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Collection Title: Catholic Church Indulgence

Collection Number: M198

Dates: December 12, 1737

Volume: 1 item

Provenance: Donated by Mrs. Bertha Giani, November 1983.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Indulgences are "authoritative grants from the [Roman Catholic] Church's treasury...of merits and good works stored up by Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints of the Church, both living and dead...for the remission or payment in whole (plenary indulgences) or in part (partial indulgences), valid before God, of the debt of temporal punishment after the guilt of sin has been forgiven. ...the principle underlying the indulgence grant is as old as the Church herself. It is the principle of vicarious satisfaction, a principle that in turn is based on the doctrine of the Communion of Saints and the solidarity of all Christians in the Mystical Body of Christ. This principle found early expression in St. Paul's teaching on the Church as the Body of Christ, according to which all the members of the body contribute to the well being of an ailing member of that body. ...without prejudice to the infinite value of Christ's atoning death, Paul rejoiced in the sufferings that he bore for the Christians at Colossae, adding `and what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ I fill up in my flesh for his body, which is the Church'" (Col 1.24).

[Money was often collected on the occasion of the granting of an indulgence, by which] "the great cathedrals and monastic establishments were either built or kept in repair; schools and universities were founded and endowed; hospitals were maintained. And yet, the abuses of `trafficking' in indulgences, already condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215..., were multiplied in the late Middle Ages and afforded Luther an occasion for condemning not only the abuses connected with indulgences but also the doctrine underlying the practice itself. At the Council of Trent, the right of the Church to grant indulgences was reaffirmed and the practice of granting indulgences was retained." (New Catholic Encyclopedia , Catholic University of America, "Indulgences", Vol. VII, pp. 482-484.)

Scope and Content:

This is a letter from Pope Clement XII concerning an indulgence to be granted to those who visit a certain church of St. John the Baptist on the feast of his nativity. There is also granted a perpetual indulgence to those who visit the church at any other time and fulfill the conditions set forth in the letter.

"We satisfy the bonds placed on all the...Christian faithful and we apply assistance from the heavenly treasuries of the Church in the intent of pious charity for the increase of the religion of the faithful and the salvation of souls. For all the Christian faithful of both sexes in true penance, and, having confessed and been refreshed in Holy Communion who visit the paschal church of Saint John the Baptist...not, however,...of the church, its chapels and altars, whether all of them or single chapels or alters, nothing else is required that an indulgence be granted on the feast day of the Nativity of the same Saint John the Baptist, from first vespers to the setting of the sun. I have single years..., and should they there offer pious prayers to God for the concord of the Christian people, the eradication of heresy and the exaltation of Holy Mother Church, we grant them a plenary indulgence and remission of their sins in the Lord. ...We wish, however, that if at another time the worship is performed, whether visiting a chapel or altar in [the church] on whatever day of the year there is another perpetual indulgence or at any time not yet elapsed those things granted are to endure. ...Given at Rome at Saint Mary Major under the ring of the fisher on the twelfth of December, 1737."

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