Monday, March 08, 2010

APPENDIX B Indulgences

Can Bible-believing Christians really accept such an obviously false gospel and join with those who preach it in evangelizing the world? Can evangelicals, in good conscience, direct inquiring souls to a Church which preaches purgatory and indulgences, and agree that its members are Christians and not to be evangelized? A Church which claims to control the gate to heaven and opens it to those who put themselves in her hands?

In fact, she glories in her claim to be "the minister of redemption" (Canon 992 says the same). Rome unashamedly admits that the salvation she offers must be received in partial installments and that its efficacy is derived not only from "Christ's merits" but from the surplus "good works of all the saints" beyond what they needed to "attain their own salvation."

How astonishing that evangelical leaders could credit Roman Catholicism with being Christian and propose to evangelize the world as her partner in the gospel!

We can only assume that they are ignorant of her true teachings and have been deceived by the many misrepresentations emanating from Catholic apologists. How else could those who otherwise seem to be stalwarts of the faith say that evangelicals and Catholics are in agreement on the fundamentals of the gospel?

Vatican II goes on to say, "To gain indulgences the work prescribed must be done." Here is further proof, if it were needed, that Rome preaches, promises, and practices salvation by works. And yet, oddly enough, the person himself doesn't have to do the good works. The good works of others may be credited to one's account in Rome's contrived ledger, which, when balanced out by its specious reckoning, opens the gate to heaven.

The Origin and Development of the Doctrine of Indulgences

The very concept of indulgences comes from paganism: the idea that the infliction of pain, the recitation of formulas, or the pilgrimages to shrines and sacrifices to the gods are meritorious and influence the gods in one's favor. The idea that saying so many Hail Marys or kissing a crucifix and repeating a formula could reduce purgatorial suffering which Christ's sacrifice on the cross could not reduce is bad enough, but the teaching that an indulgence may be applied to the dead carries the blasphemous absurdity a quantum leap further. The idea that "time off for good behavior" could be credited to someone in purgatory who has not done the necessary "work prescribed" betrays again the fraud of Romanism. Anything is possible for a financial offering.

The gospel of indulgences is one of Rome's most blatantly unbiblical and illogical doctrines coming out of the Middle Ages, and it is still in force today. The pagan concept of indulgences gradually became defined as part of Roman Catholicism over the years and eventually became the papacy's greatest moneymaking scheme. Theoretically it should take only one Mass to release every soul from purgatory; Mary, whose power is infinite, could do it in a moment; and the popes, whose power is also unlimited, could empty purgatory with the stroke of a pen by simply devising an indulgence to do so. Why not, then? Do they have no love for souls? The answer is obvious. Von Dollinger writes:

[Augostino] Trionfo, commissioned by John XXII to expound the rights of the Pope, showed that, as the dispenser of the merits of Christ, he could empty Purgatory at one stroke, by his Indulgences, of all the souls detained there, on the sole condition that somebody fulfilled the rules laid down for gaining those indulgences.

He advised the Pope, however, not to do this ... [though] the Pope's power is so immeasurably great, that no Pope can ever know the full extent of it.

To empty purgatory would stop the inflow of offerings for more Masses and endless graces and favors. Instead, the requirements for getting out of purgatory were made ever more complex, necessitating ever greater services from the Church. The doctrine of indulgences was at last declared an official Church dogma by Pope Clement VI in 1343. Clement reasoned that "one drop of Christ's blood would have sufficed for the redemption of the whole human race." The remainder of that blood shed on the cross, its virtue "increased by the merits of the Blessed Virgin and the supererogatory works of the saints" (above and beyond the good works needed for their own salvation), constitutes the "treasury" referred to above. By papal bull in 1476, Pope Sixtus IV "extended this privilege to souls in purgatory [reducing their time of suffering there], provided that their living relatives purchased indulgences for them."

