Can I confess my sins by phone or online?
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The coronavirus pandemic has forced Catholic parishes to close around the world for the safety of parishioners. This is making it difficult for many to access the sacraments, including the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many are asking why can't this sacrament be obtained over the phone or internet?
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Social distancing rules has many Catholics wondering if they can make a confession over the phone or online.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Many Catholics are rightly concerned about how they can obtain the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the coronavirus lockdown. Some have asked why the Sacrament cannot be administered over the phone or online. But there are reasons why the Sacrament is not available by teleconference. Obviously, it is not a meeting with the team from work. Instead, it is much more serious and solemn, and there are practical considerations.
The Church has long taught that the confession of sins and absolution should happen in one place. A remote confession would undermine this idea. Virtual connection is not a substitute for physical proximity. No Sacraments take place over the internet, and confession isn't an exception.
However, there is no specific requirement that confession take place within a certain distance of a priest. Canon Law has always assumed confession would only occur in person. But how can a person safely avail themselves of the grace of Reconciliation while coping with social distancing restrictions? What does a person do when the law itself forbids travel to the parish church? And what can people do when they are unable to obtain the Sacrament for any number of other reasons like persecution, or an emergency in a remote location?
It does seem that it could be within the Church's authority to change the way the Sacrament is administered, and if these restrictions persist, then it is reasonable to assume the Church will at least consider the change. However, for the time Catholics are encouraged to consider making an act of perfect contrition.
An act of perfect contrition is a profound sorrow for one's sins and a genuine commitment to sin no more. Such an act remits venial sins. It can also obtain forgiveness of mortal sins, provided the penitent is firmly resolved to obtain sacramental confession with a priest as soon as possible.
Key to all this is love of God. It is our love of God that must motivate and be at the heart of our contrition.
For the moment, reconciliation is not available by any means except to see a priest. In the meantime, an act of perfect contrition is possible. And in the future, perhaps the Church will consider the question of allowing long-distance confessions. But for now, this is not yet an option.
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