Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Reports suggest remarriage for Orthodox clergy

I have not yet seen any form of official declaration on this. Instead, I have seen just this article and a flurry of discussion amongst Orthodox clergy. Those qualifications aside, let me put my two cents in.

Once you are made a priest and given a parish, everyone in your church is one of your spiritual children. Dating women in your parish has rather obvious pitfalls - dating your children being a glaring example. "The Bachelor: Clergy Edition" is as unsightly an idea as I can countenance. So, you might say, "Well, Father, he doesn't have to date his own parishioners!" That is of course true, but he does have to marry an Orthodox woman and if she is to be in good standing she is going to go to church somewhere nearby. Now two parishes are talking about father's "love life" like they would any other bit of juicy gossip.

A priest also comes into a new parish as a unit with his spouse. They've had time to build a support system for one another and his wife is going to be somewhat prepared for the difficulties of being a presbytera. Putting a priest's new wife in a parish setting is tantamount to lowering her into a pit filled with wolves. At the very least such a "remarriage" would occasion the bishop moving the couple to a new parish if anyone involved knew what was good for them.

Equally importantly, such a change would be both canonically and biblically difficult to justify (1 Timothy 3 "the husband of one wife" amongst other prohibitions). There is good reason why the clergy are held to a more rigorous standard than the faithful.

Lastly, if this were done within one local Church I can't see if being accepted by others in short order. In fact, I imagine it would cause a scandal worldwide. Given the precarious state of patriarchal relations, I expect the effects would be deleterious and very public.

(Greek Reporter) - The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to allow a second marriage for Greek Orthodox priests in the event that they are widowed or abandoned by their wife, religious news website Romfea.gr says.

The decision, that is considered historic in the Orthodox Church, specifies that a second marriage will not be allowed if the priest wishes to leave his wife and marry another woman.

It is underlined that each case will be examined separately and the bishop of the priest’s parish will be sending the specifics to be judged by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Also, the wedding ceremony for the second marriage of priests will be different. Specifically, it will be with a simple prayer in a very close family circle.

Within the next few days, an official letter with all details and directions will be sent to all competent parties by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.


  1. One question: why now? Is this a pressing issue? Is this a distraction from the sword of Damocles (Autocephaly: to be or not to be) hanging over our heads?

  2. Assuming the reports are true, it isn't much different than what the Patriarch of Antioch has authorized (see "Widowed Priest: Crisis in Ministry" by Fr. Joseph Allen). Given the sad state of affairs in the E.P., this is one of the lesser problems it has.

    1. It was popularly done for exactly one person. Even this many years after it's still a very taboo footnote in history to bring up.

    2. I don't disagree, except the way Fr. Joseph brings up his conversations with a bishop in Syria, it was nothing unusual. He basically says it's been done for quite some time, just quietly.

    3. Just abkut everything that is "never done" is hierarchically allowed quietly in the church somewhere, e.g., just about anything related to sex. And not just in the 'modernist' places some like to highlight.

  3. Forgive me, I only offer my thoughts because I have known men placed in this very, very difficult position of being widowed Priests with young families. I have also had to consider these things when I was a Priest with a young family.

    All that to say, while this may be an academic discussion for most of us, it is something altogether different for our poor Fathers and brothers in the difficult position of living it.

    First and foremost, this is a canonical issue. It is not our heavy responsibility to interpret and apply the canons but the Bishops.

    The Bishop can apply the canon with akrivia (strictness) or with economia (grace.) The Bishop will answer at the Throne of God for his application of the canons.

    The comments about canons above are Orthodox doctrinal comments. As food for thought, I'm including another less troublesome way in which the situation could be handled if a Bishop deems it necessary.

    So if the Bishop determines that there is a need for the Priest to remarry and remain a Priest, the Bishop could place the Priest on a "leave of absence" from the Priesthood for a period of time and then require that the Priest move away from where the parish in which he served.

    Once the Priest is remarried, he would not be reassigned to that Parish.

    I am not advocating for anything here. I am simply offering another option that I have heard of. My kids are old enough that these issues no longer concern me in the same way that they do among many young Priests.

    Forgive me if I have offended anyone.

    1. Forgive me, one last thing:

      Make sure that you pray for your Bishop and Priest and especially for any Priest in this very difficult position.