Catholic League reacts to bogus claims about iPhone app for confession help

I reviewed the iPhone confession app here.

The Catholic League has a not about downright stupid or perhaps even malicious news reports about the new iPhone app designed to help people make a good confession.  The app is obvious NOT used as a substitute for sacramental confession.


Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on how Internet sites have characterized last week’s announcement that a Confession application is now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users:

“Confession: A Roman Catholic App” was developed by Little iApps to prepare Catholics for Confession. Specifically, the application guides Catholics through an examination of conscience, steering them through a series of questions that tap into issues addressed by the Ten Commandments. It received an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Patrick Leinen, the developer of Little iApps, cannot be faulted for the way some are characterizing this program. This application was never designed as a substitute for Confession: on the contrary, it makes it clear that only absolution by a priest in the confessional constitutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Even though most Internet stories mention this, many of the headlines are misleading. Here are some of them:

•    “Can’t Make it to Confession? There’s an App for That”
•    “Catholic Church Approves Confession by iPhone”
•    “Bless Me iPhone for I Have Sinned”
•    “Catholic Church Endorses App for Sinning iPhone Users”
•    “US Bishop Sanctions Cell Phone in Confession”
•    “Forgiveness via iPhone: Church Approves Confession App”
•    “New, Church-Approved iPhone Offers Confession On the Go”
•    “Confess Your Sins to a Phone in Catholic Church Endorsed App”
•    “Catholics Can Now Confess Using iPhone App”
•    “Catholic Church Approves Online Confession”

Headlines like these, coupled with remarks like, “The Church is gonna make a killing…$1.99 and your sins are digitally washed away,” are irresponsible. The best we can say about those pitching these bogus claims is that they are clueless. The worst we can say is that they might benefit from purchasing the app and putting it to good use.

WDTPRSers… have you seen some bad or misleading reports?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. YES. Yes, I have seen bad and misleading reports. Honestly, if they just changed the name to “Examination of Conscience” instead of “Confession”, it would be far less misleading. In its present state, my opinion is that it’s quite dangerous, especially to someone not very familiar with the Church’s teaching on Confession. It opens the door to people who, not reading the fine print, think their sins, grave or otherwise, forgiven through an iPhone. This creates a plethora of other grave problems, not least of which is the unworthy reception of the Eucharist. Perhaps I’m “catastrophizing” this app. But it’s something to be thought about.

  2. Thomas says:

    of all places, I heard it as a lead in to the story on Fox News. I was very disappointed.

  3. Rob in Maine says:

    The link off the Drudgereport suggest the app assigns penance.
    “The app’s ‘examination of conscience’ then decides what penance to impose”

    That makes it sound like it’s a substitute for the Sacrament.

    Read more:

  4. Centristian says:

    I’m not so sure the articles are the problem as opposed to the readers. A co-worker’s amazement was the first I heard about this app this morning as he read an online article about it. He was just amazed that Catholics could now use an app to make an electronic confession, according to the article.

    Well, naturally, I realized something was rotten in the state of Denmark, so I read the article myself and it implied no such thing.

    People who pay no attention to detail will always be ‘misled’ by the media, but is it really the media’s fault when people are stupid? I don’t think so. Any half-wit would question a headline claiming that Catholics can confess their sins on a cell phone app or that the Pope thinks its okay for male prostitutes to use condoms.

    There is alot of shorthand in today’s instant media, and that’s understandable. But what isn’t understandable is Catholics who read a brief article as though it were a Catechism.

  5. geerlingguy says:

    I think the biggest problem, which is not uncommon at all in Church matters, is miscommunication. See the post I referenced in your earlier review of the app:

  6. Ezra says:

    I think the comments at the bottom of this article need to be Z-ified. Start hitting the green arrows on the goodies and red arrows on the baddies!

  7. Torpedo1 says:

    Yup, saw a link posted on a friend’s facebook page. I immediately commented, explaining what the app was about and gave a plug for this blog as well. I hope it helped.

  8. Paulo says:

    Yes. The Vancouver Sun parrots Reuters feed; the headline: “iPhone app allowing Catholics to confess sins approved by church”.

  9. kolbe1019 says:

    I saw the app on a tech blog. The column wasn’t negative, but the comments were insane. On the positive side, because of this more people will hear about the reality that sin exists and in the words of B16 that is a step in the right direction. My only concern is that this doesn’t cause bishops and priests to shy away from “new” technologies… If the prince of this world took notice and is trying to bash it we must not be more cautious, but instead push forward with great zeal.

  10. Andy F. says:

    I have a friend that has the app. It is very useful when remembering your sins in the confessional. It is a good help when it comes to examining your conscience. It is regrettable people are making a stink about it.

