Remission control

The Vatican, 1967:

Although indulgences are in fact free gifts, nevertheless they are granted for the living as well as for the dead only on determined conditions. To acquire them, it is indeed required on the one hand that prescribed works be performed, and on the other that the faithful have the necessary dispositions, that is to say, that they love God, detest sin, place their trust in the merits of Christ and believe firmly in the great assistance they derive from the Communion of Saints.

[Pope Paul VI in Indulgentiarum Doctrina.]

The Vatican, 2013:

Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks — such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

“That includes following Twitter,” said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis’ Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. “But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet.”

This is not, I hasten to add, a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)



  1. Sharp Little Pencil »

    31 July 2013 · 8:15 am

    As a Protestant, a progressive, and a member of the “Christian Left” (we don’t get much press), I’ve never understood the concept of indulgences, other than that they were up for sale in years gone by.

    The rules and regs of the Catholic Church are onerous and often self-contradictory – how can one “love the sinner but hate the sin?” If you hate what the person does, how is that showing him Jesus’ extravagant love?

    I love the “Get Out of Hell Free card” reference. I use it all the time, especially when speaking with Fundamentalists who feel that taking a bath in the Blood of the Lamb is IT – they can treat people badly and picket their funerals, and it’s all with God’s blessing? REALLY?

    Fascinating post. Thanks so much! Roger Green turned me onto this. Amy Barlow Liberatore, Madison, WI

  2. CGHill »

    31 July 2013 · 11:11 am

    I’ve always thought of the indulgence as a coupon you clip; perform X deed, get Y amount of time sliced off your stay in purgatory before promotion to heaven. Since you don’t know how long that stay might be, however, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever they tell you about it, which may or may not coincide with the will of the Almighty.

    The aspect of it that’s clever is that it distinguishes between venial sins, which may be remitted in this manner, and mortal sins, which can’t.

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