Tuesday, February 10, 2009



The door of absolution once again
is opened in the Catholic Church, and I
to its indulgences will say amen.
When the time will come for me to die
I won’t spend, with post-mortem turgor, tre-
decilion days in hell. Though surely I’ve
offended God, must I in Purgatory
do time? I laugh, just as in Saturday Alive,
because although the world has lots of sin,
once more the Catholic Church has found a way
to get me off scot free by turning in
my money to the Church. Now I can pay
my way straight out of Purgatory and hell,
I feel more comfortable when sinning, and
intend to buy whatever priests may sell
to help indulge my tastes in Lalaland.
Hard-time in hell indulgences rescind,
and I intend to buy a lot, exempt
of punishment, eternally upwind
from sinners whom indulgences don’t tempt.
From Purgatory protected I’ll be couther
than I had been before, and who’ll condemn
me now, protesting as once Martin Luther,
protesting the indulgence stratagem,
when he in Wittenberg once catalyzed
the Christian Reformation? On Good Friday
please pray for me, a Jew who’s not surprised
to see the Church now acting mala fide.

Inspired by an article by Paul Vitello describing the announcement that plenary indulgences are once again on sale in some Catholic churches (“or Catholics, a Door to Absolution Is Reopened,” NYT, February 10, 2009):

The announcement in church bulletins and on Web sites has been greeted with enthusiasm by some and wariness by others. But mainly, it has gone over the heads of a vast generation of Roman Catholics who have no idea what it means: “Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences.” In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin. The fact that many Catholics under 50 have never sought one, and never heard of indulgences except in high school European history (Martin Luther denounced the selling of them in 1517 while igniting the Protestant Reformation), simply makes their reintroduction more urgent among church leaders bent on restoring fading traditions of penance in what they see as a self-satisfied world. “Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

My reference to Good Friday alludes to the prayers on Good Friday that before 1955 stated:

Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts [2 Corinthians 3:13-16]; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. ('Amen' is not responded, nor is said 'Let us pray', or 'Let us kneel', or 'Arise', but immediately is said:) Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
At that time the congregants did not kneel during the prayer for the conversion of the Jews (even though moments of kneeling in silent prayer were prescribed for all of the other petitions in the Good Friday rite), because, it was said, the Church did not wish to imitate the Jews who mocked Christ before his crucifixion by kneeling before him and reviling him.
After the Second Vatican Council, the prayer was completely revised for the 1970 edition of the Roman Missal. Because of the possibility of a misinterpretation similar to that of the word "perfidis", the reference to the veil on the hearts of the Jews, which was based on 2 Corinthians 3:14, was removed. On 7 July 2007, the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio entitled, Summorum Pontificum which permitted more widespread celebration of Mass according to the "Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962". The Jewish reactions to the motu proprio have underlined their concern that the traditional formulation, felt offensive for Jews, would be more broadly allowed.
On 6 February 2008, the Holy See's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published a note [3] by the Vatican Secretariat of State, announcing that, with reference to the dispositions of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI had decided to amend the Good Friday prayer for the Jews contained in the Roman Missal of 1962, and decreeing that an amended text "must be used, beginning from the current year, in all celebrations of the Liturgy of Good Friday according to the aforementioned Missale Romanum".
The new prayer reads as follows:
Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.) Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 2/10/09

1 comment:

  1. Trust you to find witty, cynical and sardonic, (in that order) enjoyment in the whole rather outdated business of Indulgences. Great poem, Gersh! Oh well... it's only business...