  11. scotus says:

    Although the article on the BBC website makes it clear that the app gives advice about making a Confession, the link to it suggests otherwise:

    The above page may change so what it says is: “Church gives blessing to iPhone confessions”.
    And here is the actual article:

  12. wolfeken says:

    Miscommunication, possibly. But is anyone really surprised on the reaction to a computer program for confession?

    C’mon, really? You don’t think this would get made fun of by average people?

    Sometimes it’s not about the communication, it’s about the SILLY substance itself.

  13. Andreas says:

    Yes….on the BBC website ( “Church gives blessing to iPhone confessions”. The report itself is fine; I fear the attention-catching headline is what is misleading. I assumed that the Beeb was above such things…apparently not.

  14. Random Friar says:

    My experience matches Andreas’. I found a few online stories, and the headlines were all either ignorant of Catholicism/what the story actually said, or purposely deceptive.

    Opportunities for facepalms superabound.

  15. Andrew says:

    The report on the news on CBC from Saint John NB actually seemed to mention that it wasn’t a replacement for confession, or at least had the proper quote from some monsignor. I wasn’t listening all that closely however.

  16. Jerry says:

    @Paulo – Yes. The Vancouver Sun parrots Reuters feed; the headline: “iPhone app allowing Catholics to confess sins approved by church”.

    Which begs the questions, what do they do abouts sins that aren’t approved by the Church? And where does one get a list of the approved sins?
    Just asking… :)

  17. APX says:

    This one’s so blatantly wrong.
    From The Globe and Mail:

    Have a confession to make? There’s an app for that

    iSinned. iLied. iCoveted.

    Don’t worry, there’s an app for that.

    Catholics with a guilty conscience no longer need to find a priest to unburden their souls. They just need to whip out their iPhones. Confession: A Roman Catholic App, bills itself as “the perfect aid for every penitent.” Sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the United States, the application guides users through the sacrament and promises “a personalized examination of conscience for each user,” according to its description on

  18. Charles E Flynn says:

    The general principle is that if you have first-hand knowledge of any topic, mere journalism about it produced under any kind of time pressure is going to seem riddled with errors.

    It does appear that the reporting on this story is particularly inept. It would be interesting to learn if any of these reporters worked on stories about recent scandals in the Church.

  19. danielinnola says:

    Im shocked that the people who comment on this blog are shocked. I mean c’mon people! do you really think the brain- dead ignorant American public would “get” it??? or that they would even make an attempt to understand?? Americans want 30 second “sound bites” fed to them by their insidious media gods. Any thing beyond that, and they are too lazy and smug to care… just my 2 cents

  20. Mitchell NY says:

    I saw it yesterday and before i even got to the end I went to the comments section. I was going to send you the link Father but remembered that you said you are often inundated with e mail. So stepped back and waited for it to appear, as I thought it would, and here it is. I really wish some rich Catholic can donate millions to the Church for example (it does happen), would take out a 30 second spot on a national channel and create a commercial for Catholics, in defense of Catholics to appear among local broadcasting to clear up things like this that come up. Imagine Catholic Commercials, paid for privately. I think that would be a good use of part of that money. Headlines like this make me want to get out the message to as many as I can that this is totally misleading. I was fuming when I saw it yesterday, and thought now how many more people are going to stop going to Confession in a Church. Something more for non-Catholics to laugh about. I really get tired of our Church and Faith being made a joke of.. ..This one steamed me…..

  21. K_Suzanne says:

    I haven’t tried it, but I still think I would prefer my method of writing down my examination of conscience on paper, and burning it after Confession. It’s so cathartic, and final.

  22. Paulo says:

    I actually just watched a segment on CTV News (no, CTV does not stand for “Catholic TV”; it’s one of the news channels in Canada) which was rather positive: the spin was right (technology meets religion); the captions were accurate (an app to assist in confession); they had screenshots; they interviewed a handful of folks outside a church that, like me, do not have an iPhone, but think that this is a good idea (I am sure the reporters camped outside the church so that they could get the throngs exiting the 9 am weekdays mass…); and they had a quick interview with monsignor so-and-so (sorry, I did not quite get his name) explaining the true aim of the tool. I tried to find a link on CTV’s web site, to no avail…

    @Jerry: isn’t that amazing that sometimes we need to read certain headlines three times, to really get their meaning?

  23. fbcallicoat says:

    How tone deaf do you have to be to not immediately foresee the way this would be played by the media?

    I live in Oklahoma, where Catholics are approximately 3 percent of the population in a veritable ocean of Baptists. How do you think the Baptists will perceive this app?

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  24. APX says:

    I tried to find a link on CTV’s web site, to no avail…

    I couldn’t find one where I usually find CTV clips either, but… I did find a really good article here,

    Some highlights,

    “As of Tuesday, the app was number five on the top paid lifestyle apps chart on the Canadian iTunes site, just ahead of “iKamasutra” and just behind “Mixologist: Drink Recipes.” “

    “This app has already aided one man in returning to the sacrament after 20 years,” said Patrick Leinen, the app developer and co-founder of the company in a statement.”

