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Culture

Priest jams cell phones in church

Fed up with his services being disrupted by technology, an Italian priest installs a jamming device. Not everyone is pleased.

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The Church of Santa Maria di Montesanto in Naples, where cell phones are jammed. Le belle Chiese di Napoli/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

God and Mammon haven't seen eye to eye lately. There are a few ear-to-ear differences too.

Now that Mammon has advanced technology to make it personal, the schisms have grown further.

Father Michele Madonna decided to take a stand. It seems that worshippers were prone to using their cell phones in his church, Santa Maria di Montesanto in Naples, Italy. As the Daily Mail reports, phones even went off during funerals. So, instead of merely praying for a pestilence to descend upon these disrespectful phone-obsessives, Father Madonna found a technological solution.

He bought a jammer, which reportedly cost him around $60. Peace and love now reign in his pews.

It's not that Father Madonna isn't a man of patience. He says he first put up signs, begging people to show respect and put their phones away.

However, the Mail quoted him as saying: "What really annoyed me is that when it first started, people would switch off their phones in embarrassment. Now they are cupping their hands over the receiver and carrying on talking."

You might worry that the priest has committed a sin. Or, as they call it in the secular world, a crime. He insists, however, that he asked for the guidance of the local police and they gave the jammer their blessing.

Not everyone is happy, however. Local storekeepers moan that the jammer interferes with their credit card machines. No, it's not quite Jesus driving the money lenders from the temple. But you might imagine that those who regard Christmas as a time for maximizing profit might be miffed.

Cell phone jammers do bring with them, in certain countries, illegality. Earlier this year, a Florida man was fined $48,000 for riding around with a cell phone jammer in his car. He apparently didn't like people talking on their phones and driving, even though it's legal in Florida.

There's even a Philadelphia man who has admitted he takes a jammer with him on the bus to shut up phone-yappers.

There's no universal agreement about technology in church. While some react as Father Madonna did, other churches believe that there's nothing wrong in following a service on your iPad. A 2013 survey showed that, for one reason or another, 35 percent of Americans use their cell phones in church.

Technology has other positive ecclesiastical uses. At this time of year, you'll find that some Baby Jesuses in church nativity scenes are equipped with GPS devices to track them in case of theft.

Clearly, Father Madonna feels that his jammer is the only way he can be allowed to do God's work. There's something sad about that.