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Philippine bishop advocates confession using mobile phones

Prelate says the sacrament is valid as long as the penitent and priest are separated but still in each other's presence

Philippine bishop advocates confession using mobile phones

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David visits residents of a mission station in his Caloocan Diocese in this file photo.

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has recommended that clergymen conduct confessions using mobile phones during the Covid-19 pandemic.

CaloocanBishop Pablo Virgilio David said on May 21 that mobile phones could be used for valid confessions but only when the priest could see the penitent.

“Find or build a place with a separating clear glass divider — floor to ceiling is better. Sit on the opposite side of the clear glass divider while the penitent is sitting on the other side,” Bishop David said in a message to priests in a Facebook post.

Priests, while observing health protocols, could use a mobile phone to hear someone’s confession, he said.

“Use a cellphone with a parish SIM card and give the number to the penitent. Allow them to call you from the other side of the glass and start making their confession,” the bishop added.

The prelate’s recommendation appeared to go against protocols for religious services issued by the bishops’ conference in 2020.

While a priest cannot give absolution over the phone, he can use the phone to give a blessing

“Priests may not hear confessions via telephone or Zoom teleconferencing, though they may use these methods to offer penitents spiritual counsel,” said the protocol.

“While a priest cannot give absolution over the phone, he can use the phone to give a blessing and even guide a person through an Act of Perfect Contrition.”

In light of this, Manila Archdiocese banned confession through digital means or by telephone in May last year.

However, Bishop David said mobile phones could be used in confession as long as the penitent was physically present, but he added that phones should not be in loudspeaker mode to observe confidentiality to protect the seal of confession.

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“Make sure the seal of confession is not compromised,” he said.

By observing these recommendations, canon law is not violated because the penitent is physically present to confess his sins to a clergyman, he said.

“As long as the penitent is physically present, even from a safe distance, without a divider, you can hear his or her confession through your phone. This way, you are only using your phones as speakers,” he added.

Some churchgoers thought it a good idea.

“The recommendation answers the need for confession during this pandemic. The concern of some regarding the seal of confession being compromised is addressed,” said Vangie Tamaca from Manila.

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