"There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution," Oscar Wilde wrote in "The Picture of Dorian Gray."
And these days, more people are turning to the Web, not the clergy, to clear their conscience.
One woman's devil-made-me-do-it scenario describes her losing battle against infidelity in an anonymous posting on Confessions.net.
"I thought I could control myself around you. I thought you'd watch yourself around me. Both our angels flew off our shoulders, and the devils won."
While people may be ashamed of their transgressions, the very public Internet doesn't deter them from letting their skeletons out of the closet, as there are now dozens of Web sites dedicated to online confessions.
Eric Borgos created Confessions.net over a year ago and continues to review and add dozens of new confessions every month.
"People have a need to confess, but some of the stuff posted on my site is so bad or embarrassing, people would never tell their secret to anybody they know, so posting anonymously online is a great outlet for it," Borgos said.
One anonymous user confessed that he supplies his parents with marijuana, describing mom and dad as "old hippies."
"I have to buy my mom weed because she doesn't know any dealers or whatever anymore," the poster lamented online. "Then she complains that it makes her cough or something, but she gets angry when my dad starts cultivating at home."
Borgos said users don't like being judged by people they know, but getting a reply from anonymous strangers who read their confessions – whether it's advice or condemnation – makes it more exciting.
One man's story of revenge centered more on satisfaction than remorse.
"I sent the IRS a tax fraud alert about him," he wrote of a former colleague. "I had his Social Security from a credit check I did for him some time back (in the business), when we were friends. The IRS audit should kill his finances. Revenge is sweet."
Borgos said people get a thrill from telling secrets they know others are eager to read.
"Some also probably feel that confessing their sins is the first step towards salvation, like with real confession in church," he said.
Confession, or the admission of guilt, is considered by most churches an integral part of being a Christian. For Roman Catholics, the act is known as penance or reconciliation, one of the faith's seven holy sacraments.
Joseph Zwilling, the director of communications for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, is quick to reject the validity of online confessions, citing that it "certainly would not have any sacramental value."
"In order for the sacrament to be valid, there must be ritual involved in it," Zwilling said. "You have to have a priest absolve you of the sins."
And while people continue to use "Oprah," "Dr. Laura" and the World Wide Web as modern-day confessionals, Zwilling said the number of Catholics attending traditional confession has not wavered.