Fr. Marie-Dominique, O.P.


In the first two parts of this series (see The Angelus, Sept.-Oct. 2004) we reviewed the whole of Catholic Tradition, showing that we have an inexhaustible treasury in the merits of our Lord and our Lady, as well as the woks of satisfaction performed by the just and the saints who have exceeded their debts. In virtue of the power of the keys, the popes, successors of Peter, have the faculty of drawing widely on this treasure in order to grant the faithful (with the proper dispositions) the remission of part or the entirely of the temporal punishment due to them because of their sins.

We regarded it as important to situate the doctrine of indulgences within the general framework of the redemption: indulgences, in fact, complete personal reparation. The popes have shown great generosity in opening to the faithful the well-springs of mercy which indulgences are, enabling them to make reparation more easily for their sins and so, after death, to arrive more quickly at the goal of their earthly pilgrimage, which is the eternal beatitude of heaven.

A witness to this generosity on the part of the popes is the book entitled The Raccolta or a Manual of Indulgences or Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. Reading this Manual it is clear that indulgences were granted in connection with prayers and works of devotion that the Church wished to promote so that the faithful should acquire a fervent Christian life.

The Enchiridion Indulgentiarum underwent a number of revisions. In the revision of the Manual in 1937 by Pope Pius XI, we see that Fr. Henri, in his preface to the 1939 edition, observes:

On the order of his Holiness Pope Pius XI all the indulgences granted by the Sovereign Pontiffs down the centuries up to the end of 1937 have been carefully revised, systematized, occasionally modified, often augmented, and collated in an official book....This Manual is preceded by a pontifical decree that states:

1) That the prayers and pious works are henceforth indulgenced according to the provisions of this new Manual and not according to former grants;

2) That all formulas and works not adopted in this Manual lose their indulgences.2

This short quotation reveals the Church's mind in this matter. It points out that the previous indulgences have been occasionally modified and often augmented. The Church clearly has an inclination to multiply indulgences.

In the revision carried out by Pope Pius XII in 1950 one finds the same filial piety with regard to the past and the same desire to promote the practice of indulgences:

Since the 1937 edition of Prayers and Pious Works is now out of print, this Sacred Apostolic Penitentiaria has ordered a new impression of it to be made, responding to the request of innumerable faithful, priests and bishops of many places. Nonetheless, before setting this work in motion, it has seemed opportune to make a complete revision of it, suppressing [works and prayers] that are less appropriate and adding others that have been supplied with indulgences in recent times.3

The intention here is simply to bring the volume up to date; there is no revolutionary spirit. With Pope Paul VI, however, things were very different.


Indulgences on the Eve of Vatican II

The Positio

The Council opened on October 11, 1962. Not until the fourth and final session, under the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, was the question of indulgences raised. Pope Paul VI was elected pope on June 21, 1963. On July 24, at the first audience granted to Cardinal Fernando Cento,4 Grand Penitentiary, he expressed his desire to see a revision of indulgences. He instructed him to set up a commission for this purpose.5 This commission carried out its work from February 24 to October 28, 1964. The text it produced was referred to the Pope. The Pope then instructed the commission to draw up a resume to be distributed to the presidents of the episcopal conferences by a letter from Cardinal Cicognani of June 28, 1965.6 The exact title of this resume, which was called the Positio[7] is in fact "The Revision of the Sacred Indulgences."8 It has three parts: 1) theological principles regarding indulgences and their historical evolution, 2) schema for the revision of indulgences, 3) commentary on these diverse indulgences.

The first part is an entirely traditional outline of the doctrine of indulgences, based on Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. However, at the end of Chapter 4 on the history of indulgences, we read these lines, intended to justify and introduce the reform demanded by Pope Paul VI:

In the succeeding centuries9 right down to today we find no innovation of any sort as regards the theological principles of indulgences, nor was there any intention to innovate. Now, however, it seems opportune to introduce a new discipline and to promulgate a new practice that is more in accord with the Council of Trent, not because of theological disputes but out of a desire to suppress abuses, to heighten the dignity of indulgences, and to promote piety and devotion among the faithful (No.II).10

Now let us see, without making judgments, what were the principal reforms announced in the second part of the Positio.


