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Sale of Indulgences Became a Church Doctrine

Jesus laid down the basic tenets of Christianity in first century Palestine, but the Catholic Church expanded these doctrines during the Middle Ages as a response to the people’s spiritual issues at that time. Some of the issues addressed by church fathers during this period included the sins committed by Christians, the corresponding punishments for these transgressions, and the way these punishments could be reduced in this life and beyond. The Sale of Indulgences became a Church doctrine around 700 AD according to the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History.

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These sins later evolved into indulgences which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” It is also defined as the “the partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Swiss theologian and historian Philip Schaff defined it simply as the “remission of the temporal (not the eternal) punishment of sin (not of sin itself), on condition of penitence and the payment of money to the church or to some charitable object.”

History of Indulgences

“The Pope as the Antichrist, signing and selling indulgences, from Luther’s 1521 Passional Christi und Antichristi”

The idea of paying an indulgence goes back to the Roman era as remissio tributi and abolito as amnesty or pardon granted by the emperor during special occasions. The bishops who attended the Council of Epaone (held in 517 AD in the Kingdom of Burgundy) later expanded the idea of indulgence with an edict that shortened or lightened the penance of the apostates. In 668 AD, Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury authorized the monetary payment to him and the church in lieu of penance and absolution in his Penitential. This marked the first instance that Christians in England offered monetary compensation for the remission of their sins.

The money the church received from the Christians in Europe were then sent to Rome and the sale of indulgences increased during the chaotic years of the Crusades. Indulgences became a regular source of income for the church. It was not until the time of Martin Luther that the validity of indulgences was challenged.

Picture By Lucas Cranach the Elder. Original uploader was Epiphyllumlover at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Google Books), Public Domain,
“Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText.” Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText. Accessed July 27, 2016.$1Q9.
“History of the Christian Church, Volume VII. Modern Christianity. The German Reformation.” – Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Accessed July 27, 2016.
“Library : The Historical Origin of Indulgences.” Catholic News, Commentary, Information, Resources, and the Liturgical Year. Accessed July 27, 2016.
“Paul VI   On Indulgences.” Paul VI   On Indulgences. Accessed July 27, 2016.
“The English Bible Translations and History.” Google Books. Accessed July 27, 2016.
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2 thoughts on “Sale of Indulgences Became a Church Doctrine

  1. Your Title is very very wrong.
    The Catholic Church does not now nor has it ever approved the sale of indulgences. This is to be distinguished from the undeniable fact that individual Catholics (perhaps the best known of them being the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519]) did sell indulgences-but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations.

    1. Yes, please change the title of this article! The sale of indulgences has never been approved by the church. Please see this article for historical details:

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