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Ask the Register: Apostolic Pardon?

Q. At the recent funeral of Father Paul Rutten, Bishop Conley talked about the Apostolic Pardon. What is the Apostolic Pardon?

A. The Apostolic Pardon is a blessing with an indulgence that happens at the conclusion of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick if the recipient is in danger of death. The Apostolic Pardon remits all temporal punishment due to forgiven sin. The usual process is confession, then the Anointing of the Sick, followed by the Apostolic Pardon. While confession forgives the eternal punishment for sin, the indulgence attached to the Apostolic Pardon forgives temporal punishment due to sin.
Catholics believe that the Church gives priests the authority to forgive and remit temporal punishment (Matthew 16:18-19); this authority to forgive and remit receives its authenticity and power from the treasuries that Jesus won for us by His death on the Cross.

The words of the blessing said by the priest for the Apostolic Pardon are:
“Through the holy mysteries of our redemption may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”

When we say the Apostolic Pardon is an indulgence given for the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, you might ask, “Exactly what is ‘temporal punishment’?”

Many Catholics believe that when you go to the Sacrament of Penance, confess your sins, receive absolution, and do your penance, all has been fulfilled to have one’s sins forgiven. However, temporal punishment remains even after sin is confessed and forgiven. Temporal punishment is the residue of the injustice caused by sin, even after that sin has been forgiven through sacramental confession.

Here’s an analogy. If one were in a car accident, the drivers would call the police, fill out an accident report, contact their insurance agent, and receive a settlement check. However, the matter isn’t closed. If the damage is severe enough, it would require repairs at a body shop to make the car drivable again. Likewise, our sins are truly forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance, but the injustice caused by those sins remains, which we call “temporal punishment.” We remit temporal punishment by works of charity, such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, while we are still alive on this earth, or it is atoned for in our experience in purgatory.

When a person who is properly disposed by being in the state of grace (i.e., no known and unconfessed mortal sins) receives the Apostolic Pardon, he or she gains the complete pardon of all temporal punishment due to sin for sins that have already been forgiven by the reception of absolution and the doing of penance.
The Apostolic Pardon does not forgive sins by the act of absolution; it deals only with the punishment (purgation of the residue) due for those sins that have already been sacramentally forgiven. Therefore, when a person fulfills all of the aforementioned criteria and receives the Apostolic Pardon, he or she will go immediately to heaven upon death.

This is also addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1471-1479.

This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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