Having recently made it illegal to attend nearly every form of religious service, including accidentally making it illegal to attend your own wedding, the state has developed a new and innovative programme which will allow citizens to express their religious rights in a controlled and legal fashion by replacing priests with gardaí.
Gardaí in Arklow and Wicklow have set up a number of “chatting benches.” For “at least one hour every week” a member of the police force will be at available at each these benches to have “socially distanced chats” with members of the public. These chats, RTE says, “do not have to be garda-related” and the benches are “a safe place” for people to discuss “any issues of concern.”
Wicklow Gardaí are delighted to announce the expansion of the “Chatting Bench” initiative to Arklow’s St Mary’s Park. Anyone who wants to have a chat can check the Wicklow Garda Facebook page for the times Gardaí will be available for and come down for a talk.#HereToHelp pic.twitter.com/a3rZwltbqi
— Garda Info (@gardainfo) April 21, 2021
According to Superintendent Declan McCarthy, “A Garda will be present to have a chat, give advice or just say Hi.” This, the Superintendent says, “provides the perfect opportunity for people to interact more with the Gardaí in a neutral venue other than at a Garda Station.”
Whilst it appears that the Government has not yet granted individual garda the ability to absolve you of any sins you may divulge during this “chat”, and they will almost certainly attempt to arrest you if you divulge particular sins to them, the programme does represent the closest thing to confession you can currently legally attend. The programme has proven very successful, and the Gardaí have already announced it will shortly be expanded.
With competition from the clergy devastated, and entry into the sacramental market blocked by regulation, it appears clear that the “chatting bench” is set to become a market leader in this area and the Gardaí have now effectively assumed a monopoly position in relation to the provision of confession.
There has been no word yet if the Government plans to replace priests with gardaí, or other civil servants, in others areas, but given the current legal situation there’s definitely space for this programme to grow.