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Catholic Church's $1.99 Confessions App: What a Mistake [UPDATE]

UPDATE: According to CNN, a spokesperson for the Vatican has responded saying: "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. This cannot in any way be substituted by a technology application. One cannot talk in any way about a 'confession via iPhone."


The Catholic Church approved an Apple (APPL) iPhone app that helps people digitally confess. The twist is that the church actually believes the app will bring more people into the church, which is as bizarre of an idea as the app itself. If the Catholic Church were a business, this would be called outsourcing.

Called Confessions: A Roman Catholic App, the $1.99 iPhone software has the user make an instant messenger confession with a virtual priest. According to Time magazine's blog:

Protected by a password, the app invites users to examine their consciences and confess to their sins. But it won't replace the old-school booth. The app, which costs $1.99, just goes through the motions of confession, but churchgoers must see a priest for absolution.

There are some issues with the new approach, to put it mildly:
  • It will actually promote more "sinning": One of the biggest deterrents from sinning is realizing the ritual of confession that will eventually have to happen afterwards. For the Catholic, it means going to the neighborhood church, saying the sins out loud to a priest, and doing the requested penance. By iConfessing, the penalty for a sin is equal to a FourSquare check-in.
  • It will lower the amount of actual confessions: The Catholic Church is naive to believe that the average churchgoer will do an iConfession and still come in for an official one, particularly if they are a tech-savvy, younger member. It's like doubling the requirements demanded of the parish.
  • It feels unethical to charge: The creator (of the app, not the Earth) Little i Apps is charging $1.99 for a service that is free in the church. The app cost money to create and users are enjoying the convenience of it, but it seems counter to the "bring your sick, bring your poor" approach preached within the average church today.
From iPulpits to prayer apps, churches should be commended for trying to bring their holy rituals into the new millennium, but having virtual confession without anyone at the other end is only hurting the connection it has with its ultimate customer: the church member.

Photo courtesy of Little i Apps

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