Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Indulgences are back, Times reports

This article, the most popular in today's on-line New York Times is interesting for it's explanation of theological issues.

The article discusses the availability of indulgences for Catholics and how it is becoming somewhat more prevalent in the church.

The indulgence is a tricky concept for a publication to get across to a variety of readers who include, as the article notes, those who vaguely remember that Martin Luther was against them - a fact pulled up from the recollections of high school history.

But I thought this explanation worked well:

"The indulgence is among the less noticed and less disputed traditions to be restored. But with a thousand-year history and volumes of church law devoted to its intricacies, it is one of the most complicated to explain.

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."

No comments: