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Author Topic: When does a priest have the obligation to reveal a confession?  (Read 3570 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: October 21, 2012, 11:03:32 PM »

I'll throw out a Hypothetical.

If there was a girl in her mid teens, such as 15 or 16 who went to confession.  She reveals that she has been romantically involved with a 25 year old man (that she is helping to get off drugs).   She then tells her priest that she is planning on running away the following day with him several states away without telling her parents.

Should the priest reveal to her parents EXACTLY what's up with the potential of losing her trust as an Orthodox Christian?

Or does he have to beat around the bush and be like "I can't reveal anything confessed, but do not let your daughter out of your sight for a while"...
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2012, 11:18:02 PM »

My understanding is that priests are obligated NOT to reveal what has been said in confession. But also, usually what is said in confession relates to sin and its cure. So they hypothetical conversation seems a bit irrelevant to the point of confession.

The priest can counsel and the priest can withhold absolution, but the priest should not be meddling even if it appears to be a good idea. Many things appear good, but are actually not. There are very good reasons why confession is secret. Also, there is much advice about not being too detailed in confession.
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2012, 08:18:06 AM »

I was told, he is when one confessed planning to assassinate the tzar.
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2012, 09:43:59 AM »


In this situation, I believe it is his responsibility to try and talk some sense in to this young lady, but, other than that, there's not much else he can do.

I do not believe he is at liberty to tell her parents anything that was disclosed in her confession.
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2012, 10:24:29 AM »

Several problems here:

1) a 16-year-old girl does not 'help' an adult male get off drugs.  This constitutes grounds for going to the parents (which can be done without details and with the girl's knowledge/consent).

2) a child's 'trust' is often overly simplistic.  Of course, she will more than likely hate the priest, the same way that most teenagers hate their parents up until they grow up a bit more and discovered that all those 'no' moments were beneficial.

3) if the daughter is acting out in this way, there's a family dynamic that needs to be healed.  This is a much bigger issue.

That being said, we have received specific instructions from our bishop that Confession and its expectations of confidentiality does not cover criminal conduct.  It covers sin.  People confess their sinfulness, and receive absolution, but this absolution does not remove the criminal punishment due from a crime.  The Church has never argued such a point.

However, such revelations are only to be made after consulting the bishop.  A priest can never, ever 'solo' on this one.  The Church has to take care of it, not just a single priest.
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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2012, 10:26:27 PM »

Several problems here:

1) a 16-year-old girl does not 'help' an adult male get off drugs.  This constitutes grounds for going to the parents (which can be done without details and with the girl's knowledge/consent).

2) a child's 'trust' is often overly simplistic.  Of course, she will more than likely hate the priest, the same way that most teenagers hate their parents up until they grow up a bit more and discovered that all those 'no' moments were beneficial.

3) if the daughter is acting out in this way, there's a family dynamic that needs to be healed.  This is a much bigger issue.

That being said, we have received specific instructions from our bishop that Confession and its expectations of confidentiality does not cover criminal conduct.  It covers sin.  People confess their sinfulness, and receive absolution, but this absolution does not remove the criminal punishment due from a crime.  The Church has never argued such a point.

However, such revelations are only to be made after consulting the bishop.  A priest can never, ever 'solo' on this one.  The Church has to take care of it, not just a single priest.


Yes, what you said is how I somewhat understood it....

On your point on #1, if the girl is unwilling to give consent?  I've always understood that if there was an immediate danger that the priest has an obligation to at least warn the parents (without specifics).

If it was my daughter in this situation, I would be furious (at my priest) if I was not at least subtly "hinted at".   (ie "hey your daughter is engaged in a dangerous situation that I can't reveal, but I ask you to not let her out of your sight for a while").

I do not know of one priest that would not be really alarmed and alerted to "talk her out of it".  I'm curious on "immediate danger" and not specifically illegal in nature or even "crimes about to happen". 
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2012, 11:27:02 PM »

What if the Priest warned the girl while in Confession, giving her an ultimatum? Technically he wouldn't be lying or deceiving her since she knew it was going to happen. Like, say perhaps the Priest tells the girl that if she does not call off her plans to run off with that strange man, then he will inform her parents? Or, if a murderer confesses to murder, the Priest says that if the person in question does not confess to the crime himself, then he is going to do it? Would this be prohibited?
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2012, 11:53:38 PM »

That being said, we have received specific instructions from our bishop that Confession and its expectations of confidentiality does not cover criminal conduct.  It covers sin.  People confess their sinfulness, and receive absolution, but this absolution does not remove the criminal punishment due from a crime.  The Church has never argued such a point.
But the Church is not required to actually help do the punishing, right?
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2012, 03:13:09 AM »

Several problems here:

1That being said, we have received specific instructions from our bishop that Confession and its expectations of confidentiality does not cover criminal conduct.  It covers sin.  People confess their sinfulness, and receive absolution, but this absolution does not remove the criminal punishment due from a crime.  The Church has never argued such a point.

However, such revelations are only to be made after consulting the bishop.  A priest can never, ever 'solo' on this one.  The Church has to take care of it, not just a single priest.

Do you warn parishoners before they confess that what they confess may not be confidential?
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2012, 09:15:09 AM »

Ok, so the hypothetical situation is a young girl confesses that she is romantically involved with an older man and she is going to run away with him.  By the fact that she is confessing this, she knows it is wrong.  If she didn't think any of her actions were wrong she wouldn't confess them, right?  Sounds like she is begging to be talked out of it and it likely wouldn't take much to do so.  This is nothing but a strawman, Yesh.  I guess trying to get clergy to say they would break the seal of confession, or say that they wouldn't stop a young girl from running off with an older man, no matter how ridiculous the hypothetical situation is, is just too much fun.
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2012, 10:30:24 AM »

We go through this in Catechism, and those raised in the Church know the boundaries.  They don't have the RC absolutist understanding of confession.

Several problems here:

1That being said, we have received specific instructions from our bishop that Confession and its expectations of confidentiality does not cover criminal conduct.  It covers sin.  People confess their sinfulness, and receive absolution, but this absolution does not remove the criminal punishment due from a crime.  The Church has never argued such a point.

However, such revelations are only to be made after consulting the bishop.  A priest can never, ever 'solo' on this one.  The Church has to take care of it, not just a single priest.

Do you warn parishoners before they confess that what they confess may not be confidential?
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2012, 10:41:59 AM »

Confession is an act of repentance within a trusting relationship.  I can't imagine a situation where someone would come and be thoroughly sorrowful, then dig their heels in and absolutely refuse a priest's advice.  However, that may have something to do with my reputation: people who come to me known I will not get co-dependent with their sickness.

I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.

Running away from home is not a solution, and so I am not obligated to enable it.  This child is still under the guardianship of her parents, and the only thing she can do is seek emancipation.  If that's what she wants, then I would tell her to persue this in an orderly fashion.  But, no, I'm not going to participate in her endangerment by not telling her parents... but I would insist that she come with me so that we can fix the problem at home and remove the reason she wants to run off to begin with.

If she still refuses... again I'm going to call the bishop or the dean and let those who supervise me know the general situation and the potential for lots of phone calls.  I may get overruled, but that is not my decision to make on my own.


What if the Priest warned the girl while in Confession, giving her an ultimatum? Technically he wouldn't be lying or deceiving her since she knew it was going to happen. Like, say perhaps the Priest tells the girl that if she does not call off her plans to run off with that strange man, then he will inform her parents? Or, if a murderer confesses to murder, the Priest says that if the person in question does not confess to the crime himself, then he is going to do it? Would this be prohibited?
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2012, 12:49:51 PM »

I am obligated to keep confidential any and all confessions.
In the case of criminal or possible criminal activity I am obligated to report such things to my Bishop and then drop it.  He will take care of the rest.

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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2012, 01:00:43 PM »

Ok, so the hypothetical situation is a young girl confesses that she is romantically involved with an older man and she is going to run away with him.  By the fact that she is confessing this, she knows it is wrong.  If she didn't think any of her actions were wrong she wouldn't confess them, right?  Sounds like she is begging to be talked out of it and it likely wouldn't take much to do so.  This is nothing but a strawman, Yesh.  I guess trying to get clergy to say they would break the seal of confession, or say that they wouldn't stop a young girl from running off with an older man, no matter how ridiculous the hypothetical situation is, is just too much fun.

On second thought, that was really snarky of me.  I apologize.
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« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2012, 03:45:01 PM »

We go through this in Catechism, and those raised in the Church know the boundaries.  They don't have the RC absolutist understanding of confession.

Several problems here:

1That being said, we have received specific instructions from our bishop that Confession and its expectations of confidentiality does not cover criminal conduct.  It covers sin.  People confess their sinfulness, and receive absolution, but this absolution does not remove the criminal punishment due from a crime.  The Church has never argued such a point.

However, such revelations are only to be made after consulting the bishop.  A priest can never, ever 'solo' on this one.  The Church has to take care of it, not just a single priest.

Do you warn parishoners before they confess that what they confess may not be confidential?

Fr., I know quite a few people who were raised in the Church, and many more people who were received as adults, who DO believe in the "RC absolutist understanding of confession," more or less.
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« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2012, 03:47:15 PM »



I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?
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« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2012, 08:02:27 PM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?
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« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2012, 08:19:56 PM »

My spiritual father told me once "if you come to me for confession for some kind of hard illegal crime, and I give you the spiritual advice to turn yourself in, and you did not listen, then you never took the act of confession seriously or did not understand it in it's proper context" 

Just a thought. 
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« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2012, 08:51:25 PM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.
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« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2012, 09:46:37 PM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.

Suffering is inevitable in life, both for those who do evil and those who do good, and for innocent bystanders.

There is no statute of limitations for murder in the civil laws. If he killed someone, there are people looking for him. Further, innocent persons may have been harmed in the search for him.

I can't see how a priest can, in good conscience, not encourage someone who confesses to such a crime to turn himself in and humbly face the consequences.
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« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2012, 10:12:07 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

"When does a priest have the obligation to reveal a confession?"



That is an excellent question.

stay blessed,
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« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2012, 10:14:30 PM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.
Then that's on the murderer who would cause his three children to suffer, maybe I'm missing something here.
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« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2012, 11:51:43 PM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.
Then that's on the murderer who would cause his three children to suffer, maybe I'm missing something here.

I think the point here was that the murderer now has "a different life", far from what it was when it happened.

I'll throw out another hypothetical.

A man is 48 years old, and has been an Orthodox Christian since birth.   He fell away from the church in his late teens in a rebellious teenage manner.  He stole a car one day..... Before long he started to break into houses just stealing TV's and stereo equipment (he was 18 now).  He did this 3 times an got away with it.   On the 4th time he didn't realize somebody was in the home.   They blocked the doorway while calling the police.  The kid said "let me out our I'll beat you up".   The person did not let them out, and the 18 year old punched them 4 time knocking them over.   The person died of a brain aneurysm.

