Use of Electronic Means in Sacrament of Reconciliation Is Barred

Note of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2003 ( Electronic means such as e-mails and faxes cannot be used to consult on matters covered by the secrecy of the sacrament of reconciliation, the Holy See says.

The Holy See sent a note to episcopates worldwide to remind priests of the rule. European news agencies reported on the note, which only highlighted the reference to the prohibition of using electronic means in this sacrament.

The note was issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary and published in the Official Bulletin of the Archbishopric of Coria-Caceres, in Spain.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal with competence in all matters affecting the «internal forum,» that is, questions of conscience, in particular, absolution of censures and dispensations reserved to the Pope. The tribunal also deals with matters relating to indulgences.

The text of the note emphasizes that the use of electronic means to address questions covered by the secrecy of the sacrament «might degenerate in the violation of the very constitutive and inherent elements of the sacrament of penance.»

For this reason, the note appeals to bishops and religious major superiors to give opportune instructions to priests so that they will absolutely exclude technological means and «use only epistolary means in communications with the Apostolic Penitentiary on all matters covered by the sacramental secrecy, the secrecy of conscience, and other prudential reasons.»

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