Tuesday, February 10, 2009

plenary indulgences?! WTF?!

I will begin by noting that, as a good Battlestar Galactica fan, "WTF" here stands for "What the Frack?"

It would seem that the church of my upbringing is making an effort to make things easy on me as I struggle with whether to remain Catholic. They've brung back plenary indulgences, choosing rather oddly to highlight the traditional teaching of purgatory as a time of suffering needed to cleanse the soul before one is ready to enter into heaven.

[insert image of frustrated Catholic banging his head against a wall several times here]


OK, so...plenary indulgences. Isn't this one of the teachings that led to great schisms within Christianity awhile back (or, at least, the practice of selling such)? Yep.

Doesn't the teaching implicitly suggest that God is a rather sadistic bastard who is so unforgiving and intolerant that people need to be "purified" through pain and agony before they can be welcomed into heaven? Yep.

Do I find the church's teaching that they could have any influence on such a process (were it to be true) rather arrogant? Why yes, yes I do.

And yet do I somehow just feel Catholic somehow, as if I'd be losing some part of my identity if I entirely left the church? Sigh. Yes.

OK, so my message to the Vatican right now is (to quote Bob Newhart from a memorable Mad TV scene): stop it. Thinking about encouraging the sacrament of reconciliation by bizarrely shedding light on an illogical, two-tiered system of forgiveness? Stop it. Thinking about letting avowed anti-semites back as bishops in a poor play to the ultra-conservatives that left the church because, say, we now say the mass in something other than Latin? Stop it. Thinking about encouraging plenary indulgences? Stop it.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I have another suggestion for the Catholic church. Stop using the word "modernity" so much. As in the phrase, "as we attempt to dialogue with modernity...." Instead, substitute the word "reality" or, if you prefer, use the phrase "modern reality." I think it clarifies things.


bigboid said...

Actually, I did see your post today. :-) I know I've never been a big fan of even the idea of indulgences, but I'm also not Catholic. All I can say is it must be tough to struggle with the teachings of your upbringing. We all go through that struggle at some point in our lives, and it's never easy. Eventually, we have to come to our own understanding of what is being said by God, either directly or through His messengers (I'm thinking of the men who wrote the Bible, angels, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus). I actually went back and read some of your archived posts, and I especially liked the one where you discussed a Catholic priest denouncing Wiccans back in 2006. Yes, I do think that God's overarching principle that Jesus taught us is to love one another. That message often gets drowned out in a lot of other doctrine and religious teachings. And yet, I still can't reconcile pagans or Wiccans with Godly teachings in my own mind. Jesus Christ being the one true pathway to heaven, and all that, is just too deeply seated in my mind. But it's all good stuff to think about! We should all be able to think for ourselves and decide what religious teachings make sense for us.

Sarah S-D said...

what the frack, indeed.


i will admit i don't know much about plenary indulgences or purgatory, but i know enough to wonder how on earth smart people could revive such teachings today. and the pope, he's smart. but... he uses his brain in such troubling ways. and his power too. i know some would be horrified for me to speak ill of the pope, but... a string of troubling decisions and this... the icing on the cake.

steve, it could be very faithful for you to remain a Catholic. this is the family into which you were baptized and in which you met Jesus, but perhaps you are being called away to a communion that more fully opens you to deeper relationship with Christ and his body.

you know that i always hold your struggle with the church in my heart and prayers. and sheesh, the pope just. isn't. helping.