What in heaven are Indulgences?



The hope of the Lord be in your heart during this time of Lenten conversion.

Time and again, the question of "indulgences" hits the different boards that answer questions about this difficult problem. In order to give some authoritative information I want to share with all a resume of John Paul's teaching.

There is no need to answer. However, if it makes you happy, do so.







No Indulgence Without Conversion

VATICAN CITY, SEP 29 (ZENIT).- Today, during his traditional Wednesday general audience, John Paul II focused again on the topic of indulgences. There were 16,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, from all over the world.

The issue of indulgences has met with endless historical debates. The Protestant reformers attributed statements to 16th century preachers that made a real impression on the European population of the time. Luther's followers, for instance, maintained that some pastors had said that "As soon as you hear the tinkle of the coin in the plate, the soul of the deceased, to whom the indulgence is applied, goes up to heaven." Statements like this never appeared in the Church's teaching, although the possibility of a "zealous" friar making such a claim cannot be excluded.

Indulgences and Ecumenism

"This is a delicate topic," the Pope pointed out, "not lacking in historical misunderstandings which have had a negative impact on Christian communion. The Church recognizes how important it is in the current ecumenical context for this ancient practice to be well understood and accepted as the meaningful expression of the mercy of God which it was intended to be. In fact, experience tells us that indulgences have at times been used with superficial attitudes, which degrades the gift of God, obscuring its truth and values proposed by the teaching of the Church."

Over the last few years, steps have been taken among Christians of other denominations to understand indulgences. In fact, the reform of indulgences implemented by Paul VI in 1967, came to fruition in the dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. At that time, some Lutherans visited the Apostolic Penitentiary to thank the Holy See for this renewal.

After recalling that "Jesus crucified is the greatest 'indulgence' that the Father has offered humanity, allowing the forgiveness of sins and the possibility of filial life," the Pontiff explained that sin leaves marks on the soul that do not automatically disappear with confession.

Indulgences and Conversion

"Man must be progressively 'cleansed' of the negative consequences that sin has produced in him (and which the theological tradition calls 'penalties' and "residues" of sin)."

"Precisely in view of this complete healing, the sinner is called to embark on a road of purification towards the fullness of love."

"The meaning of indulgences must be understood within this horizon of the total renewal of man in virtue of the grace of Christ the Redeemer, through the ministry of the Church," John Paul II explained, who just a few weeks ago, approved the publication of the new manual on indulgences.

Medieval Invention?

Indulgences are not an invention of the Middle Ages. They have their "historical origin in the ancient Church's awareness of being able to express the mercy of God by lessening the canonical penance required for the sacramental remission of sins. However, this mitigation was always balanced by personal and communitarian responsibility, which would take on, by way of substitution, the "medicinal" function of the penalty."

Automatic Mechanisms?

The Pope warned against the temptation to think of indulgences as automatic mechanisms, "as if they were 'things.' " It is not a question of rituals that automatically confer forgiveness or conversion; they require a total interior attitude and a way of conversion. "Far from being a sort of "discount" for the obligations of conversion, indulgences instead are an aid to carry out those obligations more quickly, generously and radically." In fact, in order to receive an indulgence, the Church requires as a spiritual condition the exclusion of all attachment to sin, including venial sin.

After recalling that "in the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can benefit even the faithfully departed," John Paul II concluded by saying that "It would be a mistake to think that this gift can be received by simply carrying out some exterior deed. On the contrary, the deeds are required as an expression and support on the road to conversion."



web_master15 gave this response on 3/12/2001:

A lot of people are often confused about indulgences and I think it's simply based on ignorance of what they mean. So I'll add to your article here with a link to their explanation :)



What an Indulgence IS NOT:

To facilitate explanation, it may be well to state what an indulgence is not. It is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power. It is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven. It is not an exemption from any law or duty, and much less from the obligation consequent on certain kinds of sin, e.g., restitution; on the contrary, it means a more complete payment of the debt which the sinner owes to God. It does not confer immunity from temptation or remove the possibility of subsequent lapses into sin. Least of all is an indulgence the purchase of a pardon which secures the buyer's salvation or releases the soul of another from Purgatory. The absurdity of such notions must be obvious to any one who forms a correct idea of what the Catholic Church really teaches on this subject.


What an Indulgence IS:

An indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due, in God's justice, to sin that has been forgiven, which remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive. Regarding this definition, the following points are to be noted:

In the Sacrament of Baptism not only is the guilt of sin remitted, but also all the penalties attached to sin. In the Sacrament of Penance the guilt of sin is removed, and with it the eternal punishment due to mortal sin; but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of discharging this debt during his life on earth.

