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Excommunication


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#1 James Scott

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:45 PM

What would cause an Orthodox person to be refused Communion in the Church?
What if someone, for instance, denied the perpetual virginity of Mary?

#2 Theodora E.

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 09:16 PM

Sometimes a person excommunicates themselves, through their actions: marrying outside of the Orthodox Church, "living together" before marriage, participating in communion in another Christian body, etc.

#3 James Scott

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 09:21 PM

Sometimes a person excommunicates themselves, through their actions: marrying outside of the Orthodox Church, "living together" before marriage, participating in communion in another Christian body, etc.


What does that mean, though? Does it mean they choose to leave, or does it mean because of their actions they will not be able to receive Communion?


And I asked about the perpetual virginity of Mary because someone asked me if an Orthodox person doesn't believe this, would they still be allowed Communion?

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 10:02 PM

"For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged." 1 Corinthians 11:29-31

Excommunication is a pastoral matter, it is the priest protecting an individual from possible spiritual (and sometimes even physical) harm. It is not for us to second-guess the spiritual physician, he does what he deems appropriate for a specific situation for a specific individual. But public proclaiming of heresy might be one reason, having a private issue with a teaching might be another thing, depending on how the priest decides to handle it.

Herman who is not a priest, nor do I try to play one on the Internet.

#5 James Scott

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:07 PM

"For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged." 1 Corinthians 11:29-31

Excommunication is a pastoral matter, it is the priest protecting an individual from possible spiritual (and sometimes even physical) harm. It is not for us to second-guess the spiritual physician, he does what he deems appropriate for a specific situation for a specific individual. But public proclaiming of heresy might be one reason, having a private issue with a teaching might be another thing, depending on how the priest decides to handle it.

Herman who is not a priest, nor do I try to play one on the Internet.


Isn't this issue sometimes cut and dry, though? I read how St. Basil says that if someone goes to war, they should not partake of Holy Communion for three years because their hands are unclean. And I've heard other places that if someone commits fornication, they can't partake for one year, and if someone commits adultery, they can't partake for three years. So, if what I've read is correct, is it sometimes cut and dry, and sometimes a pastoral matter? I would think that if someone knows the Orthodox dogma on something, and flat out rejects it, that there would be some penalty for that.

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:26 PM

This is not a legal court, it is a hospital. I don't believe that "Cut and dry" is a spiritual term.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#7 Paul Cowan

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:27 PM

I have been warned against confessing at the monastery. My SF can assign penance to me. So can the monk confessor. Which ever one puts me under penance is what I must do. However at the monastery it is possible to be put under a 21 year penance. I would then be obligated to observe it. My SF on the other hand might not be that severe.

So it is a pastoral matter. Each of us needs OUR own doctor to treat us. Not a doctor who has never seen us or rarely sees us. Every sin is heinous. The treatment for that particular sin regardless how heinous is what our SF determines for us. Yes, they have their guidlines to abide by, but we are individuals and should not be subjected to the same "medicine" as everyone else.

Paul

#8 Benjamin Amis

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:45 PM

The canons of the Church do sometimes prescribe certain excommunications (and lengths thereof) for certain sins. However, the Orthodox Church does not read her canons as a law book, but as a set of spiritual guidelines in order to bring healing into a situation. They may or may not be followed to the letter in any given circumstance.

As Herman said, the Church is a hospital. Our priest is our physician. Just as a doctor must read and understand his generic medical texts and then apply that knowledge to a specific situation, so must a priest. œconomia is not just something the Church practices on certain, rare occasions, it is the way of Orthodox living: to follow the Spirit and seek Christ is the purpose of the Church, not to act as some spiritual court of law.

It is important to note that excommunication is primarily for the healing of the Orthodox Christian. He or she is not excommunicated because he or she is an unrepentant heretic, but because there needs to be a time of penance in the person's life due to some event. Sometimes these events aren't even sins, necessarily, but are a tragic event that was out of someone's hands. An act of manslaughter, for example, causes excommunication. The individual did not intend any malice, and yet...something tragic occurred. This is also true of women who have miscarriages. It is for the "healing of soul and body" that in times, one must step away from the chalice for a time in order to come to terms with an event, whether it is for the repentance of sins, the mourning of a tragedy, or for another reason as determined by one's priest. Temporary excommunication is not a punishment, it is a treatment for those who are ill.

