Filipino priest invents computer-based confession tool for deaf people

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MANILA, Dec. 16, 2013—A retired Filipino priest based in Phoenix, Arizona has invented a computer-based confession tool that would facilitate confession for hearing-impaired penitents.

Fr. Romuald P. Zantua, DS, formerly of Daet diocese and founder of a religious community called Disciples of Hope has created a technology-based confession device that will make the valued sacrament of reconciliation easily available to hundreds of thousands of people with hearing problems.

The confessional tool—also called the St. Damien Confession Box—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. Both laptops can only function for the particular intent it was created and not for other purposes.

Priests who are not skilled in sign language will be able to communicate with deaf people using the chat function through a secured setup of two connected computers with American Sign Language (ASL) instructions and videos, according to Zantua.

He said this particular invention will boost the practice of confession and may usher people with special needs to the Catholic Church’s gradual adoption of new technology in the modern world.

The device is composed of two computers running on special software that appears on both computer screens which contains written instructions as well as sign language video instructions and audio.

The software is hack-proof, according to Zantua, since the device doesn’t allow a third party to connect and other network connectivity are all disabled, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Zantua, who also previously served as executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ 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 option and accessibility to confession due to their disability and the limited number of priests who are skilled in sign language, Zantua added.

Penitents with hearing problems either will look for a priest who knows sign language or else write their confession on a piece of papers and hand them to a priest.

The use of the tool for the sacrament of confession is still awaiting approval from the Holy See. It has been presented to the National Catholic Office for the Deaf (NCOD) in Phoenix during their annual Pastoral Week last year.  After few revisions and joint assessments of NCOD and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), the latest version was finalized.

Zantua, who currently lives in one of the communities he started in the United States has for many years, worked with people of special needs. He is also a published author of several books. (CBCPNews) 

For more information about the St. Damien Confession Box, you may visit the website at http://www.stdamien.org . To view a presentation of it, click on this link:



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