Bishops slam 'abhorrent' confession exposé

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This is not the woman in the story. Confession photo: Shutterstock
16:11 CET+01:00
An Italian newspaper has outraged the Catholic Church after a reporter went undercover to confession and published articles detailing advice her confessors had given her.

An Italian archbishop has accused an Italian newspaper of violating the sanctity of confession after it published a four-part series in which an undercover journalist recounted her experiences at confession, Italy's Huffington Post has reported.

Quoted by the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, the president of the Italian Bishop’s Conference and Archbishop of Bologna Carlo Caffarra said he expressed “the strongest protest” to the publication of the confessions, which he said were “obtained by deliberately tricking the confessor”.

Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the conference and Bishop of Cassano all'Jonio went even further: “It’s not an original idea because this rubbish has already been done in the past.

“I find this abhorrent from an ethical point of view and unspeakable from a human point of view. In addition, it shows the falsity of some media that speak so much about dignity and respect.”

Published by Quotidiano Nazionale, which includes the newspapers Il Giorno, La Nazione and Il Resto del Carlino, the series was intended as a portrait of Catholicism in the everyday lives of Italians.

During the investigation journalist Laura Alari went to confession where she recounted several fake stories including a lesbian mother who wanted her daughter to be baptized, a woman who lives with her female partner and a divorced woman who has a new partner but receives communion.  

The journalist then reported the responses the confessors gave her.

When questioned by Avvenire about her investigation, Alari said she was aware that she was violating a sacrament.

“When the editor asked me to do this job I was very perplexed, because I am Catholic and I knew that I was violating a sacrament.

“But he gave me lots of time to think about it and I decided that pretending to go to confession was the only way to understand what is happening today in the Church without filters.”

She added that the problems she had brought to the confession box were in fact real-life dilemmas that people she knew were facing and that they had since thanked her.

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“This rewarded me for all the suffering: in truth I felt bad while I was doing it because I met amazing priests who dedicated hours to me.”

The paper’s editor Andrea Cangini said he did not regret his decision, while saying that he both expected and respected Caffarra’s reaction.

“But when a journalist is undercover they almost always violate ethics – it’s part of our job. The documents that we have published have an objective value and there was no other way to get them.”

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