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Author Topic: Do/Can Orthodox Priests perform non-Orthodox weddings?  (Read 2897 times) Average Rating: 0
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88Devin12
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« on: June 12, 2011, 09:30:09 PM »

I was just wondering this the other day. My dad got a call from a couple who were to be married in July. They wanted to be married at that moment, so we went down (they had no one to "witness" so me and my mother served as witnesses) and the "wedding" was accomplished.
(my parents are still Protestants btw - though my mother is very "Orthodox")

While I really don't like the thought of "weddings" being so spontaneous and quick, I got to thinking... Are Orthodox Priests allowed to "marry" non-Orthodox?
I know that only Orthodox receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony according to our tradition. But is it also forbidden for the Priest to officiate at a non-Orthodox wedding?

That is, if a non-Orthodox couple comes to a Priest, and want to be married, but aren't interested in converting, is that Priest allowed to marry them in a non-Orthodox service?

(I am not endorsing this, I'm just asking whether or not it is actually allowed, I assume it's not but I'm asking just to make sure)
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 09:31:02 PM by 88Devin12 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2011, 09:39:40 PM »

An Orthodox Priest is not a Ship's Captain, a Justice of the Peace or a clerk of a Court.

The answer would be ... no.
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2011, 09:44:59 PM »

No.  A priest could not.  I have never heard of this scenario happening in real life.  I am some most priests would be sympathetic.  However, I don't believe they would.

Also, an Orthodox couple could not just immediately get married by asking the priest to quickly marry them.  Unless a bishop gave his blessing if there were pastoral needs involved.
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2011, 10:35:14 AM »

Marriage is a sacrament an is not available to the non-Orthodox. At least one partner has to be Orthodox, and the other must at least have the form of baptism.
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2011, 11:12:06 AM »

I could see a priest being approached by Non-Orthodox especially at large cathedrals and shrines.

However, the Mysteries of the Church are for members of the Church.
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2011, 12:42:44 PM »

Isn't the OP posting about the civil wedding performed by a Priest? In Poland for example Priests can make a civil wedding alongside the sacramental wedding. I suppose the OP might be asking whether Priests can or do perform civil weddings only for non-Orthodox couples.
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2011, 01:16:51 PM »

Isn't the OP posting about the civil wedding performed by a Priest? In Poland for example Priests can make a civil wedding alongside the sacramental wedding. I suppose the OP might be asking whether Priests can or do perform civil weddings only for non-Orthodox couples.

For a priest to do a civil ceremony he would usually have to be granted authority as a justice of the peace by the state.  Priests usually cannot hold an office while a priest.
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2011, 02:18:54 PM »

Isn't the OP posting about the civil wedding performed by a Priest? In Poland for example Priests can make a civil wedding alongside the sacramental wedding. I suppose the OP might be asking whether Priests can or do perform civil weddings only for non-Orthodox couples.

For a priest to do a civil ceremony he would usually have to be granted authority as a justice of the peace by the state.  Priests usually cannot hold an office while a priest.

I guess the civil marriage part depends on what country one is in. In the United States, clergy simultaneously do church and civil marriages. The cleric signs the wedding license after the service. It would seem to me a matter for a priest to consult his bishop if he were in doubt. Were I a priest, I would feel responsible for a couple who came to be for a civil marriage, and I would want to perform a civil marriage, if I could, and never see them again. If they're not Orthodox, I guess I just don't see a point to them having a quickie civil marriage. A civil marriage is, I think, equal to a non-Orthodox or common law marriage in the eyes of the Church, or at least it used to be, until churches started receiving married couples without doing a crowning as well. (Maybe it's economia--they have the form of marriage. Ugh!)
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2011, 02:37:34 PM »

Isn't the OP posting about the civil wedding performed by a Priest? In Poland for example Priests can make a civil wedding alongside the sacramental wedding. I suppose the OP might be asking whether Priests can or do perform civil weddings only for non-Orthodox couples.

That is shocking. That would only occur if the Orthodox priest is the Mayor or Registrar ( Wójt/Burmistrz/Prezydent Miasta or kierownik Urzędu Stanu Cywilnego).

