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“A decree issued by Cardinal James Francis Stafford last week said plenary indulgences would be granted to people who are not in a state of sin and participate ‘attentively and with devotion’ to World Day of Youth events in Germany.”
When are we not in a state of sin? And what is the method for determining how attentive and devoted someone is? Is that not all subjective?
“According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a plenary indulgence can remove ‘all of the temporal punishment due to sin’ while a partial indulgence removes only part of it.”
So Jesus’ death on the cross was just a show, then, not really his way of suffering for us and redeeming us, as the Bible says? This denial of Scripture is something that has always bothered me about the Catholic faith. The only one capable of removing sin is God.
“Indulgences can be obtained for oneself or for those departed souls already suffering in purgatory.”
Again, we cannot earn forgiveness, there is no purgatory. The Bible never mentions purgatory, but it does say that Jesus has earned forgiveness for us by dying on the cross. Those who have already died are in God’s hands, anyway. There is nothing we can do for them here on Earth.
“But there is no help for people in hell, who are condemned for eternity.”
A friend’s parents were very devout and active Catholics, (and were also remarkably nice, kind, and generous people, just to get that out there). Once when I was visiting (this would have been around 1975) I noticed an elaborate framed document on the wall. Reading it, it was a Plenary Indulgence from the Pope. As I remember it said, “…upon condition of being truly sorry for your sins, your sins are forgiven.”
I observed that all of us protestants get the same deal.
This actually pretty interesting that this comes up now, because my summer reading project, the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas just discussed this point. No, according to St. Thomas (who is considered to be the teacher of the Church, that is, the highest of all doctors), we are not always in a state of sin. Sin in baptism faith, hope and love are implanted in us, the sin that is left over in us, that which is involuntary in us is not sin per se. This is based on a Greek understanding that that which is involuntaryu is not blame worthy. Therefore, even if they wanted to agree with Luther and the New Testament on the simul thing, they logically couldn’t. Furthermore, there are three elements to the sacrament of penance, contrition, confession and satisfaction. The first is feeling bad and the second telling it to a Priest. Satisfaction (now this is where it gets interesting) is where you effectively punish yourself through fasting or prayer. Now, here’s the out. If the Pope or a bishop says that if go to a certain church or something, then you don’t have to do the punishment. This is all according to Thomas and every Catholic council, only effective because of the merit of Christ. The Catholic system does not disavow Jesus per se, it just does from the standpoint of the Biblical theology of salvation. Whereas historic Lutheranism and the Bible understand Jesus as paying our debt for us, Catholics believe that Jesus helps us get education and training so we can get a well paying job and pay off our own debt. Otherwise, they would just have to accept Jesus’ forgiveness and why would you need a Pope to tell you to do that? Also, it doesn’t matter to them if they can’t find purgatory in the Bible. Under the first Vatican council, the Pope can make up doctrine as they go along, no worries. Also, they think they can find it, specifically in that passage in I Cor. where Paul talks about burning up the hay and the jewels on the foundation of Christ. Also in I Maccabees, which we don’t have in our Bible. When Luther was confronted by Eck on this point he yelled “I Macabees is not Scripture!” As well he should have.
So, they basically explain sin away by saying that that which we are not aware of or do involuntarily, we can’t be held accountable for? I don’t buy it. Because of the Fall, we don’t have any choice but to be sinful. Sure, we can choose to do good, but we don’t have the ability to choose not to sin. Jesus was the only one who could do that. The denial of our sinful nature, even the involuntary sinning that we cannot help but do, is a denial of original sin as described in the Bible.
Also, I don’t think it’s right that the Pope can make up doctrine as he sees fit. He may be the head of the Catholic Church, but he has not been given authority by God to change or make up doctrine. In my opinion, and feel free to chime in here, that is blasphemous. He’s not God. He may have been given his position by God, but he is not God.
No, the Roman Catholics don’t teach that sins of which we are unaware, or which are involuntary, aren’t sins. They’re not _mortal_ sins, but they still are sins. I think Jack was talking about Aquinas’s treatment of the sinful _nature._ The position is that we are not _guilty_ simply by virtue of having a sinful nature, but rather our sinful nature leads us to actual sins, of which we _are_ guilty. Baptism doesn’t remove the sinful nature; it just gives us a new nature with which to fight the old one, and washes away the guilt of the original sin that gave us a sinful nature in the first place. Notice the text of the indulgence says “in a spirit of detachment from any sin,” not “while remaining free from sin of any kind.” It speaks to the attitude of the participants; this indulgence is not for people who come to World Youth Day to booze it up, hit on cute chicks, and see the Pope.
That said, of course, the theology behind this indulgence thing is just as wrong as it was when Luther wrote the 95 Theses, which contrary to the ignorant statements of this Reuters article were NOT written to denounce the Church’s greed. The “greed” angle is only mentioned, even obliquely, in 3 of the 95 theses. The Reuters article makes it sound as if the whole problem back then was that people had to PAY for these things instead of EARNING them, which is really a SPECTACULAR misunderstanding of Luther’s whole critique, namely, that you CAN’T earn God’s favor with currency of any kind–whether coins or good works. And LEAST of all by good works connected to something as random and moral-neutral and EASY as attending World Youth Day, for crying out loud. In the Middle Ages, people had to go on a CRUSADE or something to get a plenary indulgence.