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myrrhbearer
Junior Member

100 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2008 :  23:30:28  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is a question I've been mulling over for a long time. Many of my friends from easternbloc countries are accustomed to having a civil marriage followed by the church wedding(crowning ceremony). Often some time elapses between the two ceremonies, and the couple begins living together as man and wife following the civil wedding,rather than waiting for the Church ceremony. However, I often hear people say, "This or that couple were married only by the state and so were merely registered, therefore that was not considered a marriage in the eyes of the Church and so if they remarry in the Church (to a different party), then technically, this is their first marriage."

What puzzles me is why is the civil union a true marriage in that they don't have to wait to be as man and wife until the church service,(which I feel is fornication if such is the case) but suddenly when they divorce and wish to remarry, it is considered not a real marriage?

I mean, in the church in which I was raised, purity before marriage was carefully taught-most dating couples tried to avoid even holding hands until they were married. To me, this is the norm for Christian couples. Can someone explain this?

BigSinner
Junior Member

291 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2008 :  23:50:00  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Myrrhbearer, a civil union registered by the state is not fornication in the eyes of the Church, because the Church recognizes civil authorities and considers a marriage registered by the civil authorities as being a valid union. Because of that, anyone who has been married in a civil ceremony but not married in a church ceremony is considered to have been married, and if they remarry to another party it will be considered a second marriage.

Think about men who wish to become priests. If it was the case that the Church did not recognize civil unions, then such men could have had many wives they've married and divorced without church ceremonies, prior to marrying their next wife in a church ceremony and becoming a priest. That simply won't happen, because once a man is married civilly, he is married in the eyes of the Church, and he can't become a priest if he marries a second, etc time, even if he only had a church ceremony with his latest wife.

As far as not waiting to become "a man and wife" until after the church ceremony, of course believers should wait, if they truly believe in God and want Him to bless their marriage prior to its commencement. But these days civil and church ceremonues can happen very close to each other, maybe even the same day, so the wait does not have to be very long :)

Edited by - BigSinner on 01/07/2008 23:58:07
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myrrhbearer
Junior Member

100 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2008 :  23:58:28  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Okay brother-thank you! (i shy away from calling you your online name-sorry!),what you have written makes PERFECT sense to me, and is EXACTLY my understanding of the issue.

However, my friends are constantly telling me that if you were only married in a civil ceremony, then it doesn't "count" in the eyes of the Church as a marriage...I never could understand this logic! I wonder why they say this?
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BigSinner
Junior Member

291 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  00:45:55  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We all could be mistaken on a variety of issues :)

Edited by - BigSinner on 01/08/2008 01:05:47
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Aristokles
Senior Member

USA
1097 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  09:56:26  Show Profile  Send Aristokles a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
BigSinner's answer must be in his jurisdiction. In both my and my wife's church the civil marriage is meaningless. Of course, what the bishop(s) in the old countries do is their call.
What myrrhbearer describes, "This or that couple were married only by the state and so were merely registered, therefore that was not considered a marriage in the eyes of the Church and so if they remarry in the Church (to a different party), then technically, this is their first marriage", is indeed exactly what I was told in a personal matter. Moreover, without the Blessing of Holy Matrimony fornication was assumed. Perhaps one of our priests could provide some insight.
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BigSinner
Junior Member

291 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  10:11:10  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Aristokles, it is possible in your jurisdiction for a man to have been married and divorced civilly several times, then marry another woman in a church ceremony and become a priest, since he only had one church marriage?

The civil marriage may be "meaningless" from the point of not having to obtain a bishop's blessing for civil divorce prior to marrying another person in a church ceremony. Whereas if a person has been married in church, they cannot have another church marriage without a bishop first allowing the church divorce. Perhaps, this is what you are referring to?
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Aristokles
Senior Member

USA
1097 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  10:36:56  Show Profile  Send Aristokles a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by BigSinner

Aristokles, it is possible in your jurisdiction for a man to have been married and divorced civilly several times, then marry another woman in a church ceremony and become a priest, since he only had one church marriage?

In both my GOA and my wife's ACROD the answer might be yes. I say "might" as there could possibly be other issues that the bishop might have with such a person seeking this office. Technically, he would have had only only one marriage, but the others (civil) would be viewed as sin.
quote:

The civil marriage may be "meaningless" from the point of not having to obtain a bishop's blessing for civil divorce prior to marrying another person in a church ceremony. Whereas if a person has been married in church, they cannot have another church marriage without a bishop first allowing the church divorce. Perhaps, this is what you are referring to?


