Please Indulge Me


Just curious if someone could briefly explain what an indulgence is in Catholicism and provide a real life situation or scenario in which one would be appropriate to be requested.

Many thanks.


So your out tossing the football around, and you break your neighbors window. You say your sorry. Now you need to make repairs! It’s the same way with an indulgence. You sinned in some way against God, breaking your relationship with him. So you go to Confession. Now you repair the damage, or make restitution with an Indulgence! :slight_smile:


Hi Tommy. Sorry, this has to be brief as we are on our way out to Mass.

An indulgence is a remission of some of the punishment owed due to sin. It is earned by the sinner or by someone in their behalf and is applied by God through the Church.

Much better explanation here:


Basically sin also has temporal effects that can remain after a sin is forgiven - one way for such to be healed is via help from the Church. So in praying or doing an other Christian act to which the Church has by attached an indulgence - one is helped in a particular way by the good of others in the Church (and Christ!) - via the authority of the Church. The healing of ones sins (the removal of temporal punishment that might remain) is thus helped.

One can thus also help those in some way who are still being purified by Christ on the way to Heaven. God wills that in love we assist each other…


Thanks, Serpent. I still do not fully understand (I’m a little dense sometimes). Can you explain the difference between an indulgence and a penance?


Thanks, TheDoctor. I will take a look at the link you provided.


“A penance” is that “which the confessor imposes upon the penitent to repair the damage caused by sin.” (CCCC).

Even after the penance from Confession is done - there may remain still some temporal punisment - which can be healed (removed) in the Christian life by prayer, acts of love and other virtues, voluntary acts of penance (fasting etc), and indulgences…etc.


Hi Bookcat,
Can you or someone else who knows please elaborate on the statement in bold?

I’m still not sure I understand the difference between penance and an indulgence.

For example, I thought a penance was an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. What does an indulgence cover that confession/reconciliation/penance does not?

Just trying to get more clarity in my mind on a real-life scenario in which an indulgence would be needed.


Through the action of the Church, a remission of temporal punishment which results from sin, may be applied to the living or the dead. Temporal punishment is “unhealthy attachment to creatures” – creatures in the sense of what is created. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1473 states thatWhile patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.”

Also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Obtaining indulgence from God through the Church

**1478 **An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.89

**1479 **Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.
The Baltimore Catechism No. 3 has for answer 220: "God requires a temporal punishment as a satisfaction for sin, to teach us the great evil of sin and to prevent us from falling again."The sacrament of penance, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1448 Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion.

1460 states that:
Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him.”


A penance from the Sacrament of Confession is given as part of the confession - (see above) - even after that penance is done there still may be (often there is I would say) temporal punishment that remains (think even of a Father who forgives his son but there is often still something the son must do and to learn -even though the offense has been forgiven).

Thus further penance (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, acts of charity etc) is in order.

An indulgence is a great help - a great gift in this. Think of it as you broke a window - the window still needs to be repaired. One can yes repair it oneself. But help from friends can make things go faster - and especially if one has a friend who knows more about such than you. This is of course an analogy and not what fully shows the splendor of the Communion within the Church and of indulgences.

Both penance and indulgences aim in the same direction.


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