The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1471):
“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”
The US Catholic Catechism for Adults (p. 244):
“Every sin has consequences. It disrupts our communion with God and the Church, weakens our ability to resist temptation, and hurts others. The necessity of healing these consequences, once the sin itself has been forgiven, is called temporal punishment. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other works of charity can take away entirely or diminish this temporal punishment. Because of the fullness of redemption obtained for us by Christ, the Church attaches to certain prayers and actions an indulgence or pardon, that is, the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin. Christ, acting through the Church, brings about the healing of the consequences of sin when an individual uses such a prayer or engages in such an action.”
The following is from the Apostolic Penitentiary, Manual of Indulgences, Norms and Grants, English translation, (Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006) hereafter Manual of Indulgences.
Partial Indulgences (Manual of Indulgences, the Four General Concessions or the “Grants”):
A Partial Indulgence is granted:
I. To the Christian faithful who while carrying out their duties and enduring the hardships of life, raise their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation;
II. To the Christian faithful who led by the spirit of faith, give compassionately of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need;
III. To the Christian faithful who in a spirit of penance, voluntarily abstain from something that is licit for and pleasing to them; and
IV. To the Christian faithful who in the particular circumstances of daily life, voluntarily give explicit witness to their faith before others.
Conditions for Gaining a Partial Indulgence (Manual of Indulgences, N. 17):
- Be baptized, not excommunicated, and in a state of grace
- Have the intention of gaining the indulgence (including being contrite)
- Perform the work or offer the prayers as described
In addition to the above conditions for a Partial Indulgence:
- Exclude all attachment to sin
Three conditions (The indulgence may only be obtained once per day) (Manual of Indulgences, N. 17):
- Go to sacramental confession
- Receive Eucharistic Communion
- Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father
The indulgence will be partial if any component is lacking.
A single sacramental confession suffices for several plenary indulgences but receiving Communion and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father are required for each indulgence.
While the three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the indulgenced work, it is fitting that Communion be received, the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, and the profession of faith be said on the same day. (Manual of Indulgences, N. 20).