Confession,the new $1.99 application for iPhones, provides the user with a step-by-step tutorial of the Catholic confession process. No, you won't receive absolution, which comes from the priest. Whether you've forgotten your last confession, or never understood how the process works, this application, which has gotten the nod from the Catholic Church in America but an objection from the Vatican, is a handy tool for understanding the basics. And, you can even keep a running total of your sins. Some would call it a tool for reflection. Either way, you can follow along on your follies.
We asked these clergy/educators to comment on the app:
The Rev. James C. Williams, S.M., president, Chaminade High School, Mineola:
For centuries, there have been spiritual aids to assist people in receiving the sacrament. Many Catholic parishes have typed up pages people use to reflect and perform an examination of conscience. The "Confession" app is just another aid in a long history of aids that are different for different generations.
I think there is always an anxiety when someone has to commit to sinfulness. Think of when you have to say you're sorry to another human, let alone to God. If I could give an analogy, if you have a fight with your wife and want to give an apology, you plan your words well. The same is true of sacramental confession with the Catholic Church.
The app gives people the opportunity to reflect on their sins. I haven't used the app, but people have asked me about it. And it has come up regularly in a high school setting. I think it is poorly named. I think it should be called an "Examination of Conscience" app. It is a tool for the work you do before going to Confession, which is simply a small room with a chair. The power comes from God, through the priest, not the room. He acts through the priest. The app is another tool to help people. The hope is that it will take them to the next step.
Brother Gary Cregan, O.S.F., principal, St. Anthony's High School, South Huntington:
I approve of any software that enables someone to take stock of the parts of their life that need improvement and forgiveness. Any software that could be applied to a phone that could remind a Roman Catholic about the importance of going to confession is fantastic. It is an appropriate, modern use of technology to assist a serious Catholic in his or her faith.
You have to remember that sin is both personal and communal, and sin must be brought before our Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness. That is the purpose of confession. Since sin has a communal aspect, the priest acts in the name of Christ and in the name of the Church to say the words we need to hear after we confess. Those words are "you are forgiven." So Catholics tell their sins to God, and the priest becomes the voice of Christ to offer counsel and forgiveness in the name of Christ. And that's why Catholics are asked to confess.
The app doesn't replace confession to a priest, nor should it. Nor can you confess to a priest over the phone. You can go to confession face-to-face or in the traditional box. The priest must read the confessor's heart, soul and body to effect the right cure.
Father Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale:
One of my students came down and showed it to me. He had added it to his iPhone. He said for him, it's a great reminder about going to confession and makes him conscious of doing the right thing. He did say that he knew you can't get absolution using it.
The Holy Father has been very strong on using media and the computer in a positive way. I think the "Confession" app is an example of a positive way to make people more aware of confession and knowing who you are and to help you grow.
Before confession, a person is expected to reflect on the state of his or her soul and interior life. Young people are very conscious of an interior life that is whole and holy. That's part of growing as a person. You should always be growing in your relationship with God.
I absolutely see a value to the app. It can wake us up to doing the right thing. In the Catholic Church, our Sacraments, especially in this case of confession or penance, is relational. We have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. He cannot be substituted for by a computer. I would say that the app is not just good for Catholics. It is good for any person of faith who strives to do the right thing because of the love the individual has for God. One thing that joins all different faiths together is that our code of morality is similar. What's wrong in the Baptist Church is wrong in the Catholic Church. Reflection and confession is a good thing for all of us.