can catholics twitter their way out of hell?

catholics twitter out of hell cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
By clicking on this image you are magically delivered to my art gallery!

Can Roman Catholics now Twitter themselves out of Hell?

I personally enjoyed doing this cartoon because it reminds me of Gandalf flying on the back of the eagles in Lord of the Rings. But here we have the Pope flying on the back of the twitter bird. Here’s why:

In an effort to greater use social media for the benefit of Catholics worldwide, it has been announced that the Pope will decrease your punishment for sins and shorten your stay in Purgatory via Twitter.

The Vatican’s Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary publication says that the Pope will be giving “plenary indulgences”, which reduces one’s time in purgatory, to his Twitter followers. These indulgences have always been given in person but now they are being distributed virtually as well.

Wouldn’t Luther have a ball with this one? In his day indulgences were sold for large sums of money. Now all you need is a cellphone.

I tweeted this news last night and some of the reactions I got, including privately, was, “What’s wrong with this? The Pope’s is just conveying comfort and forgiveness to his followers. What matters is that people take this to heart and that it produce true repentance.” Devout followers are very defensive of their religion. I know. Been there.

What gets me isn’t the Twitter deal. The church using social media is no big deal. Good on ya! What gets me is that all the effort, rather than going into changing theology that invokes fear, insecurity, guilt, shame and superstition, is going into embedding these superstitious beliefs even further. The church, not just the Roman Catholic church but all of the church, just finds ways of making its beliefs more entrenched by playing on the fears of its people. Religion is one of the most powerful means of trapping the mind in terror. What Luther challenged was the superstition that bound the people. Things have not changed. It’s not the indulgences, it’s the fear of Hell as an effective means of control.

It is magical theology invented by magical theologians who concoct magical methods for its people to cope with it.

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  • Justin

    If it’s all magical, then why not draw something related to Harry Potter???

  • klhayes

    As a former Catholic, I find it interesting that they are handing out indulgences. I never got any when I went to confession LOL! Also, this is making what is typically a very private matter very public. I have been part of services focused on reconciliation where you then went to confession but I wonder if people will be tweeting their sins LOL! It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • it will be interesting!

  • Pat68

    Your second to last paragraph nails it:

    “What gets me is that all the effort, rather than going into changing theology that invokes fear, insecurity, guilt, shame and superstition, is going into embedding these superstitious beliefs even further.”

    I think churches often use modern means to show how they’re engaging the culture for Christ, but not accommodating to it. But they’re not changing what matters most–their doctrine, theology and practices. Just doing a little house-dressing to camouflage the tried and true.

  • There ought be fear. Hell isn’t Disneyland. And Jesus spoke of it more than a few times.

    But that fear ought drive us to Christ and His great love for sinners. Not to Popes. Nor inerrant Bibles. Nor magic formulas or indulgences or superstitions.

  • I would say that there are more appropriate motivators than fear. It is like telling a child, “don’t do X or I will give you a spanking”. The child may well not do X because he/she fears the spanking but eventually, as the child grows up, he/she should learn that there are other better reasons for not doing X (assuming that doing X is indeed bad).

  • Mark

    I just don’t get Catholicism.

    This whole Hell business, though. I’m having trouble with that, too. As I understand it, Judaism doesn’t believe in Hell, which is why it’s not in the Old Testament. Seems to me, if God wanted us to live in fear of an eternal punishment, God would have spoken out earlier, and not waited ’til Jesus came. Plus, if you KNOW you’ve made rules that result in most people ending up there, regardless how sincere they are in their worship and practices, how does that make you a “loving” God?

  • klhayes

    I stopped believing in Hell….whenever I do something wrong, my fear is related to what I have done (hurting someone, lying, making a fool out of myself).

    I cannot believe that the Catholic Church still teaches purgatory. I know at one time they taught that unbaptized babies went there which is really morbid. It is my understanding that in the Bible, Hell is derived from Gehenna (sp?), a city where people would take their trash and burn it. So there were these fires all over and it was literally a dump. But that is my understanding.

