Feeling Guilty? There's An App For That But The Vatican Still Says Go to Confession

By Mary Collins
By Scott Sarvay

February 9, 2011 Updated Feb 10, 2011 at 6:29 PM EDT

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -Embraced by some, criticized by others, a new download app that lets you confess through your Smart Phone has more than just the Catholic faithful talking.

Developed in Fort Wayne, the new English language downloadable mobile application lets you confess your sins right to your Smart Phone's screen. The new tool is getting media attention around the world.

Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament.

The Confession program has gone on sale through iTunes for $1.99.

Now senior church officials in the US have given it their seal of approval, in what is thought to be a first.

But the Vatican released a statement on Thursday saying Catholics cannot confess via iPhone and technology is not a substitute for being present when admitting sins to a priest.

The app takes users through the sacrament - in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings when you meet with a priest in a confessional.

It’s an aid that keeps track of how long it's been since your last confession, list things you need to remember to atone for, and provides some prayers for you to remember.

It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalized factors such as age, sex and marital status - but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely.

The app that simulates confession was was designed by two priests, Father Thomas Weinandy of the USCCB, and Father Dan Scheidt, a pastor from Mishawaka, Indiana.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend says, "This is a way to prepare for Confession. It gives a step by step guide to the Sacrament, questions to ask ones self before one goes to Confession, an examination of conscience, some good teaching and Catachresis about the Sacrament... But it is not and in no way could take the place of going to Confession."

The launch of the app comes shortly after Pope Benedict XVI gave urging to Christians to embrace digital communication and make their presence felt online.

In his World Communications Address on 24 January, he said it was not a sin to use social networking sites - and particularly encouraged young Catholics to share important information with each other online.

"I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world," he said.

He warned them to keep in mind that digital communication was part of a bigger picture, however.

"It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives."

The app guides users through different elements of the sacrament Confession's developers, who are based in Indiana, said they took the Pope's words to heart when they were preparing the application for public consumption.

"Our goal with this project is to offer a digital application that is truly 'new media at the service of the word'," said the company.

The firm said the app was developed with assistance from several priests and had been given the church's imprimatur by Bishop Rhoades.

It is thought to be the first time the church has approved a mobile phone application, although it is not entirely unfamiliar with the digital world.

In 2007, the Vatican launched its own YouTube channel.

Two years later created a Facebook application that lets users send virtual postcards featuring the pontiff.

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