Can Catholic confess to Orthodox priests?

I’m going to be traveling for quite an extended time this coming summer, fall and winter in the Middle East. I understand that Roman, Greek, and Arab/Maronite Catholicism is present in this area but as I understand it the frequency of finding an Arab belonging to one of these denominations residing in the Middle East is highly less likely than the Arabs that have now immigrated to the West. In short: Catholic churches are harder to come by.

Am I positioned as a Catholic, if needed, to confess in an Orthodox church if I need to?

The Catholic Church says yes, the Orthodox vary in answer, sometimes even parish by parish. Ask the pastor of the Orthodox parish.

I have gathered from various Eastern Christians from the Middle East that the boundaries between Catholic, Orthodox, Melkite, Maronite, Syriac (Orthodox or Catholic), and such are much more fluid than they are in the USA. At times they are even non-existent; one simply goes to the nearest Church.

But this might not apply to all priests, either. Some might be more sensitive to confessional boundaries.

I’m sure others will correct me if I am wrong, but here is my take, from what I’ve read and heard.
The Orthodox all have valid sacraments. That being said, my understanding is that you, as a Catholic, should approach an Orthodox Priest for confession only if you are in grave, urgent need (i.e. Mortal Sin, danger of death, etc.). Now, if you went to an Orthodox priest, I think you would want to tell him right away you are a Catholic so he know. As other posters have said, the view from the Orthodox is more fluid on this issue, especially in the Middle East. Just my two cents.

p.s. Where will you be going? I myself have been to Jordan.

Yeah! I’m going to Jordan too!

Actually the short answer is no.

The long answer is that in emergencies, that is where death is possible, then yes, just as any priest may hear a confession.

In the normal practice of things faculties from the local ordinary are required for the validity of the Sacrament.

Here from the Code of Canon Law;

Can. 966 §1 For the valid absolution of sins, it is required that, in addition to the power of order, the minister has the faculty to exercise that power in respect of the faithful to whom he gives absolution.

§2 A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself, or by a concession issued by the competent authority in accordance with can. 969.

And from the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches;

**Canon 722

1.** Only a priest is the minister of the sacrament of penance.

2. All bishops by the law itself can administer the sacrament of penance everywhere, unless with regard to liceity, the eparchial bishop denies it in a special case.

3. For presbyters to act validly, they must be previously granted the faculty of administering the sacrament of penance, which is conferred either by the law itself or by a special grant made by a competent authority.

4. Priests who are endowed with this faulty by virtue of their office or by virtue of the grant of the local hierarch of the eparchy in which they are enrolled or in which they have domicile, can validly administer the sacrament of penance anywhere to any Christian faithful, unless the local hierarch in a special case expressly denies it; the same faculties are licitly used observing the norms made by the eparchial bishop and also with at least the presumed permission of the rector of the church or the superior, if it is a case of a house of an institute of consecrated life.

It might be of interest to some that canonically, only the proper ordinary can grant this faculty. In other words, only the local bishop in his jurisdiction can grant this faculty to priests in his jurisdiction - not his metropolitan, not his Patriarch, not the Pope - but only the local bishop.

Blessings

Yes, only if it is an emergency.

No! No! No!

The authority to forgive sins was given to Peter and the Apostles. The ONE Church has the power to absolve sins. This is almost vis-a-vis Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. There is no salvation outside the Church, no forgiveness of sins outside the Church.

The Orthodox are Schismatics ergo:

Council of Florence: It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels,

Even if their excommunications were forgiven by Paul VI, almost all of their Bishops have ordained Priests without a papal mandate, thus incurring automatic excommunication.

This is not what the Church Teaches. The Orthodox have valid Sacraments and in cases of emergencies the may give valid absolution.

The Catholic Church also welcomes them, as well as the PNCC (and I believe a couple others) to receive the Eucharist.

Well I was just replying with the force and using the same logic some people like to use against SSPX Catholics. Then again at least the SSPX recognize the last 10 or so Ecumenical Councils.

What does the SSPX have to do with any of this? Did someone mention them? Are they an Eastern Catholic organization now?

Peace and God bless!

