Catholic Church implements sin audits

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Related article: Pope to grant sainthood to pets

Pope Benedict searches for a lost contact lens at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during his trip to Jerusalem earlier this month.  (Carsten Koall/Associated Press)
Pope Benedict searches for a lost contact lens at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during his trip to Jerusalem earlier this month. (Carsten Koall/Associated Press)

VATICAN CITY — The Roman Catholic Church has begun toimplement sin audits, according to a report released by the Vatican this week.

“Most Catholics understand the Church to be the repository of God’s grace, but that’s only part of the picture,” explained Rev. Johann Tetzel of the office of the Grand Auditor at a press conference earlier this week. “This grace has to be carefully audited and accounted for; it can’t just be distributed willy nilly.”

According to Tetzel, whose family has reported served the Catholic Church in the capacity of grace accountants for generations, the Church has to balance the amount of indulgences distributed with the sins committed in an annual report submitted to Heaven every year.

“Our report has to resound with other reports that Heaven receives, such as outcries for justice from various parts of the world. When people come to Confession to declare their sins, we offer absolution, but that only keeps the sinner out of hell. What people need to remember is that there still needs to be temporal punishment for sin which occurs for the most part in Purgatory after death.”

According to Tetzel, the church absorbs the sinner’s responsibility to a degree by offering indulgences, but historically the confessor is expected to contribute something toward this. These days, user fees typically range from a few Hail Marys for a slight sin such as muttering a curse under one’s breath, to several decades of the rosarie for larger sins like cutting someone off in traffic.

“We have a self-assessing system,” explained Tetzel. “And for the most part it has worked pretty well. Problems arise where little Johnny comes to Confession and makes up a bunch of little sins to cover for the fact that he’s selling drugs on the playground. He doesn’t want us to know about the drugs, but if he says nothing, he knows we’ll be suspicious.”

Tetzel said that the Vatican will be implementing a matching system, so that sins reported in the Confessional will need to correspond with sins determined by other means. For example, a new snitch line will let users call and report if a co-worker has gotten a little tipsy at an office party.

The system is not without growing pains. Maria Rosa, a waitress in Vancouver, was subjected to an audit earlier this year. “They came to my house,” she said. “They start asking all these questions. They ask, ‘Did you stick your tongue out at your sister, Suzie, when you were twelver?’ I say to them, ‘I don’t know. I don’t remember.’ They ask me, ‘Do you have any records?’ I say, ‘No. I don’t keep track.’ They say, ‘You have to keep track.'” Three weeks after the visit from Catholic authorities, Rosa says she received a notice advising her that she had to say three Hail Marys for sins she committed when she was twelve, plus penalty and interest charges amounting to seventy thousand more Hail Marys. “It’s outrageous,” she said.

Observers have suggested that the Vatican crackdown may be an indication that the end of the world is approaching. “At the end of the world, all accounts will have to be closed,” explains apocalypse expert Bill Nostradamus. “Purgatory will be emptied out, and if there are any shortfalls, there will be literally hell to pay. And it will be the papacy throughout the generations that could be held responsible.” Nostradamus further explains that according to some estimates, the Catholic Church handed out indulgences valued at 44.8 million years in Purgatory last year. “The fact that they are now starting to get stingy may indicate that Purgatory is soon to be wrapped up. That’s a sign of the coming Apocalypse.”

How does one avoid an audit like the one Rosa was subjected to this year? According to Tetzel, anyone who makes a voluntary disclosure before the Vatican commences enforcement action can avoid penalties. They only have to make the required penance and any interest. Catholics who are unable to say something like seventy thousand Hail Marys in one shot can make an arrangement to say the prayers over a period of time, or volunteer teaching catechism classes for their local parish.

Catholics who have unconfessed sin are advised to consult with their parish priest.

Related article: Pope to grant sainthood to pets

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