The civil marriage doesn't exist in the Church; hence no ecclesiastical permission to re-marry is needed (but a real confession).
I am well aware of obtaining 'permission to remarry' - called a 'divorce' in casual conversation, but not in the documents one receives. As the civil marriage does not exist, there is no recognition of needing permission to remarry.
Yes, one needs the bishop's permission to have a second (or even third) marriage (defined as Church blessing, not civil). I am not rebutting you, only trying to explain (and doing a so-so job of that).

Edited by - Aristokles on 01/08/2008 10:38:16
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Yiorgos75
Average Member

Australia
615 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  18:06:52  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree with Aristokles. In the GOC (across all 4 patriarchies and other canonical autocephalous Greek Churches), if you are married civilly you are not recognised as being married. Moreover, the priest is to deny communion to the person who is married civilly on the basis that they are fornicating and have not repented.

My understanding is that you are not married until you are married in the Church. The State can not make you "sarks mia" -one body- in the Civil Marriage. Only the Mysterion of Marriage within the Church can do so. Anything outside of the Church is viewed as invalid.

The more conservative voices in the GOC also view civilly married people who do not repent and subsequently have a Church marriage, as being cut-off from the Church. They also advocate that such unrepentant people be denied an Orthodox burial as they have died outside the Church. This might be a little extreme, but Greece has had a foretaste of Communism and both Church and State have tried to fight it off virulently.

quote:

Originally posted by BigSinner
Think about men who wish to become priests. If it was the case that the Church did not recognize civil unions, then such men could have had many wives they've married and divorced without church ceremonies, prior to marrying their next wife in a church ceremony and becoming a priest. That simply won't happen, because once a man is married civilly, he is married in the eyes of the Church, and he can't become a priest if he marries a second, etc time, even if he only had a church ceremony with his latest wife.



Wrong! The Church does not recognise the previous marriages. The Church recognises that the person was a fornicator before his Church marriage (or joining the Clergy) and has suffered a kolima which will prohibit him from joining the Clergy. Moreoever, priests are meant to lead exemplary lives before they join the priesthood (Check the guidelines in the epistles and the Canons of the Church).

A person who has fornicated and been civilly married and divorced brings the priesthood in to disrepute and therefore creates scandal in the Church. Such persons are strictly prohibited from becoming priests.

George.

Edited by - Yiorgos75 on 01/08/2008 19:36:48
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myrrhbearer
Junior Member

100 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  18:20:16  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very, very interesting replies. Thank you Ari and Yigorios. I do believe this is indeed the correct position and explains the mystery in my eyes. After all, why is a church wedding required if the civil marriage is recognized by the Church? Does the Church in any way honor the marriage of a pious christian convert from another faith? I am assuming it would be required in this case to also have a wedding in the Orthodox Church?

Thank you SO MUCH for helping me to understand this issue!

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grengliman
Senior Member

USA
1107 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  19:47:21  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I personally know people who have been married in a heterodox church and have had an Orthodox service after conversion. I'm not sure if it was required or because they wished it.

I am interested in the discussion of clergy requirements prior to ones elevation. A man of good charisma and intellect, who is competent, educated and completely in the Lords service will not be permitted to serve as priest for previous sin?

Could you point me in the direction to find a list of sins that would require a bishop block the process? Does this list pertain to the diaconate and lesser orders as well? Thanks in advance.
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BigSinner
Junior Member

291 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  20:33:01  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is a very interesting discussion indeed. Greek and Russian Churches have very different rules on this issue, because ROC certainly views a civil marriage as a valid union and not a fornication.

George said: The Church recognises that the person was a fornicator before his Church marriage (or joining the Clergy) and has suffered a kolima which will prohibit him from joining the Clergy.

The question then arises, what happens if a non-baptised man marries a non-baptised woman in a civil ceremony (let's say they were both virgins prior to marriage), and then, after several years, they get baptised as Orthodox, have an Orthodox wedding, and then the man wishes to become a priest. Would he be denied in the Greek Church because he would be viewed as a former fornicator due to being married only civilly for several years?