It is one wedding. It is a religious wedding with civil effects.
The state does not recognise the sacramental nature of marriage; and the churches do not exercise jurisdiction over familial affairs. In the reasoning of the state, the marriage is secular, but celebrated in a religious form.
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2011, 02:45:51 PM »

I would guess that military chaplains may be obligated to perform marriages under certain circumstances. This is one of the issues that requires resolution as a result of the abolition of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. PLEASE don't derail this on that issue though. Thanks!
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2011, 02:55:34 PM »

I guess the civil marriage part depends on what country one is in. In the United States, clergy simultaneously do church and civil marriages. The cleric signs the wedding license after the service. It would seem to me a matter for a priest to consult his bishop if he were in doubt.
Same thing here in Canada - civil documents signed after the ceremony. In fact, it's a great photo op! Very frequently a table is set up unobtrusively at the side of the nave for that purpose. I've never heard of a priest or (from my Protestant days) a minister performing a strictly civil ceremony. They are not required to perform marriages at all, unlike publicly paid civil servants who must perform the civil ceremony as long as legal requirements are met.
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« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2011, 03:01:39 PM »

Yes, I meant the civil part can be added to the religious ceremony.
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« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2011, 03:23:34 PM »

I guess the civil marriage part depends on what country one is in. In the United States, clergy simultaneously do church and civil marriages. The cleric signs the wedding license after the service. It would seem to me a matter for a priest to consult his bishop if he were in doubt.
Same thing here in Canada - civil documents signed after the ceremony. In fact, it's a great photo op! Very frequently a table is set up unobtrusively at the side of the nave for that purpose. I've never heard of a priest or (from my Protestant days) a minister performing a strictly civil ceremony. They are not required to perform marriages at all, unlike publicly paid civil servants who must perform the civil ceremony as long as legal requirements are met.

I wouldn't say that the minister or priest or rabbi 'performs' the 'civil ceremony' as well as the religious one. I think that under US law, the state recognizes the solemnization of a marriage by either a civil or a duly authorized religious authority. The signing of the certificates is merely the legal means for the state to register the act of solemnization. I recall relatives attending a family wedding in Slovakia coming home and relating that the bridal couple had to go to both the Church for the religious ceremony and religious solemnization and to the municipal hall for the civil side of things. I think that this is common across Europe, excepting for Great Britain?
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« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2011, 03:50:18 PM »

I wouldn't say that the minister or priest or rabbi 'performs' the 'civil ceremony' as well as the religious one. I think that under US law, the state recognizes the solemnization of a marriage by either a civil or a duly authorized religious authority. The signing of the certificates is merely the legal means for the state to register the act of solemnization. I recall relatives attending a family wedding in Slovakia coming home and relating that the bridal couple had to go to both the Church for the religious ceremony and religious solemnization and to the municipal hall for the civil side of things. I think that this is common across Europe, excepting for Great Britain?
In countries in Europe without a concordat it is. In Poland and Italy, religious marriages are "solemnised" and granted legal power by the state.
So, in France and Germany your church marriage doesn't carry any legal effects and is only a religious event.
The situation in Slovakia until the signing of the Concordat in 1998 in Poland. (Some people in Poland to this day think that it is that way, but they are incorrect.)
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« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2011, 03:52:56 PM »

The Spirit is descended!
I wouldn't say that the minister or priest or rabbi 'performs' the 'civil ceremony' as well as the religious one. I think that under US law, the state recognizes the solemnization of a marriage by either a civil or a duly authorized religious authority. The signing of the certificates is merely the legal means for the state to register the act of solemnization. I recall relatives attending a family wedding in Slovakia coming home and relating that the bridal couple had to go to both the Church for the religious ceremony and religious solemnization and to the municipal hall for the civil side of things. I think that this is common across Europe, excepting for Great Britain?
In countries in Europe without a concordat it is.
Romania has a concordant with the Vatican, and you still have to go to the municipal hall.  I know this personally.
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« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2011, 04:11:01 PM »

I think there may be a misunderstanding here.

