From CBCP News I read a story about a priest who, to facilitate confessions of the people who are hearing/speech impaired, came up with an idea.
Two computers that are hard connected together, no wi-fi, etc., on which penitent and priest confessor could type back and forth.
At first, I though “Good idea, so long as they are physically present to each other.” Moreover, absolution cannot be only in writing. Written absolution, alone, would be invalid.
But there was nothing about that in the original story I read.
I followed links for more information and went HERE. You read:
If approved by the Holy See following a study and evaluation by competent Church authority, the StDamien Confession Box, by permission of the bishop to be used in his diocese, becomes a special confessional inside the church which may be located alongside other traditional confessionals. For security purposes, this may also be located in a separate room where the priest and the penitent can use the two laptops placed on top of a table, with them sitting along side or facing each other. What makes it special is its ability to allow deaf people and those who have speech difficulties to participate better in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
So, you can see that this is intended to be used when both confessor and penitent are physically present to each other, not at long distance via some sort of network.
It is possible to write a confession and give it to the confessor. However, to receive sacramental absolution, it must be received in person, not in writing, not from a distance vocally via telephone, etc. It must be in person or it is invalid. Exact distance isn’t specified, but you must be physically present, I suppose within earshot or the like.
The maximum range of validity of sacramental forms of most sacraments is not spelled out with precision, but physical presence is necessary.
People entering into matrimony are a separate case, at least as far as the ratum part is concerned.
Any way, such a thing could be a good idea.
I have been in confessionals which still had old equipment like a telephone hand set which were for the hard of hearing. However, those confessionals were often not well sound-proofed, which had lots of problem potential. Hearing confessions of the impaired can be tricky, especially if there are people around, even if a priest can sign with the best of them.
I think we should have traditional style confessionals, with the fixed-grate and barrier and really good sound proofing, and if such a gizmo can help the hearing impaired, all the better.
In the meantime…
GO TO CONFESSION!