Online Confession?

There have been spades of media reports this Lent about other Christian denominations in the United States taking on and adapting traditionally Catholic devotions and Lenten practices: as a young single friend of mine recently said, gone are the days when Ash Wednesday at work could double for twentysomethings as "Catholic potential mate identification day." There’s little to criticize in the borrowing of Catholic practices by other Christians, and in fact is in many ways a testimony to the power of the Catholic sacramental imagination. This one, however, takes the cake. Online confession? Leaving aside the privacy issues (is there anyone left who really thinks the Internet is anonymous?), the practice of "online confession" was highlighted in a CNN report today as a method "where anonymity is a substitute for privacy and the intimacy traditionally experienced by talking to a priest, therapist or friend is replaced by a virtual community of strangers." It goes without saying that these confessions are an invalid form of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but what do they say about our culture? Sitting face to face with a priest (even with a curtain or screen in between) reinforces the incarnational aspect of the Catholic sacrament. You’re not confessing to a community, you’re confessing directly to God through an ordained minister who is serving in persona Christi. What’s more, authentic confessions are protected by civil law (and even more stringently by canon law), assuring the penitent that what he or she confesses is not only truly forgiven, it is also truly forgotten. When we abandon the intimacy and authenticity of person-to-person reconciliation, we deny a fundamental aspect of sacramental theology: sacraments are administered in person, by persons, for persons. Why? Because Jesus was a person who ministered to persons, as were the apostles he commissioned to establish His Church. There are few things more terrifying than confessing one’s sins to a priest. And few sacramental moments more consoling. Have these words ever been used to describe the Internet? Jim Keane, SJ
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10 years 7 months ago
nicely put, especially that last line.
10 years 7 months ago
It gets stranger than this. Try Absolution Online ( for an experience that incarnates the medieval penitentials. I wrote about that site and one that offered indulgences for sale a couple of Lents ago ( Both site are still going strong, I wonder how many hits they get relative to the number of confessions heard a year in the US? Last year I urged my 13 yr old to elect the regular celebration of the sacrament before his confirmation (rather than go to one of the Lenten communal services). It took him three weeks to get the courage to call to make the appointment, and fifteen minutes with a terrific confessor to make him a convert. A couple of weeks afterwards I overheard him with his buddies recounting his experience and telling them it was the only way to go...
10 years 7 months ago
The next step becomes clear in this timely paradigm but is often left out. Teach those who administer and those who avail themselves of this sacrament that they aim to administer and receive nothing less than the Wisdom and Mercy of Jesus which is insured and sustained in the mutual pursuit of significant, Transforming Prayer.
10 years 7 months ago
As one who HAS made an online confession, I did it NOT for sacramental purposes, but for PUBLIC reasons... I am a writer of religious material, and I write as a "little" and "ordinary" person, not as a "grand" or "exalted" more-than-the-next-person (although my insights are said to be helpful to many). When our sins are so "special" that others cannot know them and they should only be "forgoteen",from which we cannot learn or remember how we got into that "fix", something is dreadfully wrong. God is normally Present to me, but there are those times when I am not aware--it is those times I am open to sinning--the old adage "a righteous man (woman) falls seven times a day" I ascribe as true--the most holy saints are our most heinous sinners. It is "ordinary" to sin--it is in our nature. Knowing all this opens one to knowing how merciful is God--and how extraordinary God's gift in Jesus. Ir more people "confessed publicly" perhaps there wouldn't be this horrendous amount of lying that is being done in all facets of the public eye.


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