Apostolic Penitentiary, Circular letter on the exclusion of electric means in communicating with the Apostolic Penitentiary, 2003.
The following is a letter from Archbishop Luigi DeMagistris, Major Pro-Penitentiary, initially sent to Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and forwarded through his office to the bishops of the United States. It concerns the absolute exclusion of the use of electronic means of communicating with the Apostolic Penitentiary in all matters covered by the seal of confession, the secrecy of conscience and/or other prudential matters.
PAENITENTIARIA APOSTOLICAProt. N.
CIRCULAR LETTERThe use of technological means (fax, internet, email, etc.) which, in communication and in the exchange of news, provide maximum speed over great distances, has expanded to the area of the secrecy of conscience, which must not give access to them. Such preclusion is all the more necessary when dealing with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, safeguarded by the seal of confession.
The inconveniences stemming from such a lamented use are evident at first sight, but it is helpful to consider in particular that such abuse can degenerate into the violation of the very elements which are constitutive or connatural to the Sacrament of Penance (its nature, the physical presence of those involved, the possibility of dialogue, and the consequent efficacy, even from the psychological point of view) and, in any case, of the very special care which it postulates.
The problem is especially urgent and delicate as regards the Apostolic Penitentiary, which deals ex professo with matters entrusted to the Church by means of the fourth Sacrament. On the other hand it is obvious that other matters to be presented to the Apostolic See also require strict precautions.
The Apostolic Penitentiary considers it necessary to draw the attention of this Episcopate and of its Religious Major Superiors to this matter, so that priests of their jurisdiction be given opportune directives regarding the absolute exclusion of the use of the above-mentioned means and the need to recur to the normal epistolary method when communicating with the Apostolic Penitentiary in all matters covered by the seal of confession, the secrecy of conscience and/or other prudential reasons.
Apostolic Penitentiary, Circular letter on the exclusion of electric means in communicating with the Apostolic Penitentiary, 2003, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2003, 20-21.