February 11, 2011 – Is Technology Going Too Far?

First I want to pass along my sincere thanks to you for not giving me too much grief over my wrong Super Bowl prediction.  What can I say, even Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he came to the plate.  At least it turned out to be an entertaining game, and unlike the people who went to the game only to find out they didn’t even have a seat, I enjoyed the game from a comfortable chair and probably had a better view than most people in the stadium.

OK, we all know that technology continues to play a larger role in our lives, and much of it is entertaining and useful.  But I became aware of something this week that makes me wonder if technology is starting to play too large of a role in our lives.  One of the hot things right now is the “apps” that people can download to their i-phones, blackberries, android phones, or i-pod touches.  I do not have a cell phone capable of downloading these, but I do have an i-pod touch that I can use wherever there is wireless internet access.  I have some useful apps on it which include things that provide news, weather, sports, music and games.  To this point I had not thought about using it for religious fulfillment, although I figured there were some Catholic apps out there.

If you saw some of the Catholic related news this week, you may have seen that there is now a new app available called “Confession: A Roman Catholic App.”  Being the gadget geek that I am, I went and checked out this app.  The preview says this in the first line: “Designed to be used in the confessional, this app is the perfect aid for every penitent.”  It goes on to say that it will provide you a custom examination of conscience based upon age, sex and vocation, a choice of 7 different acts of contrition, the ability to add sins that are not listed in standard examination of conscience, and a confession “walk-through”.

Predictably, after the release of this app, more articles came about, including from the Vatican, which advised that this app is NOT a replacement for the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – that only God can forgive our sins and that the rite of absolution can only be performed by a priest.

The cost to download this app is $1.99, and I have made the decision not to invest in it, not because of the cost, but because I feel that this is one area in which technology is not needed or even appropriate.  I think when we ask for forgiveness of our sins, the request should come from the heart, not from a list that we have compiled on a cell phone.  When we go to confession, I don’t think that the most important thing is to remember every single flaw that we have done, or that we remember to the day when our last confession was, or remembering every single word of our act of contrition (although I’m confident I can do a better job with my act of contrition than Christina Aguilera did with the National Anthem at the Super Bowl).  The most important thing to me is that we bring our admission of fault to our God and our promise to try to do better, and in turn our priest provides us absolution and consolation and our God gives us forgiveness of our sins.

Certainly it is important for us to examine our conscience before we enter the confessional, and even at other times.  But again, would a true confession really entail kneeling behind a screen reading off of a list, or should it be a heartfelt admission that we have failed at times?  I would think if God spoke to us, He would say the latter.

In my mind this is an example of technology perhaps taking too large of a role in our lives.  It certainly has its place – cell phones are a very convenient means of communication, and the internet is a very practical way to get a lot of information out to a lot of people at a minimal financial cost.  But has our technology begun to replace the one-on-one contact that humans need and were meant to have?  I really wonder what to think when people who are in the same building or even in the same room are texting or chatting online without even talking to each other.  No matter what sort of technology is developed, nothing will ever replace the feeling of a human touch or a personal greeting.  I will continue to use technology (including blogging), but I also must remind myself not to let it become so prevalent in my life that I lose the human element.

Finally, I would like to share a cause with you that is close to me.  About  a year ago a classmate of mine from Gibault High School, Kathy Baxmeyer, died trying to save her son and her best friend’s son after they fell through the ice on what they thought was a frozen pond.  In a wonderful case of triumph over tragedy, a foundation has been set up by Kathy’s cousin called Project Skipper, which is working to educate individuals, particularly kids, about the dangers of ice.  The acronym Skipper stands for S(tay calm), K(ick – like a swimmer), I, P, P(ull yourself up onto the ice), E. R(oll away).  Their website has more information.  It is www.projectskipper.com.  They also have a Facebook page which you can go to and press the “like” button.  You can make a donation if you would like, but the main thing they want all of us to do is help make kids and adults for that matter aware of the dangers of getting on unstable ice, and to spread the slogan “see ice, think twice”.  Thank you.

Well finally we are getting a break in the weather (praised be Jesus!).  I actually heard a meterologist say the other night that our winter really hasn’t been that bad compared to some others, and he actually said it with a straight face!  I definitely missed my calling.  Enjoy the week.  Thanks again for reading.  Peace.

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