Just a little blog about me and mine.

Day 7: For Catholics, a Door to Absolution Is Reopened February 10, 2009

Filed under: in the news — Katie @ 12:36 pm

For today’s article, I’m not alone in being totally unable to resist reading this article. It quickly became the #1 emailed article on the Times website.

Indulgences, those little things Martin Luther railed against, are back. Taking a cue from Seth Meyer’s SNL feature, Really?!. Really, Roman Catholic Church?! Do you not remember Martin Luther and that pesky Protestant Reformation?

There is some small print: “You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.”

But still, really?! I, like most people who hear the word indulgences, assume they are for sale, even if technically they aren’t (even though it sort of sounds like it, charitable contributions eh?). We should make a commercial with a guy at the end saying very quickly, “There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day. Offer may not be combined with other discounts. Other restrictions may apply. Tell your priest if you are taking blood thinners or MAOI Inhibitors.”

Most days I will argue that materialism is our society’s greatest sin and evil, so the reintroduction of indulgences fuel what’s broken in the world rather than offering a balm for healing–and certainly don’t seem like penance to me. They are something you can purchase and something to be obtained, even if no money changes hands.

One of the main motivations behind this move seems to be to get Catholics back to confession, and church officials note that “in a secularized culture of pop psychology and self-help…the church wants the idea of personal sin back in the equation. Indulgences are a way of reminding people of the importance of penance.” Maybe I’m missing some deep theological connection between penance and getting an indulgence, but really?!

I love Catholics of the Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton (and PL) variety, they are some awesome folks. (Book Recommendation:  The Life You Save May Be Your Own.  The title is borrowed from a Flannery O’Connor novel and it’s a profile of Dorothy Day, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Merton and Walker Percy.) But this is totally lost on me.


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