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.”