John Tetzel: Unscrupulous 16th century monk who lied about indulgences, to make money.

… Pope Leo X needed funds to build St. Peter’s Basilica. Fortunately for him, the Church had as a major source of income at its disposal: the sale of indulgences. So, in 1517, Leo announced the availability of new indulgences. Those who purchase them, he announced, will not only help protect the precious relics of St. Paul and St. Peter from the ravages of rain and hail, but would receive valuable religious merit.

This merit, which could be distributed at the Pope’s discretion from the treasury of merit of the saints, would alleviate the (temporal) penalty attached to (already forgiven) sin(s) in this life and the next.

A Dominican monk named John Tetzel was assigned to the sale of indulgences in Saxony. A talented and unscrupulous salesman, Tetzel was willing to make any claim that improved sales. He thus (falsely) promised not only a reduction in punishment for sin, but complete forgiveness of all sin and a return to the state of perfection enjoyed just after baptism.

He (falsely) added that if one would generously purchase indulgences to speed the release of a deceased loved one from Purgatory, no actual repentance on the part of the giver was even necessary. Marketing genius that he was, Tetzel employed a memorable jingle to make his offer clear and simple:

“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings,
a soul from Purgatory springs.”

Link

More about Purgatory and Indulgences

Indulgences

A number of popular devotions have indulgences attached to them. Indeed, the fact that a particular devotion has an indulgence attached to it is an indication that this devotional practice has proven itself within the Church to be helpful in bringing people closer to God. Because of the close association between popular devotions and indulgences, a clear understanding of the Church’s teaching on indulgences is necessary to appreciate the role of popular devotional practices in the life of the Church.

i. What are indulgences?

An indulgence does not confer grace. An indulgence is not a remission of the guilt due to sin. The guilt due to sin is ordinarily taken away by the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance (confession), in which we receive forgiveness for sins through Jesus Christ. Although guilt is taken away, and with it the eternal penalty that is due to sin—namely, damnation, the eternal loss of the presence of God—there remain consequences for sins that those who have committed them must bear. There is what is traditionally called the temporal punishment for sin.

By its very nature, every sin inevitably causes suffering for the one who has committed it. Every sinful act creates a disorder within the soul of the human person; it distorts our desires and affections, leaving us with “an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.”57 Furthermore, sin disrupts one’s relationships with God, with the Church, with other people, and with the world as a whole. The communion intended by God is damaged or lost. Those who have received forgiveness for their sins still have an obligation to undergo a difficult and painful process (the temporal penalty for sin) to be purified of the consequences of their sins and to restore the disrupted relationships. “While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace.”58 The necessary and painful process that brings restoration and purification can take place either in this life or in Purgatory, as whatever part of the process remains unfinished at death must be completed in Purgatory.59

Through an indulgence, God grants the prayer of the Church that the temporal penalty for sin due to someone be reduced (or possibly eliminated). By God’s grace, participation in a prayer or action that has an indulgence attached to it brings about the necessary restoration and reparation without the suffering that would normally accompany it. The granting of an indulgence by the Church is “the expression of the Church”s full confidence of being heard by the Father when—in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints—she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace.”60

ii. How can indulgences remove some or all of the temporal punishment for sin?

It is because of the Communion of Saints that some or all of the temporal punishment for sin is removed. Although we always have to face the consequences of our sins in the form of the temporal punishment for sin—that is, the painful process of restoration and reparation—as members of the Body of Christ we are never simply on our own. We are linked with Christ and with the martyrs and saints and can benefit from their holiness in such a way as to be freed from at least a portion of the temporal punishment for sin. “In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others.”61

As a result of the communion that exists between Christ and all the members of the Church, the Church has a treasury of spiritual goods that is inexhaustible. The source of these spiritual goods is Christ. Pope Paul VI taught that this treasury of the Church

is not to be likened to a centuries-old accumulation of material wealth. It means rather the limitless and inexhaustible value that the expiations and merits offered by Christ have in the eyes of God for the liberation of all humanity from sin and for the creation of communion with the Father. The treasury of the Church is Christ the Redeemer himself: in him the atonement and merit of his redemption exist and are at work.62

