Social-Media Indulgences?
I often spend time each morning trying to stay somewhat up-to-date regarding world news. One headline from CBS caught my attention today. It was about the Pope offering indulgences to Twitter followers of his social media account.

I thought to myself: "Indulgences in 2013? I thought they did away with those a long time ago." It turns out I was mistaken about that. It is true that they stopped selling indulgences back in 1567, but the long-running tradition of indulgences is still around--and evolving.

Since not all Catholics can afford to travel to Brazil for World Youth Day next week, Pope Francis will offer an indulgence for those who follow the events online via Twitter. This news floods my mind with questions:

After some additional research, my mind was put at ease regarding my first question. The Twitter offer is just one of many ways a Catholic could earn an indulgence next week.

My second question was answered later on in the CBS article: "Under Catholic belief, after confessing and being absolved of sin, the indulgences granted reduce the amount of time one spends in purgatory, where one's sins are weighed after death. Under the Pope's new offer, those who follow the week's events on the Twitter feed can get a speedier transit through purgatory, hopefully on the way to heaven" [emp. added, SRB].

Fascinating, but where can I read about any of this in the Bible?

Patrick Hornbeck, a department chair in Theology at the University of Fordham in New York, was quoted as further explaining: "The notion of indulgence is that you've already been forgiven for your sin, because you've gone to confession, at least in theory, but what it does is reduce the amount of time you have to spend in purgatory after you die to work off that sin" [emp. added, SRB].

Purgatory? Working off sin? Have I missed these concepts in Scripture all these years?

The Catholic Church claims indulgences were never meant to forgive sins, but they acknowledge severe abuses of the system in the late Middle Ages. Indulgences were sold to fund expensive projects and promises were made of perpetual happiness in this world and eternal glory in the next. Indulgences were one of the reasons Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church. It pains my heart to read about these things of the past and present because I know many have been and will be deceived!

The Pope has close to three million followers on Twitter, and this announcement from the Vatican is surely to increase that number. Why bring this up today, Stephen? To attempt to educate folks in a small way. Perhaps a sincere Catholic will stumble upon this article and be challenged to think for herself. Perhaps you will use this opportunity to speak with your Catholic friends about the difference between man-made religion and New Testament Christianity. It grieves my soul to think about millions of people blindly following a man who does not teach the truth of God's word!

Consider some relevant passages from the inspired word of God on the topics mentioned above:

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt. 13:9).