NYT article on indulgences

From Hell’s Bible… the floundering New York Times comes this.

My emphases and comments.

For Catholics, Heaven Moves a Step Closer

Published: February 9, 2009

The announcement in church bulletins and on Web sites has been greeted with enthusiasm by some and wariness by others. But mainly, it has gone over the heads of a vast generation of Roman Catholics who have no idea what it means: “Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences.”  [And whose, pray tell, fault is that?]

In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife [hmmm… we are talking about the remission of temporal punishment, for purification, in the state called Purgatory, not about the unremittable eternal punishment of Hell.] — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin.

The fact that many Catholics under 50 have never sought one, and never heard of indulgences except in high school European history [if then] (where Martin Luther denounces the selling of them in 1517 and ignites the Protestant Reformation) [don’t forget… the CHURCH denounces the sale of indulgences!] simply makes their reintroduction more urgent among church leaders bent on restoring fading traditions of penance in what they see as a self-satisfied world.  ["fading traditions of penance"]

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, [Vatican II "decoupled" indulgences?  Or was it the false implementation of the Council and the dissent or laziness of clergy and religious?] the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church[Vatican II set a tone of "informality"?] Its revival has been viewed as part of a conservative resurgence that has brought some quiet changes and some highly controversial ones, like Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to lift the excommunications of four schismatic bishops who reject the council’s reforms.  [So… let’s tie the idea of indulgences to the screwy ideas of Williamson.  Is that what is going on here?]

The indulgence is among the less-noticed, less-disputed traditions to be restored. But with a thousand-year history and volumes of church law devoted to its intricacies, it is one of the most complicated to explain. [I never had problems explaining indulgences… because I believe what the Church teaches about them!]

According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory before they can enter heaven. [IF, that is, they die in God’s friendship.  But what the writer offered here is a distortion.  The idea is that we sinners must do penance in life for our sins.  We must make reparation.  If we have not done that adequately in life, but we neverthless die in the state of grace, we are still to be admitted to heaven, but only when we have been purified of attachment to our sins or we have been readied by penance we must do out justice.] In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, [The writer hasn’t taken the time to get up to speed on what the Church teaches on this matter.  The Church no longer speaks in terms of days or years.] and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it. You can get one for yourself, or for someone else, living or dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1857 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.  [I think we have to be careful with language like "earn".  This is a matter of God’s mercy.]

It has no currency in the bad place.

“It’s what?” asked Marta de Alvarado, 34, a bank cashier in Manhattan, when told that indulgences were available this year at several churches in New York City. “I just don’t know anything about it,” she said, leaving St. Patrick’s Cathedral at lunchtime. “I’m going to look into it, though.[See?  If pastors of souls would preach about indulgences, people will pay attention.]

The return of indulgences began with Pope John Paul II, [HUH?  They never went away!] who authorized bishops to offer them in 2000 as part of the celebration of the church’s third millennium. But the offers [Again, mercantile language.] have increased markedly under his successor, Pope Benedict, [This is silly.  The writer should have looked back at the years before Pope Benedict.] who has made plenary indulgences part of church anniversary celebrations nine times in the last three years. The current offer is tied to the yearlong celebration of St. Paul, which continues through June.

Dioceses in the United States have responded with varying degrees of enthusiasm. This year’s offer has been energetically promoted in places like Washington, Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., and Tulsa, Okla. It appeared prominently on the Web site of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which announced that any Catholic could receive an indulgence at any of six churches on any day, or at dozens more on specific days, by fulfilling the basic requirements: going to confession, receiving holy communion, saying a prayer for the pope and achieving “complete detachment from any inclination to sin.[for a plenary indulgence]

But just a few miles west, in the Archdiocese of New York, indulgences are available at only one church, and the archdiocesan Web site makes no mention of them. [Not really true.  Indulgences may be gained in many ways and in many venues.] (Cardinal Edward M. Egan “encourages all people to receive the blessings of indulgences,” said his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, who added that he was unaware that the offer was missing from the Web site, but would soon have it posted.)  [Great use of modern media, guys.  Great job!  Sheesh!]

The indulgences, experts said, tend to be advertised more openly in dioceses where the bishop is more traditionalist, or in places with fewer tensions between liberal and conservative Catholics.  [grrr  What a gross simplification.]

“In our diocese, folks are just glad for any opportunity to do something Catholic,” said Mary Woodward, director of evangelization for the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., where only 3 percent of the population is Catholic. At church recently, she said, parishioners flocked to her for information about indulgences. “What all do I have to do again to get one of those?” she said they asked.

Even some priests admit that the rules are hard to grasp. [embarassing, but probably true, given the formation of the last decades]

“It’s not that easy to explain to people who have never heard of it,” [Not really.  Not if you take the time.] said the Rev. Gilbert Martinez, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan, the designated site in the New York archdiocese for obtaining indulgences. “But it was interesting: I had a number of people come in and say, ‘Father, I haven’t been to confession in 20 years, but this’ ” — the availability of an indulgence — “ ‘made me think maybe it wasn’t too late.’ ”  [HOPE!]

Getting Catholics back into the confession booth, in fact, was one of the underlying motivations for reintroducing the indulgence. In a 2001 speech, Pope John Paul II described the newly reborn tradition as “a happy incentive” for confession.

Confessions have been down for years and the church is very worried about it,” said the Rev. Tom Reese, [why do they still call these jokers?  Will they ever change their Rolodex?] a Jesuit and former editor of the weekly Catholic magazine America. In a secularized culture of pop psychology and self-help, he said, [to which he contributed greatly] “the church wants the idea of ‘personal sin’ back in the equation. Indulgences are a way of reminding people of the importance of penance.

“The good news is we’re not selling them anymore,” he added.  [rim-shot – wink nudge]

To remain in good standing, Catholics are required to confess their sins at least once a year. But in a survey last year by a research group at Georgetown University, three-quarters of Catholics said they went to confession less often or not at all.

Under the rules in the “Manual of Indulgences,” published by the Vatican, confession is a prerequisite for getting an indulgence.

Among liberal Catholic theologians, the return of the indulgence seems to be more of a curiosity than a cause for alarm. “Personally, I think we’re beyond the time when indulgences mean very much,” said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, [another one] a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame who supports the ordination of women and the right of priests to marry. “It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube of original thought. [but not like trying to avoid plagiarism] Most Catholics in this country, if you tell them they can get a plenary indulgence, will shrug their shoulders.”  [There’s a note of hope for you, folks!]

One recent afternoon outside Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills, Queens, two church volunteers disagreed on the relevance of indulgences for modern Catholics.

Octavia Andrade, 64, a retired secretary, laughed as she recalled a time when children would race through the rosary repeatedly to get as many indulgences as they could — usually in increments of 5 or 10 years — “as if we needed them, then.”

Still, she supports their reintroduction. “Anything old coming back, I’m in favor of it,” she said. “More fervor is a good thing.”  [Silliness eventually gave way to a Catholic sense about this.]

Karen Nassauer, 61, a retired hospital social worker who meets Mrs. Andrade almost daily for Mass, said she was baffled by the return to a practice she never quite understood to begin with[And so her opinion is helpful for… what?]

“I mean, I’m not saying it is necessarily wrong,” [remeber… she doesn’t understand it] she said. “But I had always figured they were going to let this fade into the background, to be honest. What does it mean to get ‘time off’ in Purgatory? What is ‘five years’ in terms of eternity?”  [How many errors were made here?]

The latest indulgence offers de-emphasize the years-in-Purgatory [No… not "demphasize"… eliminates!] formulations of old in favor of a less specific accounting, [again… the writer can’t get these categories out of his head] with more focus on ways in which people can help themselves — and one another — come to terms with sin[?]

“It’s more about praying for the benefit of others, doing good deeds, acts of charity,” said the Rev. Kieran Harrington, spokesman for the Brooklyn diocese.

After Catholics, the people most expert on the topic are probably Lutherans, [?] whose church was born from the schism over indulgences and whose leaders have met regularly with Vatican officials since the 1960s in an effort to mend their differences.

