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Published:July 1st, 2006 12:04 EST
You are forgiven. Go in peace.

You are forgiven. Go in peace.

By Krzys Wasilewski

You have done something bad and feel a pang of conscience? You want to talk to someone who would understand you, give you advice, and maybe even absolution? A hundred or 50 years ago one would have gone to church, find a priest or vicar who would have heard one's confession. However, it is not in the age of the Internet. Now, church comes to you with one simple click of a mouse.


One of many websites offering an online confession is “Confession is an essential element of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which consists in telling one's sins to the priestly minister,” the visitor is taught on the homepage. However, there is not one word about “the priestly minister” working for this cyber confessional.


But doubts put aside we can easily and anonymously get a load off our minds by simply filling out a form and indicating which one of the deadly seven sins we fell into. Remembering that envy is “the desire for others' traits, status, etc.” and lust is “an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body,” we just “click the submit button and allow a few minutes for the staff to review and return your penance.”


In fact, less than 60 seconds is enough for our confessor (sometimes signed as Father Smith, sometimes as Father Shoemaker) to prepare a short (always), illuminating (sometimes) sermon. But after several tries, the sermons become surprisingly more and more similar to one another. When I confessed that I “had a one night stand with a woman,” Father Shoemaker replied: “Chris, it is good that you are truly sorry for your sins. I can see that you are ready to receive forgiveness, to receive the grace of God. However, you have committed a grave error and must take time to cleanse yourself.


When I wrote that “I had nothing wrong,” I was praised by Father Smith for being truly sorry for my sins, but also warned that I “have committed a grave error and must take time to cleanse myself.” Finally, I had no choice but to plead guilty to killing Julius Caesar, Henry VIII and Napoleon. Thank God, Father Fredericks, after thanking me for being truly sorry for my sins again, only asked me to recite 23 Hail Mary’s and 12 Our Fathers. All sins forgiven I went with peace.


If anonymity is not what you are looking for, try As the previous website, also this one offers you a chance to confess sins, according to the site's motto: “Spill your guts, give till it hurts, and tell till you can tell no more!” When you finally can tell no more, then “take a deep breath, read it just one more time, wince and push the mouse button.”


Once you did so, your confession is accessible to everyone who feels an urgent need to discover some dark secrets. An inquisitive visitor can browse through all confessions grouped regarding which one of the Ten Commandments they concern. Of course, the most popular ones is commandment number 6: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and number 10: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.” For some more lazy there is a direct link to “favorite confessions” with dozens of the most spicy and naughty mea culpas in the net. And these are sometimes very interesting.


It can be an honest, repentant confession, like “I just found out that the woman I have been 'dating' is 17. I am 33 years Old. I am married! I am in so much trouble...I swear to Christ that I had no ideas she was underage.” I wonder whether if the girl were one year older, the guy's wife would be more lenient with him. Sometimes people make their confessions public from their narcissistic nature (what, by the way, is also a sin): “I'm sleeping with a married man AGAIN. I don't know why I do it but I only seem to attract men who are married or living with their girlfriends.”


Unfortunately, there is no Father Smith or Father Shoemaker to thank them for being sorry for their sins. Instead, the readers are kind of confessors themselves, commenting on other’s wrongdoings and mistakes. Such a cyber critic can be harsher (“you win the low self esteem of the day award”) than the most conservative Jesuit.


So far neither the Vatican nor other Churches have accepted online confessions. After all, confession is about a deep insight into our spiritual lives and understanding what went wrong. The Internet can offer neither. And as much as Father Shoemaker is a sympathetic person, the words: “You are forgiven. Go in peace,” do not sound very convincingly in his mouths.