Why were indulgences sold and how can this be ok?

Was a pope in charge of the sale of indulgences? Was it his idea? Who? Why? How if he is appointed by God and would be infallible? It seems to be telling people they could buy salvation?

No there was never a Pope in charge of the sale of indulgences, although there was a Pope who was rebuilding St Peter’s Basilica around that time and used many different means of raising money to do so including soliciting donations from the Church in different European countries.

Some corrupt church officials in those countries did indeed get the idea of either selling or making uneducated people THINK they were selling indulgences, just as some from time to time have sold saints’ relics, church jobs and such. To do so is of course, as it always has been, sinful - it’s the sin of simony (the selling of sacred things).

Now you do know, do you not, that Papal infallibility (meaning no more than that the Pope cannot officially TEACH error) does not mean that the Pope must be personally sinless? St Peter himself, our first Pope, certainly sinned by refusing to eat with Gentile converts to Christianity, for which St Paul rightly criticised him. Note that St Peter never TAUGHT that it was OK to shun Gentiles, quite the opposite, so that is one instance where the Pope, while personally sinning, nonetheless always taught correctly.

Not that they were selling salvation, what they were selling was remission of punishment in purgatory (no-one can or did try to sell ‘permission to sin’ or ‘pardon for sins’ or anything, that’s not how indulgences work). Now any soul who goes to purgatory is saved in any event, regardless of whether they’ve earned remission of some or all of their punishment there or not, they are guaranteed to get to heaven sooner or later, that’s why an indulgence is not correctly described as selling salvation.

The way indulgences work is that the Pope, using his power of binding and loosing heaven, can declare that saying a certain prayer or performing a certain pious act either lessens one’s purgatory (partial indulgence) or eliminates it entirely (plenary indulgence).

In those days (but no longer, due to the confusion that occurred) indulgences COULD be attached to the act of making a donation of money to the Church. Not that the money itself was important, but the pious act of giving something to the church was seen as worthy of an indulgence.

Of course some people, seeing and hearing this, thought it meant that they were either buying pardon for their sins or permission to sin in the future. Neither was true, of course, but those corrupt church officials trying to raise money certainly let them think so since it increased sales. And for those who DID understand, they also tended to gain indulgences this way since it was certainly easier than praying or doing other penitential acts.

Basically there certainly was a lot of corruption and shady dealings surrounding the attachment of indulgences to monetary donations, which Luther rightly criticised and which the Council of Trent forbade. None of which has any more bearing on Papal Infallibility, even if the Pope himself sold them, than any other sin the Pope might commit.

You CAN buy salvation. That’s what Jesus taught …
*]Mark 10:21 - sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven[/LIST]… Charity toward others in Christ’s name atones for many sins …
*]1 Peter 4:8 - * charity covereth a multitude of sins *[/LIST]

we buy salvation (as it were) by giving up (paying for) or sacrificing the world, the flesh and the devil to gain eternal life… :slight_smile:

Jesus gives us two commandments and then He says if we love Him we will keep His commands. Catholics say love of God is necessary for salvation. Protestants say faith alone saves. If you believe love is necessary then you must ask how do you know if you love. John’s letter says the love of God consists in this, that we obey His commandments. What is obedience, or where is it found. It is found in what we do and do not do, our acts, our works. Those who are taken to heaven ask Jesus what the DID, what work, made them deserving. Jesus says those who feed Him when He is hungry, cloth, visit and care for Him in the poor do so to Him and for that reason He takes them to heaven. They are judged by their works. Those who are lost claim they also did many things in His name and He says He never knew them. What is the difference? Can I give to the poor and buy heaven? Heaven can not be bought. But if I love the poor and care for them that work is rewarded. It is all a matter of motive. If I love the poor I sacrifice for them. If I am trying to buy heaven for me I am not doing it for the poor, but me. Love can be expressed in many ways. One of them is through money. “Sell what you have and give to the poor.” We all believe one person can pray for another. The grace of one person’s prayer is directed to another. Praying for the dead is spiritual work and the theology of that has to be understood before indulgences can be understood.

