Sunday, March 7, 2010

Online confession

Early this month, Agence France-Presse AFP published a news article on online confession below. It is an incredible initiative which suits the modern fast-food world. People are quite used to interactive voice response services nowadays owing to the advance of the VOIP technology, and its wide adoptions by the service industries.

To be in step with modern technological developments, there are now electronic bible, on-line blessing, and computer-assisted praying. On earlier occasions, the Vatican issued press release endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones. Pontifical Council for Social Communications embraced the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini.

This round, it is not so lucky. The Conference of French Bishops, which groups the country's Catholic leaders, warned in a statement that the service had "no approval from the Catholic Church in France." In short, communication with god has to be approved by the church. She approved initiatives made by Italian priests but not French Catholics. I would have thought the approval has to come from someone much much higher.

The bishops said the service is unacceptable to allow confusion over the notion of confession. "For the Catholic faithful, confession has a sacramental meaning and requires the real presence of a priest. There is a thus stop-gap between god and the faithful. You need some men to help god do the absolution for sins. This is a horrible notion. In a few words it states the fundamental difference between god and religion. God absolves sins. Religion is man made.

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Mon Mar 1, 12:06 pm ET
PARIS (AFP) – A pay telephone line for French Roman Catholics to confess their sins

"For advice on confessing, press one. To confess, press two. To listen to some confessions, press three," says a soothing male voice, welcoming the caller to "Le Fil du Seigneur", or "The Line of the Lord" service. "In case of serious or mortal sins -- that is, sins that have cut you off from Christ our Lord, it is indispensable to confide in a priest," warns the 0.34 euros a minute service.

The site was set up this month at the beginning of the Christian fasting period of Lent by a group of Catholics working for AABAS, a small Paris company that provides telephone messaging services, its creator told AFP. It does not offer absolution for sins, which only a priest can provide, said the creator, Camille, who asked for her second name not be cited because she had received threats about the service. "The idea is to confess sins which are not capital sins, but minor sins, directly to God," she said, adding that the line received about 300 calls in its first week.

Callers do not talk to a person but are offered an "atmosphere of piety and reflection," where they can listen to prayers, music and other people's confessions and can opt to record their own. Camille said part of the money received for the calls goes to charity. The service costs 0.34 euros (0.46 dollars) a minute plus a connection charge for mobile phones, though a cheaper non-charity line costs 0.12 euros. The line says on its website that it aims to encourage youngsters to confess at a time when church attendance is "in free-fall."
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