Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/61

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INDULGENCES.

pope would wipe out all the sins of him who assumed the cross to exterminate his fellow-Christians. The use, or abuse, of indulgences, indeed, is a subject which would repay extended investigation, and a brief reference to it may be pardoned here, in view of the frequent allusions to it which will occur hereafter.

That sin, confessed and repented, could be remitted through penance, was a doctrine dating back to primitive times. That penance could be redeemed by sacrifices made for the Church was a corollary of later origin, but yet well established at this period. Thus, in 1059, we see Guido, Archbishop of Milan, imposing on himself a penance of one hundred years, to atone for rebellion against Rome, and redeeming it at a certain sum for each year — a transaction which satisfied even so stern a moralist as St. Peter Damiani. Then the schoolmen invented the theory of the treasure of salvation, accumulated through the merits of the Crucifixion and of the saints, and the pope, as the vicar of God, had the unlimited dispensation of that treasure. It was for him to prescribe the methods by which the faithful could partake of it, and no theologian before Wickliffe was hardy enough to question.his decisions. In the administration of this treasure the pope issued "pardons," either plenary or partial, the former releasing the soul absolutely from the purgatorial punishment of its sins after their guilt had been wiped out in the sacrament of penitence, the latter shortening the punishment by the equivalent of the penance remitted by the terms of the concession. At first this partial indulgence was granted in return for pious works, pilgrimages to shrines, contributions towards the building of churches, bridges, etc. — for a spiritual punishment could be commuted to a corporal or to a pecuniary one, and the power to grant such indulgence was a valuable franchise to the church which obtained it, for it served as a constant attraction to pilgrims. Abuses, of course, crept in, denounced by Abelard, who vents his indignation at the covetousness which habitually made a traffic of salvation. Alexander III., about 1175, expressed his disapproval of these corruptions, and the great Council of Lateran, in 1215, sought to check the destruction of discipline and the contempt felt for the Church by limiting to one year the amount of penance released by any one episcopal indulgence. At length St. Francis of Assisi was said to have procured, in 1223, from Honorius III. the celebrated " Portiuncula " indulgence,