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Haven't been to confession lately? Then grab your iPhone.
Confession: A Roman Catholic App is now available for $1.99 on the iPhone and iPad. Designers say it's not meant to replace the priest, but to help believers prepare to bare their sins.
NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports.
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: Last May, Pope Benedict called on the church to bring the gospel to people through new technologies.
Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, says that's what Jesus would do.
Father JAMES MARTIN: If Jesus could talk about the birds of the air, then we can tweet, and we can use apps.
HAGERTY: So last year, Patrick Leinen, his brother and a friend decided to bring confession to the technology nearest you, or at least those of you with Apples.
Leinen, an Internet programmer and faithful Catholic, says they wanted to design an app that would walk you through a so-called examination of conscience.
The beauty, he says, is that the sins can be tailored to you: Just type in your age, gender and marital status.
Mr. PATRICK LEINEN (Developer, Confession: A Roman Catholic App): So the idea is that, like, you know, a mother wouldn't get the same examination as, like, a teenager. And a teenager wouldn't get the same examination as, like, a Catholic priest. And so, in a way, you can get a very sort of user-specific experience.
HAGERTY: In a highly unscientific test, we asked a few volunteers to grab an iPad, put in the relevant information and let the self-examination begin.
ELIZABETH BAKER: Have I ever deliberately told a lie in confession? Or have I withheld a mortal sin from a priest in confession? No. I don't think so.
TOM BOWMAN: Have I pouted and been moody? My daughter would say yes. That's a sin? Have I been...
Ms. ALEX GARDINER (Chief Financial Officer): Have I abused alcohol or drugs? No. Do I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading them into sin? Not that I know of.
HAGERTY: That's 42-year-old Alex Gardiner, a mother of three and chief financial officer at an investment firm. Before her was 22-year-old Elizabeth Baker, an NPR production assistant, and 55-year-old Tom Bowman, NPR's Pentagon correspondent.
The questions ask about your last confession, your prayer life, your sex life. Elizabeth Baker was a little taken aback.
BAKER: Oh, my god. These are...
(Soundbite of laughter)
BAKER: Are you kidding me? Have I been guilty of masturbation? Have I not sought to control my thoughts?
HAGERTY: But for Alex Gardiner, the questions were perfect preparation for seeing a priest.
Ms. GARDINER: It's very thorough.
HAGERTY: And is that a good thing?
Ms. GARDINER: I think this is a very good thing because then you can sit here and you can hit the highlights.
HAGERTY: The question is, will the app have its intended effect and persuade people to go see a priest?
BAKER: No. I feel like I got it over with by doing this.
HAGERTY: Maybe Elizabeth Baker won't, but Alex Gardiner says she's going to borrow her husband's iPad tonight and prepare for confession.
Ms. GARDINER: I should have gone a few months ago, and this will encourage me. Yes, it will. I think it's a great tool. And if used as a tool, it's a good way to examine your conscience.
Father DAN SCHEIDT (Queen of Peace Catholic Church): The response has been favorable and overwhelming.
HAGERTY: That's Dan Scheidt, the priest at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana, who advised the programmers in designing the app. He says several people in his parish have arrived at the confessional clutching an iPhone.
Fr. SCHEIDT: The confessions seemed very focused, very well-organized, and they seemed very much at ease using the technology.
HAGERTY: And a focused confession is a blessing for priests as well.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.
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