CD 284: on using an iPad in Church

I use my iPad to follow the readings at Mass, for prayers after Communion and sometimes to follow the chant. Last week someone behind me tutted loudly. Is it wrong to use an iPad in Church?

Some readers might say “Yes, you should be using an Android tablet” but I prescind from that argument. There is no intrinsic reason why you should not use an electronic device to read the scriptures or the text of prayers and devotions. The iPieta app is a wonderful collection of spiritual writings, scripture, theology and magisterial teaching, and I know several Choir Directors who find the Liber Pro app an amazing resource for Gregorian chant.

One potential problem with using any backlit device in Church is that the bright screen could distract others. A small phone can be hidden but a tablet is likely to catch peoples’ eyes from quite some distance, especially if the lighting in the Church is subdued. In the current state of technology, the use of an e-book reader is less problematic in that it is not a light source; with a discreet cover, it can be made to look quite like a book and therefore not scandalise people who think that others should not play with what they think are just silly toys.

Let us be honest as well that if the use of tablets in Church becomes popular, some people will not resist the opportunity to check their email or catch up on their favourite blogs. If you are ever tempted to do this, consider whether you would start texting people in Church or take out a copy of the Daily Mail. The use of a device that is connected to the internet will always require a certain discipline.

We do not know what new hardware may become available even in the relatively short term. The Church was in the forefront of making use of the new technology of moveable type and Pope Benedict has several times encouraged us to use technology in the service of the Gospel.

And by the way, tutting at others in Church is not quite the thing either.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
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