Wednesday, January 31, 2018

675 years ago: Pope Clement VI issues his bull on indulgences

On January 27, 1343, Pope Clement VI issued his papal bull Unigenitus Dei Filius, in which he elaborated for the first time the power of the pope in the use of indulgences, approving the teaching that indulgences owe their efficacy to the pope's dispensation of the accumulated merit of the Church, and that “the merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect, from the first righteous person to the last, add further” to the "treasure of the Church." This document was used by Cardinal Cajetan in the examination of Martin Luther and his 95 Theses in his trial at Augsburg in 1518.

Those who think that indulgences were done away with as a result of the Reformation may be surprised to find that indulgences are still part of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice. On January 1, 1967, Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Constitution Indulgentarium Doctrina: Whereby the Revision of Sacred Indulgences is Promulgated. In the paperback edition of the Vatican II documents, it occupies just over 16 pages.

The Roman Catholic Church denies that those who place their trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay the penalty for all their sins go immediately to be with Him when they die. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there are sins that have to be expiated in a place called purgatory--a place nowhere mentioned in the Bible. This is denial of Christ's promise to the thief on the cross next to Him that "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43b). It's a denial of His statement on the cross in John 19:30 that "It is finished." The Greek word for "finished" is tetelestai, an accounting term meaning "paid in full," i.e., Jesus Christ, in shedding His blood on the cross, paid in full the penalty of sin (not in Hell, as charismaniac Word of Faith teachers say). When it comes to apostolic doctrine, it's a denial of Paul's statement in II Corinthians 5:8 that he was "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." The Roman Catholic teaching on indulgences is a denial of Hebrews 9:26b: "but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." However, you can buy your way out of purgatory or have it bought for you with an indulgence--in a very real sense, selling salvation.

In understanding the Roman Catholic teaching on indulgences, it's perhaps best to go the part of Indulgentarium Doctrina titled Norms; this will give the reader an idea of how the Roman Catholic Church complicates and corrupts the matter of salvation (bold inserted by blogger):


n. 1—An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.

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

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

n. 4—A partial indulgence will henceforth be designated only with the words "partial indulgence" without any determination of days or years.

n. 5—The faithful who at least with a contrite heart perform an action to which a partial indulgence is attached obtain, in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church.

n. 6—A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once a day, except for the provisions contained in n. 18 for those who are on the point of death. A partial indulgence can be acquired more than once a day, unless there is an explicit indication to the contrary.

n. 7—To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.

If this disposition is in any way less than complete, or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be only partial, except for the provisions contained in n.11 for those who are "impeded."

n. 8—The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; nevertheless it is fitting that Communion be received and the prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff be said the same day the work is performed.

n. 9—A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences, but Communion must be received and prayers for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence.

n. 10—The condition of praying for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions is fully satisfied by reciting one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary"; nevertheless the individual faithful are free to recite any other prayer according to their own piety and devotion toward the Supreme Pontiff.

n. 11—While there is no change in the faculty granted by canon 935 of the Code of Canon Law to confessors to commute for those who are "impeded" either the prescribed work itself or the required conditions [for the acquisition of indulgences], local Ordinaries can grant to the faithful over whom they exercise authority in accordance with the law, and who live in places where it is impossible or at least very difficult for them to receive the sacraments of confession and Communion, permission to acquire a plenary indulgence without confession and Communion provided they are sorry for their sins and have the intention of receiving these sacraments as soon as possible.

n. 12—The division of indulgences into "personal," "real" and "local" is abolished so as to make it clearer that indulgences are attached to the actions of the faithful even though at times they may be linked with some object or place.

n. 13—The Enchiridion Indulgentiarium [collection of indulgenced prayers and works] is to be revised with a view to attaching indulgences only to the most important prayers and works of piety, charity and penance.

n. 14—The lists and summaries of indulgences special to religious orders, congregations, societies of those living in community without vows, secular institutes and the pious associations of faithful are to be revised as soon as possible in such a way that plenary indulgences may be acquired only on particular days established by the Holy See acting on the recommendation of the Superior General, or in the case of pious associations, of the local Ordinary.

n. 15—A plenary indulgence applicable only to the dead can be acquired in all churches and public oratories—and in semipublic oratories by those who have the right to use them—on November 2.

In addition, a plenary indulgence can be acquired twice a year in parish churches: on the feast of the church's titular saint and on August 2, when the "Portiuncula" occurs, or on some other more opportune day determined by the Ordinary.

All the indulgences mentioned above can be acquired either on the days established or—with the consent of the Ordinary—on the preceding or the following Sunday.

Other indulgences attached to churches and oratories are to be revised as soon as possible.

n.16—The work prescribed for acquiring a plenary indulgence connected with a church or oratory consists in a devout visit and the recitation of an "Our Father" and "Creed."

n.17—The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular or medal) properly blessed by any priest, can acquire a partial indulgence.

But if this object of piety is blessed by the Supreme Pontiff or any bishop, the faithful who use it devoutly can also acquire a plenary indulgence on the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, provided they also make a profession of faith using any legitimate formula.

n.18—To the faithful in danger of death who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the apostolic blessing with its attendant plenary indulgence (according to canon 468, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law) Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. To use a crucifix or cross in connection with the acquisition of this plenary indulgence is a laudable practice.

This plenary indulgence at the point of death can be acquired by the faithful even if they have already obtained another plenary indulgence on the same day.

n.19—The norms established regarding plenary indulgences, particularly those referred to in n. 16, apply also to what up to now have been known as the "toties quoties" ["as often as"] plenary indulgences.

n.20—Holy Mother Church, extremely solicitous for the faithful departed, has decided that suffrages can be applied to them to the widest possible extent at any Sacrifice of the Mass whatsoever, abolishing all special privileges in this regard.

Transitional Norms

These new norms regulating the acquisition of indulgences will become valid three months from the date of publication of this constitution in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Indulgences attached to the use of religious objects which are not mentioned above cease three months after the date of publication of this constitution in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

The revisions mentioned in n. 14 and n. 15 must be submitted to the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary within a year. Two years after the date of this constitution, indulgences which have not been confirmed will become null and void.

We will that these statutes and prescriptions of ours be established now and remain in force for the future notwithstanding, if it is necessary so to state, the constitutions and apostolic directives published by our predecessors or any other prescriptions even if they might be worthy of special mention or should otherwise require partial repeal.
A few excerpts from the main body of Indulgentarium Doctrina should be enough to demonstrate not only a denial of the scripture passages previously cited, but a denial of I Timothy 5:2: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (reference numbers omitted, bold added by blogger):

Chapter 1

2. It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God's sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or "purifying" punishments. Therefore it has always been the conviction of the faithful that the paths of evil are fraught with many stumbling blocks and bring adversities, bitterness and harm to those who follow them.

These punishments are imposed by the just and merciful judgment of God for the purification of souls, the defense of the sanctity of the moral order and the restoration of the glory of God to its full majesty...

...3. It is therefore necessary for the full remission and—as it is called—reparation of sins not only that friendship with God be reestablished by a sincere conversion of the mind and amends made for the offense against his wisdom and goodness, but also that all the personal as well as social values and those of the universal order itself, which have been diminished or destroyed by sin, be fully reintegrated whether through voluntary reparation which will involve punishment or through acceptance of the punishments established by the just and most holy wisdom of God, from which there will shine forth throughout the world the sanctity and the splendor of his glory. The very existence and the gravity of the punishment enable us to understand the foolishness and malice of sin and its harmful consequences.

That punishment or the vestiges of sin may remain to be expiated or cleansed and that they in fact frequently do even after the remission of guilt is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory. In purgatory, in fact, the souls of those "who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but before satisfying with worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and for omissions are cleansed after death with purgatorial punishments...

Chapter 2

5. ...Following in the footsteps of Christ, the Christian faithful have always endeavored to help one another on the path leading to the heavenly Father through prayer, the exchange of spiritual goods and penitential expiation. The more they have been immersed in the fervor of charity, the more they have imitated Christ in his sufferings, carrying their crosses in expiation for their own sins and those of others, certain that they could help their brothers to obtain salvation from God the Father of mercies. This is the very ancient dogma of the Communion of the Saints, whereby the life of each individual son of God in Christ and through Christ is joined by a wonderful link to the life of all his other Christian brothers in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ till, as it were, a single mystical person is formed.

Thus is explained the "treasury of the Church" which should certainly not be imagined as the sum total of material goods accumulated in the course of the centuries, but the infinite and inexhaustible value the expiation and the merits of Christ Our Lord have before God, offered as they were so that all of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. It is Christ the Redeemer himself in whom the satisfactions and merits of his redemption exist and find their force. This treasury also includes the truly immense, unfathomable and ever pristine value before God of the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, who following in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have sanctified their lives and fulfilled the mission entrusted to them by the Father. Thus while attaining their own salvation, they have also cooperated in the salvation of their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body...

...For this reason there certainly 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 a perennial link of charity and an abundant exchange of all the goods by which, with the expiation of all the sins of the entire Mystical Body, divine justice is placated. God's mercy is thus led to forgiveness, so that sincerely repentant sinners may participate as soon as possible in the full enjoyment of the benefits of the family of God.

Chapter 3

6. The Church, aware of these truths ever since its origins, formulated and undertook various ways of applying the fruits of the Lord's redemption to the individual faithful and of leading them to cooperate in the salvation of their brothers, so that the entire body of the Church might be prepared in justice and sanctity for the complete realization of the kingdom of God, when he will be all things to all men.

The Apostles themselves, in fact, exhorted their disciples to pray for the salvation of sinners. This very ancient usage of the Church has blessedly persevered, particularly in the practice of penitents invoking the intercession of the entire community, and when the dead are assisted with suffrages, particularly through the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Good works, particularly those which human frailty finds difficult, were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners from the Church's most ancient times. And since the sufferings of the martyrs for the faith and for the law of God were considered of great value, penitents used to turn to the martyrs, to be helped by their merits to obtain from the bishops a more speedy reconciliation. Indeed the prayer and good works of the upright were considered to be of so great value that it could be asserted the penitent was washed, cleansed and redeemed with the help of the entire Christian people.

It was not believed, however, that the individual faithful by their own merits alone worked for the remission of sins of their brothers, but that the entire Church as a single body united to Christ its Head was bringing about satisfaction.

The Church of the Fathers was fully convinced that it was pursuing the work of salvation in community, and under the authority of the pastors established by the Holy Spirit as bishops to govern the Church of God.

The bishops, therefore, prudently assessing these matters, established the manner and the measure of the satisfaction to be made and indeed permitted canonical penances to be replaced by other possibly easier works, which would be useful to the common good and suitable for fostering piety, to be performed by the penitents themselves and sometimes by others among the faithful.

Chapter 4

7. The conviction existing in the Church that the pastors of the flock of the Lord could set the individual free from the vestiges of sins by applying the merits of Christ and of the saints led gradually, in the course of the centuries and under the influence of the Holy Spirit's continuous inspiration of the people of God, to the usage of indulgences which represented a progression in the doctrine and discipline of the Church rather than a change. From the roots of revelation a new advantage grew in benefit to the faithful and the entire Church.

The use of indulgences, which spread gradually, became a very evident fact in the history of the Church when the Roman Pontiffs decreed that certain works useful to the common good of the Church "could replace all penitential practices" and that the faithful who were "truly repentant and had confessed their sins" and performed such works were granted "by the mercy of Almighty God and...trusting in the merits and the authority of his Apostles" and "by virtue of the fullness of the apostolic power," not only full and abundant forgiveness, but the most complete forgiveness for their sins possible."

For "the only-begotten son of God...has won a treasure for the militant Church and has entrusted it to blessed Peter, the keybearer of heaven, and to his successors, Christ's vicars on earth, that they may distribute it to the faithful for their salvation, applying it mercifully for reasonable causes to all who are repentant and have confessed their sins, at times remitting completely and at times partially the temporal punishment due sin in a general as well as in special ways insofar as they judge it to be fitting in the eyes of the Lord. It is known that the merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect...add further to this treasure.

8. The remission of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven insofar as their guilt is concerned has been called specifically "indulgence."

It has something in common with other ways or means of eliminating the vestiges of sin but at the same time it is clearly distinct from them.

In an indulgence in fact, the Church, making use of its power as minister of the Redemption of Christ, not only prays but by an authoritative intervention dispenses to the faithful suitably disposed the treasury of satisfaction which Christ and the saints won for the remission of temporal punishment.

The aim pursued by ecclesiastical authority in granting indulgences is not only that of helping the faithful to expiate the punishment due sin but also that of urging them to perform works of piety, penitence and charity—particularly those which lead to growth in faith and which favor the common good.

And if the faithful offer indulgences in suffrage for the dead, they cultivate charity in an excellent way and while raising their minds to heaven, they bring a wiser order into the things of this world.

The Magisterium of the Church has defended and illustrated this doctrine in various documents. Unfortunately, the practice of indulgences has at times been improperly used either through "untimely and superfluous indulgences" by which the power of the keys was humiliated and penitential satisfaction weakened, or through the collection of "illicit profits" by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed. But the Church, in deploring and correcting these improper uses "teaches and establishes that the use of indulgences must be preserved because it is supremely salutary for the Christian people and authoritatively approved by the sacred councils; and it condemns with anathema those who maintain the uselessness of indulgences or deny the power of the Church to grant them."
I "maintain the uselessness of indulgences" and am therefore eternally condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Here's a recent example of the Roman Catholic Church's use of indulgences, from the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, October 10, 2012:

Indulgence for the Year of Faith
Apostolic Penitentiary


During the Year of Faith special acts of penance will be rewarded with the gift of Sacred Indulgences.

During the Year of Faith special acts of penance will be rewarded with the gift of Sacred Indulgences.

On the day of the 50th anniversary of the solemn opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, to which Blessed John XXIII “entrusted the principal task to guard and present better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine in order to make it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will” (John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, 11 October 1992: AAS 86 [1994] 113), the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI established the inauguration of a Year dedicated in particular to the profession of true faith and its correct interpretation, with the reading of, or rather, with devout meditation on the Acts of the Council and on the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published by Blessed John Paul II, 30 years after the opening of the Council, “in order that all the Christian faithful might better adhere to it, and to promote knowledge and application of it” (ibid. n. 114).

In the year of the Lord 1967, to commemorate the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, a similar Year of Faith was proclaimed by the Servant of God Paul VI, “intended to show, by an authentic and sincere profession of the same faith, how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past” (Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 4).

In our time of profound change to which humanity is subjected, the Holy Father Benedict XVI, by proclaiming this second Year of Faith, wishes to invite the People of God, whose universal Pastor he is, as well as his brother Bishops from all over the world “to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith” (ibid., n. 8).

All the faithful will be given “the opportunity to profess our faith in the Risen Lord... in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times. Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo” (ibid.).

In addition, all the faithful, individually and as a community, will be called to witness to their faith openly before others in the specific circumstances of their daily life: “the social nature of man, however, itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion: that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community” (cf. Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 7 December 1965: AAS 58 [1966], 932).

Since it is primarily a matter of developing a supreme degree of holiness of life — to the extent that it is possible on this earth — and hence of obtaining the highest possible degree of purity of soul, the important gift of Indulgences, which the Church, by virtue of the power conferred upon her by Christ, offers to all who, with the proper disposition, fulfil the special prescriptions for gaining them, will be of great usefulness. “With the Indulgence”, Paul VI taught, “the Church availing herself of her powers as minister of the Redemption brought about by Christ the Lord, communicates to the faithful participation in this fullness of Christ in the Communion of Saints, providing them with abundant means to achieve salvation” (cf. Apostolorum Limina, 23 May 1974: AAS 66 [1974] 289). In this way is revealed the “treasure of the Church”, to which “the merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect, from the first righteous person to the last, add further” (Clement VI, Bull Unigenitus Dei Filius, 27 January 1343).

The Apostolic Penitentiary is charged with everything concerning the granting and use of Indulgences. To encourage the faithful to have a correct conception of Indulgences and to develop a devout desire to obtain them, at the request of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and with attentive consideration of the Note with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for gaining the gift of Indulgences during the Year of Faith, the Apostolic Penitentiary has established the following measures, issued in conformity with the wishes of the august Pontiff, so that the faithful may be further encouraged to know and love the Doctrine of the Catholic Church and obtain from it a greater abundance of spiritual fruit.

Throughout the Year of Faith — established from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013 — all individual members of the faithful who are truly repentant, have duly received the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion and who pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff may receive the Plenary Indulgence in remission of the temporal punishment for their sins, imparted through God’s mercy and applicable in suffrage to the souls of the deceased:

a. every time they take part in at least three homilies preached or attend at least three lectures on the Proceedings of the Second Vatican Council and on the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in any church or suitable place;

b. every time they go as pilgrims to a Papal Basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church, a sacred place designated by the local Ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, the Minor Basilicas and Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the Holy Apostles or to the Holy Patrons), and take part there in some sacred function or at least pause in recollection for a suitable length of time with devout meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary or, depending on the case, to the Holy Apostles or Patrons;

c. every time when, on the days determined by the local Ordinary for the Year of Faith (such as, for example, the Solemnities of the Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Feasts of the Holy Apostles and Patrons and of the Chair of St Peter), in any sacred place, they take part in a solemn Eucharistic celebration or in the Liturgy of the Hours, adding the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form;

d. a day freely chosen during the Year of Faith on which to make a devout visit to the baptistery or other place in which they received the sacrament of Baptism, if they renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

Diocesan or Eparchial Bishops and those who are legally equivalent to them, on the most appropriate day in this period, on the occasion of the principal celebration (for example, 24 November 2013, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, with which the Year of Faith will end) will be able to impart the Papal Blessing with the Plenary Indulgence from which all the faithful who receive this Blessing devoutly may benefit.

Faithful who are truly repentant and are unable to take part in the solemn celebrations for serious reasons (such as, for example all the nuns who live in perpetually cloistered monasteries, anchorites and the hermits, prisoners, the elderly, the sick, and likewise those who, in hospital or in other places for treatment serve the sick permanently…), will gain the Plenary Indulgence on the same conditions, if, united in mind and spirit with the faithful present, especially at a moment when the words of the Supreme Pontiff or of the Diocesan Bishops are broadcast via the television or radio, they recite at home, or wherever their impediment obliges them to be (for example, in the monastery chapel, in hospital, in a clinic, in prison...), the Our Father, the Profession of faith in any legitimate form and other prayers in conformity with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up their suffering or the hardship in their lives...

...This Decree is valid solely for the Year of Faith. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

Given in Rome at the Seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 14 September 2012, on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Manuel Card. Monteiro de Castro
Major Penitentiary

Mons. Krzysztof Nykiel

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