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When the priest who received you is has actually been suspended/defrocked


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#1 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 04:27 AM

This is something a friend of mine asked me and I do not know what the answer is...

She asked about what would be the status of people who have been baptised (i.e. with the right rite etc.) into Orthodoxy by say a priest who has been suspended or defrocked? The person who is being received may not know what the sttus of the priest is and as a result is an 'innocent' party. I have been told that a priest who is suspended/defrocked may not function as priest but his status as a priest remains. There is I am told no way a priest can be laicized.

I woudl appreciate it if the clergy on the forum help reply to this

#2 Owen

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 04:41 AM

The subsequent status of the priest who received you does not affect the validity of your baptism/chrismation. Remember, this is the beef we had with the Donatists.

#3 Olga

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 04:49 AM

The subsequent status of the priest who received you does not affect the validity of your baptism/chrismation. Remember, this is the beef we had with the Donatists.


I'm not sure if this is a correct analogy. To me, there seems to be a difference between personal faults/shortcomings of a priest, who, nevertheless, is still allowed to serve canonically, and a priest who has been officially stripped by the Church of his privilege to serve as a priest. No doubt the Fathers on this forum can shed light on this.

#4 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 05:16 AM

Hi Owen,

Your response is what I would have thought might be the case as the people received come in good faith and have done all that is needful. But like Olga, I am waiting for the clergy to help clarify this issue.

#5 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 08:28 AM

... There is I am told no way a priest can be laicized.


Not sure if this helps, and I too would like a proper authoritative answer, but the Synod of the Exarchate of Western Europe (EP) recently approved the Exarch to laicise a Bishop at his own request (and hence a priest and a monk too). No question of wrongdoing or heresy.

In saying this I ask you to join me in loving prayer for the said lay gentleman.

Chirst is Risen!
Richard.

#6 Michael Astley

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 08:38 AM

This is a very difficult situation pastorally and I pray that those involved find some quiet and spiritually beneficial calm at the end of it all.

If a priest in good standing with his bishop performs sacramental rites, and is later suspended/defrocked, this defrocking has no bearing on any previous sacramental actions of the priest. They were performed according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church, with the faith and prayers of the people, and under the proper canonical jurisdiction of a bishop of Christ's Church. If the priest was in unrepentant sin at the time, that is a matter for him, his confessor, and his Saviour but it has no effect on the efficacy of the Baptism or Eucharist or any other Mystery he performed.

If, however, a priest is suspended/defrocked, this removes from him any authority and ability to perform priestly functions within the Church of Christ. A priest (or any clergy, for that matter) is only such when acting under the omophor of a bishop in communion with the universal Church of Christ. No priest may act independently of a bishop. For example, even if a bishop reposes, some arrangement is made for the clergy and parishes that fell under his omophor, whether by them reverting directly to the omophor of the primate or a locum tenens bishop until such time as a new bishop is appointed to that diocese. So if a bishop suspends one of his clergy and forbids him to serve the Liturgy, then any attempt he makes at doing so is not the Eucharist.

Yet the question of Baptism seems to me to be more tricky because it is not impossible for a layman to baptise in particular circumstances. My personal suspicion is that a bishop would require that somebody baptised at the hands of a suspended priest would be required to come to a legitimate priest for the completion of Baptism, with Chrismation. However, personal suspicion is no measure of canonicity and I would strongly suggest that anybody with doubts about his baptism because of this situation would contact his bishop or a priest in good standing with a canonical bishop and seek direction from there. This seems the best way to resolve this matter pastorally. It may also bring to the bishop's knowledge that this suspended man is performing priestly actions, which may help more people.

