Could you explain indulgencies - simply please!


#1

Is there a biblical foundation &/or tradition to support it? Where did this idea of reparation for sins through specific acts/prayers come from?? Is belief in it a requirement to be catholic?

My husband (not catholic or prot.) says this is an effort to earn “brownie points” with God. :rolleyes: I really can’t think of a better way to say it either…:confused:

Also, we will be having some discussions about Martin Luther and his thesis’ in our curriculum next year. I would be interested in ideas on how to explain that issue from a catholic perspective…:nerd:

Thank you!


#2

I looked this up in “The Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding Catholicism”.
(Yeah… the title! :stuck_out_tongue: )

Indulgences: Penitential prayers or actions that remit the punishment for sins.


#3

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Is there a biblical foundation &/or tradition to support it? Where did this idea of reparation for sins through specific acts/prayers come from?? Is belief in it a requirement to be catholic?

My husband (not catholic or prot.) says this is an effort to earn “brownie points” with God. :rolleyes: I really can’t think of a better way to say it either…:confused:

Also, we will be having some discussions about Martin Luther and his thesis’ in our curriculum next year. I would be interested in ideas on how to explain that issue from a catholic perspective…:nerd:

Thank you!
[/quote]

Okay, allow me to use examples to help explain indulgences.
Example #1:
Let us say that Johnny was outside playing and he threw a ball throw a neighbor’s window. The neighbor comes outside, finds Johnny, and confronts him on the issue. Johnny admits to the act and apologizes to the neighbor. The neighbor accepts Johnny’s apology and forgives him. Is that simply the end of it? Is Johnny not obligated to pay for the window? The neighbor may have forgiven the act, but the consequences of the act remains, a broken window. Should the neighbor either suffer cold windy nights or pay to have the window fixed himself? No, Johnny, despite being forgiven should be expected to pay for the damage.
Example #2:
Susan goes into her sister’s room and takes $20. She then goes to the store and spends the money on candy. Her sister comes home and discovers the missing money. When asked, Susan confesses her sin to her sister. Susan’s sister, being a loving sister, accepts the apology and forgives Susan. Again, the damage is done but the sin remains (missing money) even though the sin itself is forgiven. Though Susan has been forgiven, she is still held accountable for paying her sister back.
Here are some useful links to read:
catholic.com/library/myths_about_indulgences.asp
catholic.com/library/Primer_on_Indulgences.asp
newadvent.org/cathen/07783a.htm
catholic.net/RCC/Catechism/4/bk4ls21.html#RTFToC1

I would also suggest a book entitled The Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants by Catholic Book Publishing Co., NY ©1991
I hope this helps. God bless.


#4

Tietjen has given a good explanation. Let me take it a bit farther.

Absolution forgives the sin.

Indulgence remits the penalty for the sin.

In the ancient Church, penances were very harsh – one might wear sack cloth and ashes for years. An indulgence may remit a certain amount of punishment equivallent to wearing sackcloth and ashes for a certain time, or it may be a plenary indulgence, remitting all punishment.


#5

as I have no way of know what sins I’m repairing or if they are repaired or if a particuliar act is agreeable to Him… I thought this is what purgatory was for - a purification of the soul??:ehh:

Maybe I just didn’t word my post right???:hmmm:

I need more coffee for this…


#6

[quote=Rob’s Wife]as I have no way of know what sins I’m repairing or if they are repaired or if a particuliar act is agreeable to Him… I thought this is what purgatory was for - a purification of the soul??:ehh:

Maybe I just didn’t word my post right???:hmmm:

I need more coffee for this…
[/quote]

Purgatory IS for this purpose. However, indulgences can be used to lessen the amount of time a soul spends in Purgatory. Under most situations, you can even offer up an indulgence for someone who has already passed away in the hope of lessening that person’s time in Purgatory (ie - Saying a rosary for a deceased family member).
God bless.


#7

[quote=Rob’s Wife]as I have no way of know what sins I’m repairing or if they are repaired or if a particuliar act is agreeable to Him… I thought this is what purgatory was for - a purification of the soul??:ehh:

Maybe I just didn’t word my post right???:hmmm:

I need more coffee for this…
[/quote]

It’s like this – you were at fault in an automobile accident, and the other guy’s car sustained $10,000 worth of damage. Your insurance policy has a $250 deductable.

Now, which would you rather do, have the insurance company pay for the damage, or take it out of your savings account?