The Partial Indulgence

A partial indulgence remits only part of the temporal punishment due to our sins. Thus, up to recent times, there were indulgences of 50 days, 100 days, three years, etc., corresponding not to an equivalent diminution of time in purgatory11 but to a remission of 50, 100 days of earthly penitence according to the ancient rules. The new norm suppresses all specification of time: "The partial indulgence attached to a prayer or pious work [is] designated by the words partial indulgence, without any specification of days or years (Positio, Part 2, Ch. 2, No. l).

What remission, then, is actually granted?

By the partial indulgence attached to a prayer or work, the ecclesiastical authority, drawing on the Church's treasury, grants a member of the faithful a remission of the temporal punishment before God equivalent to that which he himself obtains by the same prayer or work. (No. 2)

This change is presented as "the principal point and the pole of the entire reform of indulgences" (official commentary on the Positio, No. l).


The Plenary Indulgence

The plenary indulgence remits the entirety of the punishment of purgatory insofar as we are detached from sin.12 The aim of the reform is indicated here in the commentary on the Positio: "The members of the commission are unanimous in recommending that the number of plenary indulgences be diminished, to preserve their dignity and to make them more esteemed by the faithful." Accordingly: "Only one plenary indulgence per day can be obtained" (Positio, Ch. 2, No. l).


Real Indulgences

These are called "real" from the Latin res, rei, meaning thing. They are indulgences attached to certain objects (to be worn, e.g., the scapular of Mount Carmel), or to certain prayers (e.g., indulgenced rosaries) or actions using such objects (e.g., kissing the crucifix for a good death).

There were animated discussions on these indulgences at the heart of the commission. Real indulgences did not escape the reform:

The faithful who habitually, and with devotion, carry on their person one or more blessed objects of piety (a crucifix, cross, crown, scapular, cord, cincture or medal) obtain a partial indulgence each day and, once a year, a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions. (Positio, Ch. 4, No. l)

As the official commentary indicates:

According to this norm–if one pays close attention–the indulgence is not only attached to the object of piety, nor to the simple fact of carrying or wearing this object on one's person; rather, it is related to the way in which the object is carried or worn by the faithful.

What we see here is what we have already seen in connection with the new partial indulgences: once again the remission of punishment is made in proportion to the devotion of the faithful individual.


Local Indulgences

These are indulgences attached to particular holy places.

The plenary indulgence toties quoties used to be obtained each time a person visited the places to which the indulgence had been attached, even if the latter were visited several times on the same day.13 It has been suppressed by the reform.

The faithful who perform the prescribed work several times may obtain one [single] plenary indulgence per day, under the usual conditions. (Positio, Ch. 5, No. 2)

The favor of the privileged altar meant that Mass celebrated at this altar obtained a plenary indulgence for a deceased person.14 The new norm reads:

The privileged altar, whether local or personal, is suppressed; but our kind mother the Church, in her particular care for all the faithful departed, wishes her suffrages to be applied generously through the sacrifice of the Mass. (Positio, Ch. 5, No. 4)

This means that the departed lose their privilege of being capable of being released from purgatory by a single Mass celebrated at these altars. They only benefit from the fruit of the satisfactions ordinarily offered during the course of every Mass.


Indulgences at the Fourth Session

At the Fourth Session of Vatican II, on October 29, 1965, Msgr. Felici, Secretary-General of the Council, announced in the hall:

Beginning on November 9, after a report from his Eminence Cardinal Fernando Cento,15 we shall hear the reports of the presidents of episcopal conferences on the subject of the reform of sacred indulgences. Furthermore, the Sovereign Pontiff has granted that the Positio will be given sub secreto, with some exceptions, to all the Council fathers.16


Cardinal Cento's Introductory Address

Firstly, as planned, the Fathers were given the Positio as well as a report from Msgr. Sessolo, regent, on the work of the commission.17

Both documents were published by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiaria, not by the Council. Care was taken at the distribution not to give either of them to the experts or the observers, in order to make it clear that it was not a Council document.18

Then Cardinal Cento, the Grand Penitentiary, rose to present the Positio.19Clearly, the ecumenical preoccupation was ever-present, particularly since the prelate was speaking in the presence of the Protestant observers. In his address, he highlighted those things that were shocking to "non-Catholic Christians": the numerical calculation of indulgences, and their abundance, which some people have described as "inflation." The first has been found to be ill-defined and uncertain, and the second has seemed to diminish the esteem in which the indulgences should be held.

