555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

187. What Is an Indulgence?

An "indulgence" is a spiritual bill of health or official act of pardon granted by the Church of Rome. It has no warrant in Scripture. There are indulgences to ease the way of souls out of purgatory, indulgences for the living, permitting them to eat meat on holy days; indulgences for the forgiveness of past sins, and, in Spain at least, and probably in other countries, indulgences for those who have committed crimes, by which they are relieved of the responsibility of their acts. Indulgences are usually purchased with a fee, although in some cases they are granted in consideration of undergoing some form of penance. A recent illustration is the distribution of indulgences during the Eucharistic Congress in Vienna, where they seem to have been granted free to many people as a reward for their loyalty and devotion to the Catholic Church on that occasion.