How do married priests sustain their families?


It is possible, in some Orthodox churches, to confess to a spiritual mother or father (who is not a priest) and then receive absolution from a priest. I’ve never heard of a requirement that the priest be within earshot.


I am not trying to be offensive. I am sorry. The tone of voice does not carry well over the internet.


Besides other responses that mention confessing your sins to a spiritual father/mother but receiving absolution from the priest, the other scenario I have heard is in danger of death (which I assume is what Mary888 was reading about), it’s not unheard of to confess your sins to whoever is present (including lay people). Absolution is not given, but it’s based on the scriptures where “Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved.” (DR, James 5:16)


The really interesting version I’ve heard tale of (but haven’t verified) are tehsmall villages in which the EC and EO priests hear the confessions fo the other wife, who are then absolved by their own husbands.


I would be obliged if those who claim one may confess to a layman would verify their claim with some source.

It seems to me the purpose of confession is to receive absolution from one’s sins. There seems no purpose in confessing, therefore, to one who cannot grant absolution.


Well, the Bible does tell us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. Obviously, this is not the same thing as the sacrament, but it is a beneficial practice. Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ can pray for us more effectively if they know our struggles. If the sacrament is unavailable for some reason, I think it would be better than nothing to confess to a spiritual elder and receive solid advice. This doesn’t mean that it would not be important to make a confession and receive Absolution when a priest was available. And, the two practices can coexist as long as it is clear that the layperson does not offer absolution.

As far as confession to a spiritual mother or father and going to the priest for absolution, I believe it is mostly a monastic practice. I am not Orthodox and do not have any personal experience with this .

The sources that you ask for might not be available in English.


I believe it unwise to draw one’s own inferences from Scripture. I prefer to follow what the Church teaches. I am completely unaware of any such teaching from Holy Mother Church.

Their language is not as important as their existence.


There is in fact a tradition in Orthodoxy of confession to a spiritual father or mother, and receiving absolution from a priest who did not hear the confession.


When read in context, this verse is taught to be speaking of Sacramental Confession. It comes directly after the instructions for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.


I am unaware of any teaching from Holy Mother Church which precludes the faithful from continuing the ancient practice of confessing sins to one another.


I disagree. It comes directly after the instructions for the anointing of the sick, but it does not give the instructions for the sacrament of confession.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

Neither the text nor the footnotes make reference to the Sacrament of Confession. The passage before, in referring to Anointing of the Sick, clearly states that the sick person is to be brought to the Presbyter and anointed, and prayed for.

In contrast, there is no indicator of a sacramental nature of the confession of sins to one another. To me, it seems to be an admonition to do so, in order that others might pray for you, and you for others. It mentions the prayer of a righteous person, but not of a priest or bishop and mentions nothing of the forgiveness of sins.


This jumps from thinking it is possible to asserting it actually is. Nowhere can I see where you have established this is the Church’s teaching.


Just to be clear: I am not talking about sacramental confession and absolution here. I am talking about telling your sins to a friend, a loved one, a brother or sister in Christ, in order that he or she might give you guidance and offer prayer on your behalf, in your struggle with those sins. Receiving the sacrament is presupposed and a separate matter entirely. I am really not sure how this can be opposed to the teaching of the Church.

I was responding particularly to this statement:

It seems to me the purpose of confession is to receive absolution from one’s sins. There seems no purpose in confessing, therefore, to one who cannot grant absolution.

The passage in James gives us the point: so that we can be prayed for.


Perhaps the article from the Catholic encyclopedia might shed some light on the practice noted by @Mary888, which once existed in our own church. It is important to note that the practice was not repudiated by the Church, it just died out because it came to be seen as pointless.

Here’s the full article. The portion that I’ve quoted comes from the subsection “The Minister”.

