Yesterday, newspaper headline-writers received an early Christmas present from the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The ‘Catholic App’, unveiled by Abp Cushley at the Vatican on Tuesday, is a map-based smartphone tool, that will help people find the nearest – and/or soonest – Mass or Confessions in the archdiocese.
A very good service, to be sure, for the faithful of south-east Scotland. Though perhaps not something to catch the imagination of the world’s media… Until, that is, someone, somewhere had the bright idea to attach the nickname ‘Sindr’ to the new app. This is a play, of course, on the popular ‘dating’ – who I am to judge? – apps Tinder and Grindr. (Themselves, it might be noted, no strangers to recent Catholic-related news stories.)
Now, not surprisingly, the Catholic App is a genuinely global news item. After all, what click-hungry subeditor could resist putting a piece out with the title ‘Done With Tinder? Try ‘Sindr,’ the Vatican’s New Confession Finder App’? Not the one at Time magazine, of all places, that’s for sure.
Quite where the moniker came from isn’t quite clear. I somehow doubt that the archdiocese included it in its own press release. Most outlets recycling the story attribute it to ‘media and online commentators’ (that is, to themselves and each other). Quite possibly it originated here, with The Telegraph’s fine religion correspondent, John Bingham. Certainly, Vatican Radio’s original scoop fails, albeit meritoriously, to make the link.
Still, whatever the nickname’s source, and however unfortunate some of its connotations, let’s nevertheless be thankful for it. A great many people will now have heard about the Catholic App, who otherwise wouldn’t have done. I’m one of them; DailyMailOnline, after years of trying, finally found my clickbait kryptonite.
Looking past some of the cheekier-than-a-Blackpool-postcard-from-George-Formby headlines, the fact remains that the app itself is a simple but wonderful idea.
Time and time again, on my travels, I have struggled to find local Mass times. I have wasted whole hours hunting for, and then through, local parishes’ decrepit websites. You know the sort: autoplaying ‘churchy’ muzak, sparkles following the cursor around, and a ‘download our latest bulletin’ link that transports you back to 2004. (Incidentally, why are parish websites usually so awful? They really, really needn’t be.)
Too often, having finally found a definitively stated time, I arrive for ‘the 11am’ to find everyone trooping off home after the last Mass of the day: ‘Ooh, no duck, we’ve not had it at 11 since Fr O’Fingal died seven years ago’.
And don’t even get me started on Confession times. Sometimes you just need to know where you can encounter God’s mercy and forgiveness. Driving a long way in the dark, only to find a locked door and all the lights off, is a metaphor some people’s mental states can do without. Really.
So if this app really works (i.e., if the Mass/Confession times actually correspond to reality), then all credit to Archbishop Cushley and the app-development team at Musemantik. And let us hope that other bishops – ideally, whole Bishops’ Conferences – are as susceptible to Catholic clickbait as am I.
Update: John Bingham has confirmed that he did indeed coin the term Sindr.