Validity of confessions in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches

I tried to search for previous threads for this topic, but wasn’t successful, so I apologize if my search was too narrow. I actually have more than one question, but let’s start off with this. Assuming a person is truly sorry, do confessions done in EO and OO churches lead to absolution of sins?

If the answer is yes, please indicate the conditions that were met for absolution to occur. Here are some examples of possible conditions:

  1. Absolution occurred because confession was done in front of an ordained priest in that particular denomination (versus confession done to a layperson).
  2. Absolution occurred because EO is similar enough to Roman Catholicism (versus confession done in a Mormon church).

Also, if the answer is yes, is there a good source that I can read that lists ALL the criteria that have to be met? This way, I can save posters time from having to list them here.

The answer is yes, it’s valid because they have valid orders, hence valid sacraments.

However, it’s not licit for a Catholic to receive sacraments in an Orthodox Church unless they cannot attend a Catholic Church. For example, if a Catholic was in Russia and didn’t have access to a Catholic Church. Or if a person is dying in a hospital and an Orthodox priest is there, but not a Catholic one.

Validity and Licitly are two different things.

The reason why it’s not licit, except under extreme circumstances is because part of what we are expressing when receiving the sacraments is community and union (which is why we pray for Christian unity).

NOTE: Protestants on the other-hand do not have valid orders because either (a) deny the 7 Sacraments, (b) their theology and intent is not the same as the Churches with valid orders and/or © they lack apostolic succession.

I hope this helps.

I understand that going to an EO church for confession isn’t the preferred method. However, since absolution CAN happen under certain circumstances with an EO priest, doesn’t that imply that there may be a more “universal” criteria (ie true repentance regardless of who is present) rather than the presence of a Roman Catholic priest?

Who decides the exceptions to the rule?

Christ made the rules, when he founded the Church.

Absolution can only be granted via an ordained priest. There are no exceptions. Forgiveness is granted by Christ.

Absolution and Forgiveness are not really the same thing, they are closely related, but theologically different.

If you confess with a Perfect Act of Contrition on your death bed, Christ will forgive your sins (priest or no priest).

Absolution allows us to be forgiven with an Imperfect Act of Contrition. That can only happen via Confession to an Ordained Priest (unless Christ makes an exception during the judgement).

Only Christ knows our hearts. We humans do not even know if we perform a Perfect Act of Contrition or not. If we can’t tell if we made one, then it’s better to be safe than sorry, by assuming that we are making an Imperfect Act of Contrition.

Finally, you have to understand that Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East (plus a few minor, small schismatics) are all part of the one holy catholic apostolic Church. We do not consider each other to be teaching heresy. We have some theological differences (which are more based on emphasis and semantics, than anything else). The four major Apostolic groups (listed above) are all part of the Church Christ built.

Remember, that some Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Catholics, and Assyrians (Church of the East) have reunited with the Catholic Church. That’s where the majority of the Eastern Catholics come from. They do not use the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church and their Divine Liturgies and theology match that of their Orthodox brothers, as they use the same Rites. The only major differences between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox brothers: (1) the Eastern Catholic accept the unique roll of the Successor of Peter, and (2) they pray for the intentions of the Holy Father during their Divine Liturgies.

I hope this makes sense.

The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches have a valid priesthood in apostolic succession. They have all preserved the seven Sacraments, although there are differences in administration. Their priests can offer valid absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.

Protestant churches have no valid priesthood in apostolic succession. Their ministers are only more or less educated laypersons. Most Protestants believe in the “priesthood of all believers.” From a Catholic point of view, the only valid sacraments Protestants have are Baptism and Holy Matrimony, as those are the only two sacraments which do not require a validly ordained priest. Protestants may have a form of Confession, they may have a form of Communion, but these are not valid Sacraments in the Catholic/Orthodox sense. Individual Protestants may be very devout Christians, but their churches are not at all the same as Catholic/Orthodox Churches.

To be honest, I think it’s hard to perform a perfect act of contrition and I would say that over 90% of the time, most people are probably making an imperfect act. During a person’s last moments, it seems like the only thing that really matters for salvation and that would make a difference would be the presence of a valid priest to confess to. Would you say that ultimately, luck (as far as being lucky enough to have a valid priest present) is what really matters during a person’s last moments? For example, a person could have been performing PERFECT acts of contrition throughout his life and could have been living a “good” life, but if for some reason, he wasn’t really perfect in contrition during the moments before his death, then what really matters is if he was lucky enough to have a valid priest around rather than the way he lived his life?

Sorry if the above post sounds like I’m going off on a tangent, but I’m just trying to figure out whether absolution is more dependent on the situation (ie priest present or not) or the individual’s relationship with God.

truthseekerjay, try this thread.

things necessary for validity of a sacrament are

form
matter
intention
valid priesthood(exept baptism and marriage)

in confession, form and matter are confession of sins and the prayer said by the priest.

if these are there, confession is valid. validity does not depend on holiness of recipient.

Orthodox priests can only offer the sacraments to Orthodox christians, so I am unsure under what circumstances a Catholic christian would have such a choice.

Being in a state of mortal sin without reasonable access to a Catholic Priest.

The two are not really the same thing. I think you are confusing absolution and salvation or absolution and Grace. When a person dies in a State of Grace, they are saved. When a good person dies not in a State of Grace, they will go to hell unless God grants them mercy and His Grace during the judgement. Christ can bend or break His own rules. Man can’t. The Church’s goal is to help us get to Heaven, so the Church (rightly so) takes a conservative approach.

Also, as far as the death bed is concerned… Because God is all knowing and outside space and time, He knows what you would have done after sinning. God knows if you would have attended confession and repented had you been able to access a priest before dying. So getting to Heaven isn’t dependent on being lucky enough to see a priest before you die. But it’s a great precautionary step and one should want to confess and repent before dying.

Finally, Christ instituted Confession has a way to restore us to a state of Grace and help us move forward in living a life of Grace and towards Holiness.

While the sacraments are used to help us gain salvation, salvation is really granted by God’s Grace alone. The sacraments are used to help us live in God’s Grace more easily. But they are not the only way to earn God’s Grace. They are simply the only way revealed to us.

I hope this helps and isn’t confusing.

NOTE: my explanation might not be 100% accurate (word for word) in terms of theology, but I think it overall addresses the concepts.

You forgot faculties. If the priest hearing the confession does not have faculties from the bishop, then his absolution is invalid. As I understand the matter, Orthodox priests actually do have faculties from a Catholic perspective, but they are exercised illicitly.

Seriously? What about Iraq? Middle East? Pakistan? Remote areas??

The Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Church specifically allow for certain Sacraments to be given to the faithful by priests of either Church when the other is unavailable, or when the faithful are morally or physically impeded from attending the Church of their affiliation.

I know the same to be true for Catholics and Antiochian Orthodox.

We established that a Roman Catholic will only get absolution from an EO or OO priest under very special circumstances. From a Roman Catholic point of view, does a practitioner of EO/OO get absolved when they regularly confess to their respective priests?

Yes they do

EO confessions are identical to Latin Catholic confessions and absolution. EOs do not confess to laymen at all, ever.

The only difference is that EO people confess in the open church and don’t go into a small room to confess. But even that difference is passing with the growing popularity of face–to-face confession.

Not exactly identical. The formulas used also differ slightly. The same way that our baptismal formula is in the passive (The servant of God is baptized…), so the formula of absolution used by the Greeks and Antiochians is in the passive voice, rather than in the active voice used by the Latins.

Faculty always affects licety only. It’s absence doesn’t invalidate a sacrament.

you are right

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.