The arbitrary nature of Roman Catholic soteriology has hit new lows.
Last year was the supposed “Year of Mercy.” Everyone who merely walked through the door of a Catholic church was granted an indulgence–all sins were forgiven and no time would be needed in Purgatory. No, I am not making this up–it really happened. Why didn’t he give people no Purgatory at all (the indulgence did not cover the effects of future sins, something theoretically the Catholic Church can do) or do it for something easier than driving to church and going to a Mass? We don’t know, but that is what was decided.
Let’s be clear. Contrary to common knowledge, an indulgence is only efficacious if the receiver has a contrite heart. Further, an indulgence is not merely a “get out of Hell free card,” but rather is a gratuitous gift of merit attained by Christ or the saints (in Christ) applied to a faithful person who died with some sins. It works by canceling out the demerits that would keep a faithful person in Purgatory, because it pays God back for the temporal effects of sins (even if their ultimate effects were forgiven by Christ on the cross.)
In short, an indulgence does not get you out of Hell. It gets Heaven-bound person to Heaven, quicker.
Find this objectionable? Well, the debate over indulgences is bound to heat up.
Recently on March 30th, Pope Francis made headlines (mostly in Italy) when he said that taking in what are called “deserted dogs,” or in American parlance “rescue dogs,” will grant to the puppy-parent (my words, not his) an indulgence which frees a single loved one from Purgatory. While not being of any effect for the individual believer (it only covers family members), this indulgence is clearly the most generous and easy to attain in Roman Catholic history.
While the Pope cited the runaway problem of pet cruelty and man’s betrayal of nature, I cannot help but think that the reason he did this was to guarantee the efficaciousness of the indulgence.
As I said before, the indulgence is only efficacious if the intent of the repentant sinner is correct. Last year’s indulgence might have not had its intended effect simply because so many of the Catholic laity do not enter a church with the right intent, as many do not adore the Eucharist nor think it is really the Savior’s flesh and blood. Hence, they would not be able to attain the efficacious effects of the indulgence.
So, my conspiracy theory is that it is almost impossible not to take in a dog and grow to be very fond of it. This makes the “rescue dog indulgence” almost fool-proof.
Allow me to offer a comment: Pope Francis has had no shortage of public-relations friendly stunts and quotations. I am sure his intention is to make Roman Catholicism increasingly relevant. However, I think indulgences such as this one will have the opposite effect.
“Why?,” you may ask. Well, it exposes the extremely arbitrary nature of Rome’s claim to the “power of the keys.” Being that the Pope is supposedly infallible, he can pretty much give an indulgence for anything with an infinite effect of forgiving post-baptismal sins.
This begs the question– why doesn’t he in his mercy just go ahead and do it? He pretty much “jumped the shark” with the “rescue dog indulgence,” so what does he have to lose now?
I would be very interested to see how my Catholic readers defend this.
April 2, 2017: The above was an April Fools satire. Being that it could have easily been true, I hope that the points raised a relevant, regardless.
I haven’t heard this bit about the rescue dog and literally can’t find it anywhere else, so I’ll take your word for it.
However, your bit about what an indulgence does is incorrect. A plenary indulgence is a remission of ALL temporal punishment, while a partial indulgence is a just that, with no specification of “how much time” is removed.
Check out Catholic Answers for better information
Congrats on your conversion to Orthodoxy!
Question, did the year of mercy forgive all sin?
Your question doesn’t make sense? I’m not sure what you’re asking.
I just found out the year of mercy was a plenary indulgence I edited the article.
The first link says nothing about “one year off of time in purgatory”. The second link says nothing about an indulgence for taking in dogs.
What are you talking about?
The conditions for any plenary indulgence, beyond the work to which it is attached, are:
-Being in a state of grace
-Holy Communion (received the same day)
-Holy Confession (within a week or so)
-Saying prayers for the Pope
-Detachment from all sin, even venial sin
If any of those conditions are lacking, then one may still obtain a partial indulgence. As far as I know these conditions go for just about every plenary indulgence (including going through a Holy Door during the Year of Mercy).
(There are a couple excpetions, such as when one is dying or otherwise incapable of fulfilling the conditions.)
You wrote Everyone who merely walked through the door of a Catholic church was granted an indulgence”. If you read thoroughly the link you provided it is NOT MERELY walking through the door will give indulgences – there are other things to do, which you listed near the bottom of your post. Merely walking through the door does not give you anything.
The second link you provided about rescue dog indulgences led to article in Italian titled “Papa Francesco a Genova, ecco come iscriversi alla giornata“
I don’t understand Italian, maybe you do judging from your Italian name. As far as I can see it talks about Pope visit to Genoa, capital city of Italian region of Liguria and says nothing about indulgences (of course I do not know Italian words for indulgences and dog).
To answer your question “did the year of mercy forgive all sins?”. Catholics can get forgiveness of all sins any time in any year through Sacrament of Penance.
” Catholics can get forgiveness of all sins any time in any year through Sacrament of Penance.” Sure, but they may not be freed from the temporal effects of sin in purgatory.
You are right but your question is about forgiveness not about punishment. God does forgive sins upon repenting and confessing but He still punishes us. If you have children and they misbehave (like any normal children) and then say sorry, you forgive them but still discipline them, right?
Not if an indulgence takes care of that!
You mean you accept indulgences and because of that you decide not to discipline your children but ask them to perform something that resembles indulgences like walking through the front door after mowing the lawn?
The image in your article was taken on May 18, 2016 in Vatican. The dog, a saint Bernard bred one, named Magnum was brought by Swiss-Italian delegation composed of politicians and representatives of various organisations linked to the dogs and the Saint Bernard Pass.
Yes, the dog photo bombed the Pope.
Can you provide the correct link of your charge about rescue dog indulgences?
There is not one, it is an April Fools Joke 🙂
Derp. I just saw the date.