Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If You Want to Feel Depressed and a Whole Lot Dumber

Check out this NYT article. It's about the recent trend of promoting indulgences to the faithful. When you read the piece, recall two things:

1. Someone was actually paid money to be this wrong.
2. The people quoted are Catholics.

On a cautionary note, there is a throwaway bit from our favorite theological prostitute towards the end. I'm not going to reproduce it here, though. He's sullied this blog enough lately.

It starts with the obligatory "Vatican II changed all that."

Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church.

I could write a whole series just on the stupidity of that one paragraph.

Then, of course, the author has to throw in some stuff about indulgences that is completely false. For example:

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years . . .

Of course, the time period attached to an indulgence had to deal with the equivalent penance the indulgenced act was good for, not for the timeframe of punishment in purgatory, but hey, why worry with facts? It's the New York (expletive deleted) Times, after all.

Now the depressing part:

“It’s what?” asked Marta de Alvarado, 34, when told that indulgences were available this year at several churches in New York City. “I just don’t know anything about it,” she said, leaving St. Patrick’s Cathedral at lunchtime. “I’m going to look into it, though.”

Karen Nassauer, 61, said she was baffled by the return to a practice she never quite understood to begin with. “I mean, I’m not saying it is necessarily wrong,” she said. “What does it mean to get time off in Purgatory? What is five years in terms of eternity?”

That's right. These people are Catholic and have no idea what this is all about. Their pastors and instructors should be beaten. And almost as bad:

The latest offers de-emphasize the years-in-Purgatory formulations of old in favor of a less specific accounting, with more focus on ways in which people can help themselves — and one another — come to terms with sin. “It’s more about praying for the benefit of others, doing good deeds, acts of charity,” said the Rev. Kieran Harrington, spokesman for the Brooklyn diocese.

It's not that this is wrong so much as a complete bass-ackward emphasis. What it's "about" is that there are people suffering, and we aren't doing anything about it. What is so different from their suffering and that of people going hungry, etc. It's still suffering that we are callously allowing to continue by not working to alleviate their pain. That's what it is about. It's about becoming holier by showing charity to those who are forgotten and left to their torments.

Do unto others, folks. If it was you being roasted (or whatever purgatory feels like), you'd want someone on this side having Masses offered or Rosaries prayed to spring you from the flames.

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