5 Usual Misconceptions Majority have about Purgatory

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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030)


1. It’s not just a giant waiting room.

Or a waiting game, or a place or time at all. As St. John Paul II said,

“The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection” (General Audience, 4 August 1999).

This makes it clear that after death, we will not all be sitting in the reception area of a doctor’s office, waiting for our name to be called so we can enter the Kingdom. We are outside the realm of time when we leave behind our earthly bodies, and as such, we have no measurement of what this purification requires.


2. It’s not re-judgment.

It’s not a trial for our souls. Our eternal resting place has already been determined, this is preparation for that place. Purgatory is the part of judgment where all of our imperfections, wrongdoings, ungodliness, and stains are purged before entrance into the Kingdom of God. Nothing impure or less than perfect may meet the Lord, and therefore we must be made pure in order to enter His Light. However, being made pure is not contingent on a second judgment; once we have “made it” to purgatory, so to speak, we already know we have been saved! We are simply being made perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect, so that we can enter into eternal praise and worship of Him.


3. It’s not a do-over or a second chance.

Our particular judgment happens at the moment of our death. We are immediately judged and it is established whether we choose to spend eternity with the Lord and the Communion of Saints, or whether we choose an eternity separated from all that is good and holy. Purgatory is not an opportunity for us to be confronted by our mistakes and try again. At this point, it has already been determined that we are saved! We actively choose this chance for a little extra help to be absolutely perfect before we make it to our final state of being one with God.


4. It’s not an opportunity for repentance, nor is it punishment.

Purgatory is not a confessional; there is not priest waiting to absolve us of our sins upon becoming part of this reality. Similarly, this is not a state of torture for all of our transgressions. Once we are dead, we cannot repent, do penance, or actively choose to sin no more (because we are dead… It’s impossible to sin more.) The purification that we undergo is holy fire, but this does not equate to punishment. It is a purging and interior fire whose only pain lies in the fact that in that moment, we are not yet with God.


5. It’s not up to you at all!

Our purification and cleansing in purgatory depend on the prayers, penance, and indulgences of the living. After our deaths, we must rely on the goodness of those who survive to pray for us so that we might enter into the Kingdom. In purgatory, souls may intercede for the living, but not for themselves.


We only get one soul. The soul we are born with is the soul we will carry with us into eternal life. Because of this, everything we do in this life shapes what our souls will look like once we pass away. We are not just bodies! We are body and soul. The person we become during our earthly life does not disappear when we die! We have the opportunity now to become the whole person we would want to meet our Creator. Let us do our very best to live in such a way that we acquire a taste for heaven and let us pray for the purification of the souls in purgatory! November is set aside as a special month to pray for the souls in purgatory.


Sara is currently a graduate Theology student at the University of Notre Dame through the Echo program. She enjoys pizza, coffee, and arguing with her father about whether or not Jesus was Jewish (he was, for the record). If you know Cardinal Dolan, please contact Sara because she would love to be working for him come 2017.



  1. Peter Spasic Reply

    “We are simply being made perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect, so that we can enter into eternal praise and worship of Him.”
    “After our deaths, we must rely on the goodness of those who survive to pray for us so that we might enter into the Kingdom”
    “In purgatory, souls may intercede for the living, but not for themselves”

    Interesting… what scriptures support these beliefs?

  2. Peter Aiello Reply

    Is purgatory the sheol (OT) or hades (NT) of Scripture? If it is, why call it purgatory? If it is not, how did it come into being?

    1. Peter Spasic Reply

      The Catholic Church gets purgatory, in part, from 1 Corinthians 3:15 (but verse 13 makes it clear this refers to the final judgement, not a pre-heaven purgation). Also they claim support from the book of 2 Macabbeas 12:43-46 – not recognized as inspired scripture.
      However, if purgatory and the prayers of the (departed) saints and Mary are so important, then the writings of the apostles and other New Testament authors (Mark, Luke, Jude) certainly do not reflect this.
      Furthermore, the fact that prayers of living Christians as well as those of the ‘saints’ are supposed to be efficacious in purifying the souls in purgatory, that means that Christ’s death was not sufficient for our salvation.
      Scripture states that it is HE who presents us faultless (Jude 24) – He is our sanctification…not those prayers offered on our behalf.
      I suggest that Roman Catholicism is “another gospel” that Paul would have most strongly preached and written against (Galatians 1:8, 2:11 and 3:1ff)
      Tradition, introduced early in church history – and embellished over time by Roman Catholicism’s hierarchy and Magisterium – have successfully produced this “other gospel”.
      This is not to say that there are no truly born-again Catholics. But they would certainly be in the minority. Facebook and other social media show just how popular are the “saints” and the “mother of God”.

