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Religion Library: Roman Catholicism

Afterlife and Salvation

Written by: Cynthia Stewart

Purgatory is, as its name suggests, a place of purgation. Christ's death may have opened the way for humans to receive salvation and attain heaven, but their souls are still warped by the sins they have committed. In order to purify their souls, humans pass through purgatory, where they endure severe punishment and in the process become cleansed of sin and its ill effects. All humans who enter purgatory will eventually pass from it into heaven, but they will spend differing amounts of time in the purgatorial fire depending on how warped their souls became due to sin.

The souls of those who are too corrupted with sin and who continue in disobedience to God until death cannot be cleansed even in the fires of purgatory and will instead choose hell. Hell has traditionally been thought of as a place of unending torment but is now more commonly seen as the state of being totally removed from the goodness of God's presence. Theologians today talk about the suffering of souls in hell less in physical and more in psychic terms: the soul's endless sorrow at an eternity spent away from the source of all good and truth, with no possibility of a reprieve.

Study Questions:
     1.    What is corporate salvation?
     2.    Why is the Church, as opposed to the title “Catholic,” crucial for salvation?
     3.    How do Catholics understand atonement?
     4.    What is purgatory? Is it a final destination for Catholic souls?


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