Teleworshiping: Catholic E-Church Praised as "Success"


In response to its chronic shortage of priests, the Roman Catholic Church recently announced that it has decided to join the 20th century to meet the spiritual needs of its community by instigating a new form of worship: teleworshiping.


The impetus for teleworshiping finds its roots in the success of telecommuting, a strategy which has resulted in increased efficiency and profits for businesses around the world.  Church representative Ferdinand Kraps cites the appeal of reduced overhead, both in priests and houses of worship, as driving factors in Rome's push to work out the details of what will be known as the e-church.  "By 2002, 30% of workers in North America and parts of Europe will spend some portion of their work week telecommuting from home," says Ferdinand.  "We figure if they can work from home, why can't they pray from home too?  It's only a matter of time before we'll be able to increase religious fervor with as astounding results as the business world has seen."


So far the pronouncement has met overwhelming support internally.  Father Fred Patskey of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart in Los Angeles likes the way teleworshiping makes finding the "right" church while on vacation a breeze.  "All my parishioners will need is a modem connection in their hotel room to jack into mass.  Now I'll be able to sleep nights not having to worry if the Jones are accidentally going to step into an Episcopal church while visiting their relatives in Texas."


One priest confessed that confession by email has him quite excited.  "Email makes confession even more impersonal than the plastic screen does, which means people will feel more comfortable about honestly sharing their sins.  We'll also be able to set up an auto response to automatically dole out the standard three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers penance when we get busy."  Another exciting proposition for Catholics is the ability to worship when it's convenient and when one feels fresh; no more early morning Sunday masses after a wild Saturday night where you're falling asleep the whole time.


Not all priests favor the new system, however.  "They'll get soft," one Bishop told us.  "You've got to keep a tight reign on these sinners.  One hour on Sunday isn't nearly enough to save their souls, and now Upstairs wants to take even that away."  (Name withheld to avoid excommunication.)  Another common complaint is that it will become next to impossible to tell who is falling asleep during e-sermons.  One anonymous priest voiced his fear that e-homilies would strip away most of the power of his sermon.  "There's a reason I repeat things three times, and say them slowly.  And I hope you don't think I yell on the pulpit for my own health!"


One major complaint aired by the flock's shepherds concerns the loss of guilt as a tool of guidance.  "I perceive a serious drop in tithing revenues," said Peter Gabriel, a priest based in Minnesota.  "Sure you get the guys who fold up the $1 bill so that it looks like a fat roll of twenties, but most folks will actually put a $20 in when they know other people are watching."  Another concern involves communion.  "Everyone knows you can't go to communion if you've got any sin hanging over you that hasn't been forgiven by a priest.  And everyone watches who doesn't get up to receive communion.  Why do you think confession is scheduled for Saturday afternoon?  Folks clear their sins away, then stay put at home on Saturday night and out of trouble so they can be sin-free in the morning to receive communion."


Rome has also released new marketing materials for review to Archbishops and higher.  Here are just a few of the benefits cited in the pamphlet, "Teleworshiping: What Every Good Catholic Should Know":

Commute time eliminated
Reduced wear and tear on Sunday Best
Save $$$: Eat in for Breakfast
Flex time

to name a few.


One commonly asked question answered by the pamphlet is how communion is executed.  As quoted from the FAQ list: "Participants are encouraged to use real bread instead of the little manufactured foam wafers, just like Jesus did.  You also have the choice of using grape juice or wine (no more than a single bottle per ceremony) with a separate glass for each member of the household, eliminating the worry of whether the lipstick stain on the chalice will have spun all the way around by the time it's your turn."


The e-liturgy is posted a week in advance for those who want to keep ahead of the rest of the parish.  One characteristic of the Internet is that parishioners can access documents generally not made available in the pew, such as references on church doctrine like the Catechism of the Catholic Church and even the bible itself.  Rome is still funding a committee studying the effects on members who, instead of simply reading the bible passages from the liturgy (which have been edited for space), choose to read the verses leading up to and following Today's Passage, thus giving the Gospel context.


Another key advantage of e-churches is that they never close and can't be vandalized.  "Yeah, you'll get hackers who'll try to post naked pictures of Pamela Lee over the Virgin Mary .tifs, but we're on top of that," says Spider Thompson, webmaster for, home to Our Lady of Electronic Adoration.  And since there is at least one Catholic mass going on somewhere in the world all the time, teleworshipers can praise on-line at their convenience.  "We're not really supposed to talk about it," says Spider, "but folks can catch a mass on Monday morning that counts as Sunday by crossing over the dateline to a country that's still in Sunday."


The Church also cites the increased overall reach of their decreasing number of priests through teleworshiping.  "The Internet gives you the option to belong to any parish in your virtual neighborhood, which is the entire world," says e-church representative Grace Kaplan.  "Now you aren't limited to just picking between the three priests in your parish to get the answer you want: you have the whole lot of them!"  Grace also cites studies which show that most mortal sins -- the ones that send you to hell -- are not committed during normal church hours.  "These sins usually occur late at night, when the spirit is weakest and could really use the support of a trained warrior of God.  With teleworshiping, on-line help against the agents of darkness is always available."


Bill Johnson, one of the members of the Our Lady of Electronic Adoration trial teleworshiping test parish, told us, "I really enjoyed being able to worship God in my birthday suit, the way Adam did."  Agnus Fillmore, one of Bill's spiritual neighbors but physically based on another continent, talked about how teleworshiping has changed her life.  "I have trouble getting around and don't see or hear so well anymore," she said.  "It's so hard to read those tiny Bingo numbers on the board at the front.  But those teleworshiping folks were so nice, and the 26" monitor makes reading a joy.  Now I can still get the excitement of participating in a sanctioned church fundraiser and never miss a Bingo."


Mark James, e-lay minister for, praised God that he has not had to listen to his tone-deaf neighbor belt out a joyous Our Father in a minor key for several months.  "You don't know what that means to me. And oh, how could I forget, no more crying babies!"


Marie Hackensack, widowed mother of seven, explains that she thinks teleworshiping is good for her children.  "I ain't never liked being sent to Siberia [she means the cramped, "sound-proof" room at the back of the church where all babies are forced to go].  Now I can worship God with my children on my knee, and they can asks questions whenever there is something they don't understand, like why we is cannibals."


The Gideons have considered backing the Catholic Church's teleworshiping program by providing PCs with Internet access in every hotel room.  "Who would have dreamed it possible?" says Wilburn Hamilton, a local member of the New Hampshire Gideons.  "When I joined the Gideon's twenty-six years ago, we thought we were doing real work by getting God's word out to travelers.  Now we can get their butts into church!"  Rumor has it, though, that the deal will fall through because the Gideon's want to provide access to any e-church but Rome seems to be sticking to her guns to offering only sanctioned Catholic masses.


While Rome is slow to move, she is moving towards the e-church.  And with the Church behind it, teleworshiping promises to be the narrow path of the future.  However, the way does not appear easy.  "It's a new age and a new culture," says Ferdinand Kraps, "and the Catholic Church is right there.  There will be a few bumps, but the projected loss of members who will leave the church because they feel the e-church is a scheme of Satan's has been deemed 'acceptable.'  And of course, we'll have to figure out how to indoctrinate people to some of the new rules, such as how you have to check your spiritual e-mailbox at least twice a year, on Christmas and Easter."  Ferdinand smiles.  "I have faith we'll do okay."


--- News Correspondent: Nicholas Cravotta



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