No, Pope Francis Isn't Offering Indulgences for Twitter Followers

The Internet went into a mild tizzy this week when the Guardian reported the Vatican was offering to get people out of purgatory sooner if they would just follow Pope Francis on Twitter. The Guadian's face-palm-worthy headline "Vatican offers 'time off purgatory' to followers of Pope Francis tweets" seemed like a major step backward for a Pope who has been so revolutionary. Other outlets like Slate and Huffington Post readily jumped on the dog pile—all, evidently, without having read the actual statement from the Vatican.

What the Vatican actually offered was plenary indulgence for people who make certain pilgrimages—in this instance, World Youth Day in Brazil. Recognizing that not everyone has the ability to do so in person, they made concessions for people who followed along with the proceedings in whatever fashion they could, including those who take part "with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.” The Guardian found a "source" at the Vatican who said that included Twitter. In essence, the Pope was giving an assurance that time and financial constraints needn't be an obstacle for God's blessing.

Of course, most evangelicals take issue with the idea of purgatory. But they should also take issue with media sources who twist an ancient and complex theology into a single, attention-grabbing headline ...


Margaret Gonzaga


Margaret Gonzaga commented…

Indulgences are a very touchy subject and should not be bandied about as 10 for a dollar type of thing.
It creates confusion. In the olden days people could gain an indulgence by making a sacrifice, like going on a pilgrimage. Alms, or giving money to the Church or to the needy is another type of sacrifice (you give away something) so as to get the benefit, hopefully, of diminishing the amount of time or severity of the punishment of a soul in purgatory, including yours, when the time comes. Nobody is buying anything. A sacrifice is made and because of the merits of Jesus Christ, it can become meritorious. Going to the World Youth Day is usually not a sacrifice. People go because they believe it will be fun. Watching it on twitter or other media is not a sacrifice either. People do it because they like it and they think it is fun. So, according to the teachings of the saints, none of these things would qualify for an indulgence.

Sean O'Brien


Sean O'Brien replied to Margaret Gonzaga's comment

It is clear from your language that you are uneducated. The clause "in the olden days" is absolutely unacceptable intellectual discourse. Your opinion is void. This is why: From a comparative religion perspective your Catholic technicalities are irrelevant to everyone, especially given the vast ethical infractions of the institution. The point remains. The Pontiff will commodify blessings ad nauseum.

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