The person at the age of 20, saw the errors of his way, repented, and got back into the church they have been with most of their life.  At 22, he marries on of the ladies in the church.   They grow together in the church, have 3 children through the years all baptized in the church.

At 48, the man confesses this to his priest.

He states "I did not mean to cause death, I just wanted to get out of the house... I just meant to punch him to move him out of the way"....

Legally, HE'S TOAST.

The priest knows the family and has for 2 decades.  He knows the love and care that the family provides for the children.

So is the priest going to say "Now go to the police and/or I will go with you"?
The priest knows he's the sole bread winner and is a great Father to his children, and great husband to his wife.

To me this is very complicated as well.   There may be people "looking for him", and he did it, but is this worth the man destroying his entire family, wife, and children?

What if the man simply REFUSED to go to the police even if the priest suggests it?  Saying "I'm not going to hurt my wife and children, they will place me behind bars for the rest of my life".  "I would never do anything of that sort...."

Does the priest just go to the cops then? 
Does the bishop?

My personal feeling would be that the man he killed was in a crime but accidental an he's been a good person and lifelong parishoner.... I would definitely talk to him at length about his crime, but I would definitely say the prayers of absolution and let it be done.

Covering up?
Wasting taxpayers dollars?
Breaching confidentiality?

I dunno Smiley
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« Reply #23 on: October 25, 2012, 12:08:47 AM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.
Then that's on the murderer who would cause his three children to suffer, maybe I'm missing something here.

I think the point here was that the murderer now has "a different life", far from what it was when it happened.

I'll throw out another hypothetical.

A man is 48 years old, and has been an Orthodox Christian since birth.   He fell away from the church in his late teens in a rebellious teenage manner.  He stole a car one day..... Before long he started to break into houses just stealing TV's and stereo equipment (he was 18 now).  He did this 3 times an got away with it.   On the 4th time he didn't realize somebody was in the home.   They blocked the doorway while calling the police.  The kid said "let me out our I'll beat you up".   The person did not let them out, and the 18 year old punched them 4 time knocking them over.   The person died of a brain aneurysm.

The person at the age of 20, saw the errors of his way, repented, and got back into the church they have been with most of their life.  At 22, he marries on of the ladies in the church.   They grow together in the church, have 3 children through the years all baptized in the church.

At 48, the man confesses this to his priest.

He states "I did not mean to cause death, I just wanted to get out of the house... I just meant to punch him to move him out of the way"....

Legally, HE'S TOAST.

The priest knows the family and has for 2 decades.  He knows the love and care that the family provides for the children.

So is the priest going to say "Now go to the police and/or I will go with you"?
The priest knows he's the sole bread winner and is a great Father to his children, and great husband to his wife.

To me this is very complicated as well.   There may be people "looking for him", and he did it, but is this worth the man destroying his entire family, wife, and children?

What if the man simply REFUSED to go to the police even if the priest suggests it?  Saying "I'm not going to hurt my wife and children, they will place me behind bars for the rest of my life".  "I would never do anything of that sort...."

Does the priest just go to the cops then? 
Does the bishop?

My personal feeling would be that the man he killed was in a crime but accidental an he's been a good person and lifelong parishoner.... I would definitely talk to him at length about his crime, but I would definitely say the prayers of absolution and let it be done.

Covering up?
Wasting taxpayers dollars?
Breaching confidentiality?

I dunno Smiley


Well, actually my point was more: is it really right to just say "Well, he committed a crime, so he really ought to be off to jail," even if that means that, say, three children are suddenly thrown into the foster care system where they may well be physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused, because of a serious mistake their father made twenty years before?  Is that really justified?  Personally, I think the priest would be at least partially responsible for any harm that may befall the children because he caused their father to go to prison.
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« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2012, 12:32:38 AM »

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.
Then that's on the murderer who would cause his three children to suffer, maybe I'm missing something here.

I think the point here was that the murderer now has "a different life", far from what it was when it happened.

I'll throw out another hypothetical.

A man is 48 years old, and has been an Orthodox Christian since birth.   He fell away from the church in his late teens in a rebellious teenage manner.  He stole a car one day..... Before long he started to break into houses just stealing TV's and stereo equipment (he was 18 now).  He did this 3 times an got away with it.   On the 4th time he didn't realize somebody was in the home.   They blocked the doorway while calling the police.  The kid said "let me out our I'll beat you up".   The person did not let them out, and the 18 year old punched them 4 time knocking them over.   The person died of a brain aneurysm.

The person at the age of 20, saw the errors of his way, repented, and got back into the church they have been with most of their life.  At 22, he marries on of the ladies in the church.   They grow together in the church, have 3 children through the years all baptized in the church.

At 48, the man confesses this to his priest.

He states "I did not mean to cause death, I just wanted to get out of the house... I just meant to punch him to move him out of the way"....

Legally, HE'S TOAST.

The priest knows the family and has for 2 decades.  He knows the love and care that the family provides for the children.

So is the priest going to say "Now go to the police and/or I will go with you"?
The priest knows he's the sole bread winner and is a great Father to his children, and great husband to his wife.

To me this is very complicated as well.   There may be people "looking for him", and he did it, but is this worth the man destroying his entire family, wife, and children?

What if the man simply REFUSED to go to the police even if the priest suggests it?  Saying "I'm not going to hurt my wife and children, they will place me behind bars for the rest of my life".  "I would never do anything of that sort...."

Does the priest just go to the cops then? 
Does the bishop?

My personal feeling would be that the man he killed was in a crime but accidental an he's been a good person and lifelong parishoner.... I would definitely talk to him at length about his crime, but I would definitely say the prayers of absolution and let it be done.

Covering up?
Wasting taxpayers dollars?
Breaching confidentiality?

I dunno Smiley


Well, actually my point was more: is it really right to just say "Well, he committed a crime, so he really ought to be off to jail," even if that means that, say, three children are suddenly thrown into the foster care system where they may well be physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused, because of a serious mistake their father made twenty years before?  Is that really justified?  Personally, I think the priest would be at least partially responsible for any harm that may befall the children because he caused their father to go to prison.

I'm not sure that is fair.

If the victim of a rape complains of it twenty years later and thereby contributes to similar outcomes for her rapist to those experienced by your hypothetical murderer, does he/she bear some responsibility for the harm that might be done to the rapist's children?
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« Reply #25 on: October 25, 2012, 11:08:39 AM »

We call that "Original Sin" in another context...

So, what you are saying is, if I avoid punishment long enough, then the crime should just be forgotten?




I can't think of a reason a murderer would come to confession with a genuine desire to repent and yet would refuse to turn himself in.  If he comes, I assume that he wants encouragement to do the right thing, and that is what I will do.  By the end of the conversation, one way or another, the right thing will be done.  I won't sneak, I will tell him that we can go together and he will have my support... but we have to go.




What of a situation with the murder happened two decades ago, and the murderer has the responsibility, now, of supporting three kids?  Would you still see no way a person could genuinely repent and still refuse to turn himself in?

No, I am saying that in such a circumstance, if the murderer were to turn themselves in, suddenly three children are going to suffer, a great deal, because of something that happened twenty years ago.
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« Reply #26 on: October 25, 2012, 11:19:14 AM »

Yet, all of these thing are built upon the foundation of a lie.  He committed a crime, and only by avoiding the due punishment was he able to amass all that he had.  If he really thought he deserved such things, he would be spiritually deluded to boot.

People do such dreadful things all the time.  They draw innocent lives into their webs.  He was dishonest from the get-go, and you cannot fall for the "Keeping Up Appearances" approach to human sin: many of the worst sinners look like upstanding gentlemen, and can greatly deceive even themselves.

He never repented because he never gave justice to the one who's life he took and was deprived of the blessings fo that life.  The victim is forgotten by this standard.  All we really need to do is make a good façade and all is forgiven, right?

If we are going to dispense justice based on how long the criminal escapes justice and makes a 'better life for himself' afterwards, then the prisons would be empty and every arrest would be a shoot-out. 

Families are injured by the sins of the father all the time.  Such things may be considered at sentencing, but they are not part of the determination of guilt and conviction.


I think the point here was that the murderer now has "a different life", far from what it was when it happened.

I'll throw out another hypothetical.

A man is 48 years old, and has been an Orthodox Christian since birth.   He fell away from the church in his late teens in a rebellious teenage manner.  He stole a car one day..... Before long he started to break into houses just stealing TV's and stereo equipment (he was 18 now).  He did this 3 times an got away with it.   On the 4th time he didn't realize somebody was in the home.   They blocked the doorway while calling the police.  The kid said "let me out our I'll beat you up".   The person did not let them out, and the 18 year old punched them 4 time knocking them over.   The person died of a brain aneurysm.

The person at the age of 20, saw the errors of his way, repented, and got back into the church they have been with most of their life.  At 22, he marries on of the ladies in the church.   They grow together in the church, have 3 children through the years all baptized in the church.

At 48, the man confesses this to his priest.

He states "I did not mean to cause death, I just wanted to get out of the house... I just meant to punch him to move him out of the way"....

Legally, HE'S TOAST.

The priest knows the family and has for 2 decades.  He knows the love and care that the family provides for the children.

So is the priest going to say "Now go to the police and/or I will go with you"?
The priest knows he's the sole bread winner and is a great Father to his children, and great husband to his wife.

To me this is very complicated as well.   There may be people "looking for him", and he did it, but is this worth the man destroying his entire family, wife, and children?

What if the man simply REFUSED to go to the police even if the priest suggests it?  Saying "I'm not going to hurt my wife and children, they will place me behind bars for the rest of my life".  "I would never do anything of that sort...."

Does the priest just go to the cops then? 
Does the bishop?

My personal feeling would be that the man he killed was in a crime but accidental an he's been a good person and lifelong parishoner.... I would definitely talk to him at length about his crime, but I would definitely say the prayers of absolution and let it be done.

Covering up?
Wasting taxpayers dollars?
Breaching confidentiality?

I dunno Smiley

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« Reply #27 on: October 25, 2012, 11:36:42 AM »

I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...
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« Reply #28 on: October 25, 2012, 11:59:19 AM »

Welcome to the Orthodox Church... the last bastion against Organized Religion.   Wink

I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...
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« Reply #29 on: October 25, 2012, 12:03:43 PM »

I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...
It goes against everything I have been taught as well. I have had two regular confessors in my life and both have informed me of the strict confidentiality of confession - down to even the most heinous of crimes.

