edited December 1969 in Non-Orthodox Inquiries
In the hopes of fostering understanding between the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches, what is the Coptic Orthodox understanding of the Catholic teaching on Purgatory?



  • simple.....We just dont accept it...We have one shot and one shot only
  • This is hardly the best timing to stir such questions, in addition anybody can research the internet and find out. Nevertheless the following is copying from a COC reference (which actually is a condensed summary from an excellent book by HH Pope Shenouda III).

    "The Coptic Orthodox View on the Purgatory
    1. Purgatory is against the doctrine of Atonement and Redemption
    2. Purgatory is against the doctrine of Salvation
    3. Purgatory is against the sacrament of repentance"

    the reference for more details:

  • John,

    Your style of writing is wonderful...to the point.  I like it.
  • Well, to my understanding we do not accept purgatory. It never says anything about it in the bible and it's a ridiculous idea somebody made. Sorry if i sound offensive.
  • [quote author=mardukm link=topic=9359.msg115492#msg115492 date=1276538905]
    In the hopes of fostering understanding between the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches, what is the Coptic Orthodox understanding of the Catholic teaching on Purgatory?


    I would like to use the term by a great Orthodox theologian to describe purgatory. H.E. Bishop Kallistos Ware calls this dogma "REDUNDANT".

    It is redundant, and I'll explain why; however, in my opinion, it is very dangerous also for reasons which I'd like to explain.

    It is redundant because the Catholic Church is a Church of sacraments. You have the life giving Graces from the sacraments. The same as us. What good is purgatory if you have been already cleansed through baptism, repentance and confession? That is like saying that Christ's blood isn't good enough to wash away sins. It is like saying that although I confess, God STILL needs to punish me, and my repentance and confession is not accepted.

    The Catholics have used the following example/logic to explain their point of view concerning purgatory:

    * If a man steals from someone and returns what he has stolen, and he confesses it, then God forgives him, but there STILL needs to be some payment IF the other person (the victim) has not forgiven him. That God being so "just" cannot let your sins go unpunished. Therefore, you are punished in purgatory.

    This is not only redundant, but nonsensical: If you have repented and returned what you have stolen, then God has forgiven you. That's it. If the man has not forgiven you, its his problem because God will not forgive him for his sins anyway. If he is a non Christian and doesn't even believe in God, then too bad, he's not even in the same ball game.

    Although I encourage everyone to read H.G's response to purgatory from the SUSCOPTS website link given, H.G does not mention ONE VITAL important mistake with purgatory that will destroy the Catholic Church:

    It reduces the importance and need for the sacraments. It trivialises the sacraments. Here is how: if you tell others that no matter HOW much they repent and they confess for their sins, no matter HOW MUCh they partake of the Holy Eucharist, that they will STILL face purgatory, then what is the point of baptism? What is the point of confession? what is the point of all these sacraments???

    This will destroy YOUR church. This is extremely foolish. You are a Church of sacraments, yet with this dogma, you have gone and reduced the sacraments to nothing. Furthermore, you have lost SO many (MILLIONS) of Catholics to the Protestant Church over this. They do not see that purgatory is important at all, and have then come to the conclusion that if this dogma is heretical, then what about everything else?? What about your sacraments? Then they will come to the conclusion that even priesthood is not important, as your sacraments are not important.

    Division is NOT from God, you are not only divided with the Apostolic Orthodox Church over this, but even your own members are leaving you in drones over this dogma.

    But whether they stay or go, is irrelavant for me. What IS important is that you respect your own sacraments:

    a) In Baptism  : we are forgiven. We are COMPLETELY forgiven. That's it. There's nothing left. Christ said to the thief on the cross: TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE!!!
    So this thief spent his entire life stealing and he didnt return any of the stolen goods. Maybe NO ONE forgave him? Maybe they did. Regardless, His death was considered a baptism, and his confession of Christ's Divinity was the founding faith, and his repentance qualified him for IMMEDIATE entry into paradise. There was NO purgatory!! Christ did not say to him "In a few years time, after you are dead you will be with me in paradise!!

    b) In Confession: Whatever we confess is forgiven. Christ's Words GUARANTEE that!!! You make a mockery of His promises through purgatory by going off and suggesting despite repenting and confession, you will STILL burn somewhere to be purified. Confession and repentance makes a prostitute INTO a virgin!! NOT PURGATORY!!!!

    c) Holy Communion: Whoever eats and drinks of Christ's Body and Blood will have eternal life. How can you partake of these sacraments, be Holy, have the life giving sacraments bestow you with Divine Grace and then burn somewhere to get purified?? How??

    You have made a mockery of the sacraments with purgatory, and have reduced the sacraments to nothing through it. Without the sacraments, you might as well pack your bags, close your Churches, and go and become protestants.
  • Purgatory is the idea that one must be cleansed by fire before entering paradise. This is actually a pagan belief, sorry if someone stated this already, but it was clearly prevalent in Egyptian eschatology, and likewise very popular amongst the Mexica (aztecs), Maya, Inca, Olmec etc. If we are to be cleansed by fire then what is baptism for? It really downplays baptism as merely symbolic, and I am sure the definition of this has also been altered over time to fit with the spirit of the age so as to dodge any sort of criticisms such as these.

