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in the Roman Catholic Church, the pardon of temporal punishment due for sin. It is to be distinguished from absolution and the forgiveness of guilt. The church grants indulgences out of the Treasury of Merit won for the church by Christ and the saints. Indulgences may be plenary, i.e., a full remission of all temporal punishment; or they may be partial, i.e., a remission of part of the temporal punishment. Contrary to popular understanding, the number of days specified in a partial indulgence does not denote a reduction of time in purgatory. The practice of quantifying indulgences stems from ancient usage, when actual public penance was imposed and remitted for specified periods as the church saw fit. Hence, the penitent who is granted an indulgence receives merit as if he had performed actual penance for the length of time specified. The degree of merit varies with the disposition of the penitent. The notion that this practice encourages moral laxity is denied by the church, since the penitent must be in a state of grace and the attachment to even a single venial sin will reduce the effectiveness of the indulgence. Indulgences won for souls in purgatory are applied only as God wills. Martin LutherLuther, Martin,
1483–1546, German leader of the Protestant Reformation, b. Eisleben, Saxony, of a family of small, but free, landholders. Early Life and Spiritual Crisis

Luther was educated at the cathedral school at Eisenach and at the Univ.
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 protested against the sale and abuse of indulgences and came to reject the teaching altogether. Since the Council of Trent (1562) the buying and selling of indulgences has been unlawful.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the Catholic Church, the complete or partial forgiveness of “sins” granted to the believer by the church, which according to its teachings possesses a supply of “divine grace” by virtue of the merits of Christ and the saints; also, the certificate handed out by the church on the occasion of “absolution.” In the 12th and 13th centuries the Catholic Church began a huge trade in indulgences that took on the character of shameless profit, a fact that later aroused the vociferous protest of the humanists; the abolition of the trade was one of the basic demands of the Reformation. Even today the sale of indulgences by the papacy has not ceased completely.


Lozinskii, S. G. “Papskii ‘department pokaiannykh del.’” In Voprosy istorii religii i ateizma, collection 2. Moscow, 1954.
“Papskie taksy otpushcheniia grekhov.” Compiled by B. Ia. Ramm. Ibid.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. RC Church a remission of the temporal punishment for sin after its guilt has been forgiven
2. Commerce an extension of time granted as a favour for payment of a debt or as fulfilment of some other obligation
3. History a royal grant during the reigns of Charles II and James II of England giving Nonconformists and Roman Catholics a measure of religious freedom
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1815 Pope Pius VII granted partial indulgence to the faithful who honor Mary.
To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful is in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed," the Manual of Indulgences said.
In order to inform debates about the indulgence campaigns that drove Martin Luther to rebel from the Church, Jenks reproduces the full Latin text of all available papal bulls and brevia between 1300 and 1517 that granted plenary indulgences, that is those that canceled all previously accrued temporal punishment due to sin.
The decree released by the Vatican states: "So that the faithful prepare spiritually to participate in the event in the best way, His Holiness Pope Francis willingly concedes the gift of indulgences."
Over the ensuing seven years, he was selling indulgences in no fewer than 10 German cities.
The correct financial allotment for these indulgences is, I would suggest, ever so slightly higher than is reasonable and comfortable for said person.
'Part of the Church's teachings, when you pray for the dead and go to the cemetery, you actually gain indulgence. There's indulgence when you pray for the person who died,' he said.
It's an indulgence BARRY Sheerman has stated that he still dreamed of having an overhead cable car running from the town centre to the stadium in Leeds Road.
The individual portion and packaging of our new Sara Lee Cheesecake Slices provide the ease and convenience consumers are seeking for an after-meal treat or 1 sweet Indulgence during the day."
63% chose F&B as one of their top three indulgences, with 31% choosing it this as their number one indulgence.
Their goal in attacking these abuses and accretions was to reform both Christian life and teaching." (1) We see this as early as 1517 in Luther's challenge in the Ninety-Five Theses to the practice of selling indulgences by Johann Tetzel.
In the past the faithful travelled from all over the world to participate in one of a limited number of events where plenary indulgences were offered.