Sales of Little iApps' new iPhone “Confession” application have exceeded the developers' expectations, with the program rising to the top of Apple's “Lifestyle” application charts, and even drawing the interest of those outside of the Catholic Church.
“Several Protestant ministers have recommended our app,” Little iApps' co-founder and developer Ryan Kreager told CNA on Feb. 14.
Those recommendations may have played a part in raising “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” to the number 1 spot in the “Lifestyle” section of the Apple's app store, a position it has held since Feb. 9. The program, which also runs on an iPad or an internet-enabled iPod, is currently among Apple's top 100 total applications.
“The response that we've gotten from non-Catholics – from our Protestant brothers in Christ, as well as those outside the Christian faith – has been largely positive,” said Kreager.
Some of that outside interest comes from a desire to understand what Catholics believe and practice. But Kreager noted that non-Catholics may find its moral evaluation personally useful. “The Examination of Conscience' portion gives anyone an opportunity to consider: 'How am I doing in my walk with God?'”
Catholics believe that seriously immoral acts must be confessed to a priest, in accordance with Jesus' granting his Apostles the power to forgive or retain sins on his behalf. However, the Church also acknowledges the genuine value of sincere repentance, even among those who do not accept this important teaching.
Initially, some media reports on Little iApps' product created confusion about this teaching by giving the impression that the app was a substitute for confessing to a priest. On Feb. 9, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi clarified what the developers had always made clear – that the program was intended for use in the context of a proper sacramental confession, with priestly absolution.
That misunderstanding, Kreager said, had actually provided a further opportunity to explain the sacrament of Confession to non-Catholics. The clarification has also served to help lapsed or confused members of the Church understand the value of going to Confession.
“We think that the statement by the Vatican – which we stand 100 percent behind – is great,” Kreager stated. “It gives people an opportunity to talk about Confession in a public forum. That's always a great thing, and a teaching moment.”
Plenty of Catholics are hearing the message, and realizing they are long overdue for a visit.
“People have emailed us saying they hadn't been to Confession in 20 or 30 years, and were afraid to go back. But then, they went – because our app made it a less 'scary' experience.” Kreager said he and his fellow developers, Patrick and Chip Leinen, were “extremely humbled” by these reports.
“Confession: A Roman Catholic App” is the first iPhone app to receive an “imprimatur,” signifying the official approval from a Catholic bishop – in this case, Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. Although this step seems unusual, Kreager considers it in keeping with Catholic tradition.
“If you think back to the first book ever printed on a printing press, by Gutenberg, it was a Bible,” he noted. “The Church has had a long and rich history of embracing technologies for deepening of spiritual life and evangelization.”
He hopes that Little iApps' future products will help to “bring all of the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith into this new and very interactive world of technology.”