Author Topic: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching  (Read 10557 times)

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Offline Irish Hermit

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No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« on: March 12, 2009, 07:31:13 AM »
In another thread it has been said that the Holy Mysteries of Chrismation and Holy Orders are inextinguishable.   I have always been taught that that is a Roman Catholic position.   What have the Orthodox members of the list been taught about this?

No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching

"....no evidence concerning the indelible mark theory can be found in
Patristic teaching. On the contrary, the canonical data leave no doubt that
a defrocked priest or bishop, after the decision of the Church to take back
his priesthood, returns to the rank of the laity. The anathematized or the
defrocked are in no way considered to maintain their priesthood."

___________________________________________

"Christian Priesthood and Ecclesial Unity: Some Theological and Canonical
Considerations"


By Professor Constantine Scouteris
School of Theology of the University of Athens

http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/canon_law/scouteris_priesthood_unity.htm


This.... comes to point that the priest does not possess in himself an
indelible mark as if it were a magical seal which grant him a private
efficacy to perform the Eucharist or any other liturgical action, apart from
the ecclesial body. The priestly ministry is rather a charismatic gift to
serve and edify the body of the Church. It is a permanent rank of service
only in union and by the discerning authority of the Church.

The doctrine of the "indelible mark" attained at ordination to the
priesthood seems to have originated in the Scholastic period of the Western
Church. This same conception was at times borrowed by Eastern theologians
thereafter. The teaching purports the grace of ordination as an indelible
irrevocable mark upon the soul of the ordained individual that sets him
apart for priestly service analogous to the Levite rank and the priesthood
according to the order of Melchizedek in the Old Testament. It is
interesting to mention here that the sixth Ecumenical Council in its 33rd
canon condemns the practice of Armenian Christians who had embraced the Old
Testament custom concerning the Levitic rank and did not accept for the
priesthood anyone who was not of this so called "priestly lineage". The
reasoning for the adoption of the Old Testament typology in both cases seems
to be that an identification mark is a constitutive element of priesthood.
In the later case it is conceived as an inherited trait, while in the former
which concerns us here, it is viewed as irrevocably and individually
attained at the ordination rite.

The logical conclusion of the "indelible mark" is that the ordained
individual possesses forever this peculiar mark of priesthood which can
never be removed by anyone nor can it be surrendered in any circumstance. It
is evident that such a doctrinal consideration absolutizes and isolates
priesthood from the event itself of the ecclesial communion. Priesthood here
is distortingly objectified and over-estimated assuming a totalitarian
magnitude. It is imposed over the Church which is unable to deprive the
ordained. individual of its characteristic mark, even if he is unworthy to
maintain the ecclesial grace. In fact this doctrine concerning the indelible
mark divorces the priesthood from its organic context of the ecclesial life.
Thus the ordained person possess a self sufficient power which is higher
than the Church itself And the Church is not able to take back the indelible
mark from an individual even if he is defrocked and excommunicated.

Interpreting the 68th Apostolic Cannon which refers to the impossibility of
repeating the sacrament of ordination16, St. Nicodimos the Agiorite explains
that ordination cannot be repeated because it is done according to the Type
of the First and Great Priest who entered once and for all into the holy of
holies and there granted eternal salvation. Yet, he unswervingly rejects the
doctrine of the "indelible mark" of priesthood and attests that it is the
"invention of scholastics"17. Nevertheless, according to St. Nicodimos, the
doctrine is borrowed by Nicholas Bulgaris, Koresios and many other
theologians of the past century and some still somehow adhere to it today.

Despite the fact that the indelible mark theory acquired dogmatic
formulation in the Council of Trent18, in most circles of the Roman Catholic
Church, after the Second Vatican Council, the foundational framework of
effecient causality and ex opere operato, which gave rise to such an
understanding of priesthood, is reckoned as belonging to a bygone age and
abandoned for a more dynamic and ecclesiological approach of sacrament19.

