1. Our Lord and Master
Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite [repent], willed that
the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be
understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction,
which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward
repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not
outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin],
therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this
is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance
into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope does not intend
to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which
he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.
6. The pope cannot remit
any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God
and by assenting to God's remission; though, to be sure, he may
grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right
to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would
remain entirely unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to
no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things
and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons
are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing
should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy
Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always
makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Ignorant and wicked
are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve
canonical penances for purgatory.
11. This changing of the
canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently
one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.
12. In former times the
canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution,
as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed
by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical
rules, and have a right to be released from them.
14. The imperfect health
[of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings
with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the
greater is the fear.
15. This fear and horror
is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to
constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the
horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and
heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance
17. With souls in purgatory
it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.
18. It seems unproved,
either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of
merit, that is to say, of increasing love.
19. Again, it seems unproved
that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured
of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.
20. Therefore by "full
remission of all penalties" the pope means not actually "of
all," but only of those imposed by himself.
21. Therefore those preachers
of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences
a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;
22. Whereas he remits
to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons,
they would have had to pay in this life.
23. If it is at all possible
to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it
is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect,
that is, to the very fewest.
24. It must needs be,
therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that
indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.
25. The power which the
pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power
which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own
diocese or parish.
26. The pope does well
when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power
of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.
27. They preach man who
say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul
flies out [of purgatory].
28. It is certain that
when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can
be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is
in the power of God alone.
29. Who knows whether
all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the
legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
30. No one is sure that
his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full
31. Rare as is the man
that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences,
i.e., such men are most rare.
32. They will be condemned
eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves
sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
33. Men must be on their
guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable
gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
34. For these "graces
of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction,
and these are appointed by man.
35. They preach no Christian
doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who
intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
36. Every truly repentant
Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even
without letters of pardon.
37. Every true Christian,
whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ
and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters
38. Nevertheless, the
remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which
are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are,
as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.
39. It is most difficult,
even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time
to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need
of] true contrition.
40. True contrition seeks
and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and
cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating
41. Apostolic pardons
are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think
them preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to
be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to
be compared in any way to works of mercy.
43. Christians are to
be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does
a better work than buying pardons;
44. Because love grows
by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does
not grow better, only more free from penalty.
45. Christians are to
be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and
gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of
the pope, but the indignation of God.
46. Christians are to
be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound
to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no
means to squander it on pardons.
47. Christians are to
be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and
not of commandment.
48. Christians are to
be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore
desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.
49. Christians are to
be taught that the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put
their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they
lose their fear of God.
50. Christians are to
be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers,
he would rather that St. Peter's church should go to ashes, than
that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his
51. Christians are to
be taught that it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to
give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers
of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might
have to be sold.
52. The assurance of salvation
by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even
though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.
53. They are enemies of
Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent
in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done the
Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time
is spent on pardons than on this Word.
55. It must be the intention
of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated
with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the
Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with
a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The "treasures
of the Church," out of which the pope grants indulgences, are
not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.
57. That they are not
temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors
do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits
of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always
work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for
the outward man.
59. St. Lawrence said
that the treasures of the Church were the Church's poor, but he
spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without rashness we
say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ's merit, are that
61. For it is clear that
for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power
of the pope is of itself sufficient.
62. The true treasure
of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace
63. But this treasure
is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
64. On the other hand,
the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it
makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures
of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish
for men of riches.
66. The treasures of the
indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of
67. The indulgences which
the preachers cry as the "greatest graces" are known to
be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.
68. Yet they are in truth
the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the
piety of the Cross.
69. Bishops and curates
are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all
70. But still more are
they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears,
lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission
of the pope.
71. He who speaks against
the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!
72. But he who guards
against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be
73. The pope justly thunders
against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic
74. But much more does
he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons
to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.
75. To think the papal
pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed
an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God -- this is madness.
76. We say, on the contrary,
that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of
venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.
77. It is said that even
St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces;
this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.
78. We say, on the contrary,
that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces
at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc.,
as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.
79. To say that the cross,
emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers
of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is
80. The bishops, curates
and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people,
will have an account to render.
81. This unbridled preaching
of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue
the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd
questionings of the laity.
82. To wit: -- "Why
does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and
of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite
number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build
a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most
83. Again: -- "Why
are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and
why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments
founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again: -- "What
is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow
a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the
pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that
pious and beloved soul's own need, free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again: -- "Why
are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through
disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences,
as though they were still alive and in force?"
86. Again: -- "Why
does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches
of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his
own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again: -- "What
is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant
to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission
88. Again: -- "What
greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were
to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on
every believer these remissions and participations?"
89. "Since the pope,
by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money,
why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore,
since these have equal efficacy?" the Church and the pope to
the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, pardons
were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all
these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all
those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace,"
and there is no peace!
93. Blessed be all those
prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross,"
and there is no cross!
94. Christians are to
be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head,
through penalties, deaths, and hell;
95. And thus be confident
of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through
the assurance of peace.