There has GOT to be a purgatory. Not because the Church said it (although that is important), but because of reason and logic.
I am a mother of three. One thing I have learned is that if the threatened punishment is too harsh, the punishment will never be given. The threats my children need to worry about are the smaller ones. Forget "grounded for a month"; fear "not going to the party tonight."
How many times do we reassure ourselves with God's justice towards OTHER people? If someone zips out aggressively in front of you in traffic do you try to be holy and mature and leave the judgment of the offender to God?
What punishment options are available to God's justice? We don't like to believe earthly sufferings are caused by this (whether or not they are). Can God give people the silent treatment in this life? (Sometimes it seems like he does.) God can't punish us in heaven because we believe it to be a place without suffering.
So nothing is going to happen to our aggressive driver except maybe he or she will hit a tree? Maybe he or she will not hit a tree. Where is the justice of God? Should the driver go to hell for being in a jerky mood one day? Maybe there is no justice from God. Maybe God wants us to become so good, holy, patient, tolerant and forgiving that no justice is required of those who sin against us.
The answer to this quandary is purgatory, a place where any number of minor or major crimes can be answered for.
I believe that God is 100% justice and 100% mercy. (Mysteries like that are cool.) If you were to break a window with a baseball as a kid you could go to mommy or daddy and confess your crimes. Assuming that there was some fault involved, like today being "No Playing With Baseballs Day" you would be in trouble. Your parents would accept your apology and then you would need to pay for the window.
Maybe they would see that you truly felt terrible about what you had done because you love them and didn't want to make them sad (not just that you were sad that you got caught). Then maybe you wouldn't have to pay for the window. We accumulate these little debts to God every day and the quality of our contrition rarely makes us deserve a full reprieve.
Without purgatory, how do you repay this debt? You can say Jesus paid the debt so you don't have to. Think about that. That means all the crimes committed against YOU are also not subject to justice. People can go around doing whatever they want as long as they're not so bad that they get sent to hell. They get to heaven and all their debts are erased as if they didn't happen and everyone except Hitler and Attila the Hun on are on the same level and in the same place for eternity. There isn't much of a reason to be good in that kind of system.
I just finished reading a book called Purgatory by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J. it paints a scary picture of God's justice. Many people from purgatory have appeared to saints and other holy people of the Church and told them about the sufferings there. Some saints and holy people were even taken to purgatory for a look around. Purgatory awaits, seemingly, the vast majority of us. That is 100% justice part.
It amazed me in the book how freely and easily we, in our earthly lives, are able to call down the mercy of God on those in purgatory. Sometimes just having one Mass said for a deceased person was enough to send them on their way to heaven.
$10 is the cost to have one Mass said.
Our smallest sacrifices here on earth seem to have immense power to release God's mercy upon the poor souls. It seems all we have to do is ask. That is the 100% mercy part. We have an important role to play in that mercy
After reading this book, all my sufferings now have purpose. First, sufferings in this life expiate (or pay the debt) for our sin to a great degree. Second, the small sufferings we offer up for those in purgatory release huge amounts of mercy for their souls. Even the normal day-to-day drudgery of life can be put to this purpose. Doing the dishes. Being patient with a child who is moving SLOWLY.
God without justice doesn't make sense to me. Purgatory makes sense. We need purgatory, at least as a concept. And the souls in Purgatory need our help.