By Genevieve Pollock
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2011 (Zenit.org).- An iPhone application that aids in confession preparation is not a substitute for the personal dialogue between the priest and the penitent required for the sacrament, clarified a Vatican spokesman.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, made this clarification regarding a new application for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that received an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin Rhodes of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The program, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” was developed by the Indiana-based company Little iApps as an aid “for those who frequent the sacrament and those who wish to return.”
Patrick Leinen, developer and cofounder of Little iApps, told ZENIT that the team who created this application is “100% in agreement with Father Lombardi.”
“This app is intended to help a person prepare for the sacrament of confession,” he stated. “It is not intended to function as a replacement for confession!”
The application offers an examination of conscience, step-by-step guide to the sacrament, act of contrition and other prayers. Multiple users can access password-protected profiles where they can go through the examination of conscience, checking off items that are pertinent to their confession and making personal notes. In this way, when they approach the confessional to speak with the priest, they can access their notes or relevant prayers as a reference.
Some journalists, misunderstanding this program, speculated that the application allowed penitents to make a confession through the iPhone.
Father Lombardi clarified, “It is essential to understand well that the sacrament of penance requires necessarily the relationship of personal dialogue between penitent and confessor, as well as absolution on the part of the confessor present.”
“This cannot be substituted by any information technology application,” he said, thus, “in no way can one speak of ‘confession through the iPhone.'”
Leinen reiterated the same point: “To be very clear, only a priest can minister the sacrament of confession.”
He told ZENIT that the company is currently updating the program with a notification stating that “this app is to only be used in confession with a Catholic priest.”
Father Lombardi acknowledged that in a world in which many people use information technology as a support for reading and accessing texts for prayer, it is not out of the question that “someone might reflect on confession preparation using digital instruments as aids, as was done in the past with texts and questions written on paper, which helped to examine one’s conscience.”
This “could be useful,” for the examination of conscience, he said, as long as the person knows that “it is absolutely not a substitute for the sacrament.”
Although other similar programs, such as “Mea Culpa — Catholic Examination of Conscience for Catholics” and “iConfess — Confession Handbook and Guide” have also been created for use on devices such as the iPhone, this latest release is the first known application to receive an episcopal approval for its text.
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On the Net:
For more information: www.littleiapps.com