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 CNS Story:

FAKE CONFESSIONS Jan-30-2007 (270 words) xxxi

Vatican newspaper denounces reporter who posed as penitent for expose

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican newspaper denounced an Italian journalist who posed as a penitent and confessed fake sins in order to write an expose on the sacrament of reconciliation.

"Fake confessions in search of a shameful scoop," the newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, headlined a commentary condemning the cover story of L'Espresso magazine, one of the country's leading weeklies.

"Shame! There is no other word to express our distress toward an operation that was disgusting, worthless, disrespectful and particularly offensive," the newspaper said.

The commentary said the article had exploited the good faith of confessors and offended the religious sentiments of millions of people.

"It was a sacrilege, because it violated the sacred space in which a self-recognized sinner asks intimately to receive God's merciful love," it said.

The reporter made his false confessions to 24 different priests in five Italian cities, including Rome. The magazine said the idea was to see how priests handle difficult pastoral situations and whether they followed the strict norms laid out by church teaching.

The reporter, for example, told two priests he was HIV-positive and wondered whether he should use a condom when having sexual relations with his girlfriend. One told him no, and the other said it was a question of conscience, the magazine reported.

More than once, the magazine said, priests gave quite different advice on his supposed "sins," which included matters relating to homosexuality, divorce, stem-cell research, euthanasia and prostitution.

One issue that found unanimous condemnation by confessors was abortion, the magazine said.

END


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