A question pops up once in a while and I have dealt with it before. Can you be absolved over the phone or by internet? NO. That would be INVALID.
I was alerted to this post at the site of Fox San Antonio:
Mysterious ‘priest’ taking digital confessions
SAN ANTONIO – The religious sacrament of confessing your sins is about to enter the digital age… Well, sort of. [No… not like this!]
A press release sent to Fox San Antonio last week claims an ordained priest in the San Antonio area [Who knows what that means? Anyone can “claim” to be ordained.] will be the first to begin accepting confessions over the social media app ‘Snapchat.’ [Anyone can “accept” confessions, by the way. However, only a properly ordained priest with faculties can give valid absolution. Everyone else just shoots blanks.]
The release states the confessions will be accepted by @priestDavid from March 2nd through March 16th.
The priest’s true identity is a mystery. [This is probably a fraud.] The release only describes the priest as having been a “man of the cloth for 23 years” but his last name and church affiliation were not included out of privacy concerns. [Ditto.]
Deacon Pat Rodgers with the Archdiocese of San Antonio says the Church is not involved in any way with the Snapchat confessions. He says confessions must be done face-to-face [NO! It is NOT necessary that confessions be “face to face”.] and a digital confession goes against the Church’s teachings.
Were this person to be found to be Catholic, I would recommend a canonical case against her immediately.
This leads to the larger question.
Could a validly ordained priest with faculties absolve you through some electronic means?
Absolution long-distance via technology is invalid. Many years ago there was a response given to a question about absolution communicated via telegraph (which shows how long ago it was). Such an absolution would be invalid. Some time later, I don’t have the reference, there was a question about telephone. The answer was the same. Invalid.
If such a question were submitted today, the answer would be the same. You cannot receive absolution via skype or internet chat or video phone calls, etc. That includes text messages. INVALID.
By the way, anyone can confess via phone or by megaphone or by microphone and amplifier with stratocaster accompaniment. You can confess by long-distance technology, but you cannot receive absolution via long-distance technology. Similarly, you can confess to anyone you desire, but only priests with faculties can forgive your sins through sacramental absolution.
There is a possibility of contracting marriage long distance, or even via proxy, but not any other sacrament. And that is another and more complicated question which we will not delve into here.
There are practical reasons: certainty about the person of the confessor, the penitent, issues of faculties across even continents, security of not being overheard, etc.
There are theological reasons: the penitent must accuse himself of sins in the presence of the minister of the Church acting in the person of Christ who is judge, there is the personal nature of the encounter with the Lord who is Mercy itself, etc.
No confession by long-distance. It must be a real, and personal meeting of penitent and confessor.
Of course there are situations where people who are physically present to the confessor may have to use some artificial means to speak. Also, a priest could use an sound amplifier for a person who is present who is also hard of hearing. That’s not a problem. It also could be that the person is not immediately close to the confessor, but is still within view or earshot. In that case the person is still “morally” present and absolution is valid. However, it a penitent is both physically and morally completely separated from the confessor, artificial means cannot be used validly to impart absolution.
GO TO CONFESSION. You can’t “mail it in”.