Bringing back childish things

This is from a terrific article posted today on NCR. After detailing some of the numerous steps backward made by the Vatican in recent months, Jamie L. Manson writes,
At the same time, the faithful were given new opportunities to reduce their time in purgatory by days or years. They could even have their purgatorial sentence revoked via the plenary indulgence (assuming, of course, no additional sins are committed). Though they cannot be bought (such practices were outlawed in 1567), indulgences can be earned through charitable contributions and good works (limit one indulgence per sin per day).

Psychologists define "magical thinking" as the belief that one's thoughts, words, or actions can exert more power or influence over events than one actually has.

Lately I'm wondering if some of those in the church’s leadership aren't struggling with a serious case of it. Not only are they assuming power that belongs to God alone, they are using functions like excommunication and indulgences on a people for whom these realities are no longer relevant or real. Indulgences and excommunications only create barriers between people and the understanding they seek, and they drive the church into an ever-deepening irrelevance, especially for younger generations.
I agree that the leaders of the Church are definitely struggling with magical thinking. That they think they can decide that this or that action will reduce one's time in Purgatory by a given length of time is evidence enough of that.

I wish I could agree that "they are using functions like excommunication and indulgences on a people for whom these realities are no longer relevant or real." There are a lot of superstitious Catholics out there who are going to eat this up.

With regard to the use of excommunication (or the penalty of interdict) to exclude people from the sacraments, Manson writes,
Though the church may attempt to magically separate the children of God from the table of God, Eucharist will always rise out of the people. True presence, true Communion becomes real not by the will of church authorities, but through the loving will of God. The power belongs to God and God alone. If our church leaders had their minds and hearts centered in God, rather than on their own power, they would realize that they were truly powerless when it comes to determining who is entitled to be a recipient of God’s presence in this world. They would realize the absurdity of even assuming such a power. God breaks through, regardless of the defenses we construct.
The grace of God cannot be restricted to official channels. (Remember John the Baptist? Or Jesus himself, for that matter? Jewish laymen, both of them.)

You can read the entire article here.

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