Ask a question

What Are Indulgences In History

Can someone explain what an Indulgence is?

Penance is some unpleasant or time consuming task the priest might ask you to perform after you have told him about sinning in some way. For minor infringements this could simply be reciting a number of 'Hail Mary's' (a Catholic prayer).
Purgatory is a sort of halfway house, if you have not been completely perfect during your life, but not bad enough to be sent to hell. The number of penances performed on earth is said to reduce the time in purgatory.
Around the time of Martin Luther (not King jr.), Popes, (head of the Roman Catholic Church) started selling these indulgences to rich sinners. This brought money to the Papal office and was supposed to reduce the wealthy sinner's time in purgatory. Luther objected to this calling the practice corrupt.
This all happened in the first half of the 16th century and caused part of the church in what is now Germany to break away from Rome and form the 'Reformed Church'.

What were indulgences?

I have seen the first three answers given and they are a bit off the mark, so I will weigh in. Look at the website I posted and there are some explanations there from the Catholic Church, which is probably a good source, since they believe in indulgences.

First of all, indulgences were not ways to have sin forgiven. The Church never preached that. What the Church taught was that once sin was forgiven, there was still going to have to be punishment for that sin. That coincides with the teaching of the existence of Purgatory. So there were two phases of sin. First forgiveness, then punishment. Indulgences dealt with the punishment phase.

As originally intended, indulgences were acts you could perform to have your (or a loved one's) punishment in purgatory reduced. Saying a sincere Act of Contrition might get you a couple days off your stay in Purgatory, whereas praying the Rosary might get you a few weeks off your time.

Later, some renegade priests and bishops used it as a way to take money from people, hence the phrase "selling of indulgences". Obviously, the rich could spend more. It was the selling of indulgences that was one of the reasons Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church. There were many other reasons why Luther left the Church, like the Church had relaxed its persecution of Jews and Luther wanted it made even harsher.

But it is important to note that this was never "pay your money and have your sins forgiven". Indulgences was a way to spend less time in Purgatory being punished for your sins. Of course, if you didn't ask for forgiveness of your sins, no indulgences would help. You would have been condemned.

I hope this isn't too long and it dispells some of the myths. Check out the website, as they do a much more thorough job than I ever could.

What were indulgences?

Roman Catholics believe in Purgatory, sort of a half-way house between Heaven and Hell. If you're not sinful enough to go to Hell after death and suffer for all eternity, but not good enough to go straight to Heaven, you suffer for some period of time in Purgatory before you finally get allowed into Heaven. An indulgence shortens the time someone has to spend in Purgatory. There was a time when Church officials sold indulgences for money. People could pay a certain amount to get their dead relatives released from Purgatory into Heaven. If you look up Martin Luther, you'll see that his opposition to the practice of selling indulgences was an important issue in the Protestant Reformation.

I once said this as a joke. It can't be reasonably held as true with any serious intellectual integrity.The Papacy, under  certain circumstances, offer indulgences to Catholics. Generally, this  is in the context of the doctrine of purgatory, which posits that  post-death, one must be "cleansed" such that they foster all virtue in  order to become perfect agents of divine love. Until they can properly  love all things as they ought to love them, they cannot enter heaven;  since, if once cannot participate fully in divine love, that state  cannot, by definition, be considered "heaven" as classically understood.  The provision of indulgences allows that "cleansing" process to be  "shortened," even though the metaphor fails, since purgation isn't a  process of "time" but a process of "intensity."In any case, the  Protestant Reformers notoriously claimed that this doctrine was abused  in order to proliferate the Church's agendas, particular as it regarded  wealth. They were right, of course, that the Pope DID offer indulgences  to those who donated money for the construction of St. Peter's Basillica  during the 14th-15th centuries. But, I don't think that's an abuse,  since Protestant churches essentially do the same thing with "tithing  guilt."In any case, their accusations were correct in at least  one case. A particular bishop had the audacity to provision papal  indulgences to whomever gave him money. This particularly fortunate  opportunity to rage against the Church was not lost on Luther and his  compatriots. And now there's this huge misconception that the doctrine  of Indulgences is both unscriptural and unsubstantiated previously in  the Catholic tradiitons; which it totally was, and is the entire reason  why martyrdom for the faith "instantly" (again, time metaphor not  helpful) purges you, such that you may enjoy the fruits of heaven  "immediately." Since Catholics pray to Saints (those Christians who are  in heaven; the state of existence described in my first paragraph), one  can legitimately pray to any martyr and know for certain that they can  intercede on your behalf.Indulgences are also conditionally  offered for all those who died as prisoners under the Nazi and Soviet  regimes, including non-Catholics, considering the circumstances

In the reformation, what exactly were indulgences?

