Indulgences for the dead

It that something I must accept if I want to become catholic? It is about my last stumbling point.


Well, before we give a blanket ‘yes’ or ‘no’, can we make sure we understand what, exactly, it is that you’re objecting to? Perhaps there’s a misunderstanding that we can clear up…

Let me ask you a question. Based on your answer, I’ll ask you a follow-up question, and we’ll see what your objection is.

Here’s the question: let’s suppose that you and I are sitting and watching TV. The story of a Christian politician comes on – he committed a serious sin, and has asked God to forgive him. I turn to you and say, “let’s pray for him: 'God, your servant has sinned in your eyes and asked Jesus to forgive him. We believe You’ve forgiven him, but he’s still imperfect. Heal his imperfections, Lord; fix the brokenness that he has in his soul.”

Would that prayer seem OK to you?

If you’re having trouble believing this, would you be willing to accept the idea that the Church is right about it (and you are wrong), even if you can’t understand how or why? Meaning you cannot be obstinate in your disbelief.

Would you be willing to undertake an ongoing, good-faith effort to correct your disbelief? Meaning you would not be complacent in your disbelief.

Would you be willing to refrain from teaching your disbelief to others as truth?

If you answer “yes” to these three questions then, yes, you can become Catholic. Your disbelief is not an impediment to you, and it is not sinful after your conversion.

And it really doesn’t matter what the doctrine is. Disbelief is never OK (it is a personal flaw that needs to be corrected), but disbelief is not sinful if it is not an act of the will. If we want to believe but cannot, there is no sin, provided these three conditions are met.

David we are so blessed to have you here on CAF. Thank you for all your posts. They are always spot on. :love:


Why would the church not have such grace and authority?

See*** Matthew 16:[18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
[19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." ***

…and then…

***Matthew 18: [18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
[19] Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
[20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." ***

:slight_smile: You can see that the Holy Spirit is knocking down every obstacle to you coming home where you belong.

Thanks for the replies- I need to clarify- Praying for them I feel is much different than an indulgence- correct me if I’m wrong but and indulgence is meant to reduce the so called punishment, for one believer to credit it over to another account when that person clearly needs time to be brought to the right place is difficult for me. I am open to understanding but I need to be at peace with it. I mentioned my concern to a Priest and he pretty much blew off my concern giving me the impression it was not required.

And, indeed, when I have encountered doubts (everybody does) it is the authority of the Church that reassured me.

If I were not Catholic then I have no doubt I would be atheist.

You might think of it in this manner. We are called to share one another’s burdens. Well in Purgatory it is a burden of suffering that one undergoes during his final purification. So Christ, through His Church, allows us to share those sufferings (even if we are not the ones being purified ourselves.)


That’s understandable. And it reveals the limitations of trying to use earthly analogies to describe something which we really cannot even comprehend.

But praying is not really all that different. If someone is in purgatory, and you pray for their soul, what do you think the result will be?

If someone looses his job, we can pray that he gets another. That’s what he needs right now. But souls in purgatory have no such needs. There’s only one way that our prayers can aid them, and it looks an awful lot like what an indulgence does.

You can think of an indulgence as a prayer that comes with a guarantee signed by the Church.

And I wish the Church would come up with a better name than “indulgence.” That’s gotta be the worst name ever.

I mentioned my concern to a Priest and he pretty much blew off my concern giving me the impression it was not required.

Nobody expects converts to come into the Church fully formed in their beliefs. And if THIS is your biggest stumbling block then you are far more well formed than most. I was hung up on the Immaculate Conception!!! It took me years (after my conversion) to bring myself around.

But, like all Catholics, converts are expected to have trust in the Church that they’re joining. If you trust the Church then nothing is an impediment for you.

I agree! There are so many negative connotations wrapped up in that one word.

My husband and I had this very conversation last night. We are in RCIA and there are are some things that are just so foreign to us that it invokes a bad feeling (indulgences, devotions to saints, Eucharistic adoration, etc.). I asked him what he thought/believed and this was his exact response, “I don’t understand it but I’m going to try. If I believe the Catholic Church has the authority, who am I to disbelieve it? That’s a pretty arrogant stance. If I don’t believe it has the authority, then I might as well stay Protestant.” That pretty much sums it up :wink:

I agree! There are so many negative connotations wrapped up in that one word.

