TORONTO, February 9, 2011 (CCRL) – This week’s news of a new application for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch has attracted a good deal of attention in the media, most of it accurate if a bit flippant in the headlines. (“Bless me iPhone, for I have sinned,” Reuters, Feb. 8; “Have a confession to make? There’s an app for that”, Globe and Mail, Feb. 8).

The most curious of all, however, was, with its headline: “Is an iPhone confession equal to one in a church? (Feb. 8, later changed after correspondence from League members). Not only did their editors ask a question that their own article answers (with a resounding “no”, of course), they offered a poll asking people whether the two were interchangeable.

This is misleading, of course, since the story itself makes it clear that the app, which many priests and some bishops have said can be helpful in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is meant to assist, not replace.

The application, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” which costs $1.99 in Apple’s iTunes store, offers password-protected customized profiles, to help users find the sins that might apply to them. As of Tuesday, the app was number five on the top paid lifestyle apps chart on the Canadian iTunes site,

The app includes a step-by-step guide through the Rite of Penance, and a list of seven acts of contrition. Much of the content could be found in any traditional examination of conscience taught in school.

The app’s developer, Patrick Leinen, co-founder of Little iApps, says he was inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s World Communication Day address last year, in which he called on priests to embrace digital communication.

Two priests collaborated in the app’s development: Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices; and Fr. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Pope Benedict gave a qualified blessing to social networking Jan. 24 in his annual message for World communications Day, praising its potential but warning that online friendships are no substitute for real human contact.

He said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered “a great opportunity,” but warned of the risks of depersonalization, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones.
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