It's amazing what we can do with our iPhones: make calls, return e-mails, schedule meetings, file notes, take photos, keep grocery lists, get wake-up calls, time a five-minute egg, check the weather, listen to music, watch a movie, get directions, play games, invest in stock.
But you ain't seen nothin' yet. Now, with the iPhone, you can even save your soul! Yes, the Catholic Church is out with a new iPhone app to help you confess your sins.
For Catholics, confession has always been a scary ordeal. You rack your brain, trying to remember how many times you did how many things wrong. You go into this small, dark box, with somebody you don't know and can't see on the other side of a screen, and tell him your worst secrets. Only to walk out and remember all the things you forgot to tell him. Should I go back? Will I burn in hell? It's humiliating. It's torture.
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But no longer. For just $1.99, Confession: A Roman Catholic App, will take the guesswork out of it and simplify the penitential experience. The app will first help you prepare for the sacrament of confession by reminding you of the Ten Commandments and, depending on your age or station in life, by offering you a list of what sins you might have committed.
Under the Fourth Commandment, for example, children might be asked: "Did I keep my room clean and pick up my socks?" Or, as Maureen Dowd reports in the New York Times, a 15-year-old girl might look up the Sixth Commandment and face the question: "Do I not treat my body or other people's bodies with purity and respect?"
Grownups under the Sixth Commandment get more serious treatment. Men and women both, as might be expected by the Catholic Church, are asked: "Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?" While a 33-year-old married man is asked to check the box: "Have I been guilty of masturbation?" (What? Masturbation's a sin?)
Unfortunately, the iPhone alone can't wipe out your sins. The church insists you still have to see a priest for absolution (after all, can't put too many priests out of work). But you can take your iPhone with you into the confessional, read off the list of sins you've prepared, type in the number of Hail Marys or Our Fathers the priest tells you to say for penance – and then, just in case you forgot the words, read the prayers right off the text conveniently provided in your iPhone app. Praise the Lord!
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And, don't worry. You're not committing a sacrilege by making a high-tech confession. The Confession App, developed by three young Catholic men from South Bend, Ind., has been given an imprimatur (the first ever for a mobile app) by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. And it's even received the official blessing of Pope Benedict XVI, who last spring encouraged Catholics to find new ways to connect their faith with today's new technology.
This is just the first step, of course. Watch. It won't be long before the need to visit the confessional itself disappears. As fast as Apple releases its next version of iPhone, you'll be able simply to punch in your sins, send the priest an e-mail and get an email back with your penance. You can store your sins in your iPhone and compare your progress, or lack thereof, from month to month. You can even tweet them to your friends.
In fact, you can bet Pope Benedict's cute little red shoes, somebody out there is working on another app right now to take the place of going to church at all. Why bother getting dressed up and leaving the house on Sunday morning when you can download the liturgy, sing along with the hymns and even put money in the collection basket – at www.thesundaymass.org?
As a Catholic, and a former altar boy and seminarian, I must say it makes me proud to see the Catholic Church be the first to embrace the iPhone. But what still puzzles me is: How can the same church be so forward-thinking in one area and yet so backward when it comes to celibacy and the ordination of women priests? If only the Catholic Church were as open about sexuality as it is about technology.