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Hurry Now Before “Treasury of Merits” Slams Shut Again

Although it’s an ever-diminishing number these days, there are Protestants who still know that a mysterious thing called indulgences had something to do with the start of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.  But of those who do know this, many of them are under the impression that indulgences are a relic of earlier, less enlightened times, and that they are hardly ever, if ever, mentioned within Roman Catholic circles nowadays.

How wrong they are, as the Roman pope, Benedict XVI, showed to all the world in 2012…

The Roman Pope Grants a “Plenary Indulgence” in 2012/2013

In 2012 Benedict XVI appointed a so-called “Year of Faith” for Roman Catholics, to run from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013.  According to the Vatican-issued decree, dated 5 October 2012: “On the day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of the Ecumenical Council Vatican II… the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has established the beginning of a Year dedicated particularly to the profession of the true faith and to its correct interpretation, with the reading, or better, with the pious meditation of [upon] the Acts of the Council and of the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”.[1]

As pointed out by Richard Bennett (an ex-priest) and Timothy F. Kauffman in an article exposing this “Year of Faith”, “The main reason for commemorating the Second Vatican Council during the Year of Faith is because its ecumenical overtures have been so successful”; “…the Year of Faith is nothing else than an effort to continue the marketing and repackaging of Roman dogmas that was started at the Second Vatican Council”; and, “The Year of Faith is claiming to focus on faith, but instead it draws people ever deeper into Rome’s works based salvation.”[2]

This present article, however, is not an examination of Rome’s “Year of Faith”, but rather of the “plenary indulgence” Benedict has granted.  According to the Vatican decree, Benedict granted this indulgence to the Roman Catholic faithful on the occasion of this “Year of Faith”, and it will last for the duration of this “Year”.[3]

So what is this all about?  It is shocking indeed, a blatant denial of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and solid evidence of Rome’s heathenish doctrine of salvation.


But What Is an Indulgence?

Before we examine this latest papal indulgence, let us understand indulgences in general.  What exactly is an “indulgence”?

Here is the definition from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church: “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”[4]

This is not easy to understand, but let us attempt to make it as simple as possible:

According to official Roman Catholic teaching, “The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains.”[5]  In other words, when the Roman Catholic sins, he can obtain forgiveness for it (by confessing his sin to a priest and performing some penance given to him by the priest) and hence will not be eternally punished for his sin in hell; but he still has to experience a temporal punishment for it either here on earth, or after death in a place called Purgatory.[6]  An indulgence, then, is not the forgiveness of sin, but the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due because of sin.

But none of this is in the Bible at all.  It is all a lie.

Rome claims that there is biblical justification for indulgences, as follows: it says that in 1 Cor. 5:1 Paul exercised the power of “binding” (as given by Christ to the disciples in Matt. 16:19 and Matt. 18:18) by inflicting a penance, and excluding this offender from the Church until he performed the penance; and then it says that in 2 Cor. 2:7, Paul exercised the power of “loosing” by remitting the remainder of the penance!

But this is so typical of Rome’s distortion of the Scriptures to suit its own purposes.  In truth, to “bind” (in Matthew) can have no reference to indulgences, which are only concerned with “loosing”.  These verses, then, do not support this lie.  And 2 Cor. 2:6-10 clearly refers to the restoration of the offender to the local church – it does not refer to granting an indulgence.

In fact, the total absence of any biblical justification whatsoever for indulgences has even been admitted by some of Rome’s own scholars and theologians themselves!  For example, the Romish “saint”, Antoninus, scholar, author, and archbishop of Florence in the fifteenth century, declared: “We have no testimony in the Scriptures, nor among the Fathers, in favour of indulgences, but only the authority of some modern authors.”  And John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), patriarch of Constantinople, whose statue, along with those of Augustine, Athanasius and Ambrose, supports the papal throne in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, wrote in his book that “Christians” must not imitate the heathens, who made use of indulgences, paying money for the absolution of sins, and imposed penances.[7]


A Monk Makes a Mint from Indulgences

Indulgences were a major part of what sparked Martin Luther’s protest against the Papacy, for even though Luther was still a Roman Catholic and unconverted, he could not stomach the evil of it all.  And nothing more clearly shows the utterly unscriptural nature of indulgences than what occurred when a Dominican monk named Tetzel wended his way through Germany in the early years of the sixteenth century, selling indulgences to any who would part with their money.    Selling them?  Oh yes – indulgences were bought with money.  Tetzel was rich, unscrupulous, an inquisitor, a convicted adulterer, a man who, though supposedly sworn to celibacy, took two of his children with him on his travels.   Tetzel boasted: “I have saved more souls by my indulgences than the apostle [Peter, erroneously claimed by Rome as their first pope[8]] by his sermons.  There is no sin so great that an indulgence cannot remit”.  “But more than this, indulgences avail not only for the living, but for the dead.  For that, repentance is not even necessary.”  “Come and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which even the sins that you intend to commit may be pardoned .”(!)  Also these truly blasphemous words: “The Lord our God no longer reigns.  He has resigned all power to the pope.”  And then his infamous statement: “At the very instant that the money rattles at the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from Purgatory, and flies liberated to heaven!”

No wonder the poor blind Roman Catholics flocked to purchase that indulgence!  Huge crowds gathered to hear Tetzel and to cough up the cash.  Coins clattered into his money chest, the purchasers were issued a certificate, and they went on their way rejoicing, secure in the devilish delusion that they had bought their loved one’s soul freedom from the sufferings of Purgatory.  And Rome’s coffers filled up.

After Tetzel’s time, and because of the massive protests against it during the Reformation, “The Council of Trent… decided [in 1562] that no fees should be collected on granting indulgences.”[9]  Well, an indulgence may no longer be bought with money, but even so the great evil of indulgences themselves continues.