by Giles Fraser, UnHerd:
The protest at the heart of Protestantism – perhaps the most successful protest movement the world has ever known – began as a cry against the sale of indulgences. In order to finance the construction of its fabulous building projects, such as St Peter’s in Rome, the Roman church invented an ingenious way of separating people from their money. They would sell the prayers of the religious to the laity, these prayers ‘guaranteeing’ a short cut to salvation, time-off from languishing in an invented place called purgatory where one atoned for one’s earthly sins ahead of one’s final judgment.
Indulgences turned salvation into a business model, whereby ordinary people could amortise their spiritual debt to the almighty. “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul out of purgatory springs”, was a quote that Martin Luther attributed to Johann Tetzel, one of the Pope’s most successful indulgences salesman. For Luther, one had to take personal responsibility for one’s relationship with God and not subcontract it to another, and especially not for money.
The comparison with this and Elton John paying to offset the carbon footprint of Harry and Meghan’s use of his private jet to fly to their summer holiday is compelling. The sins that Harry and Meghan have made against the environment can be paid for by someone else. Green is the colour of money. With wealthy friends, your sins can be forgiven. Those who are poorer, those who take cheap package holidays to Tenerife, they will have to account for their sins alone.