These decrees moreover put an end, practically, to the usage, which had sprung up and lasted for some time in the Middle Ages, of confessing to a layman,in case of necessity. This custom originated in the conviction that he who had sinned was obliged) to make known his sin to some one — to a priest if possible, otherwise to a layman. In the work “On true penance and false” (De vera et falsa poenitentia), erroneously ascribed to St. Augustine, the counsel is given: “So great is the power of confession that if a priest be not at hand, let him (the person desiring to confess) confess to his neighbour.” But in the same place the explanation is given: “although he to whom the confession is made has no power to absolve, nevertheless he who confesses to his fellow ( socio ) becomes worthy of pardon through his desire of confessing to a priest” (P.L., XL, 1113). Lea, who cites (I, 220) the assertion of the Pseudo-Augustine about confession to one’s neighbour, passes over the explanation. He consequently sets in a wrong light a series of incidents illustrating the practice and gives but an imperfect idea of the theologicaldiscussion which it aroused. Though Albertus Magnus (In IV Sent., dist. 17, art. 58) regarded as sacramental the absolution granted by a laymanwhile St. Thomas (IV Sent., d. 17, q. 3, a. 3, sol. 2) speaks of it as “quodammodo sacramentalis”, other great theologians took a quite different view. Alexander of Hales (Summa, Q. xix, De confessione memb., I, a. 1) says that it is an “imploring of absolution”;



St. Bonaventure ("Opera’, VII, p. 345, Lyons, 1668) that such a confession even in cases of necessity is not obligatory, but merely a sign of contrition; Scotus (IV Sent., d. 14, q. 4) that there is no precept obliging one to confess to a layman and that this practice may be very detrimental; Durandus of St. Pourcain (IV Sent., d. 17, q. 12) that in the absence of a priest, who alone can absolve in the tribunal of penance, there is no obligation to confess; Prierias (Summa Silv., s.v. Confessor , I, 1) that if absolution is given by a layman, the confession must be repeated whenever possible; this in fact was the general opinion.

It seems that you would fall on the side of Domicus Soto, who in 1564 found it difficult to believe that such a custom ever existed when he wrote:

Since (in confession to a layman there was no [sacrament]. . . it is incredible that men, of their own accord and with no profit to themselves, should reveal to others the secrets of their conscience" (IV Sent., d. 18, q. 4, a. 1).

Yet, in spite of his incredulity and yours, it is clear that the practice still exists in some times and places, in an Apostolic Church.

A Blessed Theophany to you!


I know you are not and that is how I have been addressing this.

It does seem to me you keep switching how this is addressed.

I remain unconvinced that this is allowed or encouraged. As we are not obliged to do this it does not matter whether I accept it or not.

I think what is clear is we are not going to come to agreement on what is a digression from the topic of this thread.

A very Blessed Epiphany to you.


Ok sorry for bursting out. No worries. I can’t find a source on the English speaking internet for what I said (I read it on a local orthodox forum). :-(. In life I never heard of anyone having done so but then we do not live under “extreme circumstances”. So it not something happening in the Romanian Orthodox Church, just something I remember reading about it on line.
My inner sense tells me we cannot put too many limits on the mysteries of God just to justify our faith. If someone is under a bomb attack and say in the moment of death feels guilty and bursts the sin to the nearest person asking for God’s forgiveness who can say if He won’t give it?
King Prophet David confessed his sin to a vagrant prophet underneath him and the Bible says God forgave him.
But to come back at the subject, it was a quirky piece of information about the presbytera (priest’s wife) being allowed to do certain things. But officially within the church she is just his wife and a role model in the Christian society for piety, she is required to do nothing more. She is not ordained. Her title is honorific.


That’s Incorrect. Do some research and try Again.


Um no this isn’t correct


I do not see how this outburst contributes to this discussion. The novis in novis ordo should be written novus. I think the term is best avoided as it is quite often used pejoratively. The correct term is Ordinary Form. It is true that both men and women may volunteer to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. They do not have the right to be selected. I used the name I did because that is their correct name. The word ‘extraordinary’ referring to it not being the norm; it does not mean special.

Males and females may also volunteer as altar (please kindly note the correct spelling) servers. Again, there is no right.

In the Roman Catholic Church only a priest or bishop can hear confessions if he has both the power of order (which he does) and faculties, i.e. jurisdiction from the Church to do so. In general, the common law gives bishops the necessary faculty and priests generally receive it from their ordinary. Neither deacons nor laymen can hear confessions.

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