I'm not asking whether Orthodox Priests can perform the Orthodox sacrament of marriage with non-Orthodox.
I'm asking whether the Orthodox Priest could perform a "civil marriage" for a couple that is non-Orthodox.

Take this example:

A Priest has a family member, a cousin, who wants the Priest to marry him and his fiance. However, the Priest's cousin and his fiance aren't Orthodox. They ask the Priest to marry them, but not in an Orthodox service.

Is it allowed for the Priest to "marry" the couple, and then sign the marriage certificate?

Here in Missouri, one only has to be "licensed" by the State to marry a couple. It isn't a "governmental" job, simply a license given by the government, permission by the government to perform the marriage.
The person who is licensed has to sign two marriage certificates, along with the couple, and two additional witnesses.
The person performing the service takes the first certificate and submits it to the state, and the couple takes the other and submits it to the government to receive their "official" certificate. (which allows the wife to change her name and their legal status as a married couple)

So basically, all Orthodox Priests who marry couples in the state of Missouri have to be licensed in order for the marriage to be "valid" in the eyes of the state.

That being the case, I was simply wondering if an Orthodox Priest can "marry" a non-Orthodox couple in a non-Orthodox ceremony.
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« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 05:36:52 PM »

"That being the case, I was simply wondering if an Orthodox Priest can "marry" a non-Orthodox couple in a non-Orthodox ceremony."


I don't think they could perform any type of marriage outside of an Orthodox Marriage.

I could see Non-Orthodox approaching a priest to do a civil service but I don't see him doing it.

There are ministers in various denominations that might but not an Orthodox priest.
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2011, 10:11:57 AM »

I wouldn't say that the minister or priest or rabbi 'performs' the 'civil ceremony' as well as the religious one. I think that under US law, the state recognizes the solemnization of a marriage by either a civil or a duly authorized religious authority. The signing of the certificates is merely the legal means for the state to register the act of solemnization. I recall relatives attending a family wedding in Slovakia coming home and relating that the bridal couple had to go to both the Church for the religious ceremony and religious solemnization and to the municipal hall for the civil side of things. I think that this is common across Europe, excepting for Great Britain?
In countries in Europe without a concordat it is. In Poland and Italy, religious marriages are "solemnised" and granted legal power by the state.
So, in France and Germany your church marriage doesn't carry any legal effects and is only a religious event.
The situation in Slovakia until the signing of the Concordat in 1998 in Poland. (Some people in Poland to this day think that it is that way, but they are incorrect.)

Thank you. The Slovak wedding I referenced was pre-1997.  What would be the legal status of church weddings that are not Catholic in these countries?
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« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2011, 10:21:26 AM »

Thank you. What would be the legal status of church weddings that are not Catholic in these countries?

In Poland it is regulated in the bills that describe relations between the state and particular religious community. In Poland such weddings can be performed also by Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, Polish Reformed Church, Evangelical-Methodist Church in Poland, Baptist Union of Poland, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland, Mariavite Church, Pentecostal Church in Poland, Polish Catholic Church and Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.
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« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2011, 10:22:47 AM »

I think there may be a misunderstanding here.

I'm not asking whether Orthodox Priests can perform the Orthodox sacrament of marriage with non-Orthodox.
I'm asking whether the Orthodox Priest could perform a "civil marriage" for a couple that is non-Orthodox.

Take this example:

A Priest has a family member, a cousin, who wants the Priest to marry him and his fiance. However, the Priest's cousin and his fiance aren't Orthodox. They ask the Priest to marry them, but not in an Orthodox service.

Is it allowed for the Priest to "marry" the couple, and then sign the marriage certificate?

Here in Missouri, one only has to be "licensed" by the State to marry a couple. It isn't a "governmental" job, simply a license given by the government, permission by the government to perform the marriage.
The person who is licensed has to sign two marriage certificates, along with the couple, and two additional witnesses.
The person performing the service takes the first certificate and submits it to the state, and the couple takes the other and submits it to the government to receive their "official" certificate. (which allows the wife to change her name and their legal status as a married couple)

So basically, all Orthodox Priests who marry couples in the state of Missouri have to be licensed in order for the marriage to be "valid" in the eyes of the state.

