Purgatory points 12

My college roommates and I used to talk about earning “Purgatory points,” usually by putting up with a particularly obnoxious person. Well, apparently back in 2000 Pope John Paul II reintroduced indulgences and now Pope Benedict XVI has been authorizing further offers of indulgences, this year linked to the year of St. Paul. This NYTimes article is the first that I had heard of it and apparently I am not alone. The news is news to many interviewed for the article.

I was raised in a Presbyterian home and I am now an Episcopalian, inching closer to Rome as one friend put it, but I am still Reformed enough in my theology to respectfully disagree with my Catholic friends on certain matters and this would be one of those. It does bring up the more serious question for me, what is Pope Benedict up to? He has brought back the Latin mass, reinstated 4 bishops who were excommunicated, including one who has recently denied aspects of the Holocaust and said that the US staged the 9/11 attacks as a pretense for attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. What is he doing? I had great respect for Pope John Paul II, a pope who opened up the church to so many Protestants, and I continue to have great respect for the church but I really am scratching my head right now….


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12 thoughts on “Purgatory points

  • Chris Brady Post author

    But what I don’t understand is how the Vatican could have been “unaware of his views” as is being reported. I would think that reinstating 4 prominent figures who had been excommunicated would require extensive research into their cases.

  • gil ferguson

    The Holy Roman Catholic is a human, all be it divine institution founded by our Saviour. There are bumps encountered to eternal salvation due to the sinful nature of mankind. All things done in due time wii be with God’s will.

    “Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for heaven”

    You’ve got to be cleansed before St. Peter opens the gate to heaven. The Jews had their Gehenna, in between. Maybe you need more time and study before the one true faith will be revealed. You must take it all or nothing with not reformed view. It this is not possible for you, then Happy Episcopalian!
    Pax et bonum,

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Gil – I did not take your comments as being uncharitable. Far from it, if you are convinced that what you believe is the truth (Truth) then I would hope you would want to share it!

      I am not convinced, however, that Purgatory exists, for example, or that indulgences are efficacious. I am very much a “Scripturalist” on this, if you will. I find no solid precedence for any of this in Scripture and so I see no solid basis for believing that it is true. (Where is the divine revelation that alone could reveal such truths? This goes beyond tradition, which I value and often accept, to something that would only be knowable by revelation.)

      So while I cannot say that I am always a Happy Episcopalian 🙂 I remain a rather solid member of the Reformed tradition.

  • Andrew

    Any Catholic can tell you that there isn’t a return to indulgences. They’ve never gone away.

    Saying the rosary with your family, spending an hour in Eucharistic adoration, and participating in a Way of the Cross during the lenten season are all sources of indulgences and have been long before Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.

    The New York Times isn’t a very good source of information on these types of topics.

    Wikipedia, though not a great source itself, seems to have a mostly accurate write up on Indulgences within the section entitled Roman Catholic Teaching on Indulgences.

    As for the other points and questions, there is very good reasoning for the Pope’s attempts to bring nearly 1 million people back into full communion with the Church. Raising the excommunication of a person with views contrary to the faith is not an endorsement of their views just as welcoming any sinner into the Church isn’t an endorsement of their deeds. It’s a first step to try to get them to admit their errors and bring them home.

  • Josh McManaway

    Just going on canon law, there’s nothing in Williamson’s beliefs that bar him from having his excommunication lifted. Excommunications aren’t based upon being bad historians. However, Benedict XVI obviously sees that this as being incongruent with how Bishops should be and thus has told Williamson what he must do.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Josh – very true and there is also the question (that I have not seen clearly stated) as to whether we was merely being reinstated as a member of the church or whether he was also being reinstated to his ordained position. (Once ordained always, but was he going to have his duties again?) That would make a difference, it seems to me, in how one looks upon his views. (As my Jewish colleague put it, you can be a Holocaust denier and a member of the church, I would just hope that a leader in the church would not hold such views).

      • Andrew

        RE: reinstated to his ordained position

        He never functioned as a bishop with the Roman Catholic Church. His excommunication occurred because the ordination was illicit … not with the approval of the Pope. So he cannot be reinstated to something he never was.

        He also cannot function as a priest in this state.

        By lifting the excommunication, he’s still an illicit bishop. But now he can participate in reception of the sacraments … i.e. he can go to confession and receive communion. But he still cannot function as a priest or bishop.

        • Andrew

          Not a problem.

          This whole event is certainly a public relations nightmare. But there are some important things happening.

          Willliamson was a “bishop” within the SSPX and participated in the formation of priests within their group — passing on who knows what horrible things to young leaders in their group. Since the lifting of the excommunication, Williamson has been removed from that position of influence.

          In order to come to Rome, Fellay, their leader, is having to clean up the SSPX leadership. By having Roman Catholic seminarians trained in celebrating the Latin mass and opening up the celebration of it, there is an opportunity for the Church to send some of its own into the ranks of the SSPX.

          There is a great opportunity here to bring home a lot of people and remove the Williamsons within their group. There is a great plan here that has a wonderful chance to be successful.