Pope Francis is not offering magical forgiveness
This week, you have probably seen the mainstream media proclaiming that Pope Francis will not only be forgiving sins via Twitter but offering Twitter followers time off of purgatory, both of which are completely false, revealing a basic misunderstanding by the secular public of how Catholic rites actually work.
The truth is that Pope Francis will be granting plenary indulgence for next week’s World Youth Day (WYD) participants. The Vatican announced that all participants, even those that cannot be there in person but plan to follow via Twitter (or television or radio), are eligible for a plenary indulgence, “under the usual conditions” (Confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer for the Pope’s intention) and a partial indulgence will be granted to those who pray for the success of the WYD observances during the time of the events in Brazil, using the official WYD and invoking Our Lady of Aparecida, the Queen of Brazil.
It’s about plenary indulgences, not unforgiven sins
The Catholic Church defines a plenary indulgence (or just “indulgence”) as remission of a temporal punishment (aka not an eternal punishment) due to sin, the guilt of which has already been forgiven and absolved by the Church through the sacrament of Confession.
The Vatican announced, “The faithful who on account of a legitimate impediment cannot attend the aforementioned celebrations may obtain Plenary Indulgence under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, by participation in the sacred functions on the days indicated, following the same rites and spiritual exercises as they occur via television or radio or, with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.”
This statement was taken by almost all media outlets that covered the news as a plan to use “social communication” to forgive sins or give time off of purgatory. It has been wildly twisted to mean many other things, but the truth is that the Vatican has long been ahead of the social media curve and has long praised technology as a tool for connecting the world, promoting prayer and community. This move was simply one of hundreds they have made to connect the masses and for some reason was reported wildly inaccurately across the board.
Now that you know what a plenary indulgence is and what the normal steps are for forgiveness, you know how silly it is to call the Pope’s announcement as a mass forgiveness of sins via Twitter.