I was brought up Baptist. So, is it OK for me to try out
Confession: A Roman Catholic App?
"Sure, if you're interested in it," says Patrick Leinen, the Web developer who, with his brother and a pal, came up with the smartphone and tablet app that came out this month and struck nerves from Leinen's home in South Bend, Ind., to the Vatican in Rome.
"Actually, it's got a lot of people who are just curious about it," Leinen says.
Confession, a $1.99 app from Leinen's Little iApp L.L.C., has sold tens of thousands of copies from the Apple App Store. Leinen's group is working on an Android version after getting deluged with requests from non-Apple users.
Leinen, 31, notes that Apple Inc. prohibits app sellers from divulging exactly how many copies of apps get sold. He, brother Chip Leinen, 34, and their friend Ryan Kreager, 26, are also working on Spanish, French, German, and Italian versions.
"We're floored" by the attention, says Patrick Leinen. "We thought there might be some churches interested, maybe some youth groups."
Using the app is easy. You give it your name, age, gender, and marital status, and it does a lot of the rest. Your other job is to tell it . . . everything.
On a menu of the Ten Commandments, tap on each one that you've broken since your last confession, then be prepared to become more specific. If your peccadillos seem to defy the categories of the Decalogue, a separate space is available for enumerating "custom sin." There, I entered, "Running with scissors," which I'm sure I have done at some point. Once listed, the Catholic user is ready to enter the church confessional, smartphone in hand, to review these wrongs with a live confessor, seek forgiveness, and be assigned penance.
Peddling digital forgiveness to avoid traditional confession is not what the app is about, Leinen insists.
But it still led to a stir two weeks ago when a Vatican spokesman stepped out to say, "One cannot speak of a 'confession via iPhone.' "
The spokesman did add, though, that the app could be useful in helping people make what the Catholic News Service called an "examination of conscience."
"Some of the press got this mixed up [by saying] 'The pope blessed the app,' or 'The pope condemned the app,' " says Leinen.
What about computer privacy and that list of sins? Leinen says what's typed by the sinner never gets uploaded anywhere and stays on the handheld device only until the user closes the app.
"Catholics are taught that your sins are forgiven and washed away; the database does the same thing," he says.