Author Topic: How is Orthodox Confession different in approach from Roman Catholic Confession?  (Read 6356 times)

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Offline StGeorge

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I am still Latin Rite Catholic, and when I go to confession, I confess my sins in contrition, but the priest always tells me how grave my sins are, making me feel like God is going to zap me with lightning bolts.  I oftentimes leave confession feeling like God is terribly angry at me and that even when I sin not completely willfully, he will still punish me greatly.  In short, I leave confession feeling as though God's mercy is hard to come by, and that God is keeping count of all my mortal and venial sins, and that He will not answer my prayers for mercy because of my sins, although I know this is not true. 

I am wondering if the same is true of Orthodox confession.  When you go to confession, even if you have sinned, does the priest try to make you aware of the gravity and the great offense in the sin against God's majesty?  Do you ever leave confession feeling worse and less hopeful in God's mercy than beforehand?  Do you ever feel like that God is constantly keeping track of your mortal sins and that He is more of a Judge than a Father? 

I have never been to Orthodox confession, so I'm wondering if Orthodox priests approach sin differently.  I go to confession feeling guilty for my sins, but I also wish that the confession were less accusatory and more pastoral.  Some priests I have found are like this, but many, especially some of the older ones but also younger ones, don't really understand the circumstances and intentions behind some actions that lead to sin, and therefore tend to have misconceptions.   

Offline Αριστοκλής

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All I can say, StGeorge, is that I feel tremendous relief after confession and only ponder at how easily I sinned in the first place.

Then I usually am very aware of my sinning for days hence, counting each one where I THINK I have not sinned...then I log on to some internet forum....   :-[
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Offline Elisha

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StG,
I think is one area where EO and RC Confession are vastly different.  In EO Confession, the Priest acts as more an advisor/counselor, and gives you advice and spiritual "excercises" to combat those sins you are having trouble with.  The "excercises" are things like:  prayer, prayer, prostration, prayer, prayer, scripture reading, prayer, other spiritual readings (works by Fathers, educational, etc.), prayer, more prostrations, and did I say prayer?

Offline Justin Kissel

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I've never been to a Catholic confession, so I don't know about that, but I've found Orthodox confession to be sobering, and I have never felt condemned. I felt ashamed once, but not because of anything the priest said (it was only because, having to say something out loud, it really hit home how far off the path I had gone). But even with the time when I felt ashamed, it was more about me realising that I needed to correct things, rather than a feeling of helplessness. By and large, confession should assure us of God's mercy, not his judgment. After all, we are to go to confession now to receive the help we need, so that we aren't judged later. Partaking of the Eucharist probably acts as a final assurance for most people.

Admittedly, in former times, Orthodox priests did give penances and whatnot, and even had books that they were supposed to follow in how and when to ask certain questions about sins. Perhaps this was a perfectly orthodox practice, or perhaps it was due to western influence; I don't know. What I do know is that while I have read about such practices in the past, I have never experienced that myself. The most I've ever been given as a penance was memorizing a scriptural verse, praying for someone, and not taking communion for a week. And believe me, I've made some huge mistakes that, according to the letter of the law, could easily have gotten me excommunicated for years and years. We live in troubled times, in which it is hard to live a Christian life, and most Orthodox priests seem to take that into consideration. According to the Fathers, the priest should deal with each person as would best heal them, as (for one example) St. Gregory the Theologian said in his Second Oration:

Quote
Some are benefited by praise, others by blame, both being applied in season; while if out of season, or unreasonable, they are injurious; some are set right by encouragement, others by rebuke; some, when taken to task in public, others, when privately corrected. For some are wont to despise private admonitions, but are recalled to their senses by the condemnation of a number of people, while others, who would grow reckless under reproof openly given, accept rebuke because it is in secret, and yield obedience in return for sympathy.

