Baltimore Catechism 3

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Temporal Punishment and Indulgences


 * Q. 435. What is an indulgence?
A. An indulgence is the remission granted by the Church of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.


 * An indulgence does not take away sin. Neither does it take away the eternal punishment due to mortal sins. An indulgence can produce its effects in the soul only after sins are forgiven and, in the case of mortal sins, only after their eternal punishment is taken away. Many who are not Catholic wrongly understand an indulgence to be a permission to commit sin, or a pardon for future sin, or a guarantee against temptation. By an indulgence the Church merely wipes out or lessens the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.

 * The Church from the beginning has granted indulgences. Up to the sixth century indulgences generally took the form of a lessening of the public penances imposed for sins. In the early centuries it was customary for those who were to be martyred to ask that indulgences be granted to certain individuals.

 * > "And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19-20)

 * Also, read 2 Kings 24:1-25.


 * Q. 436. How many kinds of indulgences are there?
A. There are two kinds of indulgences, plenary and partial.


 * Q. 437. What is a plenary indulgence?
A. A plenary indulgence is the remission of all the temporal punishment due to our sins.


 * A plenary indulgence is understood to be so granted that if a person should be unable to gain it fully, he will nevertheless gain it partially, in keeping with his disposition. A plenary indulgence, unless it is otherwise expressly stated, can be gained only once a day, even though the prescribed work is performed several times.

 * The conditions ordinarily prescribed for gaining the plenary indulgence and designated by the familiar phrase, "under the usual conditions," are the following: confession, Communion, a visit to a church or public oratory, or even a semi-public oratory in certain cases, and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

 * The confession that may be required for gaining any particular indulgences may be made within the eight days which immediately precede the day to which the indulgences are appointed; the Communion may take place on the previous day; or both conditions may be satisfied on the day itself or within the following octave.

 * The following are several examples of plenary indulgences that can be gained by all the faithful:

 * Those who piously recite a third part of the Rosary (five decades) in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, publicly exposed or even reserved in the tabernacle, may gain a plenary indulgence, on condition of confession and Communion (The Raccolta, No. 395, c).

 * The faithful who, with at least a contrite heart, whether singly or in company, perform the pious exercises of the Way of the Cross, when the latter has been legitimately erected according to the prescriptions of the Holy See, may gain a plenary indulgence as often as they perform the same, and another plenary indulgence if they receive Holy Communion on the same day, or even within a month after having made the Stations ten times (The Raccolta, No. 194).

 * The faithful who recite devoutly the prayer, "Behold, O good and sweetest Jesus" before an image of Jesus Christ Crucified, may gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions (The Raccolta, No. 201).


 * Q. 438. What is a partial indulgence?
A. A partial indulgence is the remission of part of the temporal punishment due to our sins.


 * A partial indulgence, unless the contrary is expressly stated, can be gained frequently throughout the day, whenever the prescribed work is repeated.

 * To say that an indulgence of so many days or years is granted means that the amount of temporal punishment is remitted which, in the sight of God, would have been remitted by so many days or years of penance in the early Church. God alone knows exactly how much of the temporal punishment is actually taken away by an indulgence.

 * The following are some ejaculations and invocations to which partial indulgences are attached:

 * An indulgence of 500 days for saying the ejaculation: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts: the heavens and the earth are full of Thy glory!" (The Raccolta, No. 2).

 * An indulgence of 300 days for saying the ejaculation: "My God and my All!" (The Raccolta, No. 5).

 * An indulgence of 500 days for saying the ejaculation: "O God, be merciful to me, the sinner" (The Raccolta, No. 14).

 * An indulgence of 300 days; a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions, if this invocation is devoutly recited every day for a month: "My Jesus, mercy!" (The Raccolta, No. 70).


 * An indulgence of 300 days; a plenary indulgence once a month under

 * The usual conditions, for the daily repetition of: "O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!" (The Raccolta, No. 136).

 * (6) An indulgence of 300 days; a plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions, if this invocation is devoutly repeated daily: 'O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!" (The Raccolta, No. 357).


 * Q. 439. How does the Church by means of indulgences remit the temporal punishment due to sin?
A. The Church by means of indulgences remits the temporal punishment due to sin by applying to us from her spiritual treasury part of the infinite satisfaction of Jesus Christ and of the superabundant satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints.


 * In granting indulgences the Church exercises the power of the keys given to her by Christ. When the Church, by means of an indulgence, remits the temporal punishment due to sin, this action is ratified in heaven.

 * > "But not like the offense is the gift. For if by the offense of the one the many died, much more has the grace of God, and the gift in the grace of the one man Jesus Christ, abounded unto the many. Nor is the gift as it was in the case of one man's sin, for the judgment was from one man unto condemnation, but grace is from many offenses unto justification. For if by reason of the one man's offense death reigned through the one man, much more will they who receive the abundance of the grace and of the gift of justice reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. Therefore as from the offense of the one man the result was unto condemnation to all men, so from the justice of the one the result is unto justification of life to all men. For just as by the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many will be constituted just. Now the Law intervened that the offense might abound. But where the offense has abounded, grace has abounded yet more; so that as sin has reigned unto death, so also grace may reign by justice unto life everlasting through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:15-21).

