What is Temporal Punishment?


Im really confused about Temporal punishment and Indulgences??

Could someone please explain this to me?

Ive looked on the Internet and all the definitions are so hard to understand!!

God Bless,


I’ll try to give the nutshell version. :slight_smile:

Sin has consequences. Those consequences are both eternal (spiritual, everlasting) and temporal (earthly, non-eternal).

In the Sacrament of Confession, God wipes away the eternal consequences of sin. That’s the hard part. But the temporal consequences remain. Indulgences help “pay the price” for those temporal consequences.

The analogy I always use is the neighborhood kid hitting a baseball through the window. He goes to his neighbor and says “I’m sorry” and the neighbor says “I forgive you.” But the window is still broken. And it still needs to be fixed. The broken window is the temporal consequence and an indulgence is the act of fixing it (or paying down the debt we owe for the replacement).

We see this with our sin, too. Just because we step out of the Confessional does not mean that all the consequences of our sins immediately vanish. We still live with the consequences even though God has forgiven us.

Does that make sense?


Yeah it does! Thank you! So the temporal is what has been left behind from our sin, the effects. And an indulgence is a way of making up for it? So the indulgence helps you through Purgatory? I think? I dont know where I read about Purgatory?


Right! That’s pretty much what Purgatory is – a place where we pay off the rest of our tab with regards to temporal punishment so that we can enter heaven. Since our sinfulness is incompatible with God’s holiness, we need that final purification before we can enter heaven. But, of course, the ideal is to be purified on earth such that we need not spend any time in Purgatory.

Indulgences are pretty much prayers that we pray under the proper conditions where the Church gives us certainty that it is removing some or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. Similarly, the Sacrament of Confession gives us certitude that the eternal consequences of our sins have been removed. So the two complement each other nicely. Obviously, it is more critical to have the eternal consequences removed. :slight_smile: But we don’t want to neglect the temporal side of things. When we utilize both Confession and indulgences, we cannot help but grow in holiness.


Great explanation. I will be using your analogy in the future.



Thanks. Although, I have to admit that I did not come up with that analogy myself but borrowed it from somewhere else (and I cannot recall where). :o


Catechism 1472 has: “every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas discussed this unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified, in Summa Theologica Part II, Section II, Question 189, Article 1. The entrance into religious life
I answer that, As shown above (Question 188, Article 1), the religious state is a spiritual schooling for the attainment of the perfection of charity. This is accomplished through the removal of the obstacles to perfect charity by religious observances; and these obstacles are those things which attach man’s affections to earthly things. Now the attachment of man’s affections to earthly things is not only an obstacle to the perfection of charity, but sometimes leads to the loss of charity, when through turning inordinately to temporal goods man turns away from the immutable good by sinning mortally. Hence it is evident that the observances of the religious state, while removing the obstacles to perfect charity, remove also the occasions of sin: for instance, it is clear that fasting, watching, obedience, and the like withdraw man from sins of gluttony and lust and all other manner of sins.


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