11 September 2023

Lost Landscapes

 In A Man for All Seasons, More's character commments that England is planted thick with laws. I do not know whether the real Sir Thomas made such an observation, but, before the post-Conciliar disorders, the Western Church was certainly thickly planted with indulgences (remissions of the canonical penalties still due to sins which have already been absolved in the Confessional). Except for those still published in the Encheiridion, these have all been abolished ... 'partial indulgences' do survive but without an indication of how long a period of canonical remission is being granted.

Indulgences made the Christian life varied and interesting. For example: in 1747, that enlightened pontiff Benedict XIV created the Duke of York (from 1788 de jure Henry IX King of England Scotland France and Ireland) Cardinal Deacon of S Mary in Portico. His Royal and Eminent Highness endowed his titular Church with regular prayers for the Conversion of England.

Subsequent popes favoured this devotion: from December 9-11 1868, Leo XIII pesided over a Solemn Triduum, to which the Faithful ... including three cardnals ... were enticed with indulgences.

The Forty Hours Devotion involved a Plenary Indulgence once a day; partial indulgences of fifteen years were granted for each Visit. Benedict XV granted indulgences to those frequenting the Chair of Unity Octave. Cardinal Griffin granted Three Hundred Days to those  reciting the Aniphon, Vand R and Collects, for the Canonisation of Forty of th Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales.

Particular orders could entice their members with indulgences: Dominican tertiaries gained 500 days for the Prayer O Spem miram.

And medieval diocesan bishops could and did grant indulgences ... in England, even after the Tudor Schism. These often related to financial contributions to public works such as roads and bridges. I wonder if the grants are still valid!

As Church-Crawlers will probably have noticed, sometimes, in older and unvandalised Catholic Churches, you will see an Altar with the words above it ALTARE PRIVILEGIATUM. This was an altar at which a Plenary Indulgence could be secured for a soul in purgatory by the application of a Mass celebrated upon it. Perhaps the pastoral rationale was that the faithful felt they were doing their very best for their departed member.

And who dares say that they were wrong?

S Paul VI, of course, typical Lombard, put the stoppers upon such merciful generosity!

[Here's a merry research project for readers. Vide Waugh; Officers and Gentlemen; Book 1; section 5 ... what exactly is Mr Goodall up to toties quoties on All Souls' Day?]

I had better make clear that all the previously available indulgences were ruthlessly snuffed out after the Council, and, accordingly are no longer available!


Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear Father,

You paint a bleaker picture than that which truly prevails. The Enchiridion provides plenty of plenary indulgences (albeit very different and all tidied up). The most simple, which may be gained daily, is the recitation of the holy Rosary in a group (family, parish or even two people together on a bus). These are accessible to most people. Then the Holy Souls indulgence 1-8 November for visiting a cemetery or church, and the periodic ones, like the "Portiuncula", Jubilee years etc. And priests may petition the Sacred Penitentiary for an indigence for their Anniversary Masses, parish festivals (and their First Mass, of course). They should be encouraged to do this more.

The conditions of Holy Communion, prayer for the Pope and confession are generous, the latter a fortnight either way, and one confession will serve many indulgences - so if your sacramental life is ideal, or approaching it, this is really very little effort - all you need is the intention!

So to the Faithful committed to this worthy act of charity, there really is little excuse for not being able to gain a plenary indulgence every day. And they should be encouraged to look forward and get on with it, not to lament what is past!

WH Dunne said...

Is it not the case that the privileged altar status (plenary indulgence for one soul for a mass said upon it) now applies to all masses because of Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution?

Jon said...


Interesting. I know you're well aware that virtually every trad site you visit that addresses such things will imply a prayer or action endowed with an indulgence in the old Raccolta is still valid.

I'd love to wake up on the day of my anniversary, 34 years this coming October 28th, reverently kiss my wedding ring, add a prayer, and earn a 100 day indulgence. It was only granted in 1960, but alas, no more.

frjustin said...

"Church-Crawlers". Those who make a happy hour in church??

Concerned Thomist said...

Under the current regulations a partial indulgence gives to a work twice the satisfactory power that that work has simply of itself.