Vatican Denounces Reporter Who Went Undercover in the Confessional

Vatican officials are outraged that an investigative reporter posed as a sinner to see how various priests would respond to his sins in confession.

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, denounced Riccardo Bocca's Jan. 29 story in L'Espresso magazine, in which the reporter visited 24 confessionals — posing as an HIV-positive man who wanted to use condoms with his partner, a doctor with a cocaine habit and a divorcee finding love anew — to see how much the priests' advice varied from Roman Catholic teachings.

"Shame! There is no other word to express our distress toward an operation that was disgusting, worthless, disrespectful and particularly offensive," the Vatican's paper said in an editorial headlined "Fake confessions in search of a shameful scoop."

In his story for the magazine, Bocca visited confessionals in five Italian cities: Milan, Rome, Turin, Naples and Palermo.

Click here to read Bocca's L'Espresso story (in Italian).

He found priests did deviate from church law. For example, two priests offered varied advice to Bocca when he said he was an HIV-positive man wondering if he should use a condom with his girlfriend.

One priest followed church teaching and told him not to use a condom, and the other, a priest in Turin, said it was a matter of conscience.

According to the Catholic News Service, the Vatican newspaper found Bocca's article exploited the good faith of confessors and offended the religious sentiments of millions of people.

Click here to read the Catholic News Service report.

"It was a sacrilege, because it violated the sacred space in which a self-recognized sinner asks intimately to receive God's merciful love," it said.

Bocca admits in the beginning of the story that he made up the sins to see if there was a disconnect between church dictates and real-world problems for Italians.'s Sara Bonisteel contributed to this report.