From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Christianity / Theology / Catholicism / Eastern / Lutheranism (Rated B-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Christianity, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Christianity on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by theology work group (marked as Low-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Catholicism (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Eastern Orthodoxy.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Lutheranism (marked as Mid-importance).
WikiProject Middle Ages (Rated B-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Middle Ages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the Middle Ages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.

Historical Signifigance[edit]

There is currently no section in the acticle concerning the way in which the refutation of the doctrine of indulgences started Martin Luther on the road toward the Reformation. There should be a section that deals with this. More importantly this article reads like a piece of Roman Catholic doctrine than a proper encyclopediac entry. To not mention the important controversy regarding them, and then to paint the Catholic practise as proper but give modern examples of unethical behaviour by protestant televangilists also clouds this article with political bias. Indulgences do have a historical signifigance to Western culture that extends beyond their Roman Catholic dogma. Humble Servant 20:54, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

I agree 100%. Besides being barely understandable to a non-catholic reader, this article has a strong church-apologist POV PermanentE 23:23, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree as well, the article's POV is seems very much as though it was coming from a member of the church. This article needs to be re-written as NPOV. 16:56, 6 September 2007 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
I find this article to be a well written explanation of Catholic Doctrine. As a catholic, seeking a current indulgence offered by Pope Benedict, I had some specific questions about indulgences answered by reading this article. Where better to get an explanation of catholic doctrine than from somebody closely associated with the church? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:31, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Do indulgences still exist in the Roman Catholic Church[edit]

Today, indulgences does not exist in Roman Catholic Church

Is this true? I can understand why they might not be selling them anymore. But my understanding is that indulgences could still be obtained by performing ritual acts like praying to certain saints or going on pilgrimages to shrines and so forth. At least, this was the impression I got last time I spoke with the Blue Army rosary ladies, which has been a few year. Smerdis of Tlön 04:12, 27 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Also, can we withhold judgment on whether Luther was correct in characterizing the marketing of indulgences as a sale of indulgences? Hasdrubal 02:51, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Why? Your remark suggests that there isn't really a controversy to withhold judgment on, there being no difference between "marketing" and "selling". -- Smerdis of Tlön 04:13, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  • The statement "Today, indulgences does (sic) not exist in Roman Catholic Church (sic)" is incorrect, both doctrinally and grammatically. Indulgences do still exist in the RCC, and they are earned (never sold) for performing various actions. (In 1567, Pope Pius V, following the Council of Trent, forbade the attachment of indulgences to any financial act, including the giving of alms.)
For example, praying the Angelus each day earns a partial indulgence.
As for whether Martin Luther was correct or not, I believe this is an issue of POV. What should be said is "Martin Luther characterized the marketing of indlugences as a sale of indulgences." If anything else, it could be said, equally NPOV, that the RCC denies this. Whether Luther was or was not correct in his assessment is a matter of opinion, not fact, and is inherrently POV, but that he made the assessment is a matter of fact and NPOV. Equally so, whether the RCC is or is not correct in believing that Luther was incorrct is a matter of opinion; that the RCC holds this position is a matter of fact. Essjay 06:25, Jun 8, 2005 (UTC)
Indulgences do exist in the Roman Catholic Church today. The Council of Trent abolished all connections indulgences had with money, but they did not abolish indulgences themselves. The Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants is still authorized and published by the Catholic Book Publishing Corp. with a version copyrighted as recently as 1991. Andy120 17:22, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
I think they upgraded the spell so you have to be an 8th level cleric to cast Plenary Indulgence now. -- Rogerborg 11:20, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Seriously, I think that Rogerborg is ignorant, cynical and anti-catholic and he is mocking our catholic faith because he is brain-washed by Chick Publications, which is banned in many countries around the world and simply using anti-catholicism to enrich their coffers. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in Part Two, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 4, Item X that "an Indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfaction of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either partial or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead." (CCC 1471 to 1498). The authority to forgive sins and to grant indulgences that is bound on earth and in heaven was given to the Church by Christ Himself. (Mt 16:19). However, an Indulgence is only effective in so far as there's true repentant or contrition for the sins forgiven. Benitus (talk) 00:41, 30 December 2007 (UTC)


I've overhauled this article; I'd appreciate a review or imput on the "other Christian traditions" section, as I can only speak to the Catholic and DOC positions. Essjay 09:24, Jun 8, 2005 (UTC)

Other Christian Traditions[edit]

The section on other Christian traditions may require some nuances. Most Protestants reject a doctrine of purgatory, but not all. C.S. Lewis is an obvious (but not lone) example. Orthodox Christians definitely reject "Purgatory" under that Latin name, but many suggest other ways that souls may be cleansed or purified after death that most Catholic theologians would consider "a distinction without a difference" (c.f. this Catholic "Cleansed After Death" article). So while it is generally safe to say that neither Protestants nor Orthodox believe in purgatory or grant indulgences, there are some similar beliefs and practices among them. Johnaugus

I can't recall anything in Lewis that suggests that he believed in Purgatory (The Great Divorce, for example, begins with an explicit disclaimer that he is *not* speculating about conditions in the afterlife, but presenting an allegory). The article on Purgatory makes a similar claim for Lewis -- any citations?

