Monday, February 9, 2009

Catholics Re-institute Indulgences

The former Lutheran in me cringed reading in the NY Times today that the Catholic church is returning to the old concept of indulgences. I thought they did away with that in 1587 after Martin Luther started such an uproar, partially about this very subject. Actually, they did not give up indulgences, they just quit selling them and made people work for them instead. I actually remember my best friend going to confession a lot because her particular priest gave 5 years off of Purgatory (something I never really understood) just for going to confession every week.
Well, it seems that Catholics are staying away from confession in droves and the Catholic church is not happy about that. The official word is that a new emphasis on indulgences really has little to do with Purgatory and everything to do with bringing people to a deeper faith. I'm all for a deeper faith and devote a significant portion of my time to activities that I believe enhance my relationship with God, but...
Maybe I still don't get this whole concept. It sounds formulaic to me -- if you say enough prayers, Hail Mary's and such, you will be closer to God and, by inference, farther from Purgatory. How many prayers is enough? Does it vary by priest or Pope? If you say enough Hail Mary's, can you practice birth control? Given some of the other recent pronouncements from Rome, there may be a set number of prayers to absolve Hitler of the Holocaust. Oh, yeah, that's right, there might not have been a Holocaust. Wasn't that also a recent headline from Rome? Or at least it was okay for a priest to say there was no Holocaust.
Seems to me Pope Benedict XVI or XV (there was that pesky period of French and Roman popes) is determined to return the faith to the 1930s, before Vatican II. Come to think of it, America is beginning to feel like then 1930s also. May be the Pope is on to something.....

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