So where was I? Oh, yeah, I was going off about the Catholic Church's new push to restore indulgences, and I was in the midst of trying to explain the concept to those who may not be spun up on this sort of arcane stuff.
To recap: you're walking around toting all these sins. God will forgive them, of course, but the Church says the way you're positive this happens is you go to a priest and make a confession. He--always a "he"--then pronounces absolution and "poof!" all your sins are forgiven by God. You would think that would be it, but there's a catch . . .what about that punishment you would have gotten if you had not gone to confession and all those little bitty sins you didn't confess? What, you say? I thought we were done. Is there more? Well, there is, says the Church, something called "residual punishment" for sin. This is purgatory. Purgatory is reserved for those whose sins have already been forgiven, but who need to be further chastised. So what we're talking about here is the construction of a deity who is so crabby and vindictive that S/He will not let forgiveness be forgiveness. Will not let go at least some kind of "punishment" for one's having the temerity to transgress in the first place.
(Just as an aside: What the hell kind of God is that? It sounds like a God who is a lot like some human beings . . . some human beings cannot forgive, even when they say they forgive. In their hearts they always want the transgressor to pay, except in the human's case, he many times withholds forgiveness until the proper penance has been paid.)
But not to worry, dude. The Church has things covered for you. It's got a whole raft of these things called indulgences. You can get them for set period of time a day, week or weeks, year or years. And then there are blockbusters called "plenary" indulgences that wipe out every last second of residual punishment. So you're saying: well, gimme some of this, right? Right.
I guess you've already guessed that they don't just hand these things out for nuthin'. Oh, no. Acts of charity or piousness or performance of a religious function, like a retreat or pilgrimage, or prayer, or a combination of these things is required. Then HMC (Holy Mother Church) will bestow the indulgence.* Got it? We're talking about get-out-jail-free cards . . . and these things, these indulgences, are what the Church wants to restore to its regular practice. In the 21st century.
Good God! Are you kidding me?
*Back in Martin Luther's time, the Church sold indulgences for hard cash. Can you understand why that might have upset somebody who was trying to take God seriously?