UPDATE REVIEW: iPhone app to help you make a good confession updated

I have reviewed the new iPhone app tool to help you examine your conscience and then make a good sacramental to a priest (the only way to get absolution, of course).

I pointed out that there were flaws in the app.   One of the flaws was that there was no explicit statement reminding people that using this app did not substitute for going to confession to a priest.   Perhaps that on the surface seems too obvious to include in the app, but, based on news reports we saw in the last few days, it winds up being a good idea to include it.

The developers have updated the app with a statement toward the bottom of this screen.

They still lack a note about the need to be sure about the penance you are given.

After the screen which shows the list sins you created (in kind, but not in number – the app’s main flaw), there should be a screen that says that the priest may ask questions and/or give advice, and then assign a penance which you should be careful to remember.  Then it could move to the screen with your default Act of Contrition.

Again, they need to at least add a note that you should confess your mortal sins in both kind and number.


I found that you can beginning a phone call, and use the app at the same time. Perhaps there could be a way for the app to be used only when the iPhone is in Airplane Mode.

Also, I found you can use an app such as Audio Notes, to make recordings, and then use the confession app at the same time.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mrs. O says:

    When I was giving it a trial run, I had my husband call me while I would have been confessing and it bumped me out of the app thus having me to re enter my password and aggrivating. This was solved by Airplane Mode. Nothing transmitted; Nothing received.
    I have had questions if a person were to get your info could/would it be enough to incriminate someone especially in a court. Since these are questions, not statements, I tend to say NO because they are vague enough to not reveal everything especially since not all sins are crimes and sins can be 3: thought, action and omission.

    You had mentioned being able to put how many times. I think I would like it without the option because if someone did access my info, it would remain vague enough as to not reveal the actual sin.

  2. Ralph says:

    Any chance that they will make an Android version?

  3. dmhb says:

    Does this app really do anything more than encourage people to take technology into the confessional (not a good idea) and thereby confuse themselves tremendously with the questions Fr. Z has been answering? (and give idiots in the media a big opportunity to misrepresent everything)

    I think this is a big indication of the cultural poverty of the modern man caused by excessive use of technology. As if the “appeal” of an examination of conscience is improved by having somewhere to click. As if this is not a subject for modern man until it appears on the right kind of little screen (i-apparatus). Finally, it doesn’t help people to get out of the “virtual world” of their little screens and really be present to sacramental grace, which has nothing at all to do with technology.

    A major source of confusion for most people will be the lack of knowledge about how to tell what is a mortal sin (which must be taken to confession and confessed in kind and number) and what is a venial sin. This app doesn’t help catechize on that score and leads to the type of confusion like the recent Quaeritur on the sinfulness of failing to pray daily. Of course failing to pray daily is a venial sin, since prayer is not a morally neutral act and the scriptures are clear on our constant need for it. Would failure to pray become a mortal sin of sacrilege if one had a strong habitual time of prayer that was deliberately neglected? Maybe, but this app is a long way from helping people recognize that such a life where that is possible, a life of real virtue and deep union with God, is the goal for everyone.

    In my opinion, the sacraments are no place to introduce novelties, so stick with old tech – the human mind, maybe the use of paper and writing if necessary. The sacrament of reconciliation is even more problematic than others, MUCH more problematic, because of the canonical requirements to maintain secrecy and privacy, with really serious consequences – so leave the new tech at home. I think this app should have a big reminder to print out the examination of conscience, use it daily to grow in holiness, and not to take an iphone inside a church.

  4. jm0rr0w says:

    There is already a similar Android application.

    A non-profit in the Atlanta area called The Penance Project released a similar application that is free for Android devices. The application helps users do an examination of conscience and to pray after confession.

    The Android is available here: https://market.android.com/details?id=appinventor.ai_jamorrow.PenanceProject

    For more information on The Penance Project and how it tries to promote the Sacrament please visit: http://www.thepenanceproject.org

  5. jm0rr0w says:

    I have a question about confessing mortal sins in number. I understand this for mortal sins like:

    I murdered two people.
    I committed adultery not once but twice.

    I have a harder time with things like:

    I have had impure, lustful, and adulterous thoughts. I can say this as a general thing but I have no idea about a count. In todays society with so much provocative media I struggle with these kinds of thoughts all the time and can’t keep a count.

    What do you recommend?

  6. AnnAsher says:

    I like the app and I bought it for two friends as well.
    I like that it adjusts the examine for age, thus providing an age appropriate examine for younger children! Those paper ones available at parishes are like reading … Latin… For 7-12 year olds.
    It gives each user their own password – thus way my kids dont have to confess to me prior to the Priest/Jesus.
    And for me – I like the checkboxes! I know I’m technically g2g with venial sins but the more I work on closeness to Christ the more aware I am of my impediments via venial sin. I have such trouble remembering everything and in kind. I try to be brief in the Confessional as I believe Confession is for … Confession! Because I am inept or because little d doesn’t want me to have success – when I am before the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lord is convicting me of my sins – I often find no pen or pencil insight or available when I begin to realize more than I expected to find! You’d think I’d learn … I know… I confess… But guess what I always have with me ? Set to silent? My iPhone!
    Guess what this app has? Check boxes! I need checkboxes at this point in time to be thourough! And I like that my kids will be trained by use of this app along with our home catechesis to be clear and thourough and concise in the Confessional.
    If I have to switch to airplane mode I’ll do it. Perhaps the app could be engineered to automatically disable phone calls and recording when it’s open?

