Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism


959. In a Catholic prayer book I noticed after one of the prayers, "300 days' indulgence." What does that mean?

In the early days of the Church, when persecution was the rule of the day, those Christians who publicly denied their faith and relapsed into pagan ways, or committed any public crimes received very severe penances when they sought reconciliation with the Church. Perhaps for seven years they would have to submit to penitential discipline, and the loss of their full privileges as members of the Church. An indulgence of 300 days, therefore, is the remission of that amount of expiation which would correspond with 300 days of such penance in the early Church.

960. How can the saying of prayers secure an indulgence of say 300 days, when time as we know it cannot exist in purgatory?

The saying of prayers can secure indulgences if the prayers recited be appointed by the Church as the condition for gaining them. The prayers are the condition. It is the Church which grants the indulgence. An indulgence of 300 days, however, does not mean 300 days less purgatory. It means a remission of expiation equivalent to 300 days of canonical penance such as used to be imposed upon penitents in the early Church. The 300 days therefore would refer to earthly time, not to any purgatorial time. In purgatory the soul would be exempted from that quantity of expiation which would correspond with 300 days of earthly penance in the early Church. It is true that time is not measured in purgatory as it is measured for us in this world by calculations based upon the rotation of the earth, and its journey round the sun. But that does not exclude the existence of duration in purgatory. The sins to be expiated in purgatory meant a reluctance to seek perfect union with God, and purgatory will mean a corresponding delay in one's admission to the joy of perfect union with Him in heaven. How that delay and duration in purgatory are measured is once more beyond our experience, and therefore, a mystery. But if we are to speak of it at all, we must do so in human terms which are inadequate, but which express a reality subject to its own proper conditions.

961. What were the abuses regarding them that crept in during the sixteenth century?

The abuses arose through the granting of indulgences to those who would contribute alms towards various charitable works. This in itself was quite all right. Scripture tells us to redeem our sins by almsgiving. But some of those deputed to collect donations towards charitable works became more anxious about the revenue than about spiritual considerations. And they adopted unwarranted means to obtain that revenue. In their preaching they went far beyond the doctrines of the Church, even to saying that any offering would immediately secure the release of a departed friend in purgatory. They had no authority for saving that. Their methods, too, were hardly distinguishable from the straight-out selling of indulgences. Moreover, some were deducting a percentage of the revenue for themselves. These abuses then were on a par with those of today amongst many engaged in charitable causes. People run bridge-drives, or sweepstakes, or bazaars, but get more concerned with cash results than with sweet charity. They are not bad people, yet they often assume that, to raise money for good purposes is to sanctify certain more or less questionable methods of doing so. And they have little scruple in making deductions for their efforts, deductions of which no mention is made, or to which no prominence is given.Abuses very easily creep in in such things, and the granting of indulgences in return for an alms became in many cases a traffic in indulgences for cash considerations. The Council of Trent, therefore, condemned all persons guilty of such an abuse, forbade it absolutely, and required strict supervision on the part of bishops to see that indulgences were treated, not as a means of gain, but as an incentive to godliness.

962. Will you please tell me if indulgences are sold in Spain? I read the other day that they are.

Indulgences are certainly not sold in Spain, nor anywhere else in the world. Such a thing is absolutely prohibited by the Church under the most severe penalties. Thus Canon 2327 in the Code of Universal Law declares that anyone attempting to purchase or to sell indulgences incurs the penalty of excommunication from the Church. That ought to bring out the severity of the view taken by the Catholic Church in this matter.

