"This might be the most useless thing ever created…" — UPDATED

That’s Mike Hayes, the “God Googler,” on the much-touted new confession app:

I fear that people might use it as a way to just go through the motions of a checklist without thinking about their past month or so (or longer) since their last confession. I also think it might lead many to scrupulosity. Thinking that we can never be any good. “There it is in black and white–I’m horrible.”

It also seems very heavy handed and while I’m the guy who always claims that the internet isn’t as impersonal as most think, I found this experience left me quite cold and didn’t thrust me into deep contemplation about my sinfulness but rather, just kept me checking off boxes.

Somewhere in this app there needs to be a more encouraging tone. Especially for those who haven’t been to confession in ages. If someone saw a large list of sins without a bit of encouragement and welcoming language I doubt that this app would be enough to get them to come back to the sacrament.

Lastly, how many people will abuse this? And just use the app to provide a vertical experience of the sacrament (between them and God) but not a horizontal one (reconciling with the community through the church’s representative).

Read the rest of his review, where he describes in depth the process of using the app.

Meantime, for another opinion, check out Fr. Z’s review, wherein he describes it as “useful but flawed.”

And, for dessert: Maureen Dowd’s take.

UPDATE: Phil Fox Rose over at Busted Halo is offering his assessment of the app:

Despite its mission, there isn’t enough hand-holding for the person who hasn’t been to confession in a long time and perhaps on impulse buys this $2 app in hopes of reconnecting. The app should have help screens and gentle welcoming language, rather than just thrusting them into a list of sins. It’s not the right tone for the intended audience. All in all, though, I give the folks at Little iApps props for trying to create a useful tool to make our regular spiritual practice a little easier to maintain.

And then there’s The Anchoress, who has also chimed in:

For Catholics who are poorly catechized, poorly trained in the faith, this app seems to me to be one of those irresistible shiny objects that, when grabbed, proves to be a double-edged sword.

Read the rest to see her concerns.

Comments

  1. I just listened to a podcast about this the other day on catholicmom.com – there was an interview with one of the developers. I think if one listens to that interview, you get a much less ‘cold’ impression. I didn’t find it to be odd at all – I don’t see it as being one iota different from the examination of conscience guidelines that are published periodically in our bulletin.

  2. Joe Dougherty says:

    I’m in the technology business (a developer, in fact) and a cradle Catholic, and I agree that this may be one of the most stupid things I have ever seen.

    First, if you’ve been following Twitter, you will have discovered that some media outlets are touting this as a “replacement.” which is what happens when you get idiots, and non-Catholic ones at that, to report this.

    As an analogy, I recall playing with my Android-based Nexus One last year. While browsing the Android apps market, I found a little app that helps you find your car in a parking lot. That’s right: you park, start the app, and it records the geo-location of your vehicle using GPS. I realized how ridiculous this was when it dawned on me that I park in pretty much the same general area every day. I also realized that if I couldn’t park my car anywhere and remember its general location, perhaps I’m to addled to get behind the wheel.

    But here’s where I see the flaw in the confession app. I didn’t attend confession for a really long time…a number of years. Last year, my wife and I had a crisis that we had to deal with head on. Everything worked out for us, but in the aftermath, I found myself having a strong desire to go to Reconciliation and clear some things off my conscience. The Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia dioceses were having an open confession policy at all churches during Lent. You could walk into any church on Wednesday evenings and a priest would be waiting to hear your confession.

    I decided to go a few days in advance, and I found myself going back to what I was taught about the sacrament: I examined my conscience, made a mental record of my sins (in spite of the smartphone in my pocket), and I considered how my sins affected my relationship with God, as well as those people I may have hurt through those sins.

    When I entered that confessional, one of the first things I noticed on the kneeler were the laminated cards with the various versions of the Act of Contrition, something I was very grateful to have available. As I said, it had been a long time. The priest who heard my confession was kind and patient, and we briefly discussed what I told him. He gave me my penance instructions followed by the absolution. When I left that church, I felt like a million dollars again.

    The point here, for me anyway, is that examining your conscience and preparing to face God and pray for forgiveness is not some cookie-cutter activity that one makes “easy” by keeping a to-do list on a cell phone. Anyone car read off a list of things they’ve done. But this isn’t a shopping list, it’s what’s in our hearts. That’s something that takes time, hard thought, and the willingness to humble ourselves. You can’t do that with an iPhone.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    By the way, on an unrelated person note, my dad is a retired deacon on Long Island. Nothing like having a clergyman for a dad to keep you grounded.

  3. Joe, your last couple paragraphs capture exactly the thought that occurred to me as I listened to a story about this app on NPR this afternoon. Great points, well said.

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