"LUTHER" AND INDULGENCES
Many evaluations have been made of the "Luther" portrayed on the screen, through a $500,000.00 guarantee of Protestant churches, that has been, and continues to be, patronized by hundreds of thousands of persons. They leave the movie houses with an anti-Catholic concept of our Church. Among these evaluations was the excellent write-up of the picture, that appeared in THE PILOT (Dec. 12, 1953) from the pen of Joseph McLellan.
There is no limit to what may be said in condemnation of this screen portrayal of the father of Protestantism. It was made by persons who were deliberate falsifiers of things Catholic in relation to Luther; persons who brazenly caused the declaration to be made, at the outset of the film, that the narrative was carefully documented.
One of the vicious impressions made upon the minds of non-Catholics who saw the "Luther" film, is that the Catholic Church sold indulgences during the 16th century, and so continues. The term indulgence always impressed this columnist as unfortunate; as it conveys to many minds the notion that it means the gratification of improper desires, the condoning of them; whereas the Catholic concept of the term is the direct opposite. The moral and historical use of the term indulgence by the Catholic Church, being of a spiritual nature, permits not of improper thoughts or actions; nor does it forgive sins committed through improper thoughts or deeds. The definition of an indulgence, given in Webster's International Dictionary, which is Catholic, is as follows:---"Remission of the temporal punishment due, by Divine justice, for sins whose eternal punishment has been pardoned by the reception of the Sacrament of Penance."
The State acts with prisoners, in the granting of pardons, as the Church acts in the granting of indulgences. This is evidenced when a governor grants a parole. He remits the temporal punishment of the prisoner, by releasing him from captivity, yet his crime is not thus condoned. The Governor grants a pardon by the power of the State; whereas the Church grants indulgences by the power of the Keys; the authority to bind and to loose, which was conferred upon her by Jesus Christ (St. Matt. 16:13-20; and 18:17-18).
WHAT AN INDULGENCE IS AND IS NOT
An indulgence is a favor granted by Christ through His Church. An indulgence is not self-indulgence, for that is a sin.
An indulgence is the fruit of self denial, the effect or reward of it,---in labor, prayer, alms, charity, deeds, etc.
An indulgence cannot be bought or sold; it can only be gained by the person who fulfills the moral requirements of the Church; the person who does the works enjoined.
An indulgence is of no avail to one who gives money to a worthy cause, even if it be a million dollars, unless the giver is in a state of grace.
An indulgence relates to the punishment due to sins of the past, and is never for future sins.
An indulgence applies only to the person whose sins are forgiven, or to the Souls in Purgatory.
An indulgence remits temporal punishment only, that is deserved penances.
An indulgence promotes the practice of good works. An indulgence is motivated by the desire to have greater honor and glory given to God.
To profess to love Christ, as do Protestants, while lauding the disrupter of the unity of Christendom; to hold as an ideal personage a murderer of peasants; a furtherer of a bigamous union; the utterer of "Table Talk" of a shocking, devilish, degenerate nature; a violator of solemn vows, is simply amazing.
It takes a peculiar Lutheran mental slant to insist upon exacting a vow at Confirmation to remain Lutherans until death; while lauding in terms of the highest the founder of Lutheranism, who violated the vow, made to God, of obedience to the Christ-instituted Catholic Church, and to the Augustinian Religious Order, as well as the vows of celibacy and poverty, all of which he violated. A violator of the vow of obedience to his Church is a traitorous enemy of God; which is even worse than being a traitor to one's country, bad as it is.
The presentation of Luther as a saint, instead of a sinner, at the expense of truth, by misrepresenting Catholic teachings and practices, is a moral offense, of which the initiators and producers of the "Luther" film are guilty. This is especially so during these years when the whole world is threatened with being engulfed by the most forceful, clever, unscrupulous enemy of God and Country that has ever been encountered.
The reason for dealing with the question of indulgences is to try to encourage a realization of the opportunity the "Luther" picture gives the laity to propagate the faith among their non-Catholic acquaintances who have witnessed the pictorial misrepresentation of things Catholic.
The pity of it is that there are only a relatively few among the laity who can adequately explain the teachings of their Church on the question of indulgences, though they all know that an indulgence is not a license to sin. When one has graduated from Marx to Christ, he is simply amazed to find the lack of propaganda spirit among the Catholic laity, who love their Church, but do nothing to bring others to the spiritual joy that abides therein. Surely the propaganda spirit is most necessary to counteract the gross misrepresentation of things Catholic by Communists, as well as Protestants, both groups being made up of ardent workers for the advancement of their teachings, often by misrepresentation of the Catholic Church.