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On Indulgences - Lesson Twenty-First

Baltimore Catechism No. 2 (Confirmation Catechism)


Between lessons on the Sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, the Baltimore Catechism No. 2 inserts a discussion of indulgences, one of the most misunderstood of all Catholic practices.

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, not of the sin itself. Temporal punishment means that which we endure, either in this life or in Purgatory, for having committed sin. When our sins are forgiven, the punishment remains until satisfaction has been made.

The questions are numbered consecutively with Lesson Twentieth. For more information and links to other resources, click on each question below.

231. Q. What is an Indulgence?

A. An Indulgence is the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin.

232. Q. 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.

233. Q. How many kinds of Indulgences are there?

A. There are two kinds of Indulgences—Plenary and Partial.

234. Q. What is a Plenary Indulgence?

A. A Plenary Indulgence is the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.

235. Q. What is a Partial Indulgence?

A. A Partial Indulgence is the remission of a part of the temporal punishment due to sin.

236. Q. How does the Church remit the temporal punishment due to sin?

A. The Church by means of Indulgences remits the temporal punishment due to sin by applying to us the merits of Jesus Christ, and the superabundant satisfactions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints; which merits and satisfactions are its spiritual treasury.

237. Q. What must we do to gain an Indulgence?

A. To gain an Indulgence we must be in the state of grace and perform the works enjoined.

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