Edited by - BigSinner on 01/08/2008 20:38:15
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myrrhbearer
Junior Member

100 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  21:05:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I don't know about that. I'm ROCOR-part of an extremely Russian parish, and I am quite certain (according to what I see and hear), that civil unions are NOT viewed as valid by the Church. But I could be wrong. I'll call my priest as soon as possible to see what he says(I hate to bother him).
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BigSinner
Junior Member

291 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  21:33:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Don't know about ROCOR, it might have a different approach based on a quick Google search (perhaps, you can find something definite, Myrrhbearer?), but here is from the "Social Concept Principles" of the Moscow Patriarchate.

http://www.mospat.ru/index.php?mid=190

Священный Синод Русской Православной Церкви 28 декабря 1998 года с сожалением отметил, что "некоторые духовники объявляют незаконным гражданский брак или требуют расторжения брака между супругами, прожившими много лет вместе, но в силу тех или иных обстоятельств не совершившими венчание в храме... Некоторые пастыри-духовники не допускают к причастию лиц, живущих в “невенчанном” браке, отождествляя таковой брак с блудом". В принятом Синодом определении указано: "Настаивая на необходимости церковного брака, напомнить пастырям о том, что Православная Церковь с уважением относится к гражданскому браку".

Bablefish translation: The Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church on 28 December, 1998, with the regret noted that "some confessors declare to illegal civil marriage or require the dissolution of the marriage between the (spouses), who lived many years together, but in view of various circumstances by those not completed wedding in the temple... Some pastor- confessors do not allow (taking Communion) of those, who live in the "nevenchannom" (non-Church) marriage, identifying such marriage with the lechery ". In the determination accepted by Synod it is indicated: "insisting on the need for church marriage, to (remind) pastors about the fact that the Orthodox Church with respect relates for civil marriage".

Edited by - BigSinner on 01/08/2008 21:47:04
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myrrhbearer
Junior Member

100 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  21:46:20  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hmmm...interesting... the plot thickens...
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Yiorgos75
Average Member

Australia
615 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2008 :  22:55:07  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by BigSinner

This is a very interesting discussion indeed. Greek and Russian Churches have very different rules on this issue, because ROC certainly views a civil marriage as a valid union and not a fornication.

George said: The Church recognises that the person was a fornicator before his Church marriage (or joining the Clergy) and has suffered a kolima which will prohibit him from joining the Clergy.

The question then arises, what happens if a non-baptised man marries a non-baptised woman in a civil ceremony (let's say they were both virgins prior to marriage), and then, after several years, they get baptised as Orthodox, have an Orthodox wedding, and then the man wishes to become a priest. Would he be denied in the Greek Church because he would be viewed as a former fornicator due to being married only civilly for several years?



This is a canonical question that could only be satisfactorily answered by a Bishop, who would take responsibility for the ordination of the particular person. Obviously these things are treated with discretion and it would be hard to see why anyone of that type would be denied the ordination. Note, that the scenario you have posited is very very different to the one you asked earlier (i.e multiple marriages etc etc).

I am truly surprised that the Russian Synod would take such a blase attitude to the question of civil marraiges when they tout themselves as being bulwarks of strict Tradition.

quote:
Originally posted by grengliman
I personally know people who have been married in a heterodox church and have had an Orthodox service after conversion. I'm not sure if it was required or because they wished it.


Strictly speaking and as far as I know, the marriage is required becasue we do not recognise heterodox rites as valid, even marriage.

One wonders what happens in the instance of one of the spouses in the marriage converting to Orthodoxy and the other not converting...I think that being a Bishop or a spiritual father is most certainly fraught with difficulties and danger. This is part of the reason why the Orthodox Church insists on Orthodox people marrying other Orthodox people and having Church marriages.

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BigSinner
Junior Member

291 Posts

Posted - 01/09/2008 :  01:35:54  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
George, the ROC has always emphasized that it is not against the state. It is only against the state forcing people to do sinful things. There is nothing sinful with officially registering two people's commitment to each other as a husband and wife. Of course, it would be highly strange if two Orthodox believers would not want to have a church marriage. Their priest may have to talk to them about their beliefs. But if two non-believers have a faithful civil marriage, how can we view it as fornication, as if it were two people who met at a night club and just decided to live together from that day on.

Edited by - BigSinner on 01/09/2008 01:46:45
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