I confess to being a Luddite at times. I was a late-onset cell-phone user and my last laptop (Macintosh, of course) survived ten years of hard, academic use before an accidental drop forced me into a newer model. Now I walk through student centers and see banners advertising “new apps” and wonder what an app is and whether it is something I should have already had old versions of. I’ve figured out that “app” is an apocopated form of application, and that it generally has something to do with handheld electronic devices. Now it seems that I’ve been out-teched by the Catholic Church. That great bastion of faith that agonized over Galileo for four centuries has now whizzed by guys like myself who cut our high-tech teeth on telephones that had rotary dials.
What is this new app? According to the New York Daily News, the app is called Confession. The program apparently lets you choose a commandment that you’ve violated and offers a list of sins to tick off. (I envy the priest who got that job!) A press of the button and your sins are forgiven. Sure is a lot easier than getting down on your knees and telling it all to a guy you barely know. This handy app even automatically tracks the time since your last confession, so you can give it to the holy father in nanoseconds. It only costs $1.99.
Technology has wreaked havoc on ecclesiastical tradition. Only the most severely shortsighted of churches denies the draw and retention of the electronic revolution. Problem is, the worldview that generated these religions simply doesn’t fit into a palm-sized box. The world of century one was full of demons and dragons, and all on a very flat earth. Confession, when it became a requirement, was a visceral outpouring of deep secrets and fears before a black-garbed authority figure who had the power to dole out Hail Marys like a theophanic thunderstorm. Now it can be done at the stoplight on the way to Starbucks. The last time the church had asked for payment for forgiveness Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door. Today, I’m sure, it would be an electronic error report posted to a Wiki-board Domain, whatever that might be.