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Is there a distinction we could make between the terms for "the priest who is hearing confession" and "the Orthodox Christian who is confessing" rather than use "confessor" for each? When I hear "confessor" I think of the priest, as in "Father-Confessor." Are there variances between traditions? —magda (talk) 15:55, May 24, 2006 (CDT)


It would seem that the "seal of the confessional", i.e., the confidentiality pertaining to the content of one's confession, has not always been considered absolute in all of Orthodoxy. I seem to recall that, under the czars, a priest was required to report if a penitent confessed to trying to kill the czar. --Fr Lev 17:59, June 4, 2009 (UTC)

Indeed. That's right out of the Spiritual Regulation of Czar Peter "the Great," signed into law in 1721. It wasn't just plotting to kill the czar, but indicating an intention to commit any illegal act.
This is probably worth mentioning, though it's more valuable in terms of being a distortion of Church tradition rather than an expression of it. —Fr. Andrew talk contribs (THINK!) 19:37, June 4, 2009 (UTC)

My source is Nadieszda Kizenko (SUNY Albany) in her "Confession in Modern Russian Culture" (2007). She writes:

    "Orthodox canon law is unambiguous on this point. Until Peter I’s Spiritual Reglament, both religious and secular laws recognized that a priest could not be called upon to reveal anything he had learned at confession. If a priest did reveal what he had heard, he had committed not only a sinful, but a criminal violation of his obligations. [Footnote: See the Patriarchal ukase of June 21, 1680, in Razboinichnyi prikaz, I, PSZ, t. II, #827. See also the historical survey and comments of Senator Tagantsev to Anatolii Koni in GARF, f. 564, op. 1, d. 641, l. 1.] 
    But Peter I’s legislation changed this principle, requiring priests who learned of potential treason or lèse majesté at confession and failed to dissuade penitents from their nefarious aims to deny absolution and report the plot to relevant authorities." [Footnote: Pribavlenie k Dukhovnomu Reglamentu, PSZ, t. 6, #4022, May, 1722.].

Even so, she writes: "And that is that over the entire imperial period we can hardly find a single case when a priest actually turned someone in. The only two cases that came up soon after the Spiritual Regulation legislation are telling. After detailed canonical debates on the penalties for breaking the confessional seal, one eighteenth-century priest who had done so was executed. The other was defrocked, then had his nostrils slit, and was sent to Siberia for permanent hard labor. In the eighteenth century, confession was considered admissable evidence only when a deathbed confession appeared to exonerate someone previously charged (although there, too, the penalties for breaking the confessional seal could deter priests)."

St John Ladder

"At no time do we find God revealing the sins which have been confessed to Him, lest by making these public knowledge, He should impede those who would confess and so make them incurably sick." St. John of the Ladder, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, trans. Fr. Lazarus Moore (Brookline, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1979), p. 243.

I looked up this quote, and it doesn't exist in Fr Lazarus Moore's translation. According to this: "This homily is missing from the English translation of Fr. Lazarus Moore, but can be found in the English translation of Holy Transfiguration Monastery" —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Xpusostomos (talkcontribs) February 23, 2015.

The reference given is for the 1979 version of The Ladder, in which Holy Transfiguration Monastery used Fr. Lazarus Moore's translation and revised it. Presumably this "Homily to the Shepherd" was included in those revisions.
Saint John Climacus, translated by Father Lazarus Moore, revised by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Fourth Printing, completely reformatted, 2012. Source
I think the idea of listing Fr. Lazarus Moore as the translator was to identify the book, not to necessarily attribute the quotation to his translation. —magda (talk) 18:08, February 23, 2015 (PST)