Bless me, Father, for I have an iPhone

By Elizabeth Tenety Image via littleiapps.com/ Bless me, Father, for I have an iPhone app which says that you should … Continued

By Elizabeth Tenety


Image via littleiapps.com/

Bless me, Father, for I have an iPhone app which says that you should bless me now.

Confession: The Roman Catholic App has landed at Apple and according to its creators is, “designed to be used in the confessional [as] the perfect aid for every penitent.”

The customizable program, endorsed by the U.S. Bishops (it even comes with a Nihil Obstat, an official signal of theological endorsement) aids Catholics in their examination of conscience and guides them to “prayerfully prepare for and participate in the Rite of Penance.”

During confession, Catholics tell the ministering priest the sins they have committed, receive wisdom or guidance, are assigned a penance, express their contrition and are granted absolution. For many, it’s a sacrament fraught with emotion. It’s also increasingly unpopular, and today nearly half of Catholics never go.

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, a 2008 study found that 45 percent of Catholics said they never participate in the the sacrament. Only 26 percent confess their sins at least once a year, despite church teaching that commands a yearly confession.

The Catholic Church in America has tried a variety of approaches to increase participation in the sacrament, which has been declining for decades. In recent years, the Archdiocese of Washington has used Lent –a traditional season of penance –as an opportunity to remind Catholics that “The Light is On For You.”

The iPhone and iPad app not only adds a dash of the 21st century to the ancient practice, but its specificity may make it easier for sinners to repent. Among its features are “custom examination of conscience based upon age, sex, and vocation (single, married, priest, or religious)” (since sex, for example, is permitted for married couple but not singles, priests or religious), “password protected accounts” (there remains the silence of the confessional) and the “ability to add sins not listed in standard examination of conscience.” Gulp.

Confession: The Roman Catholic App seems more than a gimmick, but will consumers take it seriously?

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • rmkraus

    what’s the GULP for? . . . . you don’t know about those new unlisted sins?

  • areyousaying

    In the “User Setup” tab can an adolescent boy opt out of a private session in the confessional with the priest?

  • colinwmasters

    Just a thought: if the Church wants more followers to go to confession, maybe the app should be free. Especially considering the wealth of the Church…

  • robitjs123

    What if some haker gets in, sees the confession and missuses it

  • lepidopteryx

    Maybe it’s because I’ve never been Catholic, but I’ve never understood why it was necessary for a person to confess their sins to a priest – a mortal man – if it was God who did the forgiving. Why not just talk directly to God?Of course, I don’t believe that God can forgive me if I wrong another living being. Only the being I have wronged has the power to forgive me.

  • theFieldMarshall

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster will absolve you and it’s free.

  • theFieldMarshall

    Jesus set up the sacrament of confession as a way to heal sin and human weakness. He told the apostles: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” — John 20:21-23———————————Ah yes, the Bible validating itself. Completely self serving

  • stevie7

    If John:20 really implies that we need the aid of a priest to confess our sins properly, how come it took the RCC over a thousand years to figure it out? Did they forget about that passage? (Confessions were introduced in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215). The makers of this app probably didn’t do their market research, or maybe they’re fine with a nice market, since a 1997 survey showed that only 10 percent of Catholics attend confession monthly.

  • larry59

    To Elizabeth TenetyReport well done. Just one wee correction.

  • lepidopteryx

    You folks have fun with your confession thing. Personally, I just see no reason to confess my “sins” to someone who was not harmed by my actions and who can’t forgive me for them. I’ll stick with my notion of “confessing” to the person I actually wronged and seeking forgiveness from him/her.

  • larry59

    To Elizabeth Tenety

  • usapdx

    The history of confession is of interest. The confession of today comes from Ireland in the early 1300s monk to monk but halted by Rome for some years before restarted as one would confess to a priest. The RCC has many man made rules if violated as SIN. Yet in these times, many RCC members do not go to the BOX but the RCC administration could have a simple short GENERAL CONFESSION at each mass. No way account the RCC administration uses confession like their man made rules as a means of CONTROL OF THE RC MEMBERS. If one tells the same song and dance to different priests, the priests will give different responds. The person through GOD is the real means of forgiveness of real sins. ” Through the administration of the church” clause in the BOX needs adjustment. Ask questions.

  • dridenour

    As a recent convert to Catholicism after being a Protestant for four decades, I used to agree with both of the posts above: confession to a priest is unnecessary, and therefore must be around as a means of control. Having practiced it now, I can see it is something that must be done to be fully understood. 1) more embarrassing that doing a prayer alone 2) feedback and spiritual instruction, which I have always found helpful, and hardly controlling. Try it…it works!

  • eezmamata

    Look at this as an engineering problem. Of course the believers will ‘believe’, you can’t truly escape the disease when observing the symptoms, but it can be an informing experience to look at how the implementation affects the diseased … I mean the believers.This seems to be a reasonable effort to continue the infection in a population that is already abandoning the virus. It’s hopeless of course, but it will extend the viral load for a time, long enough for the parasites, the priests to maintain their career until the end of their own lives.As a plan, it seems useful. Looking at it from a software engineering perspective however, it’s a piece of crap. If this were the best software these people could design, I don’t know how they can face the other people in the software world without hanging their head in shame.