I have always been bothered by the whole "turn yourself in" condition for absolution. It makes me wonder if such confessors would have sent St. Moses the Ethiopian to the "proper authorities" so as to see him executed for his crimes.
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« Reply #30 on: October 25, 2012, 12:07:04 PM »

I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...

What threads?  I recall Fr. A and Fr. Chris both saying there was no absolute seal in Orthodoxy like there is in RCism.
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« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2012, 12:17:51 PM »

I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...

What threads?  I recall Fr. A and Fr. Chris both saying there was no absolute seal in Orthodoxy like there is in RCism.

We've had threads about it since then, but this one is the one I remembered most. For example, in it Fr. Chris says:

Nothing told to Christ in Confession and witnessed by me can be divulged. Full stop.

However, there is always the counseling after the confession. Yes, if/when criminal activity is confessed, I do my best to reinforce to the penitent the importance of being repentant, part of which is setting the record straight.

Yes, I've driven children to stores to apologize to the store owner for stealing something, but it's the child who does all the talking; I say nothing.

If a person confesses something criminal to me that would be such as murder, child molestation, etc I would do all I could to help the penitent go to the legal authorities and help the victim or family have peace of mind. Thank God nothing like that has occurred yet....I have enough trouble with 'incense getting in my eyes' when hearing the pain caused to my parishioners from "every day" sins, and nothing as demonic as violent crime.

But, nothing said in Confession can be divulged. Ever.
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« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2012, 12:32:41 PM »

This isn't a matter of dogma, and so bishops can set the standard of interpretation of the canons in this regard.  Some bishops will say, "This is the Orthodox way," while others will say, "That is the Orthodox way."  The truth is, a priest can go through his entire career without ever having one of these situations.  He will only make a mistake if he does not ask for help in unusual or difficult situations.

The one thing I have realized in my time as a priest is that absolute statements starting with words like 'never' are very dangerous, just like 'always.'  I had a long list of them when I got out of seminary.  Nowadays, I don't know where that list went.

We are not here to keep rules and laws, but heal people and lead them to Christ.  Sometimes you break the sabbath, but most of the time you keep it.  The canons are not absolutes (except dogmas), and the bishops can grant economias as they see fit.


I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...

What threads?  I recall Fr. A and Fr. Chris both saying there was no absolute seal in Orthodoxy like there is in RCism.

We've had threads about it since then, but this one is the one I remembered most. For example, in it Fr. Chris says:

Nothing told to Christ in Confession and witnessed by me can be divulged. Full stop.

However, there is always the counseling after the confession. Yes, if/when criminal activity is confessed, I do my best to reinforce to the penitent the importance of being repentant, part of which is setting the record straight.

Yes, I've driven children to stores to apologize to the store owner for stealing something, but it's the child who does all the talking; I say nothing.

If a person confesses something criminal to me that would be such as murder, child molestation, etc I would do all I could to help the penitent go to the legal authorities and help the victim or family have peace of mind. Thank God nothing like that has occurred yet....I have enough trouble with 'incense getting in my eyes' when hearing the pain caused to my parishioners from "every day" sins, and nothing as demonic as violent crime.

But, nothing said in Confession can be divulged. Ever.
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« Reply #33 on: October 25, 2012, 12:35:33 PM »

I find it confusing that the things being said in this thread about priests breaking the seal of confession completely goes against what priests have said in earlier threads...

What threads?  I recall Fr. A and Fr. Chris both saying there was no absolute seal in Orthodoxy like there is in RCism.

We've had threads about it since then, but this one is the one I remembered most. For example, in it Fr. Chris says:

Nothing told to Christ in Confession and witnessed by me can be divulged. Full stop.

However, there is always the counseling after the confession. Yes, if/when criminal activity is confessed, I do my best to reinforce to the penitent the importance of being repentant, part of which is setting the record straight.

Yes, I've driven children to stores to apologize to the store owner for stealing something, but it's the child who does all the talking; I say nothing.

If a person confesses something criminal to me that would be such as murder, child molestation, etc I would do all I could to help the penitent go to the legal authorities and help the victim or family have peace of mind. Thank God nothing like that has occurred yet....I have enough trouble with 'incense getting in my eyes' when hearing the pain caused to my parishioners from "every day" sins, and nothing as demonic as violent crime.

But, nothing said in Confession can be divulged. Ever.

Oh, you're right, I see.  That's the one I was thinking of, too.  I remembered it wrong.

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« Reply #34 on: October 25, 2012, 11:03:57 PM »

This has been an interesting conversation.  I would like to add a few comments or thoughts to it. 

There is a tone in the thread that I find particularly disturbing, and I hope I can elucidate the reasons why.  One of the things that attracted me to the Church is the fairly clear understand of Orthodoxy as a therapeia, in other words, the focus on salvation as a healing of the soul (and body).  The salvific message in Orthodoxy, as I have been taught, is focused on that rather than ensuring "justice."  In fact, the prayers of the Church, and the writings of several saints, cry out to God *not* to judge, because if He were in fact to *judge* rightly, none would be saved.

My point here is that the focus of the Church is not about dishing out, or even supporting necessarily, civil laws and punishments.  The focus of the church is the healing and salvation of people, and I would submit that "paying the penalty" is often not a part of that.  So, what does a criminal, murderer or otherwise, need?  He needs to engage in the life of Christ, to enter into the Church, to commune, to pray, to fast, to work out his salvation with fear and trembling, not necessarily to be sent to jail.

Before I conclude, I want to look at this in the light of our rich heritage and Holy Tradition.  How many examples do we have of criminals, vile murderers in some cases, fleeing to the Church for refuge?  How many Saints do we have who hid in monasteries and in the Church from criminal authorities?  Murderers, baby-killers, thieves, etc.  St. Dionysius, for example, hid a man fleeing from authorities.  As it turns out, the murderer had killed Dionysius' own brother.  He did *not* surrender him to the law, but rather taught him repentance.  His eye was not on the eternal, not the temporary. (And the murderer eventually repented and became a monk).  St. Moses the Black, another example of a criminal who fled to the Church, was hidden there, and later repented, became a monk (and a priest even), and a saint.  There is another, whose name slips my mind at the moment, who committed murder, fled to a monastery, repented and hid there for decades.  Then, at some point, based on his own conviction and under his own volition, turned himself in to the authorities (and, as I recall, was subsequently executed).

There are other examples of this as well, of "love covering a multitude of sins" and the primary goal of the church being repentance, not some modern civil notion that when one commits a crime that they must "pay the penalty" to society.  Turning oneself in is not a necessary step to repentance, as illustrated by the above examples of saints.  One could make this argument even more abstract, in that if a man confesses to murder, the priest walks him to the police station, he is then arrested and put in jail with other criminals, eventually convicted (because he outright confessed) and is given the death penalty (another aspect of this conversation that should be considered), and is executed a short time later.  Where, in all of that, is repentance really considered, from the Church's standpoint?  This idea that one must pay the penalty, the debt they now owe, rubs me the wrong way, when considering Orthodoxy.

It is with that in mind that I go to confession, and teach my children to go to confession.  And that confession, with the priest present, is to Christ.  I am bothered when I hear a priest says something like "If you do not do what I say in confession, then you must not really be sorry, so then it wasn't a legitimate confession and I can tell whoever I want." (I have heard this from a priest before, not in my own confession, but in a general conversation about confession).  Priests should, in confession, considering everything, give the medicine that will best help the person come to true repentance and salvation.  At times, I would imagine that includes telling someone to turn oneself in to the authorities.  But, the priest is not an arm of the state, nor is he a police officer.  I do not believe his job is to enforce civil law, but to help bring the penitent to salvation.  And in that realm, dealing with the eternal soul, one must feel safe to go to the priest, their doctor, and discuss their illnesses. 

If one wants to look to civil law, the Seal of Confession is protected.  I have spoken with several priests who say that they understand the seal of confession is inviolable (I will post one next). Even if one refuses the medicine (+Kyrie Eleison), who knows what the future will bring.  The last thing I will say, in my rather lengthy post, is that I read a story on my way into the Church that helped shape my view on this, whether true or not, I do not know.  It is the story of a Russian priest.  A man, wearing a long black coat, comes to the house of the priest to confess a murder he had just committed.  The man, in his fear, while waiting inside for the priest, drops the bloody knife into the priests black coat.  The priest comes, hears the confession, but the man leaves unrepentant and unabsolved.  The police come (someone saw the murderer in a black coat run to this house).  When they arrive, they see the priest's coat and find the bloody knife.  The priest is arrested, convicted, and spends some 20 years or so in prison before he is released.  He never breaks the seal of confession.  The murderer gets ill and on his deathbed eventually confesses to the crime, absolving the priest.
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« Reply #35 on: October 25, 2012, 11:06:01 PM »

From an Orthodox priest, via email, name withheld because I have not asked his permission to post this here:

The sacrament of confession is inviolable without exception. There are no conditions attached to this of which I am aware. In the Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court, it states quite simply:

"Priests found violating the confidentiality of confession are subject to suspension from serving for a period of three years, and in cases of repetition of this offense are to be defrocked."

No conditions - no special cases - no exceptions; just the above statement.

Even the state recognizes the inviolability of sacramental confession (the key word in the state's regulations here is "sacramental"). I have done workshops for clergy through the Police Dept. on the mandatory reporting laws. Child abuse is subject to mandatory reporting and pastors fall under those requirements (if we know about it we have to report it or we ourselves become liable) The one exception to this reporting requirement is if we discover this within sacramental confession. The confessor is NOT required by the state to violate the confidentiality of confession. The training then goes on to discuss how reporting can be facilitated in such situations. (One is for the confessor to require the penitent to self report and then follow up with obtaining consent that if the penitent does not do so within a certain amount of time the priest will either do so on his own or accompany the penitent - but here the penitent is basically "breaking" the seal of confession by granting permission for certain details - not the whole confession - to be repeated in a different venue. The priest cannot do so on his own initiative.)

I think in the "old days" in Russia, there was an exception to the seal of confession requiring the priest to report to the ecclesiastical authorities threats against the Tsar - but that was during the Synodal period when the Church was often treated as an arm or department of the State.

So to recap - in my experience and in all that I have been told, the seal of confession is unconditionally inviolable. The only ways that the priest can bring such things up again outside of confession are if the penitent himself initiates the conversation and reopens the topic (something I suggest sometimes where more involved pastoral counseling would be helpful) or when the penitent during the confession itself grants permission for the priest to say something in another venue (as suggested above).
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« Reply #36 on: October 25, 2012, 11:26:41 PM »

If someone sins, even murder, and goes to confession, the priest shouldn't have a need to tell the police IMHO. If his sins have been absolved, why does he need anything else?

