From the big city paper nearby:
Mary Schatzman knew right away what she would do last week after learning that a church near her Green Township home was offering “indulgences” to interested Catholics.
While some parishioners seemed indifferent or confused by the offer, Schatzman didn’t hesitate.
“I’m going to get one,” she said.
Her eagerness reflects a renewed interest among Catholics in a tradition that had for decades all but vanished from their religious life.
In the past year, Catholics across the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and thousands more around the world have gone to confession, taken communion and said the prayers necessary to receive what is known as a “plenary indulgence.”
For the indulgence, a blessing that helps Catholics avoid punishment in the afterlife, it is a remarkable comeback.
The practice suffered a precipitous fall from grace 500 years ago when the Catholic Church began selling them to rich people looking to buy their way into heaven.
Although the church stopped selling them long ago, the stain on the indulgence’s reputation endured for centuries.
The church never abandoned the indulgence, however, and it now is part of a broader campaign by Pope Benedict XVI to revive some fading church traditions and to draw Catholics back to teachings that younger generations know little about.
The article also add this “explanation”:
The shorthand version of the rules goes like this: Confession removes the “eternal punishment” of sin that can condemn a soul for all eternity, but a “temporal punishment” remains. This punishment is meted out in Purgatory, where Catholics must wait to be purified before moving on to heaven.
That’s where indulgences come into play. They can shorten or eliminate the purification process, clearing the path to heaven.
“We must be purified, either here on Earth or after death in Purgatory,” [Rev. Earl Fernandes, dean of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati] said. “What an indulgence seeks to do is remit the temporal punishment.”
Click the link for the rest of the Cincinnati Enquirer article on indulgences.
I’m as open-minded as the next guy, but c’mon. Indulgences? They’re simply indefensible theologically, unorthodoxy at its finest, no matter what the Vatican says.
Sure, the local archdiocese isn’t selling them as they were in good ol’ Martin Luther’s day, not even on eBay, but “free” doesn’t make them any less nutty.