All about Indulgences

By definition, an indulgence is the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to personal sin, provided that the sin has already been forgiven. The power invested in the Church and her bishops and priests to grant indulgences in found in several scriptures.

To Peter alone Jesus granted the first power to bind and loose anything.

Mt 16:19      Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and
              whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (NAB)
To all the disciples Jesus later granted the same power to bind and loose.
Mt 18:18      I assure you, whatever you declare bound on earth shall be
              bound in heaven, and whatev- er                  you declare
              loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (NAB)
To all the disciples Jesus gave the power to forgive sins.
Jo 20:21-23   "Peace be with you," he (Jesus) said again. "As the Father has
               sent me, so I send you." Then he breathed on them and said:
               "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are
               forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound."
As can be seen from the nature of personal sin, as man turns from God and towards created things, man incurs both guilt and punishment. Through the blood of Jesus, all guilt of sin-- turning from God--is remitted through confession of sin. Punishment, limited temporal punishment due to sin-- preferring created things to God--still remains.
Num 14:20-23  The Lord answered (Moses): "I pardon them as you have asked.
              Yet, by my life and the Lord's glory that fills the whole
              earth, of all men who have seen my glory and the signs I worked
              in Egypt and in the desert, and who nevertheless have put me to
              the test ten times already and have failed to heed my voice,
              not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their
              fathers. None of these who have spurned me shall see it." (NAB)

2 Sam 12:13-14 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned
               against the Lord." Nathan answered David: "The Lord on his
               part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you
               have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to
               you must surely die." (NAB)

1 Cor 11:27-32 He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and
               drinks a judgment on himself. That is why many among you are
               sick and infirm, and why so many are dying. If we were to
               examine ourselves, we would not be falling under judgment in
               this way; but since it is the Lord who judges us, he chastens
               us to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world.

Prov 16:6     By kindness and piety guilt is expiated, and by the fear of the
              Lord man avoids evil. (NAB)

Dan 4:24      Therefore, O king, take my advice; atone for your sins by good
              deeds, and for your misdeeds by kindness to the poor; then your
              prosperity will be long. (NAB)

Act 10:4      Your prayers and your generosity have risen in God's sight, and
              because of them he has remembered you. (NAB)

The Council of Trent (1545-1563)

Christ gave the power of granting indulgences to the Church, and since the Church has, even in ancient times, made use of this divinely given power (Mt. 16:19; 18:18), the holy council teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences--a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the holy councils--should be kept up in the Church; and it anathematizes those who say that indulgences are useless, or that the Church does not have the power of granting them. (Decree on Indulgences, Sess. 25)

Vatican Council II (1962-1965)

The doctrine of indulgences and their practice have been in force for many centuries in the Catholic Church. They would appear to be solidly founded on Divine Revelation, handed down "from the apostles." (Constitution of the Revision of Indulgences, No. 1)

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