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Catholics Can’t Confess To Their iPhones, Says Vatican

Catholics Can’t Confess To Their iPhones, Says Vatican

Considering that there’s an iPhone app for just about everything, it probably shouldn’t surprise me that some entrepreneurial folks decided to branch out into the sphere of religion.  But the controversy over a new iPhone app which would allow Catholics to confess using their phones led the Vatican to release a statement, explaining that no, technology is not a replacement for a priest.

“One cannot speak in any way of confessing via iPhone,” Father Federico Lombardi explained.  This is because, logically, confession requires the physical presence of both the penitent and the priest.  “This cannot be substituted by any IT application,” Lombardi said.

The way that the app’s inventors envisioned it functioning is unclear.  Initial reports claimed that the app would not replace going to confession, but would rather “help Catholics through the act.”  Why exactly this is necessary is not obvious, because Catholics have been figuring out confession without the help of their iPhones for quite some time now.  The creators explained that they were helping people deepen their faith through technology, responding to the pope’s injunction to raise the Christian presence in the digital world.  The company that marketed the app said that it had been approved (given imprimatur) by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, who is presumably now in trouble with the Vatican.

Some people, specifically Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, scolded the media for their “irresponsible” headlines, which he claims led readers to believe that the app would replace confession.  And yes, the coverage of this small controversy was a little sensational.  But it also, frankly, sounds like a confusing app, and for people who don’t know much about the sacrament of confession, it sounds more extreme (and bizarre) than it is.  From the start, the app was about preparing to go to confession; it was not designed to replace confession.  And although many blogs clarified this, some did not.

Either way, the whole incident is a nice little fable about just how obsessed with technology we can be.  And perhaps the pope will be more careful the next time he extols “new media at the service of the world.”

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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78 comments

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8:39AM PST on Feb 16, 2011

Stupid, but humor !

1:40PM PST on Feb 14, 2011

Stupid! You confess to your I phone, but who does it confess to. Blackberries?

1:38PM PST on Feb 14, 2011

"Do 3 hail marys and zip uppa you fly!"

1:36PM PST on Feb 14, 2011

OK, but did it say those interested in being a good Catholic can't sexually abuse them? Granted users will be required to pay roaming rates, and only phones with vibrators turned on will qualify. On another matter, comedy of the week, the pope telling Burlesconi to get his 'house in order?' Like the pot calling the Kettle black!

10:47AM PST on Feb 13, 2011

Really? It seems ridiculous!

11:28AM PST on Feb 12, 2011

Ohhh Jesus...what next!..LOL

6:51AM PST on Feb 12, 2011

Tempest in a teapot...

12:23AM PST on Feb 11, 2011

If some priests are pedophiles, that is a shame and they must be banned from church. However, although myself have not confessed for a long-long time, I feel that nothing can replace a human presence. Of course, things are a bit different in my creed (Orthodox), the priest is not behind a wall, but facing you, and you may choose your confessor. There are even cases where people travel a distance to visit him who they think is better for their case. In religion I believe what matters is the song, not the singer. I do not see how the iPhone would "sing" better.

9:33PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Yes, Rosemary, that could be one less victim of clergy sexual abuse in the confessional if we use an iPhone. Amen to that.

9:30PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

... big brother might be listening in ...

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