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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Indulgences - They Are Back!

Article from PADRE SERAPHIM's Blog

Indulgences -- a rite in the Roman Catholic Church that harkens back to the Middle Ages and the Reformation -- are making a return

One of the newest things in the Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest. Middle Ages old, to be exact.
Indulgences are back. Unused for decades, the rites that the faithful believe lessen punishment for sins are now being offered by 15 churches in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that have been designated as pilgrimage sites.
While it has taken time to educate parishioners, things are picking up now that Lent is in full swing.

The Roman Catholic Church stopped granting indulgences as part of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s.
While many Catholics over age 50 consider their revival as a curious blast from the past, others welcome renewed focus on the ritual.
"We're seeing a resurgence in the interest of traditional piety, especially among the young," said the Rev. John Paul Erickson, director of the Archdiocese's Office of Worship.

At the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, student after student confirmed Erickson's view.
In fact, junior Sarah Legatt not only knew about them, but she was also able to offer an explanation of the difference between an indulgence and a confession that was as succinct as anything offered by a priest.
"I think of it as a chalkboard," she said. "A confession is like erasing the board, which always leaves a little chalk dust behind. An indulgence is liking washing it with a wet rag."

The task of explaining indulgences in the Twin Cities area has been assigned to Erickson and his assistant, the Rev. Andrew Cozzens, who offers this analogy:

"Say I steal something from someone. The consequence of that might be that the person I stole from is under distress, so he goes home and is mean to his family, and then they go out and are mean to other people. A web of bad emanates from the stealing. "I go to confession and am forgiven by God for stealing. But what about all the other people that were hurt by my sin? How can I make up for that?" One way is an indulgence, which the church describes as "a gift of self or goods." You can't track down all the people you might have hurt to pay them back, Cozzens said, but you can "in effect, 'pay it forward.' The same way bad rippled out from what you did, good can ripple out."

In the early church, indulgences were a way to shorten or cancel one's time in purgatory.
But the system was subject to abuse, including con-men priests charging money to grant them.
Indulgences were one of the major points of contention for Martin Luther during the Reformation in the 1500s.
As the Catholic Church moved toward a more contemporary approach in the '60s -- including the shelving of Latin mass and no-meat Fridays -- indulgences fell by the wayside.

Their return now comes as part of the pope's proclamation about the Jubilee Year of St. Paul (the saint, not the city). As part of the celebration of the 2000th anniversary of St. Paul's birth, Archbishop John Nienstedt designated the 15 pilgrimage sites in the Twin Cities.
Coming less than two years after Pope Benedict opened the door for the reintroduction of the Latin mass, many observers see the return of indulgences as another sign of the church's swing toward conservatism.
"Absolutely," said Sister Avis Allmaras, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul.
"But we have a different theological outlook now. I don't think as many people believe that we can pray our way into heaven."
But where the revival of the traditional Latin mass met with protest, the voluntary nature of indulgences has mitigated most grumbling.
"Everybody is free to do what they want" in regard to indulgences, Allmaras said. "If it works for them, God bless them."


Joe said...

In reality, I would suggest that indulgences never went away!

Pope Paul VI published an Apostolic Constitution on 1st January 1967 revising the provisions for indulgences. As well as giving the principles for new rules with regard to indulgences, this Constitution gives a very able explanation of the Church's doctrine about indulgences.

On 29th June 1968, the norms and list of indulgenced acts were published by the relevant Curia department; the most recent edition is dated 1999. The spirit of indulgences is ably indicated by four "general concessions" (the first three only in the original 1967 edition, the fourth added since), granting partial indulgences for (1) a raising of the mind to God during the day using any pious invocation, for (2)an act of service towards someone in need undertaken in a spirit of faith, for (3) an act of abstinence from something licit undertaken in a spirit of penitence, and for (4)giving testimony to their faith in the circumstances of their daily life.

English text of the Constitution here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19670101_indulgentiarum-doctrina_en.html

Latin text of the Norms and list of indulgenced acts here:http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20020826_enchiridion-indulgentiarum_lt.html

Deacon Pat said...

Thanks Joe...... You are so smart....

Joe said...

Deacon Pat

Not really. One of the first talks I ever gave, way, way, way back (I am at least three "way"s old) in my student days, was about .... indulgences... so I became familiar with Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution then. And, only a few weeks ago, the praesidium of the Legion of Mary to which I am spiritual director asked me to do some allocutios about ... indulgences.

So I thought I was quite hot on them. But I was still referring to the 1968 Enchiridion, and was missing out the fourth of the "general concessions" - which is, of course, a very signficant one in the context of the new evangelisation.

So thank you for a post that has prompted me to get up-to-date.

Deacon Pat said...

Your humility is refreshing......

Our Church is blessed to have people like you, yes your wisdom is a gift from God, but thanks for sharing.

I am but a simple man sharing my experiences, and I appreciate your wisdom and knowledge, please keep sharing with us.....