[quote="Holly3278, post:12, topic:274827"]
Thank you so much for this explanation Eric! Your explanation really did help me to understand it now! So, just to make sure I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that we simply have to desire to be free from all sin, including venial sin, in order to get a plenary indulgence, am I right? Also, can you still get a plenary indulgence if you have venial sins on your soul or must you be forgiven of them first? If you must be forgiven of them first, how do you get forgiven for venial sins? Do you have to go to Confession and confess them to be forgiven of them or can you simply confess them directly to God and get forgiven? If I understand Catholic teaching right, Confession is not necessary for the forgiveness of venial sins but I don't know exactly what is necessary.
You're very welcome.
The basic idea behind the requirements for getting a plenary indulgence is to be in a state of grace and have what we call a "firm purpose of amendment" (concerning our plans in our ongoing spiritual journeys).
Baptism places everyone into a state of grace. Through committing a mortal sin with full knowledge and consent, we lose our state of grace. The ordinary means by which we are restored to a state of grace is sacramental confession.
Committing venial sins does not cause us to fall from a state of grace. There are a variety of ways that God forgives venial sins, including sacramental confession, actively participating in Mass, prayer, fasting, works of charity, etc.
Note that going to confession takes care of both mortal and venial sins, and the process of gaining a plenary indulgence requires going to confession. So, as long as people make a good confession, they are all set in receiving a plenary indulgence.
If a person goes to confession but then commits a mortal sin prior to the rest of the procedure, he would no longer be in a state of grace, and therefore would not be properly prepared to receive a plenary indulgence. After all, being guilty of mortal sin stops the flow of grace into our lives (aside from the special grace that God always provides to prompt us towards reconciliation, works of charity, and so forth). In such a case, a person should go to confession once again to be sacramentally absolved of the mortal sin, and then complete the other activities associated with gaining the indulgence.
I am speaking in general terms here. Theoretically I could formulate an exception to this based upon situations involving what is called "a perfect act of contrition" and the danger of death, but we can probably set that aside for the sake of this discussion.
If a person goes to confession but then commits one or more venial sins, then he is still in a state of grace. It would be good to still express sorrow for these sins, and then do something like pray the Act of Contrition, but he does not have to go to confession a second time before gaining the plenary indulgence. If that were the case, then the average person would have to go to confession at the very last minute (from receiving a plenary indulgence), seeing as how easy it is to lapse into venial sin.
As I mentioned above, the idea is not to simply go to confession, but to make a "good" confession. This means that we properly inform the priest of any mortal sins we are aware of committing, have a "firm purpose of amendment" and do the prescribed penance in an appropriate manner.
The plenary indulgence requirement of "having no attachment to sin", factors into the concept of having a "firm purpose of amendment." Most versions of the Act of Contrition incorporate the idea of a firm purpose of amendment in these (or similar) words, "I promise with the help of God's grace to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin." A person who can sincerely embrace that notion achieves the requirement of having no attachment to sin (in terms of the requirements of the plenary indulgence).
Consider the following...
Example 1) A person has a bad habit concerning gossiping. He enjoys gossiping, but knows that it is a sin. He sincerely wishes that he did not have this bad habit, and earnestly desires to stop doing it. He wants to get a plenary indulgence, even though he knows that, because gossiping is such a bad habit, there is a good chance he'll end up gossiping again at some future point. For him, such a realization is not an excuse to gossip again, but just an unfortunate acknowledgment of the reality of the situation.
Example 2) A person has a bad habit concerning gossiping. He enjoys gossiping, but knows that it is a sin. Nevertheless, hanging out with his friends and talking badly about others behind their backs is a favorite pastime of his. He comes up with excuses to justify this behavior, such as, "It's no big deal because everyone does it," or, "With all the wars and poverty in the world, I don't think God really cares about my gossiping," etc. This person has no intention of trying to stop gossiping.
In terms of gaining a plenary indulgence, the person in Example 1 does not have a problem with attachment to the sin of gossip. The person in Example 2 does.
One of the reasons the instructions concerning plenary indulgences gets confusing is because the Church refers to the concept of having an "attachment to sin" in different ways. I think it would be helpful for me to address that, but I will have to do that later this afternoon, seeing as I am running out of time at the moment.