Catholic E-Church Praised as "Success"
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:
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
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
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.
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!"
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."
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":
wear and tear on Sunday Best
$$$: Eat in for Breakfast
name a few.
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."
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.
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 www.e-church.com, 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."
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."
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."
James, e-lay minister for www.e-church.com, 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!"
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
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.
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