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Haste to finish the Council— News of the Pope's Illness—TWENTY-FIFTH
AND LAST SESSION-Decree on Purgatory—Further Illustrations of the Sentiments and Practice of the Roman-catholic Church on that SubjectDoctrine of Indulgences explained—Decree-Institution and Effects of Jubilees-Roman Chancery-Decree on Fasts, Feast-days, &c.—Observations,
All parties were now in haste to finish the council as soon as possible. The prelates and divines were weary of the protracted debates; and those who had advocated reform were so little satisfied with the results of their endeavours that they were anxious to be released from unproductive toil. Similar feelings actuated the ambassadors. The legates participated in the general wish, and urged the divines to expedite the remaining discussions with all practicable speed. This was done in obedience to express orders received from Rome.*
The subjects that were still to be treated had been examined at Bologna, in 1548. Some recommended an entirely new and extended inquiry ; but as this would have occupied much time, the proposition was overruled, and it was determined to publish only brief statements of the faith of the church on the points in question, without the usual formalities of chapters and canons. Purgatory, the invocation of saints, the use of images, and indulgences, remained to be discussed. Committees were immediately formed to prepare the decrees, and the labour was cheerfully undertaken, in the prospect of early repose.
* Cardinal Moron wrote to the Emperor to procure his consent to the termination of the council. Among other arguments, he particularly urged the continual advance of Protestantism, especially in France and Italy, which of course made it desirable that bishops should be resident in their dioceses. Le Plat, vi. p. 161.
While they were thus engaged, news arrived in the night of the first of December, that the Pope was alarmingly ill, and that his life was considered to be in danger. The fathers were hastily convened, and a resolution passed to celebrate the closing session of the council as soon as the necessary documents could be prepared, instead of waiting for the ninth instant, the day originally appointed. Accordingly, on Dec. 3, 1563, and the following day, (for there was too much business to be dispatched at one sitting,) the twenty-fifth and last session was held. Purgatory, the invocation of saints, and the use of images, were the subjects of the first day's decision. On the second day, indulgences, the choice of meats and drinks, and the observance of feasts and fasts, were noticed. Long decrees on reformation, comprising the ultimate concessions of the Pontiff, were passed on each day. These, with the decree on the same subject, passed in the twenty-fourth session, will be reviewed hereafter.
In the following short decree the council asserted the doctrine of purgatory :
6 Since the Catholic church, instructed by the Holy Spirit, through the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the fathers, hath taught in holy councils, and lastly in this æcumenical council, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the mass ; this holy council commands all bishops diligently to endeavour that the wholesome doctrine of purgatory, delivered to us by venerable fathers and holy councils, be believed and held by Christ's faithful, and everywhere taught and preached. *
* “ The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy councils declare, on scripture, and confirmed by apostolical tradition, demands diligent and frequent exposition, proportioned to the circumstances of the times in which we live, when men endure not sound doctrine.”—Catechism, p. 59.
The decree of the council is well obeyed. Even the children are carefully instructed in this dogma. Thus“ The souls of some, who have not been very good during part of their lifetime, and yet have had pardon of their sins, will go into a prison called purgatory for a while.”—Catholic School Book, p. 68.
“Q. Whither go such as die in venial sin, or not having fully satisfied for the punishment due to their mortal sins ? A. To purgatory, till they huve made full satisfaction for them, and then to heaven.”—Abstract of the Douay Catechism, p. 71.
Let difficult and subtle questions, which tend not to edification, and from which commonly religion derives no advantage, be banished from popular discourses, particularly when addressed to the ignorant multitude. Let such as are of doubtful character, or seem to border upon error, be prevented from being published and discussed. Let those which promote mere curiosity, or superstition, or savour of filthy lucre, be prohibited, as scandalous and offensive to Christians. Let the bishops take care that the suffrages of the living faithful-viz., masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which the faithful have been accustomed to perform for departed believers—be piously and religiously rendered, according to the institutes of the church ; and whatever services are due to the dead, through the endowments of deceased persons, or in any other way, let them not be performed slightly, but diligently and carefully, by the priests and ministers of the church, and all others to whom the duty belongs.” · Purgatory, according to Bellarmine, is “ that place in which, after death, the souls of those persons are purified who were not fully cleansed on earth, in order that they may be prepared for heaven, wherein nothing shall enter that defileth.”* In attempting to prove that there is such a place, he mainly relies on 2 Maccabees xii. 43—46, a passage which has been already noticed, and on which Roman-catholic writers in general lay great stress.f But the adventurous cardinal is not content with this. He has pressed into the service other texts of scripture, the application of which to this subject may well excite the surprise of more sober expositors. Did the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead fast seven days on account of the death of Saul and Jonathan? And did David weep and fast also on the same occasion, as well as at the death of Abner ? That abstinence and those tears, we are told, were intended for the relief of the suffering spirits of the deceased. The “ pit wherein is no water,” (Zech. ix. 11;) the “ fire,” (1 Cor. iii. 15;) the “ prison,” (Matt. v. 25;) the “judgment,” (Matt. v. 22,) are so many descriptions of pur
* De Purgatorio, 1. i. cap. 1.