    Purgatory is pagan, therefore the Latin belief is a pagan Christian hybrid, especially since homosexuality is so prevalent in the Church. Conservative estimates put the number of homosexual clergy at 50% (Fr Cozzone "The Changing Face of the Priesthood") And they view this as acceptable as well. Many pagan societies, namely the Greek, not only accepted homosexuality, beastiality, and pedophilia, it was a social norm. Two of those knowingly exist within the Latin church, and priests are protected by bishops by being moved to another parish. (see the documentary "Deliver us from Evil"). The priest in question in this documentary had hundreds upon hundreds of victims both male and female, the youngest of his victims was 9 months old, and yet was protected by the bishop, with the bishop having knowledge of ALL the accusations.

    Sorry got off topic a bit, these kind of things annoy me.
  • Hi Ioannes,

    I don't accept the teaching of a place called purgatory at all, but many of the Fathers, and indeed the Scriptures, do refer to the analogy of fire, and of a purifying after death.

    When we are baptised we are brought to life and into a new relationship with God, but we do continue to sin, and we do sow tares in the field of our hearts. There are those who the Bible says will be saved as through fire, and whose wasted lives will be burned up like a bonfire of hay and straw.

    I believe that this dross is burnt up when we pass through the the veil of death and into the fulness of life. But this is not the same as purgatory. I would imagine it is a process that happens immediately we die and not as some extended process in which we must continue to actively move towards God. It might be like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. There is a moment or two of pain as the old life passes away and the new begins.

    The analogy of fire is used, as well as that of a bonfire of straw, because it seems to me there is some sense that the rubbish in our life needs to be cleared away. This is not the same as purgatory. But it does seem Biblical to me, and is attested in many of the Fathers. I think I noticed yesterday a letter from St Severus about the soul after death. He may have something to say on the subject.

    What I find objectionable about the idea of purgatory is not the sense that the rubbish in our lives needs to be destroyed, but that what is essentially a mystery becomes a fully explained idea that goes way beyond what revelation allows us to say.

    Father Peter
  • I do agree there are references to somewhat mysterious things, these are the same references that the aerial toll houses come from, both of which have been developed overtime, or perverted. I object to the idea of an actual fire to cleanse, which is the idea of purgatory, to purge, which is indeed pagan in origin. As I stated before this negates baptism as a sacrament, as baptism's main goal is to wash away original sin, which takes precedence over all other sin, because all other sin stems from it.

    Fr. Peter, I do agree that there is most likely something after death. I dont know if it is in terms of pain or what. When we die, correct me if I am wrong, we go to paradise or hades, not heaven or hell. Because of the fact we have not been judged in the final judgment it wouldnt makes sense to go to heaven or hell only to come back and be "re-judged" so to speak. So the idea is that there must be something, and I agree with you 100%, what it is, I am not sure.

    I have actually studied this for years and I am just as mystified as when I first started studying it, LOL. I think what you and I are speaking of differs vastly from the idea of purgatory.
  • Dear Ioaness,

    I agree with you. There are many things about which we should be silent. What happens after death is one of them. We have certain hopes and principles which guide our thoughts. But when we start formally describing what is going to happen and then insist that others accept our reflections as doctrine then we are very likely to fall into error.

    I am aware in my own life that there is much which will need to be consumed in some cleansing fire so that my soul might be entirely pure before God. But I can say no more than that, and even that is entirely provisional.

    Now is the day of salvation. Now is the time for us to set our hearts in order.

    Father Peter
  • Fr Peter, You  are indeed correct, and made a very wise point. I think it is ok in one sense to study death and the here after, but to never take any absolute stance as we can never truly know. I do believe the Coptic church affirms that after death we do not go to heaven, but either paradise or hades/sheol, merely waiting apparently since no judgment has technically been rendered at that point. Everything else is just a mystery, so I usually assume the absolute worst possible scenario, lol thats typical of my mindset. Indeed we should be more focused on our own salvation here and now so we neednt worry about that.
  • I see your points:  Fr. Peter and Ioannes.  The thing that stumps in my mind is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus where the Gospel is specific that they went directly to their places of waiting.  How would one put this into perspective relative to the Crucifixion?  I know it is speculation, but I'm curious as to your own thoughts.
  • I am not sure that the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus should be taken as doctrine. I am not saying that it may not be taken as such, but it is also a parable.

    I am not convinced that we should say very much with any definiteness about anything after death.

    At the least we should turn to the understanding of the Fathers in regard to these things. I must pop out now, but perhaps we can find the patristic commentaries on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

    Father Peter
  • Christ said to the thief on the Cross: "This day you will be with me in Paradise".

    If purgatory existed, then the thief would not have been in Paradise the same day he died. He'd have spent a few good years tanning in some fire somewhere.

  • Zoxasi, that is a good point. What I think Fr. Peter is saying, is that being too definite on this subject could lead to theological problems. Fr Mikhail E Mikhail, my favorite modern theologian says the same thing. He did however explain to me that we do indeed go to a place of waiting, but beyond that we just dont know. As for the theif, he confessed to the high priest, tried to convert his fellow theif, and did not have much time in which to sin, therefore he most likely passed from this life WITH Christ about as clean from sin as possible. I personally believe that the thiefs death was itself like a baptism, but he did die before the new covenant was actually put into place.

    So in all honesty it is hard to say. We do know that we go to a waiting place seperated by an expanse for believers and non believers. It is not heaven or hell, but the anticipation is a sort of heaven or hell. If we practice the Orthodox spiritual life to the best of our ability then we should have nothing to worry about when our time comes. I however would kind of like to be around in the end, mostly because I would like to ask Enoch if he actually wrote the book of Enoch, in the Ethiopian Orthodox canon.
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