I was shocked, as I heard, that the local bishop allowed phone confession and absolution over phone because of COVID-19. A priest from my community says the Cardinal of says that he may use phone to absolve people. Father, so many people call him every day and think they are absolved from their sins! Is this sacrament simulation? I wrote two emails to the head of the religious community and I got a dumb answer, saying why it was OK for the Cardinal of Vienna to allow phone confessions and I should stop worrying. It’s just wrong! No dogmatic foundation. I am frustrated. I am praying. Do you know anyone on the Congregation in Rome? I mean, something should be done here. We’re living in chaotic times.
We have to make a distinction or two.
First, anyone can confess over the phone. That’s not a problem. However, sacramental absolution cannot be given VALIDLY by phone, unless the penitent also happens to be physically close by and the phone is just an amplifying device, like a hearing aid or a phone set up in a confessional or jail visiting room.
Absolution at a distance using the phone would be INVALID.
Since that is the case, attempting to absolve over the phone like that would be simulation of a sacrament, objectively a terrible sin. Can. 1379 threatens “a just penalty” for the simulation of a sacrament. However, it should first be determined whether or not the priest knew that what he was doing was wrong. That would mitigate incurring a penalty. It seems as if he is misinformed by a high authority, whom under normal circumstances he ought to be able to trust. These are not, of course, normal circumstances.
You should immediately write with your concern to the Congregation for Divine Worship. Send copies of your previous correspondence. NB: They have a fax machine.
A Sua Em.za Rev.ma il Cardinale Robert SARAH
Prefetto della Congregazione per il Culto Divino
e la Disciplina dei Sacramenti
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
00120 Città del Vaticano
Fax: (+39) 06.69.88.34.99