Philippines parish cancels planned “online general absolution”

CNA Staff, Apr 2, 2020 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- A parish in the Philippines has canceled an “online general absolution.” Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Quezon City, Philippines had advertised the event would be available by livestream, and was set to take place on April 3.

On Thursday, the parish issued a retraction and an apology.

“Fr. Nelson wants to correct himself. General absolution cannot be given via online,” said a statement issued by the parish.

“The penitent must be physically present— meaning, the priest who absolves and the penitent who receives the absolution must be in the same place,” the statement clarified.

According to the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, which has authority over the sacrament of confession and matters falling under the sacramental seal, general absolution without prior individual confession may only be imparted where the imminent danger of death occurs, when there is not enough time to listen to the confessions of individual penitents, or there is a serious need.

Amid the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and many dioceses worldwide suspending Masses and confessions, the Vatican has clarified that if a general absolution is done, it must be approved by the bishop, and it must be done in person.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, clarified on March 19 that priests giving general absolution in particular cases must explain the conditions of general absolution, and also must be physically present to those receiving it, at least to the point of penitents being able to hear the priest’s voice.

Father Pius Pietrzyk, OP, chair of pastoral studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, told CNA Thursday that the sacraments must be an encounter between the priest and the person receiving the sacrament.

In the same way that a penitent could not confess their sins to a priest over the telephone— which would remove the person-to-person encounter of the sacrament— offering general absolution online removes the unity between the priest and the penitents, and therefore is not valid, he said.

“This kind of virtual presentation of the sacrament is not what the Church understands a sacrament to be,” he said.

“They need to understand that what they are doing is not a sacrament.”

In addition, the law is abundantly clear, he said, that if general absolution is given, the bishop must give the parameters. Parishes must get permission from the bishop to offer general absolution, he said.

A parish employee at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish was unable to confirm whether the cancelation of the planned online general absolution was the result of an intervention on the part of the bishop.

Another Philippines parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in the Diocese of Tarlac is, as of press time, going ahead with a livestreamed general absolution for its viewers “with the explicit permission of the Bishop of Tarlac.”

The Diocese of Tarlac and Bishop Enrique Macaraeg did not reply to CNA’s request for comment by press time.

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, reportedly led an online general absolution on Monday.

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  1. To invert a truism–in electronic sacraments “there’s LESS here than meets the eye.”

    It isn’t just canon-law legalism that restrains telemarketer sacraments. If a virtual electronic splash through a computer monitor and speaker can administer the sacrament of penance, then why can’t 3D virtual sex toys substitute for the sacrament of marriage–another abused and previously real thing?

    The Church reminds us of the mystery of human personhood precisely by acknowledging the personal contact faithfully supplied at least (!) in the sacraments, AND is more starkly noticing the gut-level difference between reality and the mere phantasms of Technocracy. To what depths have we sunk, to need such a reminder?

    First, the sacramental Real Presence (the Word) in the consecration at Mass is replaced by Gutenberg’s printed words on paper (bibliolatry?); then personal participation in God’s acts of creation of new persons is replaced by the Sexual Revolution and nearly anonymous contraceptive/recreational sex (etc.); then the reality of unborn children is dismissed/disposed as diseased tissue. The revealed/infinite Truth of Christianity is replaced by the boundless carnage of 20th century ideologies; at the street level, real personal encounter and wonder are replaced by media special effects and boredom; the Descent of the (indwelling) Holy Spirit at Pentecost is replaced by microphones, power-points and chandeliers in bishops’ conferences and orchestrated synods; plastic transformer toys groom toward gender theory and out-of-body transgender experimentation; and now the Sacrament of Penance is simulated through computer chips and smartphone apps. High resolution, of course!

    Enough. Distance learning is one thing (maybe), but all this stuff is another. One can notice these incremental deceptions without being a reactionary Luddite.

    • The POSITIVE meaning of my above rant, I hope, is the real mystery of the singular Real Presence. And therefore also the mystery of EACH seemingly obscure priest and bishop in the trenches who, surely, are desperately looking for ways to serve their people in this wretched time of isolation.

      The Lord is not isolated (or even self-distanced by “six feet”). Is the good already being drawn out of our evil moment an assuredly greater astonishment that EACH Mass—each and every Mass even when celebrated with only the priest present—is the undiminished “extension and projection” (St. John Paul II) of the once-only passion of Christ on Calvary? Not any lesser assembly-line symbol, but the singular Eucharist as both “a symbol AND that which it symbolizes.” Numerically distinct, but actually ONE.

      There is no distancing of the singular and historical fact of Calvary from our own time and place(s). Are we open to the stunning reality of the Mass—and, with opened eyes, can we also see the ordained priesthood as it really is—-ALTER CHRISTUS (truly in the person of Christ). And then even see ourselves and each other, sacramentally, as gifted and fully “new persons”?

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