Ok, yes. Everybody’s talking about this new ‘Confession App’ for the iPhone, but it seems as though few really understand what this software is, what the sacrament of reconciliation is about and what the Church has said vis-á-vis the new iPhone application. The biggest misconception: Catholics no longer have to go to ‘in-person confession,’ but instead have the option for confession on their iPhones.

Even Maureen Dowd devoted a column to the thing, at the beginning of which she says: “Nothing is sacred anymore, even the sacred. And even that most secret ritual of the Roman Catholic faith, the veiled black confessional box.”

Talk about misleading! First of all, this app is not a replacement or substitute for in-person, sacramental confession with an ordained minister. Period. What this app is is a guide for both the examination of conscience (a process of reflecting on one’s actions to determine how one has sinned) and an outline for the sacrament itself, including prayers that lapsed Catholics or those who have been away from the confessional booth might not recall with ease. And, to be fair, Dowd eventually gets to that point, explaining that the app — contrary to popular belief — does not replace real confession.

Here is the product’s own description on the iTunes website:

Designed to be used in the confessional, this app is the perfect aid for every penitent. With a personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament, this app invites Catholics to prayerfully prepare for and participate in the Rite of Penance. Individuals who have been away from the sacrament for some time will find Confession: A Roman Catholic App to be a useful and inviting tool.

It is a wonderful idea! It’s simply a digitalized and modern version of the little cardstock pamphlets one might already find in the confessional booth or on a table near the back of a church. It can keep track of the sins you wish to list and then clears them away after you experience of sacramental confession with a priest.

I think it’s a wonderful idea and I might download it myself and give it a try. Anything that allows a person to enter into their experience of God’s grace more deeply is A-OK in my book. It’s important, though, to not let the media and internet coverage of this misguide you. What the frequency with which it was reported that the Vatican approved an electronic form of confession shows is that there continues to be a serious case of religious and theological illiteracy in our culture.

Maybe that’s something people can confess a little more readily and pick up a book or take a class in theology as a penance.



  1. If you download it, I’m interested in hearing what the ‘checklist’ contains for the examination of conscience, especially since the description in the app store is that it’s custom based on age, sex and vocation.

    I generally have a ‘don’t buy apps you have no intention of using for their intended purchase’ sort of restraint, but I may have to buy it just to see how it differs.

  2. @Jeremie, yeah, from what I’ve seen so far about the “sex-” and “age-based” list of sins, I have my concerns and questions that likely echo yours. The imprimatur leads me to believe that, although digital, the content may not be unlike those sun-faded pamphlets already collecting dust in churches. It’s just flashier now.

    1. I’m sure there’s something cynical to say about all flash and no substance…

      I will say, though, if I were still a confession-going fellow, the ‘when was my last confession’ feature would have solidified an instant buy. I could never remember.

  3. Thanks for this – there has been so much noise about it. One of the developers (a non priest) is the husband of a FB friend.

    I wish her no ill, but I do think that Maureen Dowd is all about herself. She will write anything that stirs the pot and is no better than any other bloviator. For someone who professes to loathe the Church, she sure has a lot to say about it.

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