The Cardinal added that the commission had no intention whatsoever of interfering with the doctrine of indulgences, that it was well aware that the Christian people might be hurt by the new reforms, but it was determined to go ahead all the same:

Having the psychology of the Christian people in our mind's eye, it has not escaped us that, initially at least, this necessary reform of indulgences may cause some disturbance to souls, as has happened in other questions. Nonetheless we think that the reform, duly promulgated and prudently implemented, will lead to its acceptance by everyone. In any case, it is better to endure the unease of the moment, if it should arise, rather than to remain idly and passively attached to a discipline that engenders doubts, uncertainties and embarrassment.

After this Msgr. Sessolo, regent of the Sacred Penitentiaria, read out his report.

Thus, on November 9, Cardinal Cento had announced two profound reforms in the practice of indulgences.


Maximos IV's Bombshell

Wednesday, November 10, had been set aside for hearing the reports of the episcopal conferences, their presidents speaking in order of precedence.

The Oriental patriarchs were first to speak. Patriarchs Meouchi and Tappouni had opted to give their report in written form. Patriarch Sidarouss, speaking in the name of the patriarchal synod of Alexandria (Egypt), declared himself in favor of the draft, while expressing his view that, for reasons of ecumenism, it would be better not to raise the question of indulgences.

However, the consultation process took an unexpected turn with the intervention (in French) of Patriarch Maximos IV, who had been made cardinal by Paul VI the previous January.20 Maximos IV reproached traditional theology with having "established an exact equivalence between the Church's intercession and the remission, by God, of the punishment due to sin"–which he regarded as "not only without theological foundation but the cause of innumerable grave abuses which have inflicted irreparable evils on the Church. It must therefore be positively suppressed."21

The Secretary of the Council had even been obliged to censor two passages of the patriarch's address in which he accused the practice of indulgences of too often encouraging "fetishism, superstition and the capitalizing of religious things." Nonetheless these censored remarks were communicated to the press, which can be considered a grave anomaly in the conduct of a council.22 This meant that the incident was immediately reported to the whole world23 –which was clearly the aim of those who released this text to the media.

This same day the Fathers heard reports from the episcopal conferences of Portugal, Australia and the United States, which presented nothing revolutionary and passed somewhat unnoticed after the intervention of Maximos IV.


The German Bishops Move That the Theology of Indulgences Be Changed

The intervention of Cardinal Dopfner,24 in the name of the bishops of Germany, caused a sensation by questioning the whole traditional theology of indulgences:

The idea of a "treasury" that the Church "possesses" leads all too easily to a materialistic or quasi-commercial conception of what is obtained by indulgences....The indulgence consists essentially in the fact that the Church intercedes for her members or her sons.

He concluded:

The reform of indulgences proposed by the Positio should not be promulgated....The commission for revising indulgences should be considerably augmented, to contain mainly experts in dogmatic theology representing different opinions and schools. This new commission should begin immediately and should work actively to eliminate the defects we have indicated; it should take into account the doctrinal observations that have been made.

Here we see the influence of the theology of Karl Rahner. For him, the indulgence is an aid, helping us to attain the perfect love that wipes out all punishments due to sin. This aid given by the Church consists in her intercession, which rests on the merits of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints. As to the treasury, it is nothing other than God's salvific will sustaining the Church, in whom He sees the Spouse of his Son.25 This contradicts, however, the teaching of the Church hitherto, and specifically the Bull Unigenitus of Clement VI.26 To equate indulgences with a prayer of intercession, even an efficacious one, is tantamount to denying the privilege of the keys granted to Peter. As regards the sacraments, the pope wields what is called "the key of order"; as regards indulgences, he wields "the key of jurisdiction," the use of which is left to his own discretion: he has the power to draw on the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints (under certain conditions, of course), to help the faithful by remitting the temporal punishment due to their sins. He does not have to ask God to do this.

However, the "progressives" were pleased with the terms of this address. Fr. Daniel O'Hanlon stated at a press conference:

Practically all the jurists who are members of the commission which prepared the draft reform of indulgences belong to the Sacred Penitentiaria. It seems that they intended to have this reform promulgated without consulting the bishops. It was due to the Pope's intervention that this subject was presented to the episcopal conferences. The existing document is a lamentable reminder of the way in which certain schemas were prepared prior to the Council, to be rejected27 by the fathers at the first session.28


The Impasse

There was no mention of indulgences on November 12, since the Council was absorbed by other work. On Saturday November 13, however, Cardinal Felici announced that the reading of reports from the episcopal conferences would be suspended: from now on they were to be made in writing. The examination of the reform of indulgences during the Council ended.

