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  The Church has been exercising the prerogative of granting indulgences from the very beginning of its existence. The term “indulgence” originally meant “favor”, “remission”, or “forgiveness.”.


  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 (#1471)  An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. 81

  An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.’ 82  The faithful can gain Indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead. 83


(#1472) To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand, every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. 84


(#1473)  The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sins remains. While patiently bearing suffering 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. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practics of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man. 85


  Through the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has made the guilt of our sins forgivable -- if we turn to Him with contrite hearts. But, out of Divine justice, we must still make satisfaction to God in order to offset the consequences of our sins.

  St. Paul tells the “saved” Christians in Corinth: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5-10). In other words, St. Paul is saying that we Christians must clean up the “mess” that our sins have caused. By appealing to the “power of the keys” (cf. Matt 16:18-19), the Church, in Jesus’ Name, has the prerogative of lessening (partial indulgence) or totally eliminating (plenary indulgence) the satisfaction owed to God because of the remaining consequences of a forgiven sin. Note that, in Matt 16:18-19, Jesus made Peter his representative and gave him the keys to “run His institution and make necessary decisions in His absence.


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