Relics And Indulgences Essay

1726 words - 7 pages

The buying and selling of indulgences and the cult of relics made the Catholic Church scandalous. Relics are the material remains of a deceased saint or martyr and objects closely associated with those remains (anonymous). Indulgences were certificates, purchased either for one’s self or on behalf of another, that would guarantee forgiveness of sin (Eppehimer 18). The Post-Classic Latin meaning of indulgence came to mean the remission of a tax or debt. In Roman law indulgence was used to express release from captivity or punishment. An indulgence that may be gained in any part of the world is a universal indulgence, while an indulgence that can only be gained in a specified place is local. Perpetual indulgence may be gained at anytime, while temporary indulgences are available on certain days or within certain periods (Kent).
An indulgence is not: permission to commit sin, a pardon of future sin, the forgiveness of the guilt of sin, or an exemption from any law or duty (Kent). The concept of indulgences is based on the medieval Catholic doctrine that sinners must not only repent their sins to an ordained priest, who then granted absolution, but a penance was also required to make amends for the sin (Jordan 1). Even after sins have been forgiven, sinners still owe some form or recompense for the sins they have committed (Brown 123). The church declared certain good works, such as: certain kinds or prayer, fasting, giving alms, and making pilgrimages equivalent to doing so many days of public penance (Cantor 240). Indulgences can be gained for one’s self or for others, especially for those who had died and were in purgatory awaiting liberation from the punishment due to their sins (Brown 39). Purgatory is a realm where those whose sins were grave enough to keep them from heaven, but not serious enough to merit hell, went for purification (Eppehimer 18).
A relic is the mortal remains of a saint or sacred objects once in contact with their body (Bunson 378). Many people in the Middle Ages believed that relics were invested with heavenly powers and that to be close to a relic, or even better, to touch one, would provide a person with spiritual blessings, divine protection and even a cure from illness (Bellerby). Relics can be entire skeletons, but more usually they consist of a part, such as a bone, hair, or tooth. Pieces of clothing worn by the deceased saint or even an object that has come in contact with a relic is also considered a relic (Anonymous). Powerful relics of Christian significance included the Holy Grail, the Lance of Longinus, the True Cross and relics associated with the Santiago de Compostela, as well as the Holy House of Loreto (Bunson 378). The most precious relics are those associated with Jesus, such as the Veil of Saint Veronica, said to be used to wipe Jesus’ face on the way to his crucifixion, and the Shroud of Turin (Otfinoski 71). Today the Church’s official policy about relics is that they are worthy of...

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