The New York Times published a front page story Tuesday saying that Roman Catholics can once again receive indulgences or reprieves from punishment in the afterlife.
When I read that, I wondered whether I had picked up The Canterbury Tales by mistake.
But it’s true. In exchange for prayers, devotions or pilgrimages, Catholics can have their time in Purgatory, the punishment before entering heaven, reduced or erased instantly.
Indulgences have gotten the Catholic Church in trouble before. Remember the Protestant Reformation, anyone? The selling of indulgences led Martin Luther to start the movement that led to a schism with the Catholic Church.
The Church says now that you cannot buy an indulgence, but charitable contributions, when combined with other acts, can earn you one.
But once you start offering indulgences, you know people are going to start selling them. I thought it would take a few weeks or months, but I was wrong. If you go to eBay, you can bid for your very own “indulgence.” There’s a crucifix selling right now for $7.99. Just wearing the crucifix on your person gets you an indulgence, the seller says. Kiss the crucifix, and you get another indulgence.
I think Martin Luther would tell the pope he told him so.