Middle Ages

Grants of remission of temporal penalties for sin imposed by the church through the administration of a treasury of merit accumulated by Christ and the saints.

In Reformation times the sale of indulgences,
satirized in this drawing,
was a point of controversy

Indulgences assume that every sin must be expiated not only by forgiveness but through the works of satisfaction imposed by the church and performed on earth or in purgatory. Further, the granting of indulgences assumes that the church has at its disposal a treasury of merit that it can bestow on individuals in consideration of the prayers and works of the faithful on behalf of others. In late medieval piety indulgences, referring to the remission of penalties attached to sins, were often confused with forgiveness of sin. The Roman Catholic Church continues to grant indulgences, normally through the pope.

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