ASK FATHER: Do indulgences listed in the old ‘Raccolta’ still apply today?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I was wondering whether or not old indulgences granted under the old rules, for example, in the Raccolta, expire or are superseded by the new rules of the Enchiridion Indulgentarium. That is, it is my private belief that I can still get a plenary indulgence attached to an old devotion, so long as it was stated and no official pronouncement said anything to the contrary.

Given the generally lax nature of the new rules, am I correct in holding this view? For example, the new rules say nothing about certain old pronouncements, nor about superseding old collections of indulgences. Am I then free to assume that the old rules still bind with the authority of Peter?

I am glad that you are interested in gaining indulgences.  All Catholics should be!

Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution 1967 Indulgentiam Doctrinaby which indulgences were revised, states,

“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.

Acta Apostolica Sedis is the Holy See’s usual official instrument of promulgation of law.

There were certain other indulgences – privileges of certain religious orders, for example, that required revision. Of these, the Holy Father states,

“The revisions mentioned in n. 14 and 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.”

That pretty much clears things up.

All the indulgenced prayers and devotions of the old Raccolta, except for those that have been carried over into the new Enchiridion, are null and void.

Peter binds and Peter loosens.

The old indulgenced prayers and devotions are still of great spiritual merit.  However, unless they been re-confirmed in the Enchiridion or perhaps by a grant from the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, the indulgence attached to them no longer applies.

On that note, if you see in some older work that an indulgence of X number of days, months or, as we are on the verge of Lent, quarantines, are indicated, you can be pretty sure that that indulgence no longer applies.  Today the Church applies either partial or plenary indulgences.  That’s it.

So, friends, get out there during Lent and be indulgence indulgent.  Gain those indulgences!

And GO TO CONFESSION!

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32 Responses to ASK FATHER: Do indulgences listed in the old ‘Raccolta’ still apply today?

  1. FranzJosf says:

    About ten years ago, when I spent a summer in Rome, I encountered for the first time an Altar of Privilege (the old sign was still there) in the Church at the top of the Spanish Steps. I had no idea what it was. Subsequently it was explained to me, but with the caveat that with the Paul VI decrees mentioned above the “privilege” was abolished. Yet, they obviously say Mass there because there were chairs side-ways in the nave, facing that altar. I’ve always wondered if some A of P’s were granted exceptions. I don’t know how to find out.

  2. It seems to me that indulgences — particularly plenary indulgences — are now harder to get. Maybe I’m missing something, but when I look at old, pre-Enchiridion manuals or catechisms on the subject, I don’t see anything about detachment from even venial sin listed as a condition for gaining a plenary indulgence. I’m still not sure how you can know you have such detachment, or whether an act of the will repudiating attachment to sin is enough. Detachment from sin is something we should all be striving for, but I wish that the conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence were such that it is easy to know that you have fulfilled them all.

    Perhaps all I can do is form the general intention of gaining as many indulgences as I can every day, and ask God to grant me the grace of gaining plenary indulgences.

  3. lh says:

    Thank you Father for posting this. Fr. Hardon always recommended to us the Stations of the Cross daily, not just during Lent but year round, it’s good for the soul.

  4. Legisperitus says:

    Miss A.M., O.P.: I thought detachment from even venial sin was one of the conditions for receiving Holy Communion. Am I mistaken? (I think that may have been one of the purposes for the second Confiteor in the TLM.) This would seem to be one of those areas where most of us can only pray for perfect detachment and hope God will make up any difference.

    Another thing Paul VI did was to limit plenary indulgences to one per day. (A priest friend of mine once surmised, tongue partially in cheek, that the Pope must have received a revelation in 1967 that the Treasury of merit was running low.)

  5. Legisperitus, I have never heard that detachment from even venial sin was one of the conditions for receiving Holy Communion. However, being in the state of grace is a precondition for receiving Holy Communion.

