A Catholic bishop has approved Confession: A Roman Catholic App
, to allow Catholic iPhone users examine their consciences before seeing a priest. Though there's a clear explanation in the app's download page, and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana in the USA explained that it cannot replace the actual Sacrament of Reconciliation, some news accounts suggested you could "confess by iPhone
." The Vatican's press secretary released an official statement today
confirming that "one cannot speak in any way of confessing via iPhone."
The developer, Patrick Leinen of developer Little iApps, said
that he wrote the app "to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology." He claims it has already helped one person come back to the church after 20 years away. It's designed to be used in the confessional, as an aid to people who were not raised in the Church's traditions or have forgotten them after a long absence. For example, it prompts the user for the correct response when the priest says "give thanks to the Lord for he is good," which is to say "For his mercy endures forever." The app also walks the user through questions about actions that are contrary to the teachings of the Church, organized using the Ten Commandments.
Despite the fact that the app's iTunes page
explains that "it does not and can not take the place of confessing before a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest in a Confessional, in person, either face to face, or behind the screen," there were some reports
that the Bishop's imprimatur meant you could receive absolution using this app. When Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said that the app is "by no means a substitute for the sacrament," this was also
mixed up, with headlines like "Vatican bans Confession via iPhone
." However, Father Lombardi clearly explained
in his statement that "in a world in which many people use computer support for reading and reflection, digital technology can be useful in the preparation for confession."
In addition to the many mistaken reports, there was also some inevitable snickering by some commentators about using the app's categorizing of sins as a "to-do list." You don't have to share the dev's beliefs, of course, but it doesn't hurt anybody to be a little respectful. This seems to be a well-intentioned effort to help Catholics connect with their tradition. Confession: A Roman Catholic App is $1.99 on the iOS App Store