--jrcagle 23:58, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

C.S. Lewis's position is sketchy at best in regards to purgatory, but his belief's, as representative of protestant doctrine, is immaterial. A review of mainline Protestant churches, Anglican, Luthern, Presbyterian, United, all refute the dogma of purgatory. There is no similar belief or practise I am aware of among Protestants. Humble Servant 03:20, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

I added a reference to something like Indulgences in the Pharisaic tradition. Jonathan Tweet 14:32, 4 October 2006 (UTC) -

--I would like to know the reference for the quotation from Patriarch Dositheus regarding the distribution of indulgences to the Eastern Orthodox. --Cristianispir 14:23, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

I have now found a related reference to a similar citation alleged to be that of Dositheus: "We have the custom and ancient tradition, which is known to all, that the most holy Patriarchs would give the people of the Church a certificate for the absolution of their sins.(Sinhorohartion) in A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Symvolai eis tin istorian tis arkhiepiskopis tou orous Sina (Towards a History of the Archbishopric of Sinan). Saint Petersburg, 1908. p. 133."--Cristianispir 14:44, 14 November 2006 (UTC)


In another occurrance of the continual war to change Reconciliation to Confession, this page has now been hit. I've said it before, and I'm sure I will have to say it again. The Catechism says Reconciliation, the Code of Canon Law says reconciliation, JP2 said reconciliation, B16 says reconciliation, and Francis Cardinal Arinze of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments says reconciliation. It isn't called confession anymore, it is RECONCILIATION! -- Essjay · Talk 04:17, August 7, 2005 (UTC)

I disagree; The Code of Canon Law says Penance(Cann. 959 - 997), not reconciliation. Andy120 17:27, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
Maybe when the old/alternative term is as widely recognised as this, it would be worth mentioning it at the first use in the article - if only for the benefit of readers less well versed in contemporary terminology? Something like sacrament of reconciliation (sometimes known as confession)? Or the other way round, I suppose - I have no axe to grind. - Paul 04:20, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
Please allow me to throw in my two-bits worth because I was recently researching this Sacrament to prepare to teach my Religious Instruction class for some elderly baptists and I found some disquieting truths. Yes, this Sacrament used to be known as the Sacrament of Penance and still is known as such. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Article 4, CCC 1422 to 1498), it is officially described as the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, although it is equally referred to as the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation at different places, depending on the topic being discussed. "Confession" has always been a colloquial and practical term used to refer to the reception of the Sacrament of Penance, although many lay catholics (both past and present) have often referred to it as being the Sacrament of Confession, which is allowed for within the Catechism, e.g. the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is variously called the "sacrament of conversion", the "sacrament of Penance" (CCC 1423), the "sacrament of confession", the "sacrament of forgiveness", and the "sacrament of reconciliation" (CCC 1424). The Code of Canon Law was revised before the revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was released, which may account for the apparent anomaly but Pope JP2 himself did encourage the use of the term "Sacrament of Reconciliation" rather than the term "Sacrament of Penance" (although both are equally correct and acceptable) because "penance" suggests negativity whereas "reconciliation" suggests positivity and the church encourages us to be positive about all the seven holy sacraments, which were instituted to restore us to a state of sanctifying grace or an increase of sacramental grace. Hence, the elderly people (even for Pope B16 himself) tend to refer to it as the Sacrament of Penance (more by force of habit than anything else) while the younger or newer catholics and converts like myself would prefer to refer to it as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At the end of the day, as long as we know what we're talking about, anything that works for anyone of us is equally acceptable to the church, so we shouldn't lose any sleep over the use of different terminology. Benitus (talk) 22:01, 29 December 2007 (UTC)


Does the concept of Simony relate to the practice of Indulgences especially during the dark ages when Indulgences were one of the main issues spawning the Reformation?

Simony (the selling of church offices) begins not in the "dark ages" -- which are generally taken to be the period between the fall of Rome and the ascendency of Charlemagne or perhaps Otto I -- but somewhat later. The practice occurred at the highest levels in the 11th century with Gregory VI; Gregory VII condemned it [1]. The Reformation is linked to simony in a way. The Archbishop of Mainz had to pay a rather large fee in return for his post, and his authorization of Tetzel to sell indulgences was a way to recoup the losses (Cameron, p. 100). Whether or not this was simony is probably debated; the fee was I believe technically a fee for the dispensation to allow the under-age Mainz to take the post.--jrcagle 00:18, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

Bold text

Manual of Indulgences[edit]

The revised Manual of Indulgences (1999) is now out in an English version. It is excellent. The USCCB is the publisher.

