I just got off the phone with a friend who is knowledgeable in this area.
With all indulgences there is some "indulgenced" act that is involved, but in addition, to gain the indulgence, you have to:
- go to sacramental Confession
- receive Holy Communion, and
- pray for the intentions of the Holy Father
A perfect Act of Contrition will forgive your sin; but to gain the indulgence you have to perform the indulgenced act and the three additional requirements I listed. As you correctly said, a perfect Act of Contrition doesn't diminish the need to go to sacramental Confession.
- In other words, if one commits a mortal sin then makes a perfect Act of Contrition but hasn't been to Confession, can they still gain an indulgence?
It's my understanding we cannot gain Indulgences unless we are in a state of grace, so any prayers or acts of charity done after committing a mortal sin but before going to Confession are null and void and basically are useless.
Yes, if they were truly mortal sins. In another posting my colleague Eric said:
Remember that mortal sin, in addition to grave matter, requires full consent of the will; you have to freely and deliberately choose the sin. Think of premeditated (first-degree) murder.
Habit, passions, stress, addiction, and other factors can reduce your culpability.
If you are committing a sin you don't want to do, chances are good you're not guilty of mortal sin, so consult your Confessor.
I found the following in the Code of Canon Law. I thought it would interest you:
Canon 996 §1. To be capable of gaining indulgences, a person must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least at the end of the prescribed works.
§2. To gain indulgences, however, a capable subject must have at least the general intention of acquiring them and must fulfill the enjoined works in the established time and the proper method, according to the tenor of the grant.
There is a book called the Handbook on Indulgences, Norms and Grants.
It would tell you the various ways you can gain an indulgence: a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.
Hope this helps,