 * > "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, bearing witness in his own time" (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

 * > "But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just; and he is a propitiation for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

 * See Scripture, question 435, Matthew 16:19-20.


 * Q. 440. What is the superabundant satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints?
A. The superabundant satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints is that which they gained during their lifetime but did not need, and which the Church applies to their fellow members of the communion of saints.


 * Q. 441. What must we do to gain an indulgence for ourselves?
A. To gain an indulgence for ourselves we must be in the state of grace, have at least a general intention of gaining the indulgence, and perform the works required by the Church.


 * Only baptized persons are capable of gaining indulgences. The state of grace is required for gaining an indulgence at least at the moment when the prescribed work is finished. Even a person in mortal sin, therefore, can begin to gain an indulgence, unless the prescribed work demands the state of grace, for example, Holy Communion.

 * Since a general intention is sufficient to gain indulgences, it is well to express from time to time, especially in our morning prayer, the desire to gain all the indulgences attached to the prayers we shall say and to the good works we shall perform.

 * To gain an indulgence the work required by the Church must be performed fully and according to the prescribed time, place, and manner.


 * Q. 442. Can we gain indulgences for others?
A. We cannot gain indulgences for other living persons, but we can gain them for the souls in purgatory, since the Church makes most indulgences applicable to them.


 * > "Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers they besought him that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened because of the sins of those that were slain.

 * > "And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking "well and religiously concerning the resurrection.

 * > "(For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.)

 * > "And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them. "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Machabees 12:41-46).




 * In the early days of the Church, it sometimes happened that a person was condemned to endure a severe penance; but if he went to a Christian friend who happened to be suffering for the faith in prison, and this friend interceded for the penitent with the bishop, offering his own sufferings for the benefit of the penitent, the bishop would accept them and grant absolution to the penitent. This was the first kind of indulgence granted by the Church. It differed in many details from the type of indulgence with which we are familiar today; but the principal feature of an indulgence was present-namely, the offering of the satisfactions of one member of the Church for another through the ministry of the Church. Down through the centuries the Church has continued to use this power of transferring the satisfactory value of the works of some of her members to others, to obtain the remission of temporal punishment owed to God, thus putting into practice the right conferred on the rulers of the Church by Christ Himself, who said to the apostles and their successors, the bishops: "Whatever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven" (Matthew, 18:18).

 * The enemies of the Catholic Church ridicule the idea of indulgences, and claim that they induce people to sin more freely. They charge also that indulgences have often been sold for money. To this we reply that indulgences rather induce people to give up sin, because one must be free from mortal sin before he can gain an indulgence. Moreover, although there have been abuses in the past in the matter of indulgences, that is no objection to the proper use of them. Any sacred thing can be abused by wicked persons, but it does not on that account cease to be sacred and beneficial.

 * Anyone who studies the Catholic doctrine of indulgences must admit that it is most reasonable. It simply means that God in His mercy will accept the satisfactory works of some members of the Church for the benefit of others. Even in human affairs this is a common practice. If one member of a family contracts a debt, and his brothers and sisters give him money to pay it, the creditor accepts the money and regards the debt as paid. God does the same when He accepts the satisfactions of His Divine Son and of the Saints in payment for the debt of temporal punishment due to other members of the Church.

 * The satisfactory value of the good works performed by members of the Church who have no need of it themselves goes into the spiritual treasury of the Church, and it is then distributed by those who exercise jurisdiction in the Church, the Pope and the bishops. The Pope is not restricted as to the amount of indulgences he can grant, though even he must have a reason for granting an indulgence, since he is only the dispenser, not the owner of the Church's treasury. Nowadays a bishop can grant an indulgence of 100 days, an archbishop 200 days, a cardinal 300 days.

 * Plenary indulgences are numerous, and the conditions are very easy. A plenary indulgence, unless it is otherwise expressly stated, can normally be gained only once a day, even though the prescribed work is performed several times. There are some exceptions however, in which one can even gain several plenary indulgences in a single day, by performing various works, each of which has a plenary indulgence attached to it; and even though each may demand confession and Communion, a person need receive these sacraments only once for all the indulgences he can gain in one day. Moreover, the Church allows us to gain many indulgences for the souls in purgatory. There is one indulgence especially which manifests the love of our Church for the faithful departed. It is the indulgence which can be gained on All Souls' Day, November 2nd; and it can be gained from noon of November 1st, until midnight of November 2nd. During this time a person who has been to confession and Communion can gain a plenary indulgence for the poor souls every time he visits a church or public oratory and recites six times the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father. This is a special exception to the ordinary law of the Church according to which a plenary indulgence for the same work can be gained only once a day.

 * When one of the conditions for gaining an indulgence is a prayer for the intention of the Pope, it suffices to say once the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father, or some other equivalent prayer. But for a plenary indulgence that can be gained repeatedly on the same day by visiting a church and praying for the Holy Father, one must recite for each indulgence six times the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father.




