SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Can your iPad or iPhone bring you closer to God? A new application for the devices aims to help Roman Catholics who haven’t been to the confessional booth in a while keep track of their sins, one Commandment at a time.
The $1.99 “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” can’t grant forgiveness – you still need to receive the sacrament from a real, live priest like always. The app’s designers and some believers see it as a way to spur Catholics back into the habit of repenting.
“There’s a reason we designed it for these mobile devices: We want you to go to confession,” said Patrick Leinen, one of the developers and a co-founder of the company Little iApps.
Over the last several decades, American Catholics have been receiving the penitential sacrament less frequently, and many of them may not know how it’s done.
“As somebody who’s heard thousands of confessions, there are some people who get so scared coming in that they lose their train of thought and they’re not able to remember everything they planned to say,” said the Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, who advised the developers.
The text-based app takes the user through the Ten Commandments, with a slew of questions attached to each, a process known as an examination of conscience, which penitents undergo before confession.
Questions range from “Have I wished evil upon another person?” to “Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?” and users can check a box next to each sin they’ve committed.
Once that’s done, the app lists the user’s sins and displays a written act of contrition, a prayer recited by the penitent. From there, it walks the user through the rest of the steps of confession.
Response to the new app from the church has been cautious but positive; the Most Rev. Kevin Rhoades, bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, gave his imprimatur to the app, essentially an acknowledgment that it doesn’t conflict with Catholic teaching.
The Vatican weighed in as word of the app spread through Catholic circles. A church spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that only a priest may hear confession.
But a believer could use a digital instrument, such as an iPhone, to prepare for confession in the same way people once did with a pen and paper, he said.