Vatican II Verifications
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).
INDULGENCES ARE FOUNDED IN DIVINE REVELATION:
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).
WHAT EXPIATION INVOLVES
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.
CONSEQUENCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE MYSTICAL BODY:
"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.
THE CHURCH APPLIES THE FRUITS OF CHRISTíS REDEMPTION
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. (26)
HOW INDULGENCES DEVELOPED FROM THE CANONICAL PENANCES
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.
WHAT INDULGENCES ARE: THE CHURCHíS AUTHORITATIVE INTERVENTION
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)
INDULGENCES HAVE BEEN ABUSED IN THE PAST
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