A person who attends a bible study I organize asked if indulgences are still possible, in vogue, as it were. "Weren't they done away with at Vatican II?", I was asked. I assured this person that indeed indulgences were still a common practice in the Catholic Church and that they have received a renewed sensibility with Benedict XVI. THE thing that catapulted the Church into the protestant revolution is now being talked about with seriousness and sincerity because it is realized that the practice of giving indulgences does help us to know ourselves and the mercy of God better.
In brief, the Catechism teaches that "The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance" (1471ff).
So, what is an indulgence? Why would a Catholic be interested in knowing more about indulgences?
"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."