Biblical and Patristic basis for indulgences


#1

Can anyone give me the biblical and patristic basis for the doctrine of indulgences? Also is this a required belief of the Church?


#2

It is contained within the “Whatever” that Jesus gave the Apostles the power of binding and loosing over. Let us take judicial notice of the fact that “whatever” is a pretty darned broad range of stuff, and the Church has wisely restricted its use.


#3

Re: whether it is a required belief of the Church, yes, it is. The Council of Trent stated that it “condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them.” (Trent, session 25, Decree on Indulgences). Trent’s anathema places indulgences in the realm of infallibly defined teaching.

Regarding the Biblical basis for indulgences, I think you should take a look at this link: socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/09/explicit-biblical-evidence-for.html

It covers five passages of Scripture that are typically used to defend/promote indulgences.

Regarding the Patristic basis for indulgences, I recommend that you look at the Old Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on Indulgences, specifically section 8: The Power to Grant Indulgences. In that section you will find that we are able to cite many, many Fathers and Doctors in defense of the doctrine on indulgences:

In the first century, St. Paul;
In the third century, Tertullian and St. Cyprian;
In the fourth century, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and the councils of Ancyra, Laodicea, Nicaea, and Arles;
In the seventh century, St. Cummian and St. Theodore of Tarsus;
In the eighth century, the Venerable St. Bede and Egbert, Archbishop of York;
In the ninth century, the Irish Synod of 807;
In the eleventh century, the Council of Clermont (1095); and,
In the twelfth century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, by whose time the language of “indulgences” was clearly worked out. In discussing the Crusades, he said, “Receive the sign of the Cross, and thou shalt likewise obtain the indulgence of all thou hast confessed with a contrite heart.” (Ep. cccxxii; al., ccclxii)

The next century found St. Thomas Aquinas clearly explaining the theology of indulgences, and no one doubts that indulgences were definitely a part of the practice and doctrine of the Church after him.

Now, in this post I haven’t gone into the theology of indulgences or the explanation of the Scriptural and Patristic passages that are cited in defense of indulgences. And I probably should, because there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding indulgences and people think they are what they aren’t; thus, when we cite those passages, it is easy for a person to read them and wonder, “Okay…but where’s the part about indulgences?” If you feel that’s going on for you, please just say so, and I’ll go into it more clearly. But you may be able to answer your own difficulties if you clear up the myths and misunderstandings about indulgences first, so for more information on what indulgences are and aren’t, I recommend you read the Catholic Answers articles “A Primer On Indulgences” and “Myths About Indulgences.”

If you’ve gone through all that data, that should get you up to speed with the mind of the Church on the matter. Let me know if you have further questions or need more clarification. God bless!


#4

Just some clarification. Are there any 2nd century fathers? It would show the apostolic succession for Orthodox and would back up the doctrine for protestants.


#5

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