Some writs of indulgence--none of them, however, issued by any pope or council (Pesch, Tr. Dogm., VII, 196, no. 464)--contain the expression, "indulgentia a culpa et a poena", i.e. release from guilt and from punishment; and this has occasioned considerable misunderstanding (cf. Lea, "History" etc. III, 54 sqq.). The real meaning of the formula is that, indulgences presupposing the Sacrament of Penance, the penitent, after receiving sacramental absolution from the guilt of sin, is afterwards freed from the temporal penalty by the indulgence (Bellarmine, "De Indulg"., I, 7). In other words, sin is fully pardoned, i.e. its effects entirely obliterated, only when complete reparation, and consequently release from penalty as well as from guilt, has been made. Hence Clement V (1305-1314) condemned the practice of those purveyors of indulgences who pretended to absolve" a culpa et a poena" (Clement, I. v, tit. 9, c. ii); the Council of Constance (1418) revoked (Sess. XLII, n. 14) all indulgences containing the said formula; Benedict XIV (1740-1758) treats them as spurious indulgences granted in this form, which he ascribes to the illicit practices of the "quaestores" or purveyors (De Syn. dioeces., VIII, viii. 7).

The satisfaction, usually called the "penance", imposed by the confessor when he gives absolution is an integral part of the Sacrament of Penance; an indulgence is extra-sacramental; it presupposes the effects obtained by confession, contrition, and sacramental satisfaction. It differs also from the penitential works undertaken of his own accord by the repentant sinner-prayer, fasting, alms-giving-in that these are personal and get their value from the merit of him who performs them, whereas an indulgence places at the penitent's disposal the merits of Christ and of the saints, which form the "Treasury" of the Church.

An indulgence is valid both in the tribunal of the Church and in the tribunal of God. This means that it not only releases the penitent from his indebtedness to the Church or from the obligation of performing canonical penance, but also from the temporal punishment which he has incurred in the sight of God and which, without the indulgence, he would have to undergo in order to satisfy Divine justice. This, however, does not imply that the Church pretends to set aside the claim of God's justice or that she allows the sinner to repudiate his debt. As St. Thomas says (Suppl., xxv. a. 1 ad 2um), "He who gains indulgences is not thereby released outright from what he owes as penalty, but is provided with the means of paying it." The Church therefore neither leaves the penitent helplessly in debt nor acquits him of all further accounting; she enables him to meet his obligations.

In granting an indulgence, the grantor (pope or bishop) does not offer his personal merits in lieu of what God demands from the sinner. He acts in his official capacity as having jurisdiction in the Church, from whose spiritual treasury he draws the means wherewith payment is to be made. The Church herself is not the absolute owner, but simply the administratrix, of the superabundant merits which that treasury contains. In applying them, she keeps in view both the design of God's mercy and the demands of God's justice. She therefore determines the amount of each concession, as well as the conditions which the penitent must fulfill if he would gain the indulgence.




Anonymous asked this question on 8/13/2000:


I'd like to buy some indulgences for the souls of my dearly departed. I can assure you money is no object. Are there different kinds of indulgences? If so, I want the best, most powerful, fullest kind. Can I get one from the Pope directly? Also, can I have a private mass said for the souls of my dearly departed? Thank you.



mscperu gave this response on 8/14/2000:

Dear Anonymous.

The joy of the risen Lord be in your heart.

Thank you for your question(s?) on this board. You get attention. But you should beware!

Let's say somebody doesn't hear you or pay attention to you. You can touch him or her on the shoulder and that person will turn and concentrate on you. If you hit that same person on the shoulder with a stick you shouldn't be surprised if instinctively he or she hits back! Taking into account that some persons are more sensitive than others it's only natural that you get responses of varying degree.

I'm grateful because God doesn't measure us all with the same measure. He takes into account the different situations and constitutions. And He judges everyone with mercy.

You seem to grade not the expertise but the scale of humor. Do you know that what has people rolling on the ground in one place only provokes a yawn in others? Besides real humor doesn't hurt. Sarcasm does.

So your answer hasn't provoked much expertise in spite of the many answers. Why? Is this the responsibility of the answers or of the question?

I dare you to post what YOU think is an indulgence and what it means! Then you will get some real answers.

If you want to liven up the Catholicism board, is this the only way to do it?









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