Is it okay to go to confession over the phone? The questioner
prefers to confess to a priest-friend who can only be reached through phone. Is
it possible to do so without losing the grace received in the sacrament of
The question is specifically about using the telephone for confession but
similar questions have been raised about the use of the internet and other
modern means of communication.
The Church and the Internet, a document published by the Pontifical Council on
Social Communications on 22 February 2002 and signed by Archbishop John Foley,
Virtual reality is no substitute for the Real Presence of Christ in the
Eucharist, the sacramental reality of the other sacraments, and shared worship
in a flesh-and-blood human community. There are no sacraments on the Internet;
and even the religious experiences possible there by the grace of God are
insufficient apart from real-world interaction with other persons of faith. . .
. pastoral planning should consider how to lead people from cyberspace to true
community and how, through teaching and catechesis, the Internet might
subsequently be used to sustain and enrich them in their Christian commitment.
The document is clear about 'internet sacraments': there are no such things. The
same applies, I think, to the phone.
Catholic Answers has a reply to a similar query in which it also refers to The
Church and the Internet and gives the quotation I have given:
Why can't priests hear confessions through electronic media such as
telephone, email, or internet? (In the answer below ‘CCC’ refers to the
Catechism of the Catholic Church).
Confession on the telephone or by email is not permitted by the Church for a
couple of reasons.
First, the sacrament of confession is a personal encounter with Jesus in which
he personally addresses every sinner: ‘My son, your sins are forgiven’. He is
the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them. He raises
them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is
thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.
Second, maintaining secrecy is essential. The ‘Church declares that every priest
who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute
secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him" (CCC 1467).
Email, the internet, and telephones are never completely private.
The questioner doesn’t say that it is impossible to find a priest but rather
that he would prefer to confess to a particular priest-friend who is available
only by phone. While it is a good idea to have a regular confessor if that is
possible, if that priest isn’t easily available we should go to a priest who is.