There is perhaps no other Catholic dogma that is more subject to abject scrutiny, and also more misunderstood, than that of purgatory. Detractors will the call the notion an unbiblical or even pagan invention, but that couldn’t be any further from the case. What exactly is purgatory?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, purgatory may best be thought of as a process, or state of purification:
“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. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect …” – CCC 1030-1031
What’s more, according to Thomas Aquinas, there are TWO purgatories! And it’s why we have ghosts!
“It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements of holy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory.”
The first purgatory is as above in the Catechism.
“One, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is situated below and in proximity to hell, so that it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory; although the damned being lower in merit, are to be consigned to a lower place.”
But the second purgatory is one in which spirits are allowed to come back to Earth and “haunt” the living – and by haunt request prayers from the Faithful so they may get out of purgatory.
“Another place of Purgatory is according to dispensation: and thus sometimes, as we read, some are punished in various places, either that the living may learn, or that the dead may be succored, seeing that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the prayers of the Church.”