Catholic Church Revives Practice of Indulgences
The New York Times reports that the Catholic Church has begun reviving the practice of indulgences under Pope Benedict XVI.
Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church. Its revival has been viewed as part of a conservative resurgence that has brought some quiet changes and some highly controversial ones, like Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to lift the excommunications of four schismatic bishops who reject the council’s reforms.
The indulgence is among the less noticed and less disputed traditions to be restored. But with a thousand-year history and volumes of church law devoted to its intricacies, it is one of the most complicated to explain.
For folks in my generation, the indulgence is primarily known as the means through which the existence of the entire universe is threatened in the movie Dogma, so I’m not sure I welcome its revival.
Still, given Pope Benedict XVI’s overall conservatism, I suspect that this is just the first of many old traditions that Catholics can expect to see revived. Other traditions I expect to pop back up include the Latin Mass, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and the Spanish Inquisition.
Just kidding on that last part, of course. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.