Indulgences : Important Distinctions
We have to distinguish between the false claim that :
The Catholic Church Sold Indulgences
and the reality that :
John Tetzel and others (at most) only pretended to sell indulgences.
Is this a significant distinction ?
The whole analysis of the event hinges on which statement above is true. To understand why this is so, we must examine the claims and the conclusions that Protestants make.
Both Catholics and Protestants claim that Pope Leo X and John Tetzel (and his kind)
all did horrible things.
But, Catholic and Protestants condemns their actions for opposite reasons.
Protestants reject them with the assumption that they were being true Catholics. And so, they reason, since the Catholic Church was corrupt then, and presumably now as well, that the Catholic Church is to be rejected. A “Cafeteria Catholic” also thinks somewhat along these lines, choosing which parts or teachings of the Church to accept and which to reject.
Catholics on the other hand reject the conduct of Pope Leo X and John Tetzel - what they did and what they failed to do - precisely because their conduct was unfaithful to the teachings and the traditions of the Catholic Church. At this point there had been a 1500 year tradition, or more counting the Old Testament, of what a good father (or Papa) or Pastor should do. Pope Leo X should have done more to correct the abuses in regards to the indulgences as had been done in the previous years when problems arose.
John Tetzel was wrong. And Pope Leo X failed to do enough to correct the problem.
John Tetzel was NOT authorized by the Catholic Church to sell, or even to pretend to sell indulgences.
**Correction of Indulgences’ Abuses and Misunderstandings, **
from AD 747, 1261, 1392, 1450, 1478 and 1519
The Catholic Church rejects their conduct, not because they were true and faithful Catholics, but because they went against Catholic Church teaching, or failed to perform in Pope Leo X’s case, in a manner of proper conduct for a good Pastor.
So, we should not reject the Catholic Church because she never taught indulgences, or grace, can be sold. She clearly taught the contrary. We should reject the bad examples of Pope Leo X and John Tetzel because they went contrary to Catholic Church teaching.
The distinction between selling indulgences and only pretending to sell indulgences makes all the difference in the world.
What Does It Mean to Sell Grace ?