Indulgence and Merit?


#1

My question has to do with some intricacies regarding the Church’s “Economy of Salvation,” namely:

Is pursuing Indulgences also meritorious? The Indulgence itself is for the remitting of temporal punishment - the satisfaction of debt - for sin after Confession; but does the act of pursuing the Indulgence also gain Merit?

Furthermore, can both the satisfactory *and *meritorious value of the Indulgence itself and the work done to gain it, respectively, be applied to the same person? Can this person be either alive or dead (in purgatory)? If alive, must they be in a state of grace?


#2

Hi Neithan,

Really excellent question.

YES. Absolutely. In fact, the indulgenced act considered apart from the indulgence is meritorious (if done in a state of grace, with supernatural intention, etc) in and of itself as well as satisfaction for temporal punishment. The Church by way of indulgence adds to the satisfaction one normally would receive from the act itself.

[quote=Neithan]Furthermore, can both the satisfactory *and *meritorious value of the Indulgence itself and the work done to gain it, respectively, be applied to the same person?
[/quote]

Good question. There might be a nuance there, so I’ll think about that and get back to you (if it hasn’t already been answered).

[quote=Neithan]Can this person be either alive or dead (in purgatory)? If alive, must they be in a state of grace?
[/quote]

Confining ourselves only to indulgences: No, the fruit of an indulgence can always be applied to the dead and an overwhelmingly majority of the time to oneself, but *never *to another living person.

VC


#3

Indulgences can only be applied to the living person gaining the indulgence and to souls in Purgatory.

Merit can only be gained by a living person in a state of grace and applied to others who, although not necessarily in a state of grace, must yet still be alive.

Therefore, yes, the satisfaction gained by an indulgenced work and the merit won from that same work can be applied to the same person—only if this same person is the one performing the work itself.

For example—

You as an individual can perform an indulgenced work for yourself and for the souls in Purgatory **and at the same time **merit reward for yourself and for others.

But the only one gaining the indulgence **and **the merit is you.

Reference: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma–Ludwig Ott


#4

Thanks guys. One last question:

[quote=scriabin]Indulgences can only be applied to the living person gaining the indulgence and to souls in Purgatory.
[/quote]

[quote=Verbum Caro]The Church by way of indulgence adds to the satisfaction one normally would receive from the act itself.
[/quote]

Understood! But then if not the actual Indulgence, could the ordinary satisfactory value of an indulgenced work be applied to some other living person?
So for example, if I work for an Indulgence, could I offer the actual Indulgence itself for the dead, but the rest of the satisfaction (and merit) for a living relative, friend etc.?


#5

Neithan,

We’re into some pretty fine points here. Exercising some theological restraint, I’d say that to my knowledge there doesn’t seem to be anything objectionable with the idea of offering the indulgence granted by the Church for the dead, while offering the satisfaction gained by the underlying act to God on behalf of another living person.

Here are a couple of other scenarios that seem to indicate that your scenario above is possible:

  1. If one were to pursue an indulgence for dead, but without the idea of asking God to apply the satisfaction of the underlying act to someone else, it would seem that by default the satisfaction would benefit you, yourself. Thus we see that two different people can seem to receive the benefit of one act.

2)If one were to perform an act with the intention to ask God to apply the satisfaction thereby gained to another living person, but at the same time having the required habitual intention of acquiring and indulgence (a minimum intention) and one manages to fulfill the conditions of an indulgence attached to the act, and thus actually gain the indulgence for oneself (unknown to you!) then here again we have one act which benefits two different people.

There is a fine point, however, that we should keep in mind. It is one thing to speak of the satisfaction for sin gained and another thing to speak of merit gained. Although they are closely related to each other in an act, they are distinct. When we speak of merit strictly we really mean merit de condigno. That seems to be only won for oneself – meriting an increase in sanctifying grace, an increase in heavenly glory, and eternal life (if dying in grace). Whether or not one can “merit” (i.e. *de congruo) *something for another seems to be an open question. Much more certain is that we can pray for another.

FAIR WARNING: The above is mostly speculation on my part. Take it with a grain of (blessed?) salt.

Please, I welcome additions, corrections, clarifications, reprimands, etc. from my fellow posters.

VC


#6

Ott page 435–

Extra-sacramental penitential works, such as the performance of voluntary penitential practices and the bearing of trials sent by God, possess satisfactory value.