There was no debate on indulgences at the Council. This is no cause for regret in itself, for a council is not obliged to deal with everything. In that case, however, it would have been better not to raise the question at all. As we have seen, it was as part of an ecumenical plan, in order to prepare people's minds for further reforms that Pope Paul VI wanted the presidents of episcopal conferences to give their views in the presence of the Protestant observers.

At the same time, the speakers had been asked to give, not their personal view, but that of their conference; and as there was no debate, no one was able to react in the aula to defend of the Church's traditional doctrine and practice. No bishop was able to speak on this question as a successor of the apostles. On the contrary, the issue became a media plaything; those responsible counted on the presence of Protestant observers to influence minds. The Curia–here represented by the Sacred Penitentiaria–was openly attacked for maintaining the traditional doctrine, and it even became necessary abruptly to abandon the reading of the reports because things were going too far. The question of indulgences at the Council came to an uneasy end.


After the Council: Pope Paul VI Promulgates a New Code of Indulgences

The Council came to an end on December 7, 1965. Pope Paul VI appointed a commission to promote this aim, presided over by Msgr. Carlo Colombo,29 dean of the faculty of theology in Milan. The reform was announced, along with other news, in an address (in Italian) given to the Sacred College and the Roman Curia on December 23, 1966. In it, the Pope explains the spirit in which the changes were made:

The revision concerns the practice of indulgences, and chiefly the spirit that should animate the faithful who make efforts to obtain them, emphasizing the way in which the Church desires to come to the aid of her faithful, not only in helping them to make satisfaction for the punishment due to their sins, but also, and most importantly, in encouraging them to a greater fervor of charity. This is the principle that has inspired the reform.30

Accordingly, on January 1, 1967, the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina was published.31


The Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina

The document begins by setting forth the doctrine of indulgences (§§1-8), with many references to and quotations from the traditional magisterium. The constitution even reminds us that:

In the indulgence, using her power as dispenser of the redemption of Christ our Lord, the Church not only prays but, on her own authority, distributes to the faithful–being well disposed–the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints, for the remission of temporal punishment.32

Thus the constitution distances itself from the tendencies of the new theology influenced by Karl Rahner, in which the indulgence is held to be an intercession on the part of the Church (see above).33

However, at the end of §8 a transitional paragraph was inserted, introducing a decidedly innovatory perspective:

Sometimes, however, abuses have crept in to the practice of indulgences, whether because "by abusive and superfluous indulgences"34 people35 have poured scorn on the keys of the Church and lost sight of the penitential satisfaction, or because the name of indulgences has been blasphemed as a result of "damnable profit-making."36

This leads on to the announcement, in §11:

So that the practice of indulgences should shine with greater dignity and attract greater esteem, our holy Mother the Church has judged it opportune to introduce certain innovations in the discipline of indulgences and publish new regulations.

What were these innovations?

Three objectives, in particular, governed the production of these regulations:

In fact, the norms that follow are the same ones proposed in the Positio.


The New Enchiridion Indulgentiarum

In the wake of this apostolic constitution the Sacred Penitentiaria prepared a new Manual of Indulgences, or Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. It was submitted to Pope Paul VI by Cardinal Ferretto, Grand Penitentiary, during an audience of June 14, 1968.37 On June 29, 1968, the Sacred Penitentiaria published a decree indicating that:

The Holy Father is pleased to approve this authentic text dated June 15, which declares the following to be abrogated:

The new Enchiridion is structured as follows: preliminary notes (Praenotanda); norms concerning indulgences;39 general grants of indulgences; particular grants of indulgences (i.e., a list of partial and plenary indulgences now granted).

There follow three general grants of indulgences to which we shall have to return.

A perusal of the new list of indulgences reveals a considerable reduction in their number compared with former collections.


Pope John Paul II Writes Pope Paul VI's Reform into the New Code of Canon Law

In the 1983 Code, the chapter on indulgences begins with the following canon (992):

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 fulfils certain 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.40

At first sight the definition given by the new Code may seem perfectly in order. Comparing it with what was said by the traditional Code, however (Canon 911),41 we see that:

  1. The expression "Let all attach great importance to indulgences" has been suppressed, which clearly reveals a new spirit.
  2. There is no longer any explanation of the precise manner in which the Church applies the remission of punishment to the living and to the dead. The canon's lack of precision at this point gives free rein to this interpretation.42
  3. Finally, there are only six canons dealing with indulgences, compared to the former 26, which confirms the fact that indulgences have fallen into disuse.


