HEARING THE CONFESSIONS OF PRIESTS AND HIERARCHS
by Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) of San Francisco and the West
The Orthodox Church in America
The Bishop of San Francisco and the West
650 Micheltorena Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026-3629
Telephone: (213) 913-3615; Facsimile (213) 913-0316
Sunday, October 20, 1996
Great Martyr Artemus
Very Reverend and Reverend
Archimandrites, Hegumens, Hieromonks,
Archpriests and Priests
Diocese of the West
Dear and most esteemed Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers:
The Lord's blessing be upon you!
Enclosed are two lists of questions, one preceded by an "Exhortation." These are for your use and reference in any case where you may be asked to hear the confession of another Priest (41 questions) or of an Hierarch (23 questions). Further, the questions for Priests may be of use in examining your own conscience before going to confession. These were first distributed to you in 1988 by me. I translated them from Bulgakov's Nastol'naya Kniga (Desk Manual).
I would like to remind you of these procedural conventions:
- The confessions of Hierarchs, Priests, and Deacons are heard before the Holy Altar Table.
- No sacred vestments are worn by the Hierarch, Priest, or Deacon that comes to confession. Further, Priests customarily remove even their pectoral crosses and place them on the Altar Table during their confession.
- The Priest hearing the confession of another Priest or of an Hierarch does not bless the head of the Priest or Hierarch who is confessing with his hand only at the prayer of absolution, but must hold instead the precious Cross and bless on the head with it. A Deacon is blessed as usual.
Invoking the Lord's blessing and assuring you of my prayers,
With love in Christ,
Questions to Ask a Priest At Confession
- Are you always mindful of the oath that you gave before God at the time of your entrance into the Priesthood?
- Do you take care, as you swore before God, to conduct your priestly service in agreement with the Word of God, the laws of the Church and the directions of the administration, and do you consider your first and chief task to be the salvation of the souls entrusted to you?
- Did you ever refuse to baptize, hear the confession of or commune someone at death's door out of fear of endangering your own health or out of negligence?
- During the time of an infectious epidemic or plague were you always ready, like a good shepherd, to lay down your life for your sheep?
- Did you ever absolve at confession or did you admit to Holy Communion someone who appeared to be an unbelieving, obstinate, and unrepenting sinner?
- Did you describe someone's sins in a sermon, in such a way that was possible to deduce of whom you were speaking?
- From your negligence is ignorance of the Faith or persistence in sin existing in your parish?
- Have you through carelessness left your parishioners without instructions on Sundays or Feast days?
- Do you yourself keep and follow the teachings of the Church and teach them to others as the Orthodox Church teaches?
- Do you ever allow yourself in your teaching of the Faith to interject your own explanations not in consonance with the explanations of the Fathers of the Church?
- Is it your main purpose in your preaching to give a creditable sermon, rather than to benefit your fellow man?
- Do you occupy yourself with reading the Scriptures, the Holy Fathers, and other spiritual literature?
- Do you ever enjoy reading books which satisfy idle curiosity or those which stir up passion in your heart, mind, and imagination?
- Do you always serve with care and reverence both the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments, keeping in mind that he who is negligent in God's work is cursed, and did you ever serve with haste, so as to disturb good order and the beauty of the service?
- Did you ever introduce your own changes in the services?
- Did you ever serve a service while under the influence? And what service was it?
- Have you ever arrived to begin the Divine Liturgy without the prescribed preparations?
- Are you infrequent in cleansing your conscience through Confession?
- Have you confessed without a contrite heart, in state of anger, or having aroused someone else to anger?
- Have you always tried to read the prayers during all services, especially the Divine Liturgy, with all sincerity, attention, and all presence of mind?
- Do you always follow the rule prescribed by the Church to prepare for Divine Liturgy?
- Do you always read with full attention the prayers of exorcism at Baptism, and never omit any of them for any reason?
- Through your negligence has a sick person or newborn infant died without Holy Communion or Baptism?
- Did you ever get weary of someone's confession and show it through your words or manner?
