In the interest of thoroughness I’d like to elaborate a bit on a previous post in which I referred to “Gregorian masses” (see here). I usually try to pursue the rationale behind Catholic rituals and ceremonies beyond the superficial to their self-refuting conclusions but for some reason I failed to carry forward my argument regarding Gregorian masses to its finality.
Briefly, Catholics are taught they must spend an indeterminate amount of time in “purgatory” to be cleansed from the guilt of “venial” (minor) sins and to pay the penalty for any remaining temporal punishment for “mortal” (major) sins already forgiven by a priest. Catholic theologians once taught the flames of purgatory were as excruciating as those in Hell but contemporary teaching now tends toward viewing purgatory as more of a way-station where deep-longing has replaced suffering.
According to Catholic theology, time in purgatory may be shortened by receiving “indulgences” from the church. “Plenary” (full) indulgences pardon all of the punishment/cleansing due in purgatory up to the point of reception while “partial” indulgences remove only an indeterminate portion. Indulgences may be applied to oneself or to deceased loved ones in accordance with official guidelines.
Are you still with me? The vast majority of Roman Catholics could not explain their church’s teaching on indulgences.
Catholics are taught that individual masses offered up for the deceased souls in purgatory will shorten their stay, although no one can say for how long. The suggested “stipend” for a mass intention is $10-$15. A tradition arose in the 6th century which claimed that thirty masses offered for a deceased person over thirty consecutive days, termed “Gregorian masses,” would be sure to release a soul from purgatory. See here. But the tradition stipulates the thirty masses cannot be said intermittently. They MUST be said over the course of thirty consecutive days for the plenary indulgence to be granted. The suggested “offering” for this series of masses ranges from $150-$300 depending on the priest or monastery a person deals with.
Okay, so now we finally get to carry this ritual to its illogical conclusion as I should have done initially.
Let’s just suppose a pious Catholic named Joe pays…er…I mean, contributes $300 to his parish priest to offer up thirty consecutive masses for the soul of his deceased mother who may or may not be in purgatory. The priest subsequently says twenty-nine masses over the course of twenty-nine consecutive days for the soul of the mother. But on the twenty-ninth day, immediately following mass, a flash fire destroys the church, killing both the priest and Joe. The result? The thirtieth and final Gregorian mass in the series was never conducted. So what is the status of Joe’s mother? Must she remain in purgatory as the Gregorian mass tradition stipulates since the series was not completed or will her remaining time in purgatory be pro-rated based on the 29 masses that were said?
And let’s not forget about the suffering soul in purgatory whose relatives are too poor or too cheap to shell out $300 to the priest for Gregorian masses. What about him? Why do the wealthy receive preferential treatment?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) does not mention Gregorian masses so this tradition is NOT an official teaching of the church although it has very wide acceptance. If you google “Gregorian mass” you’ll see many advertisements from monasteries offering this service. Why doesn’t the infallible pope weigh in on whether this popular tradition of thirty consecutive masses actually releases a soul from purgatory or not?
Catholics will charge that I’m being outrageously petty here for the sake of argument but, no, if you build a legalistic religious system, you must account for all contingencies. Catholic rituals, ceremonies, and traditions are refuted by logic and God’s Word.
I’m so grateful my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, released me from the chains of Catholic legalism and ritualism. Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of my sins on the cross.
Accept Jesus as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:12
What does the Bible say about Purgatory?