Jesus also says: “And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart” (Matthew 18:34-35). That is pretty strong language, the language of God’s justice.
Similarly, Jesus says:“Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5: 25-26
Scripture passages like these not only point to some form of cleansing before we enter heaven, but indicate a form of punishment for our (unexpiated) sins.
On the other hand, God’s mercy allows for our necessary cleansing (Nothing unclean shall enter heaven – Rev: 21-27, and “8 If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us;” 1 John 1:8), as we are unable to come near God encumbered by sin. “14 Blessed are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city.” Rev: 22:14. God, in his mercy, provides us with this process of cleansing in purgatory.
How long this takes, or its intensity, cannot be ascertained, although there have been many private revelations (therefore not an article of faith) which can give us some idea, and generally God reveals things to us in a language we can understand readily, just as Jesus did with his parables, or the creation account, which may be subject to wider interpretation.
I would agree that the Orthodox view does not focus on recompense (and the fathers do not dwell on it either, but they are closer to the middle.) The Scriptures themselves, on the surface, do present God as retributive (perhaps not methodolically and strictly so as western theology as turned Him into.)
Perhaps the truth is in the middle. I think, as the article postulates, both sides on this issue are presenting a culturally conditioned view.
“The core difference between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism/Protestantism is ultimately our view of salvation. Salvation is not a matter of having debts paid to God, but becoming like God.”
While we certainly do speak of debt paid to God in Roman Theology (especially when talking with Augustinian/Anselmian terms), I would say this distinction is a bit over-exaggerated (and especially when we deal with the question of purgatory):
Just to bring up a few ideas, in the First Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas says that the common goal and desire of man (the last end desired by all man is beatitude, happiness/beatitude. Asking whether any created good could satisfy this desire for happiness, he answers, “It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: ‘Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.’ Therefore God alone constitutes man’s happiness. ” (I-II, Q. 2, Art. 8, Resp.) Throughout the Second Part of the Summa (on ethics, virtues, the way to live), he will return to that theme–that we are destined for beatitude, that this can be satisfied by God alone, and that any goodness/beatitude that is possessed by anyone/thing comes by means of participation. All of the virtues he explains, all of the different aspects of the moral life, he draws back to God and participation in His life (how does a particular mortal man imitate Divine Perfection? What does Infinite Divine Goodness look like in a finite man? Like the various different virtues) He mentions the ideas of merit and debt (especially when speaking of justice–our worship is a thing owed to God out of justice, for example), but ultimately his point is for man to become more and more like God.
This can be seen when St. Thomas (or rather, the secretary completing his work after his death) writes answering a question about whether purgatory’s punishment works on different people faster or slower: “I answer that, some venial sins cling more persistently than others, according as the affections are more inclined to them, and more firmly fixed in them. And since that which clings more persistently is more slowly cleansed, it follows that some are tormented in Purgatory longer than others, for as much as their affections were steeped in venial sins.” (Appendix to the Summa, Q. 2, Art. 6) Here we can see that what is being “punished” is not necessarily the payment of a debt, but a purifying of the inclination–someone being more and more conformed to Christ.
It can also be seen in the work of Dante. When one reads the Purgatorio, while the concepts of debt and merit are brought up, there is very little actual talk about it. What every level of purgatory has in the poetic work is not so much a place to pay off a debt, but a place of enantiodromia, that is, a correcting/”opposite” punishment. The Level where penitents deal with pride, they are weighed by heavy boulders, bending them (making them humble). The Level of those dealing with Lust, they are burned in the Fire of the True Love of God. The point is not the payment of a debt, the point is straightening the crooked, the point is reforming something malformed, bringing them closer to holiness.
The same could be said of St. Catherine of Genoa’s Treatise on Purgatory or Bl. John Henry Newman’s Dream of Gerontius–“Learn that the flame of the Everlasting Love \doth burn ere it transform.” They both make mention of the idea of merit, but are much more concerned about the transformative quality of purgatory.
The Roman Idea of Sanctification (becoming a Sanctus, like the Holy God) and the more Eastern Idea of Theosis (becoming God) do not seem too different when compared properly.
