Indulge me

The "Year of Saint Paul" is half over, but the New York Times just caught wind of the plenary indulgence available to those who observe it, locally and worldwide. Of course, the word "indulgence" is enough to raise alarms about the Church's past abuses and future directions, especially in the current climate. But generally this story seems pretty fair to me: it notes that most Catholics under 50 are only dimly aware that indulgences exist, and consider the idea quaint at best. The article (by Paul Vitello) also offers a number of perspectives on why the concept has been reintroduced (albeit while overstating the degree to which it ever went away). The simplest reason: to get people into the confessionals.

Its not that easy to explain to people who have never heard of it, said the Rev. Gilbert Martinez, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan, the designated site in the New York archdiocese for obtaining indulgences. But it was interesting: I had a number of people come in and say, Father, I havent been to confession in 20 years, but this the availability of an indulgence made me think maybe it wasnt too late.

So, has it worked? Have you been indulged? If not, you have till the end of June to take advantage of this particular offer. (The Paulists have a handy booklet, available as a .pdf here, that lays out the guidelines.) And of course, there are other ways to earn your get-out-of-Purgatory-free card: just remember, the limit is one per person per day.(Update: Follow-up posts here and here.)

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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