Computing Confession

We live in a world which provides more and more electronic devices which apparently assist us not only in finding information which would otherwise be diffcult to discover, but also to effect appropriate action.

Some decades ago (and back to the 1940s) the Church in Marbella (southern Spain) maintained a list of potential sins (in Spanish and English) which tourists could read and confess, and which priests could read, ask questions, and give absolution. I think it was an excellent idea and, perhaps, it still exists.

But I would suggest that a similar arrangement could be used for Confession nowadays, effectively anywhere, and in any language. Using the telephone or, more comprehensively, through the Internet, the program would identify our sins, and require appropriate details, plus the frequency since the last Confession. The priest could then set out penances and give absolution. The ‘confessors’ would of course need the proper sorrow for their sins, and the proper intention to do better.

I understand that, currently, the Church would not accept the true presence of the priest under such an arrangement. But of course this is illogical. If I speak to you on the telephone we are both in each other’s presence. Why should we not use mechanisms to achieve the same thing? And of course it would be possible to use Zoom (although I have little knowledge of how it works.) 

The advantage would be considerable. The rate of Confession has dropped substantially in many areas. What’s it like in your own parish? ‘Computer Confession’ would, I believe, encourage its frequency. I would be happy to use it once a week. And need it!

How about you?

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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13 Responses to Computing Confession

  1. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/10/computing-confession/ )

    // I understand that, currently, the Church would not accept the true presence of the priest under such an arrangement. But of course this is illogical. If I speak to you on the telephone we are both in each other’s presence. //

    If I stand before a photo of a tree hanging on my wall, am I in the presence of the tree? What’s the difference between confessing by telephone and confessing by telegraph?

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/10/computing-confession/ ) :

    // Using the telephone or, more comprehensively, through the Internet, the program would identify our sins, and require appropriate details, plus the frequency since the last Confession. The priest could then set out penances and give absolution. The ‘confessors’ would of course need the proper sorrow for their sins, and the proper intention to do better. //

    I can see some utility in that it might conduce to forming a habit of confession, especially if the user interface is ingeniously appealing. But doesn’t quick-and-easy confession encourage forming a mindless, superficial cultural Catholicism? The image comes to mind of a young man at my wife’s parish church, walking up the aisle after receiving the Eucharist, chomping on the bread like chewing gum, a bored expression on his face. My guess is that he was one of those apparently great many modern Catholics who think Holy Communion is just a nice gesture of group membership, no more.

    Also, think of the lack of security that is part of *every* Internet experience, and of the ever growing ability of technology to counterfeit personal interaction. You can never know that you’re dealing with a real priest. Think Alex the priest bot. And remember that *everything* you say and write is likely being automatically recorded and maybe being monitored in real time by the British government or a kid in Uzbekistan.

  3. Geordie says:

    David Smith, you have given an excellent explanation on why we shouldn’t use the internet for confession, apart from the Church’s teaching.

  4. milliganp says:

    We first need a comprehensive theology of sin. In my youth any sex outside marriage was automatically a mortal sin, as was missing mass, swearing, telling a lie etc.
    The moderns would I guess include sins like “not caring for the poor”, driving a car uneccesarily, excessive air miles, not recognising a trans woman as a woman etc…

    • pnyikos says:

      Which moderns do you have in mind? No Catholic in good standing would consider not catering to the whims of biological men who call themselves women a sin. Not when Pope Francis has condemned Trans ideology.

      This ideology is creating a New Aristocracy: in the olden days, an ordinary peasant would be severely punished if he insulted a member of the nobility. The punishment today for offending a trans person can include dismissal from one’s job. THAT is a sin, quite probably a mortal sin since it is the theft of one’s means of livelihood.

  5. David Smith says:

    pnyikos writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/10/computing-confession/#comment-63981 ) :

    // This ideology is creating a New Aristocracy: in the olden days, an ordinary peasant would be severely punished if he insulted a member of the nobility. The punishment today for offending a trans person can include dismissal from one’s job. THAT is a sin, quite probably a mortal sin since it is the theft of one’s means of livelihood. //

    An aristocracy created by the sovereign, which, collectively, is the Woke hierarchy.

    I wonder, though. Their motley, half-baked theology is so patently preposterous that it must sooner rather than later shrivel and die, no? It looks to me like nothing better than the sadistic religion of a malicious child. Children grow up, don’t they? They may not mature, but at least they give up their childish conceits and progress to things more materially rewarding. There are no Woke patriarchs, are there?

    Anyway. Confession. What about a do-it-yourself confession app? Call it Peccavi. It could be based on Quentin’s list of common failings, easily modifiable as times and mores change. I can see the current crop of Roman Catholic hierarchs becoming enthused about that. Put a five-minute timer on it. No, that’s too long. Three minutes.

  6. ignatius says:

    Personally speaking I wouldn’t like to confess sins, mortal or venial, via telephone or zoom. I could probably get used to such methodology but would never just fill in an on line list on a form then click ‘send’ Having to go to confession is after all a sacrament and so carries the sense of compassion and mercy with it. I think there is an element of humility involved which is most present in the personal encounter. The drop off in confessions puzzles me a bit. I must admit though I probably go less often these days myself than I used to in my earlier days of catholic formation.

  7. David Smith says:

    Following up on the imaginary confession app Peccavi, it should be read only. No Internet back-and-forth involving the user and no storage of user data. Colors could change with the colors of vestments through the liturgical year. It could act as a little ongoing catechesis. Bring a little beauty back into the Church along with with a little daily instruction. Keep it simple, very simple. And avoid mission creep.

    Whatever :o)

  8. milliganp says:

    My late father in law, who was a devout old school Catholic once told a joke about going to confession and confessing to having had immoral thoughts, the priest asked “did you entertain them”, to which he replied “no, they entertained me”.
    Confession is supposed to be an encounter with a priest “in persona Christi”, thus an authentic encounter with Christ. The absurdity of how many of us approach confession is that we are timid because we are afraid to admit something that God already knows better than us.

  9. ignatius says:

    I think that ‘timidity’ is partly to do with the way we tend to clothe our speech in an arcane religious vernacular. A language which is understood by almost no one outside of a dog collar and one which if we are not careful can form a barrier against authentic encounter with anybody at all. I don’t bother with all that myself but am unaware of how anybody else goes about their confessing.

  10. John Candido says:

    Sorry, but it will probably never happen.

    People who work in digital technology, who work in national security and defence, or criminal hackers can probably circumvent security walls and render confession’s non-negotiable prerequisite of secrecy null and void.

  11. ignatius says:

    Except that confession is always anonymous.

  12. ignatius says:

    Although, if e mail were used you might have a point!

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