A brief summary of the Church’s teaching on indulgences is provided to help make use of these treasures the Church offers us, purifying our heart from all attachment to sin and guiding it toward the will of God in every aspect of our lives. Then follows a list of prayers, works and objects that the Church enriches with a partial or plenary indulgence.
Every sin involves both guilt and punishment. The guilt is forgiven in confession, but part of the temporal punishment for sin often remains and must be remitted in this life or the next. The Church has the power to remit this punishment by means of indulgences.
An indulgence is the remission in the sight of God of the temporal punishment due for sins, the guilt of which has already been forgiven. A member of Christ’s faithful who is properly disposed and who fulfills certain specific conditions, may gain an indulgence by the help of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints.
An indulgence is partial or plenary, depending on whether it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.
No one gaining an indulgence may apply it to other living persons. Both partial and plenary indulgences can be applied to the dead by way of suffrage.
To be capable of gaining indulgences a person must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least on the completion of the prescribed work, besides being a subject of the person who has the power to grant the indulgences. A person capable of gaining indulgences in order to actually receive them must have at least the general intention of so doing, and must fulfill the prescribed works at the time and in the manner determined by the terms under which it has been granted.
The requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are the performance of the indulgenced work and the fulfillment of three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the Pope’s intentions. A further requirement is the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin; that is, there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce.
The three conditions may be carried out several days preceding or following performance of the prescribed work. But it is more fitting that Communion and prayer for the Pope’s intentions take place on the day this work is performed.
The condition requiring prayer for the Pope’s intentions is completely satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary for his intentions; nevertheless all the faithful are at liberty to recite other prayers suited to their own customs and devotion.
Any of the faithful who, being at least inwardly contrite, perform a work enriched with a partial indulgence, receive through the Church a remission of temporal punishment equivalent to what they already receive by virtue of the act itself.
A plenary indulgence may be gained only once on any one day; the rule regarding those on the verge of death is an exception.
A partial indulgence may be gained many times a day unless something different is explicitly stated. Partial indulgences are granted to the Christian faithful who: