DAILY CATHOLIC for December 19-21
Vatican II
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vol, 8
no. 56

part one
     There have many misconceptions that Vatican II changed many things in the Church and "we don't do it that way anymore" has become the refrain in all too many parishes throughout the world. However, surprise! It hasn't changed that much! To prove this, we go to the source: the Vatican Council Postconciliar Documents, expertly compiled by the revered Dominican Austin P. Flannery in two volumes.

      Our sixth "bone to pick" with dissenters is on Indulgences, tying in with our topic which we will cover next week in "Catechism Capsules." There has been a misconception that Vatican II threw out indulgences because they were "superstitious" and out-moded. Wrong! In fact the Vatican II documents make it very clear that indulgences are still very much in vogue as we highlight just what was decreed at the Second Vatican Council below and continue next week in this same column taken from VATICAN COUNCIL II, VOLUME II, More Postconciliar Documents; General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. Costello Publishing Company, Part Six, pages 62-79 on the APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION ON THE REVISION OF INDULGENCES (Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, 1 January, 1967).

Chapter I

1. The doctrine of indulgences and their practice have been in force for many centuries in the Catholic Church. They would appear to be solidly founded on divine Revelation, (1) handed down "from the apostles". This (tradition "...makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit," and "as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her."(2)

2. The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. Godís holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. (3) Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments. (4) This is why the faithful have always been convinced that the paths of evil are strewn with many stumbling blocks. They bring to those who follow them adversities, bitterness and harm. (5).


3. The full taking away and, as it is called, reparation of sins requires two things. Firstly, friendship with God must be restored. Amends must be made for offending his wisdom and goodness. This is done by a sincere conversion of mind. Secondly, all the personal and social values, as well as those that are universal, which sin has lessened or destroyed must be fully made good. This is done in two ways. The first in by freely making reparation, which involves punishment. The second is by accepting the punishments Godís just and most holy wisdom has appointed. From this the holiness and splendor of his glory shine out through the world. The very facts that punishment for sin exists and that it is so severe make it possible for us to understand how foolish and malicious sin is and how harmful its consequences are.


"All who belong to Christ and are in possession of his Spirit, combine to make one Church with a cohesion that depends on him (cf. Eph. 4:16). The union of the living with their brethren who have fallen asleep in Christ is not broken;...for these reasons 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.

Chapter III
6. In fact the apostles themselves urged their disciples to pray that sinners might be saved. (28). This very ancient practice of the Church has happily lasted, (24), particularly in the practice of penitents begging the whole communityís prayers, (25) and in helping the dead with intercessions, especially through the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Chapter IV

7. The conviction was present in the Church that the pastors of the Lordís flock could set the individual free from the vestiges of sin by applying to him the merits of Christ and of the saints. In the course of the centuries and under the influence of the Holy Spiritís continuous inspiration of the People of God this conviction led to the practice of indulgences. It was a progression in the Churchís doctrine and discipline rather than a change. (33) From the roots of Revelation something had grown up, a new privilege which was for the benefit of the faithful and the whole Church.


8. The taking away of the temporal punishment due to sins when their guilt has already been forgiven has been called specifically "indulgence." (37)

In fact, in granting an indulgence the Church uses its power as minister of Christís Redemption. It not only prayss, It intervenes with its authority to dispense to the faithful, provided they have the right dispositions, the treasury of satisfaction with Christ and the saints won for the remission of temporal punishment. (38)


The teaching authority, the Magisterium of the Church, has defended and explained the teaching about indulgences in various documents. (40) Unfortunately, the practice of indulgences has on occasions been improperly applied. This has been either through "untimely and superfluous indulgences" which humiliated the power of the keys and weakened penitential satisfaction (41) or it has been through the collection of "unlawful profits" which blasphemously took away the good name of indulgences. (42) The Church deplored and corrected these improper uses. It "teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences (a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the Sacred Councils) should be kept in the Church; and it condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them. (43)

Next week we will treat the Benefits of Indulgences and focus on Partial and Plenary indulgences from the Vatican II documents.

December 19-21, 1997 volume 8, no. 56
Vatican II Verifications

December 1997