FIND in
<--prev V9 next-->

From: "Dan'l Danehy Oakes" <DDANEHYO@us.oracle.com>
Subject: (urth) Peace of Mind
Date: 20 Apr 98 15:14:57 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

This will wander, but I promise it will have some realio
trulio Wolfe content before we're done.

Adam wrote:
> Incidentally, what is the position of the Catholic church on
> ghosts?  I would think that the idea of all souls going to
> heaven, hell or purgatory would be inconsistent with the idea
> of ghosts remaining on earth.  

While I'm not 100% certain whether the Roman Catholic Church 
("RCC") has a strong position on the subject of ghosts per se,
I believe that the general position of the RCC is to discourage
superstition in general.  In terms of specifics, however, the
RCC definitely acknowledges a number of manifestations that one
could, without unduly stretching the term, call "ghosts" -- i.e.,
apparitions of dead saints, etc.  I don't suppose any faithful
Catholic would refer to such an apparition as a "ghost" (I 
certainly would not), but it would be hard to draw a meaningful
distinction without going into a lot of theological nuances.

Wolfe content(I):

This, I think, relates to aquastors and, um, whatchamacallits.
I think these are more like apparitions of saints than what we
normally think of as ghosts.

> (While I seem to recall reading an article stating that the
> Catholic church had within the past few years declared
> purgatory no longer official church doctrine, that would have
> been after the publication of _Peace_.

Not so.  What the RCC abandoned a while back was the quasi-
doctrine of Limbo.  Limbo was never a very well-defined idea; it
was an attempt to figure out what God did with the souls of, say,
unbaptized infants or virtuous pagans.  Some theologians put them
in "Limbo," which is where the concept of Limbo is now.  I do not
believe it was ever a fully-authorized teaching; rather it was a
folk teaching, like some of the more exaggerated ideas about the
Rosary and suchlike.

Purgatory, on the other hand, is still official doctrine, but a
vastly misunderstood one.  Many Protestants use the doctrine of
Purgatory as "proof" that the RCC is "un-Scriptural" (by which
they mean "against Scripture"), when in fact the doctrine is
derived from Scripture by the same general process, "development
of doctrine," which produced such concepts as the Trinity.

The basic idea is this.  (A) Scripture promises that we will all
be made perfect.  But (B) it seems painfully obvious to most of us
that, despite being baptised and working as hard as our particular
character permits at becoming perfect, we aren't, and those we 
know who die in Christ (and I mean Catholics and Orthodox and
Protestants and what-all-else) don't seem to have become perfect
before dying.  Therefore, (C) we conclude that God completes the
process in some way.  (Indeed, there is Scripture to this effect,
though I don't have my references handy.)  The RCC calls this
_process_ -- a process of cleansing, or purging -- Purgatory.

Note that it is not defined as a _place_ in even the vague way 
that Heaven and Hell are defined as places.  Some have called it
"the first stage of Heaven;" others think of it as something that
happens instantaneously upon death; still others actually do
think of it as a separate "place."  But there is _no_ doctrine
to that effect, and despite a really massive accretion of folk
doctrine, there never has been.  The main thing people seem to
agree on is that the process may not be entirely comfortable 
-- though the pain is probably more like that of a scab coming
off, a good-feeling pain, rather than the despairing pain we
associate with Hell.

(So what about the whole "indulgences" thing?  That's pretty
complex; but the basic idea, the concept that gave rise to the
idea of a "90 days' indulgence" or whatever, is that the RCC, in
its role as God's vicar and dispensor of grace, may remit some of
the pain we associate with the process of Purgation -- what the 
RCC calls "temporal" punishment as opposed to the eternal 
punishment of Hell.  One way to "earn" this remission is by 
penitential practices.  Other "indulgences" were described, not
in "how long in Purgatory" they "buy off" -- though this is how
folk-Catholicism came, alas, to understand it -- but in terms of 
how long a penitence they were equal to.  As part of the RCC's
overall effort to dispense with the accretions of folk-
Catholicism, I believe it has become quite rare to see this 
terminology at all.)

Wolfe content (II):

Someone asked GW in an interview whether PEACE might be read as
a description of Weer in Purgatory, and GW responded in a 
typically vague but rather positive manner.  I believe that this 
is the _best_ reading of PEACE, and that Wolfe clearly intended 
this reading.  I will probably be rereading PEACE in a few weeks,
and will post more detailed comments on this if anyone really


|--Dan'l Danehy-Oakes            | Can you believe that the eagle  |
|  Staff Curriculum Developer    |    will fly with the dove?      |
|  Oracle World-Wide Education   | Can you believe in the rose     |
|  email: ddanehyo@us.oracle.com |    in the raised fisted glove?  |
|  phone: 650-506-0793           |        -- John Michael Talbot   |

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

<--prev V9 next-->