Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is it the role of the federal government to force religious institutions to pay for contraception and abortifacients?

Re: David's comment. I am really not looking to get in a battle (I don't have time for it). But, respectfully, here is my response (since I was mentioned in your post): I am the aforementioned "newly ordained priest" and "idiot" mentioned in this post. I was David theology teacher during his sophomore year (not some random person that worked at the school). Years later, after they graduated from high school, I accepted the Facebook friend request of many of my former students. My recollection is that David sent a friend request to me and I accepted it. If I see someone write something that I think to be inaccurate or unfair about the Catholic Church, I will add my two cents. I always try to do that respectfully (even though some of the posts people have put up are pretty distasteful and hateful). David, I don't think that I attacked your status, at least, my intention was not aggressive, so I apologize if it came across as a personal attack. I did challenge your opinion. I know that you said I exhibited a "myriad of logical fallacies" (I do not know which ones I allegedly committed since you did not identify them) and attempts to obscure the point, but my point was quite simple, and I stand by it. I will restate it: 1. Contraception and abortifacients are not health care since fertility is not a disease (and contraceptions are full of toxins that do everything to screw a woman's body up). 2. The government cannot compel citizens to purchase a service such as health care; to do so represents an over-reach by the government into the lives of its citizens. 3. The government cannot force a religious institution or employer to pay for something that violates its moral teachings. (note: Christianity opposed abortion and contraception from the earliest centuries as is evident in the writings of the ancient Church fathers; it was not until the 1930 Lambeth Conference that the Anglican Church was the first Christian group to reverse its teaching on contraception, many Christian communities have followed suit; the Catholic Church has held to the traditional moral teaching on contraception. I do not care if this is the minority opinion. Polls do not determine objective truths. The mere fact that a lot of people believe something does not make it true). 4. The Catholic Church has every right to resist the Obama Administrations efforts to compel it to pay for contraception and abortifacient drugs. It will resist these efforts and close its hospitals, universities, and schools before giving into the government's demands. (in other words, the Catholic Church is not going to become a tool of Obama's Planned Parenthood cult of abortion and contraception). 5. There are alternatives for people to purchase affordable contraception or means of birth regulation that are not as toxic (Natural Family Planning, a scientific method of charting and learning one's fertility cycles, etc.), such that it is not necessary to force the Catholic Church to pay for contraception just because the Obama Administration is enamored by Planned Parenthood's view of "women's health". 6. The Catholic Church is not asking to be exempted from a just law, but rather is arguing that the law itself is unjust, unconstitutional, and a violation of inherent rights. (You can disagree with that position, but it does not make Catholics "hypocrites"). In other words, the Church does not think that she alone should be exempted from a mandate to pay for contraception, she does not think that ANY ONE should be forced to pay for contraception (but especially those who morally object to it). In that Facebook dialogue you brought in a bunch of other issues into play: the morality of war, Republican-Democrat politics, a friend of yours threw same-sex marriage into the mix for no reason (and peppered me with snarky comments, of course). You suggested that you have to pay for wars that do violate your moral beliefs. That is an interesting point. But, I said that I believe there is a distinction. We have to have a military for common defense of the nation. Our taxes support military action. You and I can disagree with the proper use of that military and the wars they engage in (and I would very likely agree with you on arguing that some of the uses of our military are wrong... and the Catholic Church does have a just war teaching). At any rate, the use of the military as defense is one of the major reasons why we have a federal government--even if current military policy might violate the principles of just war. At any rate, you can vote politicians out of office for wrongly using the military. I am not an expert on American history nor constitutional law (neither are you, of course), but I do not think that