Sunday, June 22, 2008

Divorce and remarriage East and West
This essay (part II) from the late high-church Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias (Zoghby) has been blogged by several people including Ad Orientem and Eirenikon. He defends Orthodox practice.

That discipline (church divorce for certain hard cases — adultery, abuse and abandonment — and church remarriage for the wronged party) has always appealed to me emotionally and seemed fair that way, and later I learnt the issue was never a bone of contention historically between the two sides! That seems to be the authentic position and I accept it.

The archbishop’s (and our own Samer al-Batal’s) Melkite Church, under Rome since 1724 and the most Orthodox/high-church of all the major Greek Catholic bodies, kept its traditional discipline on this for over a century after the union. As AO notes today they all follow the same rules as RC.

The reason for this Orthodox economy was practical: nothing to do with swinging but so the wronged party and children could survive, hard to do without an intact household or an income.

That said logically it’s never made sense to me. So sometimes adultery is OK?

This recently came up in the secular news: in New Jersey a resigned Orthodox priest, who was divorced, remarried. In that case, if he was the wronged party, his bishop can allow that that but such men can no longer serve as a deacon or priest, part of the Orthodox version of clerical celibacy, like almost all bishops are monks. (Even a widowed deacon or priest can’t remarry.) Here is the opinion of my old friend Dustin Hudson, himself (as of today) now a priest, Fr Anastasios.

Roman Catholic moral theology is the gold standard. (On divorce and remarriage when not applying economy Orthodoxy in theory agrees with Rome.) The Pope’s right about contraception and many Orthodox since about the 1960s aren’t. But, as I wrote above, if our holy mother the church has no problem historically with this economy for remarriage then neither do I.

P.S. Unless I’m told otherwise I’ll assume the other Eastern churches (Coptic and Armenian for example) are the same on this as the Orthodox — as they are on clerical marriage. Common knowledge, when it’s heard of these churches at all, assumes they’re all Orthodox which is half-right. They’re not all alike but the near-consensus now is they are in fact Orthodox of non-Byzantine rites who historically became estranged from that communion and are not heretics (Monophysites for example). Reunion among these families of churches seems likely.

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