#9 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 04:36 AM

It is important to note that excommunication is primarily for the healing of the Orthodox Christian.


What if a faithful dies while excommunicated? Is he/she given a different funeral and expected a different treatment in the afterlife?

An act of manslaughter, for example, causes excommunication. The individual did not intend any malice, and yet...something tragic occurred. This is also true of women who have miscarriages.


I think I did not get this point well. Are women who have miscarriages excommunicated?

#10 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 09:42 AM

What if a faithful dies while excommunicated? Is he/she given a different funeral and expected a different treatment in the afterlife?


One of the priest's prayers from an Orthodox funeral service:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, by his divine grace, as also by the gift and power vouchsafed unto his holy Disciples and Apostles, that they should bind and loose the sins of men: (For he said unto them: Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whosesoever sins ye retain they are retained. And whatsoever ye shall bind or loose upon earth shall be bound or loosed also in heaven.) By that same power, also, transmitted unto us from them, this my spiritual child, N., is absolved, through me, unworthy though I be, from all things wherein, as mortal, he (she) hath sinned against God, whether in word, or deed, or thought, and with all his (her) senses, whether voluntarily or involuntarily; whether wittingly or through ignorance, If he (she) be under the ban or excommunication of a Bishop, or of a Priest; or hath incurred the curse of his (her) father or mother; or hath fallen under his (her) own curse; or hath sinned by any oath; or hath been bound, as man, by any sins whatsoever, but hath repented him (her) thereof, with contrition of heart: he (she) is now absolved from all those faults and bonds. May all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of his (her) mortal nature be consigned to oblivion, and be remitted unto him (her): Through His lovingkindness; through the prayers of our most holy, and blessed, and glorious Lady, the Mother of our Lord and ever-virgin Mary; of the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostles, and of all Saints. Amen.



#11 Kusanagi

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 11:22 AM

I think I did not get this point well. Are women who have miscarriages excommunicated?


I think what Benjamin meant was what causes the woman to have a miscarriage. I know a few priests whose wives have had miscarriages and I personally do not think their wives were excommunicated. I could be wrong on that occassion. Having said that it seems to be quite a common occurance for women to have miscarriages these days.......

#12 Father David Moser

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 03:42 PM

What if a faithful dies while excommunicated? Is he/she given a different funeral and expected a different treatment in the afterlife?


You are thinking of excommunication like a punishment and not a therapy. The funeral is no different for a sick person who dies in the hospital that it is for a well person who dies at home peacefully in bed. In the next life our status is determined by the particular judgment and thus it is repentance that is important. A great sinner who repents - whether still undergoing treatment (excommunication) for the damage that the sin inflicts upon the soul or not - is received with joy, while a man who considers himself righteous and does not repent hears "depart from me, I never knew you".


I think I did not get this point well. Are women who have miscarriages excommunicated?


When a miscarriage occurs the woman must come to make her confession and repent of the part that she played - willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly - in the death of the child. There is a special prayer of absolution given for that particular sin (of miscarriage). Whether a period of excommunication is prescribed or not is up to the confessor.

Isn't this issue sometimes cut and dry, though? ... if what I've read is correct, is it sometimes cut and dry, and sometimes a pastoral matter? I would think that if someone knows the Orthodox dogma on something, and flat out rejects it, that there would be some penalty for that.


The canons are not "self acting" but must be applied to each case by the spiritual physician. These canonical penalties are given to the spiritual physician as guides in how to treat the spiritual illness brought about by each condition. Sometimes a strict approach is needed and sometimes a more lenient approach depending on what is best for the condition of the person. It is the grace of the priesthood (not any natural intelligence or acquired skill) which gives the spiritual physician the wisdom to know how to apply those canonical remedies to their best effect.

Fr David Moser

#13 Eric Peterson

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 06:04 PM

With regard to dogma, if one does not believe in a dogma of the Orthodox Church, this is a matter perhaps even more serious, since it deals with faith. If there is no communion in faith, how can there be communion in prayer or at the chalice, to be strict? Granted, there may be matters of confusion, but a dogma like the ever-virginity of the Theotokos is central, proclaimed in dogmatic canons and throughout the liturgy, and those who deny it are anathematized. If an Orthodox person refuses to accept a point of Orthodox dogma, his very Orthodoxy would be in doubt. He should seek immediate counsel from an experienced priest.