the founding fathers of our country envisioned a federal government that would mandate that everyone must buy medical insurance. I certainly do not think they envisioned that we would have a federal government so that we could enforce employers and religious institutions to pay for people's contraception and abortions and call it "health care"! And this HHS mandate is not a health care tax, but rather forcing the private sector to purchase health services. Even if there was a "contraception tax" there has long been an understanding that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for such things as abortions that are seen by many Americans as moral evils (e.g. the Hyde amendment). Again, the federal government has to support an army for defense (thus taxes) and how that military is used--i.e., individual wars or military action, can be morally justified at times and at times not. Abortion is always intrinsically evil (the killing of innocent human life, and irreparable damage done to the woman). So, the Catholic Church is not arguing for an exemption from the law (not all laws are logical or just or constitutional), Catholic citizens pay their share of the tax burden like everyone else. The Church is merely asking the government to not overreach its role. They are not asking to be treated as an exception, but rather are defending what are universal rights of conscience and religious liberty. Also, you said that "angry" Catholics were the only ones opposing the HHS mandate. That is not true. Many Protestants and even people of other religions have united with the Catholic Church in protest (and this is ironic, since most Protestant sects have no opposition to contraception, per se, but they do recognize the unprecedented extent of government intrusion). You can disagree with me on points 1-6, of course. We will see what the Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of Obamacare. It is clear that you and I disagree with what religious freedom entails in this country. You do not think that the government forcing a religious institution to pay for something it deems to be an intrinsic moral evil is a violation of the Establishment clause. I sure do. All of your other points in your post are things I have seen before, of course (attacks on the book of Leviticus that show no understanding of the purpose of the purity code in the historical situation of the Hebrew people living in the midst of idolatrous tribes... Christianity, of course, sees this code no longer being morally binding after the revelation of Christ because it was no longer necessary), Catholic Church oppresses racial minorities and women, the typical "systematic child-rape" taunt that is always thrown around when the Catholic Church says anything, etc (and for the record, of course molestation sickens me and infuriates Catholics, but the Church has taken as many steps as can be taken to address the charges--if you looked at it objectively-and the idea that the Catholic Church is the only place where child molestation happens is ridiculous. Scandal is scandal, there is no denying that. However, sexual abuse is a problem worldwide, and it is everywhere--note: the internet porn industry, the global sex trade, sexual abuse in public schools and in families, etc... though not all of these get the same publicity for their scandals). Has there been racism in the Church, of course, there is sin in any institution. But for everyone example of racism in the Church there were also the St. Katherine Drexels and St. Francis Xavier Cabrini who set up schools to educate black children in the U.S., or St. Peter Claver, who ministered to and served the slaves who were brought to the Americas. Catholic proclaims the dignity of the human person. It is obvious that you despise the Catholic Church and have no respect for those who speak up for her. As a Catholic Christian, I do not require nor desire the respect of the world (although, it is a nice feature of human decency if we could extend some level of respect to one another). When you speak about the Catholic Church, however, you are making sweeping generalizations and the result is a caricature, a straw man. Christian Fundamentalists and radical atheists, who share an irrational hatred for the Catholic Church, both excel at doing that. It might feel good to vent and knock the straw man down, but in the end, it is not an accurate portrayal of the Church. I would suggest that you allow people to disagree with you without going into such polemics about how evil the Catholic Church is and how stupid people are who disagree with you. Atheists, agnostics, and anti-Catholics always revel in how intelligent they are and how stupid Christians are. Arrogant self-satisfaction is no substitute for the truth.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sharing about the sacrament of Confession with youth

