I was taken back when a two-page spread (CR, Jan. 24) encouraged us to seek indulgences during the Year of Faith. The sacrament of reconciliation and the celebration of the Eucharist in a faith community certainly strengthen our faith in God, but to visit a particular church or shrine in order to receive an indulgence does not seem like the most fruitful way.
It was the abuse of this very practice and its magical thinking that our actions dictate God’s compassionate mercy and forgiveness that Martin Luther tried to call to the churches’ attention to in 1517. But the church was not open to listen until many years later and by then it was too late. Masses of people broke away, recognizing that Luther was correct in this and the importance of holy Scripture to nourish the faith of Christ’s followers. I think our faith would grow more from group study and reflection of the Scriptures and the documents from the Second Vatican Council, especially since it is the 50th anniversary of the Council and many Roman Catholics have forgotten or were not even born when these important church documents were written.
Mary Catherine Bunting
Jan. 31, 2013 CatholicReview.org