Oh. My. God.
The Pope is a shill. I suppose it has always been thus, but never quite so blatantly:
For devout Catholics fearful of a long stint in purgatory -- a vast metaphysical holding area where the faithful believe they will go to be "purified" prior to their admittance to heaven -- the Pope had some encouraging news this week: there's an easier way.
Pope Benedict XVI has decreed that Catholics can cut short their future purgatory stays by visiting a holy shrine in Lourdes, France, a site where believers say the Virgin Mary appeared to a shephardess in 1858. Catholic pilgrims who visit Lourdes from now through next year, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the miracle claim, will receive an "indulgence" from the Pope, which he says will speed the trip to heaven.
"The door for indulgences is not always open, though, and for years after the Vatican Council reforms of the 1960s, they were rarely offered -- until 2000, when Pope John Paul II started using them to attract pilgrims to World Youth Day," reports the New York Times' Mike Nizza. "The pilgrimage, which must be made in the next year, can be accomplished using Vatican charter flights that began over the summer."
I was raised Catholic, but this story just makes me wonder how anyone can believe anything that comes out of this man's mouth from now on.