  • lepidopteryx

    Dridenour,As for feedback, the only feedback needed is a “Yes, I forgive you” or “No, I can never forgive you” or “I believe you’re sorry, and while I can’t forgive you just yet, I’ll try not to hold it against you” from the person who was actually harmed by your actions.

  • djmolter

    So why not just drop off the iPhone with your recorded confession and have the iPriest behind the screen forgive you? Catholics still labor under the assumption that a human intermediary is necessary to forgive yor sins. What’s next, iIndulgences?

  • lepidopteryx

    DJ – no reson to drop off your phone- just text your confession

  • jorge_mt

    Unlisted sins: not every sinful thought, word, action or omission can be listed. Also, there could be stuff we do not do in good conscience and might be felt by us as sinful; nice to be able to add it. Proceedings: the Church doesnt sell the app; it’s a private company. It’s just a business the Church approves as opposed as, say, burning crucifixes with KKK engravings. Hackers: I’m sure they’d get more damning info out of hacking email and computers. I didn’t understood it records the confession, anyway. God vs wronged person: sure, a person has more power than God; nice foundation for any religion. God’s just your chum. CONTROL CONSPIRACY: it’s easy to “confess” into thin air; harder to do it to a fellow human being. I don’t even let a screen get in the way, I go face to face. By the way, reparation is part of absolution. The Church is far from monolithic; it doesn’t imply every single member of it’s hierarchy is right; there is space for opinion and dissent, thus the different responses, though all will point to the same general direction (love of God and fellows). To the hate posters: It’s gonna end up one of two ways: either (1) there’s nothing afterwards (disease theorizers) or God will forgive us with just a wink (just a little chat between us both), and then who cares, or (2) Catholics are right and you’ll burn in Hell for the rest of Eternity while we point and laugh. Nah, just kidding. We will feel sorry for you. Actually we even believe in a last moment of repentance so you can still be saved. And we don’t leave forgiveness to the probable pettiness of other human beings, same pettiness that fuels our sins.

  • ThishowIseeit

    Not sure if you have done wrong to your neighour? Invite him over and settle the all thing over a tall glass of beer, as Obama did.

  • eraskauskas

    Forgive them Father. They know not what they say.

  • bunny23

    Jesus set up the sacrament of confession as a way to heal sin and human weakness. He told the apostles: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” — John 20:21-23It’s honestly great to understand our sins/flaws and work on getting rid of it so we can become kinder, humbler, and more dependent on God. If you think about it, we do that all the time with changing our diets, exercising, continuing education, etc. Think about people who are not living a healthy lifestyle, want to change, go to a dietician, admit to eating garbage and a desire to change. In a simplistic sense, that is what a person is doing in confession. Just like it is difficult to change eating habits, it’s also difficult to change our sinful habits, so we may need to meet with the dietician regularly to help keep us on track and to give us accountability. Same thing with confession, if we are really serious about changing our lives. I do not see confession as an embarassment or anything difficult because I know and understand the sacrament to be what Jesus intended – a means of mercy for all souls and a way to strengthen ourselves to stay away from sin. It is so refreshing to be able to speak and receive Christ’s forgiveness through the priest; the priest is there to communicate forgiveness not GIVE the forgiveness. God is the only one that can ultimately forgive our sins, yet, being able to speak with a priest works with our human nature. Our souls are meant only for God’s grace (love). Sin prevents each of us from gaining all of the grace intended for us. We all have an abundance of grace being given to us yet we are unable to realize all of it due to sin. If we could see our souls as God does, we’d likely see something like a colandar. Each of the little holes is sin and allows God’s grace to be funneled through rather than captured. Confession is a means of sealing up those holes and retaining God’s grace. It is because God is so merciful that we have been given such a wonderful sacrament. I wish you all could experience the beauty of this sacrament There are Catholics who do not understand their faith and non-Catholics who have not taken time to understand what Catholics really believe. They do not speak for all Catholics. I hope this helps you understand a little better, even if you do not agree with what Catholics do and believe.

  • tomd3

    Thank you for summarizing what the app does well.I am struck by how you speak of the practice of Catholics going to confession. You use the phrase “increasingly unpopular” without providing stastics that might actually support such a conclusion. It’s one thing to quote the recent poll – the one that says 45% say they don’t participate – but it’s another to arrive at a conclusion that goes beyond what the cited statistic can actually support.

  • eezmamata

    Maybe the catholic church can give all the choir boys an iphone, they can just send the priests an image of the parts their priests like best, and the molestation problem will … well, maybe there will be less of it.

  • jamorrow

    There is a free application for Android devices that is similar called PenanceProject. It helps users do an examination of conscience before the Sacrament and to pray afterwards. You can get the application here: To find out more about The Penance Project please visit:

  • FreetoThink

    I hear the $4.99 version lets you text your sins, the $7.99 version says your Hail Marys for you, and the Pro version, at $19.99, assures you a place in the cloud.

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