Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What are Indulgences?

"Indulgences" is one of those words that has a very strong
connotation.  Few people know what the word actually means, but nearly
everyone knows that it was one of Martin Luther's chief complaints
about the Catholic Church.  So what are indulgences?

First off, the term "indulgence" means "favor".  If you indulge
someone, you treat them well, you look after them, you take good care
of them.  Some people mistakenly think the word itself carries the
modern meaning of over eating or gluttony.  They assume an indulgence
is a license to indulge in something; particularly sin.    In fact,
the word means the Church is granting a favor, or is being good to
someone.  In this way the Church indulges me.  I do not indulge in

Now that we have the cumbersomeness of the word out of the way, what
does it actually mean?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the
power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes
in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of
the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of
mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins.
Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these
Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and
charity.(CCC 1478)

Ok, but what does that mean?  The key concept is that sin has two
repercussions; temporal (in tine) and eternal (outside time).  Jesus'
death on the cross forgives the eternal consequence of sin, which is
infinitely more important.  This is the big deal, does a soul go to
heaven or hell.

However, the Bible suggests, and Tradition has always taught, that
there is temporal punishment due for sins as well.  This punishment is
designed to repair the damage done to ourselves and those around us
because of our sin.  Similar to a thief who steals money but is
pardoned (eternal forgiveness) but must still repay what he stole
(temporal punishment), we must "repay" what our sins have stolen.
The normal means of repayment are acts of penance, "offering up"
suffering you're experiencing, and purgatory.  This is the whole point
of purgatory; to provide a place where souls who still have temporal
punishment, but eternal forgiveness, can be purified before entering

This is also where indulgences come in.  Indulgences are a grace
granted by the Church for particular pious actions and this grace is
particularly effective at atoning for temporal punishment.

In other articles we will discuss the different types of indulgences,
what the whole selling indulgences thing was about, and how to get
indulgences today.


Anonymous said...

Thank God for "indulgences", indeed for the superfluity and abuse of them 500 years ago. Over such a thing was spurred aN "awakening' to the truth,for tradition had gone astray, much astray. Of course you can give the "catechism" answer, but one must face the reality of the practice, as did Luther, and others who were responsible teachers and sheperds. For indeed, heaven or hell, as an eterenal destiny, are the big picture. Indeed faith was being supplanted by the work of buying or doing an indulgence,then saying some prayer. Of course the prescription was for a true penence, but there was little way of knowing such sincerity, and money would never be turned down, for the popes coffers must be refilled, to God's glory. As with any work,there could be a mistaken assurance of God's favor in the matter.(As with Jewish alms giving that Jesus pointed out, the same almsgiving could give justification to one person and NOT another). But this is past history, to which the catholic church has acknowledged wrong doing (except not to Luther, having excommunicated him). One could consider this as a fruit by which to discern the entire doctrine. Can one really pay for ones sins ? I do not recall where scripture says the wages of sin is death temporaly and eternally.Yes you shall reap what you sew. Tell me when David sinned on counting the children of Israel, did not God decide what the punishment was ? Did not David plead for himself ? Did he have to go thru a priest or some ritual ?..Look, we will be judged according to our works (faith in Christ is a work) and rewarded accordingly. If you make restitution, I thought that would be a part of repentance. Again you will be rewarded according to your faith and motive etc. I am sorry but nowhere does it say Jesus only saved me from eternal consequences. Indeed, He said I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. Where does it say that self-inflicted suffering helps in my redemption, even temporal cleansing ? Look, if you have a good work to do, do it, so that we may glorify God. There is no need for a middle man, to grant you anything. Does not God see you, your work, your heart ? I certainly will be spurred on by seeing your good work, "iron sharpening iron". The body is interconnected and we affect each other. You do NOT need a church officer to bestow this grace. ....If you feel better by suffering for your sin, there is one scripture that says when we are judged by God, we will suffer loss for carnal action as Christians, and rewards for what is done in Christ. You will do this at your judgement, not before in any place, otherwise what is to judge if you are already perfect, cleansed ?Further, it says you are judged ONCE,not twice, which is what you would need if you went to purgatory. Once to determine the need for purgatory and its level of "suffering and duration",THEN THE SECOND TO SAY "IT IS FINISHED" AND NOW BE JUDGED AGAIN FOR YOUR GOOD WORKS. THE BIBLE SAYS "ONCE", AND DID NOT SOMEONE ELSE SAY , "IT IS FINISHED." ?.....Finally it is illogical to say that we carry our temporal need to suffer or ammend into eternity,because as you say ,Jesus paid for all that. Unless you are saying when we die we do not go to eternity ? See how complicated all this seems. To me, along with past abuses, is secondary evidence for its' unbiblical foundations. The primary evidence is a totally different understanding of scripture itself.....If the Spirit leads you to a good work, just do it.

dave ruiz said...

John Tetzel, Dominican monk (1500), had the first jingle,"As soon as the coin in the coffer rings/the soul from purgatory springs". He literally went from town to town and set up his stall. Price:sodomy-12 ducats, sorcery-6 ducats, patricide -4 ducats. One could also buy indulgence futures , that is pay for indulgence for a sin you intended to commit in the future. Half the proceeds went to Rome and half to local authorities.He raised about 1.5 million dollars in 8 years.He visited Luther's town. Source:"The Jesuits" by M.Barthel