September 21, 2019

American Savage-Guilt: There’s an app for that

Collin Reischman is a junior journalism major and Opinion Editor at The Journal.

Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been almost eight years since my last confession.
I always hated confession. I was raised in a Catholic home and attended a small, private Catholic middle school in Pike County, Missouri.
It was here that I endured my first confession: a shocking, awful experience for a 10 year-old. I told our priest in a dark booth, laced with red curtains and casting a demonic glow on the whole scenario, that I had sinned.
Our priest, a dead-on Ned Flanders, without the adorable speech impediment, told me that I must pray to atone for my wrongdoings.
He told us that he was forgiving us on behalf of the Lord, who really wanted to be here this week, but he has a lot of stuff going on and we don’t like to bother him.
Now, before God and the world, anyone with an iPhone can track and seek confession anywhere, from the comfort of their apps menu.
‘Confession: A Roman Catholic app’ sounds like something straight from the morbid minds of SNL writers, or an internet spoof video. But nay, this fantastic, $1.99 slice of sacramental wonder is the stuff of the real world, with authentic Vatican approval.
While the App clearly states that it does not offer actual absolution of sins, it does recognize the need for modern-day Catholics to track their wrongdoings for future shaming in the form of an anonymous confessional.
As a former Catholic, still feeling the residual guilt of a near decade sans confession, I felt compelled to purchase and practice the art of good ol’ fashioned Catholic self-loathing.
Right off the bat, the app has you tracking your own sins, categorized by commandment or duty. Strangely-worded sins are already available to check off, as a means of ‘self-examination.’
“Have I deliberately missed masses on Sunday or Holy Days of obligation?”
Check. Cue professional football joke.
“Have I abused alcohol or drugs?”
Check. But Jesus enjoyed wine, I hear. Besides, I didn’t hear the alcohol or drugs complaining.
“Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization?”
Ch-wait, what? I’m beginning to get disturbed, until the next sin-option gave me a broader understanding.
“Have I encouraged anyone to have an abortion?”
Suddenly, the reasons I felt so prepared to leave the church behind are becoming more vivid.
“Do I not seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words and actions?”
I’ll blame the exceptionally pretty girl in one of my night classes for this slip up. Your low-cut tops are condemning me to an eternity of fire and brimstone, and we haven’t even gone out for drinks yet.
“Have I consented to impure thoughts?”
If my girlfriend asks, all of my impure thoughts occurred without my consent.
“Do I allow myself to lose control of my imagination?”
This seemed far too broad to be considered a sin. People like James Cameron and Stan Lee get paid a lot of money to simply go NUTS and imagine something zany.
Before I knew it, I’d checked off every single one of the predetermined sins. I wondered whether or not there was a limit to what priests could legally absolve.
The Vatican is doing more harm than good with this app. It seems simply to be helping one avoid the most embarrassing part of confession: the priest.
Good Catholics know the shame of admitting all their missteps to a man they see on a weekly basis. This man, the gossip-keeper of our small town, will soon be extinct when we can simply start letting our phones shame us.
Then again, fewer priests might be a good thing.

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