963. It was stated that the Bula de Carnes, which costs fivepence, permits the lucky Spaniard to eat meat on fast days.

If the writer adduced that as proof that indulgences are sold in Spain, he shows that he lacks any real knowledge of his subject, to say the least. A dispensation from the eating of meat has nothing to do with indulgences, which are the remission of temporal punishments due to sin. But let us see just what your author's Bula de Carnes really is. Its right title is the Bulla Cruciatae, and it is a privilege granted to residents in Spain. It does not cost a lucky Spaniard fivepence to benefit by the privilege. That is sheer misrepresentation. It does exempt the recipient of the document from the obligation of abstaining from meat on certain fast days. The obligation to abstain from meat is an ecclesiastical law, and therefore it can be imposed, or abrogated, or dispensed from, according to the discretion of the Pope. It is but one of many good works proper to Christians, fasting, almsgiving to the poor, prayer being usual practices of the faithful. The Bulla Cruciatae is a concession dating from past centuries, and granted to Spain as a recognition of its loyalty to religion. But the Pope grants the privilege, and exempts the recipient from the need of abstaining from meat, provided he substitutes for that good work another good work in the form of almsgiving. Originally, as the very title of the document suggests, the alms given, not as a price but as a condition of benefiting by the Bulla Cruciatae, were devoted to the support of the Crusades. Other religious necessities still exist, and the alms are now devoted to the maintenance of religion. The Government undertakes to maintain religious institutions, and the alms given to this work are administered by the Government. I cannot go more deeply into this matter now, but I have said enough to show you that the writer you consulted does not understand his subject. The Bula de Carnes has no connection with indulgences; it is not sold; grants an exemption from fasting which the Pope can lawfully grant; and merely substitutes one good work for another, namely, almsgiving for fasting.

964. Another Bula is known as the Thieves' Bula, and permits the purchaser to retain any stolen property. It costs one shilling.

Your eager author should make a careful study of the commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. The Bula your friend has in mind is known as the Thieves' Bula only by ignorant and prejudiced enemies of the Catholic Church. By Catholics it is known as the Bulla Compositionis. It is quite an ordinary document dealing with obligations of restitution. It is not a Thieves' Bula. Thieving is of course absolutely forbidden by God, and by the Catholic Church. According to ordinary moral law, if a man has in his possession any property to which he has no just title, he is bound to try to find the owner, and restore that property to the owner. If he cannot find the owner, he is obliged to restore its value to the poor, or to some charitable work. And when I speak of possession without a just title, I make no mention of the means by which the possessor obtained the goods. He may discover that goods given him by a friend were originally stolen. Now the Bulla Compositionis merely allows a possessor of goods to which he can establish no title in law to retain those goods, on condition that he distributes so much in alms. The amount to be distributed is not a shilling. There is a definite percentage based on a sliding scale according to the value of the goods in question. In other words, Catholics are permitted to retain such goods, provided they distribute so much in almsgiving. Those who profess to be so shocked and scandalized by this practice, would retain the goods, and not think any more about it, let alone try to satisfy conscience by giving a percentage away in charity. For you must note carefully these points. They are most important. Before any Catholic may use the privilege known as the Bulla Compositionis, and retain the goods after distributing so much in charity, two conditions are essential. Firstly, the Bull is invalid for him, and cannot be used, if he has stolen any goods with the intention of getting his possession of the goods confirmed by acquiring later on a Bulla Compositionis. Now how can it be called the Thieves' Bula, when anyone who does steal in view of its use cannot avail himself of it? Secondly, the Bulla Compositionis may be used only provided the possessor of goods without a just title has honestly made every endeavor to discover the lawful owner, but without success. If the lawful owner can be discovered, the goods must be handed over to him, and the Bulla Compositionis becomes absolutely inoperative. If a thief stole a watch from you, he would know that it was yours, and would be obliged to restore it to you. There would be no other way out for such a man. The Bulla Compositionis avails only when the rightful owner cannot possibly be found, despite all advertising and personal efforts. As I have said, where non-Catholics would retain goods whose owner they could not find, and have no scruple in doing so, Catholics are told by their Church that they must give away in charity a certain percentage of their value. And anti-Catholics twist this into the calumny that the Church issues a Thieves' Bula permitting any stolen property to be retained; and declare that the amount to be given away in charity is the price by which any thief can purchase such a document. It is hard to know whether authors who publish such statements are actuated by malice, or merely subject to ignorance. But even if we put it down to ignorance, they are guilty, because such ignorance could be dispelled by the least attempt at verification of the facts, a verification rightly expected of men who write of subjects with which they know they are not very familiar.



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