IT’S PROBABLY NOT the means through which Jesus asked his disciples to “preach the good news to everyone”.
But a growing number of priests are using iPads to do everything from reading the gospels to downloading blessings and updating their twitter accounts, as the Catholic church gets tech savvy for the digital age.
“It’s very handy” says Fr Fintan Monaghan, secretary to the Archbishop of Tuam, who uses his Ipad for readings at the altar.
“There’s an application for the breviary, for example” the book which contains the prayers for saying mass. “In the past you had to lugg the three distinct volumes of it around with you. Now I can store them all in one place.”
“It’s also great for twitter” he adds,a medium which many priest are beginning to use more frequently.
“My twitter account says I am a Liverpool and Munster fan, so you are as likely to see me tweeting about that as anything profound” says Fr Ger Molony, a priest with the Redemptorist order. ”In fact, you’re less likely to see anything profound on it.”
He says he is still “trying to figure” his ipad out, having just bought it recently, unlike early adopters such as Fr Paddy Rushe in Dundalk, Co Louth.
“I had it 5 weeks before everyone else” says Fr Rushe, who got his way around the delayed release date in Europe for the iPad by getting a honeymooning couple in New York to buy him one on the way home to Ireland.
Normally I would put everything, the opening remarks, readings for the day and notices for the church bulletin, in a black folder. With the Ipad everything is done in one place.
He points to an app called the iMissal which contains all the liturgical material that priests need for saying mass. “It’s dead handy really.”
But it’s not just the gadget enthusiasts who are apopting ipads.
Fr Thomas Cox in Ferbane, Co Offaly, says he bought his iPad last October “on impulse” because ”My eyesight isn’t good, so it helps that I can expand the text on it.”
However, he soon found that it had other uses.
You can be called for something like a baptism visit in someone’s house and the next thing you may be asked to do a last minute blessing for a house. Hey presto, I have everything at my fingertips.
There are no official figures on how many priests are using iPads in church. But according to Fr Sean McDonagh, a spokesperson for the Association of Catholic Priests, a growing number of younger ones are using it.
“There’s a growing number who would be more clued in than old fogies like me. But why wouldn’t they when they can get the prayers, canon all there in front of them.”
However, opposition is growing in some quarters to the use of Ipods in church, with bishops in New Zealand saying that only the official printed copy of the Roman Missal may be used at Mass and at the Church’s other liturgies.
“The Missal is reserved for use during the Church’s liturgy. iPads and other electronic devices have a variety of uses, e.g. for the playing of games, using the internet, watching videos and checking mail. This alone makes their use in the liturgy inappropriate,” they say.
However, Irish Catholic priests say they will continue using it.
“I’m not quite sure what they are making such a song and dance about” say Fr Molony. “It’s going a bit far.”
Indeed, “we’ve changed things before” says Cox, using cordless microphones in mass in the past being one example, he says. “You have to ask, is it the message or the medium that is more important?”
However, he says that a line should probably be drawn in how they are used.
“I know some would disagree with me, but I think you should be discreet” says Cox, who hides the Apple logo in a black folder. “Otherwise what’s the next step? Sponsorship on vestments?