It should be mentioned in this connection that as far as we know, no
evidence concerning the indelible mark theory can be found in Patristic
teaching.  On the contrary, the canonical data leave no doubt that a
defrocked priest or bishop, after the decision of the Church to take back
his priesthood, returns to the rank of the laity. The anathematized or the
defrocked are in no way considered to maintain their priesthood. The
canonical tradition that in the case of his ministerial rehabilitation this
person is not re-ordained does not imply a recognition that he was a priest
during the period of his punishment20. It simply means that the Church
recognizes that which had been sacramentally performed and the grace of
ecclesiastical ministry is restored upon his assignment to an ecclesial
community with no other sacramental sign or rite.


Offline Fr. George

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009, 10:10:39 AM »
It was presented to us in our Canon Law class that there is no indelible mark (this was in the context of the canons regarding defrocking, or "returning to the status of a layman").  In fact, the language of the canons of the Church seems to imply no such indelible mark, as they speak of making someone into a layman again, with no rights, responsibilities, or privileges of a clergyman.
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Offline witega

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2009, 10:53:06 AM »
Same as Cleveland here. "Defrock" is like "Christmas" or "Easter", a word picked up from Western ecclesiastical usage that is comparable too but doesn't literally translate the original--the literal translation for the primary punishment the canons present for clergy is "laicize", 'to make laity.'

The sacramental authority/power of a priest (or bishop) flows from their position as functionaries of the Church. Remove the position (either through schism or canonical sentence) and you remove the authority/power.
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2009, 11:55:40 AM »
And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2009, 12:44:55 PM »
The canons may say that, but my priest thinks otherwise - "A priest is always a priest" even though he may have been laicized.  Of course, his dad has been a priest for 55 years now.  I think his quote the was in the context of dealing with this priest passing through that ended up being deposed , but wondering what/why the heck the guy was doing what he was and not repenting and acting like a priest again.  Of course, I don't know what this priest did (I let him stay in my empty other room for a week while in transit), but it wasn't my business anyways.

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2009, 12:48:08 PM »
And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?

St. Basil (3rd canonical epistle): "a layman excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but a clergyman deposed cannot."

To the extent that it does occur, it's either a technical defect in the original judgement (i.e., a higher Synod's determination that the original sentence was incorrect) or simply a classic example of 'economy' (a bishop or synod, on their own apostolic authority, bending the rule for the good of the Church or the salvation of a soul).
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Offline pensateomnia

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2009, 01:03:04 PM »
The canons may say that, but my priest thinks otherwise - "A priest is always a priest"

That's certainly the popular opinion -- Melchizedek and all that -- but the canonical tradition is VERY different in letter and spirit.

The same conflict exists when it comes to understanding the sacrament of marriage. Popular opinion speaks of marriage being "eternal". In the canonical tradition, not so much.
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2009, 01:28:39 PM »
The canons may say that, but my priest thinks otherwise - "A priest is always a priest"

That's certainly the popular opinion -- Melchizedek and all that -- but the canonical tradition is VERY different in letter and spirit.

The same conflict exists when it comes to understanding the sacrament of marriage. Popular opinion speaks of marriage being "eternal". In the canonical tradition, not so much.
How so, when they refer to the remarriage of the widowed as "polygamy?"

And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?

St. Basil (3rd canonical epistle): "a layman excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but a clergyman deposed cannot."

To the extent that it does occur, it's either a technical defect in the original judgement (i.e., a higher Synod's determination that the original sentence was incorrect) or simply a classic example of 'economy' (a bishop or synod, on their own apostolic authority, bending the rule for the good of the Church or the salvation of a soul).
Another case may be when a priest requests it (family reasons, economic reasons, etc), and then circumstances change that he may be able to again render service.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2009, 01:33:35 PM by ialmisry »
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2009, 01:52:00 PM »
The canons may say that, but my priest thinks otherwise - "A priest is always a priest" 

That's certainly the popular opinion -- Melchizedek and all that -- but the canonical tradition is VERY different in letter and spirit.

The same conflict exists when it comes to understanding the sacrament of marriage. Popular opinion speaks of marriage being "eternal". In the canonical tradition, not so much.

Welcome back!  Yeah, marriage is another good example from the canonical tradition.
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2009, 05:06:15 PM »
Does the priestly order have any meaning whatsoever outside of the priest's role as celebrant of the Holy Mysteries within the community of his local church?  Separated from the Holy Mysteries and his church community through defrocking/deposition/excommunication, is the priest ontologically different from anyone else outside the Church?
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2009, 06:58:37 PM »
Does the priestly order have any meaning whatsoever outside of the priest's role as celebrant of the Holy Mysteries within the community of his local church?  Separated from the Holy Mysteries and his church community through defrocking/deposition/excommunication, is the priest ontologically different from anyone else outside the Church?
Actually that's the bishops role.  The priest is the delegate of the bishop to celebrate the Holy Mysteries in the bishop's stead within the local parish.
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
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if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2009, 02:10:39 AM »
And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?

The last paragraph of the first message addresses this.

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2009, 03:35:14 AM »
Does the priestly order have any meaning whatsoever outside of the priest's role as celebrant of the Holy Mysteries within the community of his local church?  Separated from the Holy Mysteries and his church community through defrocking/deposition/excommunication, is the priest ontologically different from anyone else outside the Church?
Actually that's the bishops role.  The priest is the delegate of the bishop to celebrate the Holy Mysteries in the bishop's stead within the local parish.
Actually, the different roles of the priest and the bishop as they both relate to celebration of the Holy Eucharist has no bearing on what I just asked.  Whether the priest serves as one of several subordinate presbyters surrounding the bishop at a cathedral liturgy or as the delegate of a bishop to a parish in his diocese, my query is equally relevant either way.
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2009, 06:10:28 AM »
The canons may say that, but my priest thinks otherwise - "A priest is always a priest"

That's certainly the popular opinion -- Melchizedek and all that -- but the canonical tradition is VERY different in letter and spirit.

The same conflict exists when it comes to understanding the sacrament of marriage. Popular opinion speaks of marriage being "eternal". In the canonical tradition, not so much.

Speaking of that, I remember a bishop telling me that when a divorced couple remarry again, the ceremony is different.  I don't remember the specifics, but he gave the example of Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2009, 07:56:41 AM »
I read a story once in Serbia about a man who was ordained a priest right before Tito took over in Jugoslavia.  When the communists came in (as the article puts it), the man was not allowed to serve as a priest anymore (after having been a priest for only a year), and was forced to join the common labor force.  When communism fell in the 1980's this man decided to go back to church (he was in his late 60's or early 70's at that point) and attended a divine liturgy in the church near his house. 

As the priest was about to receive communion he couldn't lift up the chalice nor the paten.  An angel then appeared to him and said to him (paraphrasing here..) "You may not recieve communion until every priest receives communion" and the priest told the angel "but i'm the only priest here!" and the angel responded "search the crowd for another"

So the priest in desperation turned to the people there and told them what happened and asked if there were any other priests in the crowd.  At that point the man in the crowd remembered his ordination and etc. and walked forward presenting himself to the priest.  He then got vested and proceded to the chalice.  Miraculously the chalice and paten moved as soon as he touched them. 

The article said that he lived out the rest of his life as a priest. 


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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2009, 08:54:06 AM »
And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?

St. Basil (3rd canonical epistle): "a layman excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but a clergyman deposed cannot."

To the extent that it does occur, it's either a technical defect in the original judgement (i.e., a higher Synod's determination that the original sentence was incorrect) or simply a classic example of 'economy' (a bishop or synod, on their own apostolic authority, bending the rule for the good of the Church or the salvation of a soul).

Excommunication is different than laicization. A former clergyman can be reordained, but if after being laicized he is excommunicated, then he cannot be reordained according to the canon. So yes, ordination, like chrismation (repentant heretics are often brought back in to the Church via Chrismation) can be repeated if removed.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2009, 08:56:07 AM by Nigula Qian Zishi »
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2009, 02:18:31 PM »
And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?

St. Basil (3rd canonical epistle): "a layman excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but a clergyman deposed cannot."

To the extent that it does occur, it's either a technical defect in the original judgement (i.e., a higher Synod's determination that the original sentence was incorrect) or simply a classic example of 'economy' (a bishop or synod, on their own apostolic authority, bending the rule for the good of the Church or the salvation of a soul).

