I am shocked this morning to read on the front page of The New York Times that indulgences are back. I had no idea that they were gone! All this time I have acted as if indulgences were an ordinary and useful aspect of Catholic doctrine and practice. I did my best to obtain the Portiuncula indulgence when I was there the summer before last, for example. I have even made announcements at the end of Mass to remind the faithful of opportunities for plenary indulgences, such as for the Pauline Year or All Souls Day.
In all seriousness, though, I think that the doctrine of indulgences--the idea of the remittance of temporal punishment for sins for which the guilt has already been forgiven--is one of the most beautiful in our Catholic tradition. Why? Because the doctrine of indulgences proclaims a universe in which the store of goodness far outweighs the accumulation of evil. The doctrine suggests that in the cosmic battle between good and evil, the scales and the chances are tipped so far to the side of goodness that this "extra" goodness can be made available to ordinary sinners in an utterly generous and gratuitous way.
You can check out the article here.