Do indulgences still exist?
Over the past years the Church has reviewed the practice of indulgences so that Christians can make better use of them. The Church's doctrine remains the same and indulgences are still valuable. We can gain indulgences for ourselves, or apply them by way of suffrage to the dead (Canon 994).
What is an indulgence?
"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..." (Paul VI). The Church, being the minister of redemption, distributes and applies by her authority the treasure of satisfactions obtained by Christ and the saints.
"An indulgence is partial or plenary according to whether it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin" (Indulgentiarum Doctrina, Norm 2). There is no longer a question of quantity according to the terms of days, weeks, months, years, or quarantines. Only God knows how much punishment has been remitted.
A sin brings consequences. A mortal sin that has not been forgiven leads to eternal punishment. All sins, even those that have been forgiven, deserve a temporal punishment. "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" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472). We can purify ourselves through acts of charity, prayer and penance. We can also do so through indulgences.
"The communion of Saints", which means the family of Jesus' friends, in heaven, on earth and in purgatory, can help us purify and sanctify ourselves. The spiritual goods of the communion of saints is called the "Church's treasury". It includes the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most of all, it is "the infinite value which Christ's merits have before God" (l.c., 1476-1477).
We should examine the doctrine of the Church in regard to indulgences: "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" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1478).
Indulgences are granted by the Holy Father or by those to whom this power is either recognized in the law or given by the Pope (Canon 995).
A baptized faithful, being in a state of grace, can acquire an indulgence. One must have the general intention to obtain the indulgence and also the proper dispositions: the desire to love the Lord and regret for one's sins. One must carry out the prescribed work. Why not express, at this very moment, our intention to gain all possible indulgences?
There is a Manual of Indulgences, or "Enchiridion Indulgentiarum", that supplies a list of the main indulgences that we can obtain according to the Church's directives with a repentant heart. The Church invites us to do penance and to perform works of devotion and charity.
A partial indulgence is attached to many common prayers and acts of devotion: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory be to the Father, the sign of the Cross, the use of Holy Water, etc.
We can receive only one plenary indulgence per day. To be able to acquire such an indulgence, we must renounce all sins, go to confession and communion within fifteen days before or after obtaining the indulgence, and we must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.
This is the Church's teaching found in the Code of Canon Law, Canons 992 to 997, in the Manual of Indulgences published in January 1969 and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
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