Wednesday 21st March 2018

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:


August 12, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Part 2

The Church’s authoritative teaching on indulgences, as we saw last week, is based on her doctrine of the Communion of Saints. In this “supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory, and those who are still pilgrims on earth” (nn. 1474, 1475).
Between them takes place a wonderful exchange of all good things: The Church is able to draw upon the superabundant treasury of merits gained by Christ and all the saints and apply them toward the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.
As we likewise saw last week, in order to grasp the Church’s teaching on indulgences it is essential to realize that sin has a twofold consequence. In his Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year of 2000 entitled Incarnationis Mysterium (IM), St. John Paul II masterfully summarized why this is true. “In the first place, if [the sin] is grave, it involves deprivation of communion with God and…exclusion from a share in eternal life” (n. 10 § 1).
Indulgences, in fact, do not apply toward the forgiveness of guilt or the remission of eternal punishment; rather, reception of the Sacrament of Penance is the normal means for regaining communion with God.
“In the second place, 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” (IM, n. 10 § 2).
In his general audience of September 29, 1999, St. John Paul II explains why this purification [temporal punishment] is necessary: “Temporal punishment expresses the condition of suffering of those who, although reconciled with God, are still marked by those ‘remains’ of sin which do not leave them totally open to grace. Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion toward the fullness of love.”
This is where indulgences come into play. In His great love and mercy, our Lord empowers the Church to dispense and supply, from her inexhaustible treasury of merits, mitigation for all or part of the temporal punishment remaining for forgiven sins. One must have the intention to gain an indulgence (for oneself or the deceased in Purgatory), be properly disposed (be a baptized member of the Church and in the state of grace), and complete the prescribed work.
To gain a plenary indulgence one must also fulfill certain conditions (sacramental Confession, Holy Communion, and prayers for the Roman Pontiff).
In addition, as was demonstrated at the close of last week’s installment, another requirement applies which is very difficult to satisfy — to gain a plenary indulgence one must be free of all affection to sin. Nevertheless, this is something for which all members of the faithful should strive, for it is possible to gain a plenary indulgence on a daily basis (on the day one dies, a second plenary indulgence can be gained).
If one falls short of fulfilling all the conditions necessary to gain a plenary indulgence, a partial indulgence may be granted. Indeed, several partial indulgences can be gained each day.
As explained by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, in The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism, “the value of an indulgence depends on two things: the supernatural charity . . . with which the indulgenced task is performed, and the dignity of the indulgenced task itself” (pp. 278-279).
Expressed in different terms, the value of an indulgence depends on what a person does and how well he does it. Only Almighty God knows with certitude the value of an indulgenced work.
For those who have prayer books or holy cards from pre-Vatican II days, it is interesting to note that a period of time was specified for an indulgenced act. Many people incorrectly assume the time period is indicative of the number of days or years that their time in Purgatory would be shortened.
Fr. Hardon dispels that misperception by explaining that the specified periods of time “designated the equivalent of the temporal punishment remitted in terms of the canonical penances formerly practiced by the Church” (The Catholic Catechism [TCC], p. 564).
With the promulgation of Indulgentiarum Doctrina (ID) in 1967, Blessed Pope Paul VI alleviated this confusion with the following norm: “A partial indulgence will henceforth be designated only with the words ‘partial indulgence’ without any determination of days or years” (norm 4). In other words, as indicated earlier, the efficacy of the indulgenced act is based on the dignity of the act and the fervor with which it is accomplished (and is known definitively to God alone).
When did indulgences originate? An excellent adult catechism published by the German Bishops’ Conference in 1985 states: “Generally speaking, there have been indulgences in the Church from the beginning” (The Church’s Confession of Faith [CCF], p. 305).
The basic underlying principles of indulgences were present in the ancient Church, explains Fr. Hardon, in that the intercession of confessors (those who bore great suffering because of their public defense of the faith during times of great persecution) and those awaiting martyrdom was allowed to be applied by ecclesiastical authorities toward the shortening of canonical penances (cf. TCC, p. 562).
As the Church lessened the severity of penitential discipline, development of doctrine regarding vicarious merit (suffering in place of another) took place. Resultantly, the practice of obtaining indulgences in its present form can be traced to the 11th century (cf. CCF, p. 305).
Along with prayer and fasting, almsgiving is one of the three general means recognized by the Church for the expiation of sin. As such, contributing financially toward praiseworthy ecclesiastical purposes (e.g., building or restoring a church) was admitted as a salutary means for gaining an indulgence.
Yet, “no institution, however holy, has entirely escaped abuse through the malice or unworthiness of man” (Catholic Encyclopedia). And indeed, the practice of gaining an indulgence through the giving of alms was no exception, for as Sacred Scripture has it: “The love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Abuses crept in via the form of “the collection of ‘illicit profits’ by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed” (ID, n. 8 § 6). Indeed, “traffic in indulgences” helped to provoke the so-called Protestant Reformation. The Council of Trent was outspoken in its condemnation of the “improper use” of indulgences and in 1567, all grants of indulgences that involved fees or financial transactions of any kind were revoked by Pope Pius V.
In parallel, however, the Council of Trent maintained that indulgences are exceedingly beneficial for the Christian people and anathematized anyone who declared indulgences to be useless or denied that the Church had the right to confer indulgences (cf. Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, n. 1835; as cited in CCF, p. 305).
In the aftermath of Vatican Council II and about a year and a half after the promulgation of the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina by Blessed Paul VI, on June 29, 1968, the initial edition of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum was published. About one sixth the size of its predecessor, it fulfilled the Holy Father’s injunction that the former version was “to be revised with a view to attaching indulgences only to the most important prayers and works of piety, charity, and penance” (ID, norm 13).
The fourth and most recent edition of a volume entitled Manual of Indulgences (1999) should be on the bookshelf of every faithful Catholic. It lists and explains four general grants “which may in some sense serve as beacons for the conduct of daily Christian life” (p. 9). Likewise, it lists dozens of devotional and penitential prayers and practices to which indulgences are attached. It also provides instructions on how pious exercises such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying the rosary in common, the reading of Scripture, and making the stations of the cross are attached to plenary indulgences.

