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performed by another, and I lay claim to some information and to some candour.
When he undertook to correct my statements, he ought to have been prepared with testimony instead of useless questions and vapid declamation.
To the Editors:
Gentlemen: It was very kind in your correspondent to warn us to be discreet. We do not every day meet with so generous an opponent. Others, less charitable than he is, would have encouraged us to do those deeds of indiscretion which would tend to their advantage; but "Protestant Catholic,"!! already more than triumphant, scorns to stoop so low. He discovers our weak point and magnanimously cautions us not to expose it. "On the subject of indulgences, it is indiscreet in Catholics to say much." I shall take his advice and write but little. However, I shall vie with him in generosity, by candidly avowing the reason. To write much is not necessary for my purpose. My object is only to prove that in my letters to Bishop Bowen, I did not hazard a statement which I could not support. I stated that it was a misrepresentation of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice to assert either of the following propositions.
"That the Pope grants indulgences whereby he sometimes remits all penances of such sins as shall be committed for a great number of years to come.
"That the Pope grants indulgences whereby he sometimes remits all penances of such sins as shall be committed during a man's whole life.
"That those indulgences are considered by many Roman Catholics as licenses to commit sin.
"That the public sale of those licenses to commit sin, is practised by the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, or of the Pope."
He makes scarcely an effort to prove the truth of one of the propositions. He merely declaims.
He states that "It (the subject of indulgences) is too plain and universally known an instance of the corruption of the Church." But this assertion is not disproving the truth of any one of my propositions. He says: "which (corruption) even the Council of Trent left very imperfectly remedied." The doctrine of indulgences and the abuse of indulgences are two very different subjects; as different as the use of medicine and its abuse; the use of meat and drink is not their abuse. Your correspondent does not vouchsafe to inform us whether he looks upon an indulgence to be in any way useful or available, and if he does, to what extent. I shall exhibit what the church usually teaches her children upon the subject.
"Q. Can we cancel our sins by our own satisfactory works?
No; our sins can be cancelled only by the merits of Jesus Christ. Q. What do you mean, then, by saying that penance is a satisfaction for sin?
A. I mean, that when by the merits of Christ, the guilt of sin and its consequences, damnation, are remitted, a temporal punishment remains due, of which we may procure remission, by penitential works, which also have their value from the merits of our Redeemer.
Q. Will the penance enjoined in the confession, always satisfy for our sins?
A. No; but whatever else is wanting may be supplied by indulgences, and our own penitential endeavours.
Q. What does the church teach concerning indulgences?
A. That Christ gave power to the church, to grant indulgences; and that they are most useful to Christian people. (Conc. Trid. xi. 25.)
Q. What is the use of an indulgence?
A. It releases from canonical penances, enjoined by the church on penitents for certain sins.
Q. Has an indulgence any other effect?
A. It also remits the temporary punishments, with which God often visits our sins; and which must be suffered in this life, or in the next unless cancelled by indulgences, by acts of penance, or other good works. Q. Has the church power to grant such indulgences? Yes; Whatsoever, says Christ to St. Peter, thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matt. xvi. 19; II Cor. ii. 10).
Q. To whom does the church grant indulgences?
A. To such only as are in the state of grace, and are sincerely desirous to amend their lives, and to satisfy God's justice by penitential works.
Q. Is an indulgence a pardon for sins to come, or a license to commit sin?
A. No; nor can it remit past sins, for sin must be remitted by penance as to the guilt of it, and as the eternal punishment due to mortal sin, before an indulgence can be gained.
Q. Why does the church grant indulgences?
A. To assist our weakness; and to supply our insufficiency in satisfying the Divine Justice for our transgressions.
Q. When the church grants indulgences, what does it offer to God to supply our weakness and insufficiency, and in satisfaction for our sins?
A. The merits of Christ, which are infinite and superabundant, together with the virtues and good works of his Virgin Mother, and of all his saints.
Q. What conditions are generally necessary to gain indulgences?
A good confession and communion, and a faithful compliance with the other good works which the church requires on such occasions. Q. What are the other good works which the church usually prescribes, in order to gain indulgences?
A. Prayer, fasting, and alms deeds; which good works, besides confession and communion, are recommended by indulgences; and on this account also, they are most useful to Christian people."-Catechism, Lesson xxx.