Finally, to the point about it being impossible to laicise a priest, this is not correct. I suspect it is an idea imported from the Latin church. According to Roman Catholic theology, ordination leaves "an indelible character on the soul". Therefore, a defrocked or schismatic priest remains a priest but is simply not permitted to perform sacramental rites. If he defies this and celebrates the mass anyway, those mysteries are deemed to be "valid" (real sacraments) but not "licit" (done in opposition to the will of the church). This sort of legalistic categorisation is alien to the Orthodox way of thinking. From an Orthodox perspective, the Mysteries are means whereby we are infused with God's grace within the life of the Church. They are an expression and a deepening of our theosis and our communion with each other and with God, as they exposse us to the divine energies. This is why we fast and confess before receiving them, in order to rid ourselves of things that hinder our communion with God and his Church. The concept of real Mysteries existing independently of the communion of the Church or in defiance of the will of the Church is simply incomprehensible to the Orthodox mind. This applies to Holy Orders as well as any of the other Mysteries. Therefore, a priest cannot exist independently of the Church because priesthood only exists within the life of the Church. Ordination does not confer any indelible character upon the soul of the individual man but rather confers a charism to be exercised within the sacramental life of the Church, for the benefit of the people of God. If a priest is suspended from priestly duty by his bishop, any priestly action he peforms will be against the will of the Church of Christ and so cannot be a true Mystery*. If he goes into schism, then he himself is outside the Church with all that this implies.

*There are exceptions, of course, such as if the bishop is teaching or practising heresy, in which case a priest is required to separate himself from him and apply to be received under the omophor of a sound bishop. This was the case with those clergy who had been suspended by Nestorius, and who were later reinstated by decree of the Council of Ephesus.

I don't know whether this has been of any help.

In Christ,
Michael

Edited by Michael Astley, 10 April 2010 - 08:42 AM.
embarrassing typo


#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 01:36 PM

The grace and authority for the sacraments comes through the priest from the bishop. Without a bishop the priest has no grace and no authority. And the authority and grace of the bishop is not dependent on the spiritual state of the priest. And the grace and authority of the bishop comes from Christ through the Holy Spirit by the authority of the Father. If God can work through Barlaam's donkey, He can work through an imperfect human.

#8 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:04 PM

She asked about what would be the status of people who have been baptised (i.e. with the right rite etc.) into Orthodoxy by say a priest who has been suspended or defrocked? The person who is being received may not know what the sttus of the priest is and as a result is an 'innocent' party. I have been told that a priest who is suspended/defrocked may not function as priest but his status as a priest remains. There is I am told no way a priest can be laicized.


As many have already so eloquently made the point - such a baptism would be accepted because we serve a merciful God who allows for our sinfulness. Two reasons why a person who received such a baptism would not be required to undergo a second baptism: 1. Baptism is the only sacrament that can be administered, in an emergency, by any baptized Orthodox Christian, thus even if the person giving the baptism had been defrocked, while he may no longer be a priest, he is still (unless also excommunicated) a baptized Orthodox layman. 2. If the person in question had then been receiving the Holy Mysteries from an Orthodox priest or bishop, then the lacks (if any) in the way he was received are filled by this, the apex of Sacraments. If any question remains in that person, then they should consult the parish priest (as it then moves into the realm of a pastoral issue) who will be able to ask his bishop for direction and proceed accordingly.

And yes a priest can be deprived of the diginity of the priesthood (laicized). This is done by an act of the Holy Synod and is usually the direct consequence of serious unrepentant sin on the part of the priest which has been investigated by the diocesan bishop (usually with the assistance of his senior clergy who make up the "spiritual court"). Having been involved in such an investigation at one time, let me tell you it was indeed exhaustive and involved the direct testimony the priest involved as well as the testimony of the other clergy in the parish. A parish meeting was also called at which all who had something to say both in support of the priest or critical of him, were heard by the investigators. Another possibility is when a priest, for some serious reason, can no longer bear the burden of his priesthood and so rather than scandalize and defame the Church, he requests that he be returned to the status of the laity. A defrocked priest is no longer a priest, he not only has no right to minister the sacraments, but he also lacks the ability to do so (which was lost when he was deprived of the grace of the priesthood).

A suspended priest is in a different place than one who has been defrocked. A suspended priest is still a priest and may be restored to his former functioning. If he acts as a priest during his suspension, then he has committed an offense which can result in subsequent defrocking. But even then one must recall that a priest or even a bishop does not act as an independent agent. The priests actions must be confirmed by his bishop and the bishops actions must likewise be confirmed by his Synod. All things must be done in harmony and good order.

Fr David Moser

#9 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 04:00 PM

Subdcn Michael, Herman, and Fr. David,

Thank you for helping me understand this issue better.




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