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
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.....