The Twitter route out of purgatory


Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ to followers of Pope Francis tweets

[gasp] On the one hand purgatory, on the other hand tweets.


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 church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.

Reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory? What good is that?? Surely the believers want the indulgences to reduce the actual time Catholics have to spend in purgatory. I wonder if that’s the actual deal, or if it’s just the reporter’s clumsy attempt to say that some people don’t believe in purgatory.

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.

“You can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks – such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

Ok, I think I understand. You can’t get an indulgence just by clicking a mouse a few times, but you can get one by climbing some stairs. Fair enough. The Vatican wants people to stay in shape.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

“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.”

In its decree, the penitentiary said that getting an indulgence would hinge on the beneficiary having previously confessed and being “truly penitent and contrite”.

Oh dear god, how can anyone take them seriously? It makes as much sense as taking Sylvia Browne seriously.


  1. A. Noyd says

    So, getting indulgences is just like unlocking achievements/trophies in video games. They should set it up with god so you hear some sort of chime and message with the details of your success in a given task.

    “You have unlocked the Sacred Steps indulgence. Your time in Purgatory will be reduced by seven years.”

    And they could set up a tracking website to make it extra easy to fulfill them on purpose and maximize time off for effort spent.

  2. PatrickG says

    @ A. Noyd:

    And then inevitably, they’d have a feature where you could buy Vatican-Approved Merchandise like the Pray-o-Matic 3000 — tweets for you but still counts for the indulgences! — only $99!

  3. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    The late and much lamented Douglas Adams, of course, was way ahead of them.

    The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder… Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.

  4. Corvus illustris says

    … a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory …

    No. Roughly, a “seven years’ indulgence” gets you as much time off in purgatory as seven years of mediaeval public penance–sackcloth, ashes, bread-and-water diet, etc.–would have procured. Oh, and you have to be “in a state of grace” to do anything meritorious at all, so your token may not be redeemed notwithstanding all those tweets, sorry.

    This is another of those confusions, like “immaculate conception” vs. “virgin birth”. For those of us addicted to taxonomy of craziness, correct technical language is important. 😎

  5. Andrew B. says

    Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those averaging 20 minutes a day on either the stairmaster or thigh-master or three hour long sessions per week of Zumba or Jazzercise.

  6. says

    This is the part where they give up even pretending to differentiate their religion from a game of D&D, with magic spells and amulets and things.

  7. says

    Y’know, I’ve got this whole deck here of notions of why religions exist. Sure, utility isn’t something we can assume; that which can reproduce itself will. Still, call it a hedge. It’s a question I keep asking: do these traditions offer actual benefits to their host societies, and if so, what might these be?

    So I’d like to thank the Catholic Church for suggesting yet another. Seriously, guys, I’m really pretty grateful for your pointing this out…

    As no, ‘comic relief’ hadn’t occurred to me previously.

  8. JUlie Mackey says

    Is the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary “mindful of the faithful” who do not have a computer, television or radio? The pontifical council for social communication is not much more impressive. I hope and pray that Pope Francis is not aware of this bizarre nonsense.

  9. Sercee says

    If they’re not careful, a couple cast out angels might follow his Twitter and bring about the end of creation a la Dogma…

  10. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    If he retweets you, do you get a sainthood?

    Cause, y’know, it actually would be a miracle if he retweeted me.

  11. says

    “Like this page to download free indulgences!”

    Can we post 99 theses to Frank’s wall?

    Man and to think I got NOTHING for friending him on Myspace back in the day.


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