Catholic Encyclopedia – Pontifical Indult


(Latin Indultum, concession, privilege) Indults are general faculties, granted by the Holy See to bishops and others, of doing something not permitted by the common law. General needs, peculiar local conditions, the impossibility of applying to Rome in individual cases, etc., are sufficient reasons for making these concessions. They are granted for a definite term, three, five, ten years, or for a specific number of cases; they are ordinary or extraordinary, contained in certain formula, and are of the nature of privileges or quasi-privileges. Indults are personal in so much as they must be used by the bishop himself (or his vicar-general), unless he be allowed to communicate them to others. Permission to communicate indults is conceded in some formulae, denied in others, while in others it is granted conditionally. The one to whom these faculties are communicated is the agent or commissary of the ordinary rather than his delegate. Indults are communicated as they are received; are possessed and exercised not in the name of the one communicating them, but in the name of him to whom they have been communicated: consequently they do not cease with the death or loss of jurisdiction of the ordinary through whom they were communicated. Faculties that are subdelegated may be restricted in regard to persons, number of cases, etc, and are exercised not in one’s own name, but in the name of another: the power of the subdelegate ceases on the death of the delegate.

It is to be noted moreover that the word indult, employed in a less restricted sense, is synonymous with privilege, grace, favor, concession, etc. Hence we speak of the Lenten indult, an indult of secularization granted to a religious, an indult to absent oneself from the recitation of the Divine Office in choir, an indult permitting the celebration of Mass at sea, the indult of a private oratory, a privileged altar, and so on. An indult or privilege differs from a dispensation, since the former grants a permanent (not necessarily perpetual) concession, while the latter is given for a particular case, outside which the obligation of observing the law remains.

MLA Citation

  • Andrew Meehan. “Pontifical Indult”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 November 2018. Web. 15 November 2018. <>