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Orthodox Church Marriage: Does it require a Civil Marriage?

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#41 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 12:47 PM


The sacramental union survives termination of the civil marriage and endures until dissolution by  ecclesiastical divorce.

 

So what you suggest is 1) the Church requires first a civil marriage, thence 2) institutes a Sacramental marriage.  Then if 3) the civil marriage is terminated, the Sacramental marriage remains and finally 4) the Sacramental marriage is dissolved by the Church.

 

What about the case where a civil marriage existed previous to conversion?  That is not uncommon among converts.  In those cases, are you suggesting that the marriage is sacramental?



#42 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 02:54 PM

There's a thread somewhere about the latter point - please  see posts there. My own view, which some share and others (including some western Orthodox bishops) do not, is that a couple who convert should have an Orthodox marriage (as my late first wife and I did).


Edited by Reader Andreas, 28 January 2015 - 02:57 PM.


#43 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 12:18 AM

So, after much discussion and requests to postpone because of the Nativity fast, which has been over for a month now, apparently the consensus is what?

 

It appears that the answer is "a Civil marriage is required if the Bishop says it is"?  The tradition is then unclear, inconsistent, or very contextual.  Do I understand that correctly?



#44 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 08:45 AM

It depends on whether the Orthodox Church in a country is recognised as competent to perform marriages which have legal effect in addition to the sacramental solemnisation. I have read that in Australia, all Greek Orthodox priests are also Civil Celebrants. In England and Wales, that is not so therefore a previous civil marriage is needed so that the marriage has the same effect as marriages in Orthodox countries which are recognised by the civil authorities. It seems to depend not on any one bishop but on the relations between the Church and the state and, as In England and Wales, on the policy of the relevant archdiocese.



#45 Olga

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 10:42 AM

It depends on whether the Orthodox Church in a country is recognised as competent to perform marriages which have legal effect in addition to the sacramental solemnisation. I have read that in Australia, all Greek Orthodox priests are also Civil Celebrants.

 

From an earlier post of mine:

 

Religious marriages in Australia include the completion of the "paperwork" required to register the marriage with the state authority. There is no need for a separate civil marriage "ceremony". The registry papers are signed by the couple and their witnesses after the end of the religious ceremony.

 

All Orthodox priests, not just the ones of Greek tradition, are thus authorised.



#46 Kosta

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 01:15 AM

So, after much discussion and requests to postpone because of the Nativity fast, which has been over for a month now, apparently the consensus is what?
 
It appears that the answer is "a Civil marriage is required if the Bishop says it is"?  The tradition is then unclear, inconsistent, or very contextual.  Do I understand that correctly?


In New York its required because the state says so. When I was best man at my brother's wedding I didnt want to sign the NY civil document. I told the priest I was a witness on behalf of the Church and not the state. The priest informed me that years ago it would have been alright but New York State now requires all marriages performed to be legally validated. He made clear that he and the archdiocese could get into serious legal trouble if they perform a religious marriage apart from the secular license.

#47 Olga

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 01:39 AM

From Matthew ch 22:

 

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius.

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him and went their way.



#48 Paul Cowan

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 04:24 AM

I'm not a lawyer by any means (Andreas is BTW) but I didn't have to show my priest my legal state signed document before he performed a church wedding. That said, if my wife and I were to enjoy the benefits awarded us under the law of a married couple, we had to prove to the state were legally married.

 

Paul



#49 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 06:48 AM

In countries such as Greece and Cyprus, where Church marriage is recognised by the civil authorities, marriage carries with it all the elements of marriage both civil and sacramental. In countries where this is not so, a Church marriage does not confer all those elements, which would put couples who had only the sacramental union at a legal disadvantage (since in some of the common law countries some here live in, such as England, the practical consequences of relationship breakdown are very different according to whether the couple are married or not). As it seems to me, the requirement of a prior civil marriage to marriage in the Church simply puts couples in countries such as England on an equal footing with married couples in countries such as Greece and Cyprus. After all, in Greece and Cyprus, a couple cannot have a marriage in church which is not recognised by the state. For these reasons, I do not see the requirement for a prior civil marriage as unwarranted state intervention but as giving married couples the same status as married couples in countries such as Greece and Cyprus.



