Saturday, October 05, 2013
A Greek Practice
Latins often criticise Greeks for being lax on celibacy and lax on remarriage, as far as celibacy is concerned. although Greeks do not allow priests to marry after ordination, they do ordain married men and yet married men may not be ordained to the episcopacy and in parish setting married clergy tend to be expected to give way to their celibate brothers. They have exactly same rules as we have for Anglican converts in general and applied to the Ordinariate in particular who although some may be married before ordination may not marry afterwards and were married men are not ordained bishop, a bit of Grecianisation through the back door?
As far as remarriage is concerned, I remember being given a paper which suggested all Orthodox marriages were invalid because the Orthodox recognise 'remarriage' within the lifetime of a divorced spouse, so therefore the writer suggested there was no sense of lifelong, exclusive commitment among Orthodox, QED: No Orthodox marriage is valid because of a lack of commitment to a lifelong exclusive union.
That is bit simplistic. It is worth remembering that in the West we recognise two levels of marriage; sacramental marriage between two baptised Christians and non-sacramental marriage between a Christian who has been baptised and someone not baptised. In the past such marriages were very much frowned upon and according to local custom were done without much ceremony, sometimes even in the sacristy, without music and just witnesses being present, still today the bishop or his delegate (normally the Parish Priest) has to give explicit permission for such a marriage to take place. In theory such marriages can be dissolved 'in favour of the faith', in favour of a sacramental marriage, should the Catholic party meet and to desire to marry a 'good Catholic' boy or girl. Nowadays no real liturgical distinction is made, except the obvious one of it being inappropriate to have a nuptial Mass, as the non-Christian, non-baptised cannot receive Holy Communion. The Rite speaks in terms of a sacrament even if no sacrament is being confected. Historically, I understand in some places, at a time when Holy Communion was rarely received, there were restrictions on when a person in such a union was permitted to receive Holy Communion.
Of course we Latins have always allowed a certain laxity towards even those in a sacramental union by allowing a declaration of annulment, our rather legalised approach to a pastoral situation of marital breakdown and the desire to remarry. Protestants used to be horrified at our allowance of such a practice and most Catholics really don't understand it. We require proofs of invalidity rather than the word of the person requesting an annulment. The problem is that the proof normally involves the co-operation of the estranged party or their friends - which is often not forthcoming. For some an annulment can be a healing experience, for others it is bruising and uncertain. It is a legal solution not one designed for spiritual growth.
For Greeks, historically less legalised than us Latins, for a pastoral problem there is the pastoral solution of “oikonomia”, where someone might be married a second or even third time at the discretion of the local bishop and his advisers. Subsequent marriages are always marked by a much lesser degree of liturgical solemnity and often restrictions are placed on the couple's ability to receive Holy Communion, sometimes it is forbidden if sexual intimacy is taking place, that is until the couple can live as brother and sister, penitential disciplines can be placed on the couple it all depends on the Bishop or custom of the local Church but such a concession to permit an act contrary to the plain sense of scripture is a concession to human weakness and frailty, in much the same way as in the West we once regarded a non-sacramental marriage.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake