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Baltimore Catechism (1891)
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A. Good works done in mortal sin profit us by obtaining for us the grace to repent and sometimes temporal blessings. Mortal sin deprives us of all our merit, nevertheless God will bestow gifts for every good deed as He will punish every evil deed.
A. It is not easy to gain a Plenary Indulgence, as we may understand from its great privilege. To gain a Plenary Indulgence, we must hate sin, be heartily sorry for even our venial sins, and have no desire for even the slightest sin. Though we may not gain entirely each Plenary Indulgence we seek, we always gain a part of each; that is, a partial indulgence, greater or less in proportion to our good dispositions.
A. The practice of granting Indulgences has been in use in the Church since the time of the apostles. It had its origin in the earnest prayers of holy persons, and especially of the martyrs begging the Church for their sake to shorten the severe penances of sinners, or to change them into lighter penances. The request was frequently granted and the penance remitted, shortened or changed, and with the penance remitted the temporal punishment corresponding to it was blotted out.
A. We show that the Church has the power to grant Indulgences, because Christ has given it power to remit all guilt without restriction, and if the Church has power, in the Sacrament of penance, to remit the eternal punishment -- which is the greatest -- it must have power to remit the temporal or lesser punishment, even outside the Sacrament of Penance.
A. We know that these Indulgences have their effect, because the Church, through her councils, declares Indulgences useful, and if they have no effect they would be useless, and the Church would teach error in spite of Christ's promise to guide it.
A. There have existed, in past ages, some abuses among the faithful in the manner of using Indulgences, and the Church has always labored to correct such abuses as soon as possible. In the use of pious practices we must be always guided by our lawful superiors.
A. The enemies of the Church have made use of the abuse of Indulgences to deny the doctrine of Indulgences, and to break down the teaching and limit the power of the Church. Not to be deceived in matters of faith, we must always distinguish very carefully between the abuses to which a devotion may lead and the truths upon which the devotion rests.
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.
A. By the superabundant satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin and the saints, we mean all the satisfaction over and above what was necessary to satisfy for their own sins. As their good works were many and their sins few -- the Blessed Virgin being sinless -- the satisfaction not needed for themselves is kept by the Church in a spiritual treasury to be used for our benefit.
A. The Pope alone has the power to grant Indulgences for the whole Church; but the bishops have power to grant partial Indulgences in their own diocese. Cardinals and some others, by the special permission of the Pope, have the right to grant certain Indulgences.
A. We shall find the Indulgences granted by the Church in the declarations of the Pope and of the Sacred Congregation of Cardinals. These declarations are usually put into prayer books and books of devotion or instruction.
A. We should make a general intention at our morning prayers to gain all possible Indulgences each day, because several of the prayers we say and good works we perform may have Indulgences attached to them, though we are not aware of it.
A. The works generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences are: The saying of certain prayers, fasting, and the use of certain articles of devotion; visits to Churches or altars, and the giving of alms. For the gaining of Plenary Indulgences it is generally required to go to confession and Holy Communion and pray for the intention of the Pope.
A. An Indulgence of forty days means that for the prayer or work to which an Indulgence of forty days is attached, God remits as much of our temporal punishment as He remitted for forty days' canonical penance. We do not know just how much temporal punishment God remitted for forty days' public penance, but whatever it was, He remits the same now when we gain an Indulgence of forty days. The same rule applies to Indulgences of a year or any length of time.
A. The Church moderated its severe penances, because when Christians -- terrified by persecution -- grew weaker in their faith, there was danger of some abandoning their religion rather than submit to the penances imposed. The Church, therefore, wishing to save as many as possible, made the sinner's penance as light as possible.
A. Plenary or Partial Indulgences may be attached to prayers and solid articles of devotion; to places such as churches, altars, shrines, etc., to be visited; and by a special privilege they are sometimes attached to the good works of certain persons.
A Weekly confession will suffice to gain during the week all Indulgences to which confession is enjoined as one of the works, provided we continue in a state of grace, perform the other works enjoined and have the intention of gaining these Indulgences.
A. We may apply Indulgences for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory by way of intercession; whenever this application is mentioned and permitted by the Church in granting the Indulgence; that is, when the Church declares that the Indulgence granted is applicable to the souls of the living or the souls in Purgatory; so that we may gain it for the benefit of either.
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