Purgatory: Does it exist?
The only thing that holds an equal level with Holy Scripture is Sacred Tradition, since both are considered the be the word of God. The decisions of Councils (in union with the Pope) and any statements of the Pope made ex cathedra (and this is a very small number) are binding on earth and in heaven, but they are not the word of God, they are protected from error by God, but that is a significant difference. The only way a Creed would be placed even on this last level would be for those which were specifically promulgated from a Council.
If Luther claimed these teachings changed, and by changed means reversed and not just expanded, then he was wrong in that as well. No dogma of the Catholic Church has ever been changed.
So the following would follow as the authority base for the RCC to determine doctrine from who God is; through who man is, what sin is, what salvation is; to where do we go after this life. The real problem is that it is impossible to really discuss Purgatory without appreciating the respective RCC and Protestant views behind their eschatology.
A God’s Word
= Holy Scripture + Sacred Tradition
B Dogma, which is not the Word of God but is error-free and binding in Heaven & earth
= Decisions of councils in union with pope + Creeds proceeding from councils in union with pope + What the pope says ex cathedra (which is seldom)
Ones view of the afterlife is a result of his/her theological world-view; and therefore the authority base of his/her life and practice. After reading your reply and 80% of what Aquinas has to say about Purgatory, I have the following understanding of what is the rule of faith and practice for the RCC. The RCC system of theology appears well thought out and somewhat self-consistent, yet I can understand the reservations of millions of Christians since before the Reformation because the RCC appeals as much if not more to Sacred Tradition than to Scripture. I am not saying that Purgatory is a totally invalid interpretation of scripture. I am saying that even Aquinas primary support of Purgatory relied on predominantly on Augustine, Gregory and other theologians. The result is an interpretation that is not the most simple derivable view from the context. While this is in keeping with RCC theology, can you understand how that would look to the Protestant that too much of RCC doctrine (especially Purgatory) is based on tradition that has superceded the TRUE WORD OF GOD? I am not asserting RCC does that. I am asking can you see how it would look that way from the Protestant view of theology.