Good comments, thanks!
Anthony, very well put, but I find your first and last sentence about Theosis (becoming God) dangerous, as we always retain our individuality, but rather participate in the divine life. We never “become God”. We become holy and pure, which God is, but God has attributes we will never possess. Otherwise you are going the way of the Mormons.
The Orthodox/Catholic understanding of Theosis/Deification/Divinization/Sanctification/Divine Filiation knows that we do not become gods like in Mormon soteriology, but in the sense of “participation in the divine nature” (2 Peter) or “incorporation into Christ”, becoming a member (body part) of the Body of Christ, or “becoming sons in the Son” (St. Athanasius). I like the way CS Lewis describes it (Don’t remember where–it was either the Weight of Glory or Mere Christianity) That there are two ways of receiving a new identity/putting an old person to death. There is a depersonalizing way like becoming #5356 of a million prisoners or #495858473 of a group of newly minted pennies. But there is also the way of being welcomed into a family (becoming a son, a brother). Both becoming Prisoner 24601 and becoming a son of God change your identity, but sonship–the one Christianity claims to do to a person–makes you more of the person you were made to be. (Or, as Irenæus, the saint celebrated today in the Latin Church, put it, “The glory of God is a man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”–God is glorified when we become more fully ourselves, and we become more fully ourselves in the measure that we behold and are reformed by God.)
That is the way I understand it.
“God became man so man can become God.” – Athanasius
I’d tread a little carefully with that concept, lest we get carried away.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes purgatory as a process of purification, not a place of punishment. In a total of some 2,800 paragraphs, only 3 are devoted to purgatory. They are as follows:
1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (St Gregory the Great)
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.(St John Chrysostom)
I think there is a significant nuance absent from this post (I did not see it invoked), that I think would make the Roman position seem less scandalous.
It is this: atonement from sin is understood in two ways: one in the eternal sense, and one in the temporal sense. This is why we also speak of eternal vs. temporal punishments.
The whole basis of the spiritual life is founded upon the eternal, cosmic but involves the temporal. Roman Catholic theology unambiguously states that Christ atoned for all our eternal consequences of sin — the whole basis that we are not all promised hell at all, that some are invited and can actually attain the heavenly glory, comes from Christ reconciling humanity with God. The eternal atonement for God’s people has been made in Christ Jesus, through his merits, the debt has been been paid.
Now the atonement which purgatory is concerned is not eternal, but temporal; if we make it to purgatory, it means we died in God’s friendship. Our sins have temporal effects on our souls as well as eternal, which is why we are still promised heaven if we make it to purgatory, even if those temporal consequences are not sorted out yet. That’s what purgatory is for.
It is these temporal sufferings, the temporal side of our sins, and not the eternal, which are able to be atoned for through “the merits of Christ, the saints, or our own.” The whole of our heavenly reward is manifest to us through Christ alone, our reception of it through these other facets…
Now, there is another nuance I’d like to offer, but one which you already presented: that all our merits and good works are the fruit of grace and are not simply conjured up in our own independence. Have you given due thought that it is *these* merits, the actualization of God’s grace in the life of the saints, that pay ransom from the *temporal* aspect of purgatory? it is still grace. They are not sources of satisfaction unto themselves.
Further, the greatest thing we can offer God for the holy souls in purgatory is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is traditionally understood to be the most effective sacrifice offered for the Holy Souls, certainly more than any individual acts of piety. Given that it’s the merits of Christ, his actual sacrifice, being offered to the Father, then this is also able to develop progress in purgatorial satisfaction of our temporal debts. Seems to me that things are still kept in perspective.
I doubt you will like the bank analogy but if you think of merit as being what effects our atonement, and that merit comes through grace, and that grace is comes through Christ but worked in the saints in mystical Union with him, then He is still the source of what the saints are able to offer you. “Christ has all the money — it is HIS money — he just puts some of it in an account named after himself, some in the Mary account, some in the St. Francis account, etc… But it’s all his money. He has one currency but many different deposits.”
