Catholic Indulgences

The Indulgences that are “given out” by the Catholic Church are greatly misunderstood by non-Catholics and Catholics alike.

As the Church handles indulgences today, they are defined by “The Handbook of Indulgences – Norms and Grants” as:

“An indulgence is the remission in the eyes of God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose culpable element has already been taken away.  The Christian faithful who are rightly disposed and observe the definite, prescribed conditions gain this remission through the effective assistance of the Church, which, as the minister of redemption, authoritatively distributes and applies the treasure of the expiatory works of Christ and the saints.”

The question is asked by many Protestant Christians as to where the Catholic Church thinks it has such power to do this.  The answer is in the Bible.  Let us look at this in some detail.

First we will go to Matthew 6:17-19:

17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 l will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

At this time Jesus gave Simon a new name Peter (the Rock), and then gave him the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close the gates as needed, as well as the power to bind our sins or release us of our sins.

At this point the contention is that Jesus died for our sins so we do not need to be bound or released by man, as Jesus already has.  Yes, Jesus died for our sins.  But this means that even though we are still sinners, if we follow His Commandments, have faith in Him, become Baptized by water in the Trinity and “eat His Body and drink His Blood” (John 6:53), our sins are forgiven and we MAY make it to Heaven.

At all times through the Bible, sins had to be “paid for”, often in suffering and hardship.  We are told that only the holy in spirit and body may go to Heaven, and that the gates are narrow.  So we must atone for our sins, and the Catholic Church teaches, through tradition and the Old Testament, that this is done through a cleansing process we call Purgatory for lack of another name.  This is a time of temporal punishment to remove the stain of sins we commit so as to allow us to go into Heaven and behold our Lord and Savior, as impure things  and beings may not enter into Heaven.

After Jesus is Crucified and came back to the Apostles and Disciples we hear Him tell all of His Apostles (John 20:21-23) “21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” ” Thus giving the Apostles the ability to bind and unbind us from our sins.  We are told that we are released from our sins with the Death of Jesus, and that is true, but we are not released from the effects of those sins, and that requires further pardoning by God or His Disciples, whom He has granted permission to do so.

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The Catholic Church…

Since 1506 or there abouts the Catholic Church has been given a bad rap by many people.  Since the founding of the United States, the Catholic Church in the United States has gotten an even worse rap.

We are constantly told that we are not Christian.  I beg to differ.  During my studies in religion, which have lasted for over 30 years, I have found that the Bible and early documents of the Christian faith very strongly points to the “founding Church of Christ” was and is the Catholic Church.

Let us start at the beginning of Jesus’ Church..  In Matthew 16:13-19 we read that Jesus begins His Church on Peter (the Rock) by saying “13 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (RNAB)

This establishes three things:

First, Jesus made Peter the head of His Church.  While he wasn’t given the title “Pope”, that title didn’t come for a couple of hundred years, he is the first Pope of the Catholic Church.  This is further established in Acts 15:6-12.  In this section after Paul and Barnabas have many discussions with the Apostles and Disciples of Christ about circumcision among the Gentiles steps in and says: “6 *The apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter. 7 *After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. 10 Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”* 12 The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them. (RNAB)

After much discussion and many attempts to keep the Old Law under the Old Covenant on circumcision, Peter steps forward and sets the decree.  The Church and it’s hierarchy are clearly shown at this point, with the Apostles being the “Bishops” and their disciples being the Priest “on the streets”, much like today in the Catholic Church.

The second thing the naming of Peter as the head of His Church does is institute confession to Paul of ones sins that he may release them from their sins on His behalf.  This is then passed on to the rest of His disciples in John 20:19-23: “19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples* were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.* The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 *[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 *And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 * Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (RNAB)

Yes, we should confess our sins directly to God.  And Catholics do this as well.  But, the bible tells us, for example in James 5, to confess our sins to one another.  So, after confessing our sins to God, we then go to our Priest, who has the Authority of Jesus to release us from our sins, and ask for verbal notification of our forgiveness, that is accept by Jesus, per His Word.

The final thing that is covered in the initial versus is that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Peter or the Church.  This means that the Church will not go into Apostasy and that it will not go away.  The gates of Hell showed themselves in the Reformation and the churches that have come along since that time.  The Apostasy is in the “Reform churches” that have come along since.  The Catholic Church remains with Christ, and remains the foundation of all Christian belief systems, even if the rank and file in those systems won’t admit it.  (If you talk to their Theologians and Bible Scholars, many will though…)

If you read the Didache, which was written from 90AD to 110 AD, just 60 to 80 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus by one of the disciples of the disciples of Jesus, you will find that the hierarchy of the Church then and now is the same, although bigger, and you will find that the religious services of then are the same as the Mass of the Catholic Church of today.

If you believe the Bible in its entirety, and place your faith in it, when Jesus says “and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it” I do not see how one can say that the Catholic Church had gone into Apostasy.  Yes, some people within the Church, including at the top, have “left the Church” and done bad things “in the name of the Church”, but these were people, NOT the Church.

The Catholic Church has kept the same doctrine, the same Bible, and the same structure since it was created by Jesus through Peter.

Mind you I know that the Bible didn’t come for a few hundred years after the death of Jesus, but the letters used to create the “original Bible”, and the Old Testament used by Jesus where from His time or shortly there after.  The KJV of the Bible didn’t even hit the streets until 1611!!  And then it was edited by King James to meet his need so that he could get a divorce and otherwise run “his church” his way and without the Pope.

Until Martin Luther, all of the people of the world knew the Catholic Church to be the ONE Church of Christ, even with upstarts before that time.

In Christ.

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Lent is HERE!

As we come fully into Lent, I would like to remind everyone to pray often!  One of the best sacrifices you can do is to give up some of your play time to prayer time!  Bi-directional conversation with God, through prayer and reading the Bible (and listening to God’s Words via the Bible and the world), is key to a good relationship with God, which leads to His saving Graces!

As you pray, remember this time of suffering by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and thank Him for all he has done for you!

In Christ

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