  6. Sulo says:

    It is unclear to me why the Raccolta needed to be overhauled. Pope Paul IV claimed it was “so that the faithful would hold them [indulgences] in greater esteem…” How many post-Vatican II Catholics know what indulgences are? I wager a small percentage.
    “For indeed the greater the proliferation (of indulgences) the less is the attention given them…” I don’t understand why this must be so; rather, can this really be the basis for such treatment of the Raccolta? What harm would there be in allowing the Raccolta to remain valid, seeing that “Plan A” didn’t work out?
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19670101_indulgentiarum-doctrina_en.html
    …”It has also been considered fitting to reduce appropriately the number of plenary indulgences in order that the faithful may hold them in greater esteem and may in fact acquire them with the proper dispositions. For indeed the greater the proliferation (of indulgences) the less is the attention given them; what is offered in abundance is not greatly appreciated. Besides, many of the faithful need considerable time to prepare themselves properly for acquisition of a plenary indulgence.”

  7. TheAcolyte says:

    Anyone notice the SSPX joined-hearts logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the image (taken from sspx.org)?

  8. Priam1184 says:

    Indulgences should be preached and explained more often and by greater numbers of the clergy (as should many other things), but other than that I have no problem with the way they are set up now. And even though Purgatory is a temporal realm, attaching a number of days to the indulgence as was done in the past just seems odd to me. There are a great number of fantastic prayers (the Angelus/Regina Coeli, the Memorare, the Rosary, etc.) that still receive a partial indulgence, so if one prays them every day these can add up quick. And gaining a plenary indulgence probably shouldn’t be all that easy in the first place, though the Church is still very generous with them.

  9. Titus says:

    “It is unclear to me why the Raccolta needed to be overhauled.”

    Everything else was, it was just along for the ride.

    “On that note, if you see in some older work that an indulgence of X number of days, months or, as we are on the verge of Lent, quarantines, are indicated, you can be pretty sure that that indulgence no longer applies.”

    That is, the specific indulgence listed there no longer applies. The prayer itself may still have an indulgence attached to it by virtue of an entry in the Enchiridion Indulgentarium.

    The worst part about the whole reform is that it has given rise to the scandalous claim that the Church lacked the power to confer the indulgences according to the prior formula of equivalence of severe penance. There’s nothing like telling lies about the potestas clavium to explain a reform.

  10. Priam1184 says: And even though Purgatory is a temporal realm, attaching a number of days to the indulgence as was done in the past just seems odd to me.

    That’s because the days attached to indulgences in former times did not denote the amount of time you got knocked off Purgatory for performing the indulgenced act. It is my understanding that it had to do with the lengthy (and sometimes public) penances imposed in former times. So if you said a prayer that had a 4o-day indulgence, that was the equivalent of performing a 40-day penance.

  11. Stephen Matthew says:

    So, are privileged altars no longer privileged? Or did some lose it and some retain in?

    I know at the time Baltimore was made archiepiscopal and metropolitan, and its suffragan sees (New York, Boston, Bardstown KY, etc.) were established, that a bishop had the ability to grant privileges to one altar in his diocese, usually being the high altar of the cathedral.

    At the Bardstown, at the minor basilica/proto-cathedral, they claim that the old high altar remains privileged. It is even claimed as being one of only two in the USA to remain so. I have no idea if this is true on either count. I could find no evidence for the claim of it retaining privilege, nor evidence that any at all do, nor any definite proof that some larger number may not yet still retain their old status.

    p.s.
    I have also heard of various pilgrimage sites that claim that ancient grants of indulgence remain, some going so far as to suggest that such things, being directed to the salvation of souls, can’t really be revoked. One place even pointed to a decree that used words to the affect of its privileges being established forever and for all time even unto the coming of the Lord, with promises to never be revoked or reduced by “Us or our successors”, and suggested that its ancient customs were irreformable in nature. I find such claims unlikely to hold force. After all, feudal titles were often granted with language suggesting an irrevocable and irreducible status, but then later those titles would be given to another, or revoked, or abolished, or the holder and all heirs beheaded and thus the title extinguished, etc., with quite some regularity. So flowery language suggesting perpetuity holds no legal weight so far as I can see.