That’s how I’ve heard merits explained, because all merit comes from the grace of Christ working in the soul, it’s still “not I that live, but Christ in me” which is the source of those satisfactory payments of temporal debts. If Christ Jesus in himself, or Christ Jesus in St. Benedict (because obviously “the prayer of a righteous man avails much”, and that righteousness comes from Christ in the first place) that avails you of your temporal suffering, why should that be scandalous? It is still, fundamentally, all Christ.
The merits of st. Benedict are not the basis of your eternal peace with God, which purgatory does not disqualify you from — it’s only of the removal of the *temporal* obstacles from enjoying it for yourself, that the merits of St. Benedict have effected for you, and not in a wholly different way than your own prayers or alms giving on earth would have — through grace, not of himself.
Which is to say, the fact that the souls in purgatory are in purgatory in the first place, that they have the promised actualization of heaven actualization, is fundamentally based on Christ, immediately and singularly in the eternal sense but mediately and multifacetedly through the temporal. In the temporal sense, Christ (according to RC understanding), involves his members in effecting the removal of that what’s temporal, but he himself removed that which is eternal. In this temporal sense, we can use St. Ambrose’s words: “it is fitting that one should be redeemed by many, just as the many were redeemed by One.”
Good response John,
I was thinking the same. Eternal and Temporal need to be included as definitions in the economy of the Salvation and Sanctification of the soul. While we are forgiven our sins through Christ’s atonement, we still must atone for the temporal punishment. Either in this life or in the next, thus Purgatory.
May I ask you a question, I know it does not relate to this post, but in your blog I don’t seem to find a spot for comments (being new here), if Craig doesn’t mind. In your view, who is the Vicar of Christ at this time and since Vatican II?
your question is very interesting, and highly debated. I personally think Benedict XVI is the current Pope for two reasons. First, anti-pope Francis has put himself outside the Church by his public heresy(ie. Amoris Laetitia, and other non-catholic statements) thus making himself a manifest heretic. Second, Francis was the only Pope to be ordained under the new rite of ordination. You can also look at the claims of duress that was applied to Benedict by members of the curia; this would invalidate the election of Francis.
Thanks Craig for allowing this interlude. Trad, it is interesting that you consider Roman Catholic popes to be the successors of Peter still, you have such a lot to say about the church. The sooner you return to the fold, the better.
All the private revelations you cite are just that, private revelations, and therefore not articles of faith. There is no biblical foundation for your split, as there is none for Protestantism.
For the record, I am anti-sed…it is ultimately Protestant in a sense, because it requires private interpretation of what makes a sacrament valid and etcetera, which is hugely damaging to our souls as this can only be fueled by pride.
What do you mean by anti-sed Craig?
sedevacantist (sp) ie rc schismatic
To be Catholic is more than being joined to an organization visibly. You must believe what the Church has always believed; especially the Dogmas defined by the Magisterium (teaching office). These teachings are Immutable as the Church is Invincible. Some of the doctrines of discipline may be changed by the Pope. However this Pope is illegitimate because he goes against established Church Dogma and is obstinate in his heresy. Our faith is not base on scripture alone; as Catholics include Tradition as part of divine revelation, or the deposit of the faith. In Catholicism we have the fullness of the truth. However this does not make us exempt from God’s judgement.
No argument about Tradition and church dogma.
Remember that both Scripture and Tradition vest final authority in the Magisterium of the church, the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
While the other modernist Popes (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II) all had elements of sin in their papacy(false ecumenism), they still were legitimate Popes.
I am not a Sede Vacantist yet, but understand and sympathise with there position. My position goes deeper into the ecclesiology of the Church. It may safely be said that the continuity of a society is broken when a radical change in the principles it embodies is introduced. In the case of a Church, such a change in its hierarchical constitution and in its professed faith suffices to make it a different Church from what it was before. For the societies we term Churches exist as the embodiment of certain supernatural dogmas and of a Divinely-authorized principle of government. when, therefore, the truths previously field to be of faith are rejected, and the principle of government regarded as sacred is repudiated, there is a breach of continuity, and a new Church is formed. This is what I believe happened at Vatican II. This council has created a rupture with the previously held dogmas of the Church. The new church after V2 wants to free itself from the Dogmas of the past. This way of thinking is not Catholic, thus we must consider whether the Catholic Church is truly still Catholic. I say No. If this is true we must follow truth of Catholic Dogma where every it is still found (i.e. SSPX, CMRI ) even if it is only in our hearts.
