The question of the detachment from venial sin as a necessary condition to obtain a plenary indulgence has been often discussed. One generally reads a bit of everything, from the hardliners thinking that only the saintliest could, on rare occasion, gain a plenary indulgence to the softies maintaining that the simple agreement that venial sins are to be avoided would suffice.
In my eyes, we must avoid falling into both the harshness of extreme severity and the “feel good-ism” so typical of our time. The best thing to do is, I think, to find inspiration in the life of the Saints.
St. Philip Neri once received from God the intelligence that the plenary indulgence the Pope had granted for that day – and about which he had just finished to preach to a full church – would be obtained only by himself and another person among the faithful present. If we consider this episode credible – and we do, because it can be easily found in publications sold from the Oratorians themselves – we must agree that a plenary indulgence is, whilst not impossible at all, certainly very difficult to achieve. Yes, St. Philip Neri lived in rather coarse times, but those were also times of much better catechesis and certainly keener awareness of sin. I rather doubt that – in the same full church – today’s result would be much different.
Where does this leave us? Methinks, in a rather useful spot. We do know that a plenary indulgence is something we might chase for an entire life without ever attaining it, but this knowledge will encourage us to a sustained effort. Through this effort we will accumulate more and more partial indulgences and become increasingly more aware of the offensiveness of our sins. As a result, Salvation will become much more probable.
This is, I think, the key. The idea that one would die and easily avoid Purgatory sounds more than a bit Protestant to me. A Catholic – and more so a conservative Catholic – is supposed to avoid illusions of easy entry into Paradise. The road is narrow and the sin of presumption never far away. Catholicism should in my eyes allow the faithful to get a sobering picture of his sins so that an effort is engendered through which irreparable damage is safely avoided. Every illusion of easy achievement may well become a double-edged sword and lull the faithful into a dangerous sense of security.
Keep chasing your plenary indulgence. You may well never get one. But it is a very good way to avoid Hell.
The American Papist reports about the initiative of Archbishop Broglio, the head of the Catholics in the US armed forces, to try and stop the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation currently regulating the position of homosexuals in the US armed forces. The statement of Archbishop Broglio can be found here.
Particularly interesting are in my eyes the following passages:
“Catholic chaplains must show compassion for persons with a homosexual orientation, but can never condone—even silently—homosexual behavior”.
“A change might have a negative effect on the role of the chaplain not only in the pulpit, but also in the classroom, in the barracks, and in the office”.
“There is no doubt that morality and the corresponding good moral decisions have an effect on unit cohesion and the overall morale of the troops and effectiveness of the mission”
“The effect of a repeal of the current legislation has the potential of being enormous and overwhelming”.
“Tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.
“Sacrificing the moral beliefs of individuals or their living conditions to respond to merely political considerations is neither just nor prudent especially for the armed forces at a time of war”.
“Catholics believe that nothing will be done if there is a careful and prudent evaluation of the effects of a change”.
In my eyes, what Archbishop Broglio could have done is to be more forceful in his stressing the moral duty for every Catholic legislator not to vote in favour of the repeal. Those who tell themselves Catholic and even think of passing such legislation should be exposed as fake Catholics, publicly condemned and, in case, duly excommunicated. Whilst I do not think that Broglio can excommunicate them himself, he can certainly contribute to a climate in which a Catholic legislator is required to either walk the Catholic walk or at least shut up about his alleged Catholicism. Catholic orthodoxy will be restored only by demanding from all those in public positions that they do not dilute or counterfeit it. Traditional Catholicism must be defended openly and vocally and our Bishops are (supposed to be) the men for that.
I will not go into the ludicrous matter of the effects of an increased homosexual infiltration of the army, because this is the stuff of which jokes are made. That a superpower can even think of compromising to such an extent the efficacy of its armed forces by sacrificing the most elementary common sense on the altar of political correctness says a lot about the ideological blindness currently reigning in Washington.
I wonder – nay, not really – how many homosexual soldiers are currently serving in the army of the emerging superpower, China.
Mala tempora currunt. A Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is certainly in order.