  12. StWinefride says:

    FranzJosf – I had a quick look online and saw that Fr Z and commenters sort of answered your question here:

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/06/quaeritur-privileged-altars/

  13. robtbrown says:

    Miss Anita Moore, O.P.

    Legisperitus, I have never heard that detachment from even venial sin was one of the conditions for receiving Holy Communion.

    It is a matter of common sense–explained by St Thomas’ famous maxim Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.

    Follow Fr Z’s link above to Indulgentiam Doctrina.

    Norms

    no. 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.

  14. lsclerkin says:

    OMG, you guys. Holy Mother Church makes gaining indulgences sooooooooo sooooooooo easy.
    Go to confession. Go get em get em every day.
    You need them
    Souls in Purgatory look with longing to us to get them for them.
    Please.

  15. dans0622 says:

    Miss Anita Moore, OP: the requirement of detachment from sin predates Paul VI. The Baltimore Catechism, for example, in Q. 234 mentions it. I’ve seen it said by theologians from those days, too. Besides, the nature of contrition required to be absolved includes a hatred for sin.
    Legisperitus: the 1917 Code had a general rule stating that only one plenary indulgence could be gained per day (canon 928.1). It mentioned exceptions to this rule and I, admittedly, no nothing about what such exceptions might have been. Even today, though, it is possible to receive two plenary indulgences, the second being in danger of death scenarios.

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  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    Back in 1905, when the idea of a more frequent communion was deliberated, the Holy See issued, Sacra Tridentina, which laid out what it thought necessary for frequent or daily communion.

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWFREQ.HTM

    One of the things on the list was:

    “3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.”

    So, one should have the purpose of never sinning, again (does that mean any sin or just mortal?), but the document says that it is sufficient to be free from mortal sin to receive Communion. A plenary indulgence requires Communion, but while detachment from venial sin is required for the indulgence, but only a purpose of never sinning again is required for Communion. Is that, strictly speaking, the same thing as being detached from venial sins? They might be in the same ball park, but I don’t think they are standing at the same base. Sacra Tridentina does not envision that one is, actually, freed from venial sins before Communion, but, rather, that Communion will help free one from venial sins AND ITS AFFECTIONS, which would be tantamount to detachment. So, in my opinion, no, strictly speaking, detachment from venial sin is not a requirement for Communion, although it could not hurt.

    The Chicken

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks for stating this loud and clear. I have been trying to explain this to people, but you have the real deal sourcing.

    Ta muchly

  19. Supertradmum says:

    PS Blessed John Paul II also changed the rules on obtaining plenary indulgences for the dead as he thought the older indulgences were too easy. One can find those changes. http://www.the-pope.com/purg.html

  20. Imrahil says:

    I think St. Francis of Sales explains in his Philothea somewhere along the line what an attachment to sin is. I don’t know if I report it correctly, but an attachment to sin is… well, an attachment to sin – but it has next nothing to do with that we’re, after all, human beings suffering from concupiscience, or so. Seems to me that an attachment to a sin is if you do will to commit this sin again. I don’t know, though, whether “I would really like to but it’s a sin and I know I must not sin” constitutes an attachment. I think not, but that may be my leniency.

    That said…

    for Communion you need only be in the state of grace. How much an attachment to mortal sin (which of course a Catholic willing to make progress should get rid of as soon as possible) hinders that (i.e. is a mortal sin in itself) I do not know. An even quite obstinate attachment to a merely venial sin does not forbid you to receive Holy Communion.

    for a plenary indulgence, you need to lack attachment to venial sin.

    for perfection, you need detachment from imperfections. But – thank God – the Church does not demand that for a plenary indulgence.

