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Ordination after remarriage


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#1 Michael Astley

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 02:36 AM

A recent comment by another member of this forum has reminded me of a question that has been on my mind for some time now. I have never asked because it has never been a particularly pressing matter in any real-life experience of mine but curiosity has now got the better of me.

The comment was about being barred from ordination due to remarriage, which a later comment indicated had happened before becoming Orthodox. I do not wish to discuss the detail of this particular case here because I think it would be improper and disrespectful to the person concerned, and besides, the bishop in question is the one to decide such matters. However, it reminded me of another high profile case.

Julius Joseph Overbeck, a former priest of the Latin church, later departed and married, was received into the Orthodox Church in the 19th century and never ordained. The reason all sources give was that he had married after ordination.

There must be something that I am not understanding very well. I know that both situations of the question of ordination after remarriage and marriage after ordination are covered by canons 3 and 6 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (or, more accurately, Trullo). I know this because I recently had cause to look them up after a priest told me that subdeacons may marry, which I knew from common knowledge and the experience of a friend wasn't the case.

However, it seems to me that the canons are being applied here to the sacramental rites of the heterodox. If a clergyman of a heterodox church marries, and later in his life becomes Orthodox, how can these canons be applied to his situation? He is not a priest of the Church who has transgressed the canons and to my mind should not be disciplined as such. Similarly, if somebody who is not Orthodox marries for a second time, and later in his life becomes Orthodox, and his marriage is crowned in the Church, how can the previous marriage outside the Church be a canonical impediment to ordination? I don't understand.

Does it have something to do with whether the person came into the Church in the normal way or by economy? For instance, I am aware of a priest who, in his pre-Orthodox days, had been twice married and twice divorced, but as this was outside the Church it was of no matter when he became Orthodox. He left his former life behind and was baptised into Christ. I can see how retroactively making whole a person's heterodox Baptism might possibly have implications in the case of remarriage, (and if that is the case, then I think we have another good reason why reception by economy should not be standard practice). However, it still does not explain the Overbeck case, which seems to be a de facto recognition of the grace of priesthood in an heretical church.

Is anybody able to shed some light on the fundamental principles underpinning these sorts of decisions? I thought I understood the canons in question but it seems that the way in which they are applied can at times be at odds with my understanding of basic Orthodox ecclesiology, and I would be grateful for any clarification.

Thank you.

#2 Richard Miller

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:37 AM

I asked my parish priest about this situation and he explained to me that the bishop has say over whether or not, someone who was married and divorced before coming into Orthodoxy can be ordained. The bishop over the diocese I belong to does not allow such persons to be ordained, by other bishops within ROCOR do allow ordinations of individuals in that situation. I can't speak for other Orthodox traditions.

#3 John Konstantin

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:59 PM

Not sure I can shed any light on the discussion but would love to know some of the answers. I know that each bishop interprets the canons as he sees fit. It is a Latin mindset that see the canons as 'rules'. They are expectations of practice than can and are interpreted by economia.

As to one's marriage status being effected by the manner in which one has been received to my mind is, in a sense, irrelevant. One is either Orthodox or one isn't. As has been constantly re-iterated, reception by economia is in no wise different to an individual that has undergone Orthodox baptism. Period. What was lacking in the heterodox baptism has been completed by chrismation and confession, giving the individual exactly the same 'clean' slate and reception as any one else. That said, I agree with Michael that baptism should be the norm and the economia should not be the standard practice, but that is just a personal view.

I know that the Latins accept Anglican marriage as valid and a convert may not re-marry whether as layperson or as a priest. That is, unless he can make a good case for annulment. I am not sure that it is that clear cut within Holy Orthodoxy.

As to subdeacons being able to marry or not, I think that was comprehensively dealt with in other threads. Essentially that the Russians enforce the canon with more rigour than the Greeks. However, those who wish to adhere to Trullo closely might want to take note:

—The 80th canon of the Council of Trullo, which punishes clergy by deposition, and laymen with excommunication, for failure to attend church for three successive Sundays without some important reason.
—The 24th canon of the Council of Trullo, which prohibits clergy and monks from visiting race tracks and other entertainments.
—The 77th canon of the Council of Trullo and the 30th canon of the Council of Laodicea, which prohibit Christian men from bathing together with women.

Good questions none the less.

In Christ,

JK

Edited by John Konstantin, 09 February 2011 - 01:49 PM.


#4 Mark Harris

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 04:41 PM

I would be interested to know what other past sins (confessed and repented) would also generally exclude somebody from following the path to Priesthood.

