Saturday, September 02, 2006


When people ask me about the doctrine of indulgences, I remind them of the scenes in Matthew's Gospel where Christ gives Peter (16:19) and the rest of the Apostles (18:18) the "keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven". Christ himself gives the Church the authority to handle God's treasury on Earth: to teach Truth (in faith and morals), forgive sins, impose punishments, etc.

It is also the authority for the Church to be the treasurer of God's generosity for man, which Christ has merited for us; granting indulgences is part of this authority. Indulgences tap into the infinite riches of God's generosity and mercy that our finite minds cannot grasp. The parable of the workers in the vinyeard (Mt 20) shows us that God's generosity is beyond human understanding.

We have to understand sin in order to understand indulgences. The Catechism (#1471-1479) explains: "sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the 'eternal punishment' of sin. On the other hand 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.

"This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints....An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin... The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead."

In our society, true justice calls for punishments to fit the crimes. It is the same with moral crimes (sins). While God forgives us of our sins in his Mercy, He calls us to make satisfaction for our offenses for the sake of Justice. One way is to serve a temporal ("in time") punishment in Purgatory. Another way to make satisfaction is by performing certain works of devotion, penance, and charity on Earth done in union with the Bride of Christ, the Church, in which we can gain indulgences. These are not ways to "buy" or "merit" salvation; they are experiences of the Grace of Christ. We experience for ourselves (and possibly for others) not only a true conversion of heart, but also the vast richness of God's mercy.
Check out this site for some "myths" about indulgences:


At 3:23 PM, Blogger Searching For Holiness said...

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At 5:47 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Oh, ok, sorry...Let's try a hypothetical example. Let's say I've gotten drunk from alcohol 10 times in my life. I've gone to Confession for this grave sin, and been absolved by Christ. But, I still need to make satisfaction for what I've done. I.e., I need to serve a punishment for the sake of justice.

Now, let's say hypothetically that each act of drunkness carries a punishment of 50 "days" in Purgatory (not necessarily 24 hour days in Purg., but some increment of time). That means that my temporal punishment in Purgatory for drunkenness is 500 days. And, that's just for one of my sins!

But, God has given us ways through the Church to reduce or remit altogether temporal punishment before we die. These are indulgences; they are acts of devotion, penance, and charity that can gain us partial or plenary indulgences. A partial indulgence removes some part of the temporal punishment; a plenary removes all of it.

An example of a plenary indulgence would be receiving a "first blessing" from a newly-ordained priest (such as yours truly) within the first year of his ordination. If a person received Holy Communion, goes to Confession, and prays for the Holy Father (all with a spirit of detachment from sin) within one week of receiving the first blessing, he/she can obtain a plenary indulgence.

This should not be seen as "to-do" items to avoid punishment for ourselves or for thise who have died. They are great acts of devotion in union with the Bride of Christ, the Church. They are all done with a spirit of conversion (turning our hearts away from sin and toward Christ).

Below is another good link about indulgences. If I can find a list of ways to gain partial and plenary indulgences, I will post it.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Searching For Holiness said...

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At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are indulgences things that I should come up with on my own? Does a Priest give them? Is there somewhere to go to find out some specific indulgences?

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Teaching school of religion will gain indulgences. What about tithing? Tithing more than what is expected?

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did not know about plenary indulgences......that's very cool about receiving a 1st blessing from new priest as one.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do we get a first blessing from you?

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Anons, check out this site for a list of indulgenced works:

I haven't heard of any indulgences with regards to tithing more than what's expected. Have you seen or heard this somewhere? Please let us know.

I'm happy to give first blessings when I'm able; just ask me for one when you see me next.


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