Purgatory IS for the purgation of sins – but if you can through some act now reduce the punishment or time in purgatory, wouldn’t it be wise to do so?


#8

Try these two *Catholic Answers * tracts. They are simple and to the point:

Primer on Indulgences
catholic.com/library/Primer_on_Indulgences.asp

Myths About Indulgences
catholic.com/library/Myths_About_Indulgences.asp


#9

**Catechism of the Catholic Church

The punishments of sin

1472 ** To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

**1471 ** The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.

**What is an indulgence? **

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains **under certain prescribed conditions ** through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.What are the “certain prescribed conditions” necessary to obtain a plenary indulgence?

Norms on Indulgences
[from the Enchiridion of Indulgences issued on 29 June 1968.]

To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill the following three conditions:

  1. sacramental confession,
  2. Eucharistic Communion, and
  3. prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.

It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.

If the latter disposition is in any way less than perfect or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only …

… The condition of praying for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary; nevertheless, each one is free to recite any other prayer according to his piety and devotion.


INDULGENCE. “The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church, which, as minister of the redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints” (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences).

As originally understood, an indulgence was a mitigation of the severe canonical penances imposed on the faithful for grave sins. The term “indulgence” remained, however, even after these extreme penalties were discontinued. Yet until the Second Vatican Council, the norm for determining the effectiveness of an indulgenced practice was its relationship to the ancient canonical penances, as seen in the numbers, so many years or so many days, attached to every official listing of partial indulgences.

All this was changed by Pope Paul VI. From now on the measure of how efficacious an indulgenced work is depends on two things: the supernatural charity with which the indulgenced task is done, and the perfection of the task itself.

Another innovation is that partial and plenary indulgences can always be applied to the dead by way of suffrage, asking God to remit their sufferings if they are still in purgatory.

Pocket Catholic Dictionary - John A. Hardon, S.J.


#10

No, Johnny, despite being forgiven should be expected to pay for the damage.

Suppose Johnny’s ball didn’t just break the neighbor’s window, but also broke the neighbor’s Ming vase worth a million dollars. How could Johnny ever pay for the damaged vase? What an Indulgence does is to take an occasion of such expiation (a certain prayer, penance, charity or other designated work) and add to its intrinsic merit before God an additional value based on the treasury of merits of Jesus Christ, and those perfectly united to Him in heaven (the saints). This can either partially, or under certain conditions, totally remit the temporal punishment due to sin. This depends, naturally, on our openness to God’s grace. A mechanical performance of an indulgenced work would not have effect. Performing an indulgenced work should have the consequence of fixing our will away from our sins and entirely on God. This is why among the most important of the conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence, and the hardest to satisfy, is the complete detachment or detestation of our sins. By detesting our sins we orient our will away from creatures (to the degree we love them inordinately), towards God. In this way we open our will to the action of His mercy flowing into our souls, which alone is able to effect the complete remission of the temporal punishment to our sins.

An example will perhaps better illustrate these points. A boy playing ball breaks a window of his home. Contrite and sorrowful he goes to his father, who forgives him. However, despite the forgiveness the window is still broken and must be repaired. Since the boy’s personal resources are insufficient to pay for a new window, the father requires him to pay a few dollars from his savings and forego some of his allowance for several weeks, but that he, the father, will pay the rest. This balances justice and mercy (generous love). To ask the boy to do nothing, when it is possible for him to make some reparation, would not be in accordance with the truth, or even the boy’s good. Yet, even this temporal debt is beyond the boy’s possibilities. Therefore, from his own treasury the father generously makes up what the child cannot provide. This is indulgence. Unlike the theologies that say “we are washed it the blood of the Lamb and there is nothing left to do,” Catholic teaching respects the natural order of justice, as Jesus clearly did in the Gospels, yet recognizes that man cannot foresee or undo all the temporal consequences of his sin. However, God in His mercy will satisfy justice for what we cannot repair.

EWTN, What is an Indulgence?


#11

Wow a kid who spent $20 dollars on candy and another who broke a priceless vase.

Anyway, just to add a plenary indulgence is a hard task to get.


#12

I echo the idea that purgation heals the soul, and that one does not have to wait until one is dead to begin that process.

As far as indulgences, I figure it’s kind of like “Let’s Make a Deal” with God. We simply cannot accept that we have two possible outcomes for all different “categories” of people, so we have to make it seem like there are as many in-betweens as we need to make sure we can put each person in place.

