Exactly my point that I was trying to make. This whole thing is ludicrous simply because it is determined by the whims of individual men (i.e. popes), none of whom are entrusted with the powers that the Roman Church claims that they have, ever. And that is why we see patently ridiculous statements from various popes about how 15 minutes of reading Scripture=300 days less in purgatory or however that formula is supposed to work. It is reduced to totally arbitrary standards depending on whom is wearing the Papal mitre. And good, honest people (i.e. faithful Catholics) are still being sucked and tricked into this whole thing!
Grace and Peace,
Boy are you folks pulling me into all sorts of corrections as to exactly what the Roman Church actually teaches.
If purgatory is one of the most difficult Catholic doctrines for non-Catholics to understand, then the Church's teaching on indulgences must be equally difficult. One reason is that the terms "purgatory" and "indulgence" are not found in the Sacred Text. In order to appreciate the doctrine of indulgences, it is necessary first to understand what the Church teaches about purgatory.
Among the Sacred Texts used in explaining the doctrine on purgatory, the clearest is found in 2 Maccabees. The incident concerns the aftermath of a battle between the Jews, lead by Judas Maccabeus, and the Edomites. Judas and his men, collecting the bodies of their fallen, discovered sacred tokens (i.e. idols) under their tunics. Recognizing that these men had died in sin, "they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin... He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this, he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore, he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Mc 12:42-45).
The central point is that it is good to pray for the dead. Perhaps in this we can all agree. If, however, there are only a heaven and a hell, it makes no point: For if the dead are in heaven, they do not need prayers; and if they are in hell (i.e. Gehenna), prayer will be of no avail. So the Sacred Texts appear to many to pin us. At the heart of the Roman Church's teaching on purgatory, then, is the realization that, from the time a person dies until he or she reaches heaven, both the faithful on earth and the saints in heaven can assist that person with their prayers. Thus, purgatory is directly related to the doctrine of sin and so to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.
Beyond the reference in 2 Maccabees, the Sacred Texts offer insights on individual concerversion. Alienation from God by sinning may not necessarily be overcome by a single act of repentance. In point of fact, an act of judgment may be the cause for the final conversion of the sinner. Thus my point about mercy in just punishment. The Sacred Texts also offer instances where, although a sin may be confessed and the guilt forgiven, God still imposes punishments that are not canceled (Gn 3:17-19: Nm 20:12, 27:13; 2 Sm 12:10-14). If this be the case, then it cannot be said that God's forgiveness of guilt always includes as well the remission of the punishment due to those sins. Intercessory Prayer is also documented in the Sacred Texts, with limits set only by the providential will of God and the free will of the person for whom the prayers are being offered.
From the second century A.D. onward, there are accounts of sinners performing intense acts of penance for their sins committed after Baptism. This practice was monitored by the Church, as she regulated the penances by discipline adapted to the individual penitent. Penances could be shortened for some by the intercession of their confessors, and those awaiting martyrdom could offer their salutary acts for others.
By the Middle Ages, the practice of frequent confession led to some mitigation of penances and allowed penitents to perform "redemptory" works. In addition to the private prayers and works of individuals, the public, liturgical prayers of the Church including intercession for sinners. By the eleventh century, the Roman Church was teaching that she could and did officially intervene on behalf of the penitent. Such intervention, replacing some of the individual's penance, was an act of intercession seen in light of the totality of the Body of Christ. These first "indulgences" were acts of jurisdiction, meaning that the real canonical penance was remitted. They were outside the sacrament of Penance, yet involved punishments due to sins that had been confessed. Here, for the first time, the penance of the individual and the intercessory work of the Church were directly connected. It is this which consitituted indulgences as such.
Central to the doctrine on indulgences is the fact that every sin affects the Christian in three ways: 1.) it disrupts his relationship with God; 2.)it disturbs his relationship with his neighbors (i.e. the rest of the Church); and 3.) it unsettles him internally (i.e. it creates disorder). The first requires sacramental confession and absolution; the second requires restoration; the third requires that he work daily on his ongoing conversion, striving to be perfect as is his heavenly Father. The CCC says: "To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence
." This was why St. Athanasus argued the necessity of the Incarnation by God Himself. To restore within human nature the Trinitarian
likeness. It was not simply the case of forgiving a fault but the restoration of access to the Divine Nature for Immortality. Grave sin deprives us of communion with the Godhead and therefore makes us incapable of sharing in Immortality, the privation of which is called the 'eternal punishment' of sin. One the other had, every sin, even venial (i.e. very little errors), entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth through ascesis
, or after death in the cleansing fires (purgation). This purification frees one from what is often called in Latin Theology "temporal punishments" of sin. We might also look upon it as the 'reordering' of the imperfect to perfect ordering. As St. Paul appears to point out: Every such shall suffer a loss
, when his works are burnt, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire
. Here the apostle speaks of fire in a more ample signification: of a fire which shall not only try, and examine, but also burn
, and punish the builders, who notwithstanding shall also, after a time, escape from the fire, and be saved by fire
, and in the day of the Lord
, that is, after life. Divers ancient Fathers, as well as later interpreters, from these words, argue for the doctrine of a purgation, that is, that many Christians, who die guilty, not of heinous or mortal sins, but of lesser, and what are often called venial sins, or to whom a temporal punishment for the sins they have committed, still remains due, before they can be admitted to a reward in heaven, (into which nothing defiled or unclean can enter) must suffer some punishments for a time, in some state, which is called Purgatory in Latin Theology, and in such a manner, as is agreeable to the divine justice, before their reward in heaven. These words of the apostle, the Latin Fathers in the Council of Florence brought against the Greeks to prove purgatory, to which the Greeks (who did not deny a purgatory, or a middle state, where souls guilty of lesser sins were to suffer for a time) made answer that these words of St. Paul were expounded by St. Chrysostom and some of their Greek Fathers (which is true) of the wicked in hell, who are said to be saved by fire, inasmuch as they always subsist and continue in those flames, and are not destroyed by them: but this interpretation, as the Latin bishops replied, is not agreeable to the style of the Sacred Texts, in which to be saved, both in the Greek and Latin, is expressed the salvation and happiness of souls in heaven. It may not be amiss to take notice that the Greeks, before they met with the Latins at Ferrara, or Florence, did not deny the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. They admitted a middle state, where souls guilty of lesser sins, suffered for a time, till cleansed from such sins: they allowed that the souls there detained from the vision of God, might be assisted by the prayers of the faithful: they called this purgatory a place of darkness, of sorrow, of punishments, and pains, but they did not allow there a ture and material fire, which the Council did not judge necessary to decide and define against them, as appears in in the definition of the Council.