Everything You Need to Know About Receiving a Plenary Indulgence Today

Pope Francis is giving an Urbi et Orbi Blessing today at 6:00 p.m. in Rome (1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT) and previously announced that those who participate spiritually through TV, internet, or the radio may receive a plenary indulgence.

But with many churches closed and sacraments not available to the public, some have questions about how to fulfill the requirements of a plenary indulgence when they can’t go to Mass or Confession. A listener called in to Go Ask Your Father™ this week to ask if watching Fr. Rocky’s live stream of the Mass would count toward satisfying the plenary indulgence.

Msgr. Stuart Swetland responded, “Yes, it does, under the new dispensation we’ve been given by the Holy See and by the Sacred Penitentiary. So plenary indulgences are available under the usual conditions, except you don’t have to, obviously, fulfill what you can’t fulfill because of the current situation.”

“You have to have the intent to do that when you can,” Msgr. Swetland clarified. “And so, the daily Mass that Father Rocky is offering counts for that, as does the rosary each night. The rosary is offered each night at 7:00 p.m. Central Time, that’s 8:00 p.m. Eastern and 5:00 p.m. Pacific. So either one, the rosary each night and the Mass at noon [Central] time.”

Still have questions? Below are some other frequently asked questions about plenary indulgences.

What is an indulgence?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.”

What does ‘temporal punishment due to sin’ mean?
In order to understand the practice of indulgences, it is necessary to understand that sin has a “double consequence.”

  1. Eternal punishment: “Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life.”
  2. Temporal punishment: “Every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin.”

It is also important to know that these punishments are not a “vengeance inflicted by God from without” but “as following from the very nature of sin.” The Catechism tells us, “the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man.'”

Aren’t my sins forgiven in Confession? Why would I need an indulgence?
In the sacrament of Reconciliation, our sins are forgiven and our communion with God is restored. The eternal punishment of our sins is removed. However, the temporal punishment of sin remains. A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

How do I receive a plenary indulgence?

  • Perform the work to which the indulgence is attached (in this case, listen to Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi blessing).
  • Go to Confession.
  • Receive Holy Communion.
  • Pray for the intentions of the pope (i.e. pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the pope’s intentions).
  • Be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

Generally, you can go to Confession and receive Communion within several days before or after the activity to which the indulgence is attached. In this case, it is sufficient to intend to go to Confession and receive the Eucharist as soon as possible.

If any of these conditions is not fulfilled, or if your detachment from sin is incomplete, the indulgence will only be partial.

Have more questions? Submit them to Go Ask Your Father or Father Simon Says and it may get answered on the air!