Vatican Says iPhone App Can't Forgive Sins
"It is essential to understand that the rites of penance require a personal dialogue between penitents and their confessor. ... It cannot be replaced by a computer application," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, according to Agence France-Presse.
"Confession: A Roman Catholic App" was created by Little iApps, a company in Indiana.
It guides users through a series of questions such as "Have I been involved in occult practices?" to help Catholics prepare for confession.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne in Indiana approved the app, BBC News reported.
Now, the Vatican seems to be stamping on suggestions that it is moving one of its most sacred rituals into the world of mobile media.
"I must stress to avoid all ambiguity, under no circumstance is it possible to 'confess by iPhone,'" Lombardi said.
The Vatican has taken a cautious approach to the social media phenomena, warning users that sites like Facebook should not take the place of personal relationships.
"It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives," Pope Benedict XVI said in January, according to Time.
Still, Benedict stopped short of proclaiming social media sinful and called on young people to make "good use" of digital media.
The creators of the confession app stressed that they were not trying to take the place of the sacrament of penance. Still, it falls down on some more practical criteria, according to Appolicious, a site devoted to smart phone apps.
"It would be nice if the app included a map of local Catholic churches, and hours when confession is available," a review on Appolicious said. "Nevertheless it is a pretty well-designed product."