ROME, 18 JULY 2006 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
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
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
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. ZE06071816