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Keys extend to the remission of the temporal punishment, as explained above, which oftens remains due to forgiven sin? It is the Catholic doctrine that it does. It is the Catholic doctrine that, by the will and commission of Christ, and through the merits of His Blood, the Church, through her pardon, has the power of loosing a soul, not only (as in the Sacrament of Penance) from sin itself, but also from that punishment which it would otherwise have to undergo either on this earth or in Purgatory.
This is the whole doctrine of Indulgences. As will be seen, it is not a doctrine that stands by itself, or that can be considered apart from the two great Catholic doctrines of inherent righteousness through Christ's Blood by repentance, and the prerogative of the pastorate to bind and loose. Those who dispute these two dogmatic and fundamental articles will also dispute the doctrine of Indulgences. But it is surely not claiming too much to assert that, if they are admitted, they alone, taken together, suffice to make it reasonable and valid. To complete what has been said, and to show both what the Catholic Church holds to, and how anxious she is to prevent and reform all kinds of possible abuses, I will cite the very words of the decree of the Council of Trent, Session xxv. chap. 21. I quote from Waterworth's translation, p. 277:-
Whereas the power of conferring Indulgences was granted by Christ to the Church, and she has, even in the most ancient times, used the said power, delivered unto her of God, the holy Synod teaches and enjoins that the use of Indulgences, for the Christian people most salutary, and approved of by the authority of sacred councils, is to be retained in the Church; and It condemns with anathema those who either assert that they are useless, or who deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them. In granting them, however, It desires that, in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church, moderation be observed; lest by excessive facility ecclesiastical discipline be enervated. And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honourable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected, It ordains generally by this decree, that all evil gains for the obtaining thereof whence a most prolific cause of abuses amongst Christian people has been derived -be wholly abolished. But as regards the other abuses which have proceeded from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from whatsoever other source, since, by reason of the manifold corruptions in the places and provinces where the said abuses are committed, they cannot conveniently be specially prohibited, It commands all Bishops diligently to collect, each in his own Church, all abuses of this nature, and to report them in the first provincial Synod, that, after having been reviewed by the opinions of the other Bishops also, they may forthwith be referred to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, by whose authority and prudence that which may be expedient for the universal Church will be ordained, that thus the gift of holy Indulgences may be dispensed to all the faithful, piously, holily and incorruptly.
To make the whole subject more clear, and to satisfy the reasonable inquiries of many non-Catholics, we may now consider one or two of the more usual popular fallacies in regard to Indulgences.
One very common controversial statement is that the Catholic doctrine implicitly denies the all-sufficiency of the merits of Christ
to forgive, satisfy for, and remit all sin whatever, and all sin's punishment. But it is a fallacy to suppose that the Catholic Church for a moment questions this, or holds any other view than that guilt and punishment are never under any conceivable circumstances remitted to man except by and through the merits of Christ. The whole question is, whether, always supposing that Christ is the first cause and the complete cause, there may not be secondary causes causes, ministers or instruments-which derive all their efficacy and virtue from Christ's merits, but are true and efficient causes all the same? Christians hold that God is the first cause of the motions of the heavenly bodies, of the seasons, of growth &c. But this does not prevent reasonable people from thinking that gravitation, and the various laws of heat and motion, indicate that the planets, the earth, the air, the sea, living creatures and man himself are real causes. The sacerdotal and intercessory theories, I am aware, are bitterly denounced by many. I have no objection to their being argued against; but to denounce them as derogating from the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice or the completeness of His satisfaction is a simple misunderstanding. The layman absolves from sin in baptism; but it is Christ who communicates that power to him. The priest absolves from sin in the Sacrament of Penance, or confers grace in any other Sacrament; but it is Christ who moves his hand and gives efficacy to his word. Dispute this-but do not misstate the view that it represents. To speak of Indulgences, I admit that the Church not only presumes to remit punishment (as explained above), but also claims, in that remission, to satisfy the offended justice of God. That is, she not only uses the power of the Keys to remit, but considers that she has something to offer which satisfies. Her power of remitting, as just stated, she professes to receive from Christ, her action deriving its whole validity and efficacy from Him. But whence does she get the 'satisfaction' which she dispenses, and which God accepts as expiation for the souls for whom she offers it? Has she the command of a 'treasure' of this kind? Her view is that she has; and every controversialist, at least of the older generation, knows the lively disputes that have been frequently occasioned by the discussion of the treasure of the Church.'
