Catholic Church Granting Twitter Indulgences?

The Guardian is reporting that the Catholic Church is now granting indulgences — that is, time off their stay in purgatory should they go there — to those who follow the pope’s Twitter account. This seems almost too weird, even for the Catholic Church.

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…

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.

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.”

I can see it now, a young man going into a confessional and being told that, for his sins, he must make five Facebook updates and three Tweets. The hail Mary’s and the our fathers were kind of outdated, anyway.

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  • unbound

    I think they are upset that they missed the boat that the psychics took with the 900 hot lines. Since people happily accepted that the psychics could read them over a phone line, no reason for the rubes not to accept indulgences via twitter.

  • slc1

    I guess I either missed something or was misinformed but it was my information that the Raping Children Church had abandoned its belief in Purgatory.

  • Félix Desrochers-Guérin

    If you’re a spammer and all your 10000+ accounts follow @pontifex, do you get 10000+ indulgences?

  • slc1

    That’s what my Cath’lic wife said the other day.

    Maybe the pope who ended purgatory wasn’t as infallible as most??

  • Indulgences on Twitter. Isn’t there a movie about what a bad idea it is to have indulgences?

  • compo

    Great movie too!

    But wasn’t that a special ‘plenary indulgence’ not the ordinary twittery kind?

  • matty1

    @2 I think it was Limbo that got abandoned. The story is confusing and keeps changing but my understanding is they once had.

    Hell – Where adults who die outside the Church go

    Heaven – Where saints go immediately and all other Catholics go after a period in purgatory

    Purgatory – A kind of waiting room where ordinary Catholics are purged of their sins before going to heaven

    Limbo – Where children who die before being baptised go

    Limbo was already a compromise because people couldn’t stomach the implications of ‘unbaptised go to hell’ for small children especially in times of high infant mortality and when the child might be hours from being baptised.

    More recently they decided that didn’t look good either and limbo was struck off the list. I’m not sure if they clarified what they are now supposed to believe about unbaptised babies.

    If this all sounds like someone made it up there may be a reason for that.

  • Randomfactor

    Yeah, they dropped Limbo and adopted the Macarena instead.

  • This is the sort of blatantly corrupt bogosity that caused the Protestants to revolt against them in the first place. The reappearance of such a long-discredited practice just shows (again) how fraudulent, backward, corrupt and worse-than-useless the Raping Children Church really is.

    Another proof of this is the fact that they broke their own rules to deify — oops, I mean sanctify, they’re not like those polytheists, nosireebob — two of their most popular previous Popes — the two whose greatest accomplishments they’ve been rolling back ever since!

  • slc1: I, too, may be misinformed here, but I thought the Church only abandoned the “practice” of selling indulgences for money, not the actual belief in Purgatory or the belief that doing good things could reduce your time there. I’m guessing Pope Frankie the So-So is justifying this latest BS by saying it’s not “corrupt” because it doesn’t involve money.

    It’s still deceptive and manipulative, of course, which means it’s still corrupt.

  • And they’ve got a crunch card. I just need four more stamps and I get a free indulgence.

  • richardelguru:

    Yes, strictly speaking the plenary indulgence offered in Dogma is different from the commonplace indulgences that (I assume) one can receive on Twitter, but figured the amusement I would get (*) over making the reference would outweigh the slight inaccuracy.

    (*) I must confess to having a very self-centred sense of humour sometimes.

  • Speaking of confessions, and with reference to Modusoperandi’s quip, there’s a sketch done by the Royal Canadian Air Farce troupe in which one of the actors, portraying Pope John Paul II, discusses reforms in the Church.

    One of the reforms is offering Air Miles for going to confession.

    Now I wish I could remember the exact wording of the joke.

  • Karen Locke

    As an ex-Catholic, I am left howling at the last line: “I can see it now, a young man going into a confessional and being told that, for his sins, he must make five Facebook updates and three Tweets. The hail Mary’s and the our fathers were kind of outdated, anyway.” Oh, how I prayed those prayers in earnest, begging God to forgive me for such heinous sins as talking back to my mother or stealing from the cookie jar!