Since the martyrs and saints have accomplished all that they have in union with Christ, this treasury also includes the value of all their prayers and good works. “As they followed Christ through the power of his grace, they became holy and they have accomplished a work pleasing to the Father. As a result, in working out their own salvation they have also contributed to the salvation of their co-members in Christ’s Mystical Body.”63

Through her union with Christ, the Church has the authority to dispense this treasury. When the Church does this, in order to spur people to acts of piety and charity, the Church requires those who seek an indulgence to perform some good work or act of devotion.64 Furthermore, for reception of a plenary indulgence, which grants the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, in addition to this good work or act of devotion, the Church specifies four conditions: (1) sacramental confession, (2) reception of Holy Communion, (3) prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, and (4) complete detachment from all sin, even venial sin.65 It must not be thought, however, that such acts of ours are somehow of themselves sufficient to earn the remission of the temporal punishment for sins. Our efforts, themselves the work of God’s grace, express our openness to receive God’s mercy. In the work of our salvation, it is always God’s grace that is primary, with a power that far exceeds all our efforts.

iii. How can we help the deceased through indulgences?

Just as it is because of the Communion of Saints within the Body of Christ that the Church can grant an indulgence to someone, it is likewise because of the Communion of Saints that one person can obtain an indulgence for someone who has died in order to reduce his or her temporal punishment in Purgatory. We the living are not separated from the faithful departed by death and can still do things for their benefit. As Pope John Paul II has pointed out, “the truth about the communion of saints which unites believers to Christ and to one another, reveals how much each of us can help others—living or dead—to become ever more intimately united with the Father in heaven.”66 At the same time, all of us in the Communion of Saints need to recognize that whatever help we can give each other ultimately comes not from ourselves but from Christ. “For when the faithful gain indulgences they realize that by their own powers they cannot atone for the evil that they have afflicted upon themselves and the entire community by sinning; they therefore are moved to a healthy humility.”67

More at the USCCB website (PDF)

Indulgences

Q: What were indulgences? Why would some be angry at them? Why was the Catholic Church so in need of them?

A: Indulgences are only peripherally connected with the forgiveness of sins. Indulgences cannot save anyone, or get anyone released from hell.

Indulgences are “favors” granted to the faithful, much as the apostles were known to cure the lame, or heal the sick, but these favors serve to mitigate the consequences of sins that have already been forgiven.

For example: A contrite and repentant murderer might be forgiven by God for his sin, but that does little or nothing to mitigate the results of that murder, which will resound through history for generations.

Meanwhile, the many consequences of that murder remain the responsibilty of the murderer, even though the sin has been completely forgiven.

And while one who is forgiven of heinous sin may no longer be in danger of eternal damnation, there’s no assurance that such an imperfect soul is anywhere near ready to enter heaven.

Empowered by the grace and merits of Jesus and all the saints, and distributed by the authority of the Pope, indulgences have the power to spiritually “heal” the damage, rifts, and imperfections that still remain after sins have been duly forgiven, and to make up for what is still lacking, in virtually all forgiven sinners.

Non-Catholics often intentionally ignore or misrepresent this very significant and important issue, while the Catholic Church has always clearly understood and dealt with it … since the power to forgive sins that was given to the apostles by Christ, has always been linked to the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which they received from Jesus, at the very same time.

During the middle ages, indulgences were, for a short time, a source of Church donations. When abuse began to occur, the practice of donating money to gain indulgences was permanently discontinued … but indulgences were not.

Today, indulgences are as necessary and practical as ever, but they can only be obtained through certain types of work and/or prayer, and they may only be applied to one’s own soul, or to the soul of one who has already died. They cannot be transferred to any other person who is alive on earth.

For more on this little understood matter, go here:

http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/indulge/…