I was Roman Catholic for my upbringing. I mean no disrespect to my former priests and well-meaning teachers. There are many people I love who are still members of the Roman Catholic Church. I never take joy in calling out the error I witness in the RC Church, it constantly grieves me, but it has to be done.
The Roman Catholic Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has resorted to the scam of issuing "indulgences" again. The Roman Catholic church teaches that indulgences can reduce time in purgatory or grant a pardon all together. Purgatory, according to extra-biblical Roman Catholic teaching, is a kind of spiritual waiting room - for people who do not go directly to heaven or hell after death - to purify souls of residual sin before they enter heaven. Such a doctrine finds no backing in Scripture and the extra biblical sources that appear to promote such an idea are spurious at best. The concept of "residual sin" and purgatory runs directly opposite of the Bible's teaching concerning Christ's atonement and the complete satisfaction of God's justice and wrath by the death of Christ. The entire book of Hebrews serves as an argument against the concept of residual sin, not to mention a polemic against the idea of an ongoing mediatorial priesthood. Seriously, the biblical doctrines of sin, Christ, redemption, etc., all strike down the hideous concept of an indulgence. You will recall Luther's Sixteenth Century protest against the sale of indulgences to raise funds for the building of St. Peter's Basilica. Many will cite John Tetzel's indulgence sale campaign as the key tipping point for Luther's nailing of the 95 theses on the castle door at Wittenberg and the beginning of the Reformation. The bulk of Luther's protests were aimed at indulgences and papal authority.
For years, while not renouncing the shameful practice, the Roman Catholic Church has not outwardly promoted the issuing of indulgences. The Reformation was the impetus to stop the sale of indulgences, but it did not stop the Pope from granting them for whatever reason he wanted.
Well, apparently, Pope Benedict XVI is back at it. Technically he is not selling indulgences, instead he has authorised special indulgences to mark the 150th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's reputed appearance at Lourdes. At Lourdes, France, the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared to a young girl named Bernadette on eighteen separate occasions in a small rock grotto beginning in the year 1858. There were no other witnesses. A miraculous freshwater spring, said to have healing powers, began flowing at the grotto. Catholics visiting the site within a year of December 8 will be able to receive an indulgence.
Here's some quickie protests against the Pope's actions- for the sake of time, let's just leave out the foundational protest concerning the complete unbiblical nature of the Papal office itself:
1. No man has the authority to forgive sins.
2. There is no such place as purgatory.
3. Mary should not continue to be called "The Virgin", she had children after Jesus. Enough said.
4. Whatever or whoever appeared at Lourdes, I don't think it was Mary. Even if it was, so what?
5. There should be no hint of Mary being able to grant some kind of merit or provide forgiveness for sins. This is the work of Christ alone.
6. If Pope Benedict has the ability to grant such an indulgence, why does he not do more? What about Catholics who visit Israel, where Jesus trod? What about Catholics who visit Rome? Why is he so stingy with the forgiveness of sins if it's just a matter of a person earning forgiveness by visiting some place he says they should visit.
7. Call me a cynic, but I wonder if there is a cost to visit the Lourdes site? I'm guessing there is. Does the Vatican need an addition? Does St. Peter's need a face lift? I'm curious.
8. The whole concept of indulgences is a gross offense against the perfect, sufficient, finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ- the one, true Head of the Church.