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  #1  
Old Jan 17, '11, 11:55 am
Una Veritas Una Veritas is offline
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Default Indulgences & St. Peter's Basilica

Hi everyone!

I have been going back and forth through email with a friend of mine. He said, "The Catholic Church has changed their stance on various issues over time. For instance, the selling of indulgences to raise money for the building of St. Peter’s basilica.”

I know the Church has never taught the selling of indulgences, but I'm not sure how to reply to him. Do I have to first explain what an indulgence is? Do I talk about Martin Luther? How can I give him a response that he will understand? Also, how do i tie in the abuse in the Reformation?

Thank you!
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  #2  
Old Jan 17, '11, 1:38 pm
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EricFilmer EricFilmer is offline
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Default Re: Indulgences & St. Peter's Basilica

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Originally Posted by Una Veritas View Post
Hi everyone!

I have been going back and forth through email with a friend of mine. He said, "The Catholic Church has changed their stance on various issues over time. For instance, the selling of indulgences to raise money for the building of St. Peter’s basilica.”

I know the Church has never taught the selling of indulgences, but I'm not sure how to reply to him. Do I have to first explain what an indulgence is? Do I talk about Martin Luther? How can I give him a response that he will understand? Also, how do i tie in the abuse in the Reformation?

Thank you!
Hey, Una Veritas.
Before I address this in detail, it would help me to know exactly what your friend's point is. After all, all kinds of Christians "change their stance on various issues over time" (consider, for example, what many Protestant denominations have done in terms of such topics as women pastors, divorce, homosexual marriage, etc.). So, once again, I would like to know what his point is (otherwise we could spend time formulating a response to a position that he is not actually taking to begin with).

It is worth noting that even though the Catholic Church has changed her stance on certain issues over time (such as the fasting regulations, the translations for the liturgy, the age for receiving First Communion, etc.), the Church has not changed her doctrines. And here I am making a distinction between a discipline (a practice) and a doctrine (an official teaching of a matter pertaining to faith & morals). But I don't know if your friend is trying to prove that the Church changes doctrines with his misconception concerning the selling of indulgences. So exactly what is he trying to say about the Catholic Church with his comment on indulgences?
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Old Jan 17, '11, 2:40 pm
surritter surritter is offline
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Default Re: Indulgences & St. Peter's Basilica

The Church used to allow that indulgences be granted for many things such as prayers, fasting, charitable giving, etc. And those are still in place, except for the last one (charitable donations), because it may appear to boil down to cash = indulgence. And there were clergy in those days that did -- on their own doing -- present the policy in that distorted way; that was not a policy of the Church herself.

But the general idea of indulgences was (and is) OK. The Church has a "treasury of merits" and can dispose of them in certain ways. You need to research what an indulgence is, and then present to your friend how the situation of St. Peter's fit into it -- there was no direct cash=indulgence line; it was more like cash=donation=sacrifice=grace upon the person.

Assuming your friend is reasonable, he should see some logic in that defense. Then steer the discussion to indulgences in general. That is the real heart of what he disagrees with, I suspect.
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Old Jan 17, '11, 6:06 pm
Fidelis Fidelis is offline
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Default Re: Indulgences & St. Peter's Basilica

Catholic Answers has the answer to this in one of their "Quick Questions":

Quote:
Q: “One of the causes of the Reformation was the selling of indulgences. Does the Catholic Church still sell them?”

A: That's like asking, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" The Catholic Church does not now nor has it ever approved the sale of indulgences. This is to be distinguished from the undeniable fact that individual Catholics (perhaps the best known of them being the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519]) did sell indulgences--but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations. This practice is utterly opposed to the Catholic Church's teaching on indulgences, and it cannot be regarded as a teaching or practice of the Church.

In the 16th century, when the abuse of indulgences was at its height, Cardinal Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio, 1469-1534) wrote about the problem: "Preachers act in the name of the Church so long as they teach the doctrines of Christ and the Church; but if they teach, guided by their own minds and arbitrariness of will, things of which they are ignorant, they cannot pass as representatives of the Church; it need not be wondered at that they go astray."

The Council of Trent (1545-1564) issued a decree that gave Church teaching on indulgences and that provided stringent guidelines to eliminate abuses:

Since the power of granting indulgences was conferred by Christ on the Church (cf. Mt 16:19, 18:18, Jn 20:23), and she has even in the earliest times made use of that power divinely given to her, the holy council teaches and commands that the use of indulgences, most salutary to the Christian people and approved by the authority of the holy councils, is to be retained in the Church, and it condemns with anathema those who assert that they are useless or deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them.