      1. Peter Aiello Reply

        I agree. Many Catholics are not aware that Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 21 says: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.” Tradition and the magisterium are also subject to regulation. Often there is resistance when I point this out to Catholics. I wish the Church would pay more attention to this.
        The Spirit of Christ is emphasized in the epistles as our primary connection with Christ instead of Mary and the Eucharist. We need to get back to Biblical priorities.
        2 Machabees 12: 43-46 probably refers to sheol. It was the holding place for the Old Testament people who died prior to the Redemption. Hades or Sheol is an interesting place in Scripture. Does Hades still exist, and are there still spirits of the dead in there? Jesus went there to preach to them during the three days and nights after His death and before His resurrection. Is this still a holding place for the dead? In the book of Revelation it says that death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire at the end of the world, so Hades must still be around at the present time.

  3. Tom Rafferty Reply

    How do you know there is a “Purgatory” without citing scripture or Church dogma? In fact, how do you know that scripture and Church dogma is true?

  4. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Where is purgatory mentioned in the bible? In the old days, before Jesus, everyone good and bad alike went to Sheol, a place of permanent unconsciousness. Most Jews believed that at the end of time we would be wakened, judged and those found wanting would be destroyed, while the others enjoyed a new paradise. After Jesus came with his “good news” we were instead judged immediately upon death, and if found wanting, sentenced to eternal torment, rather than simply being destroyed. This was clearly not a “good news” improvement in our condition. Remember, no human beings went to eternal torment before Jesus came. (If purgatory is outside time and space, so too is eternal torment. Torment requires some sort of pain, which requires causation. Time is required for causation. How do you have pain outside of time and space? How does a body exist outside of space, if there is no space for the body to exist in? How can Yahweh affect things in our space/time reality if he is outside of it? That implies interacting with our particles, so how do you interact with particles if you’re outside our space/time physical matter reality?
    If it’s not a waiting room or a place of time at all, why does the Church provide indulgences in order to shorten time in purgatory for those with enough friends to pray for them?
    We are to be purged, cleared of all our imperfections, wrongdoings, ungodliness, etc. What then will we be? Our thoughts give rise to lust, for example. These thoughts, like memories, rise, unbidden and we have no control over them. Yahweh/Jesus is going to remove all these thoughts, all the things that make us who we are. Yahweh, it seems is going to turn us into zombies – how else could we be happy knowing there are countless billions suffering eternal torment at the command of an evil god and there’s nothing we can do about it? Purgatory appears to be the process of drugging us into a zombie state, where perfection means the inability to think, reason, remember, love, care, empathize, etc. Wrath and retribution is the name of the game and your reward is not having to see it invoked on those who failed to believe what you believe – though I know that for many Christians, watching the agony of those who did not believe the right things, is indeed, their idea of heaven. What a shame if their minds are to be wiped clean so that they will not be able to enjoy the suffering of others as they anticipated.
    The author is adamant that there are no second chances. We are sent to eternal torment for failing to believe, say or do the right things as dictated by the Church, without being provided a scintilla of objective evidence that this Yahweh-Jesus thing is real. It seems like a good god would send you to purgatory, and say, “Look – I’m real. Now will you believe?” It seems to me that those who blindly accept what they are told to believe are the ones who have failed to live up to their capabilities and expectations – it is they who have buried their talents in the garden, and the story says it is those people who face ruination.
    It hardly seems fair that our cleansing in purgatory relies on the prayers, penance, and indulgences of the living. Those who die lonely and friendless are to be punished for it?
    In summary, the author says we are still the person that we become during our earthly life – but that’s nonsense, if all our imperfections, wrongdoings, ungodliness, etc. are washed away, leaving us as zombies. What we are is the combination and collection of all those thoughts, memories, actions, experiences – and wiping them away does not leave us as the person we were. What it does, is make it possible for us to ignore the evil being perpetrated on billions of people for failing to believe this fanciful nonsense.
    Fortunately, it is all fanciful nonsense. Jesus didn’t speak of a literal Hell. He used the word Gehenna, translated by the Church to the pagan word “Hell.” Gehenna was the Jerusalem town dump, (it’s closed) and he spoke of it allegorically. Jews knew what he was talking about. It was the ultimate insult to be thrown into the dump rather than be given a proper burial. The early Catholic Church turned Jesus into a monster by insisting that Gehenna was a real place of eternal torment. They told the same thing to the Greeks and Romans, using the pagan underworld, Hades in the same way. The people of the time knew these were places allegorical, but your Church made them real in order to scare the bejeebers out of us, so they could control us. It was a vicious cruelty and it’s time for it to come to an end.