It has been almost a year since I last posted on this blog.

This comes from a confirmation catechist of mine. Nothing special, just my quick thoughts back. If anyone has any other insight they could add (or analogy, image, classroom exercise, etc.) to drive home the beauty and truth of the sacrament of penance, please add your comments (be they to the blog or to Facebook).

"Hey Chris, I want to work on/talk about the importance of reconciliation
tonite, do you have any quick references in the bible I can use??"

See the attached guides... and then get Thumpin'!
[I include in this post immediately below the relevant portion, though the actual guide has nice one line descriton/summary/explanations of each verse]

CONFESSION IS NOT A PRIAVE AFFAIR IN THE BIBLE: Lev 5:14-26; Num 5:6-7; Matt 3:6; Acts 19:18; James 5:16 [see also Lev 26:39-42; Psalm 32:3-5; Prov 28:13; Mark 1:5]

JESUS HAS POWER TO FORGIVE SINS: Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:10; Luke 7:48 [see also Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9]

JESUS GIVES HIS POWER TO FORGIVE SINS TO HIS PRIESTS: John 20:23; Matt 16:19; Matt 18:18; 2 Cor 5:18; James 5:14-15 [see also Luke 22:29-30; James 5:16]

JESUS CONTINUES EXAMPLE OF PRIESTLY FORGIVENESS IN OT: Lev 4:20; Lev 5:14-26 [see also: Lev 4:13-21, 27-35; 5:5; Num 5:8]


PENANCE AS SATISFACTION FOR SINS: Matt 3:8; 2 Cor 7:10 [see also Luke 3:8; Acts 2:38]

Go to the section on "Confession" in Vol. 2 of the Bible Thumper. That gives you the major steps to take the kids through. You can only focus on a few verses, of course. I would focus on Jn 20:23, James 5:14-15, and the passages about the keys/authority to bind and loose Mt 16:19 and 18:18. The main questions most kids have is why they have to go to a priest to confess their sins instead of going "straight to God." This is a typically contemporary American way of seeing sin and forgiveness. The fact is, our sin not only offends God, it also harms the body of Christ--the community of salvation (if one part of the body is wounded, the entire body suffers, wrote St. Paul--1 Cor 12:26). Therefore, the priest acts in the person of Christ--Christ forgiving the person through his human agent (who is given special authority to do this through the sacrament of Holy Orders)... and the priest represents the Church, as well. Forgiveness comes through Christ AND his community/body the Church.

Also, Jesus knew that we needed to have a true "sit-down" experience with God so that we could truly take responsibility for our sins (naming them, preventing us from deceiving ourselves or falling into presumption and a casual view of sin... taking for granted that God forgives us anything no matter whether or not we are truly sorry, etc.). As one priest once said, when faced with our own sin confession makes you "name it, claim it, and tame it". Also, the ritual of the sacrament (in Latin, sacramentum is same as the Greek word mysterium... the sacraments are mysteries... sacred encounters with the Risen Lord... where we are brought into the paschal mystery--the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord) leaves us no doubt that we have been forgiven of our sins. We do not need to speculate whether we were sorry enough, or whether God truly heard us or gave his forgiveness. If we sincerly approach the sacrament having reviewed our conscience, confessed all (at least mortal) sins that come to mind (nothing ommitted), having true contrition (sorrow) for these sins, having a firm purpose of amendment (the desire to at least try to avoid such sins in the future), and performing the prescribed penance in order to make satisfaction for the damage done by sin (to God, ourself and our neighbor), then we KNOW we have been forgiven.

Who would trade this one-on-one experience of God's mercy for a vague prayer to God before we go to bed, "my bad, God, you know I did some bad things, you are cool with it, right?". There are few experiences that are more powerful for me than having the priest make the sign of the cross over my bowed head as a I humbly kneel in the confessional and hear the words "I absolve you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Of course, it is always important to tie in confession with baptism (which is the forgiveness of original sin and any actual sins we may have committed if we were of the age of reason before baptism)... confession renews our baptism, ... and also, of course, tie it in with the eucharist (though we are always sinners, confession purifies us for true worship of the Father and communion).
I hope that helps.
Sorry for the excessive and obnoxious use of parenthesis.


Friday, May 30, 2008

St. Augustine on the House Built on Rock

Commentary on this week's Gospel: 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 7:21-27

The House Built on Rock, The House Built on Sand

From St. Augustine's exposition of the Sermon on the Mount:

