Indulgences might seem like a confusing issue of the past, but guest speaker Mary Moorman showed just how powerful and relevant they still are to the Church in a lecture on Oct. 27 in the Gentile Gallery.
At the latest installment of the Friday Academic Lecture Series, Moorman gave a presentation titled “Recalling Who We Are: Indulgences and the Church Today.” Moorman, who holds a doctorate in law with a focus on religious legal systems, began by leading the audience in the Sign of the Cross—and said obtaining an indulgence is as simple as that.
Moorman explained that an indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins of which guilt has already been forgiven.” Or, as she explained to her 7-year-old daughter, “an indulgence is an act which honors God, which we offer to redeem our time and to buy it back after we have sinned.”
Indulgences are important to the Church today because the world makes it so easy to spend our time sinning. Indulgences act “as a countermeasure,” Moorman said, as a way to “spend our time in exchange for nearness to Heaven.” They can be obtained in “any moment of mental prayer, any reading of scripture and any conversation that communicates the Catholic faith.”
The exchange of time is a contract, Moorman explained. “Instead of a mercantile invention of contract, what we have in our covenant with God is an exchange of marriage vows. … That’s the bedrock image.” In this divine union, Moorman explained, the Church has the authority to offer indulgences because “she has become one with her Lord.”
“It cleared up so many questions that I had about indulgences,” said freshman Ava Montes. “What the Protestants thought, what the Catholics thought and kind of the confusions I was having. … I feel better prepared now to explain indulgences to my friends who aren’t believers or aren’t Catholic.”
Freshman Elizabeth Mahoney said that she is not Catholic, and the presentation helped her to better understand the issue. She said, “I find it interesting, the point about the nuptial vows, and by that authority the Church has not only temporal power but also has power in matters of the eternal.”
Moorman’s book, “Indulgences: Luther, Catholicism and the Imputation of Merit,” is available through Emmaus Publishing.