  21. Sulo says:

    “OMG, you guys. Holy Mother Church makes gaining indulgences sooooooooo sooooooooo easy.
    Go to confession. Go get em get em every day.
    You need them
    Souls in Purgatory look with longing to us to get them for them.
    Please.”

    The ways in which one may receive indulgences has been sooooooooooooo diminished. I agree we need them. Many are unable to go to Confession daily and “get em get em” every day. I suggest you reconsider your opinion. While nobody is arguing indulgences are possible to obtain, it is a fact that there are fewer ways to obtain them. lsclerkin, you seem almost gleeful about this change…(I shudder).

    “It is unclear to me why the Raccolta needed to be overhauled.”
    Everything else was, it was just along for the ride.
    I’m sure that something like that may be the practical explanation; however, I wish all of the changes that have occurred and have clearly not worked (for the good)could be given a second look….

  22. Stephen Matthew says:

    Sulo,

    Confession is not required on the day of the indulgence, thus it is possible to go to confession on perhaps a weekly basis and yet still obtain daily indulgences.

  23. StWinefride says:

    Dear Imrahil, yes, St Francis de Sales mentions this in Chapter XXII – Introduction to the Devout Life, here in part: (my emphasis)

    “…I do not say you will discover venial sins, but I say you will discover affections and inclinations to them. The two things are very different from one another: for we can never be free altogether from venial sins (at least we cannot continue in that purity for any long time), but we may well be free from all affection to venial sins; for it is one thing to say an untruth once or twice through thoughtlessness in matters of small importance, and another thing to take pleasure in lying and to be addicted to this sin.

    I say then that it is necessary to purge the soul from all affection which she may have to venial sins; that is to say, we must not nourish voluntarily a will to continue and persevere in any kind of venial sin; for this would be a very great defect of will, knowingly to cherish in the heart a thing so displeasing to God as the will to displease Him. Venial sin, be it ever so little, displeases God, though not so highly that He will reject or damn us for it. If then, venial sin displeases Him, the will and affection to venial sin is no other than a resolution to be willing to displease His Divine Majesty; and is it possible that a generous soul should not only displease her God, but also like to displease Him.

    Such affections, my Philothea, are as directly contrary to devotion as affections to mortal sins are to charity; they enfeeble the powers of the spirit, hinder the course of divine consolations, open the door to temptations, and although they kill not the soul, yet they make it exceedingly sick…”

  24. Sulo says:

    Stephen Matthew:
    I don’t know what you’re really trying to say. I was commenting on someone else’s recommendation that we go to Confession every day (at least that’s what I inferred from “Go to confession. Go get em get em every day.)

    However, are you saying that indulgences can only be gained by going to Confession. If so, that is false.

    I have to say, many people put on a brave face about many of the post-Vatican II changes that have arguably had the opposite effect of the stated intent…
    Regards

  25. Pearl says:

    While what is said here is technically true, it doesn’t mean that the prayers in the Raccolta are no longer indulgenced.

    Taken from the Handbook of Indulgences, Norms and Grants, Authorized English Edition, Catholic Book Pulishing Co., 1991

    THREE GENERAL TYPES OF GRANTS

    The Grants
    I
    A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, while performing their duties and enduring the difficulties of life, raise their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation.

    II
    A partial indulgence is granted to the Christain faithful who, prompted by a spirit of faith, devote themselves or their goods to compasionate service to their brothers and sisters in need.

    III
    A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a spirit of penitence, voluntarily abstain from something which is licit for and pleasing to them.

    NORMS FOR INDULGENCES

    23. 1. Besides the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin, the requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are the performance of the indulgenced work and fulfillment of three conditions: sacramental confession, eucharistic comunion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions.

    2. Several plenary indulgences may be gained on the basis of a single sacramental confession; only one may be gained, however, on the basis of a single eucharistic communion and prayer for the pope’s intentions.

    3. …

    As seen above, in Grant I, any prayer from the Raccolta now carries at least a partial indulgence.

