Vatican II Verifications


part three

      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.

      We complete our three part sixth "bone to pick" with dissenters on the subject of Indulgences, tying in with our topic which we continue 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. Today we outline the changes that were actually made in which the Council Fathers reduced the excess of indulgences in order to enhance the meaning and merits of both Partial and Plenary Indulgences, emphasizing the good deeds performed through active rather than passive participation. The following are 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).


Concerning partial indulgences, the way they have been determined hitherto, by days and years, is abolished. Instead, a new standard for measuring them has been laid down. It takes into account the action itself of the faithful Christian who does the work to which the indulgence is attached. The faithful can obtain by their acts—apart from the merit which is the principal fruit of the act—removal of temporal punishment, and this to a greater degree according to the love of the one who performs the act and the value of the act itself. In view of these facts it has been thought appropriate that this remission of temporal punishment which the Christian faithful gain through an action should serve as the measurement for the remission of punishment that the authority of the Church adds by way of partial indulgence.


In order that the faithful may esteem plenary indulgences more, it has been though proper to reduce their number appropriately. This will help people to gain them with right dispositions. The more indulgences are multiplied, the less they are esteemed. What is offered too abundantly is not sufficiently appreciated. Besides, many of the faithful need considerable time to prepare themselves properly to gain a plenary indulgence.


1. 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 defined conditions through the Church’s help when, as minister of Redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.

2. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

3. Partial as well as plenary indulgences can always be applied to the dead by way of prayer.

January 16-18, 1998 volume 9, no. 12          Vatican II Verifications