Fire Sale: Pope Francis Trades Indulgences For Twitter Followers

from the what-would-jesus-tweet? dept

You may recall that the recently retired Pope Benedict became the first Pope to sign up for a Twitter account. Of course, when he decided that his holy 401k had reached a sufficient amount, Pope Benedict took his leave and the Vatican subsequently deleted every single one of his tweets, which I have to say is a really odd thing to do to the words of the former holiest man in the world. But never fear, because newly minted Pope Francis is here, and he’s all hashtags and twitter-beefs and whatnot.

What’s more, now you can earn yourself some sweet, heavenly indulgences, all for the low price of following Pope Francis on Twitter!

In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis’ tweets. The remissions got a bad name in the Middle Ages because unscrupulous churchmen sold them for large sums of money. But now indulgences are being applied to the 21st century.

But a senior Vatican official warned web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away.

For those of you who weren’t raised Catholic (like me), or who don’t have a sort of morbid fascination with religion in general (like me), perhaps I should explain what indulgences are. See, in the Catholic faith, there’s a transitional period (not a place) called Purgatory, where the mildly-sinful undertake purification or punishment before admittance to Heaven. Should you commit no mortal sins, but some lesser sins, you go through this process which you can primarily complete only if enough people on Earth pray for your soul. So you better be nice to those around you, or you could be stuck experiencing the purification of inner-fire for quite a while. But, if you’re not the kind of soul that enjoys such penance-flames, you can obtain indulgences. Indulgences are offered by the Church and they are essentially giant time-erasers for the period you’re supposed to spend in Purgatory. You get them, according to Pope John Paul II, through “only the most important prayers and good works of piety, charity and penance.”

Or, if you lived a bit further back, you could pay the Church for them. Religious capitalism rules! On the other hand, if you live today, you can now get them for a simple Twitter follow and a dash of good, old-fashioned faith. Okay, so that’s not exactly true. You have to be following the Pope’s tweets live (?) during Catholic World Youth Day in Brazil, as the Vatican says it understands that not everyone around the world can fly to South America.

“That includes following Twitter,” said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis’ Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. “But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet.”

Look, honestly, it’s not my cup of tea, but this is all rather sweet of the Church, and so far I’ve kind of liked this new Pope. The Church being understanding that not every faithful follower can make the trek to Brazil and offering the same benefits remotely via Twitter is a nice sentiment to have. It’s a far cry from some other religions, that require in-person attendance at various locations around the globe. And any modernization by the Church is good by me, but it’s a bit concerning when I’m told that I get an indulgence for following Pope Francis or a free frappuccino for retweeting a Starbucks tweet. That kind of analogy shouldn’t ever get to be made, yet here I am making it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a frozen coffee drink to pick up.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: twitter

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Fire Sale: Pope Francis Trades Indulgences For Twitter Followers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

What kind of asshole...

Here’s what I never got about indulgences…

Let’s say you have the ability to reduce someone’s time in a non-metaphorical purgatory. Wouldn’t you, as a decent human being, give everyone you meet the maximum discount possible? If you don’t, doesn’t that make you some kind of cosmic asshole?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: What kind of asshole...

Here’s what I never understood about Heaven and Hell. If you, as a good person, get into Heaven, yet you know that millions of people didn’t and are suffering endless agonies and torments in Hell, what would you do? Rebel against God to help them? If there was nothing you could do to help them, wouldn’t that torment you as well?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: What kind of asshole...

Technically, the concept of Heaven is not really a place that good people go to as a reward for being awesome. “Heaven” is a state of grace, in other words, simply being close to god. Likewise, “Hell” is not really a place you go to for punishment. Hell is the opposite of heaven — a state where you are forever separated from god.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That would be awesome. I was raised in the Catholic religion but currently I consider myself an agnostic because I disagree fundamentally with a few ideas and attitudes there. I also have this feeling that the deities on other religions are nothing more than manifestations of the same spiritual entity (or entities I’m not sure).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Okay, I just read the linked article above, and another one it links to. In neither article does it say that the pope said that atheists would be able to enter Heaven as long as they lived just lives. Where did you come up with that, Dark Helmet? Can you provide proof that he actually said what you claim he said?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wish His Holiness and pretty much the rest of the Vatican and the Catholic Church would accept homosexuals (no, I’m not) and other religions as well. It would be a huge step ahead. Recently a priest was unchurched (or defrocked according to google translator or whatever is the word in English) because he accepted homosexuals in his church (he isn’t homosexual either or at least he says he isn’t).

In my point of view God is much better than that. It doesn’t matter if it’s two men or two women, it only matters if there is love and they live a just life. This applies to non-believers too. My God saves whoever, the only requirement is to be just and not harm others regardless of you are Muslim, Catholic, atheist, sexual maniac or whatever.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The Church accepts all but it does not accept all behavior, because all actions are not equal. Simply being a homosexual is not a sin; the act of homosex is. The issue is with turning a sin into a lifestyle — the opposite of repentance.

Jesus’ Mercy is available to all, excluding no one, up until the moment of death.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, that’s not true from my experience. Homosexuality is not acceptable according to the Church. I also don’t see sex as a sin in itself, one of the points I really disagree with the Church. In fact from personal experience when there is love sex becomes much more enjoyable and it’s an inherent trait of the human being (to feel added pleasure when there’s affective ties involved). So it does not matter if it’s homosexual or not. As I said God is better than that. And honestly why did He make the sexual experience pleasurable and Adam and Eve were able to walk around naked in Eden to deny it afterwards?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Sex isn’t necessarily sinful in and of itself but homosex definitely is.”

