I read an article by Sandra Zummo and it made me queasy, she writes. “Even after all this time, these seven little words still have the power to make me break out in a cold sweat: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” “
It has been many years since my last confession too, but the memory of the weekly trip to the penalty box las a child still ingers.
No meat on Fridays? No problem. Fasting for 12 hours before receiving Holy Communion? Piece of cake…anyone can do these.
But entering a darkened booth, perching on a kneeler and shaking until the door slides open and the priest’s face appears in shadow, waiting for me to spill my guts? Terrifying.
I just hear about the newly released “Confessions: A Roman Catholic App” at IHOP talking about whether we would skip Mass tomorrow.
I knew the Church had come a long way since my days memorizing the “Act of Contrition” as a 7-year-old, but I didn’t think it had gotten to the point of allowing sinners to bypass the confessional.
Further investigation revealed that it hasn’t. For $1.99, the “Confessions iPhone App” only helps you prepare for the Rite of Penance. As a Vatican spokesman has made very clear, “Penance cannot be replaced by a computer application.” Although that may be just a hop, skip and a jump away.
From the sound of it, the App does pretty much everything but give you absolution. Once you enter basic information about yourself, you either can create customized categories or be guided through an “examination of conscience” based solely on the Ten Commandments.
Tap on a particular commandment and you’ll be prompted to answer questions around a range of issues connected with it. Once you’ve got your sins in order, you’re ready to proceed to confession mode, where, armed with your checklist of offenses, the App provides the words to the “Sign of the Cross” and leads you into the familiar, “Bless me, Father …” Test run complete, you’re ready to head to church. Heck at that point why not just Tweet the sins?!
The penance in my youth for my “garden variety” sins generally was a very do-able three “Our Fathers” and three “Hail Mary’s.”
Every once in a while, I’d try to change things up by adding a new sin, usually something like, “I was late for Mass,” which might add three “Glory Be’s” to my penance. I clearly remember the time I also confessed to having “impure thoughts”! I was truly afraid to confess that one.
To me, a sinner is someone who takes something he or she has no right to take. Murderers are sinners. Thieves on the order of Bernie Madoff are sinners. Parents who abuse their children are sinners. Pedophiles and the people who protect them are sinners. Not sure to this day a simple act of contrition truly erases those sins…only God knows what is in their hearts.
It has been many years since my last confession. The last time was to a 90 year old Italian priest in Tokyo…that pretty well may have been the last time I will go…it took over an hour and he told me perhaps we should discuss the confession over an espresso…you can guess what those discretions may have been.
But I do think the creators of “Confessions: A Roman Catholic App” are on to something. If the Vatican is looking to draw more lapsed Catholics back into the fold, it might consider developing a confession App of its own that could somehow measure whether a penitent was truly sincere and then confer absolution.