Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions.
Do Good Works Merit the Soul in Mortal Sin? And 10 Others Questions on Indulgences
Q. 839. What is an Indulgence?
A. An Indulgence is the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin.
Q. 840. What does the word “indulgence” mean?
A. The word indulgence means a favor or concession. An indulgence obtains by a very slight penance the remission of penalties that would otherwise be severe.
Q. 841. Is an Indulgence a pardon of sin, or a license to commit sin?
A. An Indulgence is not a pardon of sin, nor a license to commit sin, and one who is in a state of mortal sin cannot gain an Indulgence.
SECOND PART To Deny Indulgences Is to Deny the Merit of Jesus Christ: 11 Questions on Merit and Grace
Q. 850. How do we know that these Indulgences have their effect?
A. We know that these Indulgences have their effect, because the Church, through her councils, declares Indulgences useful, and if they have no effect they would be useless, and the Church would teach error in spite of Christ’s promise to guide it.
Q. 851. Have there ever existed abuses among the faithful in the manner of using Indulgences?
A. There have existed, in past ages, some abuses among the faithful in the manner of using Indulgences, and the Church has always labored to correct such abuses as soon as possible. In the use of pious practices we must be always guided by our lawful superiors.
Q. 852. How have the enemies of the Church made use of the abuse of Indulgences?
A. The enemies of the Church have made use of the abuse of Indulgences to deny the doctrine of Indulgences, and to break down the teaching and limit the power of the Church. Not to be deceived in matters of faith, we must always distinguish very carefully between the abuses to which a devotion may lead and the truths upon which the devotion rests.
THIRD PART Move Past the Protestant Propaganda 8 More Questions on Indulgences
Q. 861. What works are generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences?
A. The works generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences are: The saying of certain prayers, fasting, and the use of certain articles of devotion; visits to Churches or altars, and the giving of alms. For the gaining of Plenary Indulgences it is generally required to go to confession and Holy Communion and pray for the intention of the Pope.
Q. 862. What does praying for a person’s intention mean?
A. Praying for a person’s intention means praying for whatever he prays for or desires to obtain through prayer — some spiritual or temporal favors.
Q. 863. What does an Indulgence of forty days mean?
A. An Indulgence of forty days means that for the prayer or work to which an Indulgence of forty days is attached, God remits as much of our temporal punishment as He remitted for forty days’ canonical penance. We do not know just how much temporal punishment God remitted for forty days’ public penance, but whatever it was, He remits the same now when we gain an Indulgence of forty days. The same rule applies to Indulgences of a year or any length of time.