Privation of God punishes man for having turned away
from Him. The pain of sense, on the contrary,
punishes the soul for having turned toward creatures
without reference to God. In venial sin this second
disorder exists without the first.
Both the Greeks and the Latins maintain this pain of
sense: a positive affliction, sorrow, chagrin, shame
of conscience. And most theologians admit that all
souls in purgatory suffer this pain to the end. 
But the schismatic Greeks, although they admit the
existence of this punishment of sense, deny the
existence of fire in purgatory, whereas they
recognize that fire exists in hell. The Council of
Florence did not condemn this opinion of the Greeks.
The Latins, on the contrary, hold that the pain of
sense is nothing else but the purgatorial fire. 
After long discussions and wide historical researches
on this particular point, it seems wise to conclude
with St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez as follows:
"Although the existence of fire in purgatory is less
certain than that of fire in hell, the doctrine which
admits a real fire in purgatory must be classified as
a sententia probabilissima. Hence the contrary
opinion is improbable." 
This view rests on seven reasons: first, the consent
of scholastic theologians. Second, the authority of
St. Gregory the Great.  Third, the authority of
St. Augustine.  Fourth, the concordant
testimonies of St. Cyprian, St. Basil, St. Caesarius,
of the liturgy, which begs refreshment for these
souls. Fifth, the unanimous decision of the Latin
fathers at the Council of Florence. Sixth, the very
probable foundation found in First Corinthians. 
Seventh, particular revelations, for example, those
of St. Catherine of Ricci. She suffered forty days to
deliver a soul from purgatory. A novice, touching her
hand, said: "But, my mother, you are burning." "Yes,
my daughter," she replied, "this fire is not seen,
but it consumes like a burning fever."
How can fire cause suffering in souls separated from
their bodies? As we said above,  fire is an
instrument of justice, as baptismal water is an
instrument of grace. A soul which has refused the
instruments of mercy must suffer from the instruments
The mode of this action remains mysterious. This fire
has the power to bind the soul,  that is, to
hinder it from acting as it would and where it would.
It inflicts on the soul the humiliation of depending
a material creature. An analogy is seen in paralyzed
persons who cannot act as they would.
Are These Pains Voluntary?
St. Thomas replies: "Yes, in the sense that the soul
wills to bear them, as benefits imposed upon it by
divine justice. It realizes the suitableness of this
vivid pain, to purify the depths of the soul, to
erase all egoism and self-seeking. The soul, though
it had not courage during life to impose upon itself
this deep interior suffering, now accepts that
suffering voluntarily." 
Do souls in purgatory suffer also from the demons?
St. Thomas gives a profound answer.  They suffer
only from divine justice. They do not suffer from the
demons, because they have carried away the victory
over these demons. And God does not use good angels
as instruments for this purification. The suffering
is inflicted by divine justice, which is always
united with divine mercy.
Where is purgatory? The place cannot be determined
with certitude. As revelation is not explicit, we can
only make conjectures. What we know is that the poor
souls, separated from their bodies, no longer deal
with those on earth, though exceptionally they may
appear to instruct us or to ask our prayers.
Do the sufferings of purgatory diminish
progressively?  Yes and No. As "the remains of
sin" disappear, little by little, the pain also
diminishes. But as the desire to see God grows more
vehement, the consequent pain grows too. Purgatory,
we recall, is measured by discontinuous time. 
One spiritual instant in purgatory may last several
days of our solar time. 
How Long Must Souls Remain in
Purgatory itself will last until the last judgment.
 "And these shall go into everlasting
punishment, but the just into life everlasting."
 Purgatory will then be no longer. The last of
the elect will find, before dying, sufficient
purification. "There will arise false Christs and
false prophets, and they will perform great
prodigies, even so as to deceive, if possible, even
the elect."  A little before this text we read:
"Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh
should be saved, but for the sake of the elect those
days shall be shortened."  The end of the world
will come when the number of the elect is complete.
Then purgatory will have an end.
But if the question regards the duration of purgatory
for a particular soul, we can but answer that the
punishment will be longer and more intense according
to the expiation required.  Suffering
corresponds to guilt, and its duration corresponds to
the rootedness of sin. Thus one soul may suffer long,
but with less affliction than another, whose more
intense affliction brings earlier deliverance.
Let us illustrate by an analogy. Punishment on earth,
say scourging, may be severe and brief, whereas
imprisonment may be long and less severe. In the
spiritual order, too, penance for a grave sin may be
brief and severe, while for faults less grave but
more deeply rooted, it may be long and mild.
Dominic Soto  and Maldonatus say that purgatory
is so severe, and the suffrages of the Church so
efficacious, that no soul remains there more than ten
or twenty years. Theologians, all but unanimously,
reject this view. Souls converted at the last moment,
after a life of grave disorder, remain in purgatory
much longer than ten or twenty years. Theological
opinion, in general, favors long duration of
purgatorial purification.  Private revelations
mention three or four centuries, or even more,
especially for those who have had high office and
To escape false imagining, let us again recall that
purgatory is not measured by solar time, but by
eviternity and discontinuous time. Discontinuous
time, we have seen is composed of successive
instants, and each of these instants may correspond
to ten, twenty, thirty, sixty hours of our solar
time, just as a person can remain thirty hours in
ecstasy absorbed by one sole thought. Hence there is
no proportion between our solar time and the
discontinuous time of purgatory. But if it be
revealed that a soul has been delivered from
purgatory at a definite instant of our time, it means
that this instant corresponds to the spiritual
instant of its deliverance.
|| Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire."
|| Ibid., cols. 2258-2261; Denz. 3047, 3050.
|| Ibid., col. 2260; Hugon, O.P., Tractatus
de novissimis, 1927, p. 824.
|| Dialogues, Bk. IV, chaps. 39 and 45.
|| Enchir., chap. 69; De civ. Dei, XXI, 26.
|| I Cor. 3 :13-15.
|| See above, chap. 16.
|| Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 90; IIIa
|| Appendix to the Supplement, a.4.
|| Ibid., a. 5.
|| Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," col 1295.
|| See above, chap. 12.
|| Ia, a. 10, a. 5 et ad 1.
|| Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," col 1289.
|| Denz., nos. 464, 693, 3035, 3047, 3050.
|| Matt. 25:46.
|| Ibid., 24:24.
|| Ibid., v. 22.
|| IV Sent., dist. 21, q. 1, a. 3; Appendix of the
Supplement, a. 8.
|| In IV Sent., dist. 19, q. 3, a. 2.
|| 21 De gemitu colombae, Bk. II, chap. 9.