Apparently I wasn’t the only person on this side of the Tiber who misunderstood the new Confession iPhone app. Mark D. Roberts, one of my favorite Presbyterian pastors, was also leery—until he tried it out for himself:
So, you might wonder, what do I think of this app?
Since I am not Roman Catholic, the language and understanding of confession is not quite the same as my own. I do not believe, for example, that one must receive absolution or forgiveness from a priest. But, my Reformed tradition affirms the importance of examining one’s conscience as part of confession of sin. In fact, we use the Ten Commandments as a guide for our examination and confession. So, in many ways, this app would be useful to someone who was not Catholic.
I must admit that when I first read about the confession app, I rolled my eyes. I can get very cynical about this sort of thing. Yet, when I actually worked through a round of confession, guided by the app, I was chastened. It did encourage me to think about some of my sinful behaviors and attitudes that I might easily overlook.
It appears that the confession app is meant to get Roman Catholic Christians to church, specifically, to confession to a priest. Though I do not believe that this form of confession should be required of Christians, I do think that confession of sin to another Christian can be a very good thing. In fact, it’s something commended to all Christians in Scripture (James 5:13-16). This is, it seems to me, one of the most often disobeyed commands in the whole Bible. So, if the confession app helps some Christians examine their lives and confess their sins, either to the Lord alone or to another in God’s presence, then I can see benefit of this app. The fact that it shows up on an iPad or iPhone doesn’t make it any less valuable than other printed guides to confession.
On related note, the Vatican clarifies that Catholics can’t confess by iPhone. No one other than journalists and confused Protestants (and confused Protestant journalists like me) thought you could, but its still good to have that cleared up.