#5 Toby Grubbs

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 09:45 PM

I would be interested to know what other past sins (confessed and repented) would also generally exclude somebody from following the path to Priesthood.


I am very new to Orthodoxy and am having some problems, in my mind and heart, with this very issue. How does the Church go from Apostles who were murderers, thieves, and Christ deniers to the canons that expect new priests to be free of any public sins from the past? I am especially interested in divorces and remarriages that happen before you become Orthodox. Even if a man was baptized by the heterodox...how does the period of life between that and his finding and accepting the truth of the Orthodox Church count against him if he now desires to become a priest?

My situation is like my last question. I now look back at my heterodox life as alien, corrupt, and un-Christian. During those years I attempted to go to a Lutheran seminary, but my wife protested because she was losing her faith and couldn’t deal with that kind of life. I was destroyed. About five years later she divorced me, after rejecting Christ to my face and having several adulteress flings. These things rocked my life so hard that I lost my faith in the Lutheran church and my entire protestant upbringing. I began to search for the truth. I found it in the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church. I couldn’t believe how lost I had been all those years. I was so cocky and sure of myself for 40 years and then I was brought to my knees by life and then the truth.

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 01:00 AM

The Biblical guidance is pretty clear on what sort of person should be clergy. Not everyone is that sort of person—but that does not make them all bad. There are many ministries, clergy is not the end-all and be-all of service to Christ and His Church. We go where God needs us, not necessarily where we want to go.

#7 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 01:06 AM

Bishops decide which Canons to apply in which cases on the basis of what they as Bishops see as being best for the salvation of all people involved. When a bishop decides to apply a Canon about Ordination to cases where the Ordination in question is that recognized by the Catholic Church, he makes that decision on the basis of what he sees as being best for the salvation of the person who had that Ordination (and for his own salvation, and for the salvation of everyone else who is affected by the case), and his decision does not imply that he recognizes the validity of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Similarly, in a case in which a bishop does not choose to apply that same Canon, his decision does not imply that he does not recognize the validity of the sacrament in question.

It should be noted that 'validity' is a poor way of discussing the sacraments. Every thing that a person does (whether they like it or not) is sacramental. That being the case, of course those things that the Catholic Church recognizes as sacramental are in fact sacramental. The question is whether those sacraments have the character that they believe them to have. Or, we could say that the question is whether the sacraments in the Catholic Church have the same character as the sacraments in the Orthodox Church. That is roughly what we mean when we talk about 'validity'. But to say that the thing that the Catholic Church calls Ordination doesn't have the same character as the thing that the Orthodox Church calls Ordination is not to say that either is not a sacrament.

#8 Father David Moser

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 02:05 AM

Bishops decide which Canons to apply in which cases on the basis of what they as Bishops see as being best for the salvation of all people involved. .


This is the key right here. Canons are important - but what's even more important is that they are applied by living breathing pastors to the situation at hand in a manner that is for the good of the Church (not necessarily what the person involved may see as good, but the good of the whole Church). I personally know people who have not been ordained due to a marriage and divorce that heppened long before they were Orthodox - and I personally know priests who were married in the Orthodox Church and divorced in the Church and remarried in the Church prior to their ordination. It is in the hands of the living breathing caring ruling bishop of the diocese what, when guided by the canons of the Church he will and will not do.

Fr David Moser

#9 Toby Grubbs

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 05:47 PM

It is very clear that an established Orthodox Christian should only have one wife. It makes no mention of his pre-Church life. What if his pre-Church tradition was to have multiple wives? Does that forever stain him in the eyes of God and the Church? This is what I am refering to, and to which Fr. David answered below. I am comforted by the fact that Bishops rule in these matters, not on a legalistic basis, but on the needs of the man and the flock he would be tending.

#10 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 06:06 PM

Dear all

I think this boils down to what we understand a canon to be. Under influence from western sources, the term 'Canon Law' crept into the Church which gives the impression of a legalistic interpretation. Thus, canons can be seen as a legal code which must either not be broken or have a "lawful excuse". When we bring this legality into the Church, lawyers can take over and declare any decision illegal or justified depending on perspective - we only have to consider secular court proceedings to see this in action.

Canons should rather be seen as norms. They are not a unified corpus describing a complete ecclesial theology but the opinion of a Father or Fathers for a given pastoral problem. So for a bishop, they are a survival guide for the life of the Church which informs how he runs his diocese: some he might interpret strictly, others he might show more flexibility; in all things he applies these in accordance with the advice he receives from his presbyters together with his metropolitan and synod.

In Xp
Alexander




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