“It has been something of a mystery to us as to why now,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Root, dean of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., who has participated in those meetings. The renewal of indulgences, he said, has “not advanced” the dialogue. [So what.]

“Our main problem has always been the question of quantifying God’s blessing,” Dr. Root said. Lutherans believe that divine forgiveness is a given, but not something people can influence.  [That’s why we speak in terms of partial and plenary.]

But for Catholic leaders, most prominently the pope, the focus in recent years has been less on what Catholics have in common with other religious groups than on what sets them apart — including the half-forgotten mystery of the indulgence.

It faded away with a lot of things in the church,” said Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn. “But it was never given up. It was always there. We just want to people to return to the ideas they used to know.” 

Lot’s of problems in this article but the bottom line is this: if it can get people to ask question, let them know that indulgences are part of our Catholic life, and perhaps force clerics to preach about indulgence, then this article is helpful.

How often do you see articles in diocesan newspapers on indulgences?

I’m just askin’



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Best way I ever heard the conditional nature of indulgences summed up:

    “Useless in hell, superfluous in heaven.”

  2. John Enright says:

    C’mon, Father. What did you expect from the New York Times? It is the most liberal paper in the country, and probably one of the most anti-Catholic newspapers in the world.

  3. TJM says:

    The New York Times will need an “indulgence” if it is to survive. This “newspaper” now borders on the burlesque. Tom

  4. Brother Juniper says:

    Never in my diocesan newspaper.

  5. Richard says:

    “Church leaders bent on restoring fading traditions of penance in what they see as a self-satisfied world”

    That’s not bad; a reasonable summing up of the problem and the solution.

  6. Scarlett says:

    The article seems to misunderstand and be a little fuzzy on the details, but I don’t think it’s mean-spirited. I was pleasantly surprised when I read it – until I got to the venom-filled comments. Ouch! I can’t understand the hatred that motivates some people.

  7. veritas says:

    It may amuse Catholics to realise that the Church of England has an indulgenced devotion. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has a Commination Service which is INSTEAD OF the godly discipline of the primitive church where sinners were put to open penance and punished in this world.

  8. Breier says:

    Could indulgences have lost favor in part because their value has been considerably reduced? In the old regulations indulgences referred to an objective amount of temporal punishment released, expressed in a time period equivolent to the old canonical penances in the early church.

    So an indulgence equal to one year’s hard penance, pretty weighty!

    The new regulations got rid of that. Indulgences have lost a lot their value, now it’s a subjective standard of doubling hte value of whatever indulgenced act you do.

    From Paul VI’s norm on indulgences:

    “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.”

    Maybe the dropping of many indulgences and the substantial lessening in value of partial indulgences, has had an effect in making their use less likely?

  9. AJP says:

    I agree with Scarlett. The article is a bit misinformed in some places,
    but considering the source, it’s surprisingly decent and not mean-spirited.
    I’ve seen far more nastiness and ignorance in articles in diocesan papers
    and other “Catholic” publications.

  10. [I never had problems explaining indulgences… because I believe what the Church teaches about them!]

    Right there, IMHO, is why the people who’ve been entrusted with teaching the faithful erred in explaining both what an indulgence is and what it is not.

    Furthermore, all too many Catholics, erroneously bought into the belief, just as the
    article states, that the “experts” on indulgences are Lutherans because they are told
    indulgences were Martin Luther’s only problem with the Church (it wasn’t but that’s the
    prevailing teaching on the subject of the Split)

    Father: Don’t wait by the phone. You will never tell these folks what they want to hear.
    They know what they are going to write before they even put pen to paper. And, as you’ve
    noted before, they’ve got the folks on speed dial who WILL tell them what they want to hear.

    What makes me truly cranky is the NYT is still the paper “of record” and this poorly researched
    piece will be reprinted in papers all over the country.

