The Catholic Church has been taking advantage of the internet as tool for evangelization but it can never replace the traditional face-to-face confessions, a bishop said.
Manila archdiocese’s administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo stressed that the rites of penance require a personal dialogue between penitents and their confessor.
This is also “to protect the secrecy and sincerity of confession,” he said.
The country’s lockdown regulations due to coronavirus pandemic have revived talks about reconciling from afar.
Not only that physical distancing measures have prevented priests from holding public Masses, but have also halted the practice of confession, especially last Lent.
While priests are barred from hearing confessions online or by phone, the bishop said that priests may use the methods “to offer the penitents spiritual counsel”.
And when the sacrament of reconciliation is not possible to a patient who is under quarantine, Pabillo said that they can make an “act of perfect contrition”.
He said that this is also the time when priests can use the phone to at least give a blessing and even guide a person through an act of perfect contrition.
Pabillo said that “perfect contrition” is done when a person “expresses faith in and love of God above all things and resolves to make a sacramental Confession as soon as possible”.
“An act of perfect contrition always has been a part of our Catholic tradition. God is always present to us, even when the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible,” he said.
The red light to online confessions is contained in a document issued by the archdiocese on Wednesday.
The guidelines were also released to prepare the parishes when religious services will already be allowed.
When this happened, the archdiocese required that small confessional boxes be “reconfigured” to allow physical distancing, while both priests and the penitent wear face masks.
“If this cannot be done then have the confessions done outside the confessional box, with one meter distance between the penitent and the priest,” Pabillo said.
He added that parishes can also organize a series of “kumpisalang bayan” (mass confessions) with penitential service to enable the people to come to confession.
“Proper physical distancing should be observed as during the Mass. The parishes in the vicariates can help one another here,” he said.