Excommunication is different than laicization. A former clergyman can be reordained, but if after being laicized he is excommunicated, then he cannot be reordained according to the canon. So yes, ordination, like chrismation (repentant heretics are often brought back in to the Church via Chrismation) can be repeated if removed.

You're misreading St. Basil. The context of the quote I offered is that a clergyman who was deposed (for cause) was *not* to be excommunicated as well because this would be double punishment for the same crime. St. Basil then adds that, in any case, deposition is already a more severe punishment than excommunication because you can be 'un-excommunicated' but you can't be 'undeposed'.

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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2010, 10:07:54 PM »
And if they are restored to the ranks of the clergy after being laicized?

St. Basil (3rd canonical epistle): "a layman excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but a clergyman deposed cannot."

To the extent that it does occur, it's either a technical defect in the original judgement (i.e., a higher Synod's determination that the original sentence was incorrect) or simply a classic example of 'economy' (a bishop or synod, on their own apostolic authority, bending the rule for the good of the Church or the salvation of a soul).

Excommunication is different than laicization. A former clergyman can be reordained, but if after being laicized he is excommunicated, then he cannot be reordained according to the canon. So yes, ordination, like chrismation (repentant heretics are often brought back in to the Church via Chrismation) can be repeated if removed.

You're misreading St. Basil. The context of the quote I offered is that a clergyman who was deposed (for cause) was *not* to be excommunicated as well because this would be double punishment for the same crime. St. Basil then adds that, in any case, deposition is already a more severe punishment than excommunication because you can be 'un-excommunicated' but you can't be 'undeposed'.

Is the error in the translation then?

"X excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but Y cannot."

Cannot what? Be restored to the degree from which he falls, no?
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2010, 11:08:50 AM »
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Re: No Indelible Mark of the Priesthood in Patristic Teaching
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2010, 02:33:58 AM »
Technically, neither position is correct.

A priest is always a priest, as is a bishop which is why ordination is not repeated if they are defrocked. However, their priesthood is "tied" that is, the priesthood is the tap through which the Holy Spirit flows out sacramentally through the Holy Mysteries, so when the Holy Synod suspends or defrocks a deacon, priest, or bishop, they are simply closing - and sealing - the tap. The tap is still a tap though. Elder Paisios the Athonite was of the opinion that in most cases clergy should not be defrocked, but suspended for life and given jobs in diocesan offices. Note, most cases. Of course I'm sure the Elder is referring to involuntary manslaughter, adultery, and so on. Hence why he said "most cases" ie: not pedophilia, heresy etc.

There is an anecdotal story from the days of Turkish rule in Greece. I believe I heard it in a lecture by Fr. Stephanos Anagnostopoulos when he had come from Greece to visit Canada. He has written three or four very good books. So far they are only available in Greek (except for one, Miracles on the Divine Liturgy). Specifically, he was referring to notes from his book "Knowledge and Outliving of the Orthodox Faith" which is a large catechism book.

The story is about a Greek Orthodox Bishop who apostatized during Turkish Rule, became a muslim, and some sort of chief Imam in a city in northern Greece.  One day, a very pios woman saw the ex Bishop now Imam in the street, and spit at him. Sometime later the woman died. In Greece, there is the custom of exhuming the dead after 3 yrs of death, to wash the bones in wine and to put them in a marble box which in turns goes into a chapel set aside for this purpose. When the priest and the woman's family went to exhume her, they found that she was not decayed: she was simply, black and hard as rock, and her facial features looked like she was screaming. The people that knew her well in life were called and asked if she could have done any serious sin in order for her body not to decompose naturally, but to be in such a hideous state. Someone said well, she might have been a witch.. but she was extremely pious, always in church, an upstanding Christian in all regards. One women though said well wait.. one day we were going somewhere and the ex bishop, now imam came our way, and she spit at him. The priest sent word to the ex bishop of this event and asked if he would read the prayer of forgiveness over her. He replies that he could not go do it in person, but if the local bishop would send him permission to read the prayer as well as an omophorion and stole, he would read it in secret. The local bishop agreed, he read it, within a few days she had decomposed and was bones.