Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reformation Bait

Catholicism just keeps getting weirder (well, not special underwear weird, but close). It seems that the Pope has revived that old medieval curio, Madonna the Papal Indulgence. If the term sounds vaguely familiar and slightly sketchy, you might be remembering your Lutheranism. Apparently, opposition to the sale of Papal Indulgences was one of the sticking points for Martin Louis the King Jr. Martin Luther in that whole Reformation thing. Well, now indulgences are back--and just as powerful as ever!

According to this article in the Times, the Catholic Church has quietly begun to offer indulgences to its congregation. Essentially, an indulgence offers a reduction of punishment in Purgatory. As the Times notes:

According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. 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.

It has no currency in the bad place.
Before we talk more about the theology here, I have to think about that last sentence. What an amazingly cryptic statement! I can't believe the Times editors let that line stay in the final copy. What could it mean? Is "the bad place" hell? (And lest you think that the sentence is merely the topic sentence of a longer, more explanatory paragraph, allow me to assure you that the final sentence stands alone in the article as its own complete paragraph. How odd!)

So let's get the theology straight here: even if you confess a sin and are absolved, you will still be punished for that sin in Purgatory. Unless you manage to gain a plenary indulgence, which buys you out of that purgatory time. And the person who decides if you get to skip purgatory is some creepy geriatric like Pope Cowboy XVI here? Hmmm. Who comes up with this stuff?

Not to mention that there appears to be fine print:
  • offer only good until next sin.
  • limit one coupon per customer per day.
And people wonder why Fosco is an atheist. Does any of this actually sound like the will of a supernatural being? Or does it sound more like the cheap thrills of an authoritarian bureaucratic apparatus?


Anonymous said...

I am literally laughing out loud over the reference to "the bad place" - is that Walmart? The local strip club?

I think Protestants get ripped off - we get no indulgent opportunities. And we never get the actual body and blood of Jesus, just a symbol. And we also do not get to have gambling nights, for the most part.

I want to become Mormon and get my own planet after I die. Forget Purgatory! Wear some funky undies and come live on Planet Zorbo with me!

BeeMistress, whose word verification word is UNDIZ. That's how we'll spell our undizzzz on Zorbo, y'all.

FOSCO said...

Fosco imagines a psychologist handing a doll to an abused child: "Did he touch you in the bad place?"

Planet Zorbo does sound pretty rockin'... The problem is that only the Mormon mens get the planets--the Mormonesses just act like good servants on the planet. Sorry, BeeMistress: you'll have to spend Mormon eternity washing the BeeMaster's undiz.

Jill said...

I have never regreted walking away from the church. This is repugnant...and not at all surprising.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping Planet Zorbo would be the more progressive Mormon where I have lots of drones and am the Queen of the Universe. Perhaps I'll need to start my own cult.

Fosco, have you ever seen the Mo Rocca and Tim Gunn bit where Tim Gunn analyzes the style of the Jeffs compound women? It's hysterical.

BeeMistress, future Queen of Zorbo

Anonymous said...

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