The Vatican recently announced that if a believer follows the World Youth Day event on Twitter with “due devotion” and is contrite in repenting his sins, he can reduce the length of the punishment he will face in the afterlife. In other words, an indulgence, as they call it: do what the Pope says and you serve less time in hellfire after you die.
Not sure the Pope thought this one through. Sounds like the Common Sense Department was overruled by the Marketing Department – let’s sell Catholicism using social media and all that other cool trendy stuff! “Getting out of hell and going to heaven? There’s an app for that! It’s totes cray cray!”
As we know, organized religion is a gigantic fraud aimed a frightening stupid people with lies, so that they obey the priests and give them money and food. It has always been about generating revenue. As I’ve mentioned before, it was this greed-driven fraud which finally killed the golden goose. Five hundred years ago one greedy cleric, the Archbishop of Mainz, wanted to grab two bishoprics – church territories -- for their revenue. Another greedy cleric, the Pope, want a ton of money to build Saint Peter’s. So the Pope gave the archbishop his bishoprics if the archbishop, in return, agreed to raise the money for the Pope’s church. The archbishop hired a bunco artist named John Tetzel to raise the money, and Tetzel started the indulgence circus, complete with sales jingles to separate the suckers from their money like PT Barnum. Give Tetzel money and you won’t go to hell!
The sheer bullcrappery of this became so obvious, that a backlash was inevitable. That one effort by two priests (and one con artist, as if there’s any difference) to grab a ton of money for themselves, helped launch the Protestant Reformation. This ended the Catholic Church’s monopoly on the Christian world, and began Rome’s long decline from the summit of power. And it happened fast: Tetzel started the indulgences in 1517, and within months Martin Luther began his work attacking the Church practices. Within two years Tetzel, now a laughingstock, was on his deathbed, where he received a surprisingly generous letter from Luther himself, which intimated that the real villain in the piece was not Tetzel but the white-robed crooks who set him to work. And within a decade the Protestants had their own church in Germany.
The new Pope hasn’t learned the creed of the con artist: you can’t make the lies too obvious, or the marks get suspicious. Right now the Catholic Church has enough problems with credibility.