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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Because we're all sinless and at our ideal weight? some thoughts on indulgences...

An indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven, granted by the Church after one has confessed and received absolution. Indulgences draw on the "storehouse of merit" acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints, and are granted for specific good works and prayers.

I do not understand the hostility that some (desperate not to appear as out-of-date as they are,) dinosaurs in the Church demonstrate toward the theology of indulgenced prayer and practices.
Very much like the contempt for Rosaries, for Adoration -- if you don't find it helpful to your Catholic spirituality, don't take part!
But why denigrate it, (sometimes in msm interviews, where an unctuously patronizing contempt is on display)?

How difficult is it to understand that most of us, to achieve anything, anything at all, need structure, and guidance and a regimen?

If you have achieved perfection of holiness, bully for you, I do hope you have time to pose for the statue of you we'll be putting on one of the side altars.

Do you have the same attitude for us weak-willed cows who wouldn't be able to stick to an exercise program without joining a gym?* or aren't focused enough to become auto-didacts, but need school?

I don't recall that I had ever heard about indulgences growing up.

Oh, outside of history class, of course, Bad-Things-Catholics-Did-Sparking-Good-Things-More-Enlightened-People-Did.

But Church teaching on them has not changed.

The abuse does not nullify the use.

In modern times, the Church has tried to make the doctrine behind indulgences more accessible, to make it clear that indulgences serve not only to help us make satisfaction for our sins, but more importantly to bring us to holiness, to bring us to greater zeal, to greater charity, to active love of God and man.

The remission of the purgation, the cleansing --- let's think of it not so much as "punishment" but as "repair work," since there is no sin, only brokenness [snarkasm alert]-- gained with an indulgenced action or prayer is the result of the metanoia, the conversion, the change of heart that led one to perform the action or prayer.

In the Bad Ol' Days, partial indulgences were granted as the equivalent of a certain number of days, months, years, quarantines -- but of canonical penance, not of "time in Purgatory," (which, like Heaven and Hell is outside of time.)

We no longer classify partial indulgences by years and days, NOT because doing so was wrong but because it was it was easily misunderstood.

At Pertinacious Papist, in the combox, (the thread is about something altogether different, and I am not endorsing the unnecessary and unhelpful pitting against each other of the two Forms of the Latin Rite it perpetuates,) Mr. Blosser says this, [In reply to another poster's words: recently the Bishop of Steubenville recently asked those in his diocese to voluntarily abstain from meat on Friday, i.e., to take one tiny, hesitant step toward regathering some of their Catholic identity....
It seems to me that the TLM as well as abstaining from meat on Friday are both "badges" of Catholic identity. I fail to see where this is inconsistent with "putting on Christ" (a phrase which is beginning to seem as overused and meaningless as "in the spirit"), but apparently many people are leery of any sort of demarcation,] which I think can also be applied to the Catholic embrace of the concept of indulgences:

Metaphors like "putting on Christ" or being "in the Spirit" mean something only within a context in which they take on material form (such as a visible "badge" or outward "demarcation" signifying something). By themselves they mean nothing, or anything, which is much the same.

They are also terms typical of the Protestant tradition which generally has a history of nominalistically "spiritualizing" everything -- the "Church," "Baptism," Christ's "Body" and "Blood," "justification," etc. Thus, the "Church" isn't any tangible historical organization. "Baptism" is usually only symbolic, as are Christ's "Body" and "Blood" in the Eucharist. Even one's "justification" doesn't signify any material change in the person, but only his nominal declaration of acquittal based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Only within the Catholic tradition does the "inner" and the "spiritual" take on an "outer" and "material" form, as a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. What can "putting on Christ" possibly mean apart from "outward signs," like physically kneeling when we pray, abstaining from meat on Friday, membership in a Church whose bishops stand in direct apostolic succession from Christ and His Apostles themselves? If not a "club" of sorts, than what were God's "Chosen People" in the Old Covenant, with their mark of physical circumcision, and what are Catholics unless they are physically baptized and identifiable as an historic people of the New Covenant, the New Israel?

What could it possibly mean, by analogy, to "put on marriage," apart from acts of sacrificial and faithful love by which marriage is materially incarnated in real life?
The "Good Works" of an indulgence, whether of worship directed toward God, or of charity directed toward our fellows, both with us and gone before, are the "material form" of our continuing conversion, they bring the spiritual into the physical, they enflesh our faith.

Or am I full of it and completely misunderstand the whole thing.

Open to instruction and admonishment.

* Full disclosure, this is a purely hypothetical example, I am a strong-willed cow, with no interest whatever in exercise, whether with or without the impetus provided by a gym or a trainer.

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