87. Hence we must take special notice how terribly the conclusion of the whole sermon is introduced: “Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, is like 242 unto a wise man, which built his house upon the rock.” For no one confirms what he hears or understands, unless by doing. And if Christ is the rock, as many Scripture testimonies proclaim 243 that man builds in Christ who does what he hears from Him. “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat 244 upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Such an one, therefore, is not afraid of any gloomy superstitions (for what else is understood by rain, when it is put in the sense of anything bad?), or of turnouts of men, which I think are compared to winds; or of the river of this life, as it were flowing over the earth in carnal lusts. For it is the man who is seduced by the prosperity that is broken down by the adversities arising from these three things; none of which is feared by him who has his house founder upon a rock, i.e. who not only hears, but also does, the Lord’s commands. And the man who hears and does them not is in dangerous proximity to all these, for he has no stable foundation; but by hearing and not doing, he builds a ruin. For He goes on to say: “And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be like unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 245 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat 246 upon that house; and it fell: and great was 247 the fall of it. And it came to pass, when Jesus hid ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”248 This is what I said before was meant by the prophet in the Psalms, when he says: “I will act confidently in regard of him. The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried and proved in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” 249 And from this number, I am admonished to trace back those precepts also to the seven sentences which He has placed in the beginning of this sermon, when He was speaking of those who are blessed; and to those seven operations of the Holy Spirit, which the prophet Isaiah mentions; 250 but whether the order before us, or some other, is to be considered in these, the things we have heard from the Lord are to be done, if we wish to build upon a rock.

242 Similis est… Vulgate, assimilabitur. Meyer, Tholuck, etc, refer this to the future judgment, “I will make him like,” etc., when Christ will establish those who keep His sayings for ever (opposed by Alford etc)..

243 (1Co 10,4, Alford, who thinks this signification too plain to overlooked.

244 Offenderunt; Vulgate, irruerunt.

245 The transitory teachings and institutions of men as opposed to Christ’s own word.

246 Offenderunt; Vulgate, irruerunt.

247 Facta est; Vulgate, fuit.

248 Vulgate adds et Pharisaei. The people were astonished, not merely at His teachings, but the dignity and self-consciousness with which Christ uttered them, quod nova quaedam majestas et insueta hominum mentes ad se raperet (Calvin). The Scribes spoke as expounders of the law, and referred back to Moses for their authority; Christ spoke in His own name, and as an independent legislator, vested with greater authority than Moses and a higher dignity. The Scribes by elaborate sophistry often drew many meanings from a single precept, and burdened the people with an intricate and endless variety of precepts for the details of conduct, laying painful stress upon their observance; Christ directed attention from outward acts to the motive and intent of the heart. “He opposed a genuine righteousness to the mock righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.”

249 (Ps 12,5-6.

250 (Is 11,2-3).

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Scott Hahn to speak on Biblical roots of salvation and its manifestation the Liturgy

I received this heads-up from a friend:

Scott Hahn-Sept 19-20, 2008
Posted by: "joliet_cursillo" joliet_cursillo@yahoo.com joliet_cursillo
Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:02 pm (PDT)

Date: Sept. 19 & 20, 2008

Scott Hahn will be speaking at a two-day event sponsored by the Liturgical Institute at University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelelein , IL.This event will address the Biblical roots of salvation and its manifestation in the Sacred Liturgy of the Church.

With Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Brant Pitre, Fr. Robert Barron, David Fagerberg, John Cavadini, Fr. Douglas Martis, Bill Portier, Denis McNamara.

Pass it on!Mike Detty

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Triduum: The Transforming Power of Christ's Love

... an article from Pewsitter.com:


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Behold the Man

This came as an email from www.CatholicMenResources.org by Peter Herbeck
Behold the Man.
Hopefully you will be receiving this email on Good Friday. In your prayer today, or as you attend the Good Friday liturgy, ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to hear and receive Jesus’ words to you from the cross. As you gaze upon him, let him speak to you. He wants to tell each one of us in this Men’s Movement what it means to be a man, to be God’s man.