#14 Salaam Yitbarek

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 11:13 PM

When a miscarriage occurs the woman must come to make her confession and repent of the part that she played - willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly - in the death of the child. There is a special prayer of absolution given for that particular sin (of miscarriage). Whether a period of excommunication is prescribed or not is up to the confessor.
Fr David Moser


I don't understand this, Father. Can you explain, please?

Specifically, assume that the miscarriage was not willed and why it happened and what the mother's part was in why it happened is not known to the mother or anyone else on this earth. Then what would the women say in repentance (in confession)? Is the miscarriage still consider a sin (of the mother)? If yes, why?

Thanks!

#15 Father David Moser

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:06 AM

Specifically, assume that the miscarriage was not willed and why it happened and what the mother's part was in why it happened is not known to the mother or anyone else on this earth. Then what would the women say in repentance (in confession)? Is the miscarriage still consider a sin (of the mother)? If yes, why?


This is a basic difference between Orthodox and the Western Christian confessions in the approach to sin. Sin is falling short of the glory of God. It doesn't matter how or why or even if we did so willingly (with intent) or unwillingly or even knowingly or unknowingly - it is still sin. Sin is a condition in which we all live because of the fall and the various sins are simply symptoms of that condition. The miscarriage of a child is a "symptom of that sinful condition" and thus is a sin - whether or not it was with knowledge or intent. We all sin unknowingly and even unwillingly simply because we are human and are fallen creatures. Miscarriage is no different.

What does a person confess? Simply - "I had a miscarriage". The priest may then ask about what conditions prevailed in the miscarriage (trauma? poor diet? drug/alcohol use? not following doctor's directions? etc) to determine whether there was any negligence or intent involved. In a miscarriage without intent or negligence on the part of the mother, usually there is no particular period of repentance assigned and a prayer of absolution is read over the mother for this unfortunate event.

I have, in my experience as a priest, see that this prayer of absolution is a great boon to the mother for any woman who has had a miscarriage, no matter how "innocent" she might be, harbors thoughts of self blame and fault. This act of absolution strikes right to the heart of those doubts and fears and excises them from the mother. Invariably I have seen the mother emerge from such a confession with a great relief and an easing of the burden of having lost a child.

Sin does not require that we have "intent" - it is simply that we fall short of the glory of God.

Fr David Moser

#16 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:23 AM

I have, in my experience as a priest, see that this prayer of absolution is a great boon to the mother for any woman who has had a miscarriage, no matter how "innocent" she might be, harbors thoughts of self blame and fault. This act of absolution strikes right to the heart of those doubts and fears and excises them from the mother. Invariably I have seen the mother emerge from such a confession with a great relief and an easing of the burden of having lost a child.

Sin does not require that we have "intent" - it is simply that we fall short of the glory of God.

Fr David Moser


Father, please check if I understood well: can we, according to Orthodox thinking, define confession as a spiritual therapy?

Is there anything equivalent in the OC to the RC definitions of "mortal" and "venial" sin?

#17 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:30 AM

Actually all the sacraments are Divine treatment for the sickness of sin. The Church is the spiritual hospital. Christ is the Divine Physician.

#18 Father David Moser

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:49 AM

can we, according to Orthodox thinking, define confession as a spiritual therapy?

Is there anything equivalent in the OC to the RC definitions of "mortal" and "venial" sin?


Yes.
No.

Fr David

#19 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:53 AM

Sin is sin, like a leak is a leak. Enough small leaks in a boat and it still sinks eventually, even if a big leak sinks it faster.

Herman the nautical Pooh

#20 Jean-Serge

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 01:18 PM


Is there anything equivalent in the OC to the RC definitions of "mortal" and "venial" sin?

 

Yes and no? It is more subtle, as usual. Saint Nikodemos in his Manual of Confession do talk of mortal sins and also quotes other orthodox author who used the term. However, the definition he gaves is not clear, and I think it was intended. He nevertheless says that all sin that were punished by death in the Old law are mortal sins. As far as I remember, he does not use the word venial sin.






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