In contemporary considerations of purgatory, there is increasing ecumenical agreement among Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants about the need for spiritual purification and healing before a soul can enter into the glory of God’s presence in heaven. Yet for the broader tradition of the Church, this account of what souls require from God is paired with a complementary account of what God, in his justice, requires of the soul, including satisfaction of its “debt of punishment” (reatus poenae).

Although the transformative and retributive aspects of purgatory are often seen today as being at odds with one another, Fr. Luke Wilgenbusch proposes in Saved as through Fire to recover their proper and traditional harmony. Taking Thomas Aquinas as his primary guide, Wilgenbusch identifies and explores the full array of the consequences of sin—both immanent and extrinsic—that purgatory resolves.

Through an attentive retrieval of Aquinas’s teaching on sin, its effects, and its remedy in Christ, Wilgenbusch clarifies how purgatory indeed heals and purifies souls from their guilt and disordered attachments, and how it simultaneously serves as a form of punishment and a means of satisfaction, enabling souls to contribute, in union with Christ, to the restoration of the divine order of creation damaged by their sin. Beyond shedding valuable light on the doctrine of purgatory, the integrated vantage on purification, punishment, and satisfaction provided by Saved as through Fire holds promise, too, for a better understanding of the Church’s practices of penance, reparation, and the offering of indulgences.

Luke Wilgenbusch (STL, Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas) is a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, where he currently serves as director of vocations.

“How do imperfect human beings arrive in heaven? How are they changed by God after death to prepare them for beatitude? To grapple with the mystery we call purgatory is to think more deeply about our common human con­dition, as we are all confronted with death and the afterlife. The Church’s teaching on purgatory is filled with hope and consolation. In this book Fr. Luke Wilgenbusch provides us with a wonderful theological introduction to Aquinas’s teaching on purgatory, illustrates its genuine insight, and shows us its ecumenical promise. This book provides a standard reference for those seeking greater understanding of the Church’s teaching on life after death.”

—Thomas Joseph White, O.P.
Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas


“Sadly, and much to the detriment of Church life, the doctrines of purgatory and indulgences have been often ridiculed for their apparent theological inconsistencies. In truth, the full remission of temporal punishment is a revelation of the perfection and love of God—and the depths to which he redeems the fallen human race not only from the guilt of sin but also the disorders that sin causes. In Saved as through Fire, Fr. Wilgenbusch gives a treatment of the full scope of salvation in Christ—salvation that makes it possible for the redeemed to love God with rectitude for all eternity. This book thus demonstrates with much needed lucidity that the Catholic teach­ing on the remission of the temporal consequences of sin is not a human construct but the logical consequence of the realization of God’s eternal plan to restore all things in Christ. By means of the outstanding scholarship and careful thinking that are evidenced on every page of this volume, readers will come away with an inspiring understanding of who they are destined to be for all eternity as a result of the transformative impact of the grace of God merited for them by Jesus Christ.”

—Roger W. Nutt
Ave Maria University


“Purgatory has fallen off the radar of many Catholics, but it has become a fruitful point of engagement between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians. Fr. Luke Wilgenbusch opens up the theology of purgatory in this clear and comprehensive analysis, showing both its importance for Christian hope and its ecumenical potential.”

—Michael Root
Catholic University of America


“If there is anything more misunderstood than the Church’s traditional understanding of purgatory among contemporary Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, I have yet to find it. Readers will find in this volume a compre­hensive, extremely detailed and workman-like treatment of all the basic issues surrounding the Church’s traditional teaching about purgatory, punishment, and satisfaction. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching about purgatory, one can find here all the basic texts and responses to all the major objections. Hence this book will likely remain an essential resource for anyone interested in these questions for years to come.”

—Randall B. Smith
University of St. Thomas

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Saved as through Fire: A Thomistic Account of Purgatory, Temporal Punishment, and Satisfaction