What Are We to Think of Pope Paul VI's Reform?

The reform promulgated by Paul VI did not explicitly take on board the new orientations of contemporary theology which, following Karl Rahner, considers indulgences as an intercession on the part of the Church. That does not mean that this opinion is no longer current. It could have been otherwise, i.e., if it had been clearly condemned.


Against the Fact, There Is No Argument

Facts are not opposed by arguments. Thirty-six years after a reform which was supposed to restore the dignity of indulgences and breathe a new fervor into the faithful, what remains of the practice of indulgences among the Christian people?43Indulgences rarely form part of the spiritual life of the post-Vatican II faithful.


A Subjectivist Collapse

Our modern times are characterized by a current of thought that is profoundly subjectivist. Any sense of subordination to an objective order has vanished. The moral rule has become subjective.

Ever since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, churchmen have wanted to open up to the world: so it is not surprising that these subjectivist philosophies, personalism in particular, have penetrated the Church more or less deeply. Reading the documents we have cited, their influence is constantly apparent:

The spirit of the reform is clearly expressed in Norm 4 of the new Enchiridion Indulgentiarum when it affirms that:

In conformity with the changed conditions of the times, more stress has been laid on the action of the faithful (opus operantis). Thus, instead of giving a long list of practices (opus operatum) that are somehow detached from the life of the faithful, we have given a limited number of grants of indulgence that are more apt to prompt the faithful to make their lives more useful and more holy.

This is to forget that the prime aim of the indulgence is not to rekindle present fervor in the Christian life but to make reparation for past sins. At a secondary level, of course, a link can be established between the two, as the Church formerly did by attaching indulgences, not to actions "detached from the life of the faithful" (have the reformers actually read the traditional Manual of Indulgences?) but to those apt to promote a fervent Christian life.46

In any case, we have shown that the practice of indulgences does not replace the remission of punishment, which we should endeavor to obtain by frequent reception of the sacraments and by works of satisfaction, for these are things that, in themselves, cause charity to grow and, with it, our eternal reward–which are not obtained by indulgences per se.47 The value of the indulgence is complementary: it is an act of mercy of our Mother the Church by which she draws on her treasury to release her children from the last debts that they might have.


Indulgences Victimized by Ecumenism

Not only have subjectivist philosophies penetrated to the Church's interior; Protestant ideas have also insinuated themselves by the whole tendency of ecumenism. Indulgences were the pretext for the Protestant revolt in the sixteenth century, and one senses that the innovators are embarrassed by this issue. Their ecumenism makes them more anxious to make themselves acceptable to Protestants than to bring the latter back to the one fold of Christ. This preoccupation is ever-present in the documents we have cited. It is there in the Positio;48it was evident at the Council when Paul VI insisted that the presidents of episcopal conferences should speak in the presence of the Protestant observers.

As far as the Society of Saint Pius X is concerned, this is the last word regarding the Handbook of Indulgences issued by the Holy See (June 29, 1968). Fr. Sélégny is General Secretary of the Society of Saint Pius X.


One of the great novelties of the reform of indulgences, in fact, is that the Manual proper of prayers and indulgenced works is preceded by three general grants:

We see here that penance, the spirit of sacrifice, occupies only the third place.50 The prime accent is laid on the new life, service to the neighbor, and trust in God.

The same ecumenical spirit has given rise to the suppression of the number of days in connection with partial indulgences. It was in order to instruct the faithful as to the gravity of sin, and hence the necessity of reparation for sins, that Holy Church classified partial indulgences in relation to the ancient penitential canons.51 Thus an indulgence of 50 days signified that a punishment equivalent to 50 days of severe penance (fasting on bread and water, the discipline, etc.) was remitted through the mercy of Holy Church.


The Christian People Deprived of Succor

Until the Second Vatican Council, the Church had shown herself to be very motherly and generous in helping the faithful to make reparation for their sins on earth here and now, and so the sooner to attain heaven. While exhorting the Christian people to do penance for their sins through the fervent reception of the sacraments and the practice of works of satisfaction, she liberally granted indulgences that remitted punishment without proportioning this to the devotion of those who received them.

