Re: [liturgy-l] No E-Confession
- Chris wrote and I snipped:
> Well, that's just impractical. When are they going to get more efficientAt issue I think is what counts as incarnational?
> with the sacraments? ;)
> Who decided this was newsworthy? :)
- At 03:08 PM 6/6/01 -0400, James O'Regan wrote:
>Chris wrote and I snipped:Sorry, James, I meant "Who *at Reuters* decided it was newsworthy?", since
> > Well, that's just impractical. When are they going to get more efficient
> > with the sacraments? ;)
> > Who decided this was newsworthy? :)
>At issue I think is what counts as incarnational?
it would seem self-evident (to me) that sacraments need to be celebrated in
person. The Vatican makes some controversial and problematic
pronouncements sometimes, but this ain't one of them. :)
Incarnation is exactly the issue. Cyberspace is great, but I'm
old-fashioned enough to think that "incarnational" requires a body. :)
I think there's another interesting question about what this whole story
reveals. The very idea of doing "confessions" online seems to suggest
that, in a popular mindset, the essence of the sacrament is the mere
conveying of information about what one has done -- perhaps also the
conveying of information that one is absolved. All of the other aspects of
celebrating a sacrament are dispensible. A pretty impoverished sense of
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- Chris McConnell wrote:
>The dividing line between the 'virtual reality' of cyberspace and the
> Incarnation is exactly the issue. Cyberspace is great, but I'm
> old-fashioned enough to think that "incarnational" requires a body. :)
bodily reality of the sacraments may not be as easy to define as we
think. I've just been reading Paul Fiddes' excellent new book
"Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity" (London:
Darton Longman & Todd, 2000) and he uses some discussion of the 'bodily'
dimension of email communication to introduce his chapter on "The
Incarnate God and the Sacramental Life". I've pasted the section below.
Peace and hope,
Pastor, South Yarra Community Baptist Church
There have been several recent books on the dangers as well as the
benefits of the internet, that electronic spider's web linking millions
of computers throughout the world. In one book, the author interviews a
number of people who have 'virtual relationships' with other net-users.
These are people who meet, talk and even - it seems - find love in
cyberspace. What fascinated the author was the way that these
relationships were not just a matter of words (or rather duodecimal
digits), but seem to have taken over the whole person, including the
body. This was despite the fact that the internet was supposed to offer
a reality that was purely mental, free from the limits of the body.
Although one net-user gave the author permission to communicate with his
'virtual partner', he became increasingly agitated, abruptly took the
keyboard back, and could hardly type because his hands were shaking so
much. He felt that this had been an intrusion on an intimate
relationship. Other people the author talked to felt strongly that they
were being unfaithful to their married partners by having such
relationships, and that they had - virtually - committed adultery. His
conclusion was that the cyberspace personality had taken on a
This modern (postmodern?) phenomenon confirms that encounters between
persons always involve the body. Words that are spoken are also embodied
in looks, gestures and other bodily language. There is no such thing as
a purely mental communication. Even between two net-users who only meet
in virtual space there is bodily communication. Of course, there is the
use of the fingers to type and eyes to monitor the screen, but beyond
this there is a commitment of the whole body to the interchange in a way
that cannot be entirely rationally analysed. Those who have a 'virtual'
social life know, or feel, that it still happens in some way through the body.
This raises a key issue for the way that we know God. Does it make any
sense to speak of a 'personal encounter' with God, if God does not have
a body? In this book I have been giving an account of an engagement with
a personal God in various pastoral contexts. To be sure, I have not been
writing about an 'I-Thou' encounter with either one personal being or
three personal beings, but about participating in a flow of personal
relationships in God which are like 'movements between' an I and a Thou.
Nevertheless, this is a personal way of talking about encounter with
God. Can we use such language at all if God is Spirit, without a body?
John Macquarrie proposes that we cannot, and so urges that when it comes
to God, talk about encounter with 'Being that lets-be' is more adequate
than talk about personal relationships. I suggest we do not attempt to
meet this challenge by arguing that there can be disembodied personal
meetings; the limiting case of the internet adulterers would be against
us. We should rather take a different path altogether, to assert that
God indeed does have a body.
Of course, all talk about God must be analogy, and so has an element of
the 'unlike' as well as the 'like' about it. I am not suggesting that
God has a body in the same way that we are embodied, but that God
commits God's own self to body - or rather, to bodies - as a meeting
place with us. The divine Word will not be spoken without physical
mediation. God takes on bodies in order to draw us into the triune
relationships in God.
- Chris McConnell wrote:
> I think there's another interesting question about what this whole
> reveals. The very idea of doing "confessions" online seems tosuggest
> that, in a popular mindset, the essence of the sacrament is themere
> conveying of information about what one has done -- perhaps alsothe
> conveying of information that one is absolved. All of the otheraspects of
> celebrating a sacrament are dispensible. A pretty impoverishedsense of
> things!I have to agree completely with Chris. As a Catholic, (and, yes,
there are times when ol' Rat-zinger has me wishing I wasn't,) I have
come to appreciate the "matter and form" of the sacraments. I have a
particularly wonderful confessor who has at times held my hands as I
have confessed; at times held me in an embrace while imparting
absolution. These things are not common courtesy, nor are they
requisites for the celebration. But they were the right (rite?)
things at the right time. They conveyed, more than my confessing or
her absolving, the unconditional love God and the bond of covenant
that I share with the Church in Christ.
To confess via e-mail is indeed mere "conveying of information" but
certainly not the communication and celebration integral to the
incarnational celebration of a sacrament.
- Cody Untersher wrote:
> They conveyed, more than my confessing orUh, that should have been _his_ absolving. . . I was in that whistful
> her absolving, the unconditional love God and the bond of covenant
> that I share with the Church in Christ.
mode of eschatological thought wherein gender no longer is a barrier
to the full sacramental life of the Church.
To my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters who may have been
scandalized, my most humble apologies. "Mea culpa. . . ."