Yes, the Roman Catholic Church still supports the new app designed to help Catholics make confession. To a point.
The Vatican qualified its support for "Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” on Wednesday, a day after the program’s developer announced it was the first app to have official church sanction.
“It is essential to understand well the sacrament of penitence requires the personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor and the absolution by the confessor,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters on Wednesday. “This cannot in any way be substituted by a technology application.”
“One cannot talk in any way about a ‘confession via iPhone,’ ” Lombardi said.
The app’s developer, Little iApps, created Confession in consultation with two Catholic priests, one of them an official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
And it has been given the blessing of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana, marking the Catholic Church's first known imprimatur on a mobile app.
The app’s developer said Wednesday that he welcomed the Vatican’s warning about Confession.
“The app we created is supposed to be used in the actual confessional,” said Patrick Leinen, co-founder of Little iApps. “This is an aid to confession and in no way, shape or form a replacement.”
The app has three parts.
The first is an examination of conscience that's designed to help Catholics prepare for confession before stepping into the confessional, “so you don’t walk in and just start making up sins off the top of your head,” Leinen said.
The second part features step-by-step instructions for what to do inside the confessional.
The last part is a space to record any absolution or penance from the priest.
The Vatican’s Lombardi implied some support for the app on Wednesday. “One cannot exclude that someone can - in preparation for the confession - reflect with the help of digital instrument, as in the past one did it with the help of the written word on paper,” he said.
Leinen said that he was surprised his app had provoked a Vatican response but that he was grateful for it.
“There just seems to be some confusion,” Leinen said. “Some people think they will be e-mailing their confession in and that’s just not how it’s going to be used.”