After Jesus gave some teaching that was hard to accept, some of His followers abandoned Him. But, when Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they were going to leave Him, Peter gave this stirring answer of faith:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68, NIV).
Jesus has the words of eternal life. Jesus is the way to eternal life, the giver of life. The current crisis is a good reminder that life unending may be found, that forgiveness and freedom are offered–in Jesus Christ alone.
Faith in Christ means rejecting other supposed paths of forgiveness. We cannot gain forgiveness and life by rituals, and it cannot be given to us by anyone except God. So the difference between the true gospel and the teachings of the church of Rome is highlighted by the recent Roman Catholic “Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the granting of special Indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic, 20.03.2020“.
Here’s the meat of the proclamation:
The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.
Health care workers, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 13), will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions.
This Apostolic Penitentiary also willingly grants a Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions on the occasion of the current world epidemic, also to those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.
The Church prays for those who find themselves unable to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and of the Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and granting the faithful a Plenary Indulgence on the point of death, provided that they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence the use of the crucifix or the cross is recommended (cf. Enchiridion indulgentiarum, no.12).
The gist of it is that special plenary indulgences have been offered to Catholics suffering from COVID-19, caregivers, and others, if they meet the specified conditions.
An indulgence is not, strictly speaking, the ultimate forgiveness of sins; it is the removal of some portion of the ‘temporal punishment’ for sins–i.e., time spent in purgatory. A plenary indulgence is the removal of all of this ‘temporal punishment’ for sins. But this rather fine distinction doesn’t bear scrutiny. We’re still talking about divine punishment upon sinners, and the claim of the Roman Catholic church that such punishment can be rescinded by the church for those who follow the prescribed rituals.
It is a little like the hollow distinction by which the Roman church defends itself against the charge of idolatry in their adoration of Mary–they claim to be giving her hyperdulia, not latria, and aver the distinction justifies praying to Mary rather than to God.
Speaking of which, here is the benediction of the proclamation:
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, Health of the Sick and Help of Christians, our Advocate, help suffering humanity, saving us from the evil of this pandemic and obtaining for us every good necessary for our salvation and sanctification.
It is Jesus Christ who has, by His death and resurrection, won for us “every good necessary for our salvation and sanctification.” It is to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we appeal for redemption, help, and healing. If Mary, that great woman of faith, could respond to those who invoke her, I think she would say something along the lines of, “Stop praying to me. Pray to God.”
There is no purgatory. The indulgence of the church of Rome will not help you. You have, instead, an Almighty Savior to whom you may go in every need. As the apostle John said, “the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). Turn to Jesus Christ.
God is merciful and compassionate. Come to Him with your hurts, your needs, with every danger and trial. God sent His Son so that all who believe may be saved from sin and death. Go to Jesus.