A Peasant Girl buying an indulgence - Francois Marius Granet 1775 - 1849
While everyone's attention is on other things at this particular period of the life of the Church, an old idea is being revived about which we must speak out. We examine it in the attached document (after having considered the coronavirus and the life of the Church, read http://www.noisiamochiesa.org/?p=7997 ). It concerns the revival of Indulgences, a relatively recent ecclesiastical practice in the history of the Church. Ignored in the first millennium (and still today in the Orthodox Church and in Eastern rite Catholics) it was one of the major factors in the break between Luther and the papacy.
Indulgences only became less important after the Council of Trent, then for centuries it was widely practiced, it was ignored by Vatican Council II because of a strong theological challenge and was then taken up a little by Paul VI. Indulgences have now become extraneous to the widespread feelings of most Christian people. The same Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church in Augsburg on 1999 and the celebrations in Lund for the 500 years of the Reformation in 2017 went in the opposite direction and opposed the practice of Indulgences.
Now Card. Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, has relaunched it in its traditional terms for coronavirus patients and for those who assist them. It was also part of Pope Francis' prayer in St. Peter's Square on March 27 and during Easter Mass.
We think that a difficult time like the present one should not be "used" to go back to a theology and a pastoral practice that is preconciliar as it is strongly anti-ecumenical. We must instead – we think - speak again in depth about sin and forgiveness. The Noi Siamo Chiesa document ends by asking some questions on how to think and live reconciliation.
Rome, April 26, 2020
NOI SIAMO CHIESA