Vatican issues warning for new Confession app
The Vatican says the app is not meant to replace Confession.
February 9th, 2011
04:38 PM ET

Vatican issues warning for new Confession app

By Hada Messia and Dan Gilgoff, CNN

Rome, Italy (CNN) - Yes, the Roman Catholic Church still supports the new app designed to help Catholics make confession. To a point.

The Vatican qualified its support for "Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” on Wednesday, a day after the program’s developer announced it was the first app to have official church sanction.

“It is essential to understand well the sacrament of penitence requires the personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor and the absolution by the confessor,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters on Wednesday. “This cannot in any way be substituted by a technology application.”

“One cannot talk in any way about a ‘confession via iPhone,’ ” Lombardi said.

The app’s developer, Little iApps, created Confession in consultation with two Catholic priests, one of them an official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

And it has been given the blessing of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana, marking the Catholic Church's first known imprimatur on a mobile app.

The app’s developer said Wednesday that he welcomed the Vatican’s warning about Confession.

“The app we created is supposed to be used in the actual confessional,” said Patrick Leinen, co-founder of Little iApps. “This is an aid to confession and in no way, shape or form a replacement.”

The app has three parts.

The first is an examination of conscience that's designed to help Catholics prepare for confession before stepping into the confessional, “so you don’t walk in and just start making up sins off the top of your head,” Leinen said.

The second part features step-by-step instructions for what to do inside the confessional.

The last part is a space to record any absolution or penance from the priest.

The Vatican’s Lombardi implied some support for the app on Wednesday. “One cannot exclude that someone can - in preparation for the confession - reflect with the help of digital instrument, as in the past one did it with the help of the written word on paper,” he said.

Leinen said that he was surprised his app had provoked a Vatican response but that he was grateful for it.

“There just seems to be some confusion,” Leinen said. “Some people think they will be e-mailing their confession in and that’s just not how it’s going to be used.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Technology

soundoff (183 Responses)
  1. brad

    Without the existance of GOD there'd be NO athiests, NO agnostics.. God doesn't Want ROBOTS God gave us FREE WILL , we are FREE to do whatever we want with it, GOD does NOT send anyone to hell or heaven, WE do that to OURSELVES.. Confession to a priest, a lliving HUMAN BEING with faults, sins and other human frailities was given a MISSION by Jesus himself to forgive sins.. there is NOTHING wrong with other religions w/ Jesus Christ as their center.. just that some are not experiening the entire scope of what Jesus is about, what God is about, and what the Bible is about. Faith is belief in the unseen, Faith is a process for many of us. and it's Growth also.. (and for those that don't believe, think of it this, wouldn't you rather believe in SOMETHING, find out there's NOTHING and lost NOTHING, then believe in NOTHING, find out there is SOMETHING and LOSE EVERYTHING?, we'll be spending far more time on the OTHER Side of death then this one.. do you REALLY want your pride and arrogance to send you to a place you do not want to be for eternity?) and for those people who will or have already put in their .02 regarding everything I said, remember this.. all scholars may NOT believe in the divinity of Jesus, but all agree he did WALK the earth over 2000 years ago, the bible was written over 1500 years, by 40 HUMAN AUTHORS, convicted by the holy spirt, and divinely inspired, on 3 different continents, and the beginning speaks of the middle and ending, and all parts fall together perfectly, there are NO contradictions in the bible, but there are MANY paradoxes (look up that word and actually READ the bible before bashing it,or the many that believe in it)... that's my .02.. google pascals wager too

    February 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "God doesn't Want ROBOTS God gave us FREE WILL

      Actually brad, if God knows the future, that means that the future is predictable and cannot be changed. This, in turn, means that our actions are predetermined.

      This also binds god. He knows what He does in the future, and He must do it.

      If god has a plan for each of us, in which he knows our future and manages it, then there is no free will.

      Either god has a plan for us, or we have free will. Both cannot be true.

      Jeremiah 29:11
      For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

      Psalm 139:16
      "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!"

      Also what about the child that is attacked and killed by some monster?
      Where was the child's free will? Did he/she give their permission to be killed?

      What about the Jews in the Holocaust ?
      Did they consent to being murdered? Where was their free will

      It appears that this free will, that you claim god gave us , is dependent on who is stronger. God does not ensure that it is available to everyone, in the same proportion. Hmmm..

      Let's look at Jesus and his predictions that Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him.

