Student Paper, Professor at Odds Over Catholic Indulgences

The Lariat, the student newspaper at Baylor University, editorialized recently against the reemergence of indulgences within Catholicism.  (Being a non-Catholic, I went to a friend for guidance.  The gist, as I understand it from her: Indulgences are actions large and small that eliminate or lessen punishments for past sins- apparently anything from praying and going to confession to imitating Will Smith’s mega-kindnesses in “Seven Pounds.”)

The student paper doesn’t believe Catholics should be repenting simply because the word “indulgence” makes it sexier or offers a more concrete-seeming reward.  Confession of, or penitence for, sinful behavior should be part of the core faith, the paper argues, making the “reinstatement [of indulgences] . . . a dated solution to a problem that needs a modern-day, innovative strategy to truly raise awareness of sin and reconnect people with their religion and their God.”

Dr. Francis Beckwith, a Baylor professor of philosophy and church-state studies, criticized the editorial in a Lariat letter to the editor, describing it as being poor in taste, questionable in sourcing, and badly reasoned and historically grounded.  His definition of such efforts: “uncharitable and unchristian.”

The result of the back-and-forth is a growing public debate (also see here) about the editorial, the letter, and the indulgence issue at the center of both.

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