The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

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Indulgences making a comeback?

I read this article last week in the Dispatch and I thought I would put it up here. Basically, it is about indulgences coming back to the Catholic Church, though not in quite the same way - as far as I understand people can't just pay their way into heaven anymore. As some of you know, I really want to like the Catholic church for various reasons, but this really bothers me. I understand, sort of, how this could help someone, but I can only see it doing more harm than good. I am a little bothered by the trend to return to pre-Reformation style Catholicism. I have certainly been harsh on the Protestants before, and as an historian of the 16th century I know that it is a very complicated issue. But as a man on (non)faith I really think the Catholic church needed the good scrubbing it got in the years after the Reformation.

Anyway, just thought I would post this up here. I would be very interested to hear some thoughts of others - especially those more sensitive to the Catholic church and the Pope on this issue.


Nick Nelson said...

Thanks for posting Nick. I don't know much about indulgences and have only heard about them in the context of the selling of them long ago. It sounds a bit complicated. I guess my question was, does it need to be? This part struck me: "...the Catholic Church can help its members achieve the benefits of God's grace..." To me, this sounds contradictory. Are they saying that God’s grace is available for all who work hard enough, do enough, and implicitly, are good enough? That just doesn’t sound like grace to me. However, later on, it says, “Indulgences are intended to cultivate a heightened sense of the believer's own sinfulness and need for God's grace.” This is something very different. I think the last line summed it up with, “I have difficulty with the fact it so often encourages people to think about God's grace and God's goodness in measurable quantities.” I can’t think of any examples when Jesus quantifies his love, other than 70 x70 times, which is hyperbole to show his boundless grace.

NancyJ said...

Nick, I apologize in advance for my non-Catholic background comments. There are a few ideas from this article that struck me.

“The Church teaches that an indulgence may be granted when a Catholic undertakes prayer, a pilgrimage or an act of charity.”

These are really good things to undertake. So it’s really sad to me that the Catholic Church has to promise an indulgence and less time in purgatory as motivation to do any of these. On the other hand, if someone actually experienced spiritual enrichment as a result, that would be a good thing.

And then it is interesting that…“The indulgence is another indicator that Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging traditional Catholic practices, such as Latin Mass.”

Wasn’t it true in the past that when Mass was given in Latin, people couldn’t read or write and probably couldn’t understand Latin? The Pope was God’s chosen one and they not only trusted him as intermediary but they needed him in that role. Mass had to be an event in their lives! It would have been something other--almost magical--especially as they believed in the change from bread and wine to body and blood of Christ.

Perhaps the Pope is attempting to bring back Latin Mass, because it held such mystery—a desire to make Mass and therefore God more ‘Other.’ Rituals certainly have the potential to help do that for us.

Lastly, I love Peter Rollins’ idea of a leader pushing back and refusing to lead so that others grow as a result. That is such a great philosophy. Can you imagine what would come about if the Pope implemented that idea instead of indulgences?!