A new application for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that lists sins to be taken to the confessional earned a cautionary warning from the Vatican on Thursday. Actually, it wasn't so much the app getting a rebuke as it was the hype which accompanied the app.
When it debuted earlier in the month, the $1.99 application, "Confession: A Roman Catholic App" was described as the ''perfect aid for every penitent." The program let users compile list of their sins. Users get taken through the Ten Commandments, with questions attached to each. The app displays the sins along with a written act of contrition for the penitent.
After Kevin Rhodes of U.S. Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana, gave the app an imprimatur, the story turned viral with some articles referring to the app as a "virtual priest." But in a statement put out by the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi was quoted reminding Catholics that absolution requires a personal dialogue between penitents and the confessor.
"It's essential to understand that the sacrament of penance requires a personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor, and absolution by the confessor who is present," he told reporters. "This is something that cannot be replaced by any application. One cannot speak of a 'confession via iPhone."
Patrick Leinen, who developed the iPhone application said he welcomed the Vatican statement that the sacrament requires oral confession to a priest. "This app is intended to help a person prepare for the sacrament of confession," Leinen said. "It is not intended to function as a replacement for confession."