Upon some it is needful to keep a close watch, even in the minutest details, because if they think they are unperceived (as they would contrive to be), they are puffed up with the idea of their own wisdom: Of others it is better to take no notice, but seeing not to see, and hearing not to hear them, according to the proverb, that we may not drive them to despair, under the depressing influence of repeated reproofs, and at last to utter recklessness, when they have lost the sense of self-respect, the source of persuasiveness. In some cases we must even be angry, without feeling angry, or treat them with a disdain we do not feel, or manifest despair, though we do not really despair of them, according to the needs of their nature. Others again we must treat with condescension and lowliness, aiding them readily to conceive a hope of better things. Some it is often more advantageous to conquer-by others to be overcome, and to praise or deprecate, in one case wealth and power, in another poverty and failure. - St. Gregory the Theologian, 2nd Oration, 31-32 (see also 16-30 and 33)
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Offline drewmeister2

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Being an RC myself, I can say the RC Confessions aren't all that fulfilling.  But if you go to an SSPX priest (Traditional RCC group), they tend to be more fulfilling, from what I've heard.  The priest will work with you about what leads you to do a particular sin, how you can avoid that temptation, etc.  This is rarely done today in Novus Ordo parishes :(.  Basically, you confess your sins, they absolve you, thats it.  :(
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Offline Arystarcus

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To St. George and Drewmeister:

You could always make your confession to an Eastern Catholic priest and receive absolution.

I would assume that the form of confession used in the Eastern Rite would be similar to that which is used in Orthodoxy.

Offline Jennifer

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Being an RC myself, I can say the RC Confessions aren't all that fulfilling.  But if you go to an SSPX priest (Traditional RCC group), they tend to be more fulfilling, from what I've heard.  The priest will work with you about what leads you to do a particular sin, how you can avoid that temptation, etc.  This is rarely done today in Novus Ordo parishes :(.  Basically, you confess your sins, they absolve you, thats it.  :(

"That's it?"  Absolution isn't "fulfilling?" 


Offline Anastasios

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Being an RC myself, I can say the RC Confessions aren't all that fulfilling.ÂÂ  But if you go to an SSPX priest (Traditional RCC group), they tend to be more fulfilling, from what I've heard.ÂÂ  The priest will work with you about what leads you to do a particular sin, how you can avoid that temptation, etc.ÂÂ  This is rarely done today in Novus Ordo parishes :(.ÂÂ  Basically, you confess your sins, they absolve you, thats it.ÂÂ  :(

I found the opposite to be true when I was Catholic.  Most Novus priests gave me all the help I needed, while going to older pre-Vatican II trained priests (not SSPX, but older priests trained before the Council who were still serving in more traditional places like monasteries) was highly "unfulfilling."

For instance, I once went to confession with a priest who did the service in Latin. He opened the window in the box, yelled something at me in Latin, I figured ok this is when I tell him what I did, then he yelled some more unintelligible phrases at me in Latin and said, "three our fathers, two hail Marys, goodbye" and shut the window with a thud.

If that is how it was pre-Vatican II I can understand why they called the Council (although I don't like the other extreme they went to).

Anastasios
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Past posts reflect stages of my life before my baptism and may not be accurate expositions of Orthodox teaching. Also, I served as an Orthodox priest from 2008-2013, before resigning.

Offline Timos

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Growing up going to Catholic school I took confession there as well. I actually felt that most of the time the priest was very adviceful and I did not feel that it was any different than Eastern (Orthodox) confession.

Anastasios, you can actually have confession in Latin? Who would've thought? But whats the point of that..itsn ot like you can follow along in your missal as you would a Latin Mass.


Offline Silouan

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My experience with RC confession varied by the priest.  Some were wonderful, pious and holy men that made confession to be an overall very good expierence, while a few bad apples made it not so great.  Never went to a Tridentine priest for confession - only moderate to liberal "Novus Ordo" priests. 

Offline JimCBrooklyn

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Have been to many priests for Confession; I don't think one can really generalized about what confession is like in the RC church, regardless of the rite/order.

The most unpleasant confessions are always the ones where I feel as if the priest feels inconvenienced by the sacrament, if it is not during scheduled confession time, or when I confess my sins, and then am quickly told to try to do better and absolved. Absolution is of course the idea, but it's nice to feel as if the priest has given it some thought. That said, there was one occasion when I went for confession to a super Novus Ordo type parish in Manhattan, and literally felt like the priest thought I was an idiot for even still going to confession.

How much does it vary in Orthodoxy, and is confession separate from scheduled times usually available/encouraged?
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Offline Shlomlokh

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Have been to many priests for Confession; I don't think one can really generalized about what confession is like in the RC church, regardless of the rite/order.

The most unpleasant confessions are always the ones where I feel as if the priest feels inconvenienced by the sacrament, if it is not during scheduled confession time, or when I confess my sins, and then am quickly told to try to do better and absolved. Absolution is of course the idea, but it's nice to feel as if the priest has given it some thought. That said, there was one occasion when I went for confession to a super Novus Ordo type parish in Manhattan, and literally felt like the priest thought I was an idiot for even still going to confession.

