Once again, I'm behind the times by a little bit here. I wasn't aware that the Catholic Church was once again giving out indulgences. (Hat tip to PZ Myers at Pharyngula.) Who are these people kidding?
It's pretty obvious that the Catholic Church has nothing by cynical intentions. With church attendance dwindling year after year in developed nations, they need something to get people back into the pews and guilt them into attendance:
“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”
Getting Catholics back into confession, in fact, was one of the motivations for reintroducing the indulgence. In a 2001 speech, Pope John Paul described the newly reborn tradition as “a happy incentive” for confession.
“Confessions have been down for years and the church is very worried about it,” said the Rev. Tom Reese, a Jesuit and former editor of the Catholic magazine America. In a secularized culture of pop psychology and self-help, he said, “the church wants the idea of personal sin back in the equation. Indulgences are a way of reminding people of the importance of penance.”
Using guilt and fear of god to coerce people into the church is nothing new, of course, and their Xian brethren are well versed in it as well, but there's also the absurdity that some priest can somehow grant you less time in purgatory. I have to wonder if those priests actually believe that they have this power, or do they know they are fleecing the rubes? Problem is, it leads to quotes like this:
Still, she supports their reintroduction. “Anything old coming back, I’m in favor of it,” she said. “More fervor is a good thing.”
Yes, in a world where people are blowing themselves and others up over their religious fervor, that's exactly what we need. Geez. But, hey, there's some good news in all this:
“The good news is we’re not selling them anymore,” he added.