The instructor this weekend proposes that Purgatory is not a dogma of the church, as it is insufficiently defined. My query is, how clearly defined or explicitly stated must a teaching be explained before we are obligated to accept the dogma as an essential truth? Her answer was that it is essentially up to the individual to weigh the merit of a teaching in order to determine whether it is a dogma.
I may vomit… that’s the peak of relativism and height of pride… “I accept all of the church’s teachings as authoritative with which I agree, and reject as specious all those with which I disagree.” There may be teachings we have difficulty understanding, but the challenge is for us to exercise sufficient humility to recognize that the failure MAY BE in our understanding, and not in thousands of years of thinking and teaching by men and women who have devoted their entire lives to these issues.
For what it’s worth, the Council of Trent made the following statement about Purgatory -
Began on the third, and terminated on the fourth, day of December, MDLXIII., being the ninth and last under the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IV.
Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this ecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ.
Catholic Essentials presents a quick summary of teachings on Purgatory here: http://www.catholicessentials.net/purgatory.htm that may be of interest to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also offers: