Indulgences

Following the Councils of Lyons and Vienne (1245, 1274 and 1311-1312), the Council of Trent again took up the issue of indulgences, particularly in view of the battle waged against them by the Lutheran Reformation. In the 21st session, chapter nine, the institution of the quaestores, i.e., those who collected the revenue from indulgences, was suppressed, and the publication of indulgences was reserved to Ordinaries. Lastly, in the 25th session, the famous Decree De indulgentiis was issued (The Historical Origin of Indulgences by Fr. Enrico dal Covolo, S.D.B.)….

DECRETUM DE INDULGENTIIS

Whereas the power of conferring Indulgences was granted by Christ to the Church, and she has, even in the most ancient times, used the said power delivered unto her of God, the sacred holy Synod teaches and enjoins that the use of Indulgences, for the Christian people most salutary, and approved of by the authority of sacred Councils, is to be retained in the Church; and it condemns with anathema those who either assert that they are useless, or who deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them. In granting them, however, it desires that, in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church, moderation be observed; lest, by excessive facility, ecclesiastical discipline be enervated. And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honorable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected, it
ordains generally by this decree, that all evil gains for the obtaining thereof,—whence, a most prolific cause of abuses amongst the Christian people has been derived,—be wholly abolished. But as regards the other abuses which have proceeded from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from whatsoever other source, since, by reason of the manifold corruptions in the places and provinces where the said abuses are committed, they can not conveniently be specially prohibited, it commands all bishops diligently to collect, each in his own Church, all abuses of this nature, and to report them in the first provincial Synod; that, after having been reviewed by the opinions of the other bishops also, they may forthwith be referred to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, by whose authority and prudence that which may be expedient for the universal Church will be ordained; that thus the gift of holy Indulgences may be dispensed to all the faithful, piously, holily, and incorruptly.
(Ethereal Libary)

The believer’s faith journey and his various experiences of grace can never be considered a private possession.

“a marvellous exchange of gifts…. There are people who leave in their wake a surfeit of love, of suffering borne well, of purity and truth, which involves and sustains others. This is the reality of ‘vicariousness’, upon which the entire mystery of Christ is founded. His superabundant love saves us all. Yet it is part of the grandeur of Christ’s love not to leave us in the condition of passive recipients, but to draw us into his saving work…. Everything comes from Christ, but since we belong to him, whatever is ours also becomes his and acquires healing power. This is what is meant by ‘the treasures of the Church’, which are the good works of the saints. To pray in order to gain the indulgence means to enter into this spiritual communion and therefore to open oneself totally to others. In the spiritual realm, too, no one lives for himself alone. And salutary concern for the salvation of one’s own soul is freed from fear and selfishness only when it becomes concern for the salvation of others as well. This is the reality of the communion of saints, the mystery of ‘vicarious life’, of prayer as the means of union with Christ and his saints. He takes us with him in order that we may weave with him the white robe of the new humanity, the robe of bright linen which clothes the Bride of Christ” (John Paul II – Bull of Indiction, n. 10).

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