Converts and the Year of Faith Indulgence

For those following the link here from Mr Mullins “BlogWatcher”, please see the update and comment below.

I was very interested to read this post on Fr Zuhlsdorf’s blog with reference to the indulgence granted during the year of faith for visiting the place of one’s baptism and renewing one’s baptismal vows. I was looking forward to gaining this indulgence when I visit the Lutheran Church in my home town after Christmas, so I am glad to have some clarification – ie. you can’t get this indulgence by visiting the place of your baptism if the place of your baptism was a non-Catholic church.

I can see many falsely interpreting this ruling. Some may think this relegates baptism in non-Catholic churches to a “second rate” baptism. Or some may take this to be another case of “Roman superiority”.

Of course, the reason given in the ruling is that the Church cannot make rules concerning sacred places which do not belong to her. And that throws a bit of light on the indulgence itself. I had assumed that the indulgence was connected to the action of visiting the place of your baptism. In fact, the indulgence is actually connected to the place itself, and hence the ruling.

It is a little bit like the case some time ago when the Church beatified three German priests who had stood up for the faith and for justice during the Second World War and martyred for their courage. In fact, they were led and inspired by a Lutheran pastor, who also lost his life as a result of this witness. The Church was criticised at the time for favouring the Catholics over the Lutheran, but the point was made (quite rightly) that the Catholic Church had no authority to appropriate the martyrs of another communion by making declarations concerning their eternal destiny. It was pointed out that the Lutheran Church is quite welcome to use whatever means it has at its disposal to recognise the heroic witness of this particular pastor.

So I guess this means that some time soon I will be making a visit to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Catholic Church in Ringwood, where I was confirmed and received into full communion on June 16, 2003. But there is nothing at all in the ruling which in any way discourages me from making my planned visit to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Pinnaroo, where I was baptised in 1966, and there also to renew my baptismal vows.

So I will go ahead with my plans. There are lots of things that are good to do, even if they don’t have an indulgence attached.


I always get suspicious when I see referrals to my blog on Mr Mullin’s Cathnews BlogWatcher column. There is good reason to be concerned, because, despite how plain I make myself, he manages often to grab the wrong end of the stick and tell the world that my view are in fact the direct opposite of what I have written.

I therefore need to correct Mr Mullin’s version of my comments here.

He introduces his piece by speaking of my “disappointment at missing out on a Year of Faith indulgence”. As you will see by reading this post, I have NOT missed out on the Indulgence, and never said that I thought I would.

He then writes that I said “the Year of Faith indulgence applies only to baptisms in the Catholic Church.” I said nothing of the sort. To say that is incorrect, because the indulgence does not apply to baptisms at all – Catholic or otherwise. It applies to the place where the baptism was administered, and the Church has no right to make laws governing non-Catholic properties. Therefore – precisely so convert DO NOT MISS OUT on this indulgence, the Church has determined that those baptised before their reception into the Catholic Church can visit the place of their reception. This makes sense, as the rite of reception includes a renewal of baptismal vows – thus, by the way, actually recognising the validity of the baptism received outside the Catholic Church.

Really, how can you trust a media service so adept at twisting the facts?

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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4 Responses to Converts and the Year of Faith Indulgence

  1. Matthias says:

    I do not understand the concept of Indulgences ,only that my faith in the Risen Lord is what counts. And I will be going to st Aloysius church North Caulfield very soon ,where I was received into the Catholic Church October 7th 2011and then before Christmas to Clayton Church of Christ where I was baptised on May 13th at 14 years of age in 1969

    • Schütz says:

      The best and simplest explanation of an indulgence was give to me by Peter Holmes: it is an act of penance which the church guarantees will be “good for your soul”. It isn’t to do with forgiveness – a plenary indulgence is only available to those who have already had their sins forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation. It is about drawing closer to God through the merits of Jesus and in communion with all the saints.

  2. Newtaste says:

    If you believe in “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins”, then you know God will forgive you of your sins. Have a nice visit to the Catholic Church in Ringwood, but it will not get you to Heaven any faster.

    • Schütz says:

      Thank you for your comment. I guess you are from a tradition that does not view indulgences with indulgence (!). I will just say that anything one does for the good of one’s soul is likely to “get you to heaven” more easily, if not “quicker”. And yes, indeed, “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” is the entire basis for the doctrine of Indulgence in any case.

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