The sale of indulges is an abuse. Always was. Always will be.

Indulgences in themselves are a great blessing for the faithful from the infinite merit of Christ’s Sacrifice.

Sometimes indulgences are caricatured, by people who do not understand them, as somehow “taking away” from the perfect, finished, atoning Sacrifice of Christ. Not so.

I agree w/the works/love/acts thing. This is a huge reason I started looking outside of my church beliefs. I’ve always felt like the “black sheep” because I see it more from a Catholic perspective. I’m happy to see now, that the original church saw it the same way! All of the explanations on indulgences are helpful. thank you!

I just want to make sure I understand and you all agree: No Pope was teaching the sale of indulgences as dogma/whatever the word is for making it a rule? I understand the Papal Infallibility concept so as long as he wasn’t saying to do it and that it was correct, I can accept it. If a Pope did teach it was right, than I have my doubts. Then again, I don’t understand much about the purgatory / penance things anyway. Thanks for clarigying though!

I should save your post somewhere - it comes in handy someday. :slight_smile:

If you’re into reading convoluted legalese, here is the paragraph from the Council of Trent treating the ABUSE of indulgences – I just dragged it up today for another thread (emphasis mine):

[LEFT][FONT=Arial][size=2]Whereas the power of conferring Indulgences was granted by Christ to the Church; and she has, even in the most ancient times, used the said power, delivered unto her of God; the sacred holy Synod teaches, and enjoins, that the use of Indulgences, for the Christian people most salutary, and approved of by the authority of sacred Councils, is to be retained in the Church; . . . In granting them, however, It desires that, in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church, moderation be observed; lest, by excessive facility, ecclesastical discipline be enervated. And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein[/size], and by occasion of which this honourable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected, It ordains generally by this decree, that all evil gains for the obtaining thereof,–whence a most prolific cause of abuses amongst the Christian people has been derived,–be wholly abolished. But as regards the other abuses which have proceeded from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from what soever other source, since, by reason of the manifold corruptions in the places and provinces where the said abuses are committed, they cannot conveniently be specially prohibited; It commands all bishops, diligently to collect, each in his own church, all abuses of this nature, and to report them in the first provincial Synod; that, after having been reviewed by the opinions of the other bishops also, they may forthwith be referred to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, by whose authority and prudence that which may be expedient for the universal Church will be ordained; that this the gift of holy Indulgences may be dispensed to all the faithful, piously, holily, and incorruptly.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Sale, indiscriminate use, superstitious use of indulgences is a grave abuse. So the question “how can this be OK” can be answered: It is NOT OK. And the decree of the Council of Trent affirms the authentic teaching of the Church on the subject, even noting that the blessing that an indulgence is SUPPOSED to be, had been wrongly abused and even had caused “the honorable name” of indulgences “to be blasphemed by heretics.” [/LEFT]

[LEFT]It’s like sex. Should we condemn sex because there is rape? No. Neither should we condemn indulgences because there was abuse.[/LEFT]

It was never permitted to buy or sell an indulgence. However, it used to be permitted (no longer so) to gain an indulgence by giving money to charity. So what some guys did was set up a charity and go out and started collecting money and were giving away little papers that told the person who gave them money that they had earned an indulgence. This allowed a lot of abuse to creep in.

Few facts, getting an indulgence does not mean getting salvation. Salavation is already a given if you are recieving an indulgence. An indulgence is not Forgiveness. You must already be forgiven. An indulgence is a sign before God that you do penance. Only God really knows if you recieve an indulgence or not because only he really knows your heart. It is entirely possible that God is giving indulgences himself to people that we have no knowledge of.

An indulgence is not buying salvation.

It is not buying forgiveness.

The direct sale of indulgences was always banned.

The rule that was changed stated that you could not recieve an indulgence for giving alms to charity. This was not because it was theologically wrong but was done to stop abuse.

