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forms part of the service of the church, and is usually recited once a month, and in Lent, once a week. On All Souls' day (Nov. 2) extraordinary masses are celebrated for their relief.* Arrangements may be made at any time with the priest for the appropriation of his services to the relative or friend whose deliverance is the immediate object of concern; besides which, for a small sum of money, a trifling penance, or some easy act of devotion, the zealous Catholic may always indulge his benevolent feelings, and contribute largely to the comfort of the whole body of sufferers in that dark and melancholy abode.t
* “ Every year brings round the day devoted by the church to the relief of departed souls. The holy vestments used at the three masses, which, by a special grant, every priest is allowed to perform that morning, are black. Large candles of yellow wax are placed over the graves within the church ; and even the churchyards, those humble places of repose appointed among us for criminals and paupers, are not neglected in that day of revived sorrows. Lights are provided for them at the expense of the society established in every town of Spain, for the relief of the friendless spirit who, for want of assistance, may be lingering in the purifying flames; and many of the members, with a priest at their head, visit these cemeteries for nine successive evenings.”_ Doblado's Letters from Spain, p. 169. See also Time's Telescope, 1814, p. 279.
† In Italy and Spain travellers are continually solicited for contributions towards the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory. The dependents on churches or convents are usually employed for this purpose. “A man bearing a large lantern, with a painted glass, representing two naked persons, enveloped in flames, entered the court, addressing every one of the company in these words, ' The holy souls, brother! Remember the holy souls ! Few refused the petitioner a copper coin, worth about the eighth part of a penny. This custom is universal in Spain. A man, whose chief employment is to be agent for the souls in purgatory, in the evening,---the only time when the invisible sufferers are begged for about the towns,—and for some saint or Madonna during the day, parades the streets after sunset, with the lantern I have described, and never fails to visit the inus, where the travellers, who generally intrust their safety from robbers to the holy souls, are always ready to make some pecuniary acknowledgment for past favours, or to engage their protection in future dangers.”
“ The Pope has established eight or ten days in the year, in which every Spaniard, (for the grant is confined to Spain,) by kneeling at five different altars, and there praying for the extirpation of heresy, is entitled to send a species of habeas animam writ to any of his friends in purgatory. The name of the person whose liberation is intended should, for fear of mistake, be mentioned in the prayers. But, lest the order of release should find him already free, or perhaps within those gates to which no pope had ever ventured to
Such is the doctrine of purgatory, as universally believed by Roman Catholics. And the practices above described, it is to be borne in mind, are not the obsolete follies of the sixteenth century, but exist in full force at the present day. The same may be said of the next subject which claims our attention—Indulgences.
It is a favourite maxim with the Roman-catholic church, that when sin is forgiven, though the guilt thereof and the eternal punishment due on account of it are wholy remitted, there always remains some temporal punishment to be endured, for which satisfaction must be made by the penitent, either before his death or in purgatory. The fasts, alms, penances, and other meritorious works performed in obedience to priestly injunction are supposed to have this power of satisfaction. Yet even these are insufficient, and the most obedient and dutiful son of the church finds that there is a heavy balance against him, which, if not discharged, will sadly lengthen the purifying process.* But provision is made for him. It has been ascertained that there is an immense treasure of unapplied merit, partly the Saviour's, and partly accruing from works of supererogation performed by the saints now in glory. All this is at the disposal of the Pope, having been originally placed in the hands of Peter, who transmitted the privilege to his successors. The Pontiff, therefore, has the power of
apply his keys, we are taught to endorse the spiritual bill with other names, addressing it finally to the most worthy and disconsolate.” “These privileged days are announced to the public by a printed notice, placed over the bason of holy water, which stands near every church-door. The words written on the tablet are plain and peremptory : “Hoy se saca anima ; literally, this is a soul-drawing day.' ”-Doblado's Letters from Spain, pp. 169—174. There is a very curious work on this subject, intituled, “ De l'estat heureux et inalheureux des ames souffrantes en Purgatoire : et des moyens souverains pour n'y aller pas, on y demeurer fort peu. Où sont traictées toutes les plus belles questions du Purgatoire. Par le R. P. Estienne Binet, de la Compagnie de Jesus.” Paris, 1626.
* “ As it is to be feared that all our penitential and satisfactory works are inadequate and incompetent to the discharge of the debt due from us to the divine justice, the church comes in to our aid and relief, by applying to us, on the conditions prescribed, the benefit of the satisfactions of Christ, and the superabundant satisfactions of the saints, towards the remission of this debt.” -Instructions and Directions for gaining the Grand Jubilee, p. xvii. London. 1826.
granting a remission of the temporal punishment due to him, on such terms and conditions as he may choose to prescribe. This may be limited, in which case the indulgence is granted for a specified number of years; or plenary, releasing the individual from all the pains and penalties incurred by him up to the time of receiving the boon. The efficacy of these indulgences reaches, as has been before observed, even to the souls in purgatory; and a kind relative or friend may enjoy the satisfaction of procuring the release of those he loves, or at any rate some considerable remission of the period of their sufferings. The terms vary, according to times and circumstances ; sometimes, as we have seen, a devotional exercise is sufficient; on other occasions, money is the sine quâ non. But it will be fair to let the Pope speak for himself. Leo X. thus explained the doctrine:
6The Roman church, whom other churches are bound to follow, as their mother, hath taught that the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter in regard to the keys, and the vicar of Jesus Christ upon earth, possessing the power of the keys, by which power all hindrances are removed out of the way of the faithful,—that is to say, the guilt of actual sins, by the sacrament of penance,--and the temporal punishment due for those sins, according to the divine justice, by ecclesiastical indulgence; that the Roman Pontiff may for reasonable causes, by his apostolic authority, grant indulgences, out of the superabundant merits of Christ and the saints, to the faithful who are united to Christ by charity, as well for the living as for the dead; and that in thus dispensing the treasure of the merits of Jesus Christ and the saints, he either confers the indulgence by the method of absolution or transfers it by the method of suffrage. Wherefore all persons, whether living or dead, who really obtain any indulgences of this kind, are delivered from so much temporal punishment, due according to divine justice for their actual sins, as is equivalent to the value of the indulgence bestowed and received."* Excommunication is denounced against all who deny this doctrine.
The decree passed at Trent was thus expressed :-
* Le Plat, ii. pp. 21—25.
by Christ upon his church, and this power, divinely given, has been used from the earliest antiquity, the holy council teaches and enjoins that the use of indulgences, so salutary to Christian people, and approved by the authority of venerable councils, shall be retained by the church ; and it anathematizes those who assert that they are useless, or deny that the church has the power of granting them. Nevertheless, the council desires that moderation be shewn in granting them, according to the ancient and approved custom of the church, lest by too much laxity, ecclesiastical discipline be weakened. Anxious, moreover, to correct and amend the abuses that have crept in, and by reason of which this honourable name of indulgences is blasphemed by the heretics, the council determines generally by this present decree that all wicked gains accruing from them, which have been the principal source of these abuses, shall be wholly abolished. But with regard to other abuses, proceeding from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or any other cause whatever; seeing that they cannot be severally prohibited, on account of the great variety of evils existing in so many places and provinces, the council commands each bishop to procure a careful account of the abuses existing within his own jurisdiction, and lay the same before the first provincial synod; that when the opinion of other bishops has been obtained, the whole may be immediately referred to the supreme Pontiff, by whose authority and prudence such enactments will be made as are expedient for the universal church; so that the gift of holy indulgences may be dispensed to the faithful in a pious, holy, and incorrupt manner.”
The reader will observe that this decree provided no effectual remedy for the monstrous practices connected with the distribution and sale of indulgences. “ Wicked gains” are indeed forbidden; but what priest or Pope would ever confess his gains to be of that description ? And if the office of papal collectors, as formerly administered by such men as Tetzel, was abolished, the same duties are now performed by the bishops or those appointed by them. As for the enactment respecting abuses, it required no sagacity to predict that it would be entirely nugatory. And, in truth, indulgences continue to the present day to form an important article of
papal revenue, and a prime support of the superstitions of the church of Rome.*
These blessings are not confined to such countries as Italy
*«• Plenary indulgence and remission of sins' are offered here [at Rome] on very easy terms. I was at first rather startled with the prodigal manner in which that full pardon of all transgressions, which the gospel promises only as the reward of sincere repentance and amendment, was bestowed at Rome, in consideration of repeating certain prayers before the shrine of certain saints, or paying a certain sum of money to certain priests.
“I was surprised to find scarcely a church in Rome that did not hold up at the door the tempting inscription of Indulgenzia Plenaria. Two hundred days' indulgence I thought a great reward for every kiss bestowed upon the great black cross in the Colosseum ; but that is nothing to the indulgences for ten, twenty, and even thirty thousand years, that may be bought at no exorbitant rate, in many of the churches; so that it is amazing what a vast quantity of treasure may be amassed in the other world with very little industry in this, by those who are avaricious of this spiritual wealth, into which, indeed, the dross or riches of this world may be converted, with the happiest facility imaginable.”
“ You may buy as many masses as will free your souls from purgatory for 29,000 years, at the church of St. John Lateran, on the festa of that saint; at Santa Bibiana, on All Souls' day, for 7000 years; at a church near the Basilica of St. Paul, and at another on the Quirinal Hill, for 10,000 and for 3000 years, and at a very reasonable rate. But it is in vain to particularize; for the greater part of the principal churches in Rome and the neighbourhood are spiritual shops for the sale of the same commodity.”—Rome in the Nineteenth Century, ii. pp. 267-270.
Spain, as usual, is peculiarly favoured. Four special bulls, bestowing various indulgences and immunities, are annually sent to that country; copies are eagerly bought at prices suited to the circumstances of the purchasers; and the spoil is divided between the Pope and the king. One of these is called the compounding bull. “By possessing one of these documents, and giving a certain sum, at the discretion of any priest authorized to hear confessions, to the fund of the holy crusade, any property may be kept, which having been obtained by robbery and extortion, cannot be traced to its right owners for restitution. This composition with the Pope and the king is made by depositing the sum appointed by the confessor in an iron chest fixed outside the doors of the churches: a comfortable resource indeed for the tender consciences of speculators and extortioners, two very numerous classes in Spain." .. .. Another is called the defunct bull. “The name of any dead person being entered on the bull, a plenary indulgence is, by this means, believed to be conveyed to his soul, if suffering in purgatory.” It is a common practice to bury these bulls with the corpses of those whom they are intended to benefit. A copy of the Bula Crusada, another of these profitable impostures, is inserted in Mendham's Memorials of the Council of Trent. pp. 344-359.-Practical and Internal Evidence against Catholicism, p. 84