Posted by: L. E. Barnes | April 5, 2011

Drive-through Confessions? Thankfully, No

The Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, ran a story recently about the plans of Catholic priest Fr. Bob Maguire to make the rite of reconciliation (popularly referred to as “confession”) more modern and convenient:

As part of the plan sinful [sic] could repent on the run with the opening today of Australia’s first drive-through confessional.

And we reported, The pray-as-you-go service was set to become slicker, with a sin-selection board to be installed by Easter and a smartphone app on the way.

South Melbourne Catholic priest Fr Bob Maguire said yesterday that the move brought the church up to speed with modern life.

“Everybody drives past this place but no one comes in,” Fr Maguire said.

“Now they can stop at the window, open their window and confess their sins. Then I’ll reassure them that they’ll be right.”

The 60-second car wash for the soul was supposedly to include a symbolically refreshing spray of rose water.

A flashing green light will signal when a driver’s sins have been forgiven. “When you’re driving out you’ll be clean as a whistle,” Fr Maguire said before his prank was revealed.

The seven cardinal sins – lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy and pride – will be numbered on a sign, Chinese menu-style.

From 6.30am, sinners will repent at a mobile unit dubbed the Hopemobile in the St Peter and Paul’s church driveway, confessing, for instance, to three No.7s and a No.4.

Fr Maguire proposed the coded response was meant to maintain confidentiality.

A more permanent set-up should be in place by Easter and Fr Maguire is hoping for a sponsor to cover set-up costs.

He said some overseas churches had confessional sponsors. At least one had a bookmaker as the backer. “They called it O’Flaherty’s sin bin or something,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Of course, rather than being helpful, such a thing would turn this sacrament into a big joke.

And in fact, it turns out that the whole story was nothing but a joke–an April Fool’s prank, to be exact. So thankfully, Fr. Maguire’s parishioners will still go to confession the good old fashioned way, and not as if they were placing an order at McDonald’s.

Still, is such a joke in good taste? The Herald Sun reports:

“I don’t think I’ll be getting a medal from the Church,” Father Bob admitted.

But he said he was happy to play the fool, if it meant that he got the message of Christ into the community.

“Like all parables the drive-through was designed to raise awareness of sin and forgiveness especially during Lent,” he said.

Whatever his motives, I still feel that Fr. Maguire’s April Fool’s lark is really pushing the envelope. What about you? Do you consider it harmless fun–and perhaps even beneficial, as Fr. Maguire apparently intended it to be? Or does it smack of sacrilege?



  1. My mind is divided on this. If he had been even more edgy and extreme it would have been easily seen as a prank. Sometimes pranks can catch the attention of people who need to be thinking on God. But halfway through this I was wondering if it was true and praying “I hope not.” OK, I’m gullible. And drive-through confession is most unappealing. It’s in the class of the Southern Baptist minister who decided to provide “drive-through” funerals. The whole idea is demeaning. There is probably a much better way to draw attention to the need for confession than this joke.

    BTW, I tagged you in my post – Why I love Jesus – if you’re interested in joining this meme.

    • I agree with you. It sounds like the fellow had good intentions, but I don’t feel comfortable with things like that. If a priest at my parish had done it, I suspect the bishop wouldn’t be happy!
      I’ll check out your new meme. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I feel the same as you and Barb.

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