Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Year of Faith 15: On Indulgences

Year of Faith 15:On Indulgences- The question on this issue is one of the most controversial not only for non-Catholics but also for serious Catholics. Its treatment should include not only laws made by the Church but also its history.
Canon 922 (1983) defines it as a divinely recognized remission or removal of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. The conditions to r
eceive it are also specified; prayer together with the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.) The principle behind it is that the Church as a minister of redemption authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasure of satisfactions of Christ and the Saints.

But a problem arose with regards to sins committed before and after Baptism. When we are baptized, all our sins are forgiven and all punishments that go with it. However, sins committed after Baptism are forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation but not the punishment. We believe that we still have to deal with the punishment in the after life. Here is where the indulgence plays its role.

Three convictions are available: 1.)they are brought to forgiveness by God's grace but not without personal engagement in a process of self-denial and prayer, 2.) either Christians can help them because of the solidarity existing between the disciples of Jesus, and 3.) through the ministry of the Church, such repentance after baptism leads to divine forgiveness of guilt as well as pardon with regards to eternal punishment deserved for serious offenses but with the possibility that penance must yet be done before his union with the Trinity.

As to the merits of the Saints, those were made available after their martyrdom. Since they will not need it, the Church then saw it as available to incorporate back those members who had lapses (lapsis) in faith during the persecutions. Luther objected to this. For him, indulgences are not necessary and made churchmen prone to avarice and errant faith. Luther was heard and the second Vatican dealt with it.

Paul VI, in response to the aggiornamento called by Cardinal Dopfner agreed that it should not treated as a commodity for commercial exchange and limited its availability. He also added that it is a heritage of the Church and it is up to the church members to avail of it or not.

Thus, nothing is lost if one does not receive an indulgence. But availing it properly does not bring harm and may give the benefit it was meant to be. So, why not? For our salvation, anything that will help should be available and acquired.

(Source: Dictionary of Theology by Joseph A. Komonchak, et al.)

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