However, the appearance in the Church of subjectivist philosophies and Protestant ideas at the last council was bound to lead to a loss of understanding and a dislike of indulgences.

The souls in purgatory are no better off. Since all indulgences can be applied for their benefit, anything that diminishes the practice of indulgences automatically reduces the help brought to them by the Church militant. What are we to think of this strange "solicitude" of churchmen who have suppressed the plenary indulgence that was formerly obtained for the souls in purgatory by celebrating Mass at a privileged altar?



Pope Paul VI promulgated a new law on indulgences. Now, as we have seen, the reform of indulgences promulgated by Pope Paul VI is characterized:

We can truly say that the character of this reform shows a break with the Tradition of the Church.

At all events, can it be said that such a reform, which breaks with Catholic Tradition, is ordered to the Church's common good?

Relevant also is the context in which this reform was made, in the context of a general, quasi-Protestant overthrow of Christian doctrine, of the liturgy (the Mass and other sacraments), and of Catholic piety. Nothing has been spared, and Pope St. Pius X well recognized it when condemning modernism: "There is no part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched, none that they do not strive to corrupt."52

It remains for us to pray, to supplicate, and to do penance for the conversion of the Church's current hierarchy.

Translated exclusively for Angelus Press. Taken from Le Sel de la Terre (No. 48, Spring, 2004); condensed by 60 percent and edited by Fr. Kenneth Novak. The fax from Fr. Sélégny above is not a part of the original article from Le Sel de la Terre.

1. Le Sel de la Terre 46, pp. 23-53 [The Angelus, Sept. and Oct. 2004.]

2. R. Henry, C.SS.R., Recueil des principales indulgences (1939). This little collection of 56 pages was republished by Expeditions pamphyliennes, rue Saint-Louis, 84000 Saignon.

3. Decretum Sacrae Poenitentiae Apostolicae, January 30, 1950.

4. Before being named cardinal, Msgr. Cento had been apostolic nuncio in Lisbon, Portugal, from 1953 to 1958. When the Vatican–under Pope Pius XII–asked for the Third Secret of Fatima, it was Msgr. Cento who received it in 1957 from Msgr. da Silva, Bishop of Leiria, and delivered it to Rome. Later he spoke favorably of Fatima and Sister Lucy to John XXIII (Bro. Michel de la Sainte Trinite, The Whole Truth about Fatima [Immaculate Heart Publications 1990], III, 465, 481).

5 This commission comprised a number of experts in addition to the staff of the Sacred Penitentiaria, namely, Msgr. Rossi, former regent; Fr. Berti, O.S.M., professor of sacramental theology at the Marianum (Servile faculty); Fr. Raes, S.J., prefect of the Vatican Library; Fr. Mruk, S.J., professor at the Gregorian.

6. We have quoted these historical details from the Acta, Vol. IV, Periodus IV, Pars VI (1978), pp. 131-133.

7. From the name of the document's introduction.

8. De Sacrarum Indulgentiarum Recognitione.

9. I.e., after the Council of Trent.

10. Acta, ibid., p. 142.

11.Cf. The Angelus, Oct. 2004, p. 6. We must remember especially that, after this life, there is no time. Instead we speak of aevum.

12. Cf. Ibid.

13. Thus, on November 2 the faithful used to be able to obtain a plenary indulgence for a deceased person every time they visited a church and recited Pater, Ave, and Gloria Patri six times, praying for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff, provided they had been to confession and communion.

14. See The Angelus, Oct. 2004, p. 6.

15. Cardinal Cento's role at the Council is referred to in Ralph Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1967; Tan Books, 1985), pp. 207, 212.

16. Acta, Vol. IV, Periodus IV, Pars V, p. 747.

17. This report is published in Acta, Vol. IV, Periodus IV, Pars VI, pp. 188-197. It is a commentary on the Positio in which the writer insists on the greater dignity given to indulgences by the projected reform and on the fervor that it should promote among the faithful.

