What is Plenary Indulgence?


What is the benefit of Pleanry Indulgence? I understand there are certain things you need to do. If I am interested in doing this when do I start? Can someone please explain what I need to keep in mind when pursuing this?


This is from “Catholicism for Dummies” by Fr. John Trigilio and Fr. Ken Brighenti…

“A plenary indulgance is a total remission of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven in confession. Simply put, it’s an application of God’s divine mercy to remove the effects of past sin. An indulgence isn’t forgiveness itself nor is it absolution; it presupposes both before it can happen.” (page 367-368)

In other words, in order to obtain the indulgence… we must first receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation .

Hope this helps. God bless.


As the previous poster said, we cannot receive an indulgence if we have unconfessed mortal sin.

An important thing to understand is that we may still have some temporal (temporary) punishment due for sins even after we have confessed them and received absolution. (A classic analogy: A child breaks a neighbor’s window playing ball. He apologizes; the neighbor readily forgives him. But the child still has to work to help replace the broken window.)

This temporal punishment can be accomplished on earth (by works of charity, acts of penance, prayer, etc.) or in Purgatory.

The Church has a treasury of graces obtained by Christ’s act of redemption. The Church is free to dispense these graces as she pleases, thus her freedom to grant indulgences.

There are two kinds of indulgences: partial and plenary. A partial indulgence, as the name implies, remits part of the punishment due to sin. A plenary (full) indulgence remits all of it.

There are lots of ways to obtain indulgences: certain prayers, like the Rosary; making a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament; making a retreat; visiting certain holy places; and many more. They are summarized in a book called the Enchiridion on Indulgences. An old version is available online at ourladyswarriors.org/ ; click on the word “Indulgences” in the column at the left hand side of the screen. I understand that a newer version has been published, but I have not seen it online yet.

For a plenary indulgence, there are certain “usual conditions” which must be fulfilled along with the indulgenced act. These are:
[LIST]*]Sacramental confession within a short time of when the indulgenced act is performed (I have heard different lengths of time for this, most commonly understood to be within a week before or after).
*]Reception of Holy Communion (best done on the same day, but I think it can be done shortly before or after).
*]Prayer for the Pope (most people pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, but you can pray for the Pope with other prayers of your choosing).
*]Detachment from all sin, even venial sin.

These requirements help us understand that an indulgence is not “magic”; it is intended to help us achieve a true conversion of heart, assisted by worthy reception of the sacraments.

When you obtain an indulgence, you can apply it to yourself or to a soul in Purgatory. One exception is the practice of visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead the week beginning with All Souls’ Day; this must be applied to the souls in Purgatory. (I suppose that applying an indulgence to the souls in Purgatory is like giving that child some money to help pay for the broken window!) Obtaining indulgences is a good way to carry out our duty to pray for the dead.

There may be numerous little things you do on a daily basis that obtain indulgences, if you have that intention. I think it is a good idea each morning, with your morning prayer, to say something like: “I offer all the indulgences obtained today for the relief of the souls in Purgatory,” and to include prayers for the Pope in your daily prayers, and to go to Confession every couple of weeks. That way you can take the greatest possible advantage of this treasury of graces.


The Plenary Indulgence is a wonderful font of Mercy - and amazing gift from God! He gives us the opportunity to get a real "Get Out of Jail Free’ card - a remission of all punishment due to sin, no matter how many and how great!

The kicker is the total detachment from venial sin requirement. Most will tell you this is a difficult state to achieve, even for a very holy person.

I once read of a very holy and elderly priest who was saying Mass on a day when a Plenary Indulgence was available. He had a brief vision that he and an elderly woman in the pew among a sea of hundreds were the only ones receiving it.


What if I went for Holy Mass then went for Confession then say the prayer that grants plenary indulgence (like the ones for Divine Mercy Sunday)? Wouldn’t I be detached from ALL sins right after confession?

And I read somewhere that saying at least a third part of the Rosary under certain circumstances can give me plenary indulgence (my choice of words here do seem unpolished, but… ah, well…) What does it mean by “a third part”?


“Detached” is not the same as “forgiven.” Assuming you make a good confession (honestly confessing with contrition at least all your mortal sins), yes, all your sins are forgiven. But “detached” means you truly hate all sin. If I confess the sin of gluttony and am absolved, I am forgiven, but if I know deep down I will pick up a couple of donuts on the way home, I am not truly detached from that sin.

The whole Rosary has traditionally been considered fifteen decades (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious). A “third part” means you choose either the five Joyful, five Sorrowful, or five Glorious mysteries. That was written before the Luminous Mysteries were added; I suppose it would be a “fourth part” or a “quarter part” now?!


Yeah, that’s the tough part – and you had to mention food! I would guess those who don’t recieve the plenary indulgence would get a partial, at least – don’t you think?

Speaking of clean slates, I remember a story Fr. Corapi told of a tough Mafia-type (Fr.'s description) who called him to be baptized as he was dying. After Fr. Corapi was assured that he had not already been baptized, he administered the sacrament. The dying man asked the priest what the effect of the baptism would be and Fr. Corapi told him that, as long as he did not sin between his baptism and his death, he would get the express elevator to the pearly gates. The dying Mafia-type said, "Really? After everything I’ve done? Wow, that doesn’t seem fair. . . " God’s mercy is boundless!

God bless,


Yes. Any time we perform an action to which a plenary indulgence is attached, but we do not perfectly fulfill all the usual conditions, we do get at least a partial indulgence (as long as we are in the state of grace).

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