Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Bartering for Salvation

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: Spirituality, faith, Around the Globe, Catholic Church, catechism, Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican, indulgences, World Youth Day, Free Inquiry,

Pop Benedict

The Roman Catholic tradition of indulgences—when the church cancels divine punishment—is being revived under Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic News Agency reports that the Pope offered partial or full indulgence to believers for this summer's World Youth Day celebration in Sydney, provided they fulfill particular requirements. For full, or plenary, indulgence, followers must:

devotedly participate at some sacred function or pious exercise taking place during the 23rd World Youth Day, including its solemn conclusion, so that, having received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and being truly repentant, they receive Holy Communion and devoutly pray according to the intentions of His Holiness.

 Seems like a small sacrifice for the opportunity to escape eternal damnation.

This resurgence of indulgences is oddly refreshing for atheist author Christopher Hitchens, writing for Free Inquiry. Benedict is taking Catholicism back to its roots, according to Hitchens, by reasserting its status as the True Faith and lobbying for the reintroduction of obsolete Catholic traditions like the Latin Mass. The mystery and magic of the Church (“ceremony and ritual and a special language for the priesthood”) has been lost in its efforts to gratify the population at large. Hitchens writes: “Nothing is more bogus and unconvincing than the idea of an ‘ecumenical’ Catholicism pretending to make nice with Protestants and Jews and Muslims and sinking the differences that had once been so doctrinally essential.”

Image courtesy of Paul Resh, licensed under Creative Commons. 

 

suzanne_2
10/18/2008 6:14:16 AM

I don't think the concept of indulgences (although offensive to many) is the issue so much as the history of the Catholic priesthood SELLING indulgences, often in advance of the sin being committed. As long as there is no personal gain involved, people can believe what they want - if the RC Church goes back to charging people for God's forgiveness... then I have an issue.


t_r
9/29/2008 12:20:21 PM

Indulgences were never dropped. And they have nothing to do with damnation. Catholics believe tha though sin is forgiven, there are consequences to sin for which we are responsible. Sin whose consequences had not been resolved by restitution, prayer, or charitable works had to be purged in the experience of Purgatory, before sinners came to the "Beatific Vision" of God. Indulgences acknowledge the efficacy of prayer, pilgrimage, and charitable works in the restoration of a sinner. While many may not accept the idea of Purgatory, most recognize sin's impact on a greater sphere than the sinner and the "sinned against."