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Confession should be face-to-face, not online

Easter has come and gone once again, and along with its colored eggs and fluffy bunnies, the holiday also decided to bring us layers of snow this year, turning this springtime festivity into something more closely resembling Christmas.

And just like during the Christmas holiday, the faithful ‘two day Catholics’ swarmed into the church’s welcoming arms in order to get their religious fix satisfied until next holiday.

For those of us who consider ourselves practicing Catholics, this phenomenon is something we are quite familiar with. Every Catholic knows at least one other person who attends mass only twice throughout the entirety of the year; those two days being the well-known holidays of Christmas and Easter.

Although it’s sad to admit, it seems that actually going to mass to worship and praise our God is just not the ‘in’ thing to do anymore, based on the dwindling numbers of recipients actually attending Catholic ceremonies on a regular basis across the country.

However, mass attendance numbers are not the only diminishing aspects of the Catholic Church these days. Now included in this category is the act of reconciliation.

Reconciliation, or confession, as it is sometimes known, is the act of confessing one’s sins to a priest and then receiving forgiveness by performing a small task known as a penance. Penance can include anything from reciting the ‘Our Father’ to performing a kind action towards someone we have wronged recently.

According to a current article in the Plain Dealer, ‘the number of Catholics participating in the sacrament of penance has dropped dramatically from the 1950s, when many lined up weekly for confession.’

However, slightly more than 25 percent of the nation’s 69 million Catholics go to confession at least once a year, according to a 2006 poll conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t go to confession as much as I should. Ever since I was little, the mention of reconciliation has always made me squirm. The idea of sitting directly across from a holy member of the church and unleashing your deadliest sins was just never something that made me feel even remotely comfortable, no matter how many times you were told that no one was judging you.

Sure, you always had the option to sit behind a screen so your priest couldn’t see your sinful face, but that always made me feel even guiltier for not even having the guts to confess to the priest face-to-face.

Although this unnatural fear of reconciliation may sound ridiculous to some, it is actually something that many Catholics experience.

In order to avoid this traumatizing experience, many people are turning to ‘online confessionals,’ which are Web sites that offer both critical and uplifting support to those who seek the opinions of others on their latest unwise decisions.

Although it may seem hard to believe, these sites are actually exploding in popularity. Dailyconfessions.com, which was started in May 2005 so people could unburden themselves and receive guidance from others, receives as many as 1.3 million hits a day, according to the Plain Dealer.

According to the creator of the site, Greg Fox, nearly 300 and 400 confessions go up each day.

And although this may seem like a great way to escape the guilty feelings often experienced through face-to-face confessions, it is actually a trend that is destroying a traditional act within the Catholic Church.

While these Web sites are obviously advantageous in regards to the anonymity they offer, personal confessions can provide a deeper and more personal experience, according to religious leaders.

‘The Internet does not take away the guilt. It does not take away the sin,’ said Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy. ‘Only in the confessional do I have the absolute guarantee that God has forgiven me.’

Besides that, with an online confessional, how do you know who is seeing your boldly displayed sins in the first place? Although many confessional sites do not request that a poster list their name, age and state, some do. Anyone could potentially see your hidden secret that you’ve kept from friends and family for so many years.

The act of reconciliation, although it can be daunting, is not something that should be replaced by online help sites and peer-to-peer counseling. These methods can act as a supplement to the process, but they should not overtake the act of personally telling your sins to God through your parish priest.

Reconciliation is a process that lets God’s forgiveness overtake the feelings of sorrow and guilt that may have plagued us for so long. It is the process of opening your heart to God, hearing his voice and being one with someone who loves us no matter what we do.

Send comments to Kristen Vasas at [email protected].

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