How much does it vary in Orthodoxy, and is confession separate from scheduled times usually available/encouraged?
Greetings Jim,

In my mission parish (Bulgarian Diocese) the priest does confession during Vigil on Saturday Nights and before Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings. He also said that he will do confession at other times when people ask him. There is actually a special service for Confession that priests can do. I've only seen it done once, but they gather a bunch of people together at the same time and the priest says special prayers over them all calling them to repentance and then hears their confessions privately.

I've also noticed that in Orthodoxy it is highly encouraged to have one father confessor. In my time in the RCC, the opposite was encouraged. They just wanted to get folks to confession.

In Christ,
Andrew
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Offline BoredMeeting

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One of the biggest differences that I know of is that the Roman Catholic teaches that the priest absolves you of your sins while the Orthodox Christian priest will instead pray to God so that He will absolve you of your sins.

Offline Papist

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I am still Latin Rite Catholic, and when I go to confession, I confess my sins in contrition, but the priest always tells me how grave my sins are, making me feel like God is going to zap me with lightning bolts.  I oftentimes leave confession feeling like God is terribly angry at me and that even when I sin not completely willfully, he will still punish me greatly.  In short, I leave confession feeling as though God's mercy is hard to come by, and that God is keeping count of all my mortal and venial sins, and that He will not answer my prayers for mercy because of my sins, although I know this is not true. 

I am wondering if the same is true of Orthodox confession.  When you go to confession, even if you have sinned, does the priest try to make you aware of the gravity and the great offense in the sin against God's majesty?  Do you ever leave confession feeling worse and less hopeful in God's mercy than beforehand?  Do you ever feel like that God is constantly keeping track of your mortal sins and that He is more of a Judge than a Father? 

I have never been to Orthodox confession, so I'm wondering if Orthodox priests approach sin differently.  I go to confession feeling guilty for my sins, but I also wish that the confession were less accusatory and more pastoral.  Some priests I have found are like this, but many, especially some of the older ones but also younger ones, don't really understand the circumstances and intentions behind some actions that lead to sin, and therefore tend to have misconceptions.   
Interesting experience. My priest, who is solidly in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, always ways tells me, "What a beautiful confession," no matter how grave the offense. Then he reminds me, after absolution, how my soul (now cleansed of sin) is beautiful and more like our Lord than it was before because of the grace of the sacrament.
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Offline Rosehip

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One time I just walked into an RC church from the street and, in deep grief over something which had happened to me, I asked to go to confession (mostly because I was lonely and wanted to talk to someone-anyone). The priest was visiting from Africa and he basically told me the very same things any Orthodox priest would say. In addition, I rather liked the privacy/anonyminity afforded by the screen thing.
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Offline Wyatt

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I have certainly been to Catholic confession many times (went from Protestantism to the Catholic Church in 2007) and have never once been made to feel worse about my sins by any comment my priest has made to me. Of course, I'm sure the experience is subjective since Priests are people too and can err. If anything, my Priest has comforted me and encouraged me to trust in God's mercy because usually I go into confession really nervous and feeling pretty bad about myself, and my Priest has always been very supportive and encouraging.

Offline monkvasyl

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Being an RC myself, I can say the RC Confessions aren't all that fulfilling.ÂÂ  But if you go to an SSPX priest (Traditional RCC group), they tend to be more fulfilling, from what I've heard.ÂÂ  The priest will work with you about what leads you to do a particular sin, how you can avoid that temptation, etc.ÂÂ  This is rarely done today in Novus Ordo parishes :(.ÂÂ  Basically, you confess your sins, they absolve you, thats it.ÂÂ  :(

I found the opposite to be true when I was Catholic.  Most Novus priests gave me all the help I needed, while going to older pre-Vatican II trained priests (not SSPX, but older priests trained before the Council who were still serving in more traditional places like monasteries) was highly "unfulfilling."

For instance, I once went to confession with a priest who did the service in Latin. He opened the window in the box, yelled something at me in Latin, I figured ok this is when I tell him what I did, then he yelled some more unintelligible phrases at me in Latin and said, "three our fathers, two hail Marys, goodbye" and shut the window with a thud.