Jesus is the truth about you and me. Never is that truth more eloquently communicated than from the cross. On the cross he bears our grief, our shame, the isolation and the ultimate judgment that sin, our sin, has produced. He took my place, bore my punishment, and took my destiny upon his shoulders. He shows us our end, where our lives were headed, what we deserved, and in that act, he is telling us the truth about what our attachment to sin has produced.
Sin is a lie. It’s a false promise, a dark delusion. It promises life but delivers death. It promises life apart from God, but Jesus declares to us and to all the principalities and powers that it is a lie! There is no life apart from God! Not only did he reveal the truth about sin and sin’s destiny, but he broke its power over us: "he abolished death and brought life and immortality to light." (1 Timothy 1:10)
He is our brother, the faithful Son, God’s ultimate man, "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) He fought a no limit battle against sin, "to the point of shedding his blood" (Hebrews 12:4) so that he could bring "life and immortality to light" for us. Because of the cross we can now see, and the way to life is revealed.
Jesus speaks powerfully to each one of us today from the cross: "Follow me. This is the way to life! Obey the Father no matter what the cost. Love Him, trust Him and you will find life." This is what it means to be a man: to say no to sin, and yes to God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength!
Jesus is the Father’s word to us. May we all hear that word today with new clarity and power; may he grant us a new capacity to trust him in every circumstance and to more radically abandon ourselves to him no matter what the cost.
Peter Herbeck
Holy Thursday 2008

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Archbishop Hanus Reflects on Hope at Chrism Mass

Chrism Mass homily of Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OBS, March 18, 2008:

Last November, Pope Benedict XVI published his second encyclical: Spe Salvi. It deals with Christian hope.
I began studying it and using it for meditation in the month of December. At the same time, I was also very much preoccupied with my ninety-eight-year-old mother, who was getting weaker by the day. I visited her several times last year, and we would talk about her approaching death and her hope for eternal life.
One section of Pope Benedict’s new encyclical has the title "Eternal life–what is it?" The Holy Father asks the question, "Is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and a life- sustaining hope?" (10).

Certainly it was for my mother. Her life and her dying would not have made sense without her faith.
The Pope invites us to think about when it all starts for us Christians. He paints the scene of parents bringing their child to be baptized. He makes use of the classic form of infant baptism found in the Roman Ritual for centuries. The priest first of all asks the parents what name they had chosen for their child. Then he continues with the question, "What do you ask of the Church?" The parents answer, "Faith." Then comes the next question, "What does faith bring you?" And the parents answer, "Eternal life."

Our faith is the key to eternal life. Mom was able to live the kind of life she did because of the gift of faith which she received at baptism. She was able to endure with dignity the sufferings and hardships of life, especially the pain and sufferings of her last years, because she had a great hope in eternal life.

So the Pope makes this initial point in his encyclical: because we believe, we hope.

But Benedict XVI doesn’t just leave it there. He asks another question. (We are coming to understand that this Pope appreciates the questions which contemporary human beings have.) As he reflects on faith and hope leading to eternal life, he asks, "Do we really want this – to live eternally?"

Then he observes that "perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. . . . To continue living forever – endlessly – appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end – this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable."
Certainly that is the experience of many. Human life, because of sin, because of illness and tragedies, because it is often full of sorrow and suffering, can become almost unbearable.
The Holy Father is touching on the very heart of our human existence. "On the one hand, we do not want to die; above all, those who love us do not want us to die. Yet on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely . . . " (11).

In the course of this encyclical, the Holy Father calls our attention to several individuals who are powerful models for Christian hope. The story of one is particularly appropriate to recall as we celebrate this Chrism Mass during which oil will be blessed for use in the life of the Church.

This model of Christian hope is probably not known to most of us. But she is the patron saint of the Sudan. Her name is Saint Josephine Bakhita [pictured above]. She was born in the second half of the 19th century, in Darfur – a name well-known to us today because of the tragic condition of that part of the world. When she was only nine, she was kidnapped by slave traders. She was sold in the slave markets of northern Africa, not just once but several times. Each of her masters treated her horribly. They worked her unbelievably hard for a child; they abused her physically and in many other ways. They even branded her with knives, rubbing salt in the wounds so that she would be permanently scarred.