Image removed[edit]

I've removed the image of an alleged indulgence by Tetzel (Image:Indulgence.png). There are serious doubts as to its authenticity. See [2] . Fut.Perf. 09:42, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

granted AFTER the sinner confesses?[edit]

There is a crucial point glossed over here. The article states that indulgences only apply to sins already confessed and forgiven, and the "Myths About Indulgences" reference specifically states that a person can't "buy forgiveness" or apply indulgences for sins yet committed; yet when Luther wrote his Theses, many people (both priests and laymen) believed that indulgences could be used that way. That was one of the primary reasons for the controversy, and also a primary reason that many people now believe indulgences are no longer part of Church teaching. This article states a specific technical definition of an indulgence without mentioning the common understanding, which was and is widely held. Shouldn't it mention the difference, so as to shed light on the controversies? User:keno 20:55, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

Mortal sins forgiven in confession can still leave time in Purgatory. Indulgences are for time in Purgatory, but never for time in Hell. In the Reformation period some people were giving a misrepresentation of the indulgenced act of almsgiving and making it seem like buying. It was supposed to be charitable donations. I think it is important for the article to always explain this misunderstood Catholic concept too. GreyTanBrown (talk) 01:54, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
I don't think it is a misrepresentation to characterize indulgences as buying your way out of punishment. Getting out of going to hell is free for any Catholic going to confession. There would be no point in selling such a thing to Catholics because they already get it for free (unless they are excommunicated or whatnot). The only punishment a practicing Catholic faces is time in purgatory so please I would ask that no one minimize the significance of buying one's way out of that. Also just because something is "supposed" to be for charitable donations does not mean it always is. For starters the pardoners themselves would take a cut before passing the money on to church officials who (depending on the location and time period) might have been corrupt.Maigo.opetrenko (talk) 17:46, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Since 1567 no indulgence is granted involving any fee or financial transaction. If the verb "is" is used, it is the wrong tense by four and a half centuries. Esoglou (talk) 19:18, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
That is a blatant half-truth. An institution that is very old cannot be described completely by its current doctrine only. This is true for governments, organizations, religions and professions.Maigo.opetrenko (talk) 00:42, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

Merge "Treasury of Merit" into "Indulgences"[edit]

I suggest merging Treasury of Merit into this article. "Treasure House" is very short, marked as having quality issues, and at one time the subject of a delete discussion. It essentially just a definition needed for this article. The only other link to it comes from Martin Luther which would probably do better by pointing here instead. Hult041956 17:51, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

I'm not a cradle catholic but I've been a very active student of catholic history and the catholic church. I used to be a bible-quoting, gung-ho protestant before God led me into the catholic church, so I'm very familiar with the arguments of both sides of the christian divide. I don't believe that the catholic church practises any such thing as a "Treasure House of Merit". In fact, personal merits acquired by individuals cannot be sold or transferred to another person, although we can secure favors from God for people we care about through our prayers and merits. Our Lord only spoke about the need for us to store treasure in heaven through our acts of charity, prayers, sacrifices, penances, self-denials, atonement, etc. The so-called practice of selling indulgences or even of merits was un-catholic and un-christian, limited to some zealots or corrupted few of the Middle Ages within the church (who sought to raise funds among the nobles of that time to build churches or to pay for the defence of the church against muslim expansion) before the Catholic reformation prompted by the Council of Trent, which banned or banished such un-catholic activities that were not approved by the magisterium of the church. Only anti-catholics would continue to use such mistakes by a limited few to attack the catholic church and the christian faith it professes, which has largely remained unchanged since the time of Christ. Yes, Martin Luther had strong objections to such practices and rightly so but he was wrong to take it upon himself to use such mistakes to attack the church in a vain attempt to force the church to make changes, rather than to work on securing changes within the church because his actions were tantamount to placing himself above God, which resulted in creating his own church (and setting a very bad example for others to do the same which ended up with more than 30,000 different christian churches) that was not of God's making, i.e. he founded a church to believe in God in his own way and not the way that Jesus had taught us. The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Himself and established by His Apostles, which is the only true church of Christ, regardless of whatever shortcomings that may have been created by the leaders of the church, and Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Mt 16:18-19). God allowed the human leaders of the church to make mistakes that led to dissatisfaction which prompted reforms that were necessary for change with the times but never once, did any of the Popes or Bishops change the constitution of the church, i.e. the dogmas of the church, to justify their wrong-doings and all of them died repentant of their sins.

