CHARLESTON—In all the innovative attempts to provide people of faith with ministry, one thing priests cannot do is offer the sacrament of reconciliation over cell phones, even if they are six feet away from the person.
While the intent is good, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a March 27 memo to bishops stating that confessions by cell phone held the risk that the seal of confession could be broken.
“With regard to penance, it is clear that the sacrament is not to be celebrated via cell phone,” he stated. “In addition, in the present circumstances cell phones should not be used even for the amplification of voices between a confessor and penitent who are in visual range of each other. Current threats against the seal of confession also raise questions about information on cell phones.”
The memo also included information about the anointing of the sick stating it is not possible for the anointing with oil to be delegated to someone else, such as a nurse or a doctor.
“I might add that when it is not possible to administer the sacrament, then what the Apostolic Penitentiary said about the sacrament of penance might be applied analogously to the sacrament of the sick,” Archbishop Blair said.
The catechism states: “Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).”