I repeat, nowhere in Scripture nor in Tradition is either the breakaway of Traditional Catholics or the Protestant Reformation envisaged or prophesied.
Your position reminds me of Judges 21:25: “25 In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did as he saw fit.” The result of this position for the Israelites of those days was catastrophic.
Compare this with David’s approach to Saul who had departed from God’s paths.
1 Samuel 24:7-11 “7 He said to his men, ‘Yahweh preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord as to raise my hand against him, since he is Yahweh’s anointed.’
8 By these words David restrained his men and would not let them attack Saul.
9 Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David, bowing to the ground, prostrated himself.
10 David then said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to people who say, “David intends your ruin”?
11 This very day you have seen for yourself how Yahweh put you in my power in the cave and how, refusing to kill you, I spared you saying, “I will not raise my hand against my lord, since he is Yahweh’s anointed.”
Look at David’s response to the messenger who told him that he had killed Saul. Despite Saul having abandoned God, David still considers him God’s anointed and grieves for Saul’s death.
2 Samuel 1:13-27 “13 David said to the young man who had brought the news, ‘Where are you from?’ He replied, ‘I am the son of a resident foreigner, an Amalekite.’
14 David said, ‘How was it that you were not afraid to lift your hand to destroy Yahweh’s anointed?’
15 Then David called one of the young men. ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘strike him down.’ The man struck him and he died.
16 David said, ‘Your blood be on your own head. You convicted yourself out of your own mouth by saying, “I killed Yahweh’s anointed.” ‘
17 David sang the following lament over Saul and his son Jonathan
18 (it is for teaching archery to the children of Judah; it is written in the Book of the Just):
19 Does the splendour of Israel lie dead on your heights? How did the heroes fall?
20 Do not speak of it in Gath, nor broadcast it in the streets of Ashkelon, for fear the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, for fear the daughters of the uncircumcised gloat.
21 You mountains of Gilboa, no dew, no rain fall on you, O treacherous fields where the heroes’ shield lies dishonoured! Not greased with oil, the shield of Saul,
22 but with the blood of wounded men, the fat of warriors! The bow of Jonathan never turned back, the sword of Saul never came home unsated!
23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and handsome, were divided neither in life, nor in death. Swifter than eagles were they, stronger than lions.
24 O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul who gave you scarlet and fine linen to wear, who pinned golden jewellery on your dresses!
25 How did the heroes fall in the thick of the battle? Jonathan, by your dying I too am stricken,
26 I am desolate for you, Jonathan my brother. Very dear you were to me, your love more wonderful to me than the love of a woman.
27 How did the heroes fall and the weapons of war succumb!”
Here is faithfulness for you. It is the unfaithful who abandon the lord’s anointed.
A stark example of this is Numbers 16:1-3, 8-12, 31-33
“1 Now Korah son of Izhar, son of Kohath the Levite, and the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth were proud
2 and rebelled against Moses with two hundred and fifty Israelites who were leaders of the community, prominent at the solemn feasts, men of repute.
3 These banded together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You take too much on yourselves! The whole community, all its members, are consecrated, and Yahweh lives among them. Why set yourselves higher than Yahweh’s community?’
8 Moses then said to Korah, ‘Now listen, you Levites!
9 Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has singled you out of the community of Israel, and called you to be near him, to serve in Yahweh’s Dwelling and to represent the community by officiating on its behalf?
10 He has called you to be near him, you and all your brother Levites with you, and now you want to be priests as well!
11 For which reason, you and all in your party have banded together against Yahweh himself: for what is Aaron, that you should mutter against him?’
12 Moses then summoned Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab. They replied, ‘We will not come.
31 The moment he finished saying all this, the ground split apart under their feet,
32 the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their families, all Korah’s people and all their property.
33 They went down alive to Sheol with all their belongings. The earth closed over them and they disappeared in the middle of the community.”
