Feb. 8, 2011 -- It seems as though the Catholic Church really really wants us to go to confession, so much so that apparently it has sanctioned a new iPhone app aimed at bringing some of the wandering sheep back into the fold.
You can now wipe your slate clean with Confession: A Roman Catholic App, available through iTunes for $1.99.
Now I know what you're thinking: Great, no more dark scary box. No more having to look at a perplexed clergyman trying to figure out how anyone could have been so stupid as to do that. But, not so fast.
I'm afraid that the new app doesn't replace traditional confession. You still have to go to a priest for absolution. The app simply attempts to make confession more accessible -- and perhaps a bit more fun.
A spokesman from the company that designed it said, "Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology."
He goes on to quote Pope Benedict XVI's message from last years' World Communications Address, in which the pope encouraged Christians to interact with the digital world in service of the faith. So much for those who have the impression that Pope Benedict is out of touch and anti-technology. If it's going to help the faith, apparently His Holiness is all for it.
So, how does the app work? It leads you through an "Examination of Conscience" to help you figure out what your real sins are -- and not just by retreading your run of the mill 10 Commandments. The sinful suggestions the app offers are inventive and even age appropriate.
If you are worried about all your personal sins being viewed in cyberspace, fear not -- the app customizes each user's list and is password protected for privacy. Once you go to confession, your nefarious revelations are wiped away. So you can text your heart out on your first draft, and then decide how you want to edit your transgressions for the spoken word -- all in the service of making the "big reveal" a little less ominous.
In all seriousness, I think this app may be a boon for the sacrament. While confession (or the Sacrament of Reconciliation as we professionals are wont to call it) may be on the decline, I can attest that it remains a powerful venue for grace and healing.
Some of my most poignant and transformative moments as a priest have occurred in a confessional, on both sides of the screen. I'm all for whatever makes it easier for others to take that cleansing plunge.
Just make sure you tell the priest that you are using the app and not texting during your confession. I wouldn't want you getting thrown out of the box your first time back!
Father Edward L. Beck, C.P. is a Religion Contributor for ABC News and the host of The Sunday Mass on the ABC Family Channel (www.TheSundayMass.org). He also co-hosts a weekly show for ABC News Now with Chris Cuomo called Focus on Faith. (www.abcnews.com/spirituality)