Indulgences are an intergral part of the paenence of the Church. Every sin has a punishment that will be metered out to us. We avoid eternal punishment by being forgiven of our sins but we still must recieve what is due to us from our sins. Getting indulgences is our way of making amends to God and to other who we have wronged. If we steal an apple we go and pay for it to avoid the ten days in jail for stealing the apple. If we used drugs then we go and spend time teaching other to not use drugs. We give back what we took and add to it. This is the very heart of the indulgence. If we do not make amends for our wrongs then we will be punished for them. I steal money and can not pay it back so I sit in jail. I steal money and can pay it back with interest and I do not go to jail. That is the idea. The jail time is not forever, as in eternal damnation, but for some time. Just imagine how much a soul sufferes from even one day in purgatory. They are going to go to heaven, but they must serve their time for their sins. They are so close but are still not completely to their ultimate goal, to get to go before God whom they love so much. That must be agony. He is right there, Lord Jesus is right there but they can not yet approach him. Oh, that much be torture.

Indulgences are good things, you should get as many as you can. They help you, they help your neighbor, they help the world and they get you into heaven faster or someone you care about. There are the ultimate win win.

The Catholic Church has never authorized the “selling” of indulgences. One cannot "sell’ indulgences anyway since indulgences involve prayer and prayers cannot be sold.

There is no Tradition, rule, regulation or authorization for any pope, bishop, priest, prince, civil ruler or lay Catholic to sell indulgences. Whenever the legitimate use of indulgences was abused on a wide scale by Catholics, whether ordained, religious or laity, as happened during the building of St Peter’s Church in Rome, the pope would do his best to intervene and stop it.
The pope in fact, in the latter part of the 1500’s, ended the practice of obtaining indulgences which involved financial considerations in order to put an end to the scandal and abuse.

Until disobedient clergy and laymen began abusing the practice of granting indulgences, they were were often connected with good works such as the building of hospitals, bridges, churches etc for the common good of society. Absolutely nothing wrong with that when people obeyed the popes in the granting of them.

After all, the teaching on indulgences came directly from Jesus himself through the Apostles as one of the many components of the Gospel the Apostles preached. Many through history have said indulgences are wrong, flawed etc, but that is akin to saying Jesus lied or that He was in error when he taught his Apostles about indulgences, purgatory, punishment due to sin etc. And that would make him an evil God which we know, of course, that He is not.

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

I think some misunderstanding has crept in here. I have not researched the history of indulgenced grants, however, several people have stated that one cannot gain an indulgence by giving money and this seems to be incorrect – or at least an overstatement of the case.

The second General Grant in the current Handbook of Indulgences states:

**A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, prompted by a spirit of faith, devote themselves or their goods in compassionate service to their brothers and sisters in need. ** (Enchiridion of Indulgences, (1988), General Grant II.)

There is nothing in the notes to indicate that this grant does not apply to the giving of money. (If there is something that I am missing, please let me know.)

It may be that people are trying to indicate that indulgences are no longer available for donations to building projects for church buildings or for gifts to wealthy clergy, but rather are focused exclusively on those in need.

Nevertheless, if the usual conditions are met, one does gain a partial indulgence for donations made to the poor box, or to organizations that serve the needy, or even for money given to a poor person one knows or meets on the street.

The “usual conditions” for a partial indulgence are:

  1. To be capable of gaining indulgences a person must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least at the time the prescribed works are completed.

  2. Actually to gain indulgences the person must have at least the general intention of doing so and must perform the acts enjoined at the time stipulated and in the manner required according to the tenor of the grant.

(Handbook of Indulgences, (1988), Norms for Indulgences, norm 20.)

(The “usual conditions” for a plenary indulgence are much more daunting – requiring several more actions and a lack of “all attachment to sin, even venial sin.” (Ibid., norm 23.))

