The sacrament of Confession "cannot be substituted by any computer application," the Vatican said Feb. 9. The remarks by papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, came amid a flurry of misleading international media reports on a new application developed for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod.
"Confession: A Roman Catholic App" helps Catholics prepare for confession by offering a “step-by-step” guide to the sacrament and a “personalized examination of conscience.”
Many media outlets wrongly reported that the application allowed Catholics to go to Confession on the phone or online.
Fr. Lombardi said the essence of the sacrament involves the intimate conversation of the believer and the priest and the presence of Jesus Christ.
"It is essential to understand well that the Sacrament of Penance requires necessarily the rapport of personal dialogue between penitent and confessor and absolution by the present confessor," he said.
"This cannot be substituted by any computer application. There needs to be emphasis put on this to avoid misunderstandings. One cannot speak in any way of 'confession by iPhone'.”
He said that the new application might have “true pastoral” uses as a “digital pastoral aid.” But, those who use it, must be aware that it is “not at all a substitute for the sacrament.”
The application was developed by Patrick Leinen, developer and co-founder of Little iApps and has been approved by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and by the U.S. bishops’ top doctrine official, Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM. Cap.