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Author Topic: When does a priest have the obligation to reveal a confession?  (Read 2879 times) Average Rating: 0
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yeshuaisiam
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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

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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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