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Idol Chatter

Speaking of confessions, I’m not Catholic and I don’t know much about the Sacrament of Penance (or Reconciliation) except for what I’ve seen in the movies and on television. I certainly don’t know anyone that goes to traditional confession, though lapsed friends will stumble into a random Mass or give up something for Lent like tobacco or meat or Altoids. (Those suckers can get addictive!) What I do know, though, is that last week’s CNN article about the proliferation of online confession sites caught my eye.
Looking for a church-backed site? Try ivescrewedup.com or mysecret.tv. In a silly mood or just liberal-leaning? Check out dailyconfession.com or the “social experiment” of grouphug.us where you can “hug” or “shrug” in reaction to a posted confession. I still haven’t figured out the point of making an anonymous video confession for camfess.com and, judging from the infrequent posts there, I’m apparently not the only one.
With the blossoming of sites like these, the Internet feels like it has finally come full circle. Just think of the Missouri family who used the anonymity of the Internet to lure troubled 13-year-old Megan Meier into an online relationship with a fictitious boy her age only to later pull the rug out from under her, which caused her to take her own life. The very anonymity that facilitated that story’s tragic turn of events can now deliver that family from their guilt! (If they had any to begin with.)


That exaggerated example aside, is anonymous online confession a good thing? Does it really relieve anyone’s guilt? Or is it just another venue for rogue posters to let their Dr. Jekylls do the typing? After surfing around to the different sites, I almost felt the need to confess, myself, for the voyeuristic thrill I started to feel.
The Catholic Church is certainly not endorsing these outlets given their No Priest Left Behind policy, but from a Protestant point-of-view the Internet is omnipresent with no real beginning or end…like God Himself. So perhaps Confession 2.0 is the wave of the future with cyberspace as the new Alpha and Omega?
After my cursory study, I could actually argue in favor of these sites. If you find them to be distasteful, you don’t have to visit them. If you get a cheap thrill reading other people’s confessions, true or not, then you have hours of free entertainment ahead of you, not to mention too much time on your hands. And if you are sincere in posting a heartfelt confession, you may gain some relief by seeing your sin, be it venal or mortal, plastered on a site next to dozens of others, thereby realizing that you’re not alone in your journey.
I know that any time I’ve felt the need for forgiveness, whether it involved another party or not, it ultimately bubbled up from within, anyway. You can call that the forgiveness of self, of God or Jesus or any list of others, but if a website bridges the gap between one’s conscience and the deep, forgiving realm of their own heart, then I think these sites serve a quantifiable function and end up doing more good than harm.
See? Everyone’s happy! Not everyone’s saved, but that’s always been the case, hasn’t it?

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