Out of this "treasury of the Church" salvation/redemption is dispensed a bit at a time by the Catholic clergy through the seven sacraments. There is no way to know how much credit is granted for each deed, ritual, or indulgence, or how long this process must continue. Never is sufficient grace given to assure one of heaven. Always more Rosaries must be said, more Masses performed, more offerings given in order to obtain more grace from the Church. Peter, whom Catholics say was the first pope, warned of such "false teachers" who would "bring in damnable heresies ... and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Peter 2:1,3). Merchandise indeed! No gold mine could compare.

In Catholicism, one never passes "from death to life" as Christ promised (John 5:24) but is always in the process of earning salvation with the Church's help and with the expectancy of finishing the "purging" process in purgatory. In fact, excommunication is the penalty for a Catholic to say he is saved and knows that he has eternal life through faith in Christ's finished work. The very heart of the gospel that evangelicals affirm is denied by Catholicism in its official catechisms, canons, decrees, and dogmas, and those who dare to affirm the biblical gospel are anathematized.

Meriting Grace

There is almost no limit to the ingenious "means of grace" which popes and their assistants have imaginatively invented. One of the most popular ways to merit grace (a contradiction of terms) is through wearing the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (to which we have earlier referred). The " `Sabbatine' [Saturday] Privilege is based on a bull allegedly issued March 3, 1322, by Pope John XXII ... [declaring] that those who wear the Scapular and fulfill two other conditions ... will be freed from Purgatory [by the Virgin Mary] on the first Saturday after death."

In spite of the heresies and evil of Pope John XXII, many other popes (Alexander V, Clement VII, Pius V, Gregory XIII, etc.)7 have confirmed his teaching about the brown scapular, which in itself is so obviously contrary to Scripture. Pope Pius X declared, "I wear the cloth; let us never take it off." Pope Pius XI "joyfully professed: `I learned to love the Scapular Virgin in the arms of my mother...."' Pope Paul V affirmed that "the Blessed Virgin will aid the souls of the Brothers and Sisters of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel after their death. . . ." Pope Benedict XV offered a "partial indulgence for kissing the Scapular." And in 1950 "Pope Pius XII wrote the now-famous words concerning the Scapular: `Let it be your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we are particularly urging in these perilous times.'"

We have already noted the fatal contradiction that indulgences are designed to shorten suffering in purgatory; yet that very suffering is supposed to be essential in order to be purged for entrance into heaven. It makes no sense. Moreover, one can only wonder how and why an indulgence obtained by means of adoring a crucifix or having a Mass said is even more potent than Christ's actual death on the cross and how such representations of Calvary can accomplish what Christ's death could not. Again it makes no sense, but the Catholic has been taught not to reason why but simply to accept what the Church says.

Vatican II has a large section containing 20 complex provisions revising previous rules concerning when and how an indulgence may be obtained. One is reminded of Christ's denunciation of the rabbis in Matthew 23 for devising a labyrinth of rules that kept the people dependent upon their spiritual guidance. Rome has done the same. It would take a lawyer specializing in the Church's Canon Law to unravel the intricacies of how and when to maximize the various offers of "grace." The following is illustrative:

The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular or medal) after it has been duly blessed by any priest can gain a partial indulgence. But if this object of piety is blessed by the Pope or any bishop, the faithful who use it with devotion can also gain a plenary [full] indulgence on the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, provided they also make a profession of faith using any approved formula. .. .

The way [partial indulgences] have been determined hitherto, by days and years, is abolished. Instead, a new standard for measuring them has been laid down. From now on a partial indulgence will be indicated only with the words "partial indulgence" without any determination of days or years.

If Rome was wrong in its rules concerning indulgences in the past, how can anyone be certain that she is correct now? And what of those who relied upon the previous rules? Of course, knocking off so many days or years in the past didn't really mean anything because the Church could never say in the first place how much time had to be spent in purgatory. Nor does an indulgence under the new rules have any understandable significance today. And what kind of "God" would bend His justice for such contrivances, measuring out "grace" depending upon whether the deed was done on a certain "feast" day and whether a priest or bishop had "blessed" the supposedly sacred object!