Therefore, the very entry for "Treasure House of Merit" is wrong by itself (as there is no such thing, other than what was alleged of the catholic church by protestants and anti-catholics) but if you decide to merge it with the entry on "Indulgence", then Wikipedia would run the risk of being biased and be considered irrelevant by both catholics and non-christians seeking the truth of historical facts. Wikipedia should in fact remove the entry "Treasure House of Merit" itself, simply because there is no such thing within the doctrines of the catholic church. You may refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Catholic Encyclopedia to confirm whether such a thing as "Treasure House of Merit" truly exists or not within the catholic church. Thank you. Benitus (talk) 21:27, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

If Martin Luther felt it important enough to mention in his 95 theses, then it is worthy of mention here, even if he was mistaken. As long as there are verifiable sources and a neutral POV, that is. Perhaps merging with the article on Martin Luther would be more appropriate thoughBeeblbrox (talk) 00:04, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Then that article should discuss Luther's notion of the "Treasure House of Merit", and not portray it as current or historical Catholic doctrine. I will, as I have time, be rewriting this article considerably. Gimmetrow 02:48, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

Neutrality issues[edit]

The section on mortal sin versus versus in particular seems to present Catholic theology as fact. It seems to me a POV edit is needed here.Beeblbrox (talk) 23:20, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Precisely what would that involve? putting "According to Catholic theology" before every sentence? Gimmetrow 20:58, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
We could add the "In-universe" template. Gigs (talk) 07:46, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

I changed contrary to "dogmatic truth" for "dogmatic teachings"!!!!!!!!!, Abuses? was the church that was selling those indulgences sponsored by the pope who was financing the church this way, the article makes it sound as if it were some rogue christians. it sound like if it had been written by a priest, it has no neutrality what so ever..... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:56, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

I flagged this article as biased recently but I would respectfully diagree with your take on what was sponsored by the pope. In the strictest sense there were representatives of the church presenting things in a way that was never on an official Papal Bull. Still I take issue with this article presenting the church as faultless. No matter how distantly coupled pardoners were to official church representatives, the church would still very often take their ill-gotten money for various causes both charitable and corrupt. I say chariable and corrupt because the author also seems to imply that all the money gotten always went to charitable causes ("churches, hospitals, leper colonies, schools, roads, and bridges." under the Abuses section). It is well known that corrupt priests and other church officials were always present to some extent no matter the time period (including today). When you have any organization the size of the Catholic church there is going to a sizable number of bad apples at any given moment. Maigo.opetrenko (talk) 17:37, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

I have yet again flagged this article as being biased. Whoever is removing the tag before there is consensus here is violating Wikipedia's NPOV policy. I do not have an axe to grind against religion or the Catholic Church. I often find the history and theology of the Catholic Church fascinating. I am a career scholar who recognizes the role of Catholicism in maintaining academia throughout the Middle Ages and continuing to be a part of it today. I also recognize that there are certain things that one cannot fully appreciate about a religion from the point of view of an outsider. HOWEVER, I maintain that this article fails to meet the standards of neutrality in terms of tone or presentation. I repeat do NOT remove the POV dispute tag without consensus that it is written in a neutral point of view.Maigo.opetrenko (talk) 00:54, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

I've removed it, years-long, unspecific NPOV concerns don't get resolved. Make an edit, wait for it to be disputed/ververted, *then* tag NPOV and come here. See WP:BRD. Please be sure to ground your changes in reliable, secondary sources, not your own understanding. Thank you. --j⚛e deckertalk 19:49, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Plenary Indulgences[edit]

Yes they still exist in RCC. To earn one, the faithful must confess his/her sins and receive the body of Christ within a short period of time after the indulgence is granted. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:18, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

need more info —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:19, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

The article says: "To gain a plenary indulgence, a person must exclude all attachment to sin of any kind, even venial sin, must perform the work or say the prayer for which the indulgence is granted, and must also fulfil the three conditions of sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and praying for the intentions of the Pope." It gives several examples of actions for which plenary indulgences are granted (on those conditions). What more do you want? Lima (talk) 04:06, 25 April 2008 (UTC)


The article addresses nicely the function of indulgences according to Catholic beliefs. It does not, however, address the function of indulgences from an objective or impartial perspective. This is frequently a problem with Wikipedia articles on religion. The function of indulgences is to perpetuate Catholicism by making people go back to "the flock" if they steer away from it. For example, if a person does something suggesting that they are not obeying the priests, the priest tells the person to attend a retreat or to attend an absolution by the bishop as part of the indulgence - in this way, as people inevitably "sin" and feel guilty for it, the Church guarantees that there will be regular attendance of its retreats and the bishop's ceremonies. The function is clearly preservation and perpetuation of the religion, whereas Catholics believe that it has something to do with spirituality. These are two different explanations of the function of indulgences, but the article addresses only the internal one and omits the objective explanation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:41, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Firstly, new comments go on the bottom of the page. Secondly, to call any of what you wrote here as "objective" is laughable. It clearly is anti-religious in tone and content. It certainly doesn't belong in the article, as this article, like most religous topics, exists to describe what people believe, not give credance to attempts at explaining away other's beliefs. If you want to do that, get a blog. oknazevad (talk) 23:42, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Our job here isn't to argue what is "right" based on our understanding. I'd say to both of you, go find reliable, independent, third-party sources, and if you want to say something that isn't already in the article, use those sources as groundwork. See also WP:BRD. Every other strategy fails to converge to a neutral article. Thank you. --j⚛e deckertalk 19:52, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Temporal Punishment[edit]

