One story has been hitting the various news outlets throughout the world concerning the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app called Confession: A Roman Catholic app. The coverage like almost everything concerning the Church is largely hit and miss with the weight going to miss. The implication that the app replaces confession has made it into many stories. Terminology such as “Blessed” by the Church or the factually incorrect
The interesting questions is why should an app used as an aid for an examination of conscience to make a good confession get so much attention? After all this is hardly the first app to do so. Travis Boudreaux had wrote a similar app called Mea Culpa in Aug of 2010. What is mostly getting played up is “Catholic Church approves ….” as the enticement to get you to read the story. Zenit had reported:
A new Confession application for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is encouraging sacramental life through technology. Bishop Kevin Rhodes gave the first known imprimatur for this type of resource.
Patrick Leinen, developer and cofounder of Little iApps, the company that released the application, told ZENIT that “in order to respond to Benedict XVI’s message from last year’s World Communications Day address, our goal with this project was to offer a digital application that is truly ‘new media at the service of the Word.'”
Though really I would think what the bishop did was give an imprimatur to the text used within the app which is really no different from any other imprimatur. Unless the Vatican issued a guide to mobile application development that I don’t know about – this is really the extent of it. Though the positive thing is that the press gave enough attention to the app that at least at one time was one of the top 100 paid apps. No doubt many had downloaded it as a curiosity, but maybe some consciences can be jogged to life.
Really this comes into the fascination of Church and technology. We see many stories of this time that are a reflection of the Church vs. Science mythos. Like clockwork every year we get the Vatican Observatory story portraying the shock of the Church being involved in astronomy “despite” Galileo. No doubt when Vatican Radio started in 1931 there were similar news stories and we have them repeated with each new piece of technology. After the telephone was invented some asked if confessions could be validly heard over it and of course the same question was asked with the advent of the internet – even though the sacramental theology hadn’t changed. The same thing happens when the Pope or someone else in the hierarchy mention social networking. Again the media always acts surprised as if it is odd that the Church could use anything modern as if she were Amish or something. At times though it must be admitted that the Vatican itself is not always the quickest to adapt to new technologies such as the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelisation involved with studying modern means of communication does not have an internet connection.
The Church vs. Technology mythos is not the only false dichotomy that draws people attention. For example habited nuns/sisters doing anything besides praying seems to draw people’s attention. Religious women on skates, nuns bowling, etc, etc. To a lesser extent the same applies to monks/friars doing the same.
Also interesting is how people feel they are free to mock confession at almost every level. No worries about offending Catholics who do something so Medieval as actually going to confession. Of course we remember those same commentators mocking Ramadan and the various Ramadan apps – oh wait. As your basic geek who listens to some technology shows I heard comments on the confession app like “They should have Game Center support for achievements for those committing the most sins.”, “In app purchases for indulgences”, “Now all it needs is a random sin selector: shake the phone to instantly get a wicked suggestion.”, etc. Not being thin-skinned some of the comments can be kind of funny in a lame way, but there is often a meanness behind them and an animus towards Catholics in particular.