In a memo to the Catholic Bishops of the United States on June 22, 2020, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, the Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, addressed the issue of using cotton swabs or cotton balls with Holy Chrism in Confirmation. His statement follows:
You will recall that on June 8, on behalf of our Committee on Divine Worship, I shared with you the following response from the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments regarding the use of an “instrument” for the conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation:
“The use by the minister of an instrument (gloves, cotton swab…), does not affect the validity of the Sacrament.”
Some Bishops have also asked whether the minister must touch the head of the confirmandi with outstretched fingers as he administers the anointing with the sacred Chrism. This question was taken up by the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of the Decrees of Vatican Council II in 1972, and the answer was the following:
Query: According to the Apostolic Constitution Divinae consortium naturae, 15 August 1971, must the minister in carrying out the act of anointing with chrism lay his outstretched hand on the head of the one being confirmed or is an anointing with the thumb sufficient?
Reply: To the first, no; to the second, yes, according to the document. The intent is: anointing with chrism done as described sufficiently expresses the laying on of hands.
Pope Paul VI in an audience granted to the undersigned, 9 June 1972, confirmed the decision given, approved it, and ordered its publication.