Priest invents confession device for deaf Catholics
Confession for hearing-impaired Catholics will soon be made easy after a retired Filipino priest based in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States invented a computer-based confession tool.
Fr. Romuald Zantua, DS, formerly of the Daet diocese, has created a “high-tech confession device” that consists of two laptop computers running on special software and connected exclusively for penitent and priest to type on and send their messages to each other.
The device is called St. Damien Confession Box. It was created solely for confession and not for other things, according to an article posted on Tuesday on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Zantua, founder of a religious community called Disciples of Hope, said the tool would “make the valued Sacrament of Reconciliation easily available to hundreds of thousands of people with hearing problems,” the article said.
Since most priests are not skilled in sign language, the device will help them communicate with deaf people using the chat function through a secured setup of two connected computers with American Sign Language (ASL) instructions and videos, Zantua said.
He said this particular invention would boost the practice of confession and help usher people with special needs into the Catholic Church’s new technology into the modern world.
The device is composed of two computers running on special software that appears on both computer screens and contains written instructions as well as sign language video instructions and audio.
According to Zantua, the software is hack-proof since the device doesn’t allow a third party to connect while other network connectivity, such as Wi-Fi and bluetooth, is also disabled.
Zantua, who previously served as executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Seminaries, said the computer setup was designed to instantly run a chat program where a priest and the penitent can exchange written messages on their screens.
Both penitent and priest will only have to write their messages by typing and pressing the appropriate buttons to a sequence following normal Church practice, he said.
“Deaf people usually have very limited options and accessibility to confession due to their disability and the limited number of priests who are skilled in sign language,” Zantua said.
Penitents with hearing problems either look for a priest who knows sign language or else write their confessions on pieces of paper and hand them to a priest.
Will the device reach the Philippines soon?
The CBCP said the use of the tool for the sacrament of confession was still awaiting approval from the Holy See.
It was presented to the National Catholic Office for the Deaf (NCOD) in Phoenix during its annual Pastoral Week last year.
After some revisions and joint assessments of the NCOD and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, the latest version was finalized.
Zantua, also a book author, lives in one of the communities he started in the United States and has been working for many years with people of special needs.