Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2020 Volume 16 :: Article 9
2020 Volume 16, Article 9
Purgatory, Alms-Giving, and the Needs of the Dead

Author: Paul Delany (Simon Fraser University)

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Philosophers have debated whether it makes sense to say that the dead have rights. They certainly may be granted some control over posthumous events, such as the disposal of their property. From the 13th century on, the new doctrine of Purgatory gave people an incentive to provide prayers and good works that would shorten their period of suffering after death. This had important consequences: a flowering of ritual, art and architecture; greatly increased wealth for the Catholic Church; the establishment of endowments to yield a perpetual income; and the rise of testamentary freedom as an alternative to primogeniture. The Protestant Reformation abolished Purgatory, but retained many of its social and economic consequences.

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