In the Orthodox Church, the seal of confession is absolute, and there is no situation that will allow for the revelation of anything said in confession. As a member of the International Conference of Police Chaplains, I, as an Orthodox priest, am one of a handful of chaplains in the Northwest Region who has been told I am exempt under the mandatory reporting laws, due to "the sanctity of the confessional". That said, if there is a case in which a priest hears a very serious confession, one that could become a police issue, the confessor must explain to the penitent that this must be brought before the authorities. If he meets with refusal, the priest should explain that he is not supposed to give absolution for that sin.
Confession is between God, Who is quick to forgive, and the penitent, with the priest as the witness, as well as the mediator by which absolution is bestowed. Without repentance, there is no salvation, and any priest who would endanger the integrity of the Sacrament of Confession by breaking the seal of confession, exposes himself to the possibility of being deposed from the priesthood, and excommunicated. In Imperial Russia a cleric who violated the seal was liable to the civil courts and subject to the death penalty!
Refusing to pronounce absolution without the penitent agreeing to report himself/herself to the authorities, is really the only approach that a priest can take, without burdening himself with the knowledge that the molestation of either a spouse, or a child, will continue, or that a murderer will not pay the price for his crime.
The Church's strict insistence on the sanctity of the Seal of Confession has been handed down from Apostolic times, and is imperative because it keeps open the doors of repentance to so many people who would otherwise fear going to confession, lest their sins become common knowledge. Yet the penitent must also be made aware that an important part of repenting of one's sins, is the willingness to embrace the consequences under the law.
With love in Christ,
The Morning Offering (Blogspot)
Daily Inspiration from All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
Used with permission.