Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Confession Prompt in Your Pocket

It would be easy for a Protestant believer to take cheap pot shots at the just-released --and undeniably innovative--digital tool,"Confession: A Roman Catholic App".

But, that would be unhelpful, and possibly even mean-spirited. And no one profits [pun not really intended] from that.

As explained in a article today, [],this new application is designed to work with an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch, at the low-low price of $1.99. No profit motive there!

The rationale behind the new app seems sound enough to me: "'Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology,'said Patrick Leinen, co-founder of Little iApps, developer of the Confession app."

Nor is it intended to replace the Catholic confessional, which I understand to be the traditional context of the Sacarament of Reconciliation. I have no quibble with using cyber-tools in the authentic practice of one's faith...just as I don't object to PowerPoint screens during worship services, or speakers that amplify music (below ear-shattering decibel levels). As long as media remain the 'medium', the channel for communication of content, and do not become a distraction that obscures the Content: the relationship between God and His people.

And, hey, since no one has yet figured out a way to make an actual confessional booth literally portable, this seems like a pocket accessory of real potential value.

Whether behind a confessional screen, or by means of an iPod screen, confession is about agreeing with God regarding the things in our lives that can keep us out of right relationship with Him.

I was struck with a quote from a reviewer on Catholic Mom:

"Along with using this app to better prepare myself to go to Confession, I plan to use this app each night as I go through my daily examination of conscience during my nighttime prayers. I'm not certain that I will actually carry it into the confessional with me, but I will immediately be using it to help myself be more receptive of the graces offered with this sacrament."

So, like most (if not all) technological advances designed for personal use, the iConfession app seems to be a coin with two sides: it can facilitate the integration of spiritual discipline with over-busy lives or, on the other hand, it can be used as a shortcut to 'check off' an essential component of the God-person relationship without really connecting to Him. As always, the determining factor is the attitude of one's heart.

Which inevitably brings us to the reason that this is a Roman Catholic tool, rather than a Protestant one: divergent views of how confession and forgiveness take place. To the Catholic, confession is a sacrament which --as I understand it--must occur through the agency of a Catholic priest. To the Protestant, no human priest is required to mediate between God and man:

"But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many;" [Hebrews 9:26-27]

Thus, personal confession is the means by which we manage our need for the cleansing of our daily sin before God. But this transaction takes place directly between the believer and God. The chasm caused by sin has been bridged once and for all by Chist. And since that bridge can be traversed at will, so can the act of confession to Him and the receiving of forgiveness from Him.

And, I've learned, it's best to keep short accounts with everyone, especially God. So maybe I don't really need a Confession app, afterall.

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