A footnote to my blog on indulgences. The Church’s doctrine is not like saying if I score a hundred runs my batting average goes up. It is that the merit we gain from every good deed we do goes into what the Church calls the treasury of grace and it is through that that we are all saved. Of course incidentally, if I might resort again to picture book language, for theology always falsifies as much as it illuminates (because God is unknowable by reason which is why Aquinas says theology is an analogous science. Theology a science? That’ll get Richard reaching for the smelling salts. Though come to think of it all science is analogous. ‘Oh just a metaphor’ says Dawkins airily when he tells us ‘evolution did it’), incidentally, to resume, my own chances of being saved go up as well. But then so do Hitler’s. We are saved by our love and concern for each other.
We shall not only see God. According to the collect for Christmas Day as God became man so we (and everything else down to the last quark) will actually become God. Become God? We do that by making ourselves moral beings, overcoming the world by performing acts of virtue in the world of Darwinian hazard. God r us. It is only through us that God can be both perfect anbd free because in the whole of creation only humans are free which is why God had to become man. But obviously most of us when we die haven’t achieved that yet. So there must be purgatory. We don’t know what it is but it isn’t a punishment. It’s an opportunity to redress our failings in this life Maybe the Hindu doctrine of karma is right and we get sent back to this earth to have another go. But the Church helps us. One of its most beautiful doctrines is that the dead are not lost but for the moment apart from us but we can help them to achieve the supreme virtue they seek. That’s how the idea of indulgences started. But then it became doing some pious act whereby you could short cut doing penance for your the sins you yourself had committed and so shorten your own time in purgatory. Then even for sins you hadn’t yet committed but were going to (a bit like having a free hit for 5 in 20-20 cricket). Then actually paying for the privilege. There are few doctrines so originally beautiful that have been so degraded and defiled by the Church itself.