Either you believe in confession or you don't guys.
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« Reply #37 on: October 26, 2012, 11:22:14 AM »

Again, I would like to emphasize that bishops defrock, and so bishops judge.  If the bishop decides that a priest did the right thing by contacting him about a crime divulged during confession and blessed the priest to go to the police, he will not turn around and depose or suspend said priest.

Confessions can be divulged in some circumstances, but in consultation with the ruling hierarch.  If he says 'no' and the priest does it anyhow, he will be taking a risk with his ministry.

Sorry to disappoint you, but if a child molester were ever to come to me and confess he has been harming children, there will be a visit to the police one way or another.  That may disappoint some of you, but I'd rather sleep at night as a layman than be a priest and bear the misery of innocent children on my conscience.


From an Orthodox priest, via email, name withheld because I have not asked his permission to post this here:

The sacrament of confession is inviolable without exception. There are no conditions attached to this of which I am aware. In the Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court, it states quite simply:

"Priests found violating the confidentiality of confession are subject to suspension from serving for a period of three years, and in cases of repetition of this offense are to be defrocked."

No conditions - no special cases - no exceptions; just the above statement.

Even the state recognizes the inviolability of sacramental confession (the key word in the state's regulations here is "sacramental"). I have done workshops for clergy through the Police Dept. on the mandatory reporting laws. Child abuse is subject to mandatory reporting and pastors fall under those requirements (if we know about it we have to report it or we ourselves become liable) The one exception to this reporting requirement is if we discover this within sacramental confession. The confessor is NOT required by the state to violate the confidentiality of confession. The training then goes on to discuss how reporting can be facilitated in such situations. (One is for the confessor to require the penitent to self report and then follow up with obtaining consent that if the penitent does not do so within a certain amount of time the priest will either do so on his own or accompany the penitent - but here the penitent is basically "breaking" the seal of confession by granting permission for certain details - not the whole confession - to be repeated in a different venue. The priest cannot do so on his own initiative.)

I think in the "old days" in Russia, there was an exception to the seal of confession requiring the priest to report to the ecclesiastical authorities threats against the Tsar - but that was during the Synodal period when the Church was often treated as an arm or department of the State.

So to recap - in my experience and in all that I have been told, the seal of confession is unconditionally inviolable. The only ways that the priest can bring such things up again outside of confession are if the penitent himself initiates the conversation and reopens the topic (something I suggest sometimes where more involved pastoral counseling would be helpful) or when the penitent during the confession itself grants permission for the priest to say something in another venue (as suggested above).
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« Reply #38 on: October 26, 2012, 11:28:14 AM »

Sorry to disappoint you, but if a child molester were ever to come to me and confess he has been harming children, there will be a visit to the police one way or another.  That may disappoint some of you, but I'd rather sleep at night as a layman than be a priest and bear the misery of innocent children on my conscience.

Father, are you saying that God's cleansing of this man's sins aren't good enough for you?

Do you think there is something the government can do for his salvation more than what the Lord is doing?
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« Reply #39 on: October 26, 2012, 11:36:36 AM »

If someone sins, even murder, and goes to confession, the priest shouldn't have a need to tell the police IMHO. If his sins have been absolved, why does he need anything else?

Either you believe in confession or you don't guys.

The priest reading the prayer of absolution over the penitent is a recognition of his or her repentance. A murderer or rapist who does not want to face the consequences of what they have done by turning themselves into the police have not repented. They might experience severe regret, as did Judas, but not repentance. If a person came to confess such a sin, but refused to give themselves up to the police, they should not receive the prayer of absolution either.
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« Reply #40 on: October 26, 2012, 11:38:45 AM »

Sorry to disappoint you, but if a child molester were ever to come to me and confess he has been harming children, there will be a visit to the police one way or another.  That may disappoint some of you, but I'd rather sleep at night as a layman than be a priest and bear the misery of innocent children on my conscience.

Father, are you saying that God's cleansing of this man's sins aren't good enough for you?

Do you think there is something the government can do for his salvation more than what the Lord is doing?

I got the impression that he was referring to someone confessing ongoing, not past, child molestation and that the reaction was one of wishing to protect the victims. If that's the case I entirely agree with the position. Trying to prevent further suffering does not imply that God's forgiveness is not good enough.

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« Reply #41 on: October 26, 2012, 12:07:55 PM »

If someone sins, even murder, and goes to confession, the priest shouldn't have a need to tell the police IMHO. If his sins have been absolved, why does he need anything else?

Either you believe in confession or you don't guys.

The priest reading the prayer of absolution over the penitent is a recognition of his or her repentance. A murderer or rapist who does not want to face the consequences of what they have done by turning themselves into the police have not repented. They might experience severe regret, as did Judas, but not repentance. If a person came to confess such a sin, but refused to give themselves up to the police, they should not receive the prayer of absolution either.
As has been brought up by several posters on this thread, what of the criminal saints who fled the "justice" of the state? Would you argue that St. Moses was unrepentant because of his decision not to turn himself in?
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« Reply #42 on: October 26, 2012, 12:30:23 PM »

As has been brought up by several posters on this thread, what of the criminal saints who fled the "justice" of the state? Would you argue that St. Moses was unrepentant because of his decision not to turn himself in?

This is obviously an issue for the priest in question to determine. My point is that if a priest feels he must contact the authorities following a confession, it should not be asumed that the same priest will have given the prayer of absolution.
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« Reply #43 on: October 26, 2012, 01:00:50 PM »

As has been brought up by several posters on this thread, what of the criminal saints who fled the "justice" of the state? Would you argue that St. Moses was unrepentant because of his decision not to turn himself in?

This is obviously an issue for the priest in question to determine. My point is that if a priest feels he must contact the authorities following a confession, it should not be asumed that the same priest will have given the prayer of absolution.

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« Reply #44 on: October 26, 2012, 08:22:30 PM »

This has been an interesting conversation.  I would like to add a few comments or thoughts to it. 

There is a tone in the thread that I find particularly disturbing, and I hope I can elucidate the reasons why.  One of the things that attracted me to the Church is the fairly clear understand of Orthodoxy as a therapeia, in other words, the focus on salvation as a healing of the soul (and body).  The salvific message in Orthodoxy, as I have been taught, is focused on that rather than ensuring "justice."  In fact, the prayers of the Church, and the writings of several saints, cry out to God *not* to judge, because if He were in fact to *judge* rightly, none would be saved.

My point here is that the focus of the Church is not about dishing out, or even supporting necessarily, civil laws and punishments.  The focus of the church is the healing and salvation of people, and I would submit that "paying the penalty" is often not a part of that.  So, what does a criminal, murderer or otherwise, need?  He needs to engage in the life of Christ, to enter into the Church, to commune, to pray, to fast, to work out his salvation with fear and trembling, not necessarily to be sent to jail.

Before I conclude, I want to look at this in the light of our rich heritage and Holy Tradition.  How many examples do we have of criminals, vile murderers in some cases, fleeing to the Church for refuge?  How many Saints do we have who hid in monasteries and in the Church from criminal authorities?  Murderers, baby-killers, thieves, etc.  St. Dionysius, for example, hid a man fleeing from authorities.  As it turns out, the murderer had killed Dionysius' own brother.  He did *not* surrender him to the law, but rather taught him repentance.  His eye was not on the eternal, not the temporary. (And the murderer eventually repented and became a monk).  St. Moses the Black, another example of a criminal who fled to the Church, was hidden there, and later repented, became a monk (and a priest even), and a saint.  There is another, whose name slips my mind at the moment, who committed murder, fled to a monastery, repented and hid there for decades.  Then, at some point, based on his own conviction and under his own volition, turned himself in to the authorities (and, as I recall, was subsequently executed).

There are other examples of this as well, of "love covering a multitude of sins" and the primary goal of the church being repentance, not some modern civil notion that when one commits a crime that they must "pay the penalty" to society.  Turning oneself in is not a necessary step to repentance, as illustrated by the above examples of saints.  One could make this argument even more abstract, in that if a man confesses to murder, the priest walks him to the police station, he is then arrested and put in jail with other criminals, eventually convicted (because he outright confessed) and is given the death penalty (another aspect of this conversation that should be considered), and is executed a short time later.  Where, in all of that, is repentance really considered, from the Church's standpoint?  This idea that one must pay the penalty, the debt they now owe, rubs me the wrong way, when considering Orthodoxy.

It is with that in mind that I go to confession, and teach my children to go to confession.  And that confession, with the priest present, is to Christ.  I am bothered when I hear a priest says something like "If you do not do what I say in confession, then you must not really be sorry, so then it wasn't a legitimate confession and I can tell whoever I want." (I have heard this from a priest before, not in my own confession, but in a general conversation about confession).  Priests should, in confession, considering everything, give the medicine that will best help the person come to true repentance and salvation.  At times, I would imagine that includes telling someone to turn oneself in to the authorities.  But, the priest is not an arm of the state, nor is he a police officer.  I do not believe his job is to enforce civil law, but to help bring the penitent to salvation.  And in that realm, dealing with the eternal soul, one must feel safe to go to the priest, their doctor, and discuss their illnesses. 

If one wants to look to civil law, the Seal of Confession is protected.  I have spoken with several priests who say that they understand the seal of confession is inviolable (I will post one next). Even if one refuses the medicine (+Kyrie Eleison), who knows what the future will bring.  The last thing I will say, in my rather lengthy post, is that I read a story on my way into the Church that helped shape my view on this, whether true or not, I do not know.  It is the story of a Russian priest.  A man, wearing a long black coat, comes to the house of the priest to confess a murder he had just committed.  The man, in his fear, while waiting inside for the priest, drops the bloody knife into the priests black coat.  The priest comes, hears the confession, but the man leaves unrepentant and unabsolved.  The police come (someone saw the murderer in a black coat run to this house).  When they arrive, they see the priest's coat and find the bloody knife.  The priest is arrested, convicted, and spends some 20 years or so in prison before he is released.  He never breaks the seal of confession.  The murderer gets ill and on his deathbed eventually confesses to the crime, absolving the priest.

I find this response VERY Orthodox and the way I understood the church to be.  A person can repent of a sin without getting into legal trouble for it.  In my hypotheticals, the man changed his life and has led a good life since.  It was not built on a LIE, but built on him re-joining the faith, and repenting for his wrongs.

Like the poster above, it is disturbing me some that a priest would say "since a person would refuse to turn themselves in, they did not really repent for their sins, thus not really a confession". Obviously, the person confessing the sin is there confessing it for a reason.