#50 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 04:04 PM

would put couples who had only the sacramental union at a legal disadvantage (since in some of the common law countries some here live in, such as England, the practical consequences of relationship breakdown are very different according to whether the couple are married or not)

 

What legal disadvantage(s)?



#51 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 05:05 PM

They depend on the jurisdiction you are in; in England and Wales, the law is undeveloped whereas in some Australian states it is more in tune with the times (though SA lags behind and is more like England). The law in Canada is similar to but not the same as in England. Essentially, in some common law jurisdictions, spouses who divorce have their property entitlements settled by the Family Court (or equivalent). Cohabitees who split up have no kind of quasi  family law that deals with the individuals' property. Blunt rules from land law and trusts have to be used which are not designed for this task. If a woman goes to live with a man and she does not contribute to the purchase price of their home or help in any other substantial financial way, she has no security and no claim on any of the man's property. There is no such thing as 'common law marriage' and even after cohabiting with the man for many years, he can throw her out and she gets nothing. Even if one of the couple has made some financial contribution to the house, if they have a dispute about shares, it leads to costly litigation. Spouses in divorce are protected from such a mess. I do not know what happens in civil code jurisdictions.



#52 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 05:20 PM

So, to summarize post #51: The woman gets legal protection (or favor) that wouldn't exist otherwise.  The man does not.  So then why not just say what it actually is: civil marriage is a method for a woman to siphon the wealth of a man (presumably earned wealth, but also inherited).  Civil marriage defined as such has no relationship to the sacrament on any level.  It is simply a governmentally sponsored contract of indentured servitude/slavery/transfer of wealth.

 

Also, the entire definition in post #51 is defined in negative terms (divorce in the case of marriage vs. breakup in the case of cohabitation).  As such, I fail to see why divorce is the reason for determining how the Church administers sacraments.  That flies in the face of the Tradition, where divorce is 1) rare and 2) not easily obtained.  In our modern society, neither of these descriptors apply to marriage as it now exists.

 

In the case of a marriage within the Church, the bishop presiding over a spiritual court would make a determination in such a case and the father would still have to divide his wealth in order to remain in communion.  Why involve State at all?



#53 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 06:22 PM

You might as well ask why Church marriages in Orthodox countries have the force of a civil marriage - why not separate them?

 

It is not so one-sided as you suggest; there have been high-value divorce cases in England where the former husband was fleeced by his ex-wife (Heather McCartney-Mills?). It is wrong to suggest that civil divorce always heavily favours the ex-wife, here at any rate. And a prenuptial agreement should settle the issue from the outset.

 

But is not there an issue regarding the meaning in the Church's sacramental joining of a man and a woman inasmuch as they are regarded as one flesh? Can you have 'one flesh' but with the persons so joined by the Church carefully squirreling their assets away out of reach of their other half?



#54 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 06:36 PM

Squirreling away assets doesn't mean anything if the marriage stays intact.  It only becomes an issue when it dissolves.  With women initiating over 70% of divorces, the problem is very asymmetric in favor of the women.  Thus, the problem is as one-sided as I suggest.

 

How often do women marry with a prenuptial agreement?  And even if there is an agreement, a judge can just throw it out.

 

So then, given that civil marriage is really mostly just legal protection for a woman, and women initiate 70%+ of divorces, then why does the Church allow such abuse of a sacrament?  And why in the world would a man want to marry, knowing the situation is what it is?



#55 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 06:43 PM

You have grim view of Orthodox marriage, not one I recognise.



#56 Father David Moser

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 02:41 PM

This thread - asking the question whether a civil marriage is needed for a church marriage - has about run its course and so rather than allow it to degenerate into a discussion about whether or not civil marriage is a good or bad thing (which is beyond the scope of the forum) it will be better to simply end the discussion.

 

Fr David







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