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Confession app draws attention

| Thursday, February 17, 2011

Since their recent launch of an iPhone app meant to guide Catholics through confession, Notre Dame doctoral candidate Ryan Kreager and his business partners Chip and Patrick Leinen have sold thousands of apps and received a great deal of media attention.

The app, titled “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” is based on an examination of consciousness by Fr. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Mishawaka’s Queen of Peace Church and a Notre Dame graduate. Scheidt originally developed it for use in his own parish.

“The examination of consciousness at its very nature is a general diagnostic tool,” Scheidt said. “I took what I thought was most helpful from several and developed one for the adults in my parish.”

Scheidt said the app helps Catholics focus during confession.

“The app helps people who are so anxious about confession that they forget some or all of what they were going to say and it helps focus their thoughts,” Scheidt said. “An unanticipated way in which it is helping is students who have special needs. They use their iPhone to help focus on what they want to say.”

Kreager said they launched the app through their business Little i Apps, LLC. He thought of the idea by talking to his sister’s boyfriend.

“John [Deng] and I were just talking about confession,” Kreager said. “He made a comment about making confession easier and we thought there should be an app for that.”

Deng did not want to be involved in the app development process, so Kreager took the idea to the Leinen brothers. They jumped at the chance.

The three self-described “Catholic Geeks” did have some experience in programming and web development, but had never developed an app before.

“There was a learning curve on the app development side,” Kreager said. “But for us, this was an evening and weekends project.”

After about six months, they released a prototype of the app to a few close friends and a local youth group. Soon after their beta testing ended, the app was released.

The app received an imprimatur, an official statement from a bishop that states that there are no doctrinal or moral errors.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, granted the examination of consciousness the imprimatur.

“As far as we know, we are the first app to receive this,” Kreager said. “It gave the app a credibility that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

The examination of consciousness the app uses is what specifically received the imprimatur.

Scheidt said non-Catholics also use the app just to look at their life and examine the choices they are making.

“This gives non-Catholics who are unfamiliar with confession the ability to see and learn more about the sacrament,” Scheidt said.

Even though the app has proved to be helpful, Kreager said there has been misleading media coverage of it. Originally, coverage was only picked up by some Catholic blogs and news sources, he said. Other media outlets eventually picked up the story of the app and some even reported that the Catholic Church had approved confession via iPhone. Some news sources retracted their false statements, while Kreager said others did not.

“The Vatican released a statement saying that they are not opposed to the app as long as it is used correctly,” Kreager said. “We also issued a statement saying that we stand fully behind the Vatican’s statement and that the app is just an aid to confession, not a replacement.”

Scheidt said the confession app “has generated a conversation about confession that would be difficult to pay an advertising company to replicate. It has gotten people talking and that’s a good thing.”

With all the coverage, the app was even mentioned in jokes on both Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno’s television shows, Kreager said.

Currently the team is working on adding new features such as customizable sin lists, porting it to the Android and translating the app into several other languages.