To: All Bishops
From: Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford Chairman, USCCB Committee on Divine Worship
Date: March 27, 2020
Re: Administration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing
As Bishops struggle to field the many questions that are arising from priests and the faithful about the availability and administration of the Sacraments, some issues have arisen that have come to the attention of the Committee on Divine Worship.
Two of those questions were referred to the Nuncio for possible referral to the Holy See. Our Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, spoke with Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and has requested that the following information be shared with all the Bishops:
With regard to Penance, it is clear that the Sacrament is not to be celebrated via cell phone. In addition, in the present circumstances cell phones should not be used even for the amplification of voices between a confessor and penitent who are in visual range of each other. Current threats against the seal of confession also raise questions about information on cell phones.
With regard to the Anointing of the Sick, it is not possible for the anointing with oil to be delegated to someone else, such as a nurse or a doctor.
I might add that when it is not possible to administer the Sacrament, then what the Apostolic Penitentiary said about the Sacrament of Penance might be applied analogously to the Sacrament of the Sick: “Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).”