QUAERITUR: one confession for many indulgences?

From a reader:

The year of St. Paul and the year of the priest overlap by 10 days.  Assuming the other requirements for obtaining the indulgence are met, is only one confession necessary to obtain more than one plenary indulgence?

"Yes We Can!"

One confession of Holy Communion will suffice for the gaining of many indulgences, provided that the person did the works required and is properly disposed.


A reader chimed in with this:

From the Apostolic Penitentiary, “The Gift of the Indulgence” (2000), n. 5, under the heading “General Remarks on Indulgences”:
One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.
The same document also says these additional conditions may be fulfilled "about 20" days before or after the indulgenced act, the most generous interpretation of that condition that I’ve seen anywhere.

This helps to clarify the situation.

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  1. Steve says:

    If anyone is interested, there is a desk calendar running June 2009 through June 2010, the full Year of the Priest, that has every indulgenced day of the year marked, along with instructions on how to do every indulgence the Church offers.

    The specially indulgenced days for the Year of the Priest are included, for a total of over three dozen different plenary indulgenced days in the year.


    And, sure, I’m the guy who created it, but in my objective, disinterested opinion, I am certain you will most definitely find it useful.

  2. Fr. BJ says:

    Dr. Ed Peters argues to the contrary in his book on Indulgences. He says (if memory serves) that one confession suffices (thus, if you go to confession at least once a month, you can potentially gain a plenary indulgence every day), but that one communion is required per plenary indulgences (thus, to gain the indulgence every day, daily Mass is also necessary.

    To be honest, though, I have never heard anyone else explain it the way that Peters did. Maybe I read his book wrong? I’d have to go back and look… maybe later. Perhaps someone else has read it and can chime in.

  3. CDN_Canonist says:

    There is a presumption, it seems, that plenary indulgences are easily obtained.

    In addition to the general requirement of CIC/83, c. 996, the fulfillment of the following three traditional conditions are required to obtain a plenary indulgence: sacramental confession, eucharistic communion, prayer for the pope’s intentions. “A further requirement is the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin. Unless this unqualified disposition and the three conditions are present, the indulgence will be only partial” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, norm 7).

    The first three are easily accomplished, in as much as one makes the effort. The fourth condition, the exclusion of all attachment to sin, is far more difficult.

  4. Liam says:


    But that requirement is often misunderstood in a rigorist way that makes people think that if they are tempted, they are have failed to be unattached, whereas the issue of attachment is more properly one of the intellect and will – the willingness to renounce all sin. Difficult, but not quite as difficult as many often portray it.

  5. Bill in Texas says:

    Only God knows whether a person has received a plenary indulgence or not. But it’s still worth trying, and a partial indulgence is also a great gift of God’s mercy. Also, my understanding is that theologians are not in agreement as to whether the fourth condition applies if the intention is to earn the plenary indulgence for one of the Holy Souls. In any case, it can never hurt to add to one’s prayers the renunciation of all attachment to sin, even venial sin, and to ask for the grace to remain unattached. As “they” say, intentions are important, and so it’s another good idea to include in one’s morning prayers the intent to earn every indulgence and merit possible during the day. All those partial indulgences will amount to something, some day, for you and for the Holy Souls.

  6. Greg Smisek says:

    According to the Apostolic Penitentiary, \”The Gift of the Indulgence\” (2000), n. 5, under the heading \”General Remarks on Indulgences\”:

    It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope\’s intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope\’s intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an \”Our Father\” and a \”Hail Mary\” are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father\’s intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.

    The mention of 20 days is the longest I\’ve seen. The more usual rule of thumb is that the prayer for the Pope\’s intentions, Holy Communion, and Confession ought to be done within about a week before or after the indulgenced act. Other interesting timing questions addressed are that \”it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed\” (n. 3) and \”For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin)\” (n. 6). [Good work!]

  7. Greg Smisek says:

    I forgot to include the link for “The Gift of the Indulgence” (2000) mentioned above.

