One of the vilest teachings which unfortunately forms the foundation of the pagan church is the belief in something called purgatory.
The Catholic doctrine of purgatory supposes the fact that some die with smaller faults for which there was no true repentance, and also the fact that the temporal penalty due to sin is at times not wholly paid in this life.
In Roman Catholic doctrine purgatory is a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven. Read about purgatory more here.
In other words, they created a 'temporary' place of punishment for cleansing off your lesser sins before proceeding to heaven. They created because this doctrine does not exist in the bible.
According to the Bible the dead are in a state of sleep awaiting the coming of Christ. The bible teaches of two resurrections, the first on His coming where the righteous will go to heaven for 1000 years, and a second, where the unrighteous are raised for eternal judgement.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Read more about The State of the dead.
But the Catholic Church has twisted the Bible to imply that at the moment of your death, there are three places to go to. Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. Of course heaven is reserved automatically to those 'cannonised' by the church – those declared to be saints by the catholic church, another dirty teaching. Read here about which this teaching is blasphemy to God.
Here is where the Catholic Church rose to become the richest in the world.
With automatic access to heaven being of the priviledged few in the hirachy of the church, all those who wanted to go to heaven were told to they would have to go through temporal punishment, the extent of which depended on the sins the person was to cleanse off before being allowed into heaven.
For instance, a thief and a liar would get different forms of punishment in terms of duration (like prison term) and the actual punishment to be received.
The reformation was sparked on the rejection of the Catholic belief of purgatory, and the mass had to be said over and over for the remission of sins, and that if you want to get out of purgatory, you have to get the good graces of the preists. These correlating beliefs have turned an un-calculatable profit for the Catholic Church, and this love of money is best expressed by the famous saying of Johann Tetzel (commissioned by Pope Leo X):
“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
(See Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: Life of Martin Luther, New York: Penguin, 1995; also James Kittelson, Luther The Reformer, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, 1986)
In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, an indulgence is "a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins". It may reduce the "temporal punishment for sin" after death, in the state or process of purification called Purgatory. Wikipedia
Not only does the concept of indulgences reject the faith in Christ’s death on the cross and ressurection for the sins of man, but it also has robbed countless men and women of their wages.
To make it worse, the church extended this vile teaching to imply you could also purchase indulgences on behalf of someone you love who died. If you had a relative you believe would not have automatic access to heaven, then you buy certificates on their behalf.
“The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular, or medal) after it has been duly blessed by any priest, can gain a partial indulgence. But, if this object of piety is blessed by the Pope or any bishop, the faithful who use it with devotion can also gain a plenary indulgence on the feast of the Apostle Peter and Paul, provided they make a confession of faith using any approved formula.”
-Austin Flannery, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, 1988, p. 77-78, ISBN: 9780918344151
Interestingly, the teaching of indulgences and purgatory still does exist today in the catholic church,
Recently in August Pope Francis offered indulgences to people who were to attend an event. The BBC reported 'even those following events on TV and radio can achieve a partial indulgence as long as they recite the Our Father, the Creed and other devout prayers.'
The papal church will never relinquish her claim to infallibility. All that she has done in her persecution of those who reject her dogmas she holds to be right; and would she not repeat the same acts, should the opportunity be presented? Let the restraints now imposed by secular governments be removed and Rome be reinstated in her former power, and there would speedily be a revival of her tyranny and persecution. GC 564.1
And let it be remembered, it is the boast of Rome that she never changes. The principles of Gregory VII and Innocent III are still the principles of the Roman Catholic Church. And had she but the power, she would put them in practice with as much vigor now as in past centuries. Protestants little know what they are doing when they propose to accept the aid of Rome in the work of Sunday exaltation. While they are bent upon the accomplishment of their purpose, Rome is aiming to re-establish her power, to recover her lost supremacy. Let the principle once be established in the United States that the church may employ or control the power of the state; that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and state is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured.—Great Controversy, p. 581.