Plus, everything built on a LIE is not really fair either.   That can apply to many issues.   For instance, 20 years ago I know of a guy who bought a 486 laptop.   Come to find out he bought it and knew it was stolen. He learned computers on this laptop. He works in the field today. Would it be fair for him to pay a penalty for his wrong 20 years go and base all his life on that one wrong thing? 

Yes murder is worse, theft, etc.

Even in the movie "The Island" (which is Orthodox) the man became a monk after exposing his friend.  He could have been tried for treason by the church, but he was not.  Was his becoming a priest based on a lie?
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« Reply #45 on: October 26, 2012, 08:24:33 PM »

From an Orthodox priest, via email, name withheld because I have not asked his permission to post this here:

The sacrament of confession is inviolable without exception. There are no conditions attached to this of which I am aware. In the Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court, it states quite simply:

"Priests found violating the confidentiality of confession are subject to suspension from serving for a period of three years, and in cases of repetition of this offense are to be defrocked."

No conditions - no special cases - no exceptions; just the above statement.

Even the state recognizes the inviolability of sacramental confession (the key word in the state's regulations here is "sacramental"). I have done workshops for clergy through the Police Dept. on the mandatory reporting laws. Child abuse is subject to mandatory reporting and pastors fall under those requirements (if we know about it we have to report it or we ourselves become liable) The one exception to this reporting requirement is if we discover this within sacramental confession. The confessor is NOT required by the state to violate the confidentiality of confession. The training then goes on to discuss how reporting can be facilitated in such situations. (One is for the confessor to require the penitent to self report and then follow up with obtaining consent that if the penitent does not do so within a certain amount of time the priest will either do so on his own or accompany the penitent - but here the penitent is basically "breaking" the seal of confession by granting permission for certain details - not the whole confession - to be repeated in a different venue. The priest cannot do so on his own initiative.)

I think in the "old days" in Russia, there was an exception to the seal of confession requiring the priest to report to the ecclesiastical authorities threats against the Tsar - but that was during the Synodal period when the Church was often treated as an arm or department of the State.

So to recap - in my experience and in all that I have been told, the seal of confession is unconditionally inviolable. The only ways that the priest can bring such things up again outside of confession are if the penitent himself initiates the conversation and reopens the topic (something I suggest sometimes where more involved pastoral counseling would be helpful) or when the penitent during the confession itself grants permission for the priest to say something in another venue (as suggested above).

This is how I understood it as well.  Something like "ongoing" child molestation or ongoing dangerous crimes can be reported.... But skeletons in the closet are never exposed.
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« Reply #46 on: October 26, 2012, 09:10:27 PM »

The canons do not state that confession absolves criminal punishment due a crime.

Sorry to disappoint you, but if a child molester were ever to come to me and confess he has been harming children, there will be a visit to the police one way or another.  That may disappoint some of you, but I'd rather sleep at night as a layman than be a priest and bear the misery of innocent children on my conscience.

Father, are you saying that God's cleansing of this man's sins aren't good enough for you?

Do you think there is something the government can do for his salvation more than what the Lord is doing?
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« Reply #47 on: October 28, 2012, 03:18:28 PM »

The canons do not state that confession absolves criminal punishment due a crime.

But Father, what is the purpose of criminal punishment if the individual's sins are absolved? It just seems like useless and unnecessary punishment at the point.
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« Reply #48 on: October 28, 2012, 03:24:09 PM »

But Father, what is the purpose of criminal punishment if the individual's sins are absolved? It just seems like useless and unnecessary punishment at the point.

Christ said if anyone has anything against you, first go and make peace with them, and only then bring your offering to the altar.
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« Reply #49 on: October 28, 2012, 03:28:13 PM »

But Father, what is the purpose of criminal punishment if the individual's sins are absolved? It just seems like useless and unnecessary punishment at the point.

Christ said if anyone has anything against you, first go and make peace with them, and only then bring your offering to the altar.

I never argued against reconciliation.
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« Reply #50 on: October 28, 2012, 03:37:06 PM »

I never argued against reconciliation.

Well that's a big part of criminal punishment. Your reconciliation with the victim and society at large.

Confession involves God absolving a person of their sins, and its eternal ramification. It does not absolve a person from his temporal obligation to society. I think you're conflating divine and social justice somewhat. They work in very different ways.
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« Reply #51 on: October 28, 2012, 03:39:13 PM »

Regarding the confession, why can't making restitution or confessing a crime and accepting civil punishment be made a condition of receiving absolution and receiving the Sacraments?  Does going to confession allow a pedophile or murderer to receive the Eucharist? Of course such criminals incarcerated are allowed to receive the Eucharist in prison. Confession must have some conditions before forgiveness and receiving the Eucharist.  I can personally bring up someone who is divorced and remarried in a civil marriage who goes to confession but is not given absolution to receive the Sacrament if the priest is aware of the situation.  So let's call it "quality control" and make it a condition that serious criminals who are a danger to innocent people be only given absolution if they accept punishment for their crimes.  Otherwise its no different that the "10 our Fathers and 10 Hail marys" we hear about.
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« Reply #52 on: October 28, 2012, 03:40:39 PM »

Regarding the confession, why can't making restitution or confessing a crime and accepting civil punishment be made a condition of receiving absolution and receiving the Sacraments?

Indeed, and if we were to make reference to the canons a person guilty of murder or rape would face many years of excommunication.
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« Reply #53 on: October 28, 2012, 03:44:29 PM »

I never argued against reconciliation.

Well that's a big part of criminal punishment. Your reconciliation with the victim and society at large.

Confession involves God absolving a person of their sins, and its eternal ramification. It does not absolve a person from his temporal obligation to society. I think you're conflating divine and social justice somewhat. They work in very different ways.

Yeah, and "social" justice is quite often either: unnecessary, or incorrect.

Please explain to me why a repentant thief needs to go to jail? What does his unnecessary punishment give society? That is sick, twisted judgement IMHO.
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« Reply #54 on: October 28, 2012, 03:46:09 PM »

make it a condition that serious criminals who are a danger to innocent people

If they repent, they aren't criminals in my mind.

God forgave this man, and your petty secular view doesn't change anything.
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« Reply #55 on: October 28, 2012, 03:49:00 PM »

 Indeed, and if we were to make reference to the canons a person guilty of murder or rape would face many years of excommunication.
[/quote]

And a person guilty of adultery also faces many years of excommunication regardless of how he believes and lives his new life!  Personally living this type of hell on earth and have seen it in parents and grandparents.  
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« Reply #56 on: October 28, 2012, 04:08:11 PM »

Yeah, and "social" justice is quite often either: unnecessary, or incorrect.

That is very true.

Quote
Please explain to me why a repentant thief needs to go to jail? What does his unnecessary punishment give society? That is sick, twisted judgement IMHO.

I don't think we were talking about crimes such as theft, but more serious things like murder and child abuse.

First of all, as I said before, it is a matter for the individual priest to decide. I am not saying it applies to all cases. What I am against, however, is the idea that "he confessed his sins, he's received absolution, no need for prison" as if one is simply a substitute for the other. The two serve quite different purposes.

As for what it would give society. Many such crimes, especially child rape, are repeat offences. I'm sure the majority of us have done things that we felt truly sorry for and, at the time we went to confession, had repented of, but a few weeks later have done exactly the same thing again. You can take that risk if it's something minor, you can't take that risk if someone's life is at stake. A repentant child molester might receive absolution for his previous sins in confession, but it does not mean there is no chance of him doing it again. This is something the criminal justice system can prevent. In addition to prevention, imagine the grieving family of a murder victim who have no idea what happened with their beloved son/daughter/etc. Do they not deserve to know the truth in order to get closure and deal with their grief? Is it right that the initial pain of the crime is perpetuated and heightened in such a way?
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« Reply #57 on: October 28, 2012, 04:13:44 PM »

To give an example, a priest I know told me once an old man had come to him for confession and told him he had killed someone (he didn't give me any details, so he wasn't breaking his vow of silence). The murder happened several decades ago and involved some kind of family vendetta, which were not uncommon in the Balkans. In that case, I don't think anything would have been served by the priest telling anyone about it.

If, however, a school teacher came and confessed to raping two of his 10 year old students, I would not judge a priest who informed the police about it if the teacher refused to do so himself, given the high likelihood that it would happen again.
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« Reply #58 on: October 28, 2012, 04:15:31 PM »

imagine the grieving family of a murder victim who have no idea what happened with their beloved son/daughter/etc. Do they not deserve to know the truth in order to get closure and deal with their grief? Is it right that the initial pain of the crime is perpetuated and heightened in such a way?

I do agree with you 100% here. If you committed murder/rape/etc you should tell the respective families. If they call the police on you, that's their choice and legal right.
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« Reply #59 on: October 28, 2012, 04:18:32 PM »

If you committed murder/rape/etc you should tell the respective families. If they call the police on you, that's their choice and legal right.

Agreed. The scenario of the priest calling the police only applies in cases where the criminal refuses to do so on his own. It's about picking the lesser of two evils. Of course, if a criminal made the choice to inform those affected, the priest should keep his mouth shut.
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« Reply #60 on: October 28, 2012, 04:23:40 PM »

Are there any saints of the Church who reported the details of a confession to various third parties (government, family, etc.)?
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« Reply #61 on: October 28, 2012, 09:07:57 PM »

Are there any saints of the Church who reported the details of a confession to various third parties (government, family, etc.)?

Excellent question.   I am still under the impression that a priest SHOULD NEVER reveal details except under a specific "future crime" or "ongoing crime".  Such as somebody who is continually molesting a child. etc., merely for the protection of the child.

I really think if there is some kind of canon, rule book, etc., that anybody knows of, it may help this thread.
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« Reply #62 on: October 29, 2012, 03:07:03 AM »

Are there any saints of the Church who reported the details of a confession to various third parties (government, family, etc.)?

Excellent question.   I am still under the impression that a priest SHOULD NEVER reveal details except under a specific "future crime" or "ongoing crime".  Such as somebody who is continually molesting a child. etc., merely for the protection of the child.

I really think if there is some kind of canon, rule book, etc., that anybody knows of, it may help this thread.

Not to mention that if someone has no intention of stopping the behavior, it's extremely difficult to make a case that they're actually confessing as opposed to glorying in their sins.
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« Reply #63 on: October 29, 2012, 08:37:11 PM »

Are there any saints of the Church who reported the details of a confession to various third parties (government, family, etc.)?

Excellent question.   I am still under the impression that a priest SHOULD NEVER reveal details except under a specific "future crime" or "ongoing crime".  Such as somebody who is continually molesting a child. etc., merely for the protection of the child.

I really think if there is some kind of canon, rule book, etc., that anybody knows of, it may help this thread.

This is from the OCA's Manual for Clergy, but it contains some general information as well:

6. The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire
Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the
fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete
confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the
secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.   