There doesn't seem to be a good explanation in this article or in the WikiPedia of "temporal punishment". Could someone please provide more definition and examples? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:20, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

Temporal punishment in the context of indulgences means "temporary" or more specifically not "eternal". In Catholic theology if someone dies with a mortal (as opposed to venal sin) unconfessed they suffer eternal damnation. Temporal punishment refers to the punishment that someone suffers for sins of any kind that cannot be erased by confession and forgiveness. Distinguishing between guilt and punishment becomes very important because guilt means that someone has the "liability of guilt" and the "liability of punishment".

I recently flagged this article by disputing its neutrality partly because there is a lack of detail on this very subject. This is because I feel that the nature of indulgences being only for temporal punishment is being left unexplained and possibly minimized. Technically as long as a Catholic confesses their sins the only punishment they will ever face (based on their own dogma) is temporal punishment (in Purgatory I think? no sure about that... ). I can't help but feel that the lack of this information is being used to minimize the significance of an indulgence. If someone can theoretically perform a mortal sin, go to confession and then get an indulgence they would theoretically face no punishment whatsoever. In an economic sense no one would pay for confession because confession is always free, making an indulgence the thing of value. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Maigo.opetrenko (talkcontribs) 17:24, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

"Getting an indulgence" does not mean having to face no temporal punishment whatsoever. That would be the effect (at least for some moments) of a plenary indulgence, but the article makes clear how hard it is to gain a plenary indulgence: "To gain a plenary indulgence, a person must exclude all attachment to sin of any kind, even venial sin ..." Only someone who, at least for a moment, is a truly saintly person can be said to exclude all attachment to sin of any kind. Normally, an indulgence is only a partial help towards the cleansing that one hopes to achieve bit by bit by accepting trials and sufferings in this life, by prayer and by works of mercy and charity.
In view of the hesitant supposition mentioned here that temporal punishment (cleansing of attachment to creatures) is undergone only after death (in purgatory), I have endeavoured to make clearer in the article what it already states: that temporal punishment is undergone also in this life - indeed, in the case of some people perhaps overwhelmingly so or even completely so. Esoglou (talk) 19:12, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

After reading the article over a couple of times I believe there is a great reference point that can be used to explain what temporal sin/punishment is and what indulgences do in a much more concise manner. The word to compare it to is karma. The concept of temporal sin is basically the idea of karma. You do bad things, which disconnect you from God's Grace, which causes you to be punished in the material world and/or spend time in purgatory if you die before you absolve yourself of those sins. Therefore, indulgences are essentially a way to reduce your bad karma. You do certain things for, or in the name of, the Church, and they say that your karmic sentence is reduced. This is a simplified explanation of what this article is about that connects it to something most people have heard of and have a basic understanding of. (talk) 14:54, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

"Temporal" here just means "not eternal", and is unrelated to concepts such as karma. Esoglou (talk) 17:47, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
As a procedural matter, you would need to find a reliable secondary source that made such a comparison in order for it to be added to the article, but as Esoglou suggests, that would not be possible because karma and temporal punishment are unrelated. According to Catholic theology, temporal punishment does not make up for sin, nor are you separated from God's grace until you receive it. Karma (not a concept in Catholic theology) is about getting what you deserve -- temporal punishment is about purification.PStrait (talk) 01:24, 20 July 2013 (UTC)

In 1985, my in-laws were ordered to pay $15000 to a Catholic church in Houston TX for indulgences/temporal punishment for my brother-in-law when he met an untimely death. Stop lying to people saying there is no such thing. [1] (talk) 14:34, 27 February 2014 (UTC)RM


are there not historic attestations to indulgences that were acts of simony? (talk) 13:22, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

In 1985, my in-laws were ordered to pay $15000 to a Catholic church in Houston TX for indulgences/temporal punishment for my brother-in-law when he met an untimely death. [1] (talk) 14:34, 27 February 2014 (UTC)RM — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

From what I've read on the subject, indulgences crept up in the Greek Church as a Latinization. There were apparently a number of councils that formed to directly address these Latinizations, it was just that the matter of the absolution certificates wasn't realized as one until the 19th century, and it wasn't until the 20th century that they were completely rooted out. I assume that they were excused for so long due to the heavy taxes, which the article does mention, that were levied on Christians (especially the Church) by the Ottomans; they excused their extortion of the laity to pay off Ottoman extortion of the Church. The evidence available shows no real history of them before the 16th century, yet the article makes it sound like they were there since the beginning. They were only officially noted in Church writings somewhere in the 17th or 18th century. I think, as currently written, it sounds a bit misleading. -HawkeyE (talk) 06:01, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