+ Tobit iv. 18, is also adduced—“ Lay out thy bread and thy wine upon the burial of a just man ;" that is, says Bellarmine,“ make a feast, and invite to it the believing poor, that when they have received thine alms, they may pray for the soul of the departed.”—De Purgatorio, 1. i. cap. 3.
gatory.* Such expositions are not worth the labour of a studied refutation. Unhappily, these are not the only instances of the perversion of scripture in support of a system framed without regard to the evidence and authority of that holy book.
It is affirmed that purgatory is situated in the centre of the earth, and that it forms one of the four compartments into which the infernal regions are divided. In the first of these the damned are placed; the second is purgatory; in the third reside the spirits of infants who died without baptism, and who endure the eternal punishment of loss, though not of sense ; the fourth was limbo, the abode of the pious who departed this life before the birth of Christ, and were delivered by him when he descended into hell.f This last is now empty, as it is supposed that purgatory will be hereafter.
The punishment endured in this fictitious abode is said to be that of fire, “ corporeal fire;” but how such an agent can act upon an incorporeal spirit, the cardinal prudently confesses cannot be understood upon earth. All that can be known in this state is, that the pains of purification are so horribly severe that no sufferings ever borne in this world can be compared with them. How long they continue is not reported; but it is thought that the process is very gradual, and that some will not be thoroughly cleansed till the day of judgment. S
* De Purgatorio, 1. i. cap. 3–8.
# Ibid. 1. ii. cap. 6. The cardinal gravely brings forward, as proofs of the locality of the infernal regions, certain silly tales of visions and apparitions ; for instance, that in the eruptions of Mount Hecla, souls have often appeared ; this, of course, is conclusive evidence that the craters of volcanoes are entrances into hell!
| “O hell, I will be thy bite,” (Hosea xiii. 14, Douay version ;) which passage was explained by Archbishop Hamilton in 1551, to this effect; “ the man that hites anything takes part to him, and lets part remain behind. So our Saviour, passing down to hell, fulfilled this prophecy, taking part of the souls out from hell with him, and leaving part behind him. Whom took he with him, but the holy and good, who were held there as prisoners ?"-M‘Crie's Life of Knox, i. p. 410.
§ S. Bernard writes that a certain saint, praying for a deceased sister, thrice saw her in vision. The first time she was clothed in black, standing without the church ; on the second occasion, attired in a brownish garment, she appeared just within the threshold ; when he saw her the third time, she was dressed in white, and standing before the altar with the other saints. Whence
Of this doctrine a most profitable application has been made by the priesthood. They have diligently inculcated that the sufferers in purgatory may receive powerful relief from their brethren on earth, and that the duration of their pains may be considerably shortened by prayers, alms, and other works of piety, performed for their benefit, but more especially by the sacrifice of the mass, offered in their behalf by the priest. A readier method of filling the coffers of the church could not have been invented. That they have been so filled, even to repletion, is an historical fact that cannot be disputed.*
Great care is taken to bring the subject constantly before the people. In every mass there is a general commemoration of the departed. Prayers are prepared, to be offered at the moment of death, at stated intervals after it, and at the returns of the anniversary of the event.t A solemn office for the dead
the holy man inferred that purgatorial cleansing is gradual. And Bellarmine says that the same may be proved from many other visions !De Purgat. 1. ii. c. 14.
* “ No penny, no paternoster.” “ Philip V. ordered, by his will, all the priests of the place where he should die to say mass the same day for the repose of his soul; besides which, they were to celebrate during three days, before privileged altars, as many masses as possible; and that he might not fail in his purpose, he further commanded a hundred thousand masses to be said on his behalf, the surplus of as many as were necessary to conduct him to heaven reversible to poor solitary souls, concerning whom no person bestowed a thought.”— Bourgoing's Modern State of Spain, iv. p. 273.
+ On the day of decease or burial. “ Have mercy, O Lord, we beseech thee, on the soul of thy servant N., for which we offer this victim of praise, humbly beseeching thy majesty, that by this propitiatory sacrifice, he (or she) may arrive at eternal rest.” “ Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that the soul of thy servant, which this day hath departed this life, being purified and freed from sin by this sacrifice, may obtain both forgiveness and eternal
On the third, seventh, or thirtieth day after decease. “ Admit, we beseech thee, O Lord, the soul of thy servant N., (the third, seventh, or thirtieth day) of whose decease we commemorate, into the fellowship of thy saints, and refresh it with the perpetual dew of thy mercy.” “Mercifully look down, O Lord, on the offerings we make for the soul of thy servant N., that, being purified by these heavenly mysteries, it may find rest in thy mercy. Receive, O Lord, our prayers on behalf of the soul of thy servant N., that if any stains of the corruptions of this world still stick to it, they may be washed away by thy forgiving mercy.”-Roman-catholic Missal for the use of the Laity, pp. 510—520.