Martin Luther criticized the sale of indulgence becaus he saw this action as:
a tax imposed by the Church of Rome on believers to build unnecessary religious structures in Vatican City;
a pre-paid licence to sin, even before one had committed the deed, includin the possibility of a criminal act;
a method whereby, one, by proxy could purchase such forgiveness for another who may already have been deceased;
and the fact it could be seen by the gullible purchasing such a piece of paper as an automatic 'ticket into heaven'.

What was the practice of selling indulgences?

You paid the Pope a pile of gold and he gave you a paper which was supposed to be a 'get out of hell for a fee' card to absolve you of your sins when you got to the Pearly Gates of Heaven.

I am not making this up!

Mention of the shroud of Turin reminds me that here in Ireland we have a notorious hoax; the Irish Government has even built an international airport to service the hoax.   I speak of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland   where the heavenly    mother of god, Mary is alleged to have appeared to  some of the natives of the village in the 1880s.  This is now a multi-million religious-tourism business.The apparition is described as happening against the wall of the local church and even though it was raining the figures of the apparition did not get wet, it was reported.These were very unsophisticated peasant people and at the time Ireland was remarkably backward.   Thirty years before this a survey in the neighbouring county of Galway showed that people had never come across the concept of money at all.So what actually occurred?    It is all based on an image projected from what was called at the time a Magic Lantern.   We have to bear in mind that they were even more powerful than today's computer projectors.   They were based on the technology of the lamps on the the American trans-continental trains which could project a beam up to two miles.I have checked the layout in the vicinity of the church and there was a school strategically placed about thirty yards  from the wall  of the church where the apparition is supposed to have occurred.   The  time was mid-August,   with the pupils on holidays and the person with the keys to the school was the school manager - the local priest.He wished to jolt the villagers out of their  indifference to the full intensity of  the Catholic religion,  so he set up his projector  at a gable window in the schoolhouse on a rainy evening, when the light outside was fading.  The effect was dramatic and people alerted others to what was going on.And that should have been the end of that as far as the priest was concerned, except that the the matter in modern terms, went viral.So nobody could admit the truth.   It became a centre of pilgrimage and until modern times the crutches of the "cured"  were  hugely featured. Today millions journey to Knock.As I mentioned, an international airport  has been constructed to accommodate them.   Surely the  biggest fraud in the history of Ireland.

Catholic Church: what are indulgences?

An indulgence is exactly what it is--allowance for something that is not really good for you--but you do it anyway.

The Roman Catholic church exchanges pardons and prayers for money from its faithful followers, for the soul of a loved one, who it may be deemed in jeopardy of hell fire.

The church holds to the view, that if someone were to buy an indulgence--then prayers and supplications can be said by the priests and others in authority, to save the soul of the person or relative or loved one, whose soul may be in jeopardy of being lost in hell or purgatory.

The living relative, who is unable to pay for such a favor aka indulgence, cannot save the soul of their lost relative, who may wander in purgatory, without a means of escape or salvation from that place of torment, where souls the Catholics say goes to, for a period of time, before they can be saved and go to heaven.

The Bible on the other hand says in the book of Hebrews 9V27:"And as it is appointed unto men ONCE to DIE, but after this the judgment:

there is no re-incarnation or second chance to get it right, after death.

The bible says :"there is no REPENTANCE in the Grave."

By the way, I do respect your honest question, and hope you get the answer you need to make the right decision--searching the bible helps you get answers to most questions, that you are not sure about.


What were indulgences, as practiced prior to the Reformation?

None of the above.

• Purgatory •

To discuss indulgences, first we have to talk about Purgation (or Purgatory).

Are you perfect now? Most people would say no.

Will you be perfect in heaven? Most people believe yes.

Purgatory (or purgation) is the process of God's love changing our imperfect selves into perfect beings. Depending on the amount of change needed by different people this can be an easy or slightly harder process.

Everyone in purgatory is on their way to heaven. I don't think Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a very hard time of it.

• Indulgences •

The concept is that a person can do acts of penance now on earth to make purgation easier.

Penance is internally turning one's heart toward God and away from sin in hope in divine mercy and externally by fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

A corruption grew in the Church many years ago where rich people would give enough alms (money to the Church) to essentially buy an easy way from purgatory to heaven. This was one of Martin Luther's protests (hence Protestants) and shortly thereafter the Catholic Church cleaned up this practice.

In 1567 Pope Pius V canceled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions.

But remember because everyone in purgatory is already on their way to heaven, indulgences do not get you into heaven. They just make purgation easier.

I guess if you did not believe in purgatory then there would be no reason to worry about indulgences.

With love in Christ.

What did martin luther have a problem with indulgences?

Ok, in that time of the renaissance indulgences were when wealthy people would pay the church money in order to be forgiven of their sins in order to go to heaven. Often like a receipt they would get a paper from the church saying that "Your sins are forgiven and you are on your way to heaven." However, Martin Luther thought that this idea was wrong because the church was stealing peoples money and getting away with it. So he wrote the 95 thesis, explaining 95 statements why the church was bad and not being holy as it should be. :).