I sat down. The seat was hard; wood, or more likely laminate, in these frugal times. The hatch drew back, the sliding wood sound a satisfyingly binaural experience. The screen showed only a lattice-disguised face above the collar. There wasn’t much time, I got down to the purpose of the exercise:
‘Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been…’ How long had it been? Longer than it should have been; more than a week, certainly. I went on:
‘…too long since my last confession.’
Too long. The new system had been a long time coming since a far from immaculate conception. The traditionalists had hated the idea from the start; then they had insisted on in-house software designers and hardware consultants. Our house has many mansions, but this had been a tall order. Eventually we had dragooned some experts from the financial offices inside the City. But the interactive GUI had had to be contracted out.
‘Do you have sins to confess before God, my son?’
The voice sounded familiar; avuncular, Irish-American: Barry Fitzgerald in Boys Town, maybe.
‘In the last week I have been slothful, Father. I have not completed the tasks set me. I have been envious of my superiors; envious of their status and the praise they have received. I have known greed.’
And I had; telephone calls from Seattle had excited an avarice unseemly for one in my position.
The voice changed. Younger sounding; De Niro-ish.
‘Do you truly repent of your sins?’
‘I do, Father.’ But I was adding false witness to a list that I had barely started. No matter. Time was short.
‘Perform the act of contrition. Go forth and sin no more.’ The voice had changed again. Some plummy English accent; it sounded like a Hollywood villain.
The lights went up. I looked at the auditorium from the open fronted booth. The red of the hats were bobbing in time with their animated whispers. At the front the papal mitre drew my eye. His Holiness said nothing, just fixed me with an eye full of rage or despair.
Feeling quite the hierophant, I proclaimed:
‘Your Holiness, fellow Cardinals: it is ready. The Holy Roman Catholic Church can go virtual.’
The applause was - if I say so myself - 'tumultuous': I realised I should add the sin of pride to my list. Smiling at the claque behind His Holiness I thought about opportunities for grooming.