Of course I did not read the supplementary linked information yet. I’d hate to let facts get in the way of having a perfectly enjoyable opinion. :slight_smile:

Alan


#13

Others have done a grand job addressing the basics. I’ll address the parts they’ve ignored.

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Is there a biblical foundation &/or tradition to support it
[/quote]

This seems like the clearest application of “binding and loosing” to me.

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Where did this idea of reparation for sins through specific acts/prayers come from??
[/quote]

Have you ever read the Bible? That’s one of the central themes. The whole sacrificial system was a detailed system specific acts and sacrifices to atone for sin. Christ came and served as the final sacrafice for the remission of our sins, so we no longer sacrafice others, but rather we give of ourselves (but not for atonement because we have atonement through Christ’s sacrafice, confession, and absolution).

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Is belief in it a requirement to be catholic?
[/quote]

Being a defined teaching of the Church, denial of it would be a heresy.


#14

In the old testament there is a reference to doing good deeds for ones parents as a sin offering for ones own sins.

Also in the book of Macabees there is a story of a Hebrew commander who sends money to the temple in reparation for the sins of some of his soldiers who had worn pagan adornments under their armor to good luck or to ward off evil.

And throughout much of the old testament there are many stories of Hebrews offending God and making some sort of reparation or sin offering by offering up sacrifices, tearing their clothes and heaping ashes on themselves and other acts of self mortification, etc.

More modern indulgences are acts of charity or mercy or prayer that are offered up to God in reparation for past sins either our own or for a friend or loved one. The Church offically recognizes two type partial and plenary (full) indulgences. A plenary indulgence removes all consequences of all past sins for the individual for whom it is offered. A partial only removes part of the consequences.

The Church believes that even though sins may be forgiven in confession, there may remain lingering consequences for those sins. So although a murderer may sincerely confess his crime to a priest, he still has to make restitution for his crime in Purgatory (or in prison or some form of suffering either in this life or the next). The more serious the crime, the more dire the consequences.

It is quite logical when you think about it. We are all responsible for all the actions that we do in life. So even if we make good confessions, which save us from the fires of hell, we are still accountable for our actions. There is some residue damage to our souls which needs to be repaired, and made acceptable to God. Indulgences are the means by which we can make these repairs.

The big problem of course is that such practices were much abused in the middle ages.
wc


#15

Okay I get the reparation for sins part - never really had a problem with it to begin with…

I guess my question now, is how are the indulgencies created? Personally, they seem rather easy (at least the ones I’m aware of) - say a prayer(s), go to mass, go to confession and “presto” your sins are paid for - all of which you should be doing anyhow. Maybe that’s my sticking point, although I’m not sure … Maybe it’s a lack of participation in this area?? I’ll be doing a pilgrimage to recieve a plenary indulgence over the summer with my children and maybe I’ll be more settled on this concept afterwards…

Heresy?! Geez, I didn’t say I was going to walk about saying the church is wrong to have indulgencies - I ask if believing in them was a requirement of being catholic. Such as the Real Presence for example. You can not be Catholic and not believe that!


#16

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Heresy?! Geez, I didn’t say I was going to walk about saying the church is wrong to have indulgencies - I ask if believing in them was a requirement of being catholic. Such as the Real Presence for example. You can not be Catholic and not believe that!
[/quote]

Why would you not choose to believe the Church on this issue? I guess what I am asking is that if you believe that the Church is wrong in this area what is to stop you from believing that it is wrong in other areas. We get into the whole concept of “cafeteria Catholicism” when we choose to believe; only those things that we personally wish to believe.
God bless.


#17

[quote=Tietjen]Why would you not choose to believe the Church on this issue? I guess what I am asking is that if you believe that the Church is wrong in this area what is to stop you from believing that it is wrong in other areas. We get into the whole concept of “cafeteria Catholicism” when we choose to believe; only those things that we personally wish to believe.
God bless.
[/quote]

You assume I’m choosing to not believe because I’m asking questions? You assume if I decide not to do something that I think the church is wrong to teach it? Neither of which is the case by the way.

For example the church teaches having the traditional latin mass is okay - does that mean if I go to a V2 mass I think the church is wrong to okay the latin mass? Absolutely not! It is not a requirment of being catholic to go to a latin mass - contrary to what some in CA might think. That’s why I gave the example of the True Presence. Everyone must believe and accept that as fact to be Catholic. Yes, there are issues of absolute in the church which every catholic must believe and live according to. My question was if indulgencies was one of those items - not whether it is a teaching that is wrong.