The Apostolic Pardon

To conclude our treatment of indulgences, we recall a special plenary indulgence that was referred to earlier when mention was made of the one exception to the norm that a person can gain only one plenary indulgence each day. This is in reference to the “Apostolic Pardon” (or “Apostolic Blessing”) which should be received at the hour of death. Even if a member of the faithful has gained a plenary indulgence earlier in the day, he can gain a second for himself as he approaches death’s door.
As indicated in the above-referenced Manual of Indulgences, “a priest who administers the sacraments to someone in danger of death should not fail to impart the apostolic blessing to which a plenary indulgence is attached” (grant 12 § 1). In fact, the 1983 Code of Canon Law lists as a function especially entrusted to a pastor: “the imparting of the apostolic blessing” (canon 530, 3).
So important is the Apostolic Pardon that “if a priest is unavailable, Holy Mother Church benevolently grants to the Christian faithful, who are duly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime; in such a case, the Church supplies for the three conditions ordinarily required for a plenary indulgence” (grant 12 § 2).

+ + +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is a consecrated Marian Catechist.)

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

What US Catholics see as Pope Francis’ most notable action


Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- What has been Pope Francis’ most notable action so far in his papacy? A group of some 300 U.S. Catholics was recently asked this question in a recent study conducted by the…Continue Reading

Vatican admits doctoring photo of Benedict’s letter praising Pope Francis

VATICAN, March 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — One of the world’s leading news agencies has said the Vatican breached journalistic standards by doctoring a photo of a letter from Benedict XVI praising Pope Francis. According to the Associated Press, the doctoring…Continue Reading

Cardinal Müller: The Pope has no power to change Humanae Vitae

ROME, March 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Pope has no power to change or relax the Church’s ban on artificial contraception, just as he can never allow women to be ordained, Cardinal Gerhard Müller said on Wednesday. The former prefect…Continue Reading