18. Antoine Wenger, Vatican II, chronique de la quatrieme session (Paris: Centurion, 1966), p. 416. Fr. Antoine Wenger, an Assumptionist, was initially a researcher at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and professor of oriental theology at the Catholic faculties of Lyons and then Strasbourg. Then he became editor-in-chief of the newspaper La Croix at the time of the Council and was an embassy counsellor in Rome and Moscow. In Le Sel de la Terre, 38, pp. 216-217, we published a review of his book Catholiques en Russie d'apres les archives du KGB, 1920-1960, where he shows himself to be too lenient towards the Communists. His Chronique constitutes an authority for the history of the Council, since it is cited as a reference, for example, in the collection Unam Sanctum, commenting on the Council texts under the direction of Frs. Congar, O.P., and Peuchmaurd, O.P.

19. See Acta, Vol. IV, Periodus IV, Pars VI, pp. 185-187.

20. Patriarch of Antioch for the Melchite Rite. On his role at the Council cf. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber (see note 18 above) and Romano Amerio, Iota Unum (Kansas City, Mo.: Sarto House, 1996). Maximos IV redeemed himself somewhat for his "progressive" statements by his very firm response on the Jewish question, when he courageously defended the traditional Catholic teaching (Le Sel de la Terre 46, p. 64, note 1).

21. Here Maximos IV seems unaware of the Church's traditional teaching. Except in the case of the deceased, for whom all the Church can do is to intercede with God because they are no longer her subjects, properly speaking, indulgences are not an intercession on the part of the Church. The traditional Code of Canon Law (Can. 911) explains this clearly when it says that indulgences are "the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins already pardoned as regards guilt; the ecclesiastical authority grants this remission by drawing on the Church's treasury and applying it to the living by way of absolution [absolution being an acquittal in virtue of a payment (solutio) made by others], and to the dead by way of suffrage [this, indeed, is intercession, but only for the dead]" (cf. The Angelus, Oct. 2004, p. 4). This ability to draw on the treasury of merits of our Lord and the saints is part of the power of the keys, as Pope Clement VI states very clearly in his Bull Unigenitus Dei Filius (The Angelus, Oct. 2004, p. 2). Cf. also the Encyclical Romani Pontificis Provida of Sixtus IV (DS 1405-1406), the Decree Cum Postquam of Leo X (DS 1447-1448), the Bull Exsurge Domine of the same Leo X against Luther (DS 1467-1472), and the Constitution Auctorem Fidei of Pius VI against the Synod of Pistoia (DS 2640-2642).

22. This was always happening, alas, at Vatican II. The media kept up a constant pressure.

23. The newspaper La Croix, which can in no way be suspected of traditionalism, preferred not to publish it, for which it was subject to criticism (cf. Antoine Wenger, Vatican II, chronique de la quatrieme session, p. 421).

24. Archbishop of Munich, Germany.

25. Karl Rahner, "Bemerkungen zur Theologie des Ablasses," Schriften zur Theologie, Vol. 2 (Einsiedeln 1955); English translation "Observations on the Theology of Indulgences" in Theological Investigations, Vol. 2 (London and Baltimore).

26. Cf. The Angelus, Oct. 2004, pp. 2-3.

27. It would be more exact to say that they were rejected on the first day of the Council thanks to a coup d'etat skillfully managed by "progressive" prelates (Archbishop Lefebvre, They Have Uncrowned Him [Angelus Press, 1988], Ch. 24: "The Robber Council of Vatican II," pp. 163-169; Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, pp. 15-17.)

28. Le Journal du Concile tenu par Henri Fesquet, pp. 1046-1047.

29. On his role at the Council cf. Ralph Wiltgen, The Rhine, p. 166.

30. A.A.S. 59 (1967), p. 57. Why does Paul VI seem to set satisfaction and charity in opposition to each other? Does he not see that, in order to make satisfaction, one needs to love? As St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Punishment derives its power of satisfaction chiefly from charity whereby man bears it" (Suppl., Q. 13, Art. 2; quoted in The Angelus, Sept. 2004, p. 9).

31. The apostolic constitution was published in La Documentation Catholique, No. 1487, February 5,1967, col. l97 ff.; also Manuel des indulgences, normes et concessions (authorized French translation of the Vatican edition) (Paris: Lethielleux, 1969), pp. 65-92.

32. Manuel des indulgences, p. 81.

33. Fr. Arnaud Berard, in La Revue Thomiste of July-September 2000 (p. 465), thinks that this was due to the influence of Cardinal Journet, who collaborated in compiling the constitution and who, in this point at least, kept to the Church's traditional doctrine. Pope Paul VI, unfortunately, is far less clear in other documents. In his letter Sacrosancta Portiunculae, for example, he writes: "The indulgence is, rather, a help which all the faithful, humbly aware of their infirmity, find in the Mystical Body of Christ, which operates for their conversion by charity, by example, and by prayer" (constitution Lumen Gentium, Ch. 2, §11), A.A.S., 58, 1966, p. 632.