It would be a good idea to insert into the article the evidence of reliable sources about the relatively recent origin of those certificates. That evidence would then correct (or counterbalance?) the statement by Patriarch Dositheos at the end of the 17th century that it was "an established custom and ancient tradition, known to all, that the Most Holy Patriarchs give the absolution certificate to the faithful people … they have granted them from the beginning and still do." Esoglou (talk) 06:44, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

Mischaracterizes Luther and the 95 theses[edit]

This article misrepresents Luther's critique in the 95 theses, or at least is so unclear as to be misleading. Luther did not "reject the Pope's authority to grant pardons." In fact in the theses he specifically affirms that the Pope, along with bishops, has the authority to absolve sins. His criticism has to do on the one hand with the impression that common people were receiving, which was that buying indulgences could free loved ones from purgatory or somehow granted them the right to sin with impunity. On the other Luther pointed out that temporal punishments associated with sin could not be remitted by the church because those punishments were not determined by clergy or the church but by God, and moreover that the temporal punishments inflicted by God on earth or in purgatory (which Luther still acknowledged in the writing of the theses) were beneficial for the forgiven sinner. Truly penitent sinners, he writes, are glad to receive afflictions from God because through them God crucifies the old man. He acknowledges that the Pope can remit ecclesiastical penalties laid out in canon law, but raises several strong objections--first of all, those penalties had fallen into disuse anyway, so the indulgence is superfluous. Secondly, canon law does not impose ecclesiastical penalties on the dying or the souls in purgatory anyway. Third, if the pope did have the authority to remit temporal punishments either in purgatory or on earth, charity would seem to dictate that he simply grant plenary indulgences gratuitously, just as absolution is granted to penitent or contrite sinners without payment. A reading of the 95 theses--which are not very long--would make it clear that the present wording of the article misrepresents Luther's critique. Even after maturing in his theology, Luther taught until the end of his life that ministers had been given the authority to forgive sins in Christ's name. Whatever footnote is cited to back up the claim that Luther denied that bishops or the pope have the authority to pardon needs to be checked. Finally, since the sale of indulgences is so critical to the history of Lutheranism in particular and by extension to the rest of protestantism, this ought not simply to be an article detailing catholic dogma concerning indulgences but needs to have an extended section discussing the implications of Rome's teaching on indulgences for the larger critique of the Roman church by fully developed Lutheran and Reformed theology. The Luther who wrote the 95 theses does not seem to express the "Lutheran" doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone that came to characterize the reformation of the church triggered by these abuses of indulgences in Germany. In general, doing justice to this topic requires acknowledging the significance of indulgences for protestants, getting what the 95 theses say right, and making clear that the critique of the 95 theses is not at all the same as the general protestant rejection of catholic teaching on indulgences, nor is it even Luther's later critique, nor does it represent Lutheran teaching on confession and absolution, repentance, human merit, or justification. It is very much a criticism written by a Roman Catholic monk not outside of the mainstream of catholic theology at the time. The 95 theses were very well received by church leaders who were unwilling to follow Luther's later teaching. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:12, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

I think it is important to note that just because Luther tried at tried at first to keep his teachings within Catholic dogma does not mean he agreed with any of it. The church was very powerful at the time and later in the 16th century Galileo had to deny what he saw with his own eyes through a telescope under threat of torture. Luther was no doubt trying to be flexible by changing the church from within but he was never truly safe until his break with the Catholic Church received state backing. Also I think it is an exaggeration to say his 95 theses were "well received". He was not dismissed out of hand because the Church would rather rein him in than denounce him, considering how much popular sentiment he had stirred up. Until he came along, all those throughout history who had not bent to Catholic authority were burned at the stake. You cannot say he agreed with Church policy at first, because technically he initially never had the option to disagree. (talk) 19:26, 5 June 2013 (UTC)


The text seems unnecessarily complex, with a penchant for abstract language over concrete. The introductory paragraph should at least be comprehensible to a non-Catholic. There is no lucid one-sentence definition of "indulgence."

"In Catholic theology, an indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment[1] due for sins which have already been forgiven."

This might read better as something like "Once a sin has been forgiven, a Catholic can be granted an indulgence from the Church to lessen the amount of time the person might otherwise spend in prayer, good works, and other penance."

There, concrete rather than abstract.

And this:

Indulgences replaced the severe penances of the early Church.[4] More exactly, they replaced the shortening of those penances that was allowed at the intercession of those imprisoned and those awaiting martyrdom for the faith.