Catholic bishops stand by spokesman after racism comment

New Mexico’s three Catholic bishops on Tuesday rejected a call by 33 Republican state legislators to punish the Catholic Church’s spokesman for saying racism played a part in the defeat of an initiative to expand early childhood education. In fact,…Continue Reading

Jim Caviezel tells university students to ‘stand out’ and ‘be saints’

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, March 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic actor Jim Caviezel, who famously played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, told university students on Sunday that they must set themselves apart from this “corrupt generation” and “be saints.” “You weren’t…Continue Reading

Catholic hierarchy to be confronted over gender inequality

“Powerful vested interests” within the Catholic church are being challenged at a conference in Rome on International Women’s Day as calls grow for women to be given positions of authority and influence in the church. In a sign that a new assertive…Continue Reading

Study shows why young Catholics leave the church

They stopped believing in God. They saw a disconnect between what Catholics say and what they do. They disagreed with the church’s stance on social issues such as homosexuality and birth control. They are the growing numbers of young Catholics…Continue Reading

Number of Catholic weddings falls by two-thirds since 1990

The number of Catholic weddings in England and Wales has fallen dramatically in the last 25 years, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics have been recorded,…Continue Reading

Georgetown honors pro-abortion Senator whose bishop just barred him from Communion

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Tonight, Georgetown University will present pro-abortion Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, whose bishop recently barred him from Holy Communion, with an award for devoting “his life to the core Jesuit value of service to…Continue Reading

Dozens of Catholics arrested as they ask Congress to help ‘Dreamers’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Dozens of Catholics, including men and women religious, were arrested near the U.S. Capitol Feb. 27 in the rotunda of a Senate building in Washington as they called on lawmakers to help young undocumented adults brought to…Continue Reading

Catholic Church frets that religion ‘slipping off agenda’ in schools

The Catholic Church has raised concerns in meetings with State education officials that religion is “slipping off the agenda” in their schools. In a record of a meeting between the Education and Training Boards Ireland(ETBI) and Catholic Church representatives it was suggested that…Continue Reading


Beyond decades, for generations the Catholic bishops of Texas, saying they are obeying the law, but hiding behind the convenient cover of saying they are fearful of losing their tax exempt status, have said they must remain silent about those…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading


Today . . .

Polish archbishop criticises priest who wished for death of Pope Francis

Former seminary rector Fr Edward Staniek questioned the direction in which Pope Francis was taking the Church A Polish archbishop has criticised a priest and theologian who wished Pope Francis a quick death if he did not open his heart to “wisdom”. Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Krakow said he had heard the comments with “great pain and regret” and had spoken to the priest about them. Fr Edward Staniek, a noted theologian and former rector…Continue Reading

Catholic principal defies Planned Parenthood. Her worst enemy? The local bishop.

March 16, 2018 (Rorate Caeli) – It is always local situations that show how deep the problems in the Church are at the present time. The problematic issuances from Rome, Germany and  Chicago are indeed disturbing, but to see how far things have gone, one must go to the local level of the Church:  the diocese and the parish.  Go to a typical parish Mass to see the fruit of the liturgical experiment of the…Continue Reading

Full text of Pope emeritus Benedict’s letter released

The decision to withhold parts of a letter by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was motivated by concerns for discretion, according to a new statement from the Secretariat for Communications. By Vatican News A statement from the Secretariat for Communication, released by the Press Office of the Holy See, takes note of polemical statements in the press suggesting censorship of a letter by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. The controversy arose over the digital alteration of a…Continue Reading

Vatican prepares to issue two documents on ‘gender theory’

ROME, March 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Congregation for Catholic Education are each preparing to release documents on “gender theory,” the radical ideology behind transgenderism. The Congregation for Catholic Education’s document, expected to be released in the next two months, won’t “enter the heart of the debate,” the dicastery’s secretary Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani said. Instead, it will repeat “important educational principles.” The CDF’s document…Continue Reading

Judge bans pro-lifers from going near abortion centers in unprecedented ruling

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Michigan, March 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A judge sentenced five pro-life activists today to one year of reporting probation, eight days of community service, more than $1,000 in fines each, and forbade them from going within 500 feet of any abortion facility in the United States. Several of them will likely serve jail time for refusing to pay the fines or perform community service. Some of them could end up being in jail…Continue Reading


Make A Church Post Satan’s Phone Number?

