The relationship between the public and the press is important. The public relies on the media to give vital information about governments, medical breakthroughs, environmental threats and public safety. The media rely on the public to consume the news and keep the industry going. The relationship isn't perfect, as evidenced by regular polls showing the cynicism that Americans feel toward the mainstream media. Let's just say the relationship is not improved by stunts such as the one pulled by Riccardo Bocca, an investigative reporter for the Italian newspaper L'Espresso. Bocca visited confessionals at 24 Catholic churches in Rome, Turin, Naples, Milan and Palermo. He lied to each priest he encountered and claimed to make confession for various sins.
He said he wanted to show the disparity between what the church teaches and what priests do. Here's a FOXNews write-up:
L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, denounced Riccardo Bocca's Jan. 29 story in L'Espresso magazine, in which the reporter visited 24 confessionals -- posing as an HIV-positive man who wanted to use condoms with his partner, a doctor with a cocaine habit and a divorcee finding love anew -- to see how much the priests' advice varied from Roman Catholic teachings.
"Shame! There is no other word to express our distress toward an operation that was disgusting, worthless, disrespectful and particularly offensive," the Vatican's paper said in an editorial headlined "Fake confessions in search of a shameful scoop."
If you know Italian, you can read the full article here, though I feel dirty even linking to it.
Absolution in the Christian Church was instituted by Jesus Christ. Through it, a penitent receives forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. In the Catholic Church, one of the elements of the sacrament of penance is that the penitent presents himself to a priest and accuses himself of sins. In Catholic teaching, it is necessary that penitents be truly sorrowful for their sins.
For Catholics, it's not just about "telling of one's sins." Without sincere sorrow and a resolve to make amends, confession avails nothing, the absolution has no effect and the guilt of the sinner is greater than before.
So Bocca will have a lot to talk about with a priest should he ever desire to make an honest confession.
What's frustrating is how irresponsibly Bocca and his paper used their power. They hoped to incite and inflame rather than edify and inform. The premise for the article was interesting and valid. The means by which the reporter researched the story were unethical and unnecessary.