      Those were future events. Do you think Judas could have used his free will to opt out? Not if Jesus/God was omniscient. Same goes for Peter.

      The actions of Peter and Judas were predestined. They had no choice.

      Fundies point to the predictions in the bible that they claim have come true. The fact that any future event can be predicted, means the future is set. Immutable. Predestined.

      The 6 Point Calvinists believe that people are destined to be saved or damned, before they are born. They can show bible verses that back up their beliefs.

      You said: "GOD does NOT send anyone to hell or heaven, WE do that to OURSELVES.. "

      So when a person is placed under the lash or upon the rack, he brought it upon himself?
      No matter how hideous the penalty, the person applying the punishment bears no guilt?
      Did no one fashion the lash or devise the rack? Invent the Hell?

      You claim, that god doesn't send anyone to hell, we send ourselves to hell. Make no mistake. God sends people to hell.

      Believers always want to give their god a pass on evil. Satan does it, humans are responsible, etc.


      February 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  2. MasterC

    God is in the computer? Damn that guy gets around.

    February 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  3. Brad

    I hope this App includes links to purchasing of indulgences and a listing of child psychologists

    February 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  4. Jim

    Why can't news reporters get their stories right? "And it has been given the blessing of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana, marking the Catholic Church's first known imprimatur on a mobile app." A local bishop cannot - repeat cannot - give an imprimatur. That has to come from the Vatican.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • knowledgable

      false. any local Ordinary (Bishop) can grant an Imprimatur. The mistake in the story is the inclination that the imprimatur is the Catholic Church's blessing or endorsement. Rather, the imprimatur means only that the app (or book) does not contain any misinformation or anything that would harm the faithful.

      February 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  5. Sammied

    If you feel that you must confess your sins the app is better than a pedophile. The church will never approve completely as some of the priests get their kicks on hearing some of the 'sins'. It is better than tv.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  6. C

    A priest that ran the my Catholicisim RCIA class rhetorically asked us, "if you are driving on the way to confession and die in a car accident before you get to the church, are you still forgiven?" His answer was yes. So then why do you need to go to confessor at all?

    God knows your heart and mind. Glad to be Lutheran now.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Catholic Bob

      John 20:21-23
      (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
      And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit.
      Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

      We Catholics confess our sins to a priest because Jesus gave that authority to his apostles. How else could they forgive or retain sins without someone telling them? Jesus didn't give them authority or ability to read minds. The sinful condition of the priest has nothing to do with the his authority to forgive or retain sins. It is the Priest behind the priest who has forgiven us.

      Glad to be a Catholic.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • The Thinker

      I'm glad you found happiness in Lutheranism. The Sacrament of Reconciliation requires one to speak to another human about his faults, in essence, not blaming anyone else, not rationalizing, but admitting that we were uncool. The priest is there to raise the bs flag on us if necessary, and to build us up again after admitting our sins.
      Again, I'm glad you're happy being Lutheran.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • loltheran

      Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian = Catholic Lite

      February 9, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  7. ???

    What is God's phone number? Are you sure he doesn't have a Android powered phone?

    February 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • ???

      Salvation...now only available to Apple customers.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • ???

      Wait! What if God has the AT&T version? If my confession is dropped does it count?

      February 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • The Thinker

      Dude, it's right there in the Bible: "The serpant gave the woman AN APPLE". 😉

      February 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  8. Deb

    Lulu, while I agree that people should be civil, I think you need to understand that this story highlights how nonsensical religion is. Think about it – there is a debate here about whether or not people confessing their 'sins' into a machine 'counts', or whether it can only be done face-to-face with some guy wearing funny clothes. Meanwhile the deity behind all this is supposed to be all-seeing and all-knowing; why would you need an app OR a person?

