Insert terrible confession pun here.

The Interwebs are really lighting up with the story of a new iPhone app that aids Catholics in making a good confession. The app allows users to create a secure personal profile that then leads to a guided examination of conscience based on one’s age, gender, and state in life. You then “select” your sins to create a list that can be taken into the confessional. The app also has prompts for appropriate prayers during and after confession, then “wipes the slate clean” when you’re finished.

Clever — and useful, if you’re Catholic — but why has it rocketed up to number 42 on the best-selling app list? Why in the world are so many people suddenly so interested? Even Maureen Dowd, who is usually content to lecture the Church about how behind the times it is, is now sighing that “nothing is sacred anymore, even the sacred.”

It could have to do with the fact that many news outlets are getting the story wrong — suggesting that “the Church” has approved the app (it has been given the imprimatur by Bishop Kevin Rhodes). Some articles are even worse — like this headline from the Economic Times: “No time to visit church? Confess via iPhone.” The article opens,

Users of iPhone can now perform contrition and other religious rituals without visiting church, thanks to a new online application. 

 

Um, no. Sorry, guys — you still need the form of the sacrament for it to be a sacrament, and that doesn’t include absolution via iPhone.

Or maybe the misleading headlines convinced some people that they’d be getting an app more like Penance — one where users “confess” sins to each other… in which case they must have been sorely disappointed to find nothing more prurient than their own sins staring back at them. Clearly, the idea of confession is one of those mysterious things that still appeals to people, Catholic or no.

Personally, I think it could be a handy little tool, especially for those new to the Faith or who have been away from confession for a while and are unsure about how to proceed. It can be a little daunting stepping into that box for the first time (or the next hundred times), and having a pocket guide to walk you through it could only help take the edge off. I could easily see downloading this and storing it right next to my iBreviary app.

Father Z has an extensive review here. What do people think? Useful? Distracting?

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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