  11. Rachel says:


    You make a valid point but I think it has more to do with the simple fact that it is NEVER hardly taught. The same is true for so many other doctrines of our dear Catholic Faith: purgatory, the seriousness of sin and repentance, penance and reparation for sin, the importance of prayer, the social reign of Christ the King, etc. Also, there are other things that are not taught such as some very important devotions like the rosary, the Sacred Heart, and others. This is why it is so important for all of us who care about our faith to not just learn the doctrines of the Church but also to live the faith in our own families.

    My husband and I went to Mass this past Friday and took part in the first Friday devotions. Part of this was praying some prayers for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Well, it is true that we need more vocations but the only way that they will be fostered is by building strong families. So, it starts with many Catholic spouses. We are by no means perfect but we are making a very serious effort to make our home Catholic and to practice the Faith. Every night we pray our family Rosary and read a chapter of the bible as well as a spiritual book or some other edifying book.

    We are newlyweds so there is no children yet but we pray that God will bless us with some.

    We can’t wait around for Father or sister, brother, etc to teach the Faith to the next generation. It is up to us and all of those who love Our Faith. So many have not be taught anything which is so sad because I feel that it has been the greatest theft of all, to rob several generations of their Catholic faith and identity.

  12. Jess says:

    The comments to this article in the NYT are absolutely atrocious. Some Catholics need to contribute (in a rational and calm manner).

  13. Thomas L says:

    I sincerely hope that your comments, Fr. Z, in articles such as these make there way back to the authors. If Paul is a serious journalist, then he clearly needs to learn that his credibility and integrity are in question when pieces like these are read by people who actually have a grasp of the material he is covering. These criticisms though some times harsh or almost always fair. Humbly accepting the truth in these matters would go a long way to ensuring that the same mistakes are not repeated in the future.

  14. Jerry says:

    As an adult convert and member of a parish RCIA Team, the ignorance of indulgences expressed in the article does not surprise me. Why? Because the parishes don’t teach after confirmation, except on rare occasion during a homily, and never touch on issues of controversy so as to not offend. I recruit practicing “life long Catholics” to be sponsors of catechumens and I am amazed at their lack of knowledge of Catholic teachings. I think there should be Catholic Sunday School before or after Mass with classes grouped by age where you have an hour study of Church teachings and Scripture. Not holding my breath, though!

  15. David says:

    I second Jess’ suggestion. At the moment I count 1 comment out of 62 that defends the Church’s practice. Please go over there and leave a calm, polite, non-sarcastic, well-reasoned, informative, factual comment.

  16. chironomo says:

    This is the silliest (and one of the most inaccurate)articles I have yet read. It is something like a Priest writing an article for the Financial Times criticizing Sarbane-Oxley and it’s effects on corporate accounting practices. I’m sure if such an idea were suggested to the editor at FT, the response would be “Why would the financial community care what a Priest thinks about accounting practices?” … which would make my point exactly.

  17. depeccatoradvitam says:

    Odd how they toss this “indulgence thing” into a lump of has been practices, assuredly vanquished 500 years ago thanks to Luther (we can talk about his over scrupulocity and contumacious nature in a different thread) to a resurgence of frothing and fervored nutty conservatism missing the whole point of indulgences and the magisterial gift to bind and loose.

    Indulgences are a conduit to returning onself or a purgatorial benefactor through suffrage toward a state of grace due to remission of sins and penitential acts as prescribed by the magisterium by way of supernatural charity and the perfection of the task completed.

    Def: “The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with proper dispositions and under certain determined [by the Church]conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church, which, as the minister of the redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the Saints” Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences [so obviously not wiped away by V2].

    Diminishing that reality, we find furhter ignorance that once again slices and dices the magisterium to worldly conformity and removes even the concept (more than the reality itself) of purgation, and a need to save souls here and now.

    We simply cannot call ourselves “saved” and then go on to live like heathens believing that as we gleefully sing “I did it my way”, that we have a free pass for wearing our self-adorned badge of Chritian. [A cafeteria line pass for sure.]

    Much work to do here and now, conversion is constantly needed and aligning our wills to the will of God is essential.

    No wonder the Eucharist is more rarely approached in a state of grace.

    Maybe the NYT, a constant purveyor of conflict theory, could write on sacriledge next week.