If that is how it was pre-Vatican II I can understand why they called the Council (although I don't like the other extreme they went to).

Anastasios

In my home parish, everyone was afraid to go to the pastor.  He would yell out, so the whole church could hear:  "HOW MANY TIMES?"  And for a penance he gave everyone a full rosary to say.  While the local Franciscan parish,all the priests were totally loving.  I'll never forget when I went with my friend to his Byzantine Catholic church for confession.  When  the priest was giving absolution he got up and put his stole over my head.  I jumped, as I thought he was going to hit me.  lol  Oh, how little kids see things. Once I realized what was happening, I loved going back there all the time.  Every chance I got I would find an excuse to go to church there on a Sunday.
The unworthy hierodeacon, Vasyl

Offline StGeorge

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Have been to many priests for Confession; I don't think one can really generalized about what confession is like in the RC church, regardless of the rite/order.

The most unpleasant confessions are always the ones where I feel as if the priest feels inconvenienced by the sacrament, if it is not during scheduled confession time, or when I confess my sins, and then am quickly told to try to do better and absolved. Absolution is of course the idea, but it's nice to feel as if the priest has given it some thought. That said, there was one occasion when I went for confession to a super Novus Ordo type parish in Manhattan, and literally felt like the priest thought I was an idiot for even still going to confession.

How much does it vary in Orthodoxy, and is confession separate from scheduled times usually available/encouraged?
Greetings Jim,

In my mission parish (Bulgarian Diocese) the priest does confession during Vigil on Saturday Nights and before Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings. He also said that he will do confession at other times when people ask him. There is actually a special service for Confession that priests can do. I've only seen it done once, but they gather a bunch of people together at the same time and the priest says special prayers over them all calling them to repentance and then hears their confessions privately.

I've also noticed that in Orthodoxy it is highly encouraged to have one father confessor. In my time in the RCC, the opposite was encouraged. They just wanted to get folks to confession.

In Christ,
Andrew

I have read several RC writers who give reasons for why the anonymity of the priest is a benefit (according to them)

Offline ChristusDominus

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One time I just walked into an RC church from the street and, in deep grief over something which had happened to me, I asked to go to confession (mostly because I was lonely and wanted to talk to someone-anyone). The priest was visiting from Africa and he basically told me the very same things any Orthodox priest would say. In addition, I rather liked the privacy/anonyminity afforded by the screen thing.
Were you Catholic at that time?
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Offline Severian

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One of the biggest differences that I know of is that the Roman Catholic teaches that the priest absolves you of your sins while the Orthodox Christian priest will instead pray to God so that He will absolve you of your sins.
EO Priests don't give an absolution at the end of a confession? ???

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Offline Joseph Hazen

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One of the biggest differences that I know of is that the Roman Catholic teaches that the priest absolves you of your sins while the Orthodox Christian priest will instead pray to God so that He will absolve you of your sins.
EO Priests don't give an absolution at the end of a confession? ???

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And it's not even Pascha!

That's false. One of the things I made very certain of from several priests before I became Orthodox was that priests do absolve our sins in Confession. I was coming from Roman Catholicism.

Having said that I never found the case to be as the OP stated. My RC priests were either very good confessors or too lenient (IMO). I never had any priest make me feel guiltier. I think it was a lone incident.

Offline mike

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One of the biggest differences that I know of is that the Roman Catholic teaches that the priest absolves you of your sins while the Orthodox Christian priest will instead pray to God so that He will absolve you of your sins.
EO Priests don't give an absolution at the end of a confession?

Depends whether he uses St. Peter's Mohywa Euchologion or not.
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Offline Kerdy

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One of the biggest differences that I know of is that the Roman Catholic teaches that the priest absolves you of your sins while the Orthodox Christian priest will instead pray to God so that He will absolve you of your sins.
^This!

One of the many concerns I had was this very thing.  I have always (though I have only been a few times) always felt great relief and calm after confession. 

Offline Severian

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One of the biggest differences that I know of is that the Roman Catholic teaches that the priest absolves you of your sins while the Orthodox Christian priest will instead pray to God so that He will absolve you of your sins.
EO Priests don't give an absolution at the end of a confession?

Depends whether he uses St. Peter's Mohywa Euchologion or not.
What's the most common practice?
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The Saviour is made of elements which are distinct from one another yet He is not two Persons. God forbid! For both natures are one by the combination. -St. Gregory Nazianzen