    1. Peter Aiello Reply

      Patrick: I can give you some information on the Christian zombie state. You can have it now without having to wait for purgatory or heaven. It doesn’t take away your ability of think, reason, and remember; but it does deal with negative emotional states such as worry, anger, unforgiveness, compulsions, and addictions.
      The Bible gives you clues on how to arrive. 1Peter 5:5-7 is a good place to start: “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you”.
      Being exalted in due time is the zombie state. I call it Christian enlightenment. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 describes it.

  5. Maxinne Viola Reply

    But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

    JOHN 3:16
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

    JOHN 14:6
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me.”

    Jesus is the only way

  6. Rodney R Reply

    So Peter, Patrick and Peter- you guys think you know better than holy Mother Church? Where is it written that everything we are to believe is recorded in Scripture and, didn’t Jesus chide the Jewish religious leaders who thought that just by studying the Scriptures (OT) they had eternal life? Jesus promised the apostles the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth- and Purgatory is part of that revelation. The Church cannot teach error because she is the “pillar and foundation of truth” So says St Paul. 2 Timothy 3:15.

    1. Peter Spasic Reply

      “Where is it written that everything we are to believe is recorded in Scripture” – surely 2 Timothy 3:16-17 implies that to “be complete…” all we need to know is in scripture (which includes the New Testament writings – 2 Peter 3:15-16). Any traditions that are adopted must be consistent with scripture.

      “and, didn’t Jesus chide the Jewish religious leaders who thought that JUST by studying the Scriptures (OT) they had eternal life? ” – read John 5:39 carefully in its context. You add the word “just”, which completely alters the intent of what Jesus said.

      “Jesus promised the apostles the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth- and Purgatory is part of that revelation.” – OK then, where did the apostles write about revelation they received about purgatory? – 1 Cor 3:13-15 refers to the final judgement day, not an intermediate state of purging. And, if Maccabees is the authority (written 100’s of years BC) why didn’t Paul, James or Peter reinforce such an important doctrine?

      “The Church cannot teach error because she is the “pillar and foundation of truth” So says St Paul. 2 Timothy 3:15.” ??? This verse does not say that…Paul is simply leading into verse 16
      So was the “church” in error when she taught about limbo? How about enforced celibacy? Paul recommended this but did not state it was a requirement – 1 Tim 4:3. Paul commended both marrying and celibacy (1Cor 7:25-38, without tying it to ministers of the gospel.

      BTW – I believe “scripture cannot teach error” is a better approach than “the Church cannot teach error”.

      Rodney, you are obviously very sincere; however, keep searching the SCRIPTURES and compare them to traditions – to see what is true/untrue (Acts 17:11) Your eternity depends on worshiping God in spirit and in TRUTH

    2. Peter Aiello Reply

      Rodney R: Holy Mother Church does say in Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 21: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.”
      She is not just the clergy. In fact, we can also contribute to tradition. Vatican II states in Dei Verbum 8: “This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. (5) For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth”.

    3. AL Reply

      You said it right Rodney R, that thought does not come from you but from the Holy Spirit to explain to these three Patompet who thinks they know everything.

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