question about Confession


I was reading an Eastern Orthodox forum and they were saying how God forgives our sins whether we confess them directly to Him or to a priest, but that it’s good to go to Confession because the priest can give advice. They were saying how we don’t confess to the priest, but the priest is a witness.

This seems to me to be different from the (Roman) Catholic understanding, in which we believe that we do indeed confess to God, but the priest is there “in persona Christi”… and we believe that mortal sin must be confessed to a priest (whereas for venial sin, yes we can pray directly to God for forgiveness).

I was wondering, what is the Eastern Catholic understanding? is there also a distinction between mortal and venial sins?

thank you :slight_smile:

Everyone has a different moral compass…so what is evil to one is not evil to another.
For example the Catholic Church,does not forgive divorce…divorce is a grave sin.
However, the catholic Church forgives child rape…example Cardinal Law is forgiven
and he never saw any Jail Time…in any other profession…he would have been Fired
and exposed but not as a Cardinal …he is forgiven…different Moral Compass.

I think you’re a little confused and have fallen into moral relativism. No sin is unforgivable. If I’m not mistaken, we’re forgiven even before we ask for it, but we must confess our sins in order to be reconciled and receive the Eucharist worthily.

Any sin is forgivable if you are truly sorry, ask for forgiveness, and try not to commit the sin again. God’s mercy is infinite. As far as divorce, the Catholic Church just asks that you not marry again or be in other relationships because the sacrament of marriage is binding until death. So, basically, once married always married (even if that’s not the case in the eyes of civil law)…at least that’s the way I understand it from a RC perspective. I know this is an EC forum, so I’m sorry if my answer is slightly different from that perspective.

Since I am not Eastern, I can’t say for certain if the red marked portion above is the Eastern understanding (though I’ve encountered that position speaking to EO as well), but I can tell you from the Oriental Coptic perspective that Confession to a priest is not merely good or useful, but is required because that is how Christ established the Sacrament. Like the Latins, we admit that God can forgive outside the Sacrament if the person is prevented from confessing to a priest.

To repeat, I am not certain if the red marked portion above is the official EO (or EC?)understanding (truth to tell, there really does not seem to be an “official” EO position on a lot of matters), but from my discussions with EO, it seems Easterns view Confession primarily in terms of the relationship between the priest and the confessor for the purpose of receiving spiritual counseling. In distinction, in the Coptic Tradition (similar to the Latin Tradition), Confession is viewed primarily in terms of the relationship between God and the confessor for the purpose of having one’s sins forgiven.

I’m not criticizing the EO mindset towards confession. I just notice it is different from what I am used to as a Copt. I wonder if the Byzantine Catholic Tradition shares a similar focus on the Sacrament as a means of spiritual counseling.


hmm… both child abuse and divorce are sins, and both can be forgiven if repented of… the Catholic Church does NOT support child rape

I would be surprised if the Eastern Catholic perspective did not match or at least closely mirror the Eastern Orthodox, though I have never encountered any Eastern (Catholic or Orthodox) Christian who views confession as optional in any way. With regard to “Priest as witness vs. en Persona Christi”, when I confessed in a Byzantine Catholic church it was with the priest in attendance, though he was behind me and I was knelt before an icon of Christ, and confessed facing it, rather than the priest. So I think “witness” would be a good way to put it, though he was there to preform the physical actions associated with absolution (placing the stole over my head, crossing me, etc).

The terms are mortal for Latin and serious for eastern. Venial is not referred to in the eastern Catholic churches, but it is strongly recommended that confession be frequently done especially during the penitential seasons (CCEO 719).

For confession, an Eastern Catholic aware of serious sin should confess it as soon as possible (CCEO 719). For a Latin Catholic, a mortal sin must be confessed annually (CIC 989).

For Mystery or Sacrament of Penance, priests have three general obligations, Eastern Catholic or Latin Catholic:

  1. To impose appropriate penances (CCEO 732, CIC 981)
  2. To be both just and merciful (CCEO 732, CIC 978)
  3. To provide appropriate counsel (CCEO 732, CIC 970, 971, 978)

Absolution is used in both codes.

Eastern CCEO Canon 718:
In the sacrament of penance, the Christian faithful who committed sins after baptism, internally led by the Holy Spirit, turn back to God, moved by the pain of sin, intent on entering a new life through the ministry of the priest, having themselves made a confession and accepted an appropriate penance, obtain forgiveness from God and at the same time are reconciled with the Church which they injured by sinning; by this sacrament they are brought to a greater fostering of the Christian life and are thus disposed for receiving the Divine Eucharist.

Eastern CCEO Canon 720:

  1. Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the ordinary way by which the Christian faithful who is aware of a serious sin is reconciled with God and the Church; only physical or moral impossibility excuses one from confession of this type, in which case reconciliation can take place in other ways…

Latin CIC 959:
In the sacrament of penance the faithful who confess their sins to a lawful minister, are sorry for those sins and have a purpose of amendment, receive from God, through the absolution given by that minister, forgiveness of sins they have committed after baptism, and at the same time they are reconciled with the Church, which by sinning they wounded.

Latin CIC 960:
Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the sole ordinary means by which a member of the faithful who is conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and with the Church. Physical or moral impossibility alone excuses from such confession, in which case reconciliation may be attained by other means also.

thanks for the replies :slight_smile:

God bless

Do the Eastern rites use confessional boxes like the west?

Some do. Others use a room, and yet for others it will be in the church in front of the iconostatis. It varies with the parish.

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