Vatican City-- In an effort to increase funds in a slumping world economy the Vatican announced Thursday that it was reinstating the medieval practice of selling indulgences. An official statement released early yesterday morning cited the primary reasons as poor mass attendance and the third straight year priests world-wide missed their offering quota.
"To be quite frank our numbers our down," said Polish Cardinal and head of the Indulgences Council, I. Snoddfikle. "The Church's stance on artificial means of birth control are as firm as ever but the perception of many catholics around the world is the unprotected intercourse just isn't safe. As a result there are fewer and fewer of us every year."
When pressed on the issue of recent church sex scandals playing a factor in the poor attendance the Cardinal was defensive and direct.
"That is now a non-issue," said Snoddfikle. "We hired Hugh Grant and Eddie Murphy as special sex scandal consultants and they got us through a pretty rough time. Michael Jackson pitched in as well. At the time of his death he had millions of fans despite obviously diddling one of those kids."
Indulgences will be pushed as a part of this year's advent season. Though one hasn't officially been sold in over 500 hundred years, Snoddfikle is quick to point out that indulgences have never been taken off the market.
"This practice has never gone away. The product we offer has been around since shortly after the crucifixion. We simply stopped advertising because people started believing it wasn't necessary to buy your way into heaven. We as the clergy of the Catholic Church are here to say that in many cases its absolutely necessary."
The price to pass through the pearly gates will not be divulged until the time a of sale. Snoddfikle states, however, there will be several payment plans and packages offered to fit almost any sinner's budget. The highest priced package, for instance, will include a sports/dining plan in which the purchaser can choose either a weekly golf or tennis lesson taught by Jesus followed by dinner and a movie with God. In contrast, the cheapest plan includes scrubbing toilets in purgatory.
"Hey, at least its not Hell," said Snoddfikle.
Indulgences will only be available through priests and an incentive program devised by the Holy See is in place to encourage them to make their goals.
"The top 500 priests in terms of indulgences income will be rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip to our newly developed Papal Fantasy Camp. Participants will get to experience what its like to be the Bishop of Rome and even take part in a mock papal election--smoke and all," stated Snoddfikle.
In a buyer beware market, Snoddfikle is confident people won't question the validity of these transactions.
"We are the Catholic Church. People have been believing what we have been saying since the time of the apostles. Why would they question us now?"
Only time will tell what impact if any this will have on the church and whether or not the world's catholics will pony up before they pass on.