  18. Mark says:

    Breier raises a good point. As I understand it, the changes in the discipline on indulgences following Vatican II reduced their weight and made plenary indulgences much more difficult to obtain.

  19. Luiz says:

    My confessor always preaches about indulgences! He is the only priest I’ve heard talking about this subject here… (I live in Maringa, South of Brazil).

  20. To be honest, considering the source I was expecting far, far worse. Many of its observations of trends were spot on, it just attributed them to improper sources (like saying Vatican II established something, when in fact it is those unfaithful to Vatican II who have developed these trends, those who buy into the lie that Vatican II represents a rupture with Tradition).

    One of the points the article makes – or rather, one of the things it gets wrong, is a subtle fallacy that is common even among many Catholics who do not understand Purgatory, which is that Purgatory is a place we go to be punished. While it is a punishment in the sense that we are prevented from the immediacy of the beatific vision, punishment is not its intent. The intent of Purgatory is found in its etymology: it is a place of purgation. We die in a state of grace yet not sufficiently purified to be capable of the heavenly vision of God, and so we are purified first. What referring to it as punishment misses is that Purgatory is a result of God’s love, it is what allows those who die in a state of grace to eventually obtain the beatific vision even when there is still impurity in the soul. It’s a beautiful teaching that has been distorted, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Hopefully this move by the Church to reintroduce the faithful to the teaching on indulgences will also help introduce us to a clearer understanding of Purgatory.

  21. Ed Francis says:

    What a great reminder:

    “Let us entrust these prayer intentions to Our Lady. From yesterday until the end of 11 February, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions, it is possible to receive a Plenary Indulgence, applicable to the deceased, on the usual conditions – Confession, Communion and prayer for the Pope’s intentions – and by praying before a blessed image of Our Lady of Lourdes exposed for public veneration.”

    “BENEDICT XVI ANGELUS St Peter’s Square Sunday, 3 February 2008”

  22. Athanasius says:

    I must admit that my own understanding, and consequently faith in, indulgences is rather sketchy at best. They were never mentioned during my catechesis. I have read the odd thing about it recently, but because they are one of those things just not talked about in the sort of Catholic circles I have moved in up til now, I have sadly not fully integrated it into the faith of my heart. I would be most grateful to anyone who can take the time to talk to me more on the subject, or point me towards anything I can read beyond the basics.

  23. Athelstane says:

    My word. The Times really needs to update their rolodex.

    I mean – all it was missing was Chittester.

    But for Catholic leaders, most prominently the pope, the focus in recent years has been less on what Catholics have in common with other religious groups than on what sets them apart — including the half-forgotten mystery of the indulgence.

    Well, yes and no. Even a casual glance at the record makes clear that Benedict is committed to ecumenical dialogue in a manner far beyond nearly all his predecessors. But he is more interested than perhaps JPII had been (and I will hedge that by noting that JPII, especially in his latter years, worked to rebuild Catholic identity up more than is commonly credited) in rebuilding “what sets them apart.” There is no reason you can’t do both; to walk and chew gum at the same time. Indeed, one could argue, it is necessary for such dialogue with churches/ecclesial communities who really want a serious dialogue partner – i.e., most of the Orthodox churches.

    But I don’t expect the Times to unpack any of *that*.

    Thanks for linking this, Father Z.

  24. Patrick says:


    Maybe once in 8 years in the Diocesan paper. Many times in our parish, Father speaks about them from the pulpit and in his RCIA classes and Sunday coffee and Catholicism meetings for the parents while the kids are in religious ed.

    I teach about them in my religious ed and youth group classes.

    I know many people who diligently fulfill the requirements for indulgences and then offer them up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.



  25. Jess says:

    This comment from the NYT article is very telling:

    95.February 09, 2009 3:27 pm
    Another mindless set of rules for the weak-minded people to follow. First the church changes from Latin to English,then eating meat on Fridays is okay, then you can attend mass on Saturdays instead of Sundays, then laypeople (even women) can give out communion. The whole concept of catholic is redefined.
    — Dennis, Minneapolis

    Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader

    It’s true. By “modernizing” so many traditional, albeit non-dogmatic, teachings and practices we’ve made it much harder to convince outsiders and the ill-informed of the truth of the dogmatic ones.

