Re: Indulgences - WARNING very long!!
- From: Michael J Davis <mjdusenet@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2011 12:41:44 +0000
Kendall Down <kkdown@xxxxxxxxxx> was inspired to say
On 28/02/2011 19:33, Michael J Davis wrote:
** Besides blaming the Church for fostering a "craving for reward,"
Protestants also accuse her of teaching "justification by works".
External works alone, they allege, such as fasting, almsgiving,
pilgrimages, the recitation of the rosary etc., make the Catholic good
and holy, the intention and disposition being held to no account.
Mike, I am happy to accept that the Catholic church no longer teaches
such a doctrine, but I think you have to accept that in previous times,
even if that was not the official doctrine, it was the practical way in
which Catholics (including the hierarchy) acted.
Ken, I have no doubt that many Catholics, including those I have known,
have chased after 'indulgences' and other 'blessings' - rather than
concentrated on, say, just what is happening at mass and prayed that
accordingly (which according to Church teaching is what we should do),
equally I have no doubt that many priests have encouraged (and still do)
their congregations to *do holy things* rather than ensuring they were
properly informed and evangelised.
External works as mentioned, are part of the practice of the Catholic
faith. When integrated into the full sacramental life they are conducive
to the life of faith, subduing the 'flesh' and seeking holiness. That is
the message of St Paul and others.
When they become ends in themselves - a form of 'muscular Christianity'
- separated from the free gift of grace; then there is the tendency to
superstition. It's only a *tendency*, because - as long as the life of
faith is continued - they remain in touch with the fullness of God's
grace. To outsiders, and that's my problem in arguing with Phil, because
the essential Spiritual life is ignored and these practises are seen as
an end in themselves. All I'm trying to do is to distinguish between
what the Church teaches and the abuses that have occurred within it.
Equally, many priests 'know' that these practises are 'good' and may
encourage what they see people doing, while ignoring what they can't
see. To combat that, the Church has always (AFAIK) linked the indulgence
with confession and communion - the central requirements of the life of
I was in a meeting with the bishop of Wrexham yesterday and he
mentioned that before Vatican II the Catholic church was very
suspicious of Bible-reading, whereas now it encourages the practice.
The Catholic church has changed (for which I praise God) and it is a
little unfair to blame Protestants in the past for attacking the
Catholic church in the past.
Suspicious, because of many nasty experiences of people who read the
Bible and came up with novel interpretations of the sort often expressed
here. Therefore it encouraged Bible reading, *with* the help of the
priest. The problem was that the priests themselves were taught doctrine
first and scripture second. Today, we have a Pope who is a significant
Scripture scholar (I've just been reading some of his teaching about the
strengths and weaknesses of the Historical-critical approach, I may post
more on that later) - the only major Scriptural theologian-pope since
Gregory the Great!
I suspect that we would be less ready to attack the Catholic church if
you would openly say, "We were wrong about this in the past but we have
changed" instead of trying to pretend "this was what we believed all
It's not like that, Ken. The basic teaching of the church has been
conservative and consistent. In *some - often local - parts* teachings
get expanded beyond their 'base'. Sometimes that leads to doctrinal
development, at other times it leads to the centre telling them to
desist. The things that were judged to be wrong (theologically) were
never taken into the centre. In general, stuff is referred back to the
church fathers - I mean their writings re-examined - to see if that was
consistent with what they said. Sometimes they have said stuff that was
ignored for many years.
The key difference is that the Church believes that the Holy Spirit is
leading it into better and more developed understanding of many aspects
of Jesus' teaching, of Scripture and of the practise of the Faith, in
order to deal with the issues affecting the world today. That will mean
that some changes may be made that were not wrong in the past but are
seen differently today. The problem is that the built in conservatism
means it's sometimes slow to accept new understandings.
Add to that a lot of noise generated by those who are enemies of the
Church claiming that the Church believes 'X' when it never has (and
indulgences - because of the abuse of Tetzel and others - are a good
example), and it gets complicated. You can't apologise for something
that others misunderstand.
Purgatory? That there is no place between this life and heaven? Where
did Jesus go after his crucifixion to preach to the spirits in prison?
Well, I don't believe that He did. The single verse which talks about
"spirits in prison" is highly controversial, not least because it
appears to teach a doctrine of second chance - which I don't think has
ever been Catholic doctrine, let alone Christian doctrine.
That's a good example. Of course, it's never been about 'second chances'
- that's clear, and you are right - it doesn't. But that doesn't stop
some people claiming that what the RCC believes.
You're saved though the grace of Jesus, respond in faith, and are
invited to the party. But there's still stuff you need to deal with, so
there's a cloakroom to dump it. It's not second chance at all. It's
interesting that Catholics believe that it is *possible* to become
perfect in this life (through grace, of course) and thus purgatory is
avoidable, whereas I've never met a Christian of another denomination
who believes that sanctification can lead to perfection.
As a matter of interest how do you understand Heb 9:27-28:-
You believe - as I do - in the Last judgement, when Jesus will return,
but do you believe there is a judgement before then? If not, where do
the dead 'wait'?
In heaven, of course.
Well, actually, I don't know exactly where God stores the souls of the
dead, but "heaven" is a good portmanteau word that will do.
Exactly, I get quite cross at those ministers who - at a funeral - don't
make a distinction between what happens now "Fred's in heaven today" and
what will happen at the last judgement, "Jesus will invite us into
heaven". (And no I'm not suggesting that we spend that 'time' in
purgatory!) I think 'paradise' is a good word for the soul's existence
until the Last Judgement.
When we die the "ruach" returns to God, Who alone can destroy the
"psyche". Both words refer to what we today would call the
Scientists talk about the possibility of somehow taking a "snapshot" of
the brain of an individual just before he dies, storing it somewhere,
and then at some future time creating a new body and feeding the
snapshot into it, thereby restoring the individual to life.
(Personally, I don't think we will ever have that power!) God has been
doing that for years.
When does eternal life begin, then?
However just as the "snapshot", stored on a hard drive somewhere, is
not alive and not sentient without the body, so our souls, wherever God
has stored them, are not sentient until they are replaced in the body.
We are, as the verse says, "waiting" for the Resurrection.
Yes, I understand that ('s your view). Actually that's your answer to
'praying to the saints'; it bypasses the purgatory thingie.
Anyway, I'm wishing I hadn't stepped in about indulgences!! ;-)
(Because it's complicated and as I said, before, I'd rather not defend
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