May 11-14, 2000
volume 11, no. 91


    "Getting to the Heart of the Matter" is what Sister Mary Lucy Astuto pinpoints in every issue when she takes a common sense approach to living our faith with her practical columns.

    This weekend, Sister begins a fascinating and informative series on Indulgences in clearing up the confusion that has existed over the last three decades. As she indulges in the subject of indulgences, Sister points out in her series there have been misconceptions about "days" and "years" and explains what they really mean, as well as detailing the difference between "plenary" indulgences and "partial" indulgences and who can merit these indulgences, how, and why in her first installment of What are indulgences?

    Her column provides effective, vital insights into our faith and ways of fulfilling God's Will every day in every way. You can visit Sr. Lucy at her web site for Heart of Mary Ministry at http://www.heartofmaryministry.com or you can reach her at Srmarylucy @aol.com by e-mail.

part one
        The teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject of indulgences is rarely taught and, therefore, is rarely understood. There are among a number of the Catholic faithful misconstrued ideas about obtaining indulgences and how they are applied.

        In this year, noted as the Jubilee Year, which holds special graces for us and INDULGENCES under certain circumstances, it would be good to extend a simple and clear explanation of what indulgences are, who can receive them, the reason why the Church can grant them, and the conditions necessary to receive them.

        This is a three-part series on this subject. My references are chiefly The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Indulgentiarum Doctrina (The Doctrine of Indulgences), a document written by Pope Paul VI. The doctrine and practice of indulgences are inextricably linked to the Sacrament of Penance. We are sinners. Sin offends the All-Good and Perfect God. Every sin has consequences. Every sin of itself deserves punishment.

        A simple analogy! A boy is hitting a baseball in the front yard where his parents told him not to do so. A hit ball breaks a window in the home. The boy, knowing that he has been disobedient and will get into trouble, becomes heartfeltly sorry. Upon acknowledgment and apology the boy receives his parents forgiveness. However, the broken window needs to be replaced and the cost of the boy's disobedience (and window) will be the allowance the boy would have received for a month. The boy's disobedience not only affects him, it also affects his parents, other children in the family who will receive further admonitions about hitting a baseball so close to the house, and the person who will replace the window.

        Every sin which we human beings commit affects not only ourselves, but other members of the Body of Christ. Sin has consequences and punishment due to it. But not all sins deserve the same degree of punishment. Grave or mortal sin deserves eternal punishment. Grave or mortal sin drives out the Divine Life of God in us called Sanctifying Grace. One who commits mortal sin deserves hell - deserves eternal punishment. The ordinary way that grave or mortal sins are forgiven is by the Sacrament of Penance. One goes to confession and acknowledges ALL mortal sins without hiding any lest he commit another mortal sin called a sacrilege. Through this good confession, eternal punishment is removed, but there may be and most likely is some temporal punishment due to the sins remaining. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls these "attachments" to sin. Pope Paul VI calls them "vestiges" of sin. I, personally, prefer the latter term. Here is where an indulgence helps the sinner in remitting the temporal punishment due to his forgiven mortal sins and/or venial sins.

        The Catechism defines "indulgence" as: "...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." (1471)

        That one paragraph contains a wealth of information which will require several paragraphs of explanation. Part II will answer: Why does the Church have the right to grant indulgences? Who may gain indulgences? What is the Church's Treasury?

        God bless you!

    Sister Mary Lucy Astuto


May 11-14, 2000
volume 11, no. 91

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