There is a lesson to be learnt here.
By accepting Vatican II, Rome broke away from Catholicism. Those who remained true to their faith never accepted V2, or repented from this religious sect once they realized their error. Rome has lost the faith, and soon will become the seat of the anti-christ.(Our Lady of La Salette 1846) We are warned about Babylon the great harlet in Revelation 17,18 “come out my people away from her so that you do not share in her crimes…”Vatican II Rome is the false religious system of the last days.
You are back with private revelation and their private interpretations. That is not how Jesus passed on his authority to the church. I repeat, what you say is neither in public revelation nor the Tradition of the church. You are barking up the wrong tree.
Read the story of David and Saul. David refuses to rebel against God’s anointed. Those who do face a miserable end. (Numbers 16).
God can also take his own Church out if he so wishes, Revelation 17,18 “come out my people away from her so that you do not share in her crimes…”He is warning us about this church of the last days. He also says that he may well come and take it’s lampstand away to the Church of Ephesus. (Rev. 2:5) If people don’t want to listen to APPROVED personal revelation from the Virgin Mary herself, take a look in the O.T. where God removed his spirit from the temple. (Ezekiel 10:18)
You are deluding yourself.
You are a heretic no different to Luther or Calvin.
The church will always have its problems, its traitors and its weak members, look at Judas and Peter. Jesus is its head. He will lead it safely to port in the end, despite the tempests.
This crisis is greater than that of the Arian crisis. And I would rather be counted with Luther, Calvin( and don’t forget Lefebvre) or others who stand for truth, than just go along to get along. Unity at the sake of truth is no unity at all. We all have to answer to Jesus in the end, and my love for him exceeds that for a corrupt organization.
You have a warlike approach don’t you?
Read psalm 23.
Jesus is the head of the church. He can handle any crisis, always has, always will do. Have faith in Jesus and play your part to “rebuild” the church as St Francis was called to do. Through humility and obedience, not rebellion and ego.
I am done with this corrupt catholic sect, and I think God is done! (not to consider a small remnant that God preserves) We are told in scripture to test all things and hold to that which is good. I therefore will hold to God’s Word, for the words of man are corrupt; and this includes the Popes. These men have Lorded their authority over Christians for too long! “So Jesus declared, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them call themselves benefactors. 26But you shall not be like them. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who leads like the one who serves.…”(Luke 22:25) These catholic Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes are as the Nicolaitans of scripture, which it says our Lord also hates.(Rev. 2:6) And as far as private interpretation, 2 Tim 2:15 says,”Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” For years catholics have relied on these so called” Princes of the Church”to interpret scripture for them; leading millions to hell. This is why Martin Luther was willing to risk schism for the sake of bringing the TRUTH of the Bible to the people. Instead of leaving so many to wander in darkness with a false assurance.
Does this ring a bell:
“3 These banded together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You take too much on yourselves! The whole community, all its members, are consecrated, and Yahweh lives among them. Why set yourselves higher than Yahweh’s community?’ Numbers 16:3.
I actually think you’re right…that the teachings of Calvin and Luther conform more closely to Trent than does the modern (and modernist) Catholic Church.
Unity around truth is a much more reasonable stance than unity at all costs. It shows you’re thinking through things rather than unquestioningly accepting clear error. (However, as a Protestant, I do think you have a long ways to go to find the bedrock of truth.)
Be that as it may, may your tribe increase!
You say that as if it’s a bad thing!!! 😁
“No, Craig, faith is NOT something we do. ”
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
That is as clear as day to me.
Of course, we are still brothers in Christ, even though separated brethen.
Faith is not something we do (and you haven’t actually offered any evidence that it is).
You can double down as often as you please. It won’t make it any more true.
W & S–
Unfortunately, the fact that something is “as clear as day” to you isn’t a valid argument. It is just as clear to me that the notion is wrong.
Biblically, there’s no such thing as “separated brethren.” If you truly can’t arrive at some kind of harmony, you’re just not brothers.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”
I never intended to present it as an argument. The words say what they mean.
