I'm a little disappointed in the Catholic Church. As an avid watcher of the activities of the Holy See, I'm generally enthusiastic to see it discover new and innovative ways to bring in more faithful, save souls and increase revenues. When it does all three at once - hot diggety!
For instance, allowing Italian communications companies to build their broadcast towers within the confines of the Vatican City, thereby escaping the restrictive laws about electromagnetic emissions imposed by the Italian government, brings people into the Church, extends the reach of its message, and rolls in the dough - a perfect three pointer. Stick it to the man!
But now I read the Church is about to ban the sacrament of confession being administered online. Apparently, while the Internet is seen as "an excellent instrument for evangelisation and religious dialogue", it is not considered an appropriate method to administer the rite of reconciliation.
The directive is contained in a document being prepared for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, essentially the Vatican's PR arm. It goes on to say that the Internet "contains more opportunities for good than temptations for evil", but it "is no substitute" for face-to-face contact. Among other things, "there is absolutely no guarantee of privacy" on the Internet, and "no certainty as to the identities of the two parties to the conversation". Anyone who's ever been in a chat room with someone they thought was an 18-year old girl will understand . . . forget I said that.
Now, I can accept this reasoning. I still remember when, as a young Catholic myself, confession involved going into a darkened booth at the side of the Church and talking to whomever happened to be sitting there. You took it pretty much on faith that it was a priest and not just some lonely guy who liked to hear stories and knew Latin. Now the Church has switched to the "you know me and I know you" approach and it clearly doesn't want to back away from it.
However, I see it as an opportunity lost. Reconciliation is one of the Catholics' core properties - no other church, to my knowledge, has an equivalent notion. Allowing confessions to be taken over the Web (with encryption, of course) would allow more people to experience the soul-cleansing fire of admitting one's own evil and perhaps convert.
And then there's the banner advertising opportunities. Imagine if every time someone clicked on www.hotsexxx.com, they saw a button at the top of the screen saying "Having an impure thought? CLICK HERE".
The Church really should
Matthew JC. Powell had several impure thoughts whilst writing this. Absolve him on firstname.lastname@example.org