  7. This whole app seems like a horrible idea.

    Do people actually think that if someone is not already seeking Confession after a resolute examination of conscience that an app will make that more likely?

    This, app, like all other manifestation of modern thinking into the Church Sacraments, only opens the door for abuse of the Sacraments.

  8. AnnAsher says:

    A completely unqualified response of a sister sinner to JM0rr0w:

    I’d think expressing ” I * struggle with* said type of thoughts and confessing whether or not said thoughts are given into at a level of enjoyment. Also one could say : frequently, weekly, daily, as a type of measure – I think.

  9. APX says:

    AnnAsher says:
    I’d think expressing ” I * struggle with* said type of thoughts

    I’d just leave out the whole “I struggle with” and just say it and move on to the next one.

    You might also want to look here, https://wdtprs.com/fr-zs-20-tips-for-making-a-good-confession/ more more help.

    Samwise Gamgee says:
    This, app, like all other manifestation of modern thinking into the Church Sacraments, only opens the door for abuse of the Sacraments.

    How do you mean? My understanding is that most people aren’t even using Confession, let alone close to abusing it. This app is useful to those who have it on their mind, but are being kept back because they’re rusty and fearful of making a mistake, or something similar.

  10. MarkH says:

    The revision of this app brings up a question: does the Imprimatur still apply to the revised version? Surely the bishop is not expected to review each iteration of a software app. Yet if he does not, how can the Imprimatur be maintained for something which has been revised and may no longer be deserving of Imprimatur?

    Another question: Fr Z has advised that, if one ever brings notes to Confession, they should be carefully destroyed afterward to maintain the seal of the Confessional. Does this app have the capability of ensuring all data is erased after the Confession has been completed? If not, then there would seem to be serious confidentiality concerns.

  11. APX says:

    MarkH says:
    Does this app have the capability of ensuring all data is erased after the Confession has been completed? If not, then there would seem to be serious confidentiality concerns.

    It’s more secure than a piece of paper. Once you’ve finished completing your Examination of Conscience and log out it is password protected. After your confession the list of sins is gone automatically. No need to worry about tearing up a piece of paper and flushing it down the toilet or incinerating it.

  12. Sleepyhead says:

    At my last confession when I knelt down, the priest was using an iPad. He switched it off. Hi-tech in the confessional just seems out of keeping with the nature of the sacrament.

  13. S. Murphy says:

    Is there, or should there be a warning in the app, re the previously discussed topic of canon law forbidding the recording of a confession, including one’s own? Because I’m sure someone will want to use voice memos to make sure they got their penance right or something.

  14. Torpedo1 says:

    I have a question Fr. Z. Is this appat all helpful to someone who suffers with scrupulosity? I suffer from it, and I have been greatly helped by my confessor, however, sometimes the scruples attack and I don’t do so well. Would this app be a help or a hinderence?

  15. Torpedo1, while I’m not a priest, I would be concerned about someone with scrupulosity using it (my wife has a tendency towards scrupulosity). Because it’s on your phone, which you probably have with you all the time, you might be tempted to constantly check off sins. It’s the technological equivalent of walking around with an examination and a notepad for noting every possible transgression. It could cause more scruples attacks.
    With self-control, a scrupulous person could use the app just fine. But having it at his fingertips all the time could be too tempting.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m reminded of the little old lady who got into the confessional, pulled out a list, read “eggs, milk, bread . . . ” and exclaimed, “Oh no! I left my sins in the A&P!”

    I’m much less likely to leave my iPhone somewhere, although it could happen (if St. Anthony wasn’t a saint he would have a full time job keeping track of my stuff).

  17. Luvadoxi says:

    Maybe I’m using it wrong, but when I tried it, and signed out, and then signed in later, it hadn’t saved my sins. I think this is a real drawback if you do your examen say the night before and don’t want to leave the app open all the time. Does anyone else have this problem? I also bought Mea Culpa–love that one because it has venial and mortal sins and that helps me *tremendously* . It’s also password protected, but it saves your sins. (Not sure yet exactly how to erase them, though!). Any suggestions would be helpful. Oh, and one drawback of Mea Culpa is it doesn’t walk you through confession, with the Act of Contrition and everything. It does have a very nice pre confession prayer. And no imprimatur, I don’t think. But basically it looks alot like Father Altier’s examen, which I have in paperback (little tiny book). With me, having this actually helps my scrupulosity–having a list to refer to and not have to come up with everything from scratch.

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