Absolution by phone or video

Just listened to Jimmy Akin on Catholic Answers and he said the Church has made no decision on whether absolution by telephone is valid or licit. Given the crisis we are in and how long it has gone on (and probably will go on) why doesn’t the Church make a decision on this in a timely manner?

Because it’s unnecessary when many dioceses were offering confession with social distancing throughout the shutdown (I’m in a shutdown area and went to confession 3 times during the shutdown), and even more dioceses will begin offering confession with social distancing as areas start to open up.


Because there is no need to.

God in his mercy will absolve those who come to him directly with a pure and contrite heart, in these trying times until such time that the Sacrament is readily available. Do you think those, through the ages, who do not have access to a priest are left with their salvation in jeopardy?

God is love, and he wouldn’t do that to us.


I think a different way of looking at it is that the Church has consistently taught that the priest and penitent must be physically present to one another for the sacrament to occur. I don’t know that it is necessary for the Church to enumerate every way in which people can be in communication, but not physically present to one another.

While not a Catholic example, it is worth noting that a few Orthodox jurisdictions have recently allowed confession by phone, but absolution must wait until a later date, when it can be given in person.

By social distancing do you mean telephone/video or physical presence?

Physical presence. The penitent and priest stay at least 6 feet apart, or else the priest is behind a really solid barrier. They also don’t use the confessionals, they use a big room, or outdoors.

You need to be in the physical presence of the priest in order to receive the sacrament.


I’d be interested in hearing his complete answer. Could you direct me to the particular episode where this was discussed? Thanks.



It was on the May 12 podcast, the very first call


You can still go to confession in most diocese, and soon in all, I expect. I went on Sunday. Call your local parish.

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I like Jimmy Akin, but I think he’s both right & wrong on this.

While the Church has not definitively ruled specifically on telephone, they have ruled on letters.

Letters were deemed to be an invalid form for Confession. The telegraph was also deemed invalid.

Now, while it may not have dogmatically declared it so, the telephone was deemed to be a similar medium of communication as the telegraph. Both where real time, over wires.

So the argument was that if the telegraph wasn’t proper matter for the sacrament, then nether was the telephone.

God Bless

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OK - I just listened to what Jimmy said. The caller called in because she received absolution from a priest over the phone. Jimmy clearly says that the canon law says it’s not legal. And says that the majority position is that it’s not valid.

However, he acknowledges that the validity has never been dogmatically ruled on & he mentions that some theologians (even in the 1930s) do/did argue that confession could be validly be done over the phone.

But Jimmy NEVER says it is valid and NEVER says it’s lawful.

The below link is the discussed call.

God Bless


I’d like to read what Mr Akin said.

Listen to the podcast I referenced. It was spoken, not written.

Both have the problem of potentially breaking the seal, but for different reasons. With the telegraph, usually a telegrapher who knew Morse Code had to be the intermediary; one at the sending end, one at the receiving end.

With the telephone, one speaks directly to the other person but particularly in older systems, the operator could listen in on the line.

Not so great if you’re confessing that you cheated on your spouse!

One would think that somehow modern encrypted communications could solve that. Still even then it’s impossible to tell if someone else is in the room. Even with video chat someone could be standing out of the range of the camera.

Fortunately as dscath more or less says, God is not a tyrant and the Church has given us just the tool to get us through circumstances where sacramental confession is not available: you say an act of perfect contrition and resolve to confess the sin in person at the first available opportunity.

So I haven’t been too worried about this situation. At some point, things will return to normal and we’ll be able to make good on the promise to confess as soon as possible.

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And we know telephone’s (esp cell phone) can be hacked.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard other people having a conversation on my own cell phone when I was trying to talk to someone else.

“Forgive me father, for I have … … -. -. . -…”

:scream: :crazy_face: :rofl:


For some reason, going to confession in person makes me anxious and so I go like four times a year. But if we could go over the phone I would do it like once every other week. Seems so much easier… but I don’t think this a good feeling and the reason why over the phone isn’t used. Its easier because I don’t have to humble myself before God as directly. The priest won’t know if I genuinely mean it or am using the sacrament as a quick “feel-better” type thing. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels this way and as such, over the phone is not a good idea in my view

Actually the Church has made a decision on this. absolution must be in person from the priest for it to be valid, not over the phone, not by video conference, not by letter.


Did you have to yell to be heard 6 ft apart? I’m

Yes, the RCC states that. As OraLabora said below, it actually states that she remained perpetually virgin and celibate, which is going even beyond chaste for a married woman.

The RCC doesn’t state that. Many theologians and saints have opined on it, and some thought Joseph was older, or a remarried widower with children from his first marriage, but many have also believed that Joseph was a young and vigorous man (as Mother Angelica said, “Old men don’t walk to Egypt”), that Joseph like Mary consecrated his virginity to God and therefore Joseph never had any children, and that Jesus’ “brothers” were actually his cousins, not Joseph’s previous children.

Fr. Donald Calloway’s recent book “Consecration to St. Joseph” explores this in great detail.

There is to my knowledge no official Church teaching on how old Joseph was or whether he had been widowed before or whether he had any previous children with a deceased wife.

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