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of Creators Syndicate,, distributes his column.) + + + Jerry Brown once said he saw “the killing of the unborn as crazy.” This was just after the once-and-future pro-abortion governor of California returned to the United States in 1988 after spending…Continue Reading

A Decision From Outer Space

By DONALD DeMARCO A number of science-fiction movies, especially those from the 1950s when the threat of an atomic attack loomed, revolved around a decision made by highly intelligent beings from outer space to destroy all human life on planet Earth. The usual reasons put forth for the destruction were that human beings were violent,…Continue Reading

Globalists & Nationalists: Who Owns The Future?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Robert Bartley, the late editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, was a free trade zealot who for decades championed a five-word amendment to the Constitution: “There shall be open borders.” Bartley accepted what the erasure of America’s borders and an endless influx of foreign peoples and goods would mean…Continue Reading

The Stoneman Douglas Shootings And Divine Providence

By C.F. MONTESANO (Editor’s Note: C.F. Montesano is vice president with a maritime trade association in Virginia. He serves as a lector at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C. Last summer, he was selected by Signum University to be a presenter at its annual “Mythmoot” conference for enthusiasts of J.R.R. Tolkien.) + +…Continue Reading

Key Abuse Charge Against Cardinal Pell Withdrawn

By HANNAH BROCKHAUS MELBOURNE, Australia (CNA/EWTN News) — An Australian prosecutor on March 2 withdrew a charge of abuse against George Cardinal Pell, who is currently undergoing a trial in Australia for accusations of past sexual abuse. The charge was dropped by Prosecutor Mark Gibson March 2 after its key complainant died in January. It…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Horror Of The Passion

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Palm Sunday (YR B) Readings: Mark 11:1-10 Isaiah 50:4-7 Phil. 2:6-11 Mark 14:1-15:47   As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we begin with a Gospel reading recounting our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the joyful shouts of the people proclaiming Him to be the Son of David, that is, the Messiah. Our Lord had preached and worked…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… “Fear Is Useless”

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Lent is about death. The Lord’s death, of course: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.” He Himself in His human nature must be the seed of future glory for all of mankind. Fear is mankind’s most instinctive response before the vast and uncharted…Continue Reading

The Sacraments Instituted By Christ . . . Can We Receive Communion In An Eastern Orthodox Church?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 20 Here we enter a delicate matter, which requires much prudential judgment from the Church. The matter is normally titled Communicatio in sacris, which refers to receiving Holy Communion in separated Eastern Churches. Here the situation is totally different from receiving “communion” in a Protestant church of whatever denomination, because Protestants do not have…Continue Reading

Sacramentals In The Life Of The Church

By DON FIER For almost two years we have been examining the Church’s teaching, as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), on the seven sacraments. As has been emphasized repeatedly, it is an infallibly taught dogma of our faith that Christ Himself instituted each of the seven sacraments during His visible stay on Earth. Moreover, it has…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. In discussing the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ, a friend wondered why Christ, who is omniscient, would say that only the Father knows the end of the world. Please clarify this. — L.S., via e-mail. A. In Mark 13:32, Jesus said of the day that the world will end, “no one knows, neither the angels in…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Clement Mary Hofbauer

By CAROLE BRESLIN It has been said that the four characteristics of good prayer are that it must be sincere, it must be humble, it must be confident, and it must be persevering. This can also be said of the Christian life and a person’s approach to seeking to do the will of God: humble, sincere, confident, and persevering. St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Luigi Orione

By CAROLE BRESLIN Suffering, great persecutions, humiliations, obstacles to entering the religious life — all of these seem to be the lot of those destined to become saints. In fact, without these pains present in their lives, chances are that their causes for canonization would not proceed. Why would someone want to become a saint if that is the path?…Continue Reading