Do Catholics Believe In Purgatory?

Each religion has its own understanding of what happens when someone passes away, including where their soul or spirit might go.

The Catholic religion very evidently believes that there is a heaven and a hell.

But do Catholics believe in purgatory?

There is some mention in the Catholic Bible of purgatory, but it’s not a widely discussed aspect of the faith. The concept of purgatory is similar in Catholicism to the general understanding, which is that it’s a place where souls go when the person has been good but has also committed some sin. 

It’s also believed that it is possible for a soul to ascend from purgatory to heaven under the right conditions. 

Catholics | Purgatory

The Catholic faith regards purgatory as a place where a soul can go that hasn’t committed a grave sin that would warrant going to hell, but still has some work to do before they are deserving of heaven.

This place is considered one where a soul is able to be purified in order to prepare it for heaven. 

The belief is that purgatory is not a peaceful place, nor is it as disastrous as ending up in hell.

Landing in purgatory is seen as a punishment, though it is not meant to be the place where a soul should remain forever.

With prayers of loved ones and the prayer and reflection of the soul in purgatory, heaven is possible. 

How Catholicism Views Purgatory 

The Catholic faith has changed its teachings on purgatory from time to time.

However, the earliest official acknowledgment outside of scripture was that purgatory was a place where souls could go to be cleansed before entering heaven, and that loved ones of the dead could offer prayers to aid in the process. 

It used to be purported that, upon someone’s death, their loved ones could offer prayers and gifts to the church in an effort to help their soul move from purgatory to heaven.

Critics of the church and other Christian churches believed that this practice was, to a certain extent, exploitative. 

On All Souls’ Day, Catholics used to honor those who have passed and may be in purgatory.

There were a wealth of traditions that were once practiced on this day, though they aren’t anymore.

While it’s fairly customary to still pray for a loved one who has passed, it’s no longer common practice for gifts to be offered to secure someone’s salvation. 

The Purpose Of Purgatory 

The general consensus surrounding purgatory was that those who lived a fairly good life, acknowledged the existence and importance of God, and those willing to pray and seek forgiveness would have the opportunity to go to purgatory.

There would be some punishment involved for souls entering purgatory, but that punishment was believed to be short-lived. 

There were no specific criteria involved for who would and wouldn’t be able to enter purgatory amongst death.

What has been believed, however, was that God was gracious and accepting of those who may not have been perfect in life, but still lived a life as best as they could be based on the teaching and guidance of God and Jesus. 

How The Beliefs Of Purgatory Have Changed 

Throughout the many centuries that Catholicism has been practiced, there have been mixed views on what purgatory is, and whether or not it’s actually something that scripture actually alludes to.

Many Christian faiths don’t believe in purgatory, and there have been popes in the past, such as Pope Gregory the First, who stated that one either goes to heaven or hell upon death and there’s no in-between. 

In modern times, the Catholic church acknowledges that purgatory is referenced in scripture, but the concept isn’t held in as high of a regard as it once was.

It is instead stressed that trying to live a life free from sin in service to the church and to others is the best course of action. 

Final Thoughts 

Purgatory is not something that only exists in the Catholic faith, but it did have some significance in the religion.

As mentioned, many Catholics have heard of the idea of purgatory, but the only tradition still commonly practiced that is somewhat related to purgatory is prayers for those who have passed on.