34. Indiscretas et superfluas indulgentias. This is a quotation from the Fourth Lateran Council (DS 819),

35. Indeed, Luther poured scorn on the keys of the Church because he hated the latter. That is why the Council of Trent wrote, in the same decree, that "this beautiful name of indulgence is blasphemed by the heretics."

36. Pravos quaestus. This reference is to the Decree on Indulgences of the Council of Trent (DS 1835). It is extensively quoted further on in this article, in the section "What Are We to Think of Paul VI's Reform?"

37. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, Normae et Concessiones (Libreria editrice Vaticana, 1968). The French edition is the Manuel des indulgences, normes et concessions (see note 50 above). English edition: The Raccolta, or A Manual of Indulgences, Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences (New York: Benziger Bros., 1957).

38. Decree of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiaria of June 29,1968 (French translation in La Documentation Catholique, No. 1525, Oct. 6, 1968, col. 1685).

39. Essentially these are the same as those of the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (see above).

40. The Code of Canon Law (new revised English translation), Harper Collins, 1997. The Latin reads: Indulgentia est remissio coram Deo poenae temporalis pro peccatis, ad culpam quod attinet jam deletis, quam christifidelis, apte dispositis et certis ac definitis condicionibus, consequitur ope Ecclesiae quae, ut ministra redemptionis, thesaurum satisfactionum Christi et sanctorum auctoritative dispensat et applicat.

41. "Let everyone attach great importance to indulgences, which are the remission, before God, of the temporal punishment due to sins already pardoned, which remission is granted by ecclesiastical authority by drawing upon the Church's treasury and applied by her to the living by means of absolution and to the dead by means of suffrage."

42. Thus Fr. Arnaud Berard, a priest of the Diocese of Bayonne, who is described as a doctor of theology, writes in La Revue Thomiste of July-September 2000: "To 'apply' means to designate, by an act of will, someone as a beneficiary of a benefit, and to ask God to accept this designation and be pleased to act accordingly....The Church designates the beneficiary to God and intercedes for him that God may deign to accept the prayer and works performed and may grant him the benefits of the indulgence" (pp. 454-455 –here again we see the influence of Karl Rahner). No: on the contrary, prior to Vatican II all authors maintained that the indulgence granted to the living was valid before God (coram Deo, as the Code says). As we have said, the indulgence does not depend on [God's] good pleasure: God gives all power to the popes to draw–with full effect–on the treasury of His Son's merits and those of the saints. The Church does not have to ask God to deign to agree to grant the indulgence. Otherwise, it would conflict with the privilege granted to Peter and to his power of the keys, and the Church would have misled the faithful for centuries by maintaining the opposite. Cf. La Nouvelle Revue Theologique, 1922, p. 180-185; DTC, Indulgences, col. 1594; also The Angelus, Oct. 2004, pp. 2-3.

43. We are speaking here of those who have continued to practice in conciliar parishes.

44. Positio, Ch. l, commentary (see above).

45. Acta, p. 156.

46. The Angelus, Oct. 2004.

47. Ibid.

48. Cf. in particular the commentary on Ch. 5 (above).

49. We find the spirit of these general grants of indulgence in the indulgence for the Holy Year 2000. Cf. the editorial of Le Sel de la Terre 33.

50. At the end of the third general indulgence there are, it is true, some quotations from Scripture and the Fathers on the necessity of penance, as well as a reference to the Apostolic Constitution Poenitemini, III c, which says that "there are three principal ways of satisfying the divine precept of penance: prayer, fasting, and works of charity" (p. 29), but this is only mentioned in passing; it is not developed.

51. The Catechism of the Council of Trent insisted, for instance, that priests should remind the faithful of these penances of former times: "In order to show [penitents] that they follow this rule [of justice, prudence, and piety], and also to impress more deeply on the mind of the penitent the enormity of his sin, it will be useful sometimes to remind him of the severe punishments inflicted by the ancient penitential canons, as they are called, for certain sins" (The Catechism of the Council of Trent [Tan Books, 1982], p. 305).

52. Pope St.Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Domini Gregis, September 8, 1907, on the modernist errors (§3).