How to Save Your Soul with an iPhone

Confession? Yup, there's an app for that

A janitor named Tom is cleaning the pews for Sunday Mass when the parish priest approaches him.

“Tom, could you do me a favor and go into my confessional and listen to a confession for me? I have to go to the bathroom really bad and Theresa McGee is next in line. The woman never does anything worthy of serious repentance but goes on and on with the same litany of silly transgressions. Do a kindly priest a good turn will you, Tom? Just tell her to say a few Hail Marys and I’ll be right back.”

Tom, an obliging sort, agrees, and Theresa McGee steps into the confessional.

“Bless me, Father,” she begins, “I have truly sinned, I have given into carnal thoughts and have had inappropriate sex with my neighbor’s husband.”

Stunned, Tom has no idea what to do. Surely a few Hail Marys won’t do the trick for such outrageous behavior.

Desperate, Tom peers his head out of the confessional and quickly asks a nearby altar boy if he knows what the priest gives for inappropriate sex. [SIGNUP]

“A Snickers and a Coke,” says the altar boy, not missing a beat.

* * *

Terrible joke. Shameful.

Have I learned nothing about respect from my 16 years of Catholic education?

I can hear the nuns’ words ringing in my ear. You should examine your conscience, young man.

Luckily, I now have an app for that.

If you’re Catholic, or you were a Catholic (though once a Catholic, always a Catholic), you’ve probably already heard about the new Catholic app. It’s called “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” and it’s priced at a sinfully low buck ninety-nine.

Apparently, judging by the action in the iTunes store, other once-a-Catholic people think it’s quite the bargain too. Last night when I downloaded the Church-approved Confession app it was Apple’s 18th most popular paid application, comfortably ahead of “The Moron Test” and “Plants vs. Zombies.”

The app doesn’t replace actual Confession; it simply helps you to examine your conscience in preparation for Confession.

When you sign up for the app, you’re asked a few preliminary questions—nothing very intrusive, just a few get-to-know you warm-ups so that the app knows what questions to ask to help with the conscience examination.

But then it hits you with one that sends a chill:

When was your last Confession?

In the old days, back when people actually went to Confession, there was an easy way around this question. You’d simply lie and tell the priest it was three months instead of three years since your last Confession, and then simply add an extra lie when citing your sins.

But there’s not much point in lying to an app.

I calculated how long it had been since my last Confession and saw pages of calendars flashing back months, years, then decades… I finally settled on my senior year in high school, though it may have been longer.

I punched in the year and was immediately hit with my first “examination” question:

“Have I not been praying every day?”

I immediately got hung up on the question.

Not because I didn’t know the answer, that was easy. I couldn’t get past wanting to diagram it.

Have. I. Not. Been.

There followed a whole host (pun unintended, honest) of questions about my praying habits, including: “Have I been moody and rebellious about praying and going to church on Sunday?”

Which described my state of mind perfectly.

When I was 16.

The praying questions quickly grew boring and repetitive so I moved on and was immediately asked whether I hit anyone, or had stolen anything or been arrogant, stubborn or rebellious?

In fact, I was welling up with rebellion, like I just might opt out of Confession app and click on Angry Birds app at any second.

The app must have sensed this, because it now wanted to know whether I’d been pouty and moody.

No, but I’d been naughty and nice.

It was time to close out of Confession app.

In the end it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. I’ve sinned, okay? Who hasn’t?

I’ll make an Act of Contrition.

Luckily, the words are included in the Confession App. There’s also a version in Latin, the perfect penance for a true sinner, like Theresa McGee.

Tim Whitaker ([email protected]), is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.