Daily Archives: June 16, 2010
The question of the detachment from venial sin as a necessary condition to obtain a plenary indulgence has been often discussed. One generally reads a bit of everything, from the hardliners thinking that only the saintliest could, on rare occasion, gain a plenary indulgence to the softies maintaining that the simple agreement that venial sins are to be avoided would suffice.
In my eyes, we must avoid falling into both the harshness of extreme severity and the “feel good-ism” so typical of our time. The best thing to do is, I think, to find inspiration in the life of the Saints.
St. Philip Neri once received from God the intelligence that the plenary indulgence the Pope had granted for that day – and about which he had just finished to preach to a full church – would be obtained only by himself and another person among the faithful present. If we consider this episode credible – and we do, because it can be easily found in publications sold from the Oratorians themselves – we must agree that a plenary indulgence is, whilst not impossible at all, certainly very difficult to achieve. Yes, St. Philip Neri lived in rather coarse times, but those were also times of much better catechesis and certainly keener awareness of sin. I rather doubt that – in the same full church – today’s result would be much different.
Where does this leave us? Methinks, in a rather useful spot. We do know that a plenary indulgence is something we might chase for an entire life without ever attaining it, but this knowledge will encourage us to a sustained effort. Through this effort we will accumulate more and more partial indulgences and become increasingly more aware of the offensiveness of our sins. As a result, Salvation will become much more probable.
This is, I think, the key. The idea that one would die and easily avoid Purgatory sounds more than a bit Protestant to me. A Catholic – and more so a conservative Catholic – is supposed to avoid illusions of easy entry into Paradise. The road is narrow and the sin of presumption never far away. Catholicism should in my eyes allow the faithful to get a sobering picture of his sins so that an effort is engendered through which irreparable damage is safely avoided. Every illusion of easy achievement may well become a double-edged sword and lull the faithful into a dangerous sense of security.
Keep chasing your plenary indulgence. You may well never get one. But it is a very good way to avoid Hell.