The iPhone Scandal

My new iPhone app gives me the mass liturgy and readings. It’s a perk included in my daily missal subscription. I download the same text on my iPhone.

This app came in handy at a recent conference when I didn’t bring my missal. I whipped out my iPhone and followed the mass. Now this was a congregation of tech-savvy people with bloggers and podcasters mixed in with the writers and publishers. I wasn’t the only one reading from my iPhone.

When I got back to my parish I hesitated to bring out my iPhone. Instead, I turned it off and reached for the missal in my purse. I could visualize bored teenagers eyeing my gadget and thinking it was okay to text during mass.

I know I wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. Wasn’t my behavior between God and me?

But how could onlookers know I was following the mass more fervently than if I was listening? I need to keep my eyes on the words to block distractions and focus on the liturgy.

I was so glad I used the printed missal because that day the Scripture Reading was about causing scandal among the unknowing. That’s what Paul was describing as he instructed the Corinthians not to eat meat sacrificed to idols in public even though they knew,  “there is no idol in the world” and believed “there is no God but one.”

The Christians in Corinth did no wrong, yet they were warned not to tempt idol worshippers to sin against their belief in idols. Causing the appearance of scandal can cause the weak to sin.

Paul tells them, “When you sin in this way against your brothers and wound their consciences, weak as they are, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause my brother to sin.” (1 Cor. 8:4, 12-13)

 Greeting our pastor as I left the mass, I mentioned the iPhone app as an example to illustrate the scripture read that day. He liked the idea.

The next morning I learned that he used the iPhone example in the evening mass the day before. So, the worshipers heard about using apps to follow the mass from the pastor as an example of what not to do that might cause others to sin.

So I guess I did some good with what the Lord showed me. The pastor acquainted parishioners with the possibility of following the liturgy under the appearance of texting during mass—someday.

In some parishes, young priests read the prayers or their homilies from their iPhone or iPad. In those cases, they tell the congregation that they are not texting during mass. In that environment, I would use my iPhone to follow mass, for the example of the priest doing the same would keep my actions from scandalizing those around me.

But for now, in good conscience I must refrain from the convenience of participating in mass via iPhone. Perhaps in a few years most everyone in the congregation will understand this option Many will embrace it without causing scandal.

I wonder how my fellow parishioners would react to penitents lined up at the confessional using another app, the Examination of Conscience? Father needs to give a homily on that!

In what ways do our innocent actions tempt others to sin because of their perception of our bad example?

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at JoyAlive.net,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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