After Jereboam rebelled against Reheboam and constituted the northern kingdom of Israel and its ten tribes, God always intended to bring the whole of Israel back together, despite their lack of unity, notwithstanding that the north was decimated, exiled and their race was intermingled with the pagans because of their sin. So Jesus ministers in Judah as well as the north, to bring all Israel back to him.
W & S–
So if God “intended” to bring the Northern Kingdom back into the fold, then why didn’t he?
Too shy? Hesitant? Indecisive? Powerless? Incompetent? Dishonest?
Jesus did that as I’ve already said.
W & S–
And I don’t believe many historians believe that more than just a handful of Samaritans converted to Christianity. Not to mention the Judeans, who didn’t exactly come to Christ in droves either. Christianity became a largely Gentile faith pretty early on. (If I remember correctly, there was only one ethnically Jewish pope after St. Peter.)
Now, Richard John Neuhaus had an interesting theory (based on Jewish censuses, I believe) wherein he felt that up to a million Jews (Pharisees and whatnot) converted early on and assimilated, depleting the rolls in terms of the Jewish population.
Jesus came to save all men, the north, the south, and all gentiles. The fact that many do not convert is due to their rejection of Jesus.
Are we done here? There’s little in the form of actual argumentation/debate and just a bunch of “No, it’s not!” and “Yes, it is!”. Are we five?
Either way does not bother me. We’ve all had a chance to voice our point of view. It is dragging on as you say.
W & S–
The North has all but disappeared from history. The handful of Samaritans left in Israel were finally, a few years ago, given permission to intermarry with Jews. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to survive more than another generation. Jesus didn’t include any amongst his disciples, but he did say that one day we would all “worship in spirit and in truth.” An eschatological hope, I would guess.
The prophecies are there in the O.T, and Jesus fulfills them.
I sympathize completely with how you feel. So why don’t you step into the arena and show us how it’s done?
Bald assertions, question begging, personal insults, straw man arguments–these are all standard fare for interfaith dialogues. Arguing across paradigms is almost impossibly difficult to do.
People don’t do their homework. They don’t come into the discussion with even a basic understanding of the other side’s tenets. On top of that, they don’t take the time to carefully read what their interlocutors have penned: misreadings are more commonplace than true ones.
Let’s take a look at your own entry:
Your claim that our arguments are “without substance” is itself without substance.
That’s hand waving.
Your assertion that we make untold assertions without evidence is itself without evidence.
That’s table pounding.
Calling us a bunch of five year olds.
That’s an ad hominem.
Looks like your scorecard’s none too good!
Show me the blog where either Catholics or Orthodox argue in good faith, and I’ll be there. I don’t happen to believe it exists.
As for your accusations, put up or shut up. Sometimes people make “assertions” believing the truth of these assertions to be self-evident. (Just like you did with this entry.) Sometimes they’re saving evidence for when it’s more germane (like when the argument is actually engaged). Sometimes they’re just worn out from wrestling with rug rats all day long.
These are informal discussions. There’s no need to load up every post with as much evidence as humanly possible.
Point me to anyplace where (you believe) that I have not argued in good faith, and I’ll show you how you’re wrong. Or, if I’m wrong, I’ll apologize and correct the error.
I have found some fairly decent arguments between Catholics and Orthodox on this site for one.
W & S–
I guess you’re right. I never feel threatened here, and Craig is a really good guy (even if he does display the same kind of “amnesia” regarding his former Calvinism that I have come to expect from converts to RC and EO).
I don’t get it, havent you read my article on Augustine and chrysostom?
This is a bit late in the game, but I can answer Han’s objection to the assertion that faith is a work. In Augustine’s On the Predestination of Saints, He explains and backs it up with quotation after quotation from Paul that grace is a gift and that faith is a work as a response to God’s free gift of Grace. He quotes Christ as claiming it to be a ‘work’ in Jn 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Augustine further develops the idea by highlighting Paul’s distinction between faith and works in Gal. 2:6 by asserting that faith is primary; only when we are united to Christ by faith can we do his works of love. Naturally, as Galatians is the great treatise of Paul’s theology of grace, I know Hans rejects the patristic view on Galatians.
