18, 2006 (Zenit.org).-
Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina
Q: Reading the "Handbook of Indulgences" I learned that an indulgence attached
to an object, such as a crucifix blessed by a bishop, is lost when the object is
sold. I was at a convention and a vendor had St. Benedict medal crucifixes
blessed by Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day 2005 for which she asked a $10
donation, which I paid. Is a donation simply a disguised sale, meaning no
indulgence now applies? -- D.G., Santa Barbara, California
A: Our reader refers to norm 19.2. This norm simply states that the indulgence
attached to the use of devotional object ceases only when the object is
destroyed or sold.
The interpretation of this norm may be guided in part by general canonical norms
such as canons 1171 and 1212, although these canons treat more precisely of
sacred places and objects such as churches and blessed liturgical items rather
than devotional items.
When dealing with the loss of blessing, the aforementioned canons mention that a
sacred place or object loses its blessing when either destroyed in large part or
when turned over to profane use.
These canons are only partially of use regarding the question of devotional
objects such as rosaries and medals, which are far more common than churches and
chalices. It is also reasonably certain that the mind of the legislator is to
avoid all hint of commerce in indulgenced objects, which would result in a
broader restriction than that of the canons.
However, the canonical notion of reduction to profane use can enlighten our
The sale of a blessed object for personal gain, for all intents and purposes,
reduces the object to the realm of the profane as an object of commerce, even if
the buyer obtains it for a religious purpose. In such a case the indulgence
would be lost.
On the other hand, if the object is exchanged for a set donation, offered for
some religious or charitable purpose then, strictly speaking, we would not be
speaking of a sale and the indulgence would be conserved.
Thus the question hinges on the intent of the distributor. If the purpose is
personal gain, then it makes no difference whether it is called a price or a
donation: We are dealing with a sale. If the intention is charity, then we are
dealing with a donation.