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Mark D. Roberts is one brave evangelical. After rolling his eyes upon hearing of a new iPhone app that prepares users for the Rite of Penance, the Texas-based pastor decided to try Confession: A Roman Catholic App for $1.99, and lived to write about it.

First, the app created a "custom examination of conscience," based on Roberts's age, gender, marital status, and time of last confession. Then it led him through conscience-pricking questions based on the Ten Commandments, such as, "Do I not give God time every day in prayer?" and "Am I critical, negative or charitable in my thoughts of others?" It then compiled his specific sins and provided a prayer of contrition, prompting him when to say "amen." Then a pause where a priest would offer absolution (Roberts, of course, skipped this), before offering a reminder from Scripture or a saint about God's forgiveness.

After one round of this, "I was chastened," admitted Roberts, who believes confession is "one of the most often disobeyed commands in the whole Bible." While using the app is certainly not requisite, he said, if it "helps some Christians examine their lives and confess their sins, either to the Lord alone or to another in God's presence, then I can see benefit."

Judging by popularity rankings and user reviews, the app is bearing such fruit for some Christians. Impressed by the app's thoroughness and ease, one busy mother who hadn't been to confession in two years told NPR she was going back. "There's a reason we designed it for these mobile devices: We want you to go to confession," said Patrick Leinen, who created the app after the pope's January speech ...

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March 2011

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