    “The app “is not intended to function as a replacement for confession” at church,” he said in an email to CBC News.

    Instead, it is supposed to help people prepare for confession and is designed to be used in the confessional, the booth in church where people sit while confessing to a priest, he said.

    I just like that I don’t have to feel guilty about using my iPhone in the reconciliation room.

  25. mike cliffson says:

    Ditto Andreas: Bad headline, clear article.Sloppy ignorance or badfaith anything-for-a-good-screamer (exclamation mark)? Either way, MSM don’t do this sort of thing to those they fear or love or respect, or if they do, they correct fast. The church can tighten up etc on prudence, press releases etc, probably should, but this sort of thing is just going to carry on.

  26. Charivari Rob says:

    CantateDomino has it right in the first comment. If it was called “Examination of Conscience” or “Confession Prep” it would head off a lot of confusion and misinterpretation.

  27. Prof. Basto says:

    Here in Brazil, based on international news stories to that effect, the main newspaper of Rio de Janeiro, O Globo, published a story with a frontpage introduction announcing that the Catholic Church had given its blessing to internet iphone confessions as a modern substitute for the Confessional, at the price of R$ 1,99. The frontpage title was something like “church approves online confessions for R$ 1,99” and the subtitle mentioned the new iphone app. It is of course bogus, but many people will be misled (believing the app is indeed Church approved as an alternative to the Confessional, percieved as an awkward place), and others will be scandalized (due to the financial connection => sacramental confession for a fee, simony). The story only serves to lower respect for the Church, for Sacramental Confession, and also to mislead people into believing that the app has sacramental effect. Due to poor Catechesis, many will be convinced that the newspaper story is absolutely true, otherwise it would not make it to the mainstream press.

  28. My initial reaction to all this nonsense was that it can’t possibly be that hard to understand that one is simply making use of new technology in making an examination of conscience. Really, it’s not that hard!!!!

    But then, in fairness, moving from one technology to another is bound to cause all kinds of confusion:

  29. Interesting thing — Slashdot, often very bad on religious news, was accurate about what the app was for. Of course there were the usual sarcastic/blasphemous comments (many suggested using the examination of conscience as a sin suggestion list), but at least they were making jokes about what it actually was.

  30. JoAnna says:

    The host of one of the local conservative radio programs ranted about it as I was driving home; I sent him a (civil) e-mail correcting his many errors (e.g., an imprimatur does not = “blessed by the Catholic Church”; one does not use the app to text message one’s sins to a priest; most parishes allow for both face-to-face and anonymous confessions [he had said that the Church “no longer allowed” anonymous confessions but said they had to be dine face-to-face]).

    I don’t know if it’ll help, but… brick by brick.

  31. Paulo says:

    @ Prof Basto: It doesn’t surprise me that O Globo would get the facts on the app so wrong. Considering that Brazil may be on the verge of considering homeschooling a crime (, it becomes obviously clear that the nanny state (along with a subservient press that tells people what to think and what to do and that is bound to make people worship the state – and not God) is there to stay. What happened to catholicism in Brazil?!

  32. Denis says:

    What I find really disconcerting is the eagerness of conservative news sites and blogs to jump on this sort of distorted news, and the sneering contempt expressed by their “Christian” commentators. It’s just as bad as anything you’d see on Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Just read the “Blaze” if you’re not convinced. That place has been thoroughly Jack-Chick-ified. Glenn Beck’s people on there really seem to have a thing against the Church. Al Kresta said recently that a prominent Archbishop had told him that, whereas he would die in bed, his successors would be persecuted. I was a bit skeptical. “America is far too conservative for that,” I thought. Now I’m not so sure. It hadn’t occurred to me that the persecution might come from the right, as well. Especially now that the various conservative groups are jumping on the gay “marriage” bandwagon, and are attempting to marginalize anyone opposed to it.

  33. Will D. says:

    I heard about it this morning via a Kim Komando report. She gets a mixed grade: she used the “Church allows confession over iphone” hook, but then said that it was for walking you through the confession and that a “a priest was still required for absolution.” And she gets points for pointing out that if you use this thing, make sure you don’t lose the phone, and keep it password locked.

  34. ehale says:

    Looks like a good program, but I am still holding out for the Lourdes App. When I can get my pimples, asthma, and bunions cured, I will spring for an iPhone.

  35. GoZagsGo says:

    Yes! Heard a flippant and slanted article about it on NPR. I was extremely annoyed especially since NPR at the very least usually tries to one: pretend to paint things in a neutral light and to do some sort of homework. Boo.

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