Much ado about nihil

Conventional media and the net are all atwitter the last few days at this App for the iPhone.

Of course, there’s something perverse about blogging about something while lamenting that everybody’s talking about it. I acknowledge that. I think it’s inevitable when one needs to bring perspective to something that’s blown out of proportion.

This App provides “a personalized examination of conscience for each user” in preparation for the Roman Catholic Rite of Penance. It appears to me that the questions are similar to those recommended before Orthodox Confession.

So what? You gotta problem with that? When I was a kid, celluloid was suspect in fundamentalist circles. Is silicon the new celluloid?

I have a number of Prayer Books, every one of which includes helps in preparing for the sacrament/mystery of Confession. This App takes it up a notch by exercising some broad generalizations:

For instance, if you sign in as a 15-year-old girl and look under the Sixth Commandment, one of the questions is: “Do I not treat my body or other people’s bodies with purity and respect?” If you sign in as a 33-year-old married man, that commandment offers this query: “Have I been guilty of masturbation?”

Children are asked if they pout or use bad language. Teenagers are asked if they are a tattletale or bully. Women are asked if they’ve had an abortion or encouraged anyone to have an abortion and if they’re chaste. Men are asked about the latter two, as well.

The app also tailors the questions if you sign in as a priest or a “religious.” For instance, if you say you’re a female and try to select “priest” as your vocation, a dialogue box appears that says “sex and vocation are incompatible.” So much for modernity.

Under the Sixth Commandment, men and women are asked: “Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?” …

(Source: snarky New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd)

Now, if you’re a secularist scandalized at the thought that anyone would go to confession; if you’re scandalized at the thought that confession, if one went, might include “private” things like one’s “sex life;” if you’re scandalized along with Maureen Dowd that the program says, to its putatively Roman Catholic users, that you can’t be both a woman and a priest; then I have nothing to say to you except “get a clue.”

If you’re scandalized at the thought that anyone would confess to a Priest, or that the Priest then (if he’s satisfied) pronounces absolution and maybe gives a penance, then I have nothing to say to you except “get a Church history book” – one that doesn’t skip from St. John writing Revelation to Martin Luther nailing 95 Theses on a door, but rubs you nose in all the retrograde stuff the Church believed for 1500 years. Jaroslav Pelikan’s series will do nicely. Better yet: read the Ante-Nicene and Nicene Church Fathers.

But if you’re not scandalized by that sort of religiously clueless stuff, but you’re coming at it from the More Traditional Than Thou position, atwitter with insinuations or outright claims that this app is some kind of cheap grace Confess-O-Matic for sinners too busy for Church, then I’d suggest that you

  • get out your traditional prayer book,
  • open it to examination of conscience (sometimes called “preparation for Confession” or such), and
  • drill down to the Ninth Commandment, where, for instance, my Antiochian Diocese Orthodox Prayer Book penetratingly asks (albeit without personalization):

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? … Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation?

The App “does not and can not take the place of confessing before a validly ordained … priest … in person ….” It wouldn’t take much digging beneath superficial headlines or insinuations to figure that out.

Meantime, Lent is coming, and I’ll want a thorough confession or two or three then if not before. So this former Protestant, who still doesn’t quite have the hang of Confession, has popped his $1.99 and added the app to his iPhone.

One thought on “Much ado about nihil

  1. Well said! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. It gives me hope to see people using new technology for God’s work. As a devout Roman Catholic, your honest attitude and support of church tradition is valued.

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