From the Catholic Encyclopedia comes this:
Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm)
And from Fisheaters.com:
Purgatory is not Hell minus a few torments and degrees Fahrenheit; it’s not Heaven minus joy. It’s not a “Third Final Destination” of souls. Purgatory is simply the place where already saved souls are cleansed of the temporal effects of sin before they are allowed to see the holy face of Almighty God. Revelation 21:27 tells us that “…nothing unclean will enter [Heaven].”(http://www.fisheaters.com/purgatory.html)
An analogy from the Fisheaters.com website is apt in how the Catholic Church views the need for purgatory:
The best way to understand the idea of already being forgiven but still having to be cleansed of the temporal effects of sin is by analogy: imagine you are the parent of a 7-year old child who steals a candy bar from the local grocery. The child is repentant, in tears, sobbing his apologies. You, being the good parent (as God, our Father is!) forgive that child and love him and show him your mercy. But being a good parent means that you are also just and will expect that child to pay back the store. Purgatory is God’s way of forgiving us, loving us, showing us His mercy and justice — and making us “pay back the store.” Can you imagine what would happen to the child of a parent who never expected that child to “pay back the store” (especially when that same parent believed also that there was nothing that child could do to become “disinherited,” as in the “once saved, always saved” doctrine)? As always, the best way to understand Catholic doctrine is to think of God as the wisest, most loving, most merciful, and most just Father that we can possibly envision.
Can you see a problem with ‘paying back the store’ in what we’ve already discussed concerning God’s forgiveness of sin and ‘repentance’, not ‘do penance’? Is the analogy of God to His children the same as the analogy of a human parent to her child?
It is because of the doctrine of penance in the Catholic Church that drives the need for purgatory. The reason is that in this life, no matter how much ‘penance’ you do, you’re never sure you’ve done enough, never sure if your good works, Hail Mary’s, fastings, and abstinences have completely paid off the balance of your sins, never sure if you still have an unpaid balance left at the moment you die. Thus, you can finish ‘paying off’ in purgatory.
What a contrast to this was the Protestant Reformed position that the death of the true believer has the assurance that he goes straight to heaven into the immediate presence of Christ (Phil. 1:23). He doesn’t need to ‘pay off’ any more sin, Christ had forgiven all past, present, and future sins at the moment of his belief.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Ps. 103:12).
He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).
Keith Green’s comments in The Catholic Chronicles are appropriate at this point:
It is obvious by even this brief glimpse into the doctrines of mortal and venial sins, confession, penance, and purgatory, that the Roman Catholic Church has constructed one of the most unbiblical doctrinal systems that has ever been considered “Christian”. The fear, anguish, and religious bondage that such a system of ‘reward and punishment’ creates, has tormented millions of lives for centuries, and continues to prey on those who are ignorant of the biblical way of salvation. (http://www.theboc.com/freestuff/keithgreen/catholicchronicles/index.html)
Vaya con Dios mis hijas,
Dear ol’ Dad