Posted by: Johnold Strey | June 15, 2009

YCMTU: Happy Birthday, Saint Paul! Buy an Indulgence!

Here’s a little tidbit I discovered in the June 2009 edition of Christianity Today (Vol. 53, No. 6, page 53):

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move [to revive the practice of indulgences].  “Because there is sin in the world.”

-Paul Vitello, reporting on the pope’s decree of indulgences to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the apostle Paul’s birth (“For Catholics, a Door to Absolution is Reopened,” The New York Times, February 9, 2009).  Until this June, Roman Catholics were able to receive credit up to full (plenary) exemption from purgatory in fulfillment of various good works.

After citing the above information, the article by John Calvin — the deceased Protestant reformer, whose past writings were reworked by a contemporary Calvinist for this CT article — states in the opening paragraph:

The practice of indulgences is based on the ruinous error that anything short of the perfect righteousness that God requires and gives freely in his Son can satisfy God’s holiness.  The situation would surely have been hopeless had the very majesty of God not descended to us, since it was not in our power to ascend to him.  Hence, it was necessary for the Son of God to assume our flesh.  He fulfilled all righteousness for us, bore our sins — all of them — and rose triumphant for our justification.  For all who trust in Christ, there are no debts left of the ledger at death.  Christ, not the church, possesses and dispenses the treasury of merits.

Please read Romans and Galatians.  St. Paul is Mr. “Faith Alone, not Works!”  So for the anniversary of his birth, Rome is selling works you can purchase and thus bail your way out of purgatory?!?  I hope the tanking economy keeps people from throwing their money away like this.  Okay, I guess you don’t technically pay for an indulgence anymore, but you can give a charitable gift and do some good works and then get it; so it’s a sanctified payment.

I mean, really — for Paul’s birthday?!?

Yep, you can’t make this up!

Addition on 6/19/2009: I inquired about this development with a friend of mine who happens to be a Roman Catholic theologian.  His response should tell you something: “Never underestimate the outrageousness of the Holy Roman Church. … I’m going to go out on a theological limb here but I think the indulgence either gives you a massage chair or popcorn in heaven.  I’ll do some research and get back to you.”  Yes, there may have been a bit of sarcasm in his answer!

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