Selling Indulgences?

It is believed by some that the Roman communion has abandoned the doctrine and practice of indulgences. The HB has noted, however, that the practice of indulgences continues. In one of these posts it was suggested that Rome has never authorized the selling of indulgences. Of course Tetzel would have been surprised by such a claim. Today I ran across this language from the Council of Constance (1414-18) (against Wycliffe and Hus):

Can. 28 “Likewise, whether he believes that, for a just and holy reason, the pope can grant indulgences for the remission of sins to all Christians who are truly contrite and have confessed, especially to those who make pilgrimages to the holy places and to those contributing to them.

27. And whether he believes that by reason of this sort of grant those who visit the church and those contribute to them can gain indulgences of this kind.

[italics added – rsc]

As background I’m reading Reinhold Kiermayr, “How Much Money Was Actually in the Indulgence Chest?,” Sixteenth-Century Journal 17.3 (1986): 303-18.

UPDATE 17 Mar 09

From Kiermayr’s essay:

In the sixteenth century, and even well before, indulgences no longer reflected that lofty dogmatic purpose given them St. Thomas Aquinas; the medieval institution had taken on a purely revenue generating character. The theological context of indulgences or their dogmatic validity were no longer the subject of much public discussion; attention focused on their financial aspects and quite naturally their abuses (304).

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  1. and to those contributing to them.

    See, this is where the splitting of hairs comes in. I got into a tussle over on Jason’s blog about my mother, who still pays to have masses said for my deceased father. Technically, they’re not “selling” them. But it is customary for someone to “make a contribution.” There is an entire economy built up around this practice, but technically, they are not “selling” them.

    What makes this all frustrating, is that you are saying, “yes you are selling them.” There is an exchange of money, and this exchage is expected if you are to receive the indulgence. And the Catholic says, “technically, we are not.”

    So much of Catholic apologetic is comprised of, “technically, we are not.” It is a function of language, not a function of the practice. And so, Protestants make the charge of “Mary worship.” Technically, the Catholic Church does not sanction “Mary worship.” But how many Catholics, in real life, actually worship “the Mother of God,” and officially there is no sanction for this. (Compare that with what happened to Nestorius over his desire to use the word “Christotokos.”)

  2. I was surprised to see this. And, wonder of wonders, charitable contributions are still part of the recipe for receiving an indulgence. I wonder; could they contribute to a secular charity, or a Protestant one, to qualify?

  3. You know and I have to say it. Catholics are always being written and talked about regarding the “selling of indulgences.” What is the difference in that and these Evangelical Ministers, preying on people all over national television, “send us your money.” “You will be debt free, God will heal you, God will do this, God will do that.” Is it not the same?

    It is still a selling of the blessings of God?

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