I guess it depends on one’s understanding of what constitutes a “sale” whether this grant would be called a “sale of indulgences.” The grant amounts to saying, if you are a baptized person, not excommunicated from the Church, whose mortal sins have been forgiven, then you may obtain a partial indulgence by giving money to “charity,” so long as you do it in a spirit of faith and the “charity” compassionately serves the needy. I guess some who oppose the Church would still condemn this as a “sale.” However, I do not think that would be fair. The Church’s “profit” in this would be entirely spiritual and not monetary – which is where the abuse came in, I suppose.

One additional note of caution, indulgences may be applied to oneself or to a person or persons who are dead, however, they cannot be applied to another living person: “No one gaining an indulgence may apply it to other living persons,” (Ibid., norm 3).

I hope this helps clarify the issues and encourages those coming out of confession to make a stop at the “Poor Box.”

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner

Indulgences were sold by the pound. This is okay because it predated the metric system.

i never looked at it htat way before…

I think you have a point… but i also think there is something more to it…I think that when Jesus says “Away from Me, i never knew you…” He may also be saying that even though we did great things (cast out demons, etc.)… well… you can do those things without Jesus really knowing you… meaning letting Jesus take over every part of you… I am not saying this as well as i would like… but one thing that comes to me is that, well, i go through this thing… Sometimes i am feeling like all is going OK between me and God… but then i spend time with Jesus in the Church in the Real Presence… &… all i can say is that things are different… hard to put into words… except to say that i feel I am letting Jesus know me. I wish i could find better words for it but i really can’t.

Salvation is not based on our Love at all! It is Grace throught Faith.

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

**Rom 5:5 **and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, **who loved me and gave Himself up for me. **

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

**Eph 2:4 **But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Unfortunately for you, Jesus disagrees. John 13:

1: Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2: And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
3: Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4: He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5: After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6: Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7: Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8: Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9: Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10: Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
11: For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12: So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
**13: Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15: For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. **17: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
18: I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
19: Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.
20: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
21: When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22: Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
23: Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24: Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25: He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
26: Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27: And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28: Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29: For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30: He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
31: Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32: If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33: Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
**34: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. **
36: Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
37: Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
38: Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

Christ commands us to love one another.

Indeed, we cannot claim to be servants and hear that wonderful “Well done” promised in Matthew 25 if we do not love one another:

1: Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2: And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3: They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5: While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6: And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7: Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8: And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9: But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10: And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11: Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12: But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13: Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
14: For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15: And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16: Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17: And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18: But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19: After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20: And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21: His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22: He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23: His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24: Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26: His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28: Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29: For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30: And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
31: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
**35: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. **
37: Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38: When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39: Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40: And the King shall answer and say unto them, **Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. **
41: Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, **Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. **
44: Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45: Then shall he answer them, saying, **Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. **

Notice how Matthew 25 bears out Jesus’ promise in John 13 that how we receive those whom Christ has sent determines how we will be received by Christ.

Since this is the Lord telling us how he will judge us, kaycee, it would pay to listen.

Not true tetzel was commissioned by and flew the Papal flags…
His indulgence papers were infact stamped by Rome…

Protestant theology says faith alone saves. Catholics believe three things are necessary, faith, hope and love. We can have a dueling scriptures contest, but it will not resolve anything. If you believe that all that is necessary to be saved is faith as Luther taught, then you must believe souls can go to heaven who do not love God, without the love of God in them, and that it is not necessary to place your hope in Him for your salvation. Scripture does say that faith saves us, but it does not say faith alone saves us. Luther said that and changed scripture to accomodate his doctrine. There are many verses that will tell you love is necessary, but maybe this one will suffice. Jesus says to the pharisees that they search the scrptures thinking that in them they will find eternal life (sound familiar?). Then He says, “but I know the love of God is not in you.”

How do you know if you love God? Jesus says “If a man loves me he will keep my commands”. John says, “The love of God consists in this, that we keep His commandments”.

Love equals obedience. Suppose Catholics are right and were right all along until Martin came along. Suppose you need to love God to be saved in addition to believing. What is the effect of believing something that is false?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.