I guess it upset me to be called a heretic and a cafeteria catholic just for asking questions about a particuliar point of doctrine - would you have been so harsh to a prot asking these questions?


#18

Biblical example?

Ok… when David and Bathsheba were horsing around doing things that two people who are not married should be doing… David sent Bathsheba’s husband off to war hoping he would parish in the war so he could have Bathsheba to himself… if memory serves it worked…

anyway, David wound up repenting and asking Gods forgiveness for the sins he had committed…

God forgave David, but let him know that in reparation for his sin, his son would have to die…

so even though you are forgiven your sins, there is harm that you will be held responsible for… Temporal punishment…

Indulgences can remove some or all of that Temporal punishment…
…power and authority granted to the church from Christ in his gift of bind or loosing on earth…

maybe to simplistic, but that’s one way to wrap your mind around it…


#19

[quote=Rob’s Wife]I guess it upset me to be called a heretic
[/quote]

Except no one called you a heretic. The statement that was made was that it is heresy to deny a teaching of the church. No one said it applied to you–it was given in answer to your question.


#20

[quote=Tietjen]Why would you not choose to believe the Church on this issue? I guess what I am asking is that if you believe that the Church is wrong in this area what is to stop you from believing that it is wrong in other areas. We get into the whole concept of “cafeteria Catholicism” when we choose to believe; only those things that we personally wish to believe.
God bless.
[/quote]

Rob’s wife is acting biblically-
1 John4:1
"1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Do you want legions of non-thinking, blind followers who buy whatever someone in a robe tells them?

Did Christ tell Thomas to shut up and simply accept His ressurrection? No, he demonstrated his wounds, let him touch them. He did not say “DO NOT QUESTION, THOMAS!”

However- from your own site:
*"Those who claim that indulgences are no longer part of Church teaching have the admirable desire to distance themselves from abuses that occurred around the time of the Protestant Reformation. They also want to remove stumbling blocks that prevent non-Catholics from taking a positive view of the Church. As admirable as these motives are, the claim that indulgences are not part of Church teaching today is false… *

Indulgences are part of the Church’s infallible teaching. This means that no Catholic is at liberty to disbelieve in them."

So, lets review. What do you have? A teaching that is “abused”, yet the followers of Catholcism are not at liberty to disbelieve and or question them.

So certain abused doctrines cannot be disputed because the doctrine has been deemed by a man to be infallable?

Message- “Some abuses you have to be a good little soldier and shut up and accept, because we said so, and we declare we cannot be wrong on this one.”

Robs wife, question them. Test the spirits.

Its also curious to note that nobody has mentioned in this thread that these “indulgences” were in fact “sold” during the time of Luther (something not admitted to on this site, they use some fine word juxtapositioning and call it “alms” that Luther was definiant about- and by their own definition “alms” which RCism defines as indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence…)

(Never mind the end-result of “alms” is an “indulgence”, even by definition. Lord forbid anyone make a mistake- and admit it.

Yet they say "One never could “buy” indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms" - and- if by this sites own definition- alms involve a donation that leads to an occasion to grant the indulgence.

Its no wonder why Luther brought this up in his 95 Thesis.
spurgeon.org/~phil/history/95theses.htm

Yet, what does Catholic.com say?
"The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. "

Lets use logic here. If Alms require a donation, and Alms lead to an Indulgence- a monetary donation (alms) can -and have- led to indulgences being granted!!

Yet they still say "One never could “buy” indulgences."
catholic.com/library/Myths_About_Indulgences.asp

Sadly, Rob’s Wife, many here react the same way to your question in the same way the church of that time treated Luther.

“Shut up. Don’t question. Accept it… or be excommunicated.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia states: **"t is easy to see how abuses crept in. Among the good works which might be encouraged by being made the condition of an indulgence, almsgiving would naturally hold a conspicuous place. . . .

So we have now-admitted abuses, and a man who questioned them (Martin Luther) at that time.

But he didn’t play the role of a “Good little Catholic Soldier” and blindly accept what he was told. This whole mess could have been easily corrected with some discernment by both parties involved. But some people, and some organizations think they ordained to never make mistakes.

Scripture doesn’t support that notion. All fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners.

Best wishes to you Robs Wife. I’m not trying to convince you to become Protestant, but I am telling you that your questioning is healthy, and God ordained.

Remember- the Antichrist will come someday. He will demand that people not question his doctrines either.

Love to you all.**


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.