Well, you two are talking about two totally different things…

slh is taking about connotations that arise from the historical use of the word. If, tomorrow, the Church decided to change the name (let’s say, using the pharmaceutical industry’s standards for naming) to ‘Pardonify’, then the word ‘indulgence’ would go away. But, folks who dislike the doctrine would then develop a distaste for ‘Pardonifies’. So, that wouldn’t really solve anything. :wink:

David is talking about something different, I think. He’s unhappy with the word itself. The thing is, the word ‘indulgence’ is a cognate for the Latin word ‘indulgentia.’ The thing is, when a cognate comes from another language into English, its meaning can change in English. So, if you look at the word as it’s used today, and presume that this is the meaning it originally had, then you’re bound to be confused – or to think that there’s been bad word choice. There hasn’t: English has just developed the word in a different direction.

For example, let’s suppose that there was something in Catholicism that was known by the name ‘buxomness’ – let’s say, that referred to the Church being flexible in the way it applied a certain rule. We’d all have a nice chuckle over the term, and folks might even complain that it was “the worst name ever.” Here’s the thing, though: the word ‘buxom’ originally meant ‘exuberantly happy’, ‘obedient’, ‘timid’ or ‘flexible’. It only developed later into a physical description of anatomy.

A similar thing is going on here. ‘Indulgence’ now has a negative connotation in English. But, in Latin, ‘indulgentia’ means ‘leniency’, ‘pardon’, ‘kindness’, or ‘concession’. There’s nothing negative there. One just has to be careful to recognize that we’re talking about an ancient meaning of a word, and not the current usage of that word. :wink:

No, I agree, but how many Americans outside the Catholic Church know Latin? :shrug:

I just think the translation might possibly should take on a different English word so that the meaning/intent is properly translated. Then there wouldn’t be such a negative gut-reaction by Protestants.

I think you’ve given this a lot more thought than I ever did.

But it’s not just English. A lot of protestants suppose that an “indulgence” means we can obtain a right to sin. And the protestants who started thinking this spoke German.

Nobody “indulges” in acts of charity. We don’t “indulge” in feeding the hungry. We “indulge” in feeding ourselves things (or quantities) that we probably would be better off not eating. Which is like giving ourselves a dispensation to commit gluttony. Which we can’t actually do.

Doctrine does not change, but (as you say) language does. The Church adjusts SOME of Her vocabulary accordingly. Confession is now called “reconciliation” instead of “penance.”

But the Church clings to other vocabulary that is outdated to the point that it becomes confusing. Priests are “extraordinary ministers” of Confirmation. “Extraordinary” literally means “extra ordinary” or “not ordinary.” But that’s not anything like what the word typically means. It usually means “really great” (which is almost the opposite of what the Church means - the Church means “acceptable in a pinch but not preferred”). Florence Nightingale and Nurse Ratched were not your ordinary nurses, but nobody would call Nurse Ratched “extraordinary.”

I think that “indulgence” and “extraordinary” are due for a linguistic update.

We would be in some good company.

St. Augustine :
*“I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”
Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 A.D.

[FONT=Georgia][size=4]Notice that Judaism has always and still does intercede for their dead.* [/FONT][/size][FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot][FONT=Georgia][size=4]Biblical and Jewish Traditional Beliefs About Purgatory [/FONT][/FONT][/FONT][/size]

This doctrine is intimately tied up with the communion of saints we profess to believe in in the Creed. We are all one Body and we are not even separated by death and therefore can share in the same charity and spiritual life and nourishment. We always are to help one another become holy. The Church summed this up beautifully at the Second Vatican Council (my emphasis):

[quote=Vatican II, Lumen Gentium] 49. Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him (266) and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,(277) some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;(1*) but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him.(268) Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least weakened or interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church, is strengthened by communication of spiritual goods.(2)*

Indulgences are one form of the “communication of spiritual goods” between those alive and those who have died in Christ. Indulgences themselves are not based on the merit of only the one who obtains it or the one who receives its benefit, but on the the merits of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and all the Saints–the whole Body of Christ–as distributed according to the ministry and authority of the Church delegated by Christ. Indulgences for the dead are a beautiful reminder that we are all united together–the Church on earth (aka the Church Militant), the Church being purified (aka the Church Suffering), and the Church in Heaven (aka the Church Triumphant) and our charity, caring, and sharing in Christ’s love and mercy does not end at death. We continually help to sanctify one another–that’s ultimately what charity is all about.

I don’t see how one could reject indulgences for the dead without undermining this beautiful unity.

By the way…keep in mind that more indulgences are gained for the living than the dead, but either way it’s still applied to members of the Mystical Body of Christ

Excellent! :thumbsup:

Inability to overcome self is often the biggest stumbling block. And to overcome that, I always tell meself “I can be persuaded” and “I am not so stupid that I can’t learn this”. Take away ego and take away lack of confidence, one can get from Point A to Point B eventually.

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