I am all for anything that gets people to go to confession. But let’s be clear about something:
The iPhone app is for preparing to go to confession. It is not a substitute for going to confession.
The app costs $1.99 in the iTunes app store. It has an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne – South Bend.
The app store says that it was developed by Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM, the Exec. Dirpaector of the Secretariate for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices for the USCCB and Fr. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.
WDTPRS applauds their effort.
We have to face facts. As a Church we have collectively dropped the ball when it comes to the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. Call it what you want, people aren’t going.
If you, dear reader, have not been to confession for a while – for whatever reason, including laziness, fear, confusion about what to do, maybe a priest was mean, you don’t think you’ve sinned (which I seriously doubt in most cases) – get off your backside an GO! For the love of God, GO TO CONFESSION!
Now that I’ve had my little rant, let’s look at this app for the iPhone.
There are two major flaws in this app, which I will indicate down the line.
You have to create a user and password. I wonder how secure that is were someone to get your phone and hack it.
In your profile you include your state in life and date of last confession. I suppose that if you don’t know it, you guess and put in a date.
Then you move to your examination of conscience.
There are broad categories.
Perhaps they needed a category for Responsibilities to Self.
Under each broad category you are given questions about sins.
You check the boxes of the relevant sins. As you look at these shots of the screen, do you notice anything missing?
You can create your own categories.
I see they did not shy away from including sexual sins.
It seems not to be overly politically correct.
When you are doing with your examination of conscience, you are directed to make your confession.
THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTION FOR CONFESSION.
It leads you step by step through what you ought to say.
This could be useful for those who haven’t been to confession… and there are quite a few who, as children, were not required to make their confession before 1st Communion and, to this day, have never gone. Or they haven’t gone since. But there is a real problem in the app.
After using this a couple times, you should be able to skip this. Right?
Also, the app does not indicate that you really should tell the priest your state in life as you are beginning. That should be added to the next version.
In trying out the app, I just checked the top sin in each category to see what would turn up.
So, you are ready to make your confession. You are given your consolidated list of things you checked. But something is still missing.
There is NO INDICATION TO CONFESS THE NUMBER OF TIMES you committed the sin. You are never informed that you must confess the number and not just the kind.
This is a serious flaw in this app that must be corrected.
It gives you an Act of Contrition.
I like the older Act better.
But wait! You can set your own default version of an Act of Contrition under the Prayers tab.
Notice that they included Latin!
I can set this other Act as the default. Very nice.
And also under that tab there are some handy prayer texts. This could be useful if the priest tells you to say a Memorare, for example. But Catholics ought to have these memorized too.
Concluding. There is something missing here.
There is no mention of the penance you will receive and the obligation of the penance as a necessary part of the sacrament. You should be instructed to listen carefully for the penance and to be able to understand and remember it (so that you can perform it).
Then a quote from Scripture popped up. Nice.
To see what would happen, I changed myself into a single twenty-something male.
I got a different structure for an examination of conscience based on the 10 Commandments. I don’t know if this is connected to the profile of the user or if it is random.
I am glad they did not avoid the sin of homosexual activity.
They still include a couple of the categories I saw under the other examination.
If you leave blank the last time since you were at confession, you are prompted. This is good. Many people just launch in without saying when the last time was. Apparently the app remembers the date for next time.
A different quote popped up this time. I don’t know if they are tailored to the user profile or random.
All in all, it is useful.
But there are flaws.
In a next version, I think the very first thing that the user should see is a message that this is NOT a substitute for confession. This is only a tool to help make a good confession.
They must must must adjust this so that people are informed that they must must must confess sins in kind (the sort of sin) and number (how many times). This is a deep flaw in this app.
There is no indication in the app about a distinction of venial and mortal sins. I guess you can’t include everything. But maybe in a future version they can add a section, along with the Prayers section, which discusses more in depth what this sacrament is. Perhaps they could include, for example, the section from the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the sacrament.
The app is good, but it needs some additions in order to be very good.
UPDATE 2057 GMT:
One of the developers chimed in in the combox, below. He is a stand up guy for doing so.
As one of the developers, thank you so much for your review. We want this app to be not just good, but very good. We have made notes of all of your suggestions and we will be including them in our next version. If you have any other suggestions or questions, please let me know. We really appreciate the review.
I hope participants here will give thoughtful comments. You might make a difference.
UPDATE 2143 GMT:
An alert commentator, below, reported that you cannot set up a profile as a female and chose “Priest” as your vocation.
Take that wymynpryst wannabes out there!
UPDATE 9 Feb 2053:
The aforementioned developer contributed this comment, below.
I just want to give you an update. I have submitted an update to the app (apple still has not reviewed it yet, so you won’t see it yet). I couldn’t implement all of the changes you suggested yet because some of them will require changes to the database structure and logic, but we will get them implemented. In response to Fr. Lombardi’s comments, I added a bit of text to the first page of the confession page on the bottom:
“This app is intended to be used during the Sacrament of Penance with a Catholic priest only. This is not a substitute for a valid confession.”
I reviewed the text with our parish priest before submitting the update. I’ve seen a few of the other comments on here and I’ll reply when I get a chance. Thanks for helping us to make this app better.
And who needs Fr. Lombardi when you can get it from WDTPRS (and common sense)?