The Washington Post has an interesting article about the Vatican’s “tribunal of conscience” which is an extra special level of confession that you have to go to for very particular sins. Here’s how it works according to the Post:
Confessions of even the most heinous of crimes and sins – such as genocide or mass murder – are handled at the local level by priests and their bishops and are not heard by the tribunal.
[The tribunal’s] work involves those sins that are reserved for the pope – considered so serious that a local priest or bishop is not qualified to grant absolution, said Cardinal James Francis Stafford, an American who heads the Apostolic Penitentiary.
These include defiling the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ. Stafford said this offense is occurring with more and more frequency, not just in satanic rites but by ordinary faithful who receive Communion and then remove the host from their mouths and spit it out or otherwise desecrate it.
Others include a priest breaking the seal of the confessional by revealing the nature of the sin and the person who sought penance, or a priest who has sex with someone and then offered forgiveness for the act.
These sins bring automatic excommunication from the church. Once absolution is granted, the excommunication is lifted, Stafford said.
Yeah, did you catch that? Mass murder, your local priest can help you out with that. Spitting out a little wafer–you’re going to need to head to Vatican City to get that dealt with.
There are times I’ve been jealous of the whole Catholic confession thing, but when I hear this, I’m all about our own system of confession.