So it is quite true you can distinguish between (a) the satisfaction that is indulgenced by the Church and (b) the satisfaction that the work intrinsically has. We know we can’t apply our (a) indulgences to other living people; but what of the (b) non-indulgenced satisfaction of the work–can *that *satisfaction be applied to others?

Satisfaction is the remission of temporal punishment still due from forgiven sins.

Ott page 434–

By sacramental satisfaction is understood works of penance which are imposed on the penitent in atonement for the temporal punishment for sins which remain after the guilt of sin and its eternal punishment have been forgiven.

Neithan:

if not the actual Indulgence, could the ordinary (non-indulgenced) satisfactory value of an indulgenced work be applied to some other living person?

You might re-phrase your question as: Can the satisfaction I have gained by performing a work be offered for another living person’s temporal punishment? Can I offer the satisfaction of the penances I have done for another living person’s temporal punishment still due from them? Can my penances apply for their satisfaction still due? Can I do penance in their stead?

No, we can’t. It was tried in the Middle Ages. From the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia under “Redemptions, Penetential” –

**It was even attempted to have the penance performed by others **(cf. “Leges” or “Pœnitentiale” of Eadger in Hardouin, “Concilia”, VI, i, 659 sq.), but these substitutions, accessible only to the great, **were a contradiction of penance and were severely condemned **(cf. Conc. of Clovesho of 747, cans. xxvi-xxvii).

Merit is something different.

Ott page 267–

  1. Object of Meritum de Condigno: A just man merits for himself through each good work an increase of sanctifying grace, eternal life (if he dies in a state of grace) and an increase of heavenly glory.

Ott page 269–

  1. Object of Meritum de Congruo: © The justified man can merit de congruo for others that which he can merit for himself, and in addition, the first actual grace…More effective than such merit is prayer for others.

#7

Scriabin,

I believe you are speaking of sacramental satisfaction, i.e. the penance imposed by a confessor on a penitent. Those are non-transferable.

Neithan seemed to be asking about the satisfactory value of our good works in general.

VC


#8

Yes, exactly right.
Thomas Aquinas seems to say in the Summa that, though we can not to do strictly *penitential *satisfaction for one another, as the intent in penance is “medicinal” for the penitent, we can still satisfy some of the punishment for others, and he does not explicitly limit this to the dead in purgatory only.

But then, I wonder, is there any need for satisfaction aside from penance and purgatory? What punishment would we need to endure that is not intended for our benefit? Christ satisfied once and for all for Justice sake.


#9

I thought of another question, and rather than start a new thread I’ll add it here:

What exactly is meant by the term* demerit*? Is it in any way possible for us to lose the merits we have already gained (condignly or congrously) because of our sins?


#10

From Fr. John Hardon’s “History and Theology of Grace,” Sapienta Press of Ave Maria University, pages 306-311 (I’ll just quote snippets and **bold type **the pertinent phrases:

…Moreover, satisfaction differs from ordinay merit by reason of its purpose or function. It is directed to make good the offenses committed against the Creator. In place of turning away from God which characterizes sin, **the sinner (or someone else for him) turns to God **with sorrow for having offended the divine mafesty…

…Vicarius suffering is familiar from human affairs, where we see one man undertake repayment of another’s debt, and so in the spiritual order. We can volunteer to make expiation for other people’s sins…

…**we obtain for another a remission or amelioration of the sufferings he deserved **for offending God…

…As with merit, so in satisfaction, we offer the expiatory value of our good works for ourselves as well as for others….


#11

I’m still a little hazy on offering up satisfactory work for the expiation of the sins of other living persons. What punishment would they need to satisfy that is not penitential and intended for their own benefit (and therefore cannot be commuted to anyone else)?
Since we cannot perform penance for another living person (except in case of disability), what punishment does there remain for us to help them satisfy?
Does penance not already remit all the temporal punishment for one’s sins?


#12

Dear Neithan

We can atone for other peoples sins by all our prayers, works, joys and sufferings and indulgences. Our Lady asked us to do this at Fatima. We can gain grace for others too. But we cannot interfere with their free will. We help others to the best of our ability but in the end the atoning and grace will only be of benefit if they eventually accept and use it. The price of a soul is very high, It takes a lot of work. Hope this helps:thumbsup: :wink:


#13

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