Clarification of Indulgences

The concept of indulgences has always confused me a little, so any help would be greatly appreciated. For clarification, these questions are all relation to partial indulgences.

  1. What is the difference between performing penance following the sacrament of reconciliation and carrying out what is required for an indulgence - do they not both reduce our time spent in Purgatory?
  2. Can one recite the rosary for simultaneously performing penance and obtaining an indulgence; or it an ‘either/or’ scenario?
  3. To earn an indulgence, does one have to perform the act (for example, saying the rosary in a church) with the specific intention of earning an indulgence? Does it not count if one doesn’t consider the aspect of obtaining an indulgence?

Answered in a past thread:

Also, many people are not earning indulgences for themselves, but for other souls in Purgatory. I haven’t kept an indulgence for myself for a long time, maybe 2 years now. So, my penance relates to me and my relationship with God; indulgences I earn don’t really relate to me except for helping me grow spiritually through prayer and frequent reception of sacraments.

  • Can one recite the rosary for simultaneously performing penance and obtaining an indulgence; or it an ‘either/or’ scenario?

Rosaries aren’t limited, so yes, you may use one rosary for both a penance and an indulgence (for yourself or someone else).

  • To earn an indulgence, does one have to perform the act (for example, saying the rosary in a church) with the specific intention of earning an indulgence? Does it not count if one doesn’t consider the aspect of obtaining an indulgence?

You have to have at least the general intention of earning indulgences. This is covered by the traditional Morning Offering which contains the line, “O My Jesus, I desire today to earn every indulgence and merit I can.” If you say this or a similar daily prayer once a day, you’re covered. Likewise if you’re doing some devotion where you try to earn indulgences every day as a habit, you’re covered even if you forget to say the specific daily offering prayer.

Yes, both make satisfaction. By doing penance, we make satisfaction for ourselves directly. An indulgence is the Church applying the over-abundant satisfaction made by some members of the one Body (the Church) to other members (cf. Col. 1:24) in addition to whatever satisfaction is made by virtue of the act to which the Church has attached an indulgence.

Under current practices, unless an indulgence is plenary (remitting the entire need for satisfaction), it is an equal, additional remission to that of the act itself:

Pope St. Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina

The faithful who at least with a contrite heart perform an action to which a partial indulgence is attached obtain, in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church.

I posted a much longer, three-part explanation with references to the Scriptures, etc. on the development of indulgences here if you’re interested:

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Indulgentiarum Doctrina (1967) has (my bolding):

Regarding partial indulgences, with the abolishment of the former determination of days and years, a new norm or measurement has been established which takes into consideration the action itself of the faithful Christian who performs a work to which an indulgence is attached.

Since by their acts the faithful can obtain, in addition to the merit which is the principal fruit of the act, a further remission of temporal punishment in proportion to the degree to which the charity of the one performing the act is greater, and in proportion to the degree to which the act itself is performed in a more perfect way, it has been considered fitting that this remission of temporal punishment which the Christian faithful acquire through an action should serve as the measurement for the remission of punishment which the ecclesiastical authority bountifully adds by way of partial indulgence.

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