A Catholic iPhone App for Confession

Perhaps you’ve heard of the new app for the iPhone called Confession. Most of the quick headlines and news articles I’ve read sort of mock the need or ability of an iPhone app meeting a Catholic’s spiritual needs.

Here is what the first paragraphs reads at ABCNews.com (notice the pejorative language)

“It seems as though the Catholic Church really really wants us to go to confession, so much so that apparently it has sanctioned a new iPhone app aimed at bringing some of the wandering sheep back into the fold. You can now wipe your slate clean with Confession: A Roman Catholic App, available through iTunes for $1.99.”

(If you watch the news video clip embedded with this article, you can hear the anchors laughing and scoffing at the very idea of this.)

It reminds me of that song by the Beatles, Eleanore Rigby, where they feel sorry for a lonely clergyman who’s tirelessly working, “writing his sermon that no one will hear—no one comes near.” Poor Ole Father McKenzie. We’ve been feeling sorry for him for over forty years now.

In the iPad news app The Daily, today’s article entitled “iConfess” writes about it this way:

“Bless me, iPhone, for I have sinned. This could soon be a common refrain from the tech-savvy faithful, as a Catholic bishop has given an official imprimatur to an app. …Under church doctrine, a confession is only valid if performed in the presence of a priest. But this way, you can play Angry Birds right after you clear your conscience!”

[Insert cheeky laugh here]

Curious, I actually purchased this app today to take a look at it for myself and, although there are some things particularly specific to the practice of Catholics that I do not agree with, I can see how something like this can be very helpful to someone who takes God and their sin rather seriously. I actually found some parts of it to be practical and valuable for me as a non-Catholic Christian. Other parts a non-Catholic would not find useful, such as prayers to Mary and/or saints, nor would they want to pray such prayers as or for any kind of absolution from sins. But beyond these few things, there is much to like about this app, such as the Lord’s Prayer, and a few other time-tested creeds and prayers all Christians should recite on occasion.

And this brings me to my point—I think what bothers me about the media coverage I’ve read about this app is how they trivialize a person’s desire to take sin seriously enough to use their iPhone as a tool in helping them identify areas where they are living offline, so to speak, with God’s revealed will in Scripture. It shows how trivial the media (in general) views God and sin.

Every Christian must desire to live righteously, not as a means of becoming more acceptable to God, but as a means of living by the grace of God in Christ. Only Jesus’ righteousness is acceptable before God and therefore we become acceptable before God through our faith in him (his deity, his sacrifice for our sins, his resurrection for our new life in the kingdom of God). But Jesus did say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). And believe it or not, there are some alive today who actually still believe Jesus on that—that the only way to be truly and lastingly satisfied in life is to seek to live rightly—righteously—by grace through submission to God and confession and repentance and pursuing faith and righteousness and goodness and love.

And I believe this app can help Catholic Christians and even some non-Catholic Christians do just that. The app takes you through the categories of the Ten Commandments (do you even know the Ten Commandments?). The idea is to take some time for refection and examination of your heart and life by questions guided by the Ten Commandments. You check a box after a question if applicable to you, then when you confess your sins to a priest, your checked boxes comprise your list. Kinda useful, I would think.

Obviously this is not for everyone, but I can honestly see how a Catholic Christian would find this to be a real aide in their spiritual lives. And with a little modification, even a non-Catholic Christian could make good use of this on their iPhone as well. I could see how a non-Catholic Christian could use their list in their own personal prayer before God, or in an honest conversation with a trusted friend.

So I’m not joining in the mocking of this app. I actually would like to see something along similar lines developed for non-Catholic Christians. Perhaps prayers from The Valley of Vision or the Psalms could be used, especially if these prayers or Psalms could be tagged to a certain list of checked sins. I’m just say’n…

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