Parishioners at St. Miriam Church have a new way to receive the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation, once known as penance.
They can now web-surf to an on-line confessional on the church’s website, confess their sins, hit “send” and then wait for an e-mailed absolution.
Which is just gr8, IMHO.
From a church press release, here's how Father Jim St. George, pastor of the small Manayunk congregation, describes how his church got into cyber-forgiveness:
‘The [web] site has recently undergone some needed revisions and so we decided to make it also a bit easier for people to cleanse themselves and heal. Confession attendance is down across the Catholic spectrum, and a recent survey by our church shows people are ashamed and afraid. I think it awful that someone would be afraid to sit with me or a fellow priest, but it is reality.
“The newly revised site has increased security, needed to ensure that only the eyes of a priest would ever ‘hear’ the sent confessions... The ‘online confessional’ explains all about the sacrament, why it is important, how it works, and then provides a means for the person going to confession to submit their ‘sins’.
"They may then choose to meet with a priest in person, receive counseling and pastoral care online, or speak over the telephone and/or via email.
“ We took this decision very seriously when we created it. But we feel it is a good decision in keeping with our commitment to God’s people.”
“The Roman Catholic Church (Latin Rite) believes that the penitent and the priest must be in the same physical location. The RC Church maintains that it must take place in a public venue - like a church - because it is a personal and a corporate act.
“ At Saint Miriam, we believe this to also be true, but we also maintain that God brings people together in marvelous and unique ways! So, God is truly present, then, between priest and penitent as they make a confession, even online.
“And, since our priest brings your confessions with him to the Eucharist Table weekly in and their private devotions, the act is at once both a personal act of confession, and a celebrated act of the entire community of believers.
“The final act - the absolution formula and penance- will be sent to the confessing person in return, so all aspects of the sacrament are met; just in a time-sensitive manner unique to the online environment."
The on-line sacrament is available to anyone with a heavy heart, not just to members of St. Miriam, says Father Jim, (whom I wrote about last fall,
when he got into a bit of a donnybrook with some local church pastors over whether his church is truly "Catholic").
So you can unburden your soul whenever and wherever the spirit moves you - and not worry about looking your Sunday best.