I presented this thread to my spiritual father (a priest in the Greek Orthodox Arch. and a professor of theology at the university... and... a former Roman Catholic). Here is what he said:
I would hesitate to say that the Catholics have pulled away from the doctrine of Purgatory, since it is a defined dogma, and pulling away from it is really heresy for a catholic. That brings in a whole different question as to whether the present, post-Vatican II church is actually the Catholic church or if it has just become another Protestant denomination (that's my opinion!).
Purgatory has some fundamental problems: 1) It doesn't occur in Scripture or in the early fathers; 2) It is a logical step from the errors of medieval scholasticism; 3) It reduces the spiritual life to an exercise in legalism; 4) because of the related dogma of indulgences, it brought in a great deal of corruption and superstition into the catholic church.
The very name Purgatory indicates its purpose--to purge the remnants of sin from those who do not die in the state of sanctifying grace. It is considered a part of hell, but not the permanent part. The purging is done through a sort of physical fire (which was absolutely insisted on by the Catholic side at the council of Florence). It leaves little room for the mercy of God to act on its own, and it works very mechanically. On the other hand, it leads to a certain indifference: as long as you are not "too" bad, at least you will end up in Purgatory and not in Hell, and so you are almost there in heaven. So you can live without being particularly holy and still "make it under the wire".
For us, there can only be heaven or hell, because of our theology of the afterlife. Heaven and Hell begin in this life; either we are struggling to be living in union with God or we are not. Death does not change that situation. And so, after we die and come into the presence of God, God does not change either. God is love. So, if we have spent our life struggling and striving to live the life of the kingdom, then God will be to one degree or another, a welcoming and warming fire (like a fireplace fire). But if we spend our lives in indifference or in positive hatred of God, then God remains love, but that love seems more like a raging and consuming fire (like a house fire) to us. Hell then, is not the absence of God, but the presence of God--being eternally in the presence of the one you hate, but who loves you. Now, before the resurrection, neither of these states is absolutely permanent, especially around the transitional area, and that is why we have prayers for the dead. The dead can no longer pray for themselves, but we pray for them and ask God to have mercy on them. In other words, we throw ourselves and our loved ones totall on the mercy of God. And some who are on the "negative side" can through our prayers be moved to the "positive side". It's not a question of automatic purification (which is what Purgatory is) but totally through the mercy of God. We trust in the limitless mercy of God to bring those who may not have consciously struggled for theosis to the beginnings of that state. And since we cannot know the state of any soul, we pray for all the dead. Some saints even prayed for the devil! Although there is a superficial resemblance between the two theologies, they differ considerably in the fundamental attitude toward life and sin and salvation.