Indulgences are Back

Indulgences are making a comeback in the Roman Catholic Church. An indulgence is supposed to reduce your punishment in Purgatory before entering Heaven. As you may recall from history, the selling of indulgences was one of the abuses that Martin Luther denounced in the Reformation. The Catholic Church is not selling indulgences per se but is making them available under certain conditions. From the New York Times:

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. 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, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.

As a Christian who believes that Jesus took the full punishment for my sins at the cross, I do not believe in Purgatory and so I find the whole idea of indulgences very odd. Also, do you see much of a distinction between “buying” or “earning” an indulgence as stated in the article?

Here are a few applicable verses from the New Testament to reflect on:

Day after day every priest [speaking of Old Testament priests] stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [speaking of Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:11-12)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Related article: Indulgences 101

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