Hey, all you hipster holdouts who won’t join Twitter with the rest of us, there is a new added benefit: less time in purgatory.
That’s right. The Vatican is offering indulgences to those who follow Pope Francis on Twitter. For those who don’t know, an indulgence is basically time off purgatory, which is basically a time out for your soul, at the end of which you can come play with all your friends in heaven.
Maybe you’ve heard of indulgences before; they are the things corrupt priests sold in the Middle Ages for a mad amount of money. A satchel of gold coins could buy you a free pass into heaven.
Well, I guess those indulgences never really went away. Apparently, you can still get indulgences for performing certain tasks. According to Raw Story:
Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks – such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.
But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.
Catholic World Youth Day spawned the Twitter indulgences. To be fair, this seems to have come from a relatively progressive place. The Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, which is the office that deals with indulgences and the forgiveness of sins, realized that not everyone is rolling in dough. To make the indulgences available to those who can’t make it to Catholic World Youth Day, following the event on Twitter will count.
First, can we all just take a moment to appreciate the fact that the Vatican has an office devoted to sin forgiveness?
Second, as many problems as I have with the Catholic Church, I almost feel bad for mocking this. The Vatican seems to be at least trying to address the economic reality.
But if this is an attempt to woo young people back to the Church, well, I’m not convinced that’s going to work. Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the department of Theology at the University of Fordham, says that the new Pope really gets the young people today:
“This Pope has done a remarkable job of demonstrating how well aware he is of the way in which his younger audience, his younger followers, follow things and I think it totally makes sense that young Catholics would be much more likely to participate via social networking and social media rather than through traditional ways,” said Hornbeck.
This may be true, but the Church has been hemorrhaging members in recent years, according to a study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The study found that many former Catholics left because they were just too darn progressive:
One-in-ten American adults is a former Catholic. Former Catholics are about evenly divided between those who have become unaffiliated and those who have become Protestant, with a smaller number leaving Catholicism for other faiths. In response to the yes-or-no questions about why they left the Catholic Church, nearly six-in-ten former Catholics who are now unaffiliated say they left Catholicism due to dissatisfaction with Catholic teachings on abortion and homosexuality, about half cite concerns about Catholic teachings on birth control and roughly four-in-ten name unhappiness with Catholicism’s treatment of women.
As a general matter, approval of homosexuality and birth control has increased, and even the GOP’s own survey shows that young people support progressive causes.
As long as the Catholic Church continues to put the oppression of women and LGBT people at the top of it’s agenda, I don’t think the stream of people leaving the Church will be halted anytime soon.
Photo Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) on Flickr.