What, then, is meant by the 'treasure of the Church'-ecclesiae thesaurus? The expression, as I need not say, is metaphorical. It signifies a certain supply and abundance of spiritual advantages which it is in the Church's power to dispense. It exists in the invisible treasury of God's holy will and acceptance. It consists primarily and completely of the merit and satisfaction of Christ our Saviour. It includes also the superfluous merit and satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. What do we mean by the word 'superfluous'? In one way, as I need not say, a Saint has no superfluous merit. Whatever he has, he wants it all for himself;
because, the more he merits on earth (by Christ's grace) the greater is his glory in heaven. But, speaking of mere satisfaction for punishment due, there cannot be a doubt that some of the Saints have done more than was needed in justice to expiate the punishment due to their own sins. For example, the Blessed Virgin, according to the faith of the Church, never committed any sin; yet she suffered inconceivably. And if we cannot say quite so much for St. John the Baptist and other Saints, yet it cannot be doubted that their 'expiation,' made efficacious by loving acceptance, in union with the Passion of Christ, was far greater than was required for themselves. It is this superfluous' expiation that accumulates in the treasure of the Church. Let it be observed that we do not say that any Saint can do more than he 'owes' to God. When we have done 'what we ought,' then we are all unprofitable servants.' That is, because no man, nor all men together, can ever repay Almighty God for what He has done for us in our creation and redemption. We are here speaking of a particular manifestation of God's will--that a sinner must, often or generally, make some satisfaction,' or endure some expiatory punishment, after God has forgiven him. And we say that, in this particular, many of the Saints do more than is required.
On the principles already laid down, no one should raise the objection that by adding the satisfactions' of the Saints to those of our Divine Saviour, we are impeaching the all-sufficiency of His satisfaction. Our view is, on the contrary, that He has not only superabundantly satisfied for all men's guilt and sin, but that He has imparted that efficacy of satisfaction' to the works of His Saints as to secondary agencies. The Catholic view is—and, I think, a very natural one that it is more glorious to Jesus Christ to constitute and give efficacy to a magnificent kosmos of subordinate agency than to be Himself the sole, as He is the primary, effective cause. Can any one doubt that this great principle is clearly indicated in Holy Scripture? It was on the day before the night of the destruction of the Assyrian host that God sent this message to Ezechias: 'I will protect this city and will save it, for My own sake, and for the sake of David My servant.'9
But is the disposal of this treasure' in the hands of the Church? If we once admit that the Church can release from the kind of punishment of which we have so often spoken, and that such release 'satisfies' the justice of God, it follows that the Church must, in so doing, make use of, and dispense, the abundant satisfaction' of Jesus Christ; for there is no other way in which she can do it. At any rate, it is the firm and clear teaching of the Church that the Indulgences which she grants not only 'remit,' but, in remitting, satisfy. When St. Paul pardoned the incestuous Corinthian, it was 9 4 Kings xix. 34.
not his sin that he pardoned, but his punishment; and it was no mere ecclesiastical penalty that he remitted, such as excommunication by the local Church; it was more than that Church could do, or could venture to claim for St. Paul speaks in a most solemn way as if he were exercising a prerogative of Christ Himself, in the person of Christ, that we may not be over-reached by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his devices.' 10 Here it is plain that the Church of Corinth had let St. Paul understand that the excommunicated sinner, now penitent, was likely to be swallowed up in over much sorrow.' The Apostle, therefore, pardons him. A pardon in the person of Christ' is a pardon in the eyes of Christ, not merely in the eyes of the Church. Can it be supposed that St. Paul, in remitting the sinner's punishment, left him still liable to punishment in the judgment of God? Almost the same form of speech is used by St. Cyprian, in a well-known passage." The holy Bishop is writing to a distant Church. He has heard that some of the lapsed have received 'certificates' (libellos) from martyrs, 'whose prerogative it is to help such persons before the Lord.' 12 He fears that he may be prevented from coming in person to receive back into communion these penitents, whose canonical penance has thus been begged off. He directs, therefore, that whether he is there or not, these penitents, having 'confessed' and 'having had hands imposed upon them unto penance'-a most clear reference to the Sacrament of Penance-shall come back to the Lord with the peace' which the martyrs have asked for. We have here in the phrases before the Lord' and 'coming back to the Lord,' parallels to St. Paul's claim to speak in the person of Christ; ' and the peace' which is referred to is that remission which the canonical penance was intended to effect, but which the generous intercession of the martyrs has accelerated. But we have more than this. The martyrs (and the ancient bishops) had no doubt that martyrs could thus interfere with, or alleviate, canonical penance. On what grounds? On the grounds of Catholic fellowship-in other words, of the communion of Saints. It is clear that this feeling of ' communion,' or community of holy things and holy persons, carried with it not only the right and duty of intercession for one another, but the common participation of expiatory suffering; for why had the martyrs this prerogative except because they were martyrs that is, because they were specially distinguished by suffering? All might intercede; the martyrs only could claim to make their brethren share their expiation. Thus, in the third century, there is clear evidence of a treasure-that is, of merit and satisfaction which can be transferred from one soul to another. Now, the
10 2 Cor. xi. 10.
Epistola XII. of the Benedictine edition, Venice, 1728.
12 Praerogativa eorum apud Deum adjuvare possunt.' These words are wanting in some MSS., but they are not really essential.
Catholic Church considers herself to be the dispenser of the whole of that store of merit and satisfaction which consists, primarily, of the satisfaction of Christ, and, secondarily, of that of the Saints-a store which is inexhaustible precisely because it includes the infinite satisfaction of the Cross. Christ is the Head; men are members of the same body; what one does all share in; and the Church, holding Christ's commission to rule and lead, regulates the administration of all.
It cannot be denied that the large majority of non-Catholics think, and repeat, that when the Church grants an Indulgence, she thereby grants permission to sin with impunity; and, further, that such Indulgences can be had for money. It is difficult to know how to stop this kind of assertion. If you explain as I have endeavoured to explain-quoting Councils and Catechisms, they will tell you that theory is one thing, practice another; that the theoretical statements of the Church may be defensible (though erroneous), but that the practice of Catholic authorities, especially in the ages just before the Reformation, has been, and is, nothing less than scandalous.
No Catholic denies that there have been what may reasonably be called scandals, and grievous scandals, in connection with the proclamation and promulgation of Indulgences. But they have arisen not so much from any misstatement, or even popular misunderstanding, of the doctrine, but almost wholly from the fact that the contribution of money has been one of the conditions for gaining them. In principle, there can be no harm in imposing a money offering for such a purpose. To give of one's means towards a good purpose, such as missions to the heathen, the support of ministers of the Gospel or the building of churches, is a good work, and a work entailing sacrifice and inconvenience. The scandal occurs when unscrupulous men either show themselves indecently eager to gather the money, or misappropriate it when gathered. This occurred sometimes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and it was for this reason that the Council of Trent 13 decreed that the name and use of questors of alms be henceforth utterly abolished in all parts of Christendom whatsoever,' ordering, at the same time, that, in future, Indulgences should be proclaimed by the Ordinaries of the place, aided by two members of the Chapter.
On the main question-whether the Church (or any considerable Catholic authority) ever taught that Indulgences forgive sins, past or future-I believe there is no historical ground whatever for any except a negative answer. I am aware that some Protestant writers such as D'Aubigné, have stated that Tetzel, who preached the celebrated Indulgence which aroused Luther's indignation, promised the people that he would give them 'letters by which even the sins 13 Session xxi. chap. ix.