That being the case, I was simply wondering if an Orthodox Priest can "marry" a non-Orthodox couple in a non-Orthodox ceremony.


No, at least not in New York State. From the NYS Department of Health guidelines:

"Who can perform a marriage ceremony?

To be valid, a marriage ceremony must be performed by any of the individuals specified in Section 11 of the New York State Domestic Relations Law. These include:

the mayor of a city or village;
the former mayor, the city clerk or one of the deputy city clerks of a city of more than one million inhabitants;
a marriage officer appointed by the town or village board or the city common council;
a justice or judge of the following courts: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Southern, Eastern or Western Districts of New York, the New York State Court of Appeals, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, the New York State Supreme Court, the Court of Claims, the Family Court, a Surrogates Court, the Civil and Criminal Courts of New York City (including Housing judges of the Civil Court) and other courts of record;
a village, town or county justice;
a member of the clergy or minister who has been officially ordained and granted authority to perform marriage ceremonies from a governing church body in accordance with the rules and regulations of the church body;
a member of the clergy or minister who is not authorized by a governing church body but who has been chosen by a spiritual group to preside over their spiritual affairs;
other officiants as specified by Section 11 of the Domestic Relations Law.

http://www.health.state.ny.us/vital_records/married.htm

As you can see from the highlighted section, a clergy member's legal authority to perform a marriage ceremony in New York is limited to his acting in 'accordance with the rules and regulations of the church body.' So, if the parties were incapable of marrying under Orthodox Church law, the priest would lack the capacity to perform the ceremony.

To use an example, a Roman Catholic or Orthodox priest could not marry a same sex couple in New York in that the rules of their respective Churches would not grant them that power.

Although the law varies from state to state, I suspect that this would hold true across the United States and perhaps Canada as well.

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« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2011, 10:25:33 AM »

Thank you. What would be the legal status of church weddings that are not Catholic in these countries?

In Poland it is regulated in the bills that describe relations between the state and particular religious community. In Poland such weddings can be performed also by Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, Polish Reformed Church, Evangelical-Methodist Church in Poland, Baptist Union of Poland, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland, Mariavite Church, Pentecostal Church in Poland, Polish Catholic Church and Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

Thank you. As you can see from the section of New York State law, American law does not define who is or is not from an authorized religious community, as a state may not grant legal recognition or special privileges to one group over another under our  Federal Constitution.
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« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2011, 10:37:10 AM »

Thank you. What would be the legal status of church weddings that are not Catholic in these countries?

In Poland it is regulated in the bills that describe relations between the state and particular religious community. In Poland such weddings can be performed also by Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, Polish Reformed Church, Evangelical-Methodist Church in Poland, Baptist Union of Poland, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland, Mariavite Church, Pentecostal Church in Poland, Polish Catholic Church and Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

Thank you. As you can see from the section of New York State law, American law does not define who is or is not from an authorized religious community, as a state may not grant legal recognition or special privileges to one group over another under our  Federal Constitution.

Hence the proliferation of websites where anyone can get "ordained" into a fake religion online for free and perform legal marriages. The government cannot determine whether a religion or its ordinations are legitimate or not, so anyone can do so.
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« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2011, 10:45:49 AM »

In some states one can apply to get permission from the state to have a friend or relative officiate at a wedding.  No religious affiliation required.  The officiant is usually given permission to officiate at the one wedding designated.
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« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2011, 11:05:14 AM »



Although the law varies from state to state, I suspect that this would hold true across the United States and perhaps Canada as well.


Yes, here is the case in Ontario:
http://www.ontario.ca/en/life_events/married/004444.html
Note that this is an information sheet, not the Marriage Act itself.
Quote
Who is allowed to perform marriages?

If you are getting married in Ontario, you may have a religious marriage or a civil marriage.

A religious marriage is performed by an official of a recognized religion who has received authorization from the Office of the Registrar General to perform marriages in Ontario. The marriage can be solemnized under the authority of a marriage licence or the publication of banns, depending on the religious body.

Note: Banns shall not be published where either party to the intended marriage had a previous marriage which has been dissolved or annulled.