In granting them, however, it desires that in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church moderation be observed, lest by too great facility ecclesiastical discipline be weakened. But desiring that the abuses which have become connected with them, and by any reason of which this excellent name of indulgences is blasphemed by the heretics, be amended and corrected, it ordains in a general way by the present decree that all evil traffic in them, which has been a most prolific source of abuses among the Christian people, be absolutely abolished. Other abuses, however, of this kind which have sprung from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from whatever other sources, since by reason of the manifold corruptions in places and provinces where they are committed, they cannot conveniently be prohibited individually, it commands all bishops diligently to make note of, each in his own church, and report them to the next provincial synod.
(Sess. 25, Decree on Indulgences)

In 1967 Pope Paul VI reiterated Catholic teaching on indulgences and added new reforms in his apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (cf. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. [Northport, New York: Costello, 1980], 62-79).
An indulgence cannot even be "sold." What your friend is referring to is the fact that in the Middle Ages indulgences were given for donating money to a certain cause like the building of a church building--in itself, a good thing to do, even without an indulgence given. As noted above, this led to abuses and so is no longer allowed--which the Church should at least be given some credit since they stopped the abuse of a good thing. But in principle there is nothing wrong with either donations or indulgences.

For more information on indulgences, go to the following link and read at least the first two articles on the list, both of which are very short. You can even forward them or print copies for your friend. Then, if either one of you have any more questions not covered there, let us know.

Catholic Answers: "Indulgences" Search Result

Hope that helps.
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Last edited by Fidelis; Jan 17, '11 at 6:16 pm.
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Old Jan 17, '11, 10:47 pm
Una Veritas Una Veritas is offline
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Default Re: Indulgences & St. Peter's Basilica

You guys have been such a great help!


Eric Filmer: He was implying a lot by that question! The Church has changed their stance on things. HE doesn't understand that the Church can and will always change disciplines. Also, I think he was implying that the selling of indulgences is a bad thing. (Which it is!)

Surriter and Fidelis: Thank you so much for that information. I didn't want to give him a book but just an explanation (I doubt he would read a book right now) I will also refer him to Catholic.com to read more on indulgences.

All of you have been so helpful. Thank you!!!

Pray for him his name is Steven! (Protestant who believes in 2 essentials-repent and faith alone)
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Old Jan 18, '11, 8:23 am
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EricFilmer EricFilmer is offline
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Default Re: Indulgences & St. Peter's Basilica

Quote:
Originally Posted by Una Veritas View Post
You guys have been such a great help!


Eric Filmer: He was implying a lot by that question! The Church has changed their stance on things. HE doesn't understand that the Church can and will always change disciplines. Also, I think he was implying that the selling of indulgences is a bad thing. (Which it is!)

Others have already addressed the concept of "selling" indulgences in this thread, so I will simply expand upon my earlier post a bit. In others words, is the concept of change in a church a bad thing (which your friend seems to imply)? As I stated before, we first have to decide whether or not we are talking about disciplines or doctrines (or something else entirely).

Doctrinal change is problematic if doctrines are considered teachings whose origins are God himself. In other words, doctrine is a manifestation of God's Own Truth, and truth does not change. Hence, a church's doctrines ought not change (provided that the church or denomination in question believes in the definition of doctrine that I have provided).

As Catholics, we claim that our Church has never changed any of its doctrines. Some try to prove otherwise. But the historical evidence they end up using involves either a change in discipline (i.e., a practice, and therefore not doctrinal), or an abuse committed by certain Catholics that was never outlined as a doctrine. For example, the "selling" of indulgences was simply a misdirected application of the noble practice of offering prayers and sacrifices (in this case, an offering of money) on behalf of the souls in Purgatory. The specific practice that certain priests were using to raise funds for the building of St. Peter's Basilica was never outlined within a Church doctrine, so when the Church eventually corrected the problem it did not constitute a doctrinal change.

Plus, if a Protestant personally thinks that doctrinal change is problematic, he may be opening "a can of worms." After all, as I pointed out in my last post, a number of Protestant denominations have made changes in things they consider to be doctrinal. If he takes issue with changes he perceives within the Catholic Church but does not take issue with the changes within his own denomination then he shows a double-standard. If it is a problem for Catholics, why is it not a problem for Protestants?

And if his point is simply to prove that we Catholics are wrong when we say that our Church has never changed any of our doctrines, the obligation is upon him to give a truthful historical account of an actual doctrinal change within the Church. The "selling" of indulgences does not do this.
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