  • I think you’re right klhayes

  • Elvenfoot

    I am Catholic and agree with your assessment of the fear issue. I am skeptical of this kind of indulgence, but I am also a Protestant convert and have always struggled with the indulgence idea. That said, non-Catholics should know that the Church–neither Catholics nor Eastern Orthodox–can change doctrine that has been officially declared by earlier authorities as true. Some of it does evoke fear in people, but I guess that is a by-product of beliefs the Church sincerely holds and has from apostolic times. The idea of an eternal hell as a punishment for the wicked certainly is scary, for instance, but the Church sees itself as only passing on what Jesus taught. These things can’t and never will be changed.

  • Maybe so. But with human beings sometimes we need the threat of a ticket to keep us from going too much over the speed limit.

  • J1Militans

    Err, but do you believe in Heaven?
    Because, Hell might seem unjust – you know, getting punished *eternally* for some *temporal* evils you committed? Then again, sin is, more than a temporal evil, is a choice to be away from God – the same thing Hell is.
    But if you really think things through, Heaven is also just as unjust, except with a happy ending.
    I mean… Getting eternity of goodness and happiness and good stuff, just because you did a “temporal good” (or accepted Christ as your “personal Lord and Savior”)? Unfair, indeed…

  • J1Militans

    Hmm… The link is broken, so can’t verify the story. Can you post a working link please, nakedpastor? Thanks.


  • klhayes

    No, I do not believe in Heaven either. I think there is a physical world and possibly a spiritual world. You can create or experience Heaven or Hell now and later.

  • J1Militans

    Ah ok, thought you meant you were one of those Christians that believe in Heaven but not Hell

  • klhayes

    At the moment, I am agnostic. My views have definitely been shaped by Christianity but that has not limited my thinking or reasoning to see the world from a different perspective. The most vocal flavoring of Christianity has made me weary of religion and since moving to be closer to my family, the idea of going to church scares me and has kept me away. I have an interest in exploring other religions just because it is important to understand other people’s views.

  • J1Militans

    I see, thanks for your reply 🙂 What about this blog, is the man agnostic or something too?
    And funny, for me is the opposite, the closer I get to family, the more I study, the firmer I believe. I lean more towards a philosophical/rational faith, perhaps that helps to understand stuff better, than wishy-washy-feeling stuff…

  • klhayes

    LOL….Dave doesn’t have a label…he just likes to challenge the world. I am very rational in what I believe too, but I realize it is a big world out there and like to get different perspectives.

  • Brigitte

    Indulgences are not supposed to be about hell but about purgatory. They get you our of purgatory. Purgatory is for people who are going to hell, who have had their sins already absolved, just to purify them. Anyhow, it is just as preposterous.

    Here is a good explanation and a good spoofy comment thread on the subject:

  • Brigitte

    I read Lewis’ “Surprised by Joy” last week. You might like it. The title mislead me. I thought the book would be different.

  • Brigitte

    Some people in the know seem to be saying that this story is a lark. It’s too bad about the whole purgatory/indulgence mess, though.

    But there must be something primal about this. I spent last week on an Indian Reserve and also spoke to the health nurse at the health center. She said that there are Spirits all around the building because the building is on a burial ground. I asked her why they are there and where they should be, and she said that they should be in heaven and people need to offer prayers for them to get there. –Oh?– But it seems not to be getting done. The burial ground is Dene and the local people now are Cree. But the Spirits are not really bothering them.

    What is it with all these people believing that there are “Spirits” all over the place? Or somewhere where they dont’ belong.

    Recently, a dear old friend, born Lutheran, married Catholic, lapsed for a while, told me about her belief in Spirits. She is sure there is one in her house. But it is also not harmful.

    Sorry, I’m sidetracked. You would think Christianity is different. Jesus said: I am the Way. So, I think we can chuck the purgatory and all human ways to deal with departed souls.