If the first sentence is inexact and misleading, why is it there? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:45, 17 November 2012 (UTC)

Agreed. I would try to fix the intro, but I am honestly not sure what some of those sentences are trying to say. - Darwin/Peacock [Talk] 00:07, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

The opening summary can double as a list of catholic jargon. It makes no sense to someone without a deep understanding of catholicism.Russ1642 (talk) 19:06, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Indeed, indulgences make no sense to someone without a deep understanding of Catholicism. Esoglou (talk) 19:54, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
I think "deep understanding" overstates something that has more to do with legality than mysticism or spirtuality. Temporal punishment, indulgence, remission, etc. these are all words that can be reasonably translated into more concrete terms as seen above... "Once a sin has been forgiven, a Catholic can be granted an indulgence from the Church to lessen the amount of time the person might otherwise spend in prayer, good works, and other penance." Saying that just because something is accurately stated in one language or jargon-speak is not justification for leaving it untranslated. The question here is this... is the ordinary speech version inaccurate? If not, what is the problem with it being there in order to make the definition more accessible? Describing a technical term in ordinary language is fine as long as you give examples and make sure the reader understands that they are not qualified to come up with other examples until they get into the details. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:38, 5 June 2013 (UTC)
  • I think that the lead paragraph could at least stand to be completely rewritten. The problem is that at the moment, it feels like it was written by an annoyed user determined to dispel what they see as common misconceptions about indulgences front-and-center. That's not the sort of thing that should go in the lead paragraph -- it should tell people what an indulgence is rather than what it isn't. Discussing common misconceptions can come later. I also think that it is absolutely essential to mention the historical practice of selling indulgences in the lead, probably with its own complete paragraph, since that is likely to be the context under which most non-Catholics are familiar with the term and, therefore, the main thing that makes it noteworthy to them. --Aquillion (talk) 23:28, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
Responding to Aquillion's remark, I have moved out of the lead all talk of "misconceptions about indulgences" . Esoglou (talk) 08:28, 14 September 2014 (UTC)
I totally agree with the above commenter. The entire first half of this article is way too dense and full of complex terms. I had to wade through it and re-read it several times before I could understand what exactly it was trying to say, and I wasn't even sure I got it right then. The intro to an article ought to summarize the topic in clear language that normal people can understand. I also was inclined to fix it myself, but found myself not entirely sure what the paragraph actually SAID! That doesn't seem like a desirable state of things on a wikipedia article. If you want to give the "official church definition, in all of its obfuscating glory, fine, but it should be accompanied by a statement that "in plain terms, this means..."..45Colt 19:35, 20 September 2015 (UTC)
I appreciate the effort to make this article clearer, and I support changes which will bring about that goal. But we need to work carefully and not misrepresent the topic. "time otherwise spent in prayer, good works, and other penance" is only part of the picture. The addition did not mention Purgatory at all. "showing contrition" for sin happens in the Confessional too, so that needs to be clarified. Indulgences can be gained without making a sacramental Confession, these are partial indulgences. No mention is made of applying the indulgence to souls in Purgatory - this is a fault in the whole article, not merely in the proposed addition. Indulgences were never sold, this is a myth that is debunked in the article itself, yet it found its way into the proposed addition. I suggest that rather than making unsourced additions, we consult sources such as primer on indulgences and myths about indulgences and CUF - Indulgences and Diocese of Lansing - what are indulgences? and Diocese of Bismarck - Indulgences and Madison Catholic Herald and the sources already in the article, and see what we can build from there. Elizium23 (talk) 23:53, 20 September 2015 (UTC)