  8. mike hurcum says:

    If I might add what I was always taught this, which three popes say is still current, that as Vat 2 was pastoral nothing was changed, church dogma remained unaltered. One received the indulgence as others have written. But the time period to receive the plenary is within the octave before and after a good sacramentary confession. Roughly translated later by Paul VIth as a week before and week after. A very good theologian told me and I always will consider him a holy man by the people he attracted and at his death there was no room in the Cathedral nor in the roads outside, that this period of time existed because our mother the church in her wisdom thought that we could not avoid grave sin more than two weeks. It is probably why men and women of my age were taught confess your sins to a priest every two weeks. One cannot deny this wisdom if we truly love the Church and seek salvation. The other change is we used to pray for the Pope’s intentions with one of Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. I notice in Paul VI’s encyclical he dropped the Glory Be. Plenary Indulgences can be offered for relatives who have died and yet we in the Church are brothers and sisters therefore I offer them for many of my benefactors in the Church and trust my charity is as we know always outweighed by Christ to the utmost power

  9. Greg Smisek says:

    The Norms of Indulgences from the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum actually make this clear (4th ed. Norm 20 §2; 3rd ed. Norm 23 §2):

    Unica sacramentali confessione plures indulgentiae plenariae acquiri possunt; unica vero communione eucharistica et unica oratione ad mentem Summi Pontificis una tantum indulgentia plenaria acquiritur.

    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.

    [That is a great addition to this entry. Thanks! Very helpful!]

  10. Phil Steinacker says:

    Steve Kellmeyer (the first commenter),

    Even though I’m familiar with who you are I followed your link because I thought your calendar might be worthwhile, assuming it was a free download – the only arrangement appropriate for you to have offered HERE.

    I should have known better than to have made that assumption.

    I object to your using Father’s blog and this thread for posting a link to your site that is nothing more than a commercial for products you’re selling for profit. I have no problem with profit, but I do have severe problems with a huckster coming here to sell his wares.

    I haven’t yet seen anyone else with the temerity to do so such a thing here. Often visitors here post links for the benefit of this community, and perhaps on occasion link to sites requiring a fee for access (like the now defunct NY Times fee-based access policy), but to my knowledge no one here is a stakeholder in the collection of such fees. YOU ARE.

    I belong to a professional organization which has to contend with members who fail to control their own greed (and their good judgment) by spamming the message boards to sell products or services to other members, but your attempt to line your own pockets here is actually quite shocking and disappointing, given your alleged credentials as a RCIA director and sometime “apologist.”

    I’d ask “How dare you?” except having been exposed elsewhere to your shameless self-promotion at the expense of your targets I must say, sadly, that I am not especially surprised. Don’t you have any sense of decency, man? Any sense of propriety?

    For you to show no Christian charity in your attitude towards those against whom you endlessly rail elsewhere on the Internet, and then to come here and treat this community like low-hanging fruit is just plain wrong – and offensive.

    Your other site – a so-called “news” site – is full of sensationalistic headlines that, to be minimally charitable, stretch the truth considerably – and it pains me terribly to restrain myself from putting it more clearly than that. Your works elsewhere are not unknown to some of us here already, so I hope you respond by graciously asking Father (and the rest of us) to forgive you and to remove your link before others with even greater ambition begin to treat Father’s blog as if it were open season.


  11. Maureen says:

    Well, it technically wasn’t spamming the comment boxes. It was topical. If he’d written a book on it, it would have been fair to say, “Hey, I wrote a book on that.”

    You could also clearly read the URL in the post, and the words “press” and “cart” pretty well indicated that it was a link to a commercial site.

    But yes, that is something that people have to watch, lest comment boxes turn into all spam all the time. It’s difficult when a forum deals with a subject spread between commercial and non-commercial usage.

    Personally, I feel that website owners should be as despotic and fickle about such matters as they feel like, dealing case by case with a very high hand. But then, I have a website with comment boxes, so of course I would. :)

  12. paul says:

    Father, I just recently heard an explanation for indulgences- as to what they are. I thought I might share what I have learned- if I am off someone please correct me. An indulgence has to do with the sacrament of penance. For instance a man commits a serious sin- adultery. He is truly repentant goes to confession and that sin is forgiven. However there are temporal consequences- he gets an incurable disease, loses his good name, must suffer in purgatory. The indulgence takes away these temporal punishments. If we believe Christ gave the Church (her priests) power to forgive sins- why not the power to release from the temporal punishments attached to forgiven sin.

  13. John C. says:


    As a daily reader, I’m interested in your opinion as re. attachment to venial sin condition. Thanks.

  14. RBrown says:

    But that requirement is often misunderstood in a rigorist way that makes people think that if they are tempted, they are have failed to be unattached, whereas the issue of attachment is more properly one of the intellect and will – the willingness to renounce all sin. Difficult, but not quite as difficult as many often portray it.
    Comment by Liam

    I agree that temptation is not sin, but neither is the inclination to sin. Both temptation and the inclination are antecedent to consent.

    And so I disagree with you on the matter of inclination to sin and plenary indulgence,

  15. RBrown says:

    NB: Above, I am using “inclination” to mean “attachment”.

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