Her awful life took somewhat of a turn for the better when she was purchased by an Italian businessman and brought to Venice, Italy. A different Italian family took possession of her. In her last years as a teen, she worked more as a nanny to a young daughter of the family. Then she began to learn about Christianity.
Up to this point in her life, the only masters she knew were those who had abused and enslaved her. Now she learned that there was a Master, a divine Master, who didn’t hurt people. Rather, this divine Master was kind and good, goodness in person. This Master had created her, loved her now, cared about her, and was inviting her to a life that was completely different than what she had experienced. "What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her ‘at the Father’s right hand.’ Now she had ‘hope’ – no longer the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: [Listen to what she later wrote in her memoirs] ‘I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me – I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good’" (3).

In her 21st year, "On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice" (3).

The sacred oils used in those sacraments must have meant so much to her. The words of the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that a suffering servant would come on a mission of salvation, brought her such joy. Saint Josephine Bakhita heard Jesus, her new Master, saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives" (First Reading and the Gospel for the Chrism Mass).

Prior to her baptism, she had been "without God" and "without hope" (cf. Ephesians 2:12). Through her baptism, she received the gift of faith. This faith gave her hope and filled her with longing for eternal life.
Jesus showed her that there is a God, One who is not an indifferent, distant being, unconcerned about us. God rather is a Person who loves us, creates us, sustains us, and comforts us. Jesus showed her how to live, how to hope, and how to die.

In her last years, she suffered many physical ailments. She was confined to a wheelchair and her body marked by pain and disease. Mentally she suffered the trauma of remembering her years in slavery. But she bore all of this with a great sense of hope. She died in 1947. Like my mother, and like millions of other Christians, she was anointed with the oil of the sick. With that sacred anointing, Christians are united once again with Jesus, the Christ, the anointed One.

What a gift – those sacred oils! What a gift all the sacraments are! And what a privilege is ours, my brother priests, to be able to share God’s comfort with the sick and the dying in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

We also are privileged to use the oil of catechumens and the Chrism in the Sacrament of Baptism. Thousands of young people and many adults will be anointed with the Chrism in the Sacrament of Confirmation. I will be the privileged but unworthy instrument, the bishop, acting in the person of Christ, using the sacred chrism, to anoint our next priest in the Archdiocese, Deacon Rodney Allers, who is assisting at today’s liturgy.
He will become a member of this presbyterate, joining his energies to those of his brother priests, who work so hard to be faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest, leading the people to Jesus the fountain of their salvation (cf. Prayer of the assembly for the priests in the Chrism Mass).

I thank the priests – those present today and those not – for their continued zeal, for their strong faith, for being heralds of hope especially to those who are without hope. Thank you for proclaiming the Gospel, in season and out of season. Thank you for stretching yourselves in selfless service of God’s people. The Chrism of salvation, with which your hands were anointed on your ordination day, was not used in vain.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon you. You were anointed, so that through you the Lord Jesus could heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and give the people oil of gladness in place of mourning. May Christ continue to strengthen you, to bring to completion the good work he has begun in you (Ordination rite).

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI on Purgatory and Hope

I just finished reading Pope Benedict XVI's second and most recent encyclical (November 2007) Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope)

Among the numerous interesting passages in this encyclical, the Holy Father's beautiful treatment of the topic of purgatory stood out to me (in my mind rivaling St. Catherine of Genoa's writings on purgatory for their beauty and profundity).

After speaking about the realities of hell and heaven and the extremes of spiritual darkness and absolute purity, Pope Benedict begins to explore the topic (my emphasis in bold):

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur? Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart's time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ[39]. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

48. A further point must be mentioned here, because it is important for the practice of Christian hope. Early Jewish thought includes the idea that one can help the deceased in their intermediate state through prayer (see for example 2 Macc 12:38-45; first century BC). The equivalent practice was readily adopted by Christians and is common to the Eastern and Western Church. The East does not recognize the purifying and expiatory suffering of souls in the afterlife, but it does acknowledge various levels of beatitude and of suffering in the intermediate state. The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too[40]. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.