The term "Jesus phone" has just taken on a whole new meaning.
A Catholic bishop in Indiana has, for the first time, given his official imprimatur--or blessing, if you will--to an iPhone/iPad app. "Confession: A Roman Catholic App" prepares people for the church ritual of confessing their sins to a priest.
Users can scroll through the Ten Commandments to help identify their sins and browse the seven ways they can atone for them. The app personalizes the experiences by age, sex, and vocation, and provides a checklist of probing questions for each Commandment. Should you feel so inclined, you can even add in your own unconventional sins that don't appear in the app. Oh, and you can password-protect your sins, just in case someone violates the 7th commandment with your phone.
Naturally, the development has stirred up a flurry of questions. We've turned to the Internet for some answers:
Did the Church create the app?
No, the Indiana-based developer Little iApps did, notes Tim Drake at the National Catholic Register. The Church just gave the app a stamp of approval, which isn't surprising given some of its recent public statements. "For the 45th World Communications Day address," Drake points out, "Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that new media, 'if used wisely, can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.'"
Are you actually confessing to your iPhone?
Nope. Catholic League President Bill Donohue wants to make that very, very clear: "This application was never designed as a substitute for Confession: on the contrary, it makes it clear that only absolution by a priest in the confessional constitutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation."
The app costs $1.99--where is the money going?
Victor Agreda, Jr. at The Unofficial Apple Weblog explains that Little iApps is donating a portion of the proceeds to Catholic charities. (We assume Apple gets its traditional 30 percent cut of all App Store sales.)
Can you bring the iPhone into the confessional booth?
Yes, but "just make sure you tell the priest that you are using the app and not texting during your confession," advises Father Edward L. Beck at ABC News. "I wouldn't want you getting thrown out of the box your first time back!"
How revolutionary is this, really?
"We have always had books and prayer cards to aid in the examination of conscience and to assist with the preparation and prayers for Confession," explains one commenter in a Catholic forum. "I already have the iMissal, iBreviary and Bible in my ipod. This is a logical step, although I don't think I would list my sins where there might be a chance of someone else reading it."