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“Ask a Priest: Can the Souls in Purgatory Be Tempted?”
Q: Do the souls in purgatory still experience temptation from the devil? Can they still be tormented by the devil in purgatory? If there are different levels in purgatory, does that mean the lowest level is nearest hell? If so, can the souls in the lowest level of purgatory feel or experience the anguish souls in hell experience? Thank you so much for all your work in helping us grow in our Catholic faith. -B.V.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: The short answers to your three questions are: no. Souls in purgatory can no longer be tempted or tormented by the devil. As for your second and third queries: The pains of purgatory are purifying and thus at a totally different level from the pains of hell. There is no comparison between the two pains. The anguish of souls in hell is complete.
Two numbers are worth quoting from the Catechism here:
“1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
“1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”
Notice that the eternal salvation of souls in purgatory is assured; this is what makes purgatory worlds apart from hell, where the souls have no hope, no chance at salvation.
To go a bit deeper into this topic, you might want to view our free Retreat Guide on purgatory and the Four Last Things: “Fire of Mercy”.