    In reality there's nothing more plausible about this deity than Buddha, Mohammed, Zeus, Krishna, Odin, or any of the other ones you don't believe in. Step away from them and you can see that they're all clearly man-made, betraying the beliefs and biases of the time and place where they were created. And the reason why people like me care is because we throw away so much time and money on something that's not real... and then persecute people who don't believe in it! The world would be so much better if EVERY dollar that went to a church went to charity, not just the portion left over after they get done paying for all the buildings, clothing, priests, choir directors, etc. And the world would be so much better if instead of getting worked up about an unseen, unverified deity – and sometimes killing each other over it – we invested that same level of emotion and devotion into each other. Instead, we're arguing about whether or not talking to your iphone counts as talking to the invisible man in the sky.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • ogre12

      I suggest you think again atheist before it is too late. I highly suggest you find HIM before HE forgets you on the last day. Deny HIM and HE will deny you and I know exactly what that penalty is. Bottom line is you have no clue of what you are saying fool.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • The Thinker

      Deb. The story goes that an ap assists a Catholic with their participation in a Sacrament. The Vatican investigated it and said "cool, one used to use paper, but now this". The "nonsense" you speak of is nowhere in the article, though heavily implied by the headline "Vatican issues warning". In fact, for an article describing the Vatican's position as "qualified support", don't you think that "Vatican issues warning" is inappropriate?
      Since you agree that people should be civil, maybe you should reconsider putting offensive remarks on the internet especially when they are utterly unsupported by the story on which they are based.
      Just an idea.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • The Thinker

      @ Ogre12
      Remember, He WANTS to find Deb, and He wants her to find Him. He has forgiven worse comments than Deb's... come on, she's just typing on the intrawebs. He expects MORE from you and me, however.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Jason

      Well said, Deb.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • stejo

      ogre – Matthew 5:22 – sounds like you're in danger of a little hellfire yourself.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Ogre 12.. this is just typical rhetoric of the death cult that religion is.This is exactly the type of mind games that religion plays on the young to scare them into believing, and the catholics have the patent on that. With out fear, religion is impotent. And yes, I know you think I will go to a hot place when I die..that's just the love of the gods again..

      February 13, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • Evolved DNA

      The thinker.. in what way are Debs remarks offensive? I think it is time for churches to pay taxes.. is that offensive as well?

      February 13, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  9. Benny V

    A confession app for the iphone? What's next, a cross on the Hubble telescope? A jesus action figure on the dash of the space shuttle? Talk about a mismatch...

    February 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  10. AncientSoul

    I understand and agree this can be a useful tool and actually MUCH needed. It will help folks take the Sacrament of Confession more seriously and realize that the 10 Commandments encompass a lot more than "TEN ITEMS" to consider. However, it would be nice, being we can receive blessings over tv and airwaves if something could be done to address the GROWING issue of the dwindling number of available priests to confess shutins particularly in rural areas. This is a real problem and will only get worse. I wonder if provisions couldn't be made if the priest and penitent were actually introduced and knew each other? Just a thought 🙂 God bless 🙂

    February 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  11. Fast Fred

    You can find out ......there's an app for that.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  12. IceT

    Religion is a psychological state of mind. Prayer and confession is really just a method of self-help. If this APP can give someone the relief they need, when they need it what could be wrong with that?

    February 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • The Thinker

      TV shows and movies portray religion as "self help". I guess if one puts zero effort into religion, that's all they would think it is, but such a person is likely to put zero effort into studying nuclear physics and we can imagine the eyerolls caused by his sweeping comments belittling that field.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • IceT

      Nuclear physics requires study, discipline and deep understanding of that field. Religion only requires faith and is prone to opinion.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Lulu

      IceT – actually a deep understanding of God DOES require study & discipline. Why do you think some religious orders require such, along with meditation & other tools ?

      February 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • IceT

      I can be religious on faith alone. I cannot be a nuclear physicist on faith.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • The Thinker

      Religion doesn't require study, discernment, discipline? Your comment reminds me of this guy from Kenya I knew. He was pretty new to America and he was watching football for the first time. We all know how easy the pros make football look, so instantly this guy from Kenya was an expert, since "it looked so simple". We never did get him out for a flag football game, but I suggest you become well established in something before passing sweeping proclamations about it.
      Recap: the credibility of one who says "Religion is simple" equals that of a Kenyan who watches one football game and is suddenly an expert.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • IceT

      You two are actually kind of funny. You choose to pick an arguement with someone who sees the value in religion and this app? Religion does NOT require study to take part. You can choose to study if you wish but to compare religion with nuclear physics, you're kidding right?

      February 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • The Thinker

      1. Reread the article: the app is used as a study aid, it's no more part of religion than a piece of paper on which we write notes.

      2. I bring up nuclear physics as an example: you are equally as ignorant in nuclear physics as you are in religion. To not know anything about religion and then assert that it doesn't require any study... electrons and protons, what's the big deal...