There are only 7 ecumenical councils. Even Rome recognizes this.

Brother David:

You are forgetting: Their valid bishops have given those orthodox priests valid postings as pastors, and thus valid authority over sins by virtue of the office of pastor or priest-confessor.

It doesn’t even require an emergency. It requires physical or moral incapability to approach a Catholic Minister, and a genuine spiritual advantage. Essentially, absolution of any mortal sin meets the “genuine spiritual advantage” clause.

This is not germane to the discussion. Don’t de-rail this thread…

I think this would be an argument for Canon Lawyers as are those bishops considered truly valid as they were not appointed by the pope.

A episcopal ordination without papal approval makes a valid bishop but he is suspended immeditatly.

Also there is the issue of overlapping jurisdictions.

I stand by what I said, only in the case of emergency may one go to a priest outside of the Catholic Church for the Sacrament of Penance.

It sort of is though. One can not go to confession to an SSPX (out side of an emergency) for the same reason, he lacks the faculties to make the Sacrament valid.

I also don’t know why a disclipinary matter within the Latin Church (that of the SSPX) is pertinent here. There is a very large difference. The Pope himself stated in March 2009 "“Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers - even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty - do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.” Enough said.

Ut Unum Sint has more recently reminded us this in Paragraph 58,

: “Pastoral experience clearly shows that with respect to our Eastern brethren there should and can be taken into consideration various circumstances affecting individuals, wherein the unity of the Church is not jeopardized nor are intolerable risks involved, but in which salvation itself and the spiritual profit of souls are urgently at issue. Hence, in view of special circumstances of time, place and personage, the Catholic Church has often adopted and now adopts a milder policy, offering to all the means of salvation and an example of charity among Christians through participation in the Sacraments and in other sacred functions and objects”

It sort of is though. One can not go to confession to an SSPX (out side of an emergency) for the same reason, he lacks the faculties to make the Sacrament valid.

There is a gulf of difference between the two. “Valid jurisdiction” has never been a question with the Orthodox since there is no question of the validity of the Patriarchs to canonically give it since ancient times. No decree of excommunication is present from Rome which negates the ability of Orthodox hierarchs to have jurisdiction over their own eparchies, while the censures against the SSPX are very specific in this regard.

Again the fact that an excommunication has not been declared, does not mean that it is not present. The Orthodox do not have a Papal Mandate to consecrate Bishops. Ergo they’re excommunicated, ergo they are not part of the Church ergo they have no jurisdiction ergo they do not validly absolve (under normal circumstances).

Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

Again the fact that an excommunication has not been declared, does not mean that it is not present. The Orthodox do not have a Papal Mandate to consecrate Bishops. Ergo they’re excommunicated, ergo they are not part of the Church ergo they have no jurisdiction ergo they do not validly absolve (under normal circumstances).

Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

Again, a subjective citation of one canon of mutable law that only applies to the Latin Church cannot be given or interpreted without the entire corpus of Magisterial teachning. Yes, it does mean they do not exist, and in fact the mutual excommunications against Constantinople and Rome were rescinded in the mid-1960s.

Excommunications do specifically have to be declared to have force to the entire Church, and have been since the early Church. One cannot assume anything so serious as an excommunication without a specific proclamation and notification to the particular Churches in question. Even the ipso facto excommunication of Msgr. Lefebvre and the bishops of 1988, while “on paper” was ipso facto, this excommunication was proclaimed by Pope John Paul II, and most definitely was not “assumed” at all without the solemn delcaration.

There are several examples of Magisterial teaching that do not agree with your assertion. One example that comes to mind is Paragraph 16 of Unitatis Redintegratio:

To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls. The perfect observance of this traditional principle not always indeed carried out in practice, is one of the essential prerequisites for any restoration of unity.

Paragraph 17 concludes with

All this heritage of spirituality and liturgy, of discipline and theology, in its various traditions, this holy synod declares to belong to the full Catholic and apostolic character of the Church.

These and other Magisterial statements are clear and as I stated above, this is completely different than the disciplinary matter of the SSPX which is entirely a disciplinary matter within the Latin Church.

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