Archive for February 12th, 2009

The Return of Indulgences

I read this very good – though to me , a little baffling – religion story in The New York Times about the Catholic Church’s return to the granting of indulgences. You may remember (and I mention in Bead One, Pray Too) that in one of Martin Luther‘s great complaints against the Church was its selling of indulgences – a practice the Church has not engaged in for centuries and is not returning to now. But some of you of a certain age – or those with grandparents raised as Catholics – may remember that Catholics used to rush through the recitation of the rosary in order to gain an indulgence. Pope John Paul II took care of that, if my memory serves, in his apostolic letter on the rosary, which did much to restore its practice.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting article, and best of all, it mentions prayer beads – the Catholic rosary, of course – and had pictures of people using them. What I found baffling was I did not think the reporter adequately explained how indulgences work and why the church would highlight this practice now. The priest’s explanation in the top of the story – “Because there is sin in the world” did not cut it for me. Any ideas out there?

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