In one of the more absurd moves I’ve seen out of the Vatican lately, and that’s saying a lot, Pope Francis has said that he’ll cut some time off your stay in purgatory if you follow him on Twitter. This is sort of like a holy “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The practice of indulgences lost favor in the Middle Ages when religious scammers would sell these pieces of Papal paper for large sums of money to the wealthy, a way for the well-to-do to violate Church law with impunity and then buy their way back to salvation later.
Modern Vatican spokesmen say it’s not quite that easy. “You can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. Well, sure you can! It’s been a long-held Catholic belief that anyone who scales the Sacred Steps in Rome, believed to have been brought from Pontius Pilate’s house, earns 7 years off their sentence in purgatory. The church has said that anyone who attends special events like Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, can earn an indulgence as well. Since not everyone can afford to jump on a plane to Brazil, the Vatican has ruled that anyone who performs “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media, gets one too.
This really is idiotic though, it’s no better than standing on a street corner offering to sell decrees that you won’t get eaten by a dragon. There are no dragons so you don’t need the paper, just like there is no purgatory, no heaven and no hell so you don’t need worthless indulgences to avoid going there. It amazes me how many truly gullible people there are out there who buy into this nonsense, although those numbers are shrinking every day. You’d think that if Francis was really concerned about the health and well-being of his church, he’d worry more about reality and less about exploiting the ridiculously gullible in his flock.
Then again, as I’ve said before, major religions can’t just change their minds whenever they want, they have tradition and religious books that they have to pay lip service to. The Vatican can’t really get away with declaring “oh, that Jesus stuff? It was all bunk. Now we’re going to believe something else!” They’d lose what little credibility they have among the faithful that they still retain. Therefore, they have to walk a tightrope, trying to keep appealing to the blindly religious while dropping some of the more offensive ideas that are driving people from their pews. It’s really not working, people are pushing to get out of the Catholic Church like nobody’s business and they’re being left with the largely destitute and uneducated who have nowhere else to turn.
Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if they could sell indulgences that allowed believers to get out of poverty? Of course, that would require God to actually exist and we all know what a laughable idea that is.