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even
under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest
who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel,
mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a
principle without exception.   

Found here: http://oca.org/PDF/official/clergyguidelines.pdf
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« Reply #64 on: October 29, 2012, 10:04:54 PM »

Are there any saints of the Church who reported the details of a confession to various third parties (government, family, etc.)?

Excellent question.   I am still under the impression that a priest SHOULD NEVER reveal details except under a specific "future crime" or "ongoing crime".  Such as somebody who is continually molesting a child. etc., merely for the protection of the child.

I really think if there is some kind of canon, rule book, etc., that anybody knows of, it may help this thread.

This is from the OCA's Manual for Clergy, but it contains some general information as well:

6. The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire
Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the
fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete
confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the
secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.   

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even
under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest
who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel,
mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a
principle without exception.   

Found here: http://oca.org/PDF/official/clergyguidelines.pdf

Thank you, I hope some take notes here.   

A 30 year old murder should never be revealed. I agree.
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« Reply #65 on: October 29, 2012, 10:15:04 PM »

This is from the OCA's Manual for Clergy, but it contains some general information as well:

6. The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire
Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the
fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete
confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the
secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.   

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even
under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest
who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel,
mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a
principle without exception.   

Found here: http://oca.org/PDF/official/clergyguidelines.pdf

Thank you
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« Reply #66 on: October 30, 2012, 11:42:40 AM »

St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Confession is more than a form, it is a state of mind.  If someone comes to me in the middle of the hall and whispers into my ear that he killed someone, is that Confession?  No, it is not.

Is it confession when we stand in the Church, and he tells me how he has stolen $1 million and has no intention of giving it back.  No, it is not.

If someone refuses to repent, then it is not Confession because there is no repentance.  Absolution does nothing for someone who has no regret.  It is just an empty form, devoid of meaning.

If someone comes and refuses to turn himself in, then he has not yet repented.  The truly repentant would want to pay the price of his sin to clean his conscience.  Otherwise, he simply wants someone to enable him to enjoy the fruits of his plunder from others.

Earthly punishment is a small price to pay compared with eternal damnation, and don't think that criminal conduct here in this life is ignored in the next, particularly when you know it is wrong and still refuse to man up and take the consequences.

If there is no repentance, then there is no absolution and no confession.  How can we measure the extent of this repentance?  We can only look at the fruits.  If the man refuses to restore what he stole, even a life, then he has no repentance.  If he is at least willing to do these things, we cannot judge the depth but only the fruit.

Most of you here will never have to struggle with these issues.  I do.  I have to step into situations all the time that are horrid and painful.  Have I ever divulged?  No.  Will I ever?  Most likely, not.  People know enough not to come to me with their stories unless they are ready to be healed and take some new action.  That is what repentance is, after all.  Confession is not an agreeing ear, but an active process.  Yes, the priest is witness, but he is also to discern... otherwise there would be no such thing as penances and the absolution prayer would be automatic.

Yes, I understand why the OCA or any other jurisdiction would write about confession in absolute terms.  Clergy should be afraid of divulging.  But, there are times when one must go to the bishop and examine a situation (this can be done, as I said before, without divulging a name), and in rare circumstances take the matter to appropriate authorities.  Any priest who tries this on his own is taking a gamble.

It does not mean publicly dumping all the petty and embarrassing stuff ("He said is enjoys Baywatch!"), but it does mean that the person in question take the right action.  He should get first shot, and he should know what is really necessary.

I am scandalized that Orthodox Christians would hold civil law so cheap.  The Church never has.  The Nomocanons are examples of this harmonization between civil and ecclesiastical law.  Civil punishment is a very real and very necessary penance.


This is from the OCA's Manual for Clergy, but it contains some general information as well:

6. The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire
Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the
fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete
confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the
secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.   

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even
under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest
who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel,
mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a
principle without exception.   

Found here: http://oca.org/PDF/official/clergyguidelines.pdf

Thank you
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« Reply #67 on: October 30, 2012, 11:54:14 AM »

St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Confession is more than a form, it is a state of mind.  If someone comes to me in the middle of the hall and whispers into my ear that he killed someone, is that Confession?  No, it is not.

Is it confession when we stand in the Church, and he tells me how he has stolen $1 million and has no intention of giving it back.  No, it is not.

If someone refuses to repent, then it is not Confession because there is no repentance.  Absolution does nothing for someone who has no regret.  It is just an empty form, devoid of meaning.

If someone comes and refuses to turn himself in, then he has not yet repented.  The truly repentant would want to pay the price of his sin to clean his conscience.  Otherwise, he simply wants someone to enable him to enjoy the fruits of his plunder from others.

Earthly punishment is a small price to pay compared with eternal damnation, and don't think that criminal conduct here in this life is ignored in the next, particularly when you know it is wrong and still refuse to man up and take the consequences.

If there is no repentance, then there is no absolution and no confession.  How can we measure the extent of this repentance?  We can only look at the fruits.  If the man refuses to restore what he stole, even a life, then he has no repentance.  If he is at least willing to do these things, we cannot judge the depth but only the fruit.

Most of you here will never have to struggle with these issues.  I do.  I have to step into situations all the time that are horrid and painful.  Have I ever divulged?  No.  Will I ever?  Most likely, not.  People know enough not to come to me with their stories unless they are ready to be healed and take some new action.  That is what repentance is, after all.  Confession is not an agreeing ear, but an active process.  Yes, the priest is witness, but he is also to discern... otherwise there would be no such thing as penances and the absolution prayer would be automatic.

Yes, I understand why the OCA or any other jurisdiction would write about confession in absolute terms.  Clergy should be afraid of divulging.  But, there are times when one must go to the bishop and examine a situation (this can be done, as I said before, without divulging a name), and in rare circumstances take the matter to appropriate authorities.  Any priest who tries this on his own is taking a gamble.

It does not mean publicly dumping all the petty and embarrassing stuff ("He said is enjoys Baywatch!"), but it does mean that the person in question take the right action.  He should get first shot, and he should know what is really necessary.

I am scandalized that Orthodox Christians would hold civil law so cheap.  The Church never has.  The Nomocanons are examples of this harmonization between civil and ecclesiastical law.  Civil punishment is a very real and very necessary penance.

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

Father, I hold what you say highly, but what you are saying sounds different than what other priests have told me. Of course, maybe I misunderstood them.
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« Reply #68 on: October 30, 2012, 11:59:52 AM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.
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« Reply #69 on: October 30, 2012, 12:03:03 PM »

St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Do you happen to have a reference, Father?
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« Reply #70 on: October 30, 2012, 12:03:51 PM »

Why would you be so negligent for letting those tickets go... not to mention getting so many?  If you do not respect the laws of men, what makes you think you respect the laws of God?

If we cannot be trusted to do things like take care of traffic tickets, which are obvious, how can we say that we are serious about keeping God's commandments, which are far less obvious?

I just don't understand how one can consider one's self a 'moral' person yet hold the law in contempt.  Is a criminal still a moral person in the eyes of God?  No, I would say.

If you have so neglected yourself that you have let your tickets go to a jailable offense, then perhaps going to jail will help you be more careful in the future.  Imagine still the officer who finally catches you in your 'Orthodox chachki-bedecked' car.  Will he not think, "This man calls himself a Christian and appeals to his God so that he can get away with crimes."  Such conduct brings shame not only on the criminal, but the Church.

How many people these days reject Christianity because they say it is full of hypocrits?  We condemn sin, but excuse our own?  Is breaking the law not a sin?  Or, do we only want to 'face the music' as long as it is not too hard?

Perhaps another soy hot dog will do us some good...



St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Confession is more than a form, it is a state of mind.  If someone comes to me in the middle of the hall and whispers into my ear that he killed someone, is that Confession?  No, it is not.

Is it confession when we stand in the Church, and he tells me how he has stolen $1 million and has no intention of giving it back.  No, it is not.

If someone refuses to repent, then it is not Confession because there is no repentance.  Absolution does nothing for someone who has no regret.  It is just an empty form, devoid of meaning.

If someone comes and refuses to turn himself in, then he has not yet repented.  The truly repentant would want to pay the price of his sin to clean his conscience.  Otherwise, he simply wants someone to enable him to enjoy the fruits of his plunder from others.

Earthly punishment is a small price to pay compared with eternal damnation, and don't think that criminal conduct here in this life is ignored in the next, particularly when you know it is wrong and still refuse to man up and take the consequences.

If there is no repentance, then there is no absolution and no confession.  How can we measure the extent of this repentance?  We can only look at the fruits.  If the man refuses to restore what he stole, even a life, then he has no repentance.  If he is at least willing to do these things, we cannot judge the depth but only the fruit.

Most of you here will never have to struggle with these issues.  I do.  I have to step into situations all the time that are horrid and painful.  Have I ever divulged?  No.  Will I ever?  Most likely, not.  People know enough not to come to me with their stories unless they are ready to be healed and take some new action.  That is what repentance is, after all.  Confession is not an agreeing ear, but an active process.  Yes, the priest is witness, but he is also to discern... otherwise there would be no such thing as penances and the absolution prayer would be automatic.

Yes, I understand why the OCA or any other jurisdiction would write about confession in absolute terms.  Clergy should be afraid of divulging.  But, there are times when one must go to the bishop and examine a situation (this can be done, as I said before, without divulging a name), and in rare circumstances take the matter to appropriate authorities.  Any priest who tries this on his own is taking a gamble.

It does not mean publicly dumping all the petty and embarrassing stuff ("He said is enjoys Baywatch!"), but it does mean that the person in question take the right action.  He should get first shot, and he should know what is really necessary.

I am scandalized that Orthodox Christians would hold civil law so cheap.  The Church never has.  The Nomocanons are examples of this harmonization between civil and ecclesiastical law.  Civil punishment is a very real and very necessary penance.

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

Father, I hold what you say highly, but what you are saying sounds different than what other priests have told me. Of course, maybe I misunderstood them.
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« Reply #71 on: October 30, 2012, 12:05:13 PM »

Most of my library is still in storage right now.  I may be able to access it in a few weeks.

St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Do you happen to have a reference, Father?
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« Reply #72 on: October 30, 2012, 12:07:21 PM »

Why would you be so negligent for letting those tickets go... not to mention getting so many?  If you do not respect the laws of men, what makes you think you respect the laws of God?

If we cannot be trusted to do things like take care of traffic tickets, which are obvious, how can we say that we are serious about keeping God's commandments, which are far less obvious?

I just don't understand how one can consider one's self a 'moral' person yet hold the law in contempt.  Is a criminal still a moral person in the eyes of God?  No, I would say.

