Indulgences For Sale


#1

The purchase of Indulgences have been a part of the RC Church ever since the Middle Ages. What is the true purpose of these Indulgences? Can we buy ourselves into heaven?

“It may seem strange that the doctrine of indulgences should have proved such a stumbling-block, and excited so much prejudice and opposition. But the explanation of this may be found in the abuses which unhappily have been associated with what is in itself a salutary practice. In this respect of course indulgences are not exceptional: no institution, however holy, has entirely escaped abuse through the malice or unworthiness of man. … it is not surprising that the offer of pardon in the form of an indulgence should have led to evil practices…It should not be forgotten that the Church, while holding fast to the principle and intrinsic value of indulgences, has repeatedly condemned their misuse: in fact, it is often from the severity of her condemnation that we learn how grave the abuses were.
” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA


#2

Indulgences* are not sold!*

It is a sin to try to buy or sell indulgences!


#3

This would probably be better posted in another section like “Sprituality” or “Apologetics”. I am not the best person to respond but I’ll take a stab at it, and others can correct me.

An Indulgence does not involve the church directly as a third party. The norms are set forth in advance by the church and the believer goes about the business of satisfying these guidelines on his own. There are no records kept, no ‘tickets’ or receipts, nothing at all like that.

Without getting too specific about all this I can say that the indulgence is intended to encourage certain bahavor or practice. One makes a good confession, abandons all attachment to sin and does a series of specific prayers or attends a Mass or Masses. Perhaps someone here can post a typical indulgence for us to see how it is worded these days.

The result of this is the remission of a certain amount of temporal punishment, or penance. In another way one might say that the penitential suffering is overwhelmed by good works, which could possibly be a positive from an eastern perspective.

In the early church penances could be quite severe, some individuals were denied the Eucharist for years. Others had acts of public penance imposed upon them which subjected them to public ridicule and scorn on the street. In an environment like that an indulgence could be seen as a form of mercy being applied by giving the repentant sinner other options.

The notion of Purgatory apparently became associated with this practice because (in the Latin tradition) temporal punishment which has not been satisfied in the earthly life must be satisfied in the next. Most people probably assume that they will be far from perfect at the end of their earthly lives and thus an indulgence will ultimately reduce the backlog of punishment in Purgatory.

For several reasons, to me this can seem an alien concept to an eastern Christian. First, the notion of continuing “punishment” for a person whom will be certainly saved. Easterners will not think of ascetic practices as punishment as much as they will think of them as exercises.

A second aspect that may be unfamiliar to an easterner is the transactional nature of Indulgences. Different practices are considered to be equivalent and can be ‘swapped’, ie: do a novena and receive an indulgence. In the eastern church one will engage in ascetic practices for ones betterment, the thought of measuring the value of this practice does not occur. It can seem like a form of accounting applied to spiritual practice: debits and credits balancing each other out.

One thing I think I should point out is that most Roman Catholics I have known do not pay any attention whatever to indulgences, and many don’t really understand them very well. Besides which the giving of penances is a waning practice in Roman Catholicism at present, many priests do not assign penances in confession routinely. This can make an odd situation for an individual who may wish to take advantage of indulgences but rarely gets assigned any penance against which to mentally associate the practice.

I hope that helps.

+T+
Michael


#4

The sale of indulgences is called simony and is a grave sin. Martin Luther was absolutely correct in protesting this when he did. Michael, you have done a good job in explaining the concept of indulgences, although I would say that, in my opinion, it is not like an accounting practice so much as it is like what you describe with Eastern ascetic practice. Indulgences are meant to better ourselves through discipline. Catholics don’t pay a lot of attention to them these days in terms of “if I do this, then I get time off in purgatory.” On the contrary, we perform acts of penance for the specific reason of improving ourselves and conforming ourselves to the image of Christ. As far as priests not giving penances anymore, that is not entirely accurate. What is becoming less common are penances of “say 3 Hail Mary’s and 3 Our Father’s.” For instance, the last confession I made, my penance was to offer an act of charity to some people whose feelings I had hurt. So, indulgences are still around, we just don’t view them as though the Church has a ledger sheet on us.


#5

For instance, saying the rosary in Church.

Although, I think of my parents when I do that. So, not for me, but someone else.


#6

I’m sure a lot of people think they can buy their way to heaven regardless of denomination. i have seen it done before. A friend of mine gave lots of his money to build a church but he himself has not changed much. He keeps saying “I have already secured my patch in heaven.” It gets quite irritating at times. He also calls the church he helped build his church.

I also know a lady who keeps coming to church but never changes, in fact she is worse after going to church. She thinks that she has fulfilled her obligations and her sins are forgiven.

I know some girls who go clubbing and live a very prodigal life, they keep coming to church thinking that this will wipe their sins away. In a way they are “buying their way to heaven”.

What can we do??? :frowning:


#7

Preach the Gospel by word and action. Be a wonderful example and explain the Tradition of Holy Mother Church.


#8

[quote=WBB] Michael, you have done a good job in explaining the concept of indulgences, although I would say that, in my opinion, it is not like an accounting practice so much as it is like what you describe with Eastern ascetic practice. Indulgences are meant to better ourselves through discipline.
[/quote]

This is good! We cannot be so far apart as I had feared. Eastern Christians just “do it”, (or perhaps they don’t) without being able to see or ask just how much good this round of prayers is doing for us. We just wish to do this or that and trust in the mercy of God.

we perform acts of penance for the specific reason of improving ourselves and conforming ourselves to the image of Christ.

Again, this is all positive, I appreciate the clarification. It does seem rather mechanistic to me, but I would rather see this as a Latin way to positive good even if I cannot get a firm grasp of it myself. Anyway it doesn’t have to make as much sense to me if it is not part of my tradition.

As far as priests not giving penances anymore, that is not entirely accurate. What is becoming less common are penances of “say 3 Hail Mary’s and 3 Our Father’s.” For instance, the last confession I made, my penance was to offer an act of charity to some people whose feelings I had hurt. So, indulgences are still around, we just don’t view them as though the Church has a ledger sheet on us.

My last several years of confessions as a Roman Catholic were frustrating because I received no penances. It was difficult to reconcile the newer trend with what I was taught as a boy “ten Hail Mary’s and five Our Fathers”, so I was generalizing out of my own experience, which is unfair to the church as a whole since I don’t really know what every priest is doing.

Thanks

+T+
Michael


#9

[quote=WBB]we perform acts of penance for the specific reason of improving ourselves and conforming ourselves to the image of Christ.
[/quote]

[quote=Hesychios]Again, this is all positive, I appreciate the clarification. It does seem rather mechanistic to me, but I would rather see this as a Latin way to positive good even if I cannot get a firm grasp of it myself. Anyway it doesn’t have to make as much sense to me if it is not part of my tradition.
[/quote]

I suppose it would be better said that when we perform a penance the way that it conforms us to the image of Christ is that it is a way to humble ourselves in obedience to the will of God. Not that sin is not forgiven if we do not perform a penance, but by performing the penance with humility, we grow in holiness through charity.


#10

I’m going to move this thread to Spirituality, as it really isn’t terribly pertinent to this forum.

Joe


#11

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