 * Resolve that on every All Souls' Day you will gain several indulgences for the souls in purgatory, at least one for each deceased member of your immediate family.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 33





 * (Check each of the statements below as either true or false. The correct answers can be found in the previous portions of this lesson).


 * An indulgence of seven years means that a person will have seven years less to suffer in purgatory.

 * A person must be in the state of grace to gain a partial indulgence, at least when the prescribed work is finished.

 * A plenary indulgence for a certain work can ordinarily be gained only once a day.

 * A person can gain a plenary indulgence every time he makes the way of the cross, even several times the same day.

 * We can transfer indulgences to other living persons if they are in the state of grace.

 * A plenary indulgence takes away the eternal punishment for mortal sin.

 * The Church uses the power of the keys in granting an indulgence.

 * Any bishop can grant a plenary indulgence.

 * An unbaptized person preparing for Baptism can gain indulgences by saying indulgenced prayers.

 * The Holy Communion which may be required for an indulgence can be received within eight days after the day to which the indulgence is assigned.

[THE LESSONS 33:23-64]



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Illustrate the first type of indulgence granted by the Church in the early days of her history.

 * What essential feature of indulgence is found in present day indulgences and in the type of indulgence found in the early Christian Church?

 * Thomasine, a buyer in one of the big department stores, comes to the rescue of her brother Reginald who is heavily in debt. She pays his bills and thereby calls off his creditors. Explain why this example is a good illustration of the doctrine of indulgences.

 * What is remarkable about the indulgence that may be gained for the Poor Souls around the beginning of November? Over what period of time may this indulgence be gained on that annual occurrence? How often may it be gained? How many Paters, Aves and Glorias must be said each time?

 * Dorinda, a Jewess, Lucretia, a Catholic, and Jemimah, a Protestant all work in the same office. They are lunching together in a cafeteria opposite a Catholic church. On All Soul's Day they notice crowds of people entering and leaving the church, some of them reentering again immediately. Dorinda asks Lucretia what is going on. Lucretia explains that indulgences are being gained for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Jemimah remarks: "Indulgences! Aren't they permissions to commit sin?" Dorinda says: "No; indulgences are acts that forgive sins, isn't that right, Lucretia?" What answer is Lucretia to make?

 * Eamon and Constantine are arguing about the meaning of an indulgence of seven years. Eamon, mathematically inclined, figures out that the indulgence amounts to 2557 days, and claims that one's purgatory is shortened by that amount of time. Constantine says that is not the idea, but regretfully admits that he has forgotten what the real explanation is. What is the correct explanation?

 * After Holy Communion, Natalia recites the crucifix prayer, "Behold, O kind and most sweet Jesus, etc." for the purpose of gaining a plenary indulgence. She is sorry for all her mortal sins, and for most of her venial sins. Does she gain the plenary indulgence? If not, does she gain any indulgence?

 * Theodore is trying to gain a plenary indulgence. In praying for the Holy Father's intention, Theodore recites the "Confiteor" and the "Apostles' Creed." Does he fulfill that condition? Zaccheus, his brother, recites the of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Does he satisfy the requirement? Florence, their sister, says an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory be to the Father. Does she satisfy the demand? Explain.

 * Myra, anxious to gain a certain plenary indulgence, performed all the requirements on September the 8th, Our Blessed Lady's birthday; but she did not go to Communion, the reception of which is required, for the gaining of the indulgence, until September 15th, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the feast of her Seven Dolors. Did that delay prevent Myra from gaining the indulgence? Althea, her sister, performed all the requirements on September 8th, but her Holy Communion was not received until September 24th, the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. Did she fulfill the conditions for the plenary indulgence? Explain your answer.

 * Leonore, on All Souls' day, makes seven visits to the parish church to gain plenary indulgences for her father and mother, her big brother Gregory and his wife Amabel, her little brother Edgar, herself, and the only deceased member of the family, her baby sister Nora who died two weeks after she was baptized. What is your comment about Leonore's understanding of these indulgences and their application?

 * Norbert served Mass for a visiting cardinal in the parish church one morning, and afterward the cardinal said to him: "I am going to grant you as large an indulgence as I can, because you served Mass so devoutly." How many days' indulgence did the cardinal grant Norbert?

 * Fr. Gregory asked the children of the Sunday school if they had ever heard of the Heroic Act. Apparently nobody had ever heard of it, so Fr. Gregory explained that a person makes the Heroic Act when he gives the souls in purgatory all the indulgences he gains, and all the satisfactory value of his good works, including whatever may be applied to him after his death. Why is this act called heroic? Why do you think it is very pleasing to God?

 * Every morning Seraphinus makes an offering of all the indulgences that he may gain in the course of the day for the poor souls in purgatory. Every day he frequently recites, at least mentally, such prayers as: "My Jesus, mercy" ... "My God and my all" ... "Jesus, Mary and Joseph." What do you think of this custom of Seraphinus? Would it be commendable for all Catholics to adopt it?


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