If you have so neglected yourself that you have let your tickets go to a jailable offense, then perhaps going to jail will help you be more careful in the future.  Imagine still the officer who finally catches you in your 'Orthodox chachki-bedecked' car.  Will he not think, "This man calls himself a Christian and appeals to his God so that he can get away with crimes."  Such conduct brings shame not only on the criminal, but the Church.

How many people these days reject Christianity because they say it is full of hypocrits?  We condemn sin, but excuse our own?  Is breaking the law not a sin?  Or, do we only want to 'face the music' as long as it is not too hard?

Perhaps another soy hot dog will do us some good...

Please don't say "You". I didn't do any of that.

I'm sorry, but when people go to jail for idiotic things like inspection stickers, I think they can still be very good, moral people.
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« Reply #73 on: October 30, 2012, 12:10:37 PM »

Most priests speak to people in 'short hand.'  In such a case, we talk about absolute confidentiality.

But, let me give you a real example: there was a priest deposed for child molestation very recently.  When he was confronted, he maintained that he had confessed the molestations to another priest and received absolution after pledging never to do it again.  Of course, he just happened to have confessed to a priest that had died a year or so earlier.

However, if what was said was true, he was later found to have continued in his behavior, some would say with renewed vigor, after the supposed confession.

If such a 'confession' took place, and you were the one talking to this man, and you heard such things, then you later learned of all the other children who were abused...


...but what you are saying sounds different than what other priests have told me. Of course, maybe I misunderstood them.
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« Reply #74 on: October 30, 2012, 12:13:39 PM »

Sorry, it was a 'rhetorical you'... didn't mean to offend!   Smiley

People know in advance what the punishments are.  If they take the gamble, they should not complain when they lose.  They are not moral, because by definition they broke a law.  We don't get to choose which laws we like and which ones we don't.



Why would you be so negligent for letting those tickets go... not to mention getting so many?  If you do not respect the laws of men, what makes you think you respect the laws of God?

If we cannot be trusted to do things like take care of traffic tickets, which are obvious, how can we say that we are serious about keeping God's commandments, which are far less obvious?

I just don't understand how one can consider one's self a 'moral' person yet hold the law in contempt.  Is a criminal still a moral person in the eyes of God?  No, I would say.

If you have so neglected yourself that you have let your tickets go to a jailable offense, then perhaps going to jail will help you be more careful in the future.  Imagine still the officer who finally catches you in your 'Orthodox chachki-bedecked' car.  Will he not think, "This man calls himself a Christian and appeals to his God so that he can get away with crimes."  Such conduct brings shame not only on the criminal, but the Church.

How many people these days reject Christianity because they say it is full of hypocrits?  We condemn sin, but excuse our own?  Is breaking the law not a sin?  Or, do we only want to 'face the music' as long as it is not too hard?

Perhaps another soy hot dog will do us some good...

Please don't say "You". I didn't do any of that.

I'm sorry, but when people go to jail for idiotic things like inspection stickers, I think they can still be very good, moral people.
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« Reply #75 on: October 30, 2012, 12:28:06 PM »

Sorry, it was a 'rhetorical you'... didn't mean to offend!   Smiley

People know in advance what the punishments are.  If they take the gamble, they should not complain when they lose.  They are not moral, because by definition they broke a law.  We don't get to choose which laws we like and which ones we don't.

It is okay Father, just making sure. Smiley

Hypothetically though, what if a government banned worship, or specifically Christianity and Orthodoxy? Wouldn't we, then, be immoral for breaking these laws?
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« Reply #76 on: October 30, 2012, 12:30:30 PM »

Soy hot dogs are disgusting, but I'm not sure what they have to do with this discussion. No one eats them and confuses them for actual meat-containing hot dogs. No one who has taste, that is.
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« Reply #77 on: October 30, 2012, 12:32:23 PM »

Yes, and wouldn't we go to jail?    laugh

No, when there is a civil law that conflicts with God's law, then we go with God. 


Sorry, it was a 'rhetorical you'... didn't mean to offend!   Smiley

People know in advance what the punishments are.  If they take the gamble, they should not complain when they lose.  They are not moral, because by definition they broke a law.  We don't get to choose which laws we like and which ones we don't.

It is okay Father, just making sure. Smiley

Hypothetically though, what if a government banned worship, or specifically Christianity and Orthodoxy? Wouldn't we, then, be immoral for breaking these laws?
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« Reply #78 on: October 30, 2012, 12:35:28 PM »

Yes, and wouldn't we go to jail?    laugh

No, when there is a civil law that conflicts with God's law, then we go with God. 

Of course. lol

But doesn't that mean that civil law is imperfect and is flawed? Meaning that one can be right with God, and not right with all civil laws, since they can become corrupted?
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« Reply #79 on: October 30, 2012, 12:53:03 PM »

It is an example of form without content...

Soy hot dogs are disgusting, but I'm not sure what they have to do with this discussion. No one eats them and confuses them for actual meat-containing hot dogs. No one who has taste, that is.
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« Reply #80 on: October 30, 2012, 12:56:36 PM »

Sure, it is flawed.  The process of confession can also be flawed.  This is why, ultimately, we all turn to God.  However, just because something is imperfect, it does not mean that we should ignore it.  Otherwise, who would listen to the priests and bishops, let alone the Apostles?

Everything suffers from imperfection.  We wait for final justice at the Last Judgment.  Better to have paid a heavy price now than be found wanting in the end...


Yes, and wouldn't we go to jail?    laugh

No, when there is a civil law that conflicts with God's law, then we go with God. 

Of course. lol

But doesn't that mean that civil law is imperfect and is flawed? Meaning that one can be right with God, and not right with all civil laws, since they can become corrupted?
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« Reply #81 on: October 30, 2012, 01:02:52 PM »

But, let me give you a real example: there was a priest deposed for child molestation very recently.  When he was confronted, he maintained that he had confessed the molestations to another priest and received absolution after pledging never to do it again.

I would have thought that, given the fact that the canons demand the deposition of a clergyman who commits fornication or other forms of sexual impropriety, the confessor would in this case be in no place to simply give absolution and allow things to continue. Economia could be exercised, allowing him to remain a priest, but it would be up to his bishop, not a priest-confessor. So isn't this a situation in which a confessor should tell the bishop if the priest in question refused to do so?
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« Reply #82 on: October 30, 2012, 02:55:38 PM »

Well, that depends on who you'd ask, as far as contributors of this thread go...

But, let me give you a real example: there was a priest deposed for child molestation very recently.  When he was confronted, he maintained that he had confessed the molestations to another priest and received absolution after pledging never to do it again.

I would have thought that, given the fact that the canons demand the deposition of a clergyman who commits fornication or other forms of sexual impropriety, the confessor would in this case be in no place to simply give absolution and allow things to continue. Economia could be exercised, allowing him to remain a priest, but it would be up to his bishop, not a priest-confessor. So isn't this a situation in which a confessor should tell the bishop if the priest in question refused to do so?
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« Reply #83 on: October 30, 2012, 10:15:27 PM »

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« Reply #84 on: October 30, 2012, 10:18:36 PM »

Most priests speak to people in 'short hand.'  In such a case, we talk about absolute confidentiality.


...but what you are saying sounds different than what other priests have told me. Of course, maybe I misunderstood them.

As for the priests with whom I have spoken, this was not "short hand."  They said there was no situation in which they could divulge a confession, including ones we have mentioned here.  That being said, again, priests can be "creative" in protecting people while at the same time never divulging any information about a confession.
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« Reply #85 on: October 30, 2012, 10:25:51 PM »

The circumstances are so exceedingly rare that it is hard for any priest to imagine such a thing.  Yet, there are times when it is appropriate, and I would bet that any decent priest would divulge in order to save a life, even if he things little of civil law.

Remember, divulging means any hint of something learned in confession.  Technically speaking, you are divulging anytime anything is signalled from a confession... it can be done even without words...


Most priests speak to people in 'short hand.'  In such a case, we talk about absolute confidentiality.


...but what you are saying sounds different than what other priests have told me. Of course, maybe I misunderstood them.

As for the priests with whom I have spoken, this was not "short hand."  They said there was no situation in which they could divulge a confession, including ones we have mentioned here.  That being said, again, priests can be "creative" in protecting people while at the same time never divulging any information about a confession.
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« Reply #86 on: October 30, 2012, 10:43:43 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Sorry, it was a 'rhetorical you'... didn't mean to offend!   Smiley

People know in advance what the punishments are.  If they take the gamble, they should not complain when they lose.  They are not moral, because by definition they broke a law.  We don't get to choose which laws we like and which ones we don't.



I can agree with this.  Matthew 25 asks us to be forgiving even to the guiltiest of criminals, and priests are no exception.  I always understood Confession and Absolution as being a spiritual matter in regards to forgiveness of sins, but not exoneration from secular punishment.  Such matters of secular punishment are more up to the Grace of God?

Soy hot dogs are disgusting, but I'm not sure what they have to do with this discussion. No one eats them and confuses them for actual meat-containing hot dogs. No one who has taste, that is.

Six weeks into Lent ask yourself that question again Wink

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #87 on: October 31, 2012, 11:56:04 AM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.

Most of us here are from America.  We do not have authorities, we have public servants.   This is a side issue however, from revealing confession.
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« Reply #88 on: October 31, 2012, 12:08:54 PM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.

Most of us here are from America.  We do not have authorities, we have public servants.   This is a side issue however, from revealing confession.

Negative.  We have an authority: the law.  The "public servants" merely execute that law.  We are a nation of laws, not of men.
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« Reply #89 on: October 31, 2012, 12:09:57 PM »

St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Confession is more than a form, it is a state of mind.  If someone comes to me in the middle of the hall and whispers into my ear that he killed someone, is that Confession?  No, it is not.

Is it confession when we stand in the Church, and he tells me how he has stolen $1 million and has no intention of giving it back.  No, it is not.

If someone refuses to repent, then it is not Confession because there is no repentance.  Absolution does nothing for someone who has no regret.  It is just an empty form, devoid of meaning.

If someone comes and refuses to turn himself in, then he has not yet repented.  The truly repentant would want to pay the price of his sin to clean his conscience.  Otherwise, he simply wants someone to enable him to enjoy the fruits of his plunder from others.

Earthly punishment is a small price to pay compared with eternal damnation, and don't think that criminal conduct here in this life is ignored in the next, particularly when you know it is wrong and still refuse to man up and take the consequences.

If there is no repentance, then there is no absolution and no confession.  How can we measure the extent of this repentance?  We can only look at the fruits.  If the man refuses to restore what he stole, even a life, then he has no repentance.  If he is at least willing to do these things, we cannot judge the depth but only the fruit.

