The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation: Indulgences
The Sacraments are part and parcel of our lives and so we continue our "capsule series" on each of the Sacraments, bringing you capsule paragraphs from both the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and the old Baltimore Catechism. Last week we brought you paragraphs exclusively from the new Catechism; today we bring you exclusively paragraphs from the old Baltimore Catechism. to conclude this short series on Indulgences. This part on indulgences is included with the section on the Sacrament of Penance ("The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.") reminding us of our humanness and our total dependence on the Mercy of God and the promises He has made to His children...as well as our promises to Him for through indulgences we can "obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for ourselves and for the souls in Purgatory."
From the Baltimore Catechism No. 3; Benziger Brothers, Inc. and Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. No. 848, page 179, nos. 855, 856, 858, 860, 861, 865, 866 and 868, pages 181-184
The essence of the treasury of the Communion of Saints that make Indulgences possible:
Q. How long has the practice of granting Indulgences been in use in the Church, and what was its origin?
A. The practice of granting Indulgences has been in use in the Church since the time fo the apostles. It had its origin in the earnest prayers of holy persons, and especially of the martyrs begging the Church for their sake to shorten the severe penances of sinners, or to change them into lighter penances. The request was frequently granted and the penance remitted, shortened or changed, and with the penance remitted the temporal punishment corresponding to it was blotted out.
Q. Does the Church, by granting Indulgences, free us from doing Penance?
A. The Church, by granting Indulgences, does not free us from doing penance, but simply makes our penance lighter that we may more easily satisfy for our sins and escape the punishments they deserve.
Q. Who has the power to grant Indulgences?
A. The Pope alone has the power to grant Indulgences for the whole Church; but the bishops have power to grant partial Indulgences in their own diocese. Cardinals and some others, by the special permission of the Pope, have the right to grant certain Indulgences.
Q. What must we do to gain an indulgence?
A. To gain an Indulgence we must be in the state of grace and perform the works enjoined.
Q. How and why should we make a general intention to gain all possible Indulgences each day?
A. We should make a general intention at our morning prayers to gain all possible Indulgences each day, because several of the prayers we say and good works we perform may have Indulgences attached to them, though we are not aware of it.
Q. What works are generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences?
A. The works generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences are: The saying of certain prayers, fasting, and the use of certain articles of devotion; visits to Churches or altars (tabernacles), and the giving of alms. For the gaining of Plenary Indulgences it is generally required to go to confession and Holy Communion and pray for the intention of the Pope.
Q. When do things lose the Indulgences attached to them?
A. Things lose the Indulgences attached to them: (1) When they are so changed at once as to be no longer what they were; (2) When they are sold. Rosaries and other indulgenced articles do not lose their indulgences, when they are loaned or given away, for the indulgence is not personal but attached to the article itself.
Q. How and when may we apply Indulgences for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory?
A. We may apply Indulgences for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory by way of intercession; whenever this application is mentioned and permitted by the Church in granting the Indulgence; that is, when the Church declares that the Indulgence granted is applicable to the souls of the living or the souls in Purgatory; so that we may gain it for the benefit of either.