From the Guardian:
And from Catholic News Service:
A yawning gulf between the stern doctrines preached by Pope Benedict and the advice offered by ordinary Roman Catholic priests has been exposed by an Italian magazine which dispatched reporters to 24 churches around Italy where, in the confessional, they sought rulings on various moral dilemmas.
One reporter for L'espresso claimed to have let a doctor switch off the respirator that kept her father alive. "Don't think any more about it," she was told by a friar in Naples. "I myself, if I had a father, a wife or a child who had lived for years only because of artificial means, would pull out [the plug]."
Another journalist posed as a researcher who had received a lucrative offer to work abroad on embryonic stem cells. With the extra cash, he said, he and his wife could think about starting a family. So should he take up the post?
"Yes. Yes. Of course," came the reply.
The church's official teaching is that homosexuality is "disordered" and that homosexual behaviour is wrong. Yet a practising gay man in Rome was told: "Generally, the best attitude is to be yourself - what in English is called 'coming out'."
On one issue alone - abortion - the priests all stuck firmly to official doctrine. A reporter who said his wife had discovered their child would be born with Down's Syndrome, and that they were preparing to terminate her pregnancy, was told: "I swear to God: if you do it, you'll be a murderer."
But on other issues, that "moral relativism" so detested by Pope Benedict was the order of the day.
A journalist who said he was HIV-positive and used condoms to protect his partner was told it was "more of a personal problem, one of conscience".
The Vatican newspaper denounced an Italian journalist who posed as a penitent and confessed fake sins in order to write an expose on the sacrament of reconciliation.
"Fake confessions in search of a shameful scoop," the newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, headlined a commentary condemning the cover story of L'Espresso magazine, one of the country's leading weeklies.
"Shame! There is no other word to express our distress toward an operation that was disgusting, worthless, disrespectful and particularly offensive," the newspaper said.
The commentary said the article had exploited the good faith of confessors and offended the religious sentiments of millions of people.
"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.
The reporter made his false confessions to 24 different priests in five Italian cities, including Rome. The magazine said the idea was to see how priests handle difficult pastoral situations and whether they followed the strict norms laid out by church teaching.
The reporter, for example, told two priests he was HIV-positive and wondered whether he should use a condom when having sexual relations with his girlfriend. One told him no, and the other said it was a question of conscience, the magazine reported.
More than once, the magazine said, priests gave quite different advice on his supposed "sins," which included matters relating to homosexuality, divorce, stem-cell research, euthanasia and prostitution.
One issue that found unanimous condemnation by confessors was abortion, the magazine said.