Friday, March 14, 2008

CNN and Online Confessions

I first remember hearing about the phenomenon of "Online Confessions" a few months ago in the fall, but CNN has pushed the issue again with another article. Suffice to say this is not the same as the Catholic Sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation whichever name you use).

I wanted to write a sharp, insightful, and illuminative post on the difference as well as the need for real confession. Instead, I'll post a link to seminary friend, Father Benjamin. He explains the difference most eloquently.

The key difference:
Yet confession offers something that other forms of self-accusation never could, reconciliation with God and with the community. There is no need for the whole community to hear a person's transgressions, and if they are good people, they aren't really interested. The priest takes the burden on himself, and hears the sin on behalf of the community and offers their forgiveness. More importantly, the priest hears the confession on behalf of God and offers his forgiveness, through a human voice and a human face...
The biggest difference between a online admission of guilt and Catholic confession is that the first is centered on the person and on their sin. Catholic confession is centered on the love and the mercy of God, made visible in the scriptures and in Jesus Christ. The sins a person has committed, no matter how terrible, are like drops of blood in the fire of God's love. In front of that, our sins don't stand a chance.
Thanks Father Benjamin!

8 comments:

Chris said...

"Fr. Z" has an excellent post about it as well- http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/03/no-you-cant-go-to-confession-online-period-cant-no/
I mean, I love the internet, but come on....

Fr. Andrew said...

I read Father Z's post as well. I liked the apologetic nature of Father Benjamin's explanation as more accessible for those who want a greater explanation.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.
--1 Peter 3:15-16.

Fr. Andrew said...

Chris' link is Father Z on Confession.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this site where people confess their sins online, anonymously? http://iconfessmyself.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I can't begin enough how to describe the value and treasure of the Sacrament of Penance. It is based on scripture on all four Gospels that Jesus instituted to his disciples and to His Church. It is Christ who hears and absolves our sins when confessed. It is one of the gifts God gave us. In this sacrament, Christ continues His ministry to each person.

Anonymous said...

Hello Fr. Andrew,

Thank you for explaining why THIS so called "online confession" is so far from the Sacramental nature of true confession. I never had any doubt about this.

The question which burns in my mind is one of a completely different nature, however.

What could possibly distantiate the approach of a person going to a confessional in a church and genuinely confessing her or his sins and seeking reconciliation for them, on the one hand, from, on the other hand, that person genuinely seeking you, Fr. Andrew, online, in any one of the wonderfully efficient, effective and highly personal ways of dialoguing with you which internet offers in the year of the Lord 2010, and genuinely confessing her or his sins to you, verbally, vocally, and seeking reconciliation by asking you to absolve her or him from her or his sins in the name of the Almighty God, thus granting that person the Sacramental forgiveness of God?

What the Church seems to be missing is the fact that, often enough, persons living in the millions of small communities that this world of ours now abounds in find it nearly impossible to go to a person they see and meet every day in the streets, in shops, on buses, in the church of that community of theirs, and just tell him, face to face, something which profoundly embarrasses them to say to that person they know so well. It is very easy to say that in this age of mobility one can easily go to a place where one is unknown and to seek a priest there. That however is the world view of dwellers of big cities. There are millions living in small mountain villages, in remote communities in the middle of vast plains, on the more than 2,000,000 islands there are in the world! It seems that those are forgotten.

I do not believe that either God or the Church want us faithful to feel embarrassment. What confession is all about is repentance and a resolve to do all in one's power not to slip from that resolve again - that is what confession is all about, and NOT embarrassment.

And yet - embarrassment is human... all too human, and it is impossible to tell one "but you should not be embarrassed". Emotions are not things one "should not" experience - one either does experience them, or one does not... one cannot just resolve not to feel them. It is useless to tell anyone "not to feel" embarrassed. There can be infinite reasons for one to be embarrassed... and many of them may well be totally unrelated to *the sinful* aspect of whatever the action may have been. The two should not be thought of as being one. Confession does, indeed, require the personal encounter for repentance to be truly achieved through the channel of God's infinite love. And in that encounter, in that channel of love, there is no room - indeed, there just CANNOT BE any room! - for such a banal but still crippling thing as embarrassment. And yet, embarrassment simply IS.

It is a very well known aspect of human psychology that the arrival of a new face in a tight knit community all too often results in members of that community opening up to that person, cathartically.

Why should this rich possibility that internet offers not be embraced?! Why should it at least not be tried, for God's sake?!

Anonymous said...

I am having to split this comment into smaller parts, as I am being told it is "too large"... a symptom of the internet mentality, whereby our thoughts should be "simple" :)

-------------------------
PART 1

Hello Fr. Andrew,

Thank you for explaining why THIS so called "online confession" is so far from the Sacramental nature of true confession. I never had any doubt about this.

The question which burns in my mind is one of a completely different nature, however.

What could possibly distantiate the approach of a person going to a confessional in a church and genuinely confessing her or his sins and seeking reconciliation for them, on the one hand, from, on the other hand, that person genuinely seeking you, Fr. Andrew, online, in any one of the wonderfully efficient, effective and highly personal ways of dialoguing with you which internet offers in the year of the Lord 2010, and genuinely confessing her or his sins to you, verbally, vocally, and seeking reconciliation by asking you to absolve her or him from her or his sins in the name of the Almighty God, thus granting that person the Sacramental forgiveness of God?

Anonymous said...

ooops!

Strange, although the pop up window told me it was too large, still ... it was posted in its entirety :)

Sorry for the double posting of the first part.

J