Holy Confession: Confidentiality – From “Guidelines for Clergy”, Orthodox Church in America

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Holy Confession: Confidentiality

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From “Guidelines for Clergy” (Orthodox Church in America):

“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.”

In St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite’s Exomologitarion, he writes:

“Nothing else remains after confession, Spiritual Father, except to keep the sins you hear a secret, and to never reveal them, either by word, or by letter, or by a bodily gesture, or by any other sign, even if you are in danger of death, for that which the wise Sirach says applies to you: “Have you heard a word? Let it die with you” (Sir. 19:8); meaning, if you heard a secret word, let the word also die along with you, and do not tell it to either a friend of yours or an enemy of yours, for as long as you live. And further still, that which the Prophet Micah says: “Trust not in friends… beware of thy wife, so as not to commit anything to her” (Mic. 7:5).

For if you reveal them, firstly, you will be suspended or daresay deposed completely by the Ecclesiastical Canons, and according to political laws you will be thrown in jail for the rest of your life and have your tongue cut out. Secondly, you become a reason for more Christians not to confess, being afraid that you will reveal their sins, just as it happened during the time of Nektarios of Constantinople when the Christians did not want to confess on account of a Spiritual Father who revealed the sin of a woman. The divine Chrysostom both witnessed these things and suffered because of them on account of his trying to convince the people to confess. It is impossible for me to describe in words how much punishment this brings upon you, who are the cause of these things.”

St. John of the Ladder writes:

“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.”

The Byzantine Nomocanon states, in Canon 120:

“”A spiritual father, if he reveals to anyone a sin of one who had confessed receives a penance: he shall be suspended [from serving] for three years, being able to receive Communion only once a month, and must do 100 prostrations every day.”

Source:

ORTHODOX WIKI

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About the Spiritual Father – St Siluan the Athonite (+1938) & St Nikon of Optina, Russia (+1931)

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HOLY CONFESSION OF YOUR HEART

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Up: St Nikon of Optina, Russia (+1931)

Down: St Silouan the Athonite in Greece, from Russia (+1938)

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About the Spiritual Father

by

St Silouan the Athonite & St Nikon of Optina, Russia

Consider that the Holy Spirit lives in the spiritual father, and He will tell you what to do. But if you think that the spiritual father live negligently, and that the Holy Spirit can’t live in him, you will suffer mightily for such a thought, and the Lord will humble you, and you will straightway fall into delusion.
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, II.1)

If a man does not tell everything to his spiritual father, then his path is crooked and does not lead to the Kingdom of Heaven. But the path of one who tells everything leads directly to the Kingdom of Heaven.
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIII.9)

Tell everything to your spiritual father, and the Lord will have mercy on you and you will escape delusion. But if you think that you know more about the spiritual life than your spiritual father, and you stop telling him everything about yourself in confession, then you will immediately be allowed to fall into some sort of delusion, in order that you may be corrected.
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVII.13)

The Holy Spirit acts mystically through the spiritual father, and then when you go out from your spiritual father, the soul feels her renewal. But if you leave your spiritual father in a state of confusion, this means that you did not confess purely and did not forgive your brother all of his sins from your heart.
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIII.11)

The Lord loves us so much that He suffered for us on the Cross; and His suffering was so great that we can’t comprehend it. In the same way our spiritual pastors suffer for us, although we often don’t see their suffering. The greater the love of the pastor, the greater his suffering; and we, the sheep, should understand this, and love and honor our pastors.
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIII.2)

The spiritual father only shows to way, like a signpost, but we have to traverse it ourselves. If the spiritual father shows the way and the disciple doesn’t move himself, then he won’t get anywhere, and will rot near the signpost.
(St. Nikon of Optina, Russia)

Source:

http://orthodox.cn/patristics/300sayings_en.htm

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