Now, the Council of Trent did not decide, as perhaps, he would wish, that an indulgence was a corruption, or a superstition; but as there did exist several abuses, it applied a remedy in the following decrees: In the twenty-first session, held on the 16th of July, 1562, chapter ix., "On Reformation," after adverting to the decrees of the Councils of Lateran, of Lyons, and of Vienne, having applied remedies "against the wicked abuses of quests," and complaining of the inef ficacy of those remedies, and the scandals which those continued abuses perpetuated, "totally abolished their use and name throughout Christendom :" after having then commanded that they should under no colour be permitted, it proceeds to regulate that the indulgences or spiritual benefits, shall be published by the ordinaries accompanied by two members of the Chapter, and forbids any renumeration to be given or received for the publication: but any alms which might be bestowed, are
to be fully and faithfully applied to pious uses, so that no profit or gain shall arise from the practice of piety. In the twenty-fifth session, celebrated on the 4th of December, 1563, it was decreed, after stating that the power had been left by Christ in the church, and was used from the most ancient times, to the benefit of the Christian people, and condemning all who contradict this: "But in granting those, it desires that moderation be had according to the custom of old, and approved in the Church, lest by too great a facility, ecclesiastical discipline should be enervated. But desiring the correction of the abuses which have crept into them, and by occasion of which, this remarkable name of indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, should be amended and corrected, it generally enacts by the present decree: that all wicked gain for obtaining them, whence great cause of abuses flowed upon the Christian people, should be altogether taken away. But as to the other evils, which have in any way arisen by reason of superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or otherwise in any way whatsoever: since because of the many corrupt practices of different places in which they are committed, they cannot be all specially prohibited; it commands all bishops, that each should diligently seek out the abuses in his own diocess, collect them, and relate them in the first provincial synod, so that the opinion of other bishops being known, they may be immediately referred to the Pope, by whose authority and prudence, that might be enacted which would be expedient for the Universal Church: so that the grace of holy indulgences, might be dispensed to all the faithful, in a pious, holy, and uncorrupted manner."
Thus has the Council regulated, and thus has the Church executed. As regards Mosheim. I not only dispute but deny his authority, and distinctly aver that his statements are not correct. In describing the treasure he omits that which is its chief ingredient, viz., "the superabundance of the merits of Christ." Such is but a specimen of his dishonesty.
Your correspondent makes a serious mistake if he imagines that I shall dissent from one syllable which "the amiable and ingenuous Fleury" has written in his fourth discourse upon the subject of indulgences. I subscribe to the entire. I only regret that you published an unfair and a garbled extract. Allow me to make a few remarks.
"Indulgences" form the sixteenth topic of the historian's fourth discourse, and this very naturally followed the fifteenth which related to "the change of Penance," where "the amiable and ingenuous Fleury" pathetically laments the abolition of public and of severe works of satisfaction, against which your curious correspondent lamentably
declaimed; so that here Fleury and he were fully opposed. it is a pretty long discussion, still I shall give the translation of a portion to show what Fleury thought of indulgences, and to exhibit that his meaning is misrepresented by the garbled extract which you have. published as a specimen of his sentiments.
"It is true that the multitude of indulgences, and the facility of gaining (granting) them, were a great obstacle to the zeal of the more enlightened confessors. It was hard to persuade to fasting and discipline a sinner, who could redeem them (buy it off) by a small alms, or by a visit to a church. For the bishops of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries granted indulgences for all sorts of pious works.”
Here your correspondent stops, as usual, at a comma, in an unfinished sentence. I have marked in italics, where my translation of the word gagner, corrects his granting; and mine for les racheter, corrects his buy it off. But I suspect the object of his stopping was to leave the impression on the reader's mind that the money paid in the buying off went into the pocket of him who granted: why else did he not continue the sentence which proceeds?
"Such as the building of a church, the endowment of an hospital, in fine every description of public work, a bridge, a causeway, the paving of a high road. The indulgences, in truth, were nothing more than a part of the penance; but if many of them were united, the entire could be redeemed. These are the indulgences which the fourth Council of Lateran calls indiscreet and superfluous, which bring the keys of the church into contempt, and enervate the satisfaction of penance. To prevent the abuse, it ordains that for the dedication of a church, the indulgence shall not exceed one year, even though many bishops should be present, for each used to undertake to give his own."
I apprehend this gives a different sort of view from what your curious correspondent intended, and it is neither "amiable" nor "ingenuous" to garble. The church then does not recommend, nor approve, nor sanction even such disproportionate indulgences, but calls them abuses. But the writer generally condemns the church for what she herself condemns, and imputes to her what she disclaims, and makes her own writers appear to testify against her, by garbling their works. It is also clear that the money did not go to the person granting the indulgence, but for the public good. I apprehend, however, that such indulgences would neither spoil our roads, nor destroy our bridges, nor starve our poor, nor increase our taxes.
Fleury then adduces the reasoning of William, Bishop of Paris, in vindication of the practice of the indulgence, being more to the honour of God, the public benefit, and the salvation of souls than the infliction of heavy satisfaction of penance. Fleury, whilst he upholds the doctrine of the church on each point, differs in his view of expediency from the bishop, and after a considerable discussion adduces the