Why is gaining a plenary indulgence "hard"?

I’m not sure if this is the right forum for this, since an indulgence isn’t really a sacrament, but I’ve been reading up on them lately and something has been bugging me. There seems to be 5 conditions for obtaining the plenary indulgence:

  1. The act of the indulgence (read the Bible, Stations of the Cross, papal blessing, ect.)
  2. Prayers for the Pope.
  3. Confession
  4. Receiving the Eucharist at mass
  5. Be free from all attachment to venial sin

Then, without fail, the source I’m reading always states that because the 5th condition is so difficult actually obtaining a plenary indulgence is very hard to do, in most cases a partial indulgence is granted instead.

I might be missing something here, but since the order of these doesn’t seem to matter couldn’t you just make going to confession or receiving the Eucharist, both of which wipe out all venial sin, the last thing you? That way the the moment your sins are totally wiped out is the moment the indulgence is complete. Or do you need to be free from venial sin the entire time, making confession the first step and then not sinning at all during the prayers to be said and mass up until communion?

Being free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin is very hard. What is “attachment to sin,” though? Here’s an example I heard. Say a beautiful young girl and a handsome young man were getting married. They got up to the point in the ceremony where they were to say the “I do’s.” The priest asks the man his part, “Do you promise to have and to hold, in good times and bad, till death do you part, etc.” (or however it goes), and he immediately says, “I do.” Then, the priest turns to the bride and asks her the same thing. She just stands there, with a glazed look in her eyes like she’s daydreaming. Then, suddenly, she realizes where she is and says, “I do.” Later, as they’re riding to the reception, the groom asks her what was going on then, and she says, “Well, at that moment, I was thinking of my previous boy friend and how great we were together and how much pleasure he gave me. I thought we were perfect. But, I’m married to you now, and I’ll be faithful to you till I die.” How do you think that young man felt?! Jesus feels the same way when we have attachment to sin. It’s something offensive to Our Lord that you would gladly engage in, except for the fact that it would keep you from heaven.

Attachment to sin is part of human nature.

To be free of attachment to sin would be like denying your very nature. It should be hard.

Some people would say it is impossible.

It is not intended to be difficult. If you can truly say “I love you God, I want nothing of the sins or defects of this world”, then you have it. If it is partial then there are degrees of it, read below (at the end) and the Church doubles it.

Did you know you receive the indulgence (for yourself or the faithfully departed you designate) at the completion of the conditions only when in a state of grace, where sacramental confession is within about 20 days before or after that completion (good for many times).


1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."50

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51

1453 The contrition called “imperfect” (or “attrition”) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.52

Indulgentarium Doctrina:
[LEFT]Since by their acts the faithful can obtain, in addition to the merit which is the principal fruit of the act, a further remission of temporal punishment in proportion to the degree to which the charity of the one performing the act is greater, and in proportion to the degree to which the act itself is performed in a more perfect way, it has been considered fitting that this remission of temporal punishment which the Christian faithful acquire through an action should serve as the measurement for the remission of punishment which the ecclesiastical authority bountifully adds by way of partial indulgence.[/LEFT]

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