This is getting silly now. We’ve all been guilty of a little exaggeration on the tweet front to tempt a few more followers our way. But the Vatican’s latest promise of indulgences for a few retweets is jaw-droppingly shameless.
The Catholic Church’s latest attempt to “get with the times” has been born out of its desire to include those who can’t travel to Rio de Janeiro for the Catholic World Youth Day – ironically a week long event, beginning on 22nd July. An indulgence, which reduces the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory, can be won by attendance at such an event but those unable to travel to Brazil can earn the same reward by following the Pope’s tweets. The Vatican’s desire to include everyone in the event is understandable but this is surely a step too far.
Let’s ignore the religious debates over the existence of heaven, hell and purgatory. Let’s also put aside the right a few old men in Italy have to act as bouncers of redemption to such places. Promises like being able to hashtag your way through heaven’s waiting room is precisely the reason the Catholic Church has lost much of its credibility. It’s this kind of behaviour that threw Europe into several centuries of religious in fighting when indulgences were sold for absurd amounts of money.
Perhaps the Vatican can be forgiven for trying to speak the same language as the rest of us. It has to be given credit for trying to appeal to a modern world. When Pope Francis came onto the balcony I don’t think I was alone in thinking he would be good for the Catholic Church. His pledge to end the corruption within the institution is admirable and his realistic attitude towards the Catholicism’s need to adapt is promising for the religion. But the Church can’t forget that it deals with something out of this world. Just like redemption should be beyond the reach of money, it should also be beyond the scope of social media.
Now that the Catholic Church has followed the crowd to the computer screen, a few mouse clicks rather than hard work and dedication can get you anything you want in life, and now apparently, beyond. #depressing.