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Romans 8:1:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

How do Catholics respond to the apparent incompatibility between this verse and purgatory? That being that we wouldn't need to be purged of sins (condemnation) since we are in Jesus.

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In Catholic belief, purgatory is not condemnation: It is a place of penance and purification (note the Latin root in common with "purging", "purgare", meaning to purify), in preparation for one's admittance into heaven, cleansing the sins of the deceased.

Ultimately, a soul will either be admitted into Heaven, or condemned to Hell. Purgatory is neither, but rather a temporary state/location, where those who die in God's grace ("in Jesus Christ"), but who still bear the stain of their sins are cleansed prior to admittance in to Heaven.

This is described in (the admittedly difficult to parse at first glance) 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

"For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."

C.S. Lewis, who believed in purgatory (despite being a Protestant Theologian, although best known now for his children's literature series the Chronicles of Narnia), described it in analogy in a letter, saying:

"Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.'

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don't think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am 'coming round',' a voice will say, 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed."

  • C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
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  • By this understanding 1 Cor. 3 has everyone going to or through purgatory. The fire will test every man's work. Do Catholics believe everyone goes to purgatory first? Nov 10 at 13:09
  • In context though 1 Cor. 3 is talking about those who teach God's word, and how legit teachers are all working together (Paul, Apollos, Cephas). It mentions how Paul laid a foundation, and then talks about people building on it, apparently talking about teachers that come after Paul. The jewels seem to be sound teaching, the stubble fluff that doesn't reject the gospel, and those who destroy God's temple false teachers who reject the gospel. Notice that it's what was built (the work in this case) that is subjected to the fire, not the people.
    – bob
    Nov 10 at 13:47
  • 1 Corin. 3:10-14: "10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward."
    – bob
    Nov 10 at 13:50
  • ...and 16-20: "16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”[b]"
    – bob
    Nov 10 at 13:51
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    @MikeBorden: I read it as everyone being "tested"; a bit ephemera, but would passing through the fire unharmed count as going "to purgatory" if you don't stay there? If you think of it as a refinement process, the perfectly pure cannot be improved upon. I'll have to recollect, but I think as per doctrine the only ones who wouldn't are the Virgin Mary, the Martyrs, and those who die in a "perfect state of grace", so the answer to your questions is "most everyone, presumably".
    – sharur
    Nov 10 at 15:53

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