Like BC Memes and Boston College Compliments before it, the Boston College Confessions page has taken over our newsfeeds and collective consciousness with admissions ranging from the horrifying to the hilarious. With its ever-growing 3,382 likes and over 5,000 posts, the page has revealed a lot about the micro culture on the Heights over the past month.
Compared to other colleges with similar pages, BC Confessions takes on an entirely different set of nuances when looked at through the context of a Catholic university.
Most Catholics will tell you that confession and reconciliation are very normal aspects of their religious life. But for years, churches across the United States have seen the number of people who attend mass dwindle and the number participating in confession fall even more. One could endlessly debate the reasons behind these trends, but based on my experiences on Facebook this past month, I think it’s pretty clear that it is not because people are uncomfortable confessing.
As the About section of BC Confessions suggests, “Open confession is good for the soul.” The church has provided confession as a service within the Sacrament of Reconciliation to Catholics for hundreds of years, but somewhere along the line, many of us strayed from this source of catharsis in favor of other means.
So it begs the question: Is a page like Boston College Confessions somehow taking on the role of the church, or is there no replacement for traditional confession?
One of the main draws of BC Confessions is its condition of anonymity. Users submit their confessions to SurveyMonkey instead of a Facebook inbox, so their identities are never compromised. The page’s administrators take those submissions and then post them to the BC Confessions timeline for its followers to read and interact with.
Anonymity makes a huge difference. From the comical, “#4476: I'm still upset that my college experience hasn't resembled Boy Meets World AT ALL,” to the truly heartbreaking, “#18: No matter how much I try or how much I'm involved in, Boston College has made me feel the most lonely I've ever been,” the confessions run the gamut in terms of subject matter and sentiment.
The confessors then receive feedback from other students in the form of comments or likes, again, without ever having identified themselves as confessors. The comments range from healthy discussions of pertinent student issues (most notably the recent BCSSH controversy) to offerings of support for those dealing with all kinds of struggles. Even when the comments have been less than kind, which is seemingly far from the norm, the confessor never faces public shame for his/her submission.
Even more powerful is the fact that you do not actually have to make a submission to participate in BC Confessions. Students can sit back and read each post, gleaning insight into their peers and community – perhaps even questioning the commonly held school stereotypes – without ever having to confess themselves. This aspect has the potential to create a more compassionate and understanding student body, which on its own would be a worthwhile gain for this school.
Like BC Confessions, Catholic confession is anonymous. Participants receive feedback from a real, live priest instead of a handful of commentors on Facebook. Yet, Catholic students are choosing BC Confessions over confession in the church?
Part of the answer lies in the idea of forgiveness. Catholics undergo the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the idea that their sins will be resolved with the Church after doing so. But the key difference is that on BC Confessions, students are not always looking for absolution. In fact, many students make confessions on Facebook seeking acceptance from the wider college community:
“#4652: I just want a guy to call me beautiful”
“#4252: I smoke a bowl and dance alone in my room every morning before class. It's my idea of cardio.”
BC Confessions addresses the idea that students might want to confess not because they are looking for forgiveness, but because they are looking for their weird habits or unusual interests to be accepted. It has provided a new forum for these types of interactions to take place.
And beyond acceptance, we have seen students genuinely reach out for help with all sorts of struggles, from roommate issues to eating disorders or drug addiction. As a result, we’ve seen the creation of the “helpbceagles” Facebook page and email (email@example.com) and have seen countless confessions receive referrals to other services through the comments section.
But the page is not without its flaws. Any student who frequents the page knows that many of the confessions are probably untrue, whether they’re meant to be jokes or just flat-out lies. Like any fad, we also have to wonder if BC Confessions will have the same fate as BC Memes or Compliments. Its popularity may be as fleeting as any other campus trend.
In instances like these where we see services predominately associated with the church become reintroduced in the secular world, it is important as students at a Catholic university to question if and how the two interact with each other. The rise of BC Confessions should be cause for any Catholic to reevaluate the role of confession in his/her life and ask whether or not it is contributing to or detracting from his/her experience in the church.