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Table of the Mortal Sins [detail].

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In the 13th and 14th centuries, it seems that the best-seller may have been Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Handlyng Synne. It was a translation from William of Wadington’s “Manuel des pechiez” or Handbook of Sins—guiding devout medieval Christians to prepare for confession by explaining the ten commandments and how one might have broken them, the seven deadly sins, etc.

Fourteen manuscripts of this text survive,  more than of many romances and such “entertaining” texts, suggesting that Handlyng Synne was quite popular, considering the time, trouble, and expense involved in reproducing manuscripts.

Today, of course, no time-consuming scriptoriums or heavy books for the devout. All one needs is the handy,  Confession App, which is of course not a replacement for actually confessing, but merely an aid to one’s preparation for a thorough and sincere confession. Interestingly, although the Confession App is supposedly sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican has just condemned it, saying that technology cannot replace the personal interaction of the act of confession.

The original story on this software was a bit misleading: the eye-catching headline reads “Catholics Can Now Confess Via New App“! Then at the very end of the review, we find the disclaimer:

The app is not designed to replace going to confession but to help Catholics through the act. Followers are still expected to go to a priest for absolution.

See–just a handbooks of sins. Not an electronic confessional. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.