Well, all I did was summarize what the article said, or so I thought. Trouble is, that even your explanation given above makes very little sense to me as a non-Catholic. Wikipedia ought to make sense to people who don't know all about theology as well. As for your claim that it is a myth that indulgences are sold, then perhaps someone should change the language in the article, where it mentions "Greedy commissaries sought to extract the maximum amount of money for each indulgence", the Church using indulgences to fund their projects, even a reference to "aggressive marketing" of indulgences. If that isn't the language of retail, I don't know what it is. If all of that is totally inaccurate, then it ought to plainly say so. And I just went through the entire article carefully, and I don't seen ANYTHING that appears to "debunk" the idea of indulgences were "ever" sold. Are you claiming that they DIDN'T sell in indulgences in the Middle Ages? If you would kindly point out the lines where it says "indulgences are not now, nor ever were, given to church members in exchange for monetary contributions", I could greatly appreciate it. As it is, there is a part of the article which seems to very plainly say that they DID sell indulgences for money. You shouldn't have one article saying two different things, in any case. If there is some scholarly dispute as to whether it ever happened, it ought to say "other scholars deny that this ever happened, for ____ reason". Again, I see nothing that would suggest clearly that what it states in the body of the article is incorrect. Of course, I'm at a disadvantage, not being a theology student. There must be a way to phrase all this apparently essential obscure detail in plain English; it shouldn't be required to copy the language directly out of whatever book of Catholic Doctrines its written in. Anyway, if indulgences WEREN'T sold, it needs to very clearly state as such, for plain people, because that was what I and tens of thousands of people were taught in High School. Literally. Normal people ought to be able to benefit from Wikipedia as well. They deserve to have their ignorance removed (if, indeed, what were taught is false), and articles like this are not the way to do it. And I appreciate your adding a "simple statement" of the meaning of indulgences to replace the one I used (not that I see how that was incorrect...and I didn't write it, I used the one the first commenter came up with), but your sentence just raises more is "reduces the punishment" better than "reduces the time spent in penance"? One thing that I can glean from the article is that there is TWO kinds of "punishment" (although personally I think it's kind of messed up that they consider praying and doing good works a form of "punishment"). I would think that saying "penance" is a good way to demonstrate that it DOESN'T refer to Damnation, etc. "Punishment" can mean either type of punishment, and saying "temporal punishment" isn't going to make things any clearer for the average person. How is "prayer, good works, and other penance" different from "temporal punishment"? And if the article itself doesn't say anything about purgatory, what good would it do to mention it in the "simple explanation" for plain people? If both me and the other guy read the article and apparently came away with same "inaccurate" idea of what it was saying, then maybe that's a problem with the article itself. If ALL of your students fail the test, maybe it's a problem with you, not them. I would be extremely happy if some knowledgeable person would summarize the idea behind indulgences, but it's been several years since the first commenter brought the subject up, and no-one had bothered to do so. And while your at it, what ARE indulgences? It (sort of)explains what they DO, and WHY, but what ARE they? Who gives them out, and how? Could they be considered a form of reprieve? A partial pardon?.45Colt 04:47, 21 September 2015 (UTC)

  • It might be a myth that indulgences were sold officially and legitimately, but it is certainly not a myth that they were sold and generally commercialized by lower and middle levels of the clergy in the later Middle Ages. This was widely recognised by the Church then and ever since, and is covered in the article, as it is eg in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Johnbod (talk) 15:26, 21 September 2015 (UTC)
I've tried to expand and clarify the lead. Johnbod (talk) 15:57, 21 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks, John, that looks very good. Elizium23 (talk) 19:20, 21 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks - however I have reverted your correction. There's no doubt that the typical "currency" of indulgences until recently was expressed as time (let off) in Purgatory - see eg the CE 1911 "To say that an indulgence of so many days or years is granted means that it cancels an amount of purgatorial punishment equivalent to that which would have been remitted, in the sight of God, by the performance of so many days or years of the ancient canonical penance..." Johnbod (talk) 20:39, 21 September 2015 (UTC)
Read the sentence again. It supports my assertion. Elizium23 (talk) 01:00, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
EWTN - What are indulgences? "In the past partial indulgences were "counted" in days (e.g. 300 days) or years (e.g. 5 years). Catholics often mistakenly thought that this meant "time off of purgatory." Since there is no time in purgatory, as we understand it, it meant instead the remission of temporal punishment analogous to a certain amount of penitence as practiced in the early Church." Elizium23 (talk) 01:05, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
That very refined celestial accounting is not attributed to a RS & frankly I'm dubious - that has certainly not been the understanding of Catholics over the centuries. Johnbod (talk) 02:24, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
EWTN is a RS. Can you find one single RS supporting your assertion? Elizium23 (talk) 02:46, 22 September 2015 (UTC) Jimmy Akin Catholic Answers all agree with me. Elizium23 (talk) 02:48, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
Encyclopaedia Britannica Elizium23 (talk) 02:53, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
Ok, I prefer sources like this. The church certainly did not knock itself out contradicting this pretty universal opinion, & I find it hard to see how indulgences with "values" as high as 40,000 years relate to Early Christian penances! These intriguing snippets and these suggest that the question was less settled among theologians than your sources allow. Johnbod (talk) 03:03, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
Ah, yes - starting here. Johnbod (talk) 03:43, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

Erroneous image legend[edit]

The legend to the Breu woodcut (at Indulgence#Late_medieval_abuses paragraph) claimed that the image shows sale of indulgences. That is not correct. The topic of the image is inflation or in the language of the original legend "abundance of money". The mintmaker answers to this there are 3 reasons: 1. the pope and his indulgences, 2. coining of bad coins (=containing less silver than legal), 3. traders who use wrong weights and measurements. cf. - Thus the image does not show trade of indulgences, it illustrates the 3 mentioned reasons for inflation (including the mounted Pope). CF Depictions of the trade are here: Preacher and cashier, Pope on throne with letters, monk cashing Kipala (talk) 06:55, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Thanks, now corrected by someone, and last image added. Johnbod (talk) 14:52, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Types of indugence[edit]

The article lacks a clear account of the different types of indulgences (plenary, partial, local etc etc), which really deserves its own section, I would suggest straight after the lead. Johnbod (talk) 03:49, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ personal experience