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Thursday, May 24, 2007
A click away from confession
My wife Robin first mentioned this story to me. She had heard about a Web site called "" while listening to a morning radio program. My immediate reaction was, "This is a great story, but I've got to see it to believe it."

I went online and typed in the address: Sure enough, there it was -- a place you and I can go to confess our sins anonymously; a place we can be absolved of our sins if our written words are truly repentant and from the heart.

The Web site was set up by the nondenominational Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City, Florida. The church's lead pastor, Troy Gramling, and some church leaders came up with the idea as a way to reach people outside the church. Why couldn't the Internet highway be a road to salvation?

With so many people living a large part of their lives on the Internet, Gramling says the site is a way to bring people back to religion, in particular, the kind of people who don't feel comfortable with face-to-face confessions.

But he said he had no idea how huge a hit the site would become. About 1,100 confessions have been posted since the site went up on Easter Sunday. Most of them deal with sins of the flesh and drug addiction. Gramling admits there's no way to know for sure which are legit, but he is confident that the ones they post after a screening process are in fact the real deal.

I'm not going to quote any of the confessions here. You can read them for yourself.

Gramling, a young guy who dresses like he just stepped off a Texas cattle drive, isn't sure how long he will keep the site up. Because of its success, he says, perhaps indefinitely.

"It's cool" that so many people are coming to the site, Gramling says. But he is disturbed that so many people are carrying burdens in their heart and seemingly have no one with whom they can share them.

As I scrolled through the confessions, one thing became clear very quickly: the site is a place people are visiting -- at the very least -- to get things off their chest. Whether they are all true confessions is something between the authors and God.

--By John Zarrella, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 1:18 PM ET
While I find the idea of an online confessional intriguing, and yes, probably a bit therapeutic for some people, without safeguards in place to prevent the backtracking of confessions to the people who wrote them, what we're ultimately going to see is people going to jail, or if not to jail, then their lives ruined, as authorities investigate actions that may have been unlawful. Confession really is good for the soul, but there is no legal protection here whatsoever. -Rod- AKA USAPatriot
Well if it can make a person feel better, then it is a good place to start. Sometimes just telling your problems to a stranger can ease your burden...
Posted By sherry, cleveland,oh : 4:17 PM ET

I just checkout out the site. I was born & raised a devout Catholic. We were constantly reminded of the importance of making a good (& regular) confession. But I can't even remember when made my last one. It's not about doing the religous duty anymore. It's just so hard to bring myself to say what's on my mind.

Life gets the better of us sometimes. And no one seems able to help. There's no one we're willing to let in & see the darker bits of us.

It's obvious from what I read that people do feel penitent about some of the choices they've made. I think it's great that in a world where constant change & mobility, this was a long time coming.

Am glad someone took the initiative to do this, religous or not.
Posted By Avril Lobo, Mumbai, India : 4:23 PM ET
Hi John,

Very interesting piece. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

One thing I can say is this: thank goodness that Troy Gramling has found a way to use the internet for the greater good. He is surely making a huge step in the right direction.

Due to the anonymity of the Internet, Troy is providing a safe place for people to unburden themselves and hopefully make an about-face.

We appreciate that you at AC 360 bring us good news along with the serious topical information we need to keep informed.

Keep up the great work.
Posted By Pati McMillan, Camp Hill, PA : 4:24 PM ET
Wasn't there something a few years ago where people were sending email prayers to God? LOL! "Confessing" your sins on an online forum for all to see is like breaking up with your loved one on the Jerry Springer show. And I hope that this will allow certain Christians to see that we are all imperfect, so one shouldn't be so quick to condemn the lifestyles and personal preferences of others.
Posted By Bob, San Francisco, CA : 4:51 PM ET
Do you think God has high speed or dial up? Oh, wait, since he's omniscient, I guess he doesn't need either one.
Reading some (not all, mind you) of the posts made me should I put this...well, not so bad about my own life. I didn't realize so many people were into porn and having affairs.
Maybe the Catholic church could start doing online confessions instead of having to go through the agony of face to face confessions to a priest who is probably doing worse things than what the sinners are confessing to. Just a thought...
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 5:18 PM ET
Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I've always had a problem with the confessional. God is supposed to be everywhere and know everything, even what's in our hearts. So if we are truly sorry for our sins, wouldn't he know it, maybe even before we realize it ourselves?

As for doing it on the Internet, no way! I've seen what can happen when people get caught up in the spider web of the Internet. Sometimes it's not pretty.

At least in the confessional,the priest is bound to keep the information private, there are no rules governing the internet confessional.
Posted By Christina, Windber, PA : 5:33 PM ET
This is very interesting because recently I came across another similar site called :

People enter in their deep, sometimes 'dark' secrets pictorially. kinda like an adult scrapbook.

It does say something that such confessional websites are now increasing. It is disturbing to know so many people have such burdens in life, and also releiving at the same time that they have a forum now to put it down or atleast share their burdens and troubles anonymously.

