Catholics given chance at shorter stay in Purgatory


I came across this article on google news. There is a quote attributed to a Catholic Priest, which really bothers me.

He claims that nobody was really supposed to take seriously the numerical reward people were given in relation to indulgences…as if his comment sweeps the facts of history on the rug by suggesting…" don’t be silly, 200 less days for an indulgence? Gosh, no one was really supposed to believe what we said!"

That is troubling when employee’s of the RCC ignore their own history and practices.
“It used to be measured in things like, ‘200 days off Purgatory,’ which no one took literally because – you know – what’s a day in Purgatory?” said Father Ingram. “But it was an attempt to show an order of magnitude.”*


That’s not how I was given to understand it at all. My understanding is that people used to be given very long penances like 200 days of prayer, etc, and if they died before they completed that penance, it would add to the time they had to spend in purgatory. Thus, the indulgences were timed to same way (200 days, etc) because it made sense to those of that time.


The Church speaks of Truths…so either what they said was the truth or it was bunch of B.S.

Which is it?


The article describes an indulgence as “time off Purgatory for good behavior” before quoting the priest. But the Church has never taught that our final sanctification will take a certain amount of time, or even that it will take any time at all, simply because we don’t know how time works in the afterlife. It could well be that our sanctification is instantaneous with respect to people who are still alive. Notice that the Catechism doesn’t mention anything about how long purgation will take.

The priest is exactly right. “200 days” is meant to describe an order of magnitude, not a fixed amount of time that is removed from one’s sanctification.


So, it was the ordained members of the Church that dolled out indulgences with a time stamp on them…but not the Church?

I have access to a Bible that was published in the 1950’s or something like that…in that Bible are specific times of reprieve granted as indulgences for spending various amounts of time reading the Bible.

Like I said, if everyone is assigning a time to an indulgence, then by virtue of that fact, the Church is in fact assigning the time reward.


The **1914 **Catholic Encyclopedia states,
[INDENT]A partial indulgence commutes only a certain portion of the penalty; and this portion is determined in accordance with the penitential discipline of the early Church.

To say that an indulgence of so many days or years is granted means that it cancels an amount of purgatorial punishment equivalent to that which would have been remitted, in the sight of God, by the performance of so many days or years of the ancient canonical penance.
[/INDENT]Thus, the “years” that were formerly associated with indulgences correspond with the practice of penance in the early Church. Take this canon from the Council of Nicea, for example:[INDENT]Concerning those who have transgressed without necessity or the confiscation of their property or without danger or anything of this nature, as happened under the tyranny of Licinius, this holy synod decrees that, though they do not deserve leniency, nevertheless they should be treated mercifully. Those therefore among the faithful who genuinely repent shall spend three years among the hearers, for seven years they shall be prostrators, and for two years they shall take part with the people in the prayers, though not in the offering.
[/INDENT]A Christian may be given three years penance as a “hearer”: he may listen to the readings and the homily but could not participate in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist.

So, for example, *if *a hearer *could *receive a “200 days indulgence”, his three years penance would be reduced to 165 days.

Penance has some relationship with the Purgatory, but even the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia states that, “the reckoning makes no claim to absolute exactness; it has only a relative value. God alone knows what penalty remains to be paid and what its precise amount is in severity and duration.”

Therefore, a 200 days indulgence doesn’t mean 200 days off Purgatory. I can’t find a theologian who said that it did.


Thank you for acknowledging that the church did assign a numerical value to indulgences.


**An indulgence is really not that difficult to understand. When we sin, we accrue two things: guilt and temporal punishment. Both guilt and the sin itself is what is forgiven in the sacrament of Reconciliation. However, there still exists a temporal punishment for the sin. I have used this as an example: if you steal a car, you can be forgiven by the owner, and you may be sorry that you did the deed, but you still have to serve time in jail. That is a temporal (temporary) punishment for your act.

Likewise, if we sin, we can be forgiven by God, but we still live with the effects of that sin in our personal life.

The number of days which used to be attached to indulgences were references to the period of penance one might undergo during life on earth. The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general, much less in a specific person’s case.

Before Vatican II each indulgence was said to remove a certain number of “days” from one’s discipline—for instance, an act might gain “300 days’ indulgence”—but the use of the term “days” confused people, giving them the mistaken impression that in purgatory time as we know it still exists and that we can calculate our “good time” in a mechanical way. The number of days associated with indulgences actually never meant that that much “time” would be taken off one’s stay in purgatory. Instead, it meant that an indefinite but partial (not complete) amount of remission would be granted, proportionate to what ancient Christians would have received for performing that many days’ penance. So, someone gaining 300 days’ indulgence gained roughly what an early Christian would have gained by, say, reciting a particular prayer on arising for 300 days.

To overcome the confusion Paul VI issued a revision of the handbook (Enchiridion is the formal name) of indulgences. Today, numbers of days are not associated with indulgences. **


Father Ingram, while a kind and knowledgeable man, is mistaken in his understanding of the history of indulgences. “200 days indulgence” did not mean 200 days less in purgatory, but rather the equivalent time that would have been gained, had the penitent been assigned 200 days of penance in the early Church.


Hold on one second. The top quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia is speaking only of time in purgatory and the effect indulgences has on that time.

The second quote comes from the Council of Nicea and is dealing only with the repentenance shown by Christians that had abandoned the faith during the times of persecution and wished to come back. The years spent among “the hearers” is about unbaptized people that participated in the liturgy of the word, after such a time he would be allowed to stay for the prayers but not allowed to stay for communion.

The quote from Nicea is not dealing with purgatory nor does it deal with indulgences. It in no way demonstrates a physical or mechanical accounting of time in relation to purgatory.



I have to ask, you DO understand the difference between Church discipline, tradition, Tradition, and dogma, right? You do understand that while our understanding of God’s Truth develops, God’s Truth itself never changes, right? For example, as our understanding of, say, mental illness increased, the Church’s dealing with suicides changed. Or take the more recent example of the Pope’s comments on Limbo- oh how the secular media loved to willingly misunderstand that!

I know this isn’t a straightforward answer to your question, and that your history of posts shows an absolute unwillingness to consider that which doesn’t answer your question in a manner you expect, but the very nature of your tone on this thread seriously calls your grasp of Catholic teaching into question.

In other words, so what? So literal days used to be assigned to indulgences, now they’re not. And…?


It probably mattered to the poor peasant who paid for an indulgence in that he believed that he would have less time to spend in purgatory.**


But we still affirm this truth.


Then that was an error in his understanding or in the understanding of the person who taught him that- not in the Church.

And, BTW, one doesn’t “pay” for an indulgence. If you’re NOW referring to the serious abuse of selling indulgences that occurred in the past, then please start a new thread about that specific subject.


For those inquiring about the “time element” of Purgatory, here is what our current Pope wrote when he was still a Cardinal:

“The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of ‘short’ or ‘long’ duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The ‘temporal measure’ of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such Existenzzeit, such an ‘existential time,’ in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world.
. . .
”[Purgatory] is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints.
. . .
“Encounter with the Lord is this transformation.”

Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, p. 230-231


**Catholics given a chance at a shorter stay in purgatory? That’s one of the ‘perks’ of being a Catholic. :wink: **


***Note that I have pruned a number of off topic posts from this thread.

This thread is not about purgatory, it is about indulgences.

Please stay on topic or the thread will be closed.


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