The major means of acquiring an indulgence of unknown benefit is, of course, through the Mass. Canon 904 states: "Remembering that the work of redemption is continually accomplished in the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, priests are to celebrate frequently...." As we have already noted, instead of being a memorial to an accomplished redemption, each Mass takes another tiny step toward full redemption. No one knows how tiny that step is, but it must be miniscule indeed judging by the millions of Masses that continue to be celebrated with uncertain results.

Salvation for Sale

It was the sale of indulgences more than anything else that roused Luther's ire to such an extent that he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle chapel and sparked the Reformation. As we have seen, salvation was sold in many other ways beside indulgences, and still is to this day. Though the fee is today called an "offering," in fact money changes hands, with the promise of salvation as the incentive for the "gift." Historian Will Durant's comments are of interest:

Almost as mercenary as the sale of indulgences was the acceptance or solicitation, by the clergy, of money payments, grants, legacies, for the saying of Masses supposed to reduce a dead soul's term of punishment in purgatory. Large sums were devoted to this purpose by pious people, either to relieve a departed relative or friend, or to shorten or annul their own purgatorial probation after death. The poor complained that through their inability to pay for Masses and indulgences it was the earthly rich, not the meek, who would inherit the kingdom of heaven; and Columbus ruefully praised money because, he said, "he who possesses it has the power of transporting souls into paradise."

What fraud, as though God could be bought off for money! In Spain the annual papal Bull of the Crusade had to be purchased by everyone of seven years and older at least once each year. No one could be buried without the current Bull in the coffin. Upon purchase of the Bull, the pope immediately granted indulgences and absolution from all sins except heresy and the vow of chastity. A Catholic observer in eighteenth-century Spain, with reference to this Bull, made this damning comment:

Let us say that we may suspect that this Bull sends more people into hell than it can save from it; for it is the greatest encouragement to sin in the world. A man says, I may satisfy my lusts and passions, I may commit all wickedness and yet I am sure to be pardoned of all by the taking of this Bull for two reals of plate [silver]. By the same rule their consciences cannot be under any remorse nor trouble; for if a man commits a great sin, he goes to confess, he gets absolution, he has by him this Bull, or permission to sin, and his conscience is at perfect ease, insomuch that after he gets absolution he may go and commit new sins, and go again for absolution.

Well-known Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft claims that "the Church soon cleaned up its act and forbade [shortly after Martin Luther's defection] the sale of indulgences...." Charles Colson erroneously claims the same. Of course, that simply isn't true. But even if it were, one cannot dispense so easily with the gross deceit that milked the faithful of their money and robbed them of salvation in the process. The sale of salvation had deceived millions for centuries by the time of the Reformation. Were there any refunds given by the Church? Of course not. Any remedy for those who had passed into eternity thinking they had bought their salvation? No. Tragically, the fraud continues to this day.

Kreeft, like other Catholic apologists, omits the fact that the false and evil doctrine of indulgences remains an integral part of present Catholicism, and that money is still given to secure salvation. As we have earlier noted, Vatican II declares: "The Church .. commands that the usage of indulgences ... should be kept ... and it condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them…[for] the task of winning salvation."

It is no good to plead that the abominations of the past are no longer practiced by Rome. Of course they are, and quite openly, especially in Roman Catholic countries, though less so in the United States. Yet even here, salvation (in baby steps toward heaven, of course) may be purchased by offerings to the Church. One friend of the author whose father died recently in the United States said that more than 2000 dollars was expended for Mass cards at his father's funeral, which would allow for a number of Masses to be said on his behalf to help get him out of purgatory.

Rome has given her people a gospel of despair. Multitudes of Catholics live in dread of committing a mortal sin, of failing to reveal all in confession, of falling short of the rules and regulations their Church has set for salvation. As a consequence, they are completely at the mercy of the Church, looking to it for salvation rather than resting in God's rich grace and in Christ's finished work at Calvary.

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