SECTION TWO: The Seven Sacraments of the Church.


 Mary Magdalen Carried Into Heaven, Giotto, Magdalen Chapel.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: PART TWO: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery.






X. Indulgentiae





1471 THE doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.

1471 Doctrina et praxis indulgentiarum in Ecclesia arcte cum effectibus coniunguntur sacramenti Poenitentiae.



 What is an indulgence?

  Quid sunt indulgentiae?



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.” (81 Paul VI, ap. const., Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1)

« Indulgentia est remissio coram Deo poenae temporalis pro peccatis, ad culpam quod attinet iam deletis, quam christifidelis, apte dispositus et certis ac definitis condicionibus, consequitur ope Ecclesiae quae, ut ministra Redemptionis, thesaurum satisfactionum Christi et sanctorum auctoritative dispensat et applicat ».79

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” (82 Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; Cf. Norm 3) The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead. (83 CIC, can. 994)

« Indulgentia est partialis vel plenaria prout a poena temporali pro peccatis debita liberat ex parte aut ex toto ».80 « Quivis fidelis potest indulgentias [...] sibi ipsi lucrari, aut defunctis applicare ».81



 The punishments of sin

  Poenae peccati



1472 TO understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that 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.

1472 Ad hanc doctrinam et hanc praxim Ecclesiae intelligendas, oportet perspicere peccatum duplicem consequentiam habere. Peccatum grave nos communione privat cum Deo, et ideo nos incapaces reddit vitae aeternae, cuius privatio « poena aeterna » peccati appellatur. E

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. x alia parte, quodlibet peccatum, etiam veniale, morbidam ad creaturas secumfert affectionem, quae purificatione eget sive his in terris sive post mortem, in statu qui appellatur purgatorium. Haec purificatio liberat ab eo quod « poena temporalis » peccati appellatur.
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. (84 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1712-1713; (1563): 1820) Hae duae poenae concipi non debent quasi vindicta quaedam a Deo ab extrinseco inflicta, sed potius quasi ex ipsa peccati natura profluentes. Conversio ex ferventi procedens caritate potest usque ad totalem peccatoris purificationem pervenire ita ut nulla poena subsistat.82

1473 THE forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.” (85 Eph 4:22, 24)

1473 Venia peccati et restauratio communionis cum Deo remissionem aeternarum poenarum peccati secumferunt. Sed poenae peccati permanent temporales. Christianus, passiones et probationes omnis generis patienter tolerans et, cum advenerit dies, mortem sereno respiciens animo, niti debet ut has peccati temporales poenas accipiat tamquam gratiam; per opera misericordiae et caritatis atque etiam per orationem et diversa poenitentiae exercitia, incumbere debet ad « veterem hominem » plene exuendum et ad « novum hominem » superinduendum.83



In the Communion of Saints

In sanctorum communione



1474 THE Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God’s grace is not alone. “The life of each of God’s children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.” (86 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5)

1474 Christianus qui conatur se a peccato purificare suo et se cum gratiae Dei adiutorio sanctificare, solus non invenitur. « Vita singulorum filiorum Dei in Christo et per Christum cum vita omnium fratrum christianorum mirabili nexu coniungitur in supernaturali unitate corporis mystici Christi, quasi in una mystica persona ».84

1475 IN the communion of saints, “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. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.” (87 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5) In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.

1475 In sanctorum communione « inter fideles, vel caelesti patria potitos, vel admissa in purgatorio expiantes, vel adhuc in terra peregrinantes, profecto est perenne caritatis vinculum et bonorum omnium abundans permutatio ».85 In hac permutatione admirabili, sanctitas unius multo magis proficit ceteris quam damnum quod unius peccatum potuit ceteris causare. Sic recursus ad sanctorum communionem contrito permittit peccatori se citius et efficacius a poenis peccati purificari.

1476 WE also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury, which is “not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy.” (88 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5)

1476 Haec spiritualia communionis sanctorum bona etiam Ecclesiae thesaurum appellamus, « qui quidem non est quasi summa bonorum ad instar materialium divitiarum, quae per saecula cumulantur, sed est infinitum et inexhaustum pretium, quod apud Deum habent expiationes et merita Christi Domini, oblata ut humanitas tota a peccato liberetur et ad communionem cum Patre perveniat; est Ipse Christus Redemptor, in quo sunt et vigent satisfactiones et merita Redemptionis Eius ».86

1477THIS treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission in the unity of the Mystical Body.” (89 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5)

1477 « Praeterea ad hunc thesaurum pertinet etiam pretium vere immensum et incommensurabile et semper novum, quod coram Deo habent orationes ac bona opera beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, qui, Christi Domini per Ipsius gratiam vestigia secuti, semetipsos sanctificaverunt, et perfecerunt opus a Patre acceptum; ita ut, propriam salutem operantes, etiam ad salutem fratrum suorum in unitate corporis mystici contulerint ».87



Obtaining indulgence from God
through the Church

Indulgentiam Dei per Ecclesiam obtinere



1478 AN indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. (90 Cf. Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5)

1478 Indulgentia per Ecclesiam obtinetur, quae propter potestatem ligandi et solvendi quae illi a Iesu Christo concessa est, in favorem intervenit alicuius christiani eique thesaurum aperit meritorum Christi et sanctorum ad obtinendam a misericordiarum Patre remissionem poenarum temporalium quas eius peccata merentur. Sic Ecclesia non solum in adiutorium huius christiani vult venire, sed eum etiam ad opera pietatis, poenitentiae et caritatis excitare.88

1479 SINCE the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.

1479 Quia fideles in purificationis via defuncti membra sunt etiam eiusdem sanctorum communionis, eos possumus adiuvare, inter alia, indulgentias pro eis acquirendo, ita ut a poenis temporalibus debitis pro suis peccatis solvantur.



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