- Have you broken the secrecy of a confession?
- Did you ever refuse anyone a Sacrament or service of the Church because they did not pay you or meet some other financial obligation?
- Did you ever invent a miracle, wonder, or vision?
- Have you ever grumbled or complained against those placed in authority over you or spoke ill of them, and especially the bishop: have you spread around injurious rumors, condemned his actions and management, or tried to see harm done to him?
- Have you for the sake of your own honor or self-respect, or out of fear, or greed, or some other disgraceful characteristic evaded or ignored your responsibilities?
- Do you try in your own life, in your own family, in the management of your own domestic affairs to act so as to set a good example to your parishioners? Or do you like to live according to the times and fashions, and follow the empty trends of society?
- Do you have a passion for games, sports, secular entertainments, and parties?
- Did you enter a bar for no good reason?
- Did you advise your parishioners to make false statements for your own benefit or for others'?
- If you were entrusted with a task by the church administration, did you carry it out with discretion, faithfully, and honorably, and with great care?
- Did you ever waste church money or resources for your own sake?
- Did you ever take wax, oil, or anything else from the Church like a thief?
- Did you permit yourself some bad or abusive language in Church or otherwise behave yourself in a manner impious or disrespectful of the Church and Altar?
- Did you ever serve a Mystery, especially the Divine Liturgy, after committing a grave sin or without having repented of it?
- Did you ever miss Divine Liturgy on a Sunday or Feast day without a compelling necessity?
- Have you been a cause of temptation to your parishioners because of your drinking, dancing, or gambling?
- Are you aware yourself of some other sin against your priestly responsibilities?
Questions at the Confession of the Hierarchy
I, a sinful pastor, am not a judge, am not here to judge you. I am the one you chose as a witness before God. Our Judge is the Lord, JESUS CHRIST: before HIM reveal the secrets of your heart. Repent!
- During days of fasting and prayer, did God permit you to see your own sinfulness?
- Do you believe in the Triune God as taught the Prophets, Apostles, and Saints of our Church?
- Do you walk in God's presence as did David, always beholding the Lord, and as did the Apostles, feeling the Living God in their hearts?
- Do you live according the holy will of Christ and according to the example of His holy life?
- How does your conscience stand, before God: are your mind, will, thoughts and desires pure?
- Are your memories and imaginations pure?
- Did you sin with your senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, or smell, or by means of your tongue, or hand or something else?
- Do you industriously persist in the reading of the Holy Scriptures?
- What kind of subjects occupy your intelligence more, earthly or heavenly; do you in fact appreciate worldly things more than their Creator?
- Have you noticed in your soul your own idols: self-respect, self-love, pride, vanity, vainglory, greed, sensuality, or capriciousness — have you tried to conquer these enemies, did you zealously pray the King of Heaven to cleanse you of your defilement?
- Did you take the Holy Name of God in vain?
- Did you faithfully live up to the oath you gave before God in Church?
- In your responsibility in the service of the Church did you always act for the sake of God's glory and the welfare of your neighbor?
- Did you not mingle into the fulfillment of your responsibilities your own will, your own glorification, your own advantage, or anger, or laziness, or hatred?
- Did you ever act unjustly or modify the truth out of fear or respect of men, or leaders of society?
- Were you persuaded through flattery or some other world inducement to act contrary to God's law and a clear conscience, or did you maintain silence when those for whom you are responsible acted thus, when it was your responsibility to speak out?
- Were you always paternally solicitous of those in your care, did you always care for them as your children, defend them in danger, condescend to their weaknesses and insufficiencies? Did you omit to learn of their needs, to soothe the deficient and weak?
- Were you quick to anger and slow in mercy?
- Were you more interested in punishing than correcting?
- Were you always just in promotions and awards?
- Did you ever subordinate a good person to one with a bad character?
- Were you always ready to defend with vigor the weak and not hand them over to the powerful?
- Do you have some special sins against love of God, your neighbor, or against yourself?