An iPhone and iPad app that helps Roman Catholics seek forgiveness for their sins has been sanctioned by the Catholic Church.
Confession: A Roman Catholic App, developed by Little iApps in South Bend, Ind., received an "imprimatur" — an official publication licence from the church — from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Indiana Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the company said in a news release.
The release added that this is the first known imprimatur given to an iPhone or iPad app, even though a number of similar apps already exist.
As of Tuesday, the app was number five on the top paid lifestyle apps chart on the Canadian iTunes site, just ahead of "iKamasutra" and just behind "Mixologist: Drink Recipes."
The app, which sells for $1.99, was the only religious app in the Top 10. Despite that, version 1.0.1, updated on Feb. 2, had not been rated enough times by users to display an average rating. The first version was released in December.
"This app has already aided one man in returning to the sacrament after 20 years," said Patrick Leinen, the app developer and co-founder of the company in a statement.
Designed for use in church
The app "is not intended to function as a replacement for confession" at church," he said in an email to CBC News.
Instead, it is supposed to help people prepare for confession and is designed to be used in the confessional, the booth in church where people sit while confessing to a priest, he said.
The app walks people through confession step by step, based on text developed in collaboration with Catholic pastor Dan Scheidt and U.S. Catholic official Thomas G. Weinandy.
It reminds users when their last confessions were and keeps track of sins they have previously confessed.
It also advertises features such as password protection to allow multiple users, a "custom examination of conscience" based on age, sex and marital status, the ability to add sins that aren't listed and a choice of seven different acts of contrition — prayers that express sorrow for sins.
However, absolution or release from the sin can still only come from a priest.
In the past two years, the Catholic Church has embraced online and mobile tools to reach out to younger Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI's staff announced an iPhone app in 2009 called H2Onews that provides video and audio news about the Pope's travels and speeches, along with Catholic events worldwide.
The Pope has also launched a Facebook app and a YouTube channel.