iPhone app helps confess sins

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 9 2011 4:00 p.m. MST

Need some help confessing your sins? There's an app for that. "Confession: A Roman Catholic App" sells for $1.99 on the iTunes Store. The app, designed by three friends in Indiana with the help of some Catholic priests, has shot up to be the 26th top paid app on iTunes — right ahead of "Plants vs. Zombies."

But "Confession" is not a game.

It's also not a way for Catholics to bypass the Catholic sacrament of confession.

Tim Stevens at engadget.com described it this way: "(I)t lets you pick a commandment and tick off all your sins, keeping a running tally to bring into the confessional with you — a sort of anti-tasklist, if you will. Can't find your particular misstep? No problem! You're able to add your own, custom dastardly deeds, filling in those gaps the app's authors didn't think anyone would fill."

BBC reported the purpose with less humor: "The app takes users through the sacrament — in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings — and allows them to keep track of their sins. It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalized factors such as age, sex and marital status — but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely."

A spokesperson from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales told BBC News the app was a "useful tool to help people prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation."

"The Church believes in embracing new technology," the spokesperson told BBC, "and this creative app will hopefully help people to make a good confession."

According to a press release at the developer's website, www.littleapps.com, Little iApps developer and co-founder, Patrick Leinen, said, "Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology. Taking to heart Pope Benedict XVI's message from last years' World Communications Address, our goal with this project is to offer a digital application that is truly 'new media at the service of the Word.' The app has already aided one man in returning to the sacrament after 20 years. We hope many more will take advantage of this new confession resource."

Pope Benedict XVI spoke on "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word" in Jan. 2010. He encouraged Catholics to embrace the digital world so that "the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different 'highways' that form 'cyberspace,' and show that God has his rightful place in every age, including our own."

The developers were serious enough to seek and receive official approval for their project from their local Catholic bishop. Vince LaBarbera, a spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana confirmed that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gave the imprimatur, the official recognition the developers sought.

But if the developers were serious, many media reports have seen it as an opportunity to approach the app with humor.

Reuters' story had the headline, "Bless me iPhone for I have sinned." The New York Daily News proclaimed it the "Holy App!" Switched.com called it "Confessions On the Go." The Washington Post headline was "Bless me, Father, for I have an iPhone."

The Catholic News Service (CNS), however, was less jocular. One CNS article said "users who have not been to Confession in some time have reported that using the app takes away the 'intimidation factor' of going to confess their sins."

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