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.