Monday, July 22, 2013


Indulgences! Remember those? They are back, sort of.

The apparent latest decree by Pope Frances may challenge the notion of papal infallibility. A recent papal announcement implied that Indulgence, or time off from purgatory may be granted to Catholics who closely follow his Twitter or other social media accounts during the World Youth Day event in Rio de Janeiro next week.
This may have been a mistaken, even though well-intentioned idea, seeking to provide the blessing of the actual event to those who legitimately cannot attend. It’s a fashionable attempt to bridge social media with an ancient and not well respected tradition. After all, the Protestant Reformation was launched because of the unscrupulous actions of the Catholic church. An indulgence is a pardon for certain types of sin. During the medieval period the Catholic Church sold indulgences and their sale prompted Martin Luther to present his "95 Theses," which questioned the leadership and theology of the Catholic Church in 1517. His questions provided the basis for the Protestant Reformation.

I expect that there will be an adverse reaction, and you may soon read that within the Vatican bureaucracy, this directive was not initiated or even directly authorized by the Pope himself. The Vatican press office has not responded to an inquiry about whether he signed off on these tweets.

The actual communiqué was …

“The faithful who on account of a legitimate impediment cannot attend the aforementioned celebrations may obtain Plenary Indulgence under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, by participation in the sacred functions on the days indicated, following the same rites and spiritual exercises as they occur via television or radio or, with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.”

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