The Traditional Catholic Faith
Catholic Teaching on Indulgences
An indulgence is the remission granted by the Church of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. It stems from the power given by Our Lord to St. Peter, the first pope, and to all his successors: “And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
There are two kinds of indulgences, plenary and partial. A plenary indulgence is the remission of all the temporal punishment due to our sins. A partial indulgence is the remission of part of the temporal punishment due to our sins. By means of indulgences, the Church remits the temporal punishment due to sin by applying to us from her spiritual treasury part of the infinite satisfaction of Jesus Christ and of the superabundant satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints.
To gain an indulgence for ourselves we must be in the state of grace, have at least a general intention of gaining the indulgence, and perform the works required by the Church. We cannot gain indulgences for other living persons, but we can gain them for the souls in purgatory, since the Church makes most indulgences applicable to them.