071: Understanding Indulgences…Finally

by Matthew Leonard
by Matthew Leonard
The Art of Catholic with Matthew Leonard

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We’re not supposed to talk about them.

They’re supposed to be like that embarrassing uncle no one mentions by name at family functions. But that’s crazy.

In this episode of the Art of Catholic podcast we’re going to unveil the beautiful theology and practice of indulgences. Far from being an indefensible leftover we’d rather sweep under the medieval rug, indulgences are a powerful witness to God’s mercy. They are an incredible help in our journey to heaven.

But we need to understand them.

So as to help us make use of the Church’s treasury of merit (and really understand what in the world the “treasury of merit” even is), I brought in Mary Moorman. She’s a brilliant lady who recently wrote a pretty thick book on the topic titled, Indulgences: Luther, Catholicism, and the Imputation of Merit.

Among other issues, we’ll discuss:

  • What an indulgence is and how to obtain one
  • Pope St. John Paul II’s insightful take on indulgences
  • The very important difference between sacraments and indulgences
  • Why indulgences can be a (very) surprising bridge between Catholics and Protestants
  • Why Martin Luther should have loved indulgences…but didn’t
  • The deep connection between almsgiving and indulgences
  • Why you can’t understand indulgences without understanding the nature of sin

As with so many topics we cover on the Art of Catholic podcast, this one is both theologically rich and eminently practical.

And just to round things out, I’m once again bringing in the brilliant Bible scholar, Curtis Mitch, to add a little “somethin’-somethin.'” It’s another incredible installment of Next Level Scripture. He provides some unbelievably cool Old Testament background on the whole subject that brings the whole topic into focus.

Any way you slice it, this is a great episode. Hope you enjoy.

God bless!


P.S. If you liked this episode, you’ll probably like these, too:

047: The Secret Back Door out of Purgatory Nobody Talks About

048: How Almsgiving Can Save Your Life…Now & Later


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11 Responses

  1. Thank you Matthew for another fantastic and thought provoking podcast. I will certainly listen to this episode a few more times and forward the link to my friends and family.
    Mary, please write a ‘popular’ version of your book!! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lucy. Glad you enjoyed it. Forward it far and wide! We need to get the word out on the Catholic faith! God bless you!

  2. Hey there, Matthew!
    It’s me, Tanya Nutter-Streibich again…. (“bricks and mortar” commenter/listener)… and I just wanted to send you a photocopy of my answer to a lesson from the “Our Fathers Plan” Bible study from Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins… the question was about why did God not let Moses go into the promise land after he hit the rock twice… as I was answering this question, the Holy Spirit flossed me with an understanding that blew my mind!!! You’ll be able to see where my hand writing changed with excitement!! I hope you find it as amazing as I did!!!

    1. Tanya – I can’t see the jpeg. Can you email it to me? Just use the Contact button at MatthewSLeonard.com. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this episode Matt. This will make it a lot easier to explain indulgence to my non Catholic family members. I never knew about the connection with Moses till now.

    Are there any scriptural references that justify the use of statues in the Catholic church? The only one I’m familiar with is Exodus 26:1. Exodus 20:1-6 is used to attack us since we use statues. We’re also accused of “changing” the 10 commandments because the whole thing isn’t spelled out when we normally list it (although I only recently discovered that the CCC does indeed list the whole passage from the Bible). Not sure how much there is on the topic but it would be great if you could cover this in one of your next level scripture segments if there is significant material on it.

      1. Thanks Matt! This was indeed very helpful. The connection to the Israelites giving honor to David was new to me!

  4. A fantastic episode! I was already looking forward to being able to gain indulgences for people in purgatory, but hadn’t thought about it in relation to myself yet. The explanations about the nature of the church, sin, and the consequences of sin were very clear. I can’t get over the fact that Jesus and the church are one, and that anything we do effects everyone else in the church too. It’s sad that indulgences are so unpopular, it’s a most beautiful expression of mercy, love, repentance, and relationship. It’s also a reminder that God wants us to accept the good things He wants to give us, and even ask for them with confidence in His fatherly love. It’s overwhelming for an ex Protestant.

    1. Glad you liked it, Katherine! Hope you’re well. Happy Advent and happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

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