Confession to orthodox priest


I’m in Mykonos, Greece, right now, and there is currently no Catholic priest here during the week. However, I might be in a state of mortal sin and am wondering if it’s ok to try to find an Orthodox priest who would hear my confession. Is this ok under the circumstances of not having a Catholic priest available?


1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2, states the following: “Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid”.

Now, since Eastern Orthodox priests are validly ordained, since in spite of the schism of 1054, they have never broken the line of Apostolic Succession. Thus, most of their sacraments are valid which require the power of orders; however, Confession also requires the power of jurisdiction, which a cleric must receive from his superior or by the law itself, and presupposes communion with the Supreme Pontiff. Since Orthodox priests are in schism, they lack the use of jurisdiction, so unless there are certain circumstances which are met, they do not actually absolve Catholics validly or licitly.

Since in the interpretation of law, one must first make recourse to parallel places, let’s do a little contextual exegesis, so to speak. Non-Catholic ministers who possess the power of orders do not possess the power of jurisdiction because they are not in communion with the Pope. Thus, to absolve a Catholic validly, the use of supplied jurisdiction is assumed. Since canon 844.2 refers to spiritual advantage, we ask ourselves: under what extraordinary circumstances would supplied jurisdiction be used by the minister to absolve a Catholic validly? Logically, canon 144.1, which makes reference to cases in which the Church supplied the power of governance (i.e. jurisdiction), would apply.

The text of canon 144.1 makes reference to canon 966, which states that the power of jurisdiction (faculties) is necessary for the valid absolution of sins. Canon 144.1 only mentions that in cases of doubt or error, jurisdiction is supplied; however, Ecclesia supplet also applies in danger of death, and this information is implicitly contained in the Code. A priest who is laicized, schismatic, etc, can absolve validly and licitly in danger of death also due to supplied jurisdiction.

So although it may seem that simply being unable to find a Catholic priest is enough reason to approach an Orthodox priest (and of course, presuming scandal is avoided), it is not. Such a situation is not sufficient for Ecclesia supplet to apply, and so the Orthodox priest would not absolve you as a Catholic validly under these circumstances. Unless you are in danger of death, it is better to wait to find a Catholic priest to confess to. If you are aware that you may not be able to go to Confession for many months, or years, however, that is another issue, involving complexities that I’m not going to get into now.

How to become a Catholic in mainland China, ask friends to advise, not English, please forgive. [message in Chines; discussion in English]

There is a Catholic church on Mykonos, if it isn’t staffed during the week, wait until the weekend.

If you have a terrible accident or become seriously ill and in danger of death, they are likely to airlift you out of there anyhow to a medical center in a large metropolis where you won’t have this problem.

Theoretically, a Greek priest might be able to hear your confession in the case of a rare, true emergency. But there is a good chance they won’t anyhow as the priest might not think its appropriate.


Depending upon the age of the Greek Orthodox priest, he might not be able to speak English or any other language you speak. It might be best to contact the Catholic Church on Mykonos and ask if the priest they are sending to the island speaks English or one of your other languages and that you need to go to confession before the Liturgy.


Might be"?

  1. Grave matter.
  2. Knowledge of that gravity.
  3. Full consent of the will.

Still fit?


Actually, when we interpret the law, one of the things that must be borne in mind is that any canon which grants a favor is to be interpreted broadly, and any canon which punishes is to be interpreted strictly. So a canon which grants the faithful the ability to access the sacraments in cases where they are unable to approach a Catholic minister for them is one which bestows a favor and should be interpreted as broadly as possible. The canon simply does not say that the person must be in danger of death, only that they are physically or morally impeded from approaching a Catholic priest. If you are in Greece, and in a remote area, and unable to get to a Catholic priest, the law allows you to receive the sacraments from an Orthodox priest. There isn’t any need for discussion of supplied jurisdiction, since the law does not actually bind Orthodox priests, but only Catholics, and so the law cannot supply jurisdiction to an Orthodox priest.

In short, this is a canon where as much leeway as possible is granted. If it doesn’t say danger of death, it doesn’t mean danger of death.



Not unless you’re in danger of death. I know someone is probably going to say: “Ah! Well actually you can because the Canon says:” but this is just what I would do. And you also mentioned that you “might” be in a state of mortal sin. I would t approach confession in your case unless I were ABSOLUTELY certain that I was in a state of mortal sin.


Again, this is not true. Canon 844 s.2 simply says that the faithful who are “physically or morally impeded” from approaching a Catholic priest may approach a non-Catholic minister from a Church with valid sacraments.


Where does it say this? (Genuinely curious)


Perhaps Father learned that in the seminary he attended.


Thank you for your ruling, Holy Father. I assume you’ll soon be revising the Code of Canon Law?


Plenty of bishops and cardinals have already stated that canon 844 is problematic, especially Raymond Cardinal Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and Walter Cardinal Brandmüller. The German intercommunion atrocity (I’m working on an unofficial translation of the original German document into the English) was only the logical consequence of the existing compromise of canon 844.


If you choose to use sarcasm here, that’s your call; however, some of us here do care about the dignity of the sacraments and also seek to avoid scandal and indifferentism by speaking out against the excessive administeration of the sacraments to non-Catholics and excessive reception of sacraments by Catholics from non-Catholic ministers.


I apologize for the sarcasm, but it remains a valid canon promulgated by a saint.
The German inter-communion proposal is also, to my mind, a very different situation from limited inter-communion with the Eastern Churches.


It’s not really up to you to judge whether “too many concessions” are granted by a law. It’s up to the mind of the legislator. Until we have some kind of ruling from Rome that 844 s.2 does not allow Catholics to receive the sacraments from Orthodox clergy, the law is what the law is.



And just as a little follow up, when we interpret and apply Canon Law, it doesn’t matter what our theories on a given canon might be or a given practice. What matters is what the law currently in force actually says. There are a few practices enshrined in Canon and liturgical law that I have serious concerns about. But I am a servant of what has been handed on to me, and it doesn’t much matter what my opinions are on those sorts of things. Applying the law isn’t about what we think the law should be, it’s about what the law is.


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