The announcement in church bulletins and on Web sites has been greeted with enthusiasm by some and wariness by others. But mainly, it has gone over the heads of a vast generation of Roman Catholics who have no idea what it means: "Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences."Yes, I know indulgences do not pardon sin; they only remit some of the temporal punishment allotted when a sin is forgiven--repentance remains required. But given the Church's financial crisis, wouldn't it be prudent to set-up a card table at McCarran International Airport? How much would it be worth to ensure that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?
In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago -- the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife -- and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin.
The fact that many Catholics under 50 have never sought one, and never heard of indulgences except in high school European history (Martin Luther denounced the selling of them in 1517 while igniting the Protestant Reformation), simply makes their reintroduction more urgent among church leaders bent on restoring fading traditions of penance in what they see as a self-satisfied world.
"Why are we bringing it back?" asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. "Because there is sin in the world."
(via reader Josh A.)