Call it the iPhone app with a conscience ... yours.
The idea is that the software -- Confession: A Roman Catholic App - will help church members organize their thoughts through a series of prompts prior to entering the confessional, so that the face-to-shaded-face session with a priest offers maximum opportunity for forgiveness. (Update: See Vatican statement below.)
"The likelihood is, they'll make a good confession and they'll come back to a more frequent celebration of the sacraments," said a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, in an interview with a local television reporter. Application developer Patrick Leinen says he was inspired to write the app (price: $2) after listening to Pope Benedict XVI's World Communications Address, in which the pontiff called for greater use of technology as a tool to foster faith.
That makes sense.
So why stop at simply easing a congregant through the confession process with prompts?
Just imagine the possibilities once your smartphone not only helps you organize your pre-confession thoughts but actually identifies your sins:
Been to any naughty Web sites? "Confession" noticed.
Cursed during a customer-service call? Check.
Phone sex? Easy catch.
Whispered sweet nothings to an illicit lover? Speech-recognition continues to get better all the time.
Does your phone carry an expense-account app? Don't even think about fudging while "Confession" is standing over your shoulder.
A truly useful app of contrition would check out all the other apps on your phone and let you know which ones need mentioning when in the confessional. Steve Jobs has done his best to keep that stuff off the iPhone, but a few dicey ones have slipped through; let your conscience application be your guide.
Then there's the obvious use of GPS. Your phone knows where you've been.
And now you're really ready to speak to the priest.
(Update: Maybe this isn't what the Pope had in mind, after all. Even though coverage of "Confession" has been generally clear in noting that the application is not a replacement for a face-to-face meeting with your priest, the Vatican has issued a statement condemning what the app isn't even supposed to do. "It is essential to understand that the rites of penance require a personal dialogue between penitents and their confessor... It cannot be replaced by a computer application," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists. "I must stress to avoid all ambiguity, under no circumstance is it possible to 'confess by iPhone'." ... Something must have gotten lost in the translation.)