Ultimately, Augustine refutes the idea of the priority of faith because in his treatise On the Predestination of Saints, he articulates that the hypostatic union itself is a grace; therefore, if the faith precedes grace, the hypostatic union becomes a reward for faith, which as orthodox Christianity teaches that our salvation is a free gift from God.
Let me know what you think.
Love you Hans, you’ll be in the Church soon and you’ll have Christ Alone in the Eucharist 🙂
Love you, too.
I already have Christ Alone in the Eucharist, but won”t be abandoning Christ Alone in salvation.
(I’ve read the article a couple of times, but if you believe I’m missing something, I’ll go back and reread it again!)
But Christ is not in your Eucharist according to you, no? Or do you take Calvin’s view?
Water & Spirit:
But David was fine with saying God himself might take Saul out:
“As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”
And he was fine with saying that he himself was in the right and that Saul was in the wrong:
“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
So, according to you, then, a faithful Catholic may not seek to depose Francis. But he can in good conscience disagree with him, even vehemently. And he can pray for God to depose him.
At least some Sedevacantists do little more than that. Pray for a short pontificate for Francis. Pray that his error might not infect the whole church.
I’m more of the opinion that the last person to preside over the church was James the Just in Acts 15. And that even his pronouncements weren’t sacrosanct (with which the Catholic Church agrees, by the way).
Someone has said that “one never steps into the same river twice” (because the water descending from upstream is costantly being replenished). That’s how I feel about the Catholic “magisterium.” It’s not consistent across time or region or level of hierarchy. Not a single Catholic can even delineate which canons and encyclicals count and which do not. It seems to refer most often to the current catechism and to those documents and clerical statements which confirm its tenets.
They’ve changed over time on salvation outside the church, on the singularity of penance, on slavery, on capital punishment, on modern science, on higher criticism, on the inviolability of the Vulgate, on whether the papacy has to remain in Rome, on the selling of indulgences, on simony, on investiture, on Crusades, on the burning of heretics (and on freedom of religion, in general), Erastianism, colonialism, and on and on and on. The only way that Rome is infallible is through 20/20 hindsight and constant revisionism.
Anti-schismatic sentiments are often nothing more than a convenient dodge for being soft on the purity of the church.
You say: “So, according to you, then, a faithful Catholic may not seek to depose Francis.”
David never sought to depose Saul.
You say: “But he can in good conscience disagree with him, even vehemently.”
In good conscience yes, so long as he is faithful to the teaching of the church.
You say: “And he can pray for God to depose him.”
If the prayer is qualified by: “if that is God’s will.”
You say: “Pray that his error might not infect the whole church.”
That assumes that there is an error in the first place. The church needs to make that judgement, not the individual. What is seen as an error in most cases is a failure to understand.
You say: “I’m more of the opinion that the last person to preside over the church was James the Just in Acts 15.”
Your opinion stands against the body of the church fathers, Tradition and church teaching.
You say: “They’ve changed over time on salvation outside the church, on the singularity of penance, on slavery, on capital punishment, on modern science, on higher criticism, on the inviolability of the Vulgate, on whether the papacy has to remain in Rome, on the selling of indulgences, on simony, on investiture, on Crusades, on the burning of heretics (and on freedom of religion, in general), Erastianism, colonialism, and on and on and on. The only way that Rome is infallible is through 20/20 hindsight and constant revisionism.”
For one thing, the Holy Spirit is constantly leading the church into the fullness of the truth.
The church has never taught that the sale of indulgences or simony was ok, despite abuses by some clerics at times, the other matters are not matters of faith, and therefore the church is not and never has been infallible in those matters.
You say: “Anti-schismatic sentiments are often nothing more than a convenient dodge for being soft on the purity of the church.”
Go and tell that to Korah, Dathan and Abiram. (Numbers 16).
I see I duplicated this post elsewhere.
I agree, God can also take his own Church out if he so wishes, Revelation 17,18 “come out my people away from her so that you do not share in her crimes…”He is warning us about this church of the last days. He also says that he may well come and take it’s lampstand away to the Church of Ephesus. (Rev. 2:5) If people don’t want to listen to APPROVED personal revelation from the Virgin Mary herself, take a look in the O.T. where God removed his spirit from the temple. (Ezekiel 10:18)
I have just posted an article on Malachi, Revelation and Purgatory on my blog which you may find interesting. Let me have your comments. Tks.
