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It is something to think about.
Salvation for Sale
The Roman Catholic Church has been in the business of selling salvation to the naive, with
much of her great wealth accumulated from that source. And she does this in the name of the
Christ, who offers salvation as a free gift! He told His disciples, "Freely ye have received, freely
give" (Matthew 10:8)! There could be no greater abomination than selling salvation, yet Rome
has never repented of this evil but continues similar practices to this day.
Under Pope Leo X (1513-21)-who cursed and excommunicated Martin Luther-specific prices
were published by the Roman Chancery to be paid to the Church for absolution from each
imaginable crime. Even murder had its price. For example, a deacon guilty of murder could be
absolved for 20 crowns. The "anointed malefactors," as they were called, once pardoned in this
way by the Church, could not be prosecuted by civil authorities.
Leo's sale of salvation was nothing new. Two hundred years earlier John XXII (1316-34) had
done the same, setting a price for every crime from murder to incest to sodomy. The more
Catholics sinned the richer the Church became. Similar fundraising schemes had been in
operation for years.
Innocent VIII (1484-92), for example, had granted the 20-year Butterbriefe indulgence. For a
certain sum one could purchase the privilege of eating favorite dishes during Lent and at other
times of fasting. It was a way to be credited with fasting while indulging oneself in the richest of
foods. The people believed that the popes had such power. After all, wasn't whatever the vicars
of Christ bound or loosed on earth similarly bound or loosed in heaven? The proceeds from this
enterprising scheme built the bridge over the Elbe. Julius III (1550-5) renewed this indulgence
(for a handsome fee) for another 20 years after he came to office.
Leo X tore down Constantine's basilica and built St. Peter's, largely with monies paid by
people who thought they were thereby gaining forgiveness of sins and entrance to heaven. That
magnificent structure stands as one more piece of evidence that Rome is the "Mother of
As Giovanni de Medici, Leo had been made an abbot at age seven for his first communion and
a cardinal at age 13. Though he was the youngest cardinal to that time, Pope Benedict IX
ascended to Peter's throne at age 11. Imagine an 11-year-old solemnly pronouncing forgiveness
of sins as Christ's one true representative on earth! It was Leo X who commissioned the
Dominican Friar Tetzel to sell indulgences, which it was promised would free those in purgatory
or release the purchaser, if bought in his own name, from having to spend any time in that
intermediate place of torment.
Tetzel's infamous sales pitch went, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from
purgatory springs!" How could anyone be so naive as to believe that the forgiveness of sins for
which Christ had to endure the full wrath of God upon the cross could be purchased with money?
This "God" of Catholicism who moves in response to whatever regulations a corrupt Church
invents is clearly not the God of the Bible. (It was this particular abomination of selling salvation
that scandalized Martin Luther and sparked the Reformation.)
Well-meaning Protestants, wanting to believe the best, imagine that Roman Catholicism has rid
itself of past abominations, including indulgences. Charles Colson's book The Body contains
examples of such incorrect information. Though the book eloquently speaks much truth, it
erroneously presents Roman Catholicism as biblical Christianity and calls for union therewith on
the part of evangelicals. Colson writes: "The Reformers, for example, assailed the corrupt
practices of indulgences; today they [indulgences] are gone (save for the modern-day equivalent
practices by some unscrupulous television hucksters, ironically mostly Protestants, who promise
healing and blessing for contributions)."
We endorse his condemnation of "unscrupulous television hucksters," but wonder at his
incorrect interpretation of Rome. A major document of Vatican II devotes 17 pages to explaining
indulgences and how to obtain them and excommunicates and damns any who deny that the
Church has the right to grant indulgences today for salvation.
The rules are complex and ludicrous as well as abominable. Try to imagine God honoring such regulations as granting
certain indulgences "only on set days appointed by the Holy See" or that a "plenary indulgence,
applicable only to the dead, can be gained in all churches...on November 2,"15 etc. The entire
teaching on indulgences denies the sufficiency of Christ's redemptive sacrifice for sins upon the
Some ancient indulgences even remain in force today. A recent notice in Inside the Vatican
reminded Catholics that on August 28 and 29, 1994, an unusual opportunity for obtaining a
special indulgence would occur:
Pope Celestine V gave a Holy Door to the Cathedral of Maria Collemaggio in
his Bull of 29 September, 1294. To obtain this "perdonanza" indulgence, it's
necessary to be in the Cathedral between 18:00 (6 P.M.) 28 August and 18:00 (6
P.M.) 29 August, to truly repent of one's sins, and to confess and go to mass and
communion within 8 days of the visit. The Holy Door is open every year, but this
year, 1994, is the 700th anniversary