  • exdrone

    I was going to get an indulgence off their website, but you have to create an account and they ask you for your e-mail address. Then you end up on their e-mail list, so … hell it is, I guess.

  • sivivolk


    Look, I know it’s easy to poke fun at the Catholic Church, but the UK doesn’t exactly like Catholics, and the Guardian didn’t bother to really check their facts on this one.

    From a Catholic friend: “You don’t get an indulgence just for following his twitter account, but for participating in specific devotional activities that will be livetweeted to allow people access to events related to World Youth Day in Brazil.”

    I still think indulgences are ludicrous, even in the context of Christianity, but we ought to get out facts straight.

  • Pingback: Catholic <b>Church</b> Granting <b>Twitter</b> Indulgences? – Freethought Blogs | Church Web()

  • Wow, sivivolk, that makes the process of Twitter-related indulgences SOOO much more sensible!

    I still don’t see how that makes any of our criticisms any less valid though…

  • dean

    Then you end up on their e-mail list, so … hell it is, I guess.

    Wait, are you referring to being on their e-mail list or the pre-technological hell?

  • Synfandel

    This is a much more efficient way to track sin than the old personal confessional approach.

    Through the services of and, the Holy Mother Church can now cross-reference your Papal Facebook activity and Papal Twitter account following with your porn downloading and other sinful digital activities to rapidly form a complete and accurate picture of your personal atonement needs.

    Your new tech-savvy RC Church, now with 20% faster irrelevance

  • eric

    Raging Bee:

    I, too, may be misinformed here, but I thought the Church only abandoned the “practice” of selling indulgences for money

    I think you are remembering correctly. While the RCC never officially got rid of them, they downplayed/sidelined the practice up until the late 20th/early 21st century. I think it was Benedict that brought them back as a publicly advertised thing, but it could’ve been JPII in his later years. I only remember this because I remember teasing one of my Catholic friends about it when they came back.

  • gertzedek

    @7 — Limbo was for more than just unbaptized children, it was for all non-Christians that didn’t deserve to go to Hell. For instance, Dante locates Greek philosophers there, and the belief back then was that the Jewish Patriarchs (who lived over a thousand years before Jesus) were there until Jesus came down and brought them up to Heaven. I’m no Catholic, but given the current shift in Catholic beliefs towards believing that virtuous non-Christians can get to Heaven, I’d imagine that Limbo no longer seems unnecessary in the Catholic worldview.

    As for the Twitter indulgences…turns out that indulgences are for more stuff than you’d think. Catholics seem to believe you can get indulgences from a lot of activities they think are virtuous, such as Bible study. In that light, extending the indulgence for attending the Papal thingie in Brazil to those who follow it remotely actually seems awfully decent of them, since it gives poor and disabled Catholics the same benefits as rich, healthy Catholics who can afford to travel. It might sound ridiculous at first blush, but it’s really a step in the right direction.

  • In each grade of Catholic school back in the 1960s, you’d get a catechism book with questions and answers you had to memorize and spit back word for word. While fundies were memorizing the bible, this is what we were memorizing. The last page of the catechism had a bunch of short prayers that ranged from just one sentence to maybe 3 or four sentences. They were called ejaculations. Seriuously. And saying an ejaculation would get you an indulgence. The longer the prayer, the longer the indulgence. So a one sentence prayer might get you one year off purgatory. A longer one could get you 2 or 3 years off. They had the number of years indulgence listed next to each prayer.

    I probably knocked a few thousand years off my time in purgatory over my time in grade school because you could just keep repeating them and they added up. You could easily knock off 25 years in a sitting. Of course, given that a one sentence prayer could knock off a year, it kind of made you think that typical time burning in purgatory might be 10,000 years.

  • SLC1.

    Some people think the Catholic Church dumped purgatory, and many Catholics don’t believe in it, but the Catholic Church has definitely not dumped purgatory. They still believe that everyone has more punishment due, even for forgiven sins, before they’re fit to move on.