For this belief to make even a lick of sense, you have to dismiss the science. Follow along the religious thought here if you did accept scientific evidence:

1. God created all beings in their total
2. Some beings (not just humans) are inherently homosexual, meaning they were created that way, or else developed that way long before any choice in sexual preference could be made (i.e. some scientific thought suggests that homosexuality develops between the ages of 3-5)
3. The religions of man say God says some of these inherently gay beings are not sins in and of themselves, but their natural inclinations are.
4. Conclusion #1: God created some beings flawed at their most basic level and commands them not to be who he created them to be.
5. Conclusion #2: If #1 is true, God is MASSIVELY capricious and cruel on a level shared by young children frying ants with a magnifying glass or torturing animals. This is a SHITTY God.

Or, you can take the coward’s way out, throw away the scientific evidence on sexuality, and wave your hands around about faith and sin and choice and blah, blah, blah, all while the rest of the sane world passes you by.

Either way, things don’t look too good for religion on the question of homosexuality. There’s a good reason for this: religion is made by scared, poorly evolved primates that are subject to their own prejudices, fears, and fallacies. The problem is they seem to think they have the divine on their side, which is a kind of hubris normally reserved for sociopaths….

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Those conclusions are the mandatory path if and only if 3 is true. Humans are fallible and it is obvious to me that religious teachings were distorted by interests over time. The apocryphal gospel (is it the right word) are good examples.

religion is made by scared, poorly evolved primates that are subject to their own prejudices, fears, and fallacies

Or not, it all depends on point of view. I see scientific discoveries as evidence of the entity I call God. This is why I also believe there’s no miracle that can defeat established laws of nature such as physics or chemistry otherwise it would open flaws on that entity and Its creation. What we perceive as miracles are but extremely improbable events that take place randomly. Chaos theory if you will. However I do not dismiss the possibility of the Universe (and the parallel layers) lacking beginning and end in which this entity would be the universe itself. Words fail me to explain this path of thought as much as scientists fail when diving into specific concepts like wavelets and the likes.

I believe in God and it’s not because somebody told me He (or She, whatever the gender, if any) exist or because He has shown himself to me. There are several signs, science included, that corroborated my faith over the years. For me, the same faith that blinds some religious people to some truths also blinds atheists to some degree.

Whether I’m right or wrong is open to discussion.

Still, lumping every religious person as sociopaths seems to me a sociopathy in itself (no, I’m NOT calling you a sociopath but some non-religious people are).

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“Still, lumping every religious person as sociopaths seems to me a sociopathy in itself (no, I’m NOT calling you a sociopath but some non-religious people are).”

You’re making a fundamental flaw and an incorrect assumption in the above. The assumption is that I’m an atheist. I am not. I’m a deist. The flaw is that you’re attacking my assertion that the religious are on some level sociopathic by saying all you said above about believing in God, except everything you stated in your beliefs is neither religious nor theistic. You’ve gotten exactly as far as I have, deism. You seem to be asserting that there may have been a creator, but that creator doesn’t influence our realm of existence.

That is EXACTLY what I believe. That belief also automatically dismisses any and every religion in existence, since they rely on the notion that they can interpret God’s will, wants, etc. There is zero reason to believe any single religion, but plenty of reasons to believe in God.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I didn’t assume you were an atheist, sorry if it seemed that way! I see we agree then and I totally misunderstood you. I have a slightly different belief. I have with me and I had some weird experiences in my life that led me to believe it that this entity we call God actually interacts with us indirectly (ie: Jesus) but never subverting the natural laws. It’s somewhat in line with Spiritualism or whatever you call (from Alan Kardec and Chico Xavier lines if you are interested). I find it interesting that they accept all religions. I do believe in the future it’ll be “religiosity” and not the religions themselves that will matter.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You should tell the various churches that, because it’s absolutely not what they teach through their actions. They teach that if you’re gay, you’re going to hell, even if you’re a virgin.

Of course, these same people often come up with nonsense ideas like if you never have gay sex, you can’t possibly be gay, so they’re clearly very confused on the subject.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

I was raised and educated a Catholic and rejected it all when I was about 15. This was back when those nuns could smack you around when you got out of line. I later converted to a very fundamentalist church. I studied and memorized the Bible. At one time I could speed recite nearly half of the new testament. I was surprised that much of what was drilled into me all those years was not in the Bible, Purgatory and indulgences among them. (Yes I know there is one verse in the Catholic Apocrypha that very weakly seems to support the idea of Purgatory) I fell out and have been agnostic for about 20 years. For a non catholic Mr. Geigner has a pretty good grasp of these subjects. Seems funny to me that the same office that said I would go to Hell for eating meat on Friday is now trying to be a cool hip dude. I guess I have one thing to be thankful for. I was 6th of 8 kids. My Mom had my baby sister when she was 45. I was teasing her one day that she was just an accident. Mom overheard this and said “I got news for you, after the 3rd kid you were all accidents. If it hadn’t been for the pope you wouldn’t be here!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Massively misinterpreted

Wow. Nice headline. I realize the tone you’re going for is supposed to be entertaining, but you’ve completely missed the point. I also think that since it’s so easy and popular to bash and hate religion lately, that you’re going for the cheap shot article.


The actual decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary say in part:

a. ? is granted a plenary indulgence, obtainable once a day under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) and also applicable to suffrage to the souls of the faithful departed, through the faithful truly repentant and contrite, who will devotedly participate in the sacred rites and religious practices which will be held in Rio de Janeiro.

The faithful legitimately impeded, they may obtain the Plenary Indulgence if, by complying with the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer, with the purpose of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, to participate spiritually in the sacred functions in certain days, provided follow these same rites and pious exercises while performing, or via television and radio, always with due devotion, through the new means of social communication;

Note: This is via Google Translate since the English translation of this document has not yet been provided

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...