A civil marriage may be performed by an Ontario judge, justice of the peace or a municipal clerk under the authority of a marriage licence. Each municipality will set its own fees and can even offer civil marriage services. Contact your municipal office for more information.
So the answer is, No. In Ontario at least, an Orthodox priest may not perform civil ceremony in that capacity.

As an aside, if you follow the link I gave, you can follow another link there to bring up a PDF (well over 700 pages) that lists by name all of the clergy authorized to perform marriages in the province. (Yes, my priest is on the list! - but by his legal name, and even complicated a bit more by the fact that he resides in a different city than where we are located.)
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« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2011, 02:05:30 PM »

Interesting though,  the Establishment Clause in the United States precludes this : "A religious marriage is performed by an official of a recognized religion who has received authorization from the Office of the Registrar General to perform marriages in Ontario." The American system's inability to authorize religious officiators leads to the proliferation of 'bogus' clergy whose status can not challenged by the state.

The section from Ontario raised another question: What does this mean?  "The marriage can be solemnized under the authority of a marriage licence or the publication of banns, depending on the religious body." Does this authorize a religious official authorized by the Registrar General to solemnize a marriage without the parties having first obtained a civil license? Is this an either or? I suspect some of you may see where I am going with this vis-s-vis state recognition of marital status.
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« Reply #25 on: June 14, 2011, 03:22:53 PM »

Interesting though,  the Establishment Clause in the United States precludes this : "A religious marriage is performed by an official of a recognized religion who has received authorization from the Office of the Registrar General to perform marriages in Ontario." The American system's inability to authorize religious officiators leads to the proliferation of 'bogus' clergy whose status can not challenged by the state.

The section from Ontario raised another question: What does this mean?  "The marriage can be solemnized under the authority of a marriage licence or the publication of banns, depending on the religious body." Does this authorize a religious official authorized by the Registrar General to solemnize a marriage without the parties having first obtained a civil license? Is this an either or? I suspect some of you may see where I am going with this vis-s-vis state recognition of marital status.
While I don't know for sure, I would guess that a "recognized religion" would be pretty well anything that is registered for a tax-exempt status. That would eliminate Joe Anybody from calling himself a priest/minister and asking for this authorization.

If you're asking about banns, this comes from the article I linked to earlier:
Quote
In most cases, if you are being married in a religious or civil ceremony, you need a marriage licence. However, if you are being married in a religious ceremony, you may be eligible to be married by a publication of banns (making an announcement of the details of your intent to marry in your church, mosque or synagogue). Speak to your religious official for more information.

You might also want to look at the pertinent Wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banns
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« Reply #26 on: September 30, 2011, 01:29:33 AM »

Re # 1 & 15
No.
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« Reply #27 on: September 30, 2011, 09:29:45 AM »

But... but what about the two Anglicans getting married in a Romanian convent in Bram Stoker's Dracula?
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« Reply #28 on: October 01, 2011, 12:40:21 AM »

Re # 1 & 15
No.
Is that all you have to say?
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« Reply #29 on: October 01, 2011, 12:56:49 AM »

Re # 1 & 15
No.
Is that all you have to say?
I read both posts and concluded that this was the correct answer to the question(s) being asked.  Admittedly, I'm not a man who spends 20 minutes saying or writing what can be answered in a sentence.
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« Reply #30 on: October 01, 2011, 01:25:08 AM »

The real-life answer to the OP is... an economia can be granted by a hierarch for one of his priests to perform a non-sacramental service if there are exigent circumstances.

In one case, I married a couple dealing with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in which I was asked to help mediate between members of the family demanding an abortion and other fighting for the life of the child.  Neither of them were EO.  Both sides asked me to do the wedding and, after getting a blessing from the Bishop, I did it.  Now the first child has a sibling and the family is intact.  If I had drawn a hard line and refused, I don't know what would have happened except for more drama.  I was happy with the outcome, and so are they.

This does not mean that we do them all the time, and I certainly would never receive a 'donation' for such a mercy, but you can't rule out all cases.

I know of Orthodox priests that have performed funerals for their heterodox parents.  Obviously, you would not use the same service as for Orthodox, but it is not an impossibility.
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