Priest Caught Selling Absolution on eBay

Bronx, New York, May 12, 2009 -- A Catholic priest from the Norwood neighbourhood of Bronx, New York, has been charged with selling absolution via an account on eBay, the popular online auction website.

An example of Father Butler's laminated absolution cardAn example of Father Butler's laminated absolution card

The priest, Father Augustine Butler, allegedly offered "Complete absolution for all sins, past, present and future" at a starting bid of $250. Nearly 2,440 eBay users took Mr. Butler up on his "limited supply" offer before church authorities were apprised of the transgression.

"Father Butler's actions have brought shame down upon himself, the Catholic church, and to eBay, the respected internet auction house," Cardinal Primaverde, of the Archdiocese of New York, said.

According to eBay users who purchased absolution from Father Butler, the offer "looked too good to refuse".

"Let's face it, I'm no choirboy," Rick Tattaglia, a Morris Park nightclub owner, said. "$250 bucks to clean my slate without even showing up in church, I tell you, it's a no-brainer. Of course I put in a bid."

Mr. Tattaglia said that due to competitive bidding Father Butler's eBay absolution eventually wound up costing him nearly $890, including shipping, but that it "was completely worth it. We're talking about my immortal soul here."

"The past and present stuff alone is worth the money—hey, I got plenty of skeletons—but the future part's the clincher," Mr. Tattaglia said. "I'm not saying I'm going to go out and grab the first hooker I lay eyes on, but if I happen to slip, which, knowing myself, I probably will, I ain't going to be looking at anything worse than maybe a shot of penicillin in the ass. That beats damnation any day of the week. With Father Butler's laminated absolution card in my pocket, it's like I got a get out of jail free card."

According to Catholic religious tradition, absolution is a gift that can only be bestowed by a priest in conjunction with an appropriate penance following a sacramental confession of sins by a penitent.

Technically, according to Ignatius Reilly, a religious scholar with Fordham University's Rose Hill campus, by omitting both the confession and the penance elements from the absolution package, Father Butler rendered himself guilty of a severe violation of that tradition.

"While the Church does not now frown, nor has it ever frowned, upon a fair and just monetary compensation for its vital services to the soul of the laity, it is my opinion that Father Butler should be reprimanded and potentially defrocked for his blatant disregard for the proper priestly procedures. Or for using eBay and his powers for his own monetary benefit, or simply for being such a smartass. And I intend to transmit that recommendation to the Archdiocese," Father Joseph Ridley, also of Norwood, said.

Mr. Reilly, however, explained that defrocking alone need not necessarily impinge on Father Butler's illicit soul-burnishing.

"Defrocking only makes it illegal for a priest, or a former priest, that is, to use his sacramental powers," Mr. Reilly said. "It doesn't make the sacramental powers stop working. So even if they laicize him, he's still going to be perfectly capable of selling valid absolutions over eBay. Father Butler's really got them over a barrel with this one."

Father Butler, reached via fax at his new home in Aspen, Colorado, said he wasn't particularly worried about the defrocking issue.

"The way I see it, I'm tending to my flock in the best and most efficient way I know how, and if I take a little off the top for my efforts with the help of eBay, so be it. Caveat emptor," Father Butler wrote. "As far as the fate of my immortal soul goes, don't you worry. I have plenty of laminated cards left."

In a related story, eBay has announced that souls, consciences, egos, "mojo" and other intangible merchandise will no longer be permissible for auction on the site, due to frequent buyer complaints of non-delivery.

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

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