Sorry Craig, I’m not sure what “link” means, but if you click on “waterandthespiritapologetics” it’ll take you to my blog.
It may not be amnesia, but a better understanding.
With all due respect, if it were greater understanding, they would be able to articulate the ins and outs between the paradigms…as Alasdair MacIntyre has pointed out.
I’m sure there are a special few who can do that, but I’ve never run into them.
I don’t mean in comparing the paradigms, but in grasping the truth.
But that’s my point! So you’re agreeing that they really do have some form of “amnesia”? (Or more likely, they have a sort of antipathy toward their former beliefs in light of the [perceived] greater beauty of their new ones.)
Not necessarily antipathy I would have thought, just something incomplete.
1. No Catholic (whether Roman or Melkite or Byzantine or Maronite or any other kind) need become a sedevacantist on account of Francis. Leftists always try to conquer institutions, but the gates of Sheol shall not prevail against the Church. In the meantime, the Church has endured many bad popes. Whether it’s Alexander VI or Honorius, the scandal of an Al Bayith who is either corrupt or immoral or willfully encouraging heresy is not previously unknown.
2. The original article makes a common error about “This is why Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages until the 1960s devised exact calculations of years that can be subtracted from Purgatory through certain meritorious acts and indulgences.” Nope, sorry, never happened.
The linked text is misinterpreted by the author of the article; it suggests he has not done his homework. No Catholic teaching in 2,000 years ever claimed that “time is spent” in Purgatory, in the sense of intervals denominated in years or days. Let me be clear: That Never Happened.
What, then, is the meaning of the linked text? Simple: In the early church, grave sin by a Christian after baptism would result in the bishop assigning a period of penitential time ON EARTH, during which the penitent was in the “order of penitents” and not eligible to receive the Eucharist (save when in danger of death). After some fitting period of penance, the penitent could return to the Lord’s table. This happened in the West and the East.
It was reasoned that one of the things (not the only thing) achieved in Purgatory was the purgation of a saved soul’s inordinate attachments which, IF it had been done on earth, would have required a passage of time. When a sin proceeding from those inordinate attachments was confessed, that passage of time would have been time in the order of penitents. Consequently, while no man is able to understand whether (or in what way) time passes in Purgatory, the purgation of the soul achieved there is EQUIVALENT to what might (and ideally should!) have already happened during a passage of time on earth.
And when, through the merits and prayers of the saints, extra graces are granted to that same soul, the result is efficacious for that soul (as every Orthodox Christian would agree). But to say that the merits and prayers of the saints are efficacious in this way JUST IS to say that benefits which otherwise could have happened over some period of time on earth have instead happened during the process of purgation.
Consequently, there are surely prayers or meritorious acts of the saints which are exactly as efficacious as some period of earthly penitential time (e.g., “2 years, 16 days”) in the sense of helping the soul in the same way. In describing an Indulgence, a period of time was ascribed purely as an estimation of the magnitude of the graces granted. Since time/suffering in Purgatory was deemed unknown/unknowable, they estimated the magnitude by comparing it to earthly time spent in the order of penitents. That’s where those numbers come from.
The Catholic Church no longer uses such exact time-based language, of course, for two reasons:
1. Because exact time-periods in the order of penitents are no longer assigned by the bishop. (This is a disciplinary decision about which one could debate the merits.)
2. Because it causes the uninformed, who don’t understand the original context of that language, to think that it describes time experienced by the soul in Purgatory. This was never what it meant, but those who don’t do their homework often make this mistake.
So the Catholic Church now opts to use terms like “Plenary Indulgence” or “Partial Indulgence,” without further specificity, to avoid this confusion.
“Nope, sorry, never happened.”
Then at the end of your post:
“exact time-periods in the order of penitents are no longer assigned by the bishop.”
As Dr. Evil might say, “….riiiiigggghhhhtttt….”