  26. Templar says:

    I don’t know what possessed me. Maybe a desire for a little Pre-Lenten mortification? But I went and read the first 50 comments, and I confess that it has been a long time since I exposed myself to such hatred. It sickened me. I sometimes get saddened by the way the comm box discussions here get uncharitable, we have nothing on that little corner of the internet. I feel like I need to wash.

  27. depeccatoradvitam says:

    Several people mention the “new rules” of “modernizing” so to speak.

    It is one thing to work from “Cliff Notes” version which is never equal to the book. In this case one works with the esssence or essential parts of the truth. It is quite another thing to entirely work from ones own set of notecards devoid of the book itself without any basis other than one’s self as the compass.

    This is simply another chapter in the Heurmanetic of Rupture. Without a footing, a pillar, to dock one’s Catholicty and faith to, there is nothing left but to be adrift without reference point, focus and fullness of truth. You can call the boat whatever you like, but the reality is without reference it is lost.

  28. Fr. J says:

    I have preached on indulgences and always encourage the faithful to gain them whenever possible. We need all the help we can get. I encourage everyone to get the Manuel of Indulgences.

  29. Steve says:

    What’s next for the Times….the Apostolic Pardon?

  30. Jayna says:

    Your post may have at least had a little impact in my parish. I run the parish website and your post reminded me about the Plenary Indulgence in honor of the Pauline year. We’re having a parish mission this week in which a Paulist priest (Fr. Bruce Nieli) will be doing a series of sessions over the next couple of days. In light of this, I thought it would be a good idea to put a post on the website letting people know about the indulgence. I’m still waiting on a response as to whether or not they’ll let me put it up there, but I’ve done my part!

  31. The best was the comment by jnuzzi, who before making his comment trashing the Church and the bishops, he introduced his comment with. “As a faithful Roman Catholic…” Because, you know, saying it makes it so.

  32. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Could they PLEASE get someone who KNOWS about the Catholic Church and the Catholic faith to write these articles? Someone who knows about Indulgentarium Doctrina or Paenitimini or Sacramentum Caritatis (and the accompanying Propositiones) or the Catechism… or even Inter Oecumenici (n. 68)?!

  33. Josh says:

    Our bishop sent out a letter that was read to all parishes after all Masses one weekend on the topic of gaining the Plenary Indulgence for the year of St. Paul. Bishop DiMarzio used to be in my diocese as well, though I was fairly young when he was sent to Brooklyn.

  34. avecrux says:

    There is a really cool product I use as my appointment calendar – it is the “2009 Keys to Grace Indulgence Calendar” available from Bridegroom Press. It includes both calendars – the new and old – and reminds you of the indulgences you may gain on any given day. It has helped me a lot.
    You can look at it here:

  35. Tony from Oz says:

    Fr Zuhlsdorf:

    My parish priest told me that, in 1967, Paul VI altered the conditions under which a Catholic could gain an indulgence (maybe this was only for plenary indulgences – as you stated earlier) requiring that the recipient be completely free of all sin, including venial sin.

    His view was that this was a dramatic narrowing of the traditional dispensation which required only freedom from mortal sin. His view is that this was an extreme pity; a rare case of (imprudent) rigour at a time [ie 1967] when any other sort of rigour or penance was, effectively, being discouraged in the eyes of the faithful (ie abolition of compulsory Friday abstinence). Do you have a view on this? Would you like to see a return to the more ‘liberal’ traditional dispensation – just as you would prefer to see Septuagesima season restored in the OF?

  36. Sharon says:

    Athanasius and Tony from Oz these may be of help

    Myths about indulgences

    How to get an indulgence

    If you want to read more enter ‘indulgences’ into the Quick Search bar

    The book Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine by Abp Sheehan, edited by Fr Peter Joseph [Australian] has some great info on indulgences as well as every aspect of the Catholic Faith.

