The NYT reports on church sponsorship of a site called mysecret.tv, which encourages visitors to confess whatever is causing them guilt or anxiety. About 1500 such “confessions” have been posted already.
Though the site’s founder explicitly disclaims any offer of “absolution,” the postings appear therapeutic for many. Should the social benefits of this “confession” lead the law to protect it to the same extent it protects more traditional fora of repentance? That is, should a seal of the confessional extend to cyberspace?
On first glance, I’m inclined to say no. I think the interaction would have to be more structured, and more “costly,” to merit legal protection. Without an actual confrontation between an authorized representative of a church, and the penitent, grace may become too cheap. On the other hand, in places with few if any priests or pastors, virtual interactions may be essential. . . with ample precedents in the growth of distance education. So it will be interesting to see how the law deals with potential extensions of this cession of authority to churches.