Most of you here will never have to struggle with these issues.  I do.  I have to step into situations all the time that are horrid and painful.  Have I ever divulged?  No.  Will I ever?  Most likely, not.  People know enough not to come to me with their stories unless they are ready to be healed and take some new action.  That is what repentance is, after all.  Confession is not an agreeing ear, but an active process.  Yes, the priest is witness, but he is also to discern... otherwise there would be no such thing as penances and the absolution prayer would be automatic.

Yes, I understand why the OCA or any other jurisdiction would write about confession in absolute terms.  Clergy should be afraid of divulging.  But, there are times when one must go to the bishop and examine a situation (this can be done, as I said before, without divulging a name), and in rare circumstances take the matter to appropriate authorities.  Any priest who tries this on his own is taking a gamble.

It does not mean publicly dumping all the petty and embarrassing stuff ("He said is enjoys Baywatch!"), but it does mean that the person in question take the right action.  He should get first shot, and he should know what is really necessary.

I am scandalized that Orthodox Christians would hold civil law so cheap.  The Church never has.  The Nomocanons are examples of this harmonization between civil and ecclesiastical law.  Civil punishment is a very real and very necessary penance.


This is from the OCA's Manual for Clergy, but it contains some general information as well:

6. The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire
Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the
fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete
confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the
secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.   

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even
under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest
who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel,
mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a
principle without exception.   

Found here: http://oca.org/PDF/official/clergyguidelines.pdf

Thank you

If absolution does nothing for somebody with no regret, then why would somebody need absolution for something with regret?  Why should a person that is living a good life for 30 years reveal that he "punched somebody and they later died during a robbery" and was guilty of murder if they highly regret it, repent of it?    

Just to have a priest go rat them out to the police and have their children grow up without a father, without him being a good role model, and his wife without a husband.  

Why even divulge anything to a priest in this case if they are just going to go rat you out?

If you steal, the priest can say "pay it back or I'm telling & reporting because you have no regret".
If you punched somebody, the priest can say "go tell the cops or I will because this is no confession because you have no regret".
If you vandalized something, the priest can say "go pay for the damages and turn yourself in, or I'm telling".
If you cheated on your spouse 40 years ago, the priest can say "tell your spouse, or I will, because this isn't a confession unless you do".
If a child cussed about a teacher behind their backs to friends, the priest can say "go tell your parents & teacher, or else I will because you have no regret unless you do".

This is dangerous ground you are walking on, and as far as I can tell against the canon of the church.

A far cry different than some guy coming up saying "I'm struggling molesting boys, and I am molesting one often at the present time".  "I don't know how to control it".  Priest "Are you going to do this again, are you sorry and regret your sins?"  Man: "I do regret it, but I can't control it, I know I'll give into it again".   Priest "Son, who are you molesting, why are you doing it".....

^^^^  That would be a reason to reveal a confession, to prevent the future victimization of a child ^^^^

I dunno, this stuff doesn't sound like the confession I've always known in the EO church.   Priests telling for major sins from years back, when nothing can be done about it.....
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« Reply #90 on: October 31, 2012, 12:23:25 PM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.

Most of us here are from America.  We do not have authorities, we have public servants.   This is a side issue however, from revealing confession.

Negative.  We have an authority: the law.  The "public servants" merely execute that law.  We are a nation of laws, not of men.

The statement was referencing humans, not laws.   Paul referenced humans not laws.   Those executing the laws in America are servants, not authorities.   Those creating laws are servants, not authorities.  America throws a crux in authoritarian type of laws.

The servant created laws are executed by servants.  We are a nation of people, who own our government.  This is clearly defined in numerous documents that incepted our country.  It really messes with Romans 13. 

How this deals with confession is that one would argue that since we are to submit to the "authorities" and their laws we are to turn ourselves in for repentance.

In America, we are free, and we don't have to submit to our servants, we are to submit to God.   If the servants don't know something happened, but a person has true repentance for a crime long ago, what right does a priest have to go turn them in to the cops when the canon forbids it?

The church has authority over the priest and his actions in the church.  The priest is bound to the canons that they SWORE to uphold during their ordination.  Even the OCA states no matter what the priest should not reveal a confession.

I don't see the logic in revealing a confession of something "has been past" that the person came to the priest in complete repentance about, and the priest turns around and states "turn yourself in or I will".
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« Reply #91 on: October 31, 2012, 12:39:43 PM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.

Most of us here are from America.  We do not have authorities, we have public servants.   This is a side issue however, from revealing confession.

Negative.  We have an authority: the law.  The "public servants" merely execute that law.  We are a nation of laws, not of men.

The statement was referencing humans, not laws.   Paul referenced humans not laws.   Those executing the laws in America are servants, not authorities.   Those creating laws are servants, not authorities.  America throws a crux in authoritarian type of laws.

The servant created laws are executed by servants.  We are a nation of people, who own our government.  This is clearly defined in numerous documents that incepted our country.  It really messes with Romans 13. 

How this deals with confession is that one would argue that since we are to submit to the "authorities" and their laws we are to turn ourselves in for repentance.

In America, we are free, and we don't have to submit to our servants, we are to submit to God.   If the servants don't know something happened, but a person has true repentance for a crime long ago, what right does a priest have to go turn them in to the cops when the canon forbids it?

The church has authority over the priest and his actions in the church.  The priest is bound to the canons that they SWORE to uphold during their ordination.  Even the OCA states no matter what the priest should not reveal a confession.

I don't see the logic in revealing a confession of something "has been past" that the person came to the priest in complete repentance about, and the priest turns around and states "turn yourself in or I will".

Perhaps, but what right does a so called 'penitent' have coming to Confession when he is not willing to repent of, in this case, the willful murder of another human being, no matter how far in the past it might be.  As Fr. G points out, that is not repentance. 

Let's take a step back, then.  Is the priest outside of his authority to deny absolution to someone who says, "I killed someone 30 years ago and I would like absolution but don't want to go to the police about it."?
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« Reply #92 on: October 31, 2012, 05:11:30 PM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.

Most of us here are from America.  We do not have authorities, we have public servants.   This is a side issue however, from revealing confession.

Negative.  We have an authority: the law.  The "public servants" merely execute that law.  We are a nation of laws, not of men.

The statement was referencing humans, not laws.   Paul referenced humans not laws.   Those executing the laws in America are servants, not authorities.   Those creating laws are servants, not authorities.  America throws a crux in authoritarian type of laws.

The servant created laws are executed by servants.  We are a nation of people, who own our government.  This is clearly defined in numerous documents that incepted our country.  It really messes with Romans 13. 

How this deals with confession is that one would argue that since we are to submit to the "authorities" and their laws we are to turn ourselves in for repentance.

In America, we are free, and we don't have to submit to our servants, we are to submit to God.   If the servants don't know something happened, but a person has true repentance for a crime long ago, what right does a priest have to go turn them in to the cops when the canon forbids it?

The church has authority over the priest and his actions in the church.  The priest is bound to the canons that they SWORE to uphold during their ordination.  Even the OCA states no matter what the priest should not reveal a confession.

I don't see the logic in revealing a confession of something "has been past" that the person came to the priest in complete repentance about, and the priest turns around and states "turn yourself in or I will".

Perhaps, but what right does a so called 'penitent' have coming to Confession when he is not willing to repent of, in this case, the willful murder of another human being, no matter how far in the past it might be.  As Fr. G points out, that is not repentance. 

Let's take a step back, then.  Is the priest outside of his authority to deny absolution to someone who says, "I killed someone 30 years ago and I would like absolution but don't want to go to the police about it."?

What does sending a repentant person to jail accomplish for anyone? That's the flaw with your view of secular laws, sometimes exceptions need to be made. If there is a repentant murderer/thief/rapist and he was forgiven for his sins, I would sure as hell hope that he never goes to jail, if he apologized to the party he sinned against, I would help him out, not the crappy secular judicial systems of the world. Jail only makes things worse if it is for pointless reasons like what I am reading.
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« Reply #93 on: October 31, 2012, 09:27:08 PM »

What if you go to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? Is that necessary?

The New Testament is quite clear about Christians being obedient to the civil authorities, which would include paying for traffic tickets if issued. That being said, pointing out the inutility of a particular law does not equate disregard for civil law in general.

Most of us here are from America.  We do not have authorities, we have public servants.   This is a side issue however, from revealing confession.

Negative.  We have an authority: the law.  The "public servants" merely execute that law.  We are a nation of laws, not of men.

The statement was referencing humans, not laws.   Paul referenced humans not laws.   Those executing the laws in America are servants, not authorities.   Those creating laws are servants, not authorities.  America throws a crux in authoritarian type of laws.

The servant created laws are executed by servants.  We are a nation of people, who own our government.  This is clearly defined in numerous documents that incepted our country.  It really messes with Romans 13. 

How this deals with confession is that one would argue that since we are to submit to the "authorities" and their laws we are to turn ourselves in for repentance.

In America, we are free, and we don't have to submit to our servants, we are to submit to God.   If the servants don't know something happened, but a person has true repentance for a crime long ago, what right does a priest have to go turn them in to the cops when the canon forbids it?

The church has authority over the priest and his actions in the church.  The priest is bound to the canons that they SWORE to uphold during their ordination.  Even the OCA states no matter what the priest should not reveal a confession.

I don't see the logic in revealing a confession of something "has been past" that the person came to the priest in complete repentance about, and the priest turns around and states "turn yourself in or I will".

Perhaps, but what right does a so called 'penitent' have coming to Confession when he is not willing to repent of, in this case, the willful murder of another human being, no matter how far in the past it might be.  As Fr. G points out, that is not repentance. 

Let's take a step back, then.  Is the priest outside of his authority to deny absolution to someone who says, "I killed someone 30 years ago and I would like absolution but don't want to go to the police about it."?

It really is a good point and one I understand.  But when hearing a confession, there is a process, the sacrament actually begins.  Whether absolution is given or not, as far as I know, the secrecy of the confession exists.  The priest often states that everything is before God, and that the confession is private and secret.

Certainly if the priest decides not to grant absolution, they can't say that "the confession was not real because they would not turn themselves in".   Certainly absolution was not granted, but we can't deny that the confession happened where the priest is free to run to the police about it.  I mean this could go really far on many things...   what do you think?
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« Reply #94 on: November 14, 2012, 05:22:44 PM »

Most of my library is still in storage right now.  I may be able to access it in a few weeks.

St. Nikodemos also states that there are times when matters divulged within 'confession' can be divulged.

Do you happen to have a reference, Father?
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Note : Many of my posts (especially the ones antedating late 2012) do not reflect charity, tact, or even views I presently hold. Please forgive me for any antagonism I have caused.
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