    As seen in Norm 23, 2, a single confession suffices for several plenary indulgences. I have had priests tell me that the general rule is that the confession is good for (if you pardon the term) 7 days before and 7 days after the confession, thus making confession every two weeks sufficient to receive a plenary indulgence every day.

    There are currently only five works which can receive a plenary indulgence on any day of the year, although there are many more which are specific to the day or place which are still in use (ex. visiting a cemetery from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8 and praying for the dead can be a plenary indulgence applicable only to the souls in purgatory (pg. 47)).

    These five works are:
    1. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least one half hour. (pg. 40)
    2. Recitation of the Marian Rosary when the rosary is recited in a church or oratory or when it is recited in a family, a relitous community or a pious association. (pg. 79)
    3. Reading of Sacred Scriptures with veneration due to God’s word as a form of spiritual reading when done for at least one-half hour. (pg. 80)
    4. Stations of the Cross (when following the various norms listed) (pg. 88-89)
    5. …

    Sorry! I can’t remember #5 above and I have to run out the door. I’ll post it if I remember it later.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear Sulo, “get em” referred to indulgences.

    Dear Stephen Matthew, exactly. More precise, the Apostolic Penitentiary made clear that 20 days before or after suffice (if no mortal sin intervenes that is).

  27. Imrahil says:

    Dear Pearl,
    5. move to Rome and visit a Papal basilica any day (or hop through minor basilicas).

    ;-)

    And by the way, the Rosary in Church may be done silently mentally-only (as the Enchiridion explicitly says). Er… dear sacristans, do keep thesr Churches open for a quarter of an hour after Mass even if it’s evening Mass.

  28. Theo-Philo SWO says:

    Sulo,

    As Pearl said, a single good confession can be utilized to obtain numerous plenary indulgences, as long as the confession falls within the timeframe described. To obtain daily plenary indulgences from a single confession (up to one a day for approximately 14 days, 7 days before confession and 7 days after) one would still need to receive Holy Communion each day, pray for the Pope’s intentions each day, do the indulgenced work daily, and have detachment from sin daily. Just another great reason why we should all go to confession at least every two weeks (might be a habit to take up this Lent and continue afterward). You are correct when you say that confession is not needed to gain a partial indulgence, though I think you are misreading what Stephen Matthew and lsclerkin said.

  29. Sulo says:

    Theo-Philo,

    You may be right. I may be misreading Stephen Matthew and lsclerkin. Then again, maybe you are! Anyway, I hope everyone is clear about indulgences after these posts (yours also may have clarified something to some). I still maintain ye olde ways are clearer.

  30. robtbrown says:

    Imrahil says,

    for a plenary indulgence, you need to lack attachment to venial sin.

    for perfection, you need detachment from imperfections. But – thank God – the Church does not demand that for a plenary indulgence.

    So what’s the difference?

  31. robtbrown says:

    Miss Anita Moore, O.P. says:

    Priam1184 says: And even though Purgatory is a temporal realm, attaching a number of days to the indulgence as was done in the past just seems odd to me.

    That’s because the days attached to indulgences in former times did not denote the amount of time you got knocked off Purgatory for performing the indulgenced act. It is my understanding that it had to do with the lengthy (and sometimes public) penances imposed in former times. So if you said a prayer that had a 4o-day indulgence, that was the equivalent of performing a 40-day penance.

    The common opinion is that the origin of the use of days was a kind of correspondence to the days of penance (if memory serves, from the Irish Penitentials). On the other hand, as someone pointed out above, Purgatory is temporal punishment, so those days could also refer to time spent there.

  32. robtbrown says:

    If I might amend my last comment: Those in Purgatory are without the material component of the human essence. Strictly speaking, Time only exists in matter, so it cannot be said that there are days in Purgatory. If, however, Purgatory ceases to exist at the end of Time, then it can be said that there is a correspondence of the changes in Purgatory to events in Time.