      February 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • IceT

      So far thinker, the only thing you've been intellectually adept at is avoiding the point. To be religious only requires faith. If religious faith "requires" study then millions of "faithfull" didn't get the memo. Please, try again to tell me that having faith isn't enough to be religious.
      Recap: Having faith IS the only requirement. Anything more is a choice that many don't make. Try again.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  13. ijreilly

    I Wonder... Does a pedophile have the power to forgive someones sin? If not, would that mean if we confess our sins to a pedophile priest we haven't been forgiven for them, even though we didn't know he was a pedophile? I can't imagine God allowing forgiveness to be attained through the intercession of a pedophile. If he would just forgive the sin anyway then what is the need for the priest?

    February 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • itsjustme

      It's all ambulance chasing with them - the RCC was real quick to put the kabosh on secular songs for weddings and funerals and quick to put the kabosh on what can and cannot be thrown after a Catholic wedding - but sack, remove and report the pedophiles, so these freaks can be jailed? The kabosh on them won't happen any time soon

      February 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Does ANY priest "have the power" anyway??!

      February 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Catholic Bob

      John 20:21-23
      (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
      And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit.
      Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

      We Catholics confess our sins to a priest because Jesus gave that authority to his apostles. How else could they forgive or retain sins without someone telling them? Jesus didn't give them authority or ability to read minds. The sinful condition of the priest has nothing to do with the his authority to forgive or retain sins. It is the Priest behind the priest who has forgiven us.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  14. itsjustme

    Hasn't been called confession in years - they now call it Reconciliation.

    RCC is trying to keep whatever bodies that are left. Nice try.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  15. Glen

    God.. I wish people would get over religion already. Originally it was created to dispell fears of death... like "oh you'll go to a better place" and to explain things we didnt understand like why the sun rises and sets. Then a few people realized that religion could be used to control people, now its the biggest money making scheme out there. I have to admit that there is alot of charitable work done by religions the world over; when we finally shed the need for religions I hope there is a group that fills that void left behind. Once current religions have gone the way of hercules and zeus you might find we will be able to better get along without the misconceptions, distrust and hate that religions instill in people against others with different beliefs.

    If the Roman Catholic Church really supports this app they should buy the rights to it from the developer and give it away for free.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Lulu

      The Church does not need the app. It's strictly up to Catholics to buy it or not. There's no reason for the Church to license it. Let the guy who developed it retain the rights (and proceeds).

      February 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  16. tommas

    I really don't know witch is more stupid, this is awesome

    February 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Ianni

      "I really don't know WITCH is more stupid, this is awesome" – You can't seriously claim something is stupid and make such a boneheaded mistake.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  17. dike

    why dont you send me your confession in an email and send me a dollar for each confession.... with the number of smart people who can use emails.. I'll be rich very soon.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  18. Lulu

    This app is for Catholics. Why do non-Catholics care ? Do you really have nothing better to do with your day than troll the religion pages & post inane comments about Catholicism (or religion in general, for the non-believers) ?

    February 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • America is agnostic

      non-believers is funny. It's like faith is a given, and those without it are lacking in some way. the burden of proof is on "the believers," or as I like to say it "the easily fooled".

      "Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies." [Thomas Jefferson]

      February 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Lulu

      @ AIA – touchy ? You don't believe. That makes you a non-believer. Goody for you. I do believe. That makes me also a non-atheist, non-agnostic. But for this exercise it works well to divide the groups into the two : believers & non-believers.

      Stop trolling religion web pages if you are so over religion – or are you looking for Faith & don't know how to ask ? Obviously, with your collection of ready-to-go, stick-it-to-the-religious quotes, you spend a lot of time trying to debunk someone else's belief system. Does your own really need that much shoring up ?

      February 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  19. dike

    Hey why dont they show a priest on TV and you all come come to the idiot box and confess... the problem is no one makes the money except they can show adds for buying books on how to confess to cops.. to spouse.. to priest.. then priest to the cardinal confession ...etc... its all about money and how to get it from stupid people.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • ogre12

      I have a better idea..why dont you confess your sins to HIM. I suggest you find HIM before it is too late. I promise you will not be so smug then when you are facing that unholy pit with the sign posted that reads "abandon hope all ye who enter here".

      February 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • stejo

      ogre, your signpost is from Dante.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  20. Wobbles

    People fighting over Religion and Apple products at one time. Let me get some popcorn for the show.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • IrishboyNYC

      THAT was funny!

      February 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.