Wednesday, February 9, 2011

There's an App For That -- Confession?

In a very cleverly title story, Forgive me iPhone, For I Have Sinned, CBS news reporter, Ian Bush, looks at the new "app" to aid a penitent in the Sacrament of Confession. Bush points out that confession can be intimidating and that this new app will help Catholics "take the intimidation factor" out of confessing their sins to a priest.

Well, confession is not easy. That's certainly true. But, the fact that there is a level of guilt associated with saying one's sins out loud to a priest is part of the process. It builds character and reminds the penitent that there are consequences to committing sin -- one of them is recognizing that saying your faults out loud is humiliating. But, hopefully, it is also life changing as a result of receiving the grace that flows from Jesus Christ through the sacrament. The more frequently one attends confession, the less intimidating the act of confessing one's sins becomes. And, the more regularly one goes, the more comfortable one becomes with the process, as well.

The iPhone app is just another technological crutch for those who visit the sacrament infrequently. What it provides on the touch screen of the device is readily available in the walls of nearly all confessionals -- the procedure and prayers necessary to make a good confession from start to finish -- no app necessary.

Fr. Jerry Wild of Temple University's Newman Center offers, "We certainly live in a technological age, so the Church has to be aware of that and respond to that reality." There is truth to that statement, but when technology must accompany a person into the confessional to provide a sense of security, I think we need to address the problem of attachment to technology -- which, in itself, becomes the stuff of habitual sin.

I'm not sure the iPhone app is responding to a need, or creating a dependence.


Karen said...

Actually, when I looked at this app, I wish they had it for the Blackberry--just to help me organize myself through the examen, or helping me find things I don't normally consider. I confess regularly, so I can't envision myself pulling it out in the Confessional for assistance, but I could see maybe reviewing it while waiting in line before I go in.

If it helps someone who hasn't been to the sacrament get back there, then I see it as a good thing, and with time they might not need their techno crutch.

Not perfect by any means, but not terrible either.

Kathy said...


Thanks for the comments. I'm intrigued by the whole thing, and not entirely convinced that this is the best use of media. Although, there is always the similar argument that "bad liturgy sometimes helps to bring people back/into the Church" -- I'm not sure I'm entirely convinced of that either. :o)

Allison said...

I take my prayer book or "pink slip" in with me. If there's an "ap" to do this job, why not? Let's get people back to Confession and let Our Lord do the rest. What I find more troubling is that people think the "ap" is Confession in some cases....

Kathy said...

Hi Allison,

There was a pretty good discussion on my FB account about this, too. I think that there is potential for this to go both ways -- lots of pros and cons. There was a statement shared by the USCCB about this. And the Church in her wisdom stopped the rhetoric right in its tracks. I'll post it later.

Peony Moss said...

I'm with Allison. This app is no different from a prayer book or tract or printed flyer.

Presenting this information as an app makes it so easy to find, so easy to get: a whisper of the Spirit, a click of the mouse, and there it is on your very own gizmo, to be perused and pondered.

Not everybody knows that the Act of Contrition is often on the inside of the Confessional. (Not every Confessional has this.) Not everybody has tracts in the back of the church, or knows where their friendly neighborhood Catholic bookstore is (or HAS a friendly neighborhood Catholic bookstore.) Confessing sins is difficult enough; tracts, flyers, and apps like this help nervous penitents over the difficulty of "what do I say?? when do I say it?? am I doing it right??"

Yesterday Jennifer and Greg Willits were talking about the app on their radio show; they've seen the app and, IIRC, mentioned that the examination of conscience is very thorough.

They also mentioned that on launch day the app was one of that day's best sellers, outselling, among others, Martha Stewart's cookie app -- and that the app was getting positive press in surprising places. The app will make it easy for curious non-Catholics to learn more about this Sacrament as well.

Davin Winger said...

Well at least the app made some press and got people talking about Confession and what it it all about.

As far as being worried about technology entering the confessional, isn't a tract or a book a form of technology? They are just a form that we are comfortable with.