News Analysis

The Best of the Web: Indulgences, liberalism and sign language

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How unusual is detachment from sin?

How hard is it to gain a plenary indulgence? Not as hard as some people think, argued Fr Timothy Finigan at The Hermeneutic of Continuity. It’s certainly worth knowing the answer, as a plenary indulgence removes all the temporal punishment due for sins, in this life or in purgatory.

Pope St Paul VI explained that to gain an indulgence, you need to perform the action specified by the Church, as well as “sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.”

Prayer for the Pope’s intentions should take place on the same day as the indulgence. But according to the Sacred Penitentiary’s guidance issued in 2000, Confession and Communion can take place “within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act”.

The hardest point to define is the one about detachment from venial sin. What is the threshold for this?

Some have argued that it is very, very hard to be sufficiently detached – that, as the Roman theologian Lépicier summarised the idea in 1895, “perhaps a holy nun in some remote corner of the world, or some saintly hermit” were the only people able to gain a plenary indulgence. For the rest of us, lingering attachment to sin would ensure that the indulgence was only partial.

But Lépicier in fact rejected such a view – and so should we, wrote Fr Finigan. There must be many Catholics who are, as the Penitentiary puts it, “totally free from any desire to relapse into sin”. And the Church “clearly” intends to grant plenary indulgences to the faithful every day.

“It would not seem reasonable to do this if it were almost impossible to gain them in practice.”

Liberalism, the West, and Christianity

Islamist terrorists, like those who killed hundreds in Sri Lanka, see Christianity as part of the hated West, said Ross Douthat in the New York Times. “Tourists and missionaries, Coca-Cola and the Catholic Church – it’s all the same invading Christian enemy.”

This narrative might seem implausible. And yet, “liberal discourse in the West implicitly accepts part of the terrorists’ premise – by treating Christianity as a cultural possession of contemporary liberalism”. The “liberal overclass” sometimes wants to “abandon” Christianity, sometimes to “tame and redefine it”.

Meanwhile, the Western media fails to address anti-Christian persecution. Liberalism’s attitude to Christianity, in sum, is one of “passive-aggressive frenmity”.

A parish where sign language is universal

The Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf, in Los Angeles, has a very special ministry. There are churches with sign language interpreters; but at Holy Angels, the priest, deacon and all the staff also know sign language.

At Epic Pew, Melissa Guerrero said she has only one word of warning for visitors who are not deaf: “They play the music loud.” Otherwise, the deaf parishioners can’t feel the vibrations.