Indiana-based application developer Little iApps recently launched “Confession,” an application designed to help Catholics prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation.
The application sounds simple enough — it offers an examination of conscience tailored to the user. The developer touted the fact that “Confession” earned an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin Rhodes of Fort Wayne-South Bend — basically a declaration that nothing in the app stands contrary to Catholic Church teaching.
Basically, it’s a church-pew pamphlet in electronic form. Handy, but not revolutionary.
But, maybe misnamed.
With the name “Confession” — and not the perhaps more cumbersome “Examination of Conscience” — the application played itself into the hands of media headlines, news blurbs and 140-character tweets. Instead of explaining what the app actually was, news stories gave the impression that it was a techie substitute for the real in-the-confessional deal.
Reuters collected a few of the headlines:
• “Can’t Make it to Confession? There’s an App for That”
• “Catholic Church Approves Confession by iPhone”
• “Bless Me iPhone for I Have Sinned”
• “Catholic Church Endorses App for Sinning iPhone Users”
• “US Bishop Sanctions Cell Phone in Confession”
• “Forgiveness via iPhone: Church Approves Confession App”
• “New, Church-Approved iPhone Offers Confession On the Go”
• “Confess Your Sins to a Phone in Catholic Church Endorsed App”
• “Catholics Can Now Confess Using iPhone App”
• “Catholic Church Approves Online Confession”
• “Bless Me iPhone, For I Have Sinned”
Cheekiness aside, the headlines seriously skewed the intention of the app, raising the brow of many a confessing Catholic, I’m sure.
But all a wary Catholic — and any discerning reporter — had to do is visit its iTune page to see that there’s no iPriest behind the curtain. It’s clearly a confession aid, and nothing more. The first thing it says is that it’s “designed to be used in the confessional.”
So, confusion abated, right? Not yet.
The confusion about the app caused such a fuss that the Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi told journalists in Rome last week that Catholics could not obtain absolution via iPhone. New headlines again misconstrued this statement to mean that the Holy See condemns the app “Confession”: “Pope Bans Confession Via iPhone App.” “Vatican Voices Disapproval For Confession iPhone App.” “Pope (and Common Sense) Nix Confession App.”
But before you delete it from your iPhones and iPads, know that Father Lombardi did not condemn the “Confession” app. He did condemn any apps that would actually purport to offer confession over the phone, which “Confession” does not.
From Catholic News Service:
“Confession: A Roman Catholic App” for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch was recently released as a way for Catholics to prepare for and participate in the sacrament of penance. Some recent press reports, however, have suggested that the application could replace in-person confession.
“It’s essential to understand that the sacrament of penance requires a personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor, and absolution by the confessor who is present,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters.
“This is something that cannot be replaced by any application. One cannot speak of a ‘confession via iPhone,’” he said.
Father Lombardi said the new application could be useful in helping people make an examination of conscience. In the past, he noted, Catholics would sometimes use written questions and answers to prepare for confession, and that’s something that could be done today with the aid of a digital device.
So, there you have it. Download “Confession” freely, without burdening your conscience.