By Larry Ray Hafley
From off the Internet, via Pulpit Helps, we note the following:
The New York Times News Service reports from Rome that Pope John Paul II “has announced that in celebration of entering the third millennium of Christianity, penitents who do a charitable deed or give up cigarettes or alcohol for a day can earn an ‘indulgence’ to eliminate punishment on earth or in purgatory.”
While some Catholic officials emphasize that indulgences are linked to sincere repentance, others were embarrassed by a practice that “seems to offer a simplistic shortcut to salvation.” The Protestant Reformation was begun as a protest by Martin Luther against the sale of indulgences. Since Vatican II, the news service said, the Roman Catholic Church played down their importance.
The Pope declared the year 2000 as a holy year, and “throughout the millennial celebration believers will be offered a wider selection of ways to receive a plenary indulgence (to cancel the punishment for repented sins). In addition to traditional means, such as attendance at Mass in a designated church, they can choose an act of private sacrifice.” According to Cardinal William Baum, “this would include abstaining for at least one whole day from unnecessary consumption (e.g., from smoking, or alcohol, or fasting)” (Pulpit Helps, published by AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN 37422).
Well, I do not know about you, but I am certainly relieved that the present Pope was in a good humor when he issued his insignificant little puff of air. In times past, Popes have had folks seized and burned at the stake, so it was with a sigh of relief that I learned this Pope wears a white hat. Wonder if he will indulge and permit me write this article without incurring any singed clothing or powder burns (Dan. 3:15-18)?
(Before I forget, perhaps Cardinal Bill could define for us what constitutes the necessary “consumption” of cigarettes [“smoking”]. Many priests smoke and drink. Wonder how many of them will de-ash and detox for a day? Cu- ban dictator, Fidel Castro, is a friend of the Pope. Will he give up his cigar for one less day of eternal smoking?)
How many of the well-known, so called “Protestants” of our day will join with those “Catholic officials” who “were embarrassed” by the Pope’s pronouncement? Where are the voices of those who are protesting the profane and profound presumption of the Pope’s proclamation? Will they speak out and speak up? Nay, verily, they will give in and give up.
Where, too, are the voices of those, our brethren, who constantly warn us against “our traditions in the Church of Christ”? Since they denounce us for our alleged “traditions,” where are their denunciations of the Pope’s “vain jangling” and “vain babblings”? It is strange how that some of our brethren will rail against the traditions of God (weekly Lord’s supper, weekly giving, singing, etc.), yet remain silent in the face of the blatant blasphemy of papal prattle (1 Cor. 11:2, 23; cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 2 Thess. 2:15). Frankly, I might be more inclined to listen to their murmuring and complaining if they would speak against the Pope’s pretensions as belligerently as they revile the right ways of the Lord.
Finally, since the Pope offers less punishment “on earth or in purgatory” if one will give up drinking for a day, I wonder if the reverse will work. What about a reformed drunk, now on his way to heaven, who hankers for just one more day of drunkenness? Will the Pope offer less joy “on earth or in heaven” if he volunteers to go back to drinking, but just for “one day”? Surely, in the name of the millennium, the ol’ Pope could be as kind to the former drinker as to the present.