How much of it is true we don't know, but hey if it helps one or two, its still worth it !
Posted By Supriya Raman, Boston, MA : 7:40 PM ET
Hi John Zarrella,

The political confessions crack me up. I did not know that a Republican would consider it a sinful act to vote for Democrat.
Posted By Ratna, New York,NY : 7:59 PM ET
At first, Websites like this seem like they could possibly make a difference in our community by allowing people to confess what they've done wrong. But after reading throught some of the "confessions" you quickly realize that a lot of people aren't confessing, they're bragging. And there's others who try to top other people's stories. There's another site called that's basically the same thing and this issue is clearly demonstrated there.
Posted By Darrin Cheraso San Antonio, TX : 10:26 PM ET
It is an awesome website that obviously has impacted thousands of people. Guilt weighs people down like a ball and chain. This website allows people to remove the guilt from their lives, and replace it with God's grace and mercy.
Posted By Steve Guschov, Lima, Peru : 10:37 PM ET
We love to confess... sometimes to a best friend, sometimes to our loved ones, sometimes to the pillow that we cry to at night, but human beings cannnot hold everything in.
I'm a survivor, and like many of my kind, we tend to think we don't need anyone. The truth is, we just dont like admitting our vulnerabilities.

So, here I am confessing away... in this blog. When people confess, there is mostly truth and a little "almost truth". No real lies.... its like meditating.. why lie?

So, another confession? Well, I think I might way for next month.... not really to put it all out on the table.

Ariston Neto
Miami Beach, FL
Posted By Ariston Neto : 4:10 AM ET
That actually sounds like an idea that Jesus might have had: humbly approaching the real people. Cool.
Posted By Naomi L. Schroeper-Couch, Axalp(Brienz), BE, Switzerland : 4:26 AM ET
"But he is disturbed that so many people are carrying burdens in their heart and seemingly have no one with whom they can share them."

I understand his sentiment but I think the real reason is that people are only concerned with themselves. Even if you try to tell the truth, if it goes against what someone has preconceived about another then so, so many choose to not believe, dismiss the truth or will openly attack the person for telling the truth. So many people with a large sense of self will say that they will decide the truth even if they have no idea what the truth is and when you try to tell them, they don't want to listen because they have already determined what their own truth is. And yet people want to unburden themselves without being judged and something like this is the only way.

For example: Don't tell management that your boss, a 25 year employee, is stealing money. They won't listen but then after he fires you for reporting him, they will find out that he really WAS stealing money and terminate him. Sometimes justice is slow but every so comforting in the end.
Posted By Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 8:42 AM ET
This rocks! Thank God for a church that is willing to take a risk to help hurting people. They have sent a message to their entire community and beyond that they are a safe place for the screwed and the screwed up - which is all of us. Go Troy! Go Flamingo Road Church.
Posted By Dan Southerland, Charlotte, North Carolina : 10:13 AM ET
This is ridiculous. What ever happened to apologizing to the people you hurt with your dirty little trangressions? Oh, posting this stuff makes it all better. I see. Get a life.
Posted By A. Roy Olson, Tucson, AZ : 10:54 AM ET
Oftentimes people object to the Catholic sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation) by saying that it is unnecessary, because God can forgive one's sins without the intercession of a priest. However, it is Jesus himself who, according to the Gospel of John, Chapeter 20:21-23, said, after his Resurrection, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." It is from this Scripture passage that Confession originates.

Several people have noted in their posts that essentially, "Confession is good for the soul." While indeed God can forgive sins without the need of a priest, perhaps Jesus established the Sacrament specifically because he knew of our need to unburden ourselves to a person that is physically present. There is something cathartic about confessing to a priest, receiving spiritual guidance, and actually hearing the words of forgiveness spoken by him in Jesus' name.

That having been said, the Catholic Sacrament of Confession can be almost as anonymous as typing something online. In any church I've gone to, I've always had the option of going to Confession behind a screen, where the priest could not see me.

Just some food for thought.
Posted By KTB, Maryland : 2:06 PM ET
I also feel a confession web site is ridiculous.

If you don't believe that Jesus hears you when you ask for His forgiveness and confessing your sins to HIM doesn't give you peace, how could confessing your sins on a world wide web site to strangers? HE can absolve you of your sins - Strangers do not possess that power.
Posted By Tricia Charlottetown PEI : 4:06 PM ET
Confession and absolution of sin for me are intimate acts between a person, the person harmed, and the God of those parties understanding. It's not an event for the world to see. Sharing experience, strength, and hope when one has overcome a tragic event or resolved some issue and is trying to help others get through similar crises is healthy. This confession site is not. It promotes spreading intimate details for the world to see without offering hope or solutions. I would suggest these people find a therapist, a social worker, a priest, a minister, a rabbi, or some other professionally trained person to help them deal with their issues and the shame and guilt that apparently plague them so that they can find true healing and peace in their lives. People can confess all they want. Until we forgive ourselves for our wrongs (real or imagined), wholeness cannot be found. I cannot see how this site provides any healing at all but instead written proof of past pain caused to self and others.
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 5:09 PM ET
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