  37. Greg in Houston says:

    Fr. Z – Had a chance to pickup a great book in a Catholic bookstore recently, “The Handbook of Indulgences Norms And Grants” ISBN 089942-585-2. Published in English in New York by the Catholic Book Publishing Corp in 1991, with introductions dating back to 1968.

    Mentioned are those grants which list works by the Christian faithful by performing any one of them, can obtain a plenary indulgence every day of the year: – adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least a half an hour (#3), – devout reading of the Sacred scriptures for at least one half hour (#50), the devout performance of the Stations of the Cross (#63) and – the recitation of the Marian Rosary in a church or oratory with members of the family, in a religious community, or in a pious association (#48), but all of these are subject to the norms and notably #21 which says a plenary indulgence can be obtained but once a day (though partial indulgences can be gained many times a day) and with the fulfillment of the 4 conditions… namely, sacramental confession, eucharistic communion, prayer for the Pope’s intentions, and the most mystical, the exclusion of all attachment to venial or grave sin. Having met all that, these indulgences, therefor, seem to be available to any Catholic in any Catholic Church or even at home in the case of #50. The book also relays that an indulgence can also be applicable to the deceased as a suffrage.

    Further, the book details that if the devout use of a devotional object allows the faithful to obtain an partial indulgence, and if the Pope or any bishop has blessed the object (Like your rosary), then the Christian faithful can obtain a plenary indulgence through its use on the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, provided they add the Profession Of Faith.

    All of our Catholic churches have the Stations. Our homes should have a bible. Each faithful should have a Rosary — get it blessed by a bishop or Aunt Margie when she visits Rome! And many parishes are reviving the solemn exposition and adoration of the Eucharist!

    In my view, these are true lasting infinite treasures, to be had so simply! What grace! And these can be applied to yourself or as a suffrage for your deceased loved ones, or even those not-so-loved ones!

    Thank you Holy Church! Thank you Lord! Thank you Our Bishops! Thank you Fr. Z! And thank you, even, to the New York Times!

    PS – I have seen for years now that favorite annual plenary indulgence can be obtained per the normal conditions by reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter! Thank you Sr. Faustina! Thank you Pope John Paul II! Thank you Pope Benedict XVI!

  38. JohnE says:

    As a lax Catholic, I never knew too much about indulgences until I finally decided to fulfill the requirements during the latter part of the 2000 Jubilee year. I went on a Friday. I did not know until after Mass started that it was the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I am a true believer in the power of indulgences now.

  39. Nemo says:

    Our (FSSP) priest urges us to go to confession every two weeks so we can go for a plenary indulgence every day. (We will always be within 8 days of going to confession.)

  40. Brendon says:

    I can’t even believe the New York Times published this with all his historical and theological errors.

    Or can I?

  41. Ellen says:

    I must say that it saddens me to read all of the misinformation about Catholicism especially from those who claim to be Catholic. The former Catholics are so aggresively anti-Catholic. How they must wound Our Lord! We must pray for them that they will come to understand their errors. We can’t give up on them no matter how we are attacked or even misunderstood. Perhaps, if more Catholics could learn their beautiful religion more fully, they wouldn’t be so afraid to live it and share it with others.

    Thank you, Father for posting this – I just read it in our local paper today – with your comments. It was most helpful.

  42. Franco says:

    Fr. Z – Mr. Vitello wrote \”You can get one [an indulgence] for yourself, or for someone else, living or dead. \” Actually, you cannot obtain
    an indulgence for another living person. Cf. CCC 1471 (English version, 2nd. (sic) Edition): \”The faithful can gain indulgences
    for themselves or apply them to the dead.\” [quoting from CIC, can. 994]. This sentence was actually different in the first
    English edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the one with the pinkish cover) because it seemed to
    imply that indulgences could be obtained for another living person. Some bishops noticed the error and it was corrected in the
    second edition: If you have both editions, compare the translations of paragraph 1471. Of course, there\’s now an Editio Typica now
    to refer to; at the time of the first edition, the English translation was based on the French version.
    I wanted to point this out because you did not mention this inaccuracy (error?) in your otherwise very thorough commentary.

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