Author Topic: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage  (Read 2025 times)

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Offline William

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Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« on: April 29, 2014, 10:28:57 AM »
Those of you who do not believe in divorce or remarriage, how did you come to terms with the Orthodox church's permissive position on these issues? Are there any particular resources which were helpful for you? This seems especially to be a problem with Catholic converts, along with some in the Orthodox church condoning the sin of contraception.   

I'm not looking for "the Catholics do it too!" and pointing at annulments. I'm not comparing the Orthodox practice with them, but with the words of Christ, who does not seem like He'd be anywhere near as accepting of polygamy as the Orthodox church.
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Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2014, 10:33:48 AM »
I think you can say ~ In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and post with charitable and prayerful intentions.

Offline William

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2014, 10:40:17 AM »
polygamy

Stretching, huh?

This is a scriptural and patristic description of remarriage, but I'm not going to debate. That's why I put it in Convert Issues. I wanted to be honest with my thoughts so that those who have similar backgrounds and biases could empathize and give heartfelt advice. Sorry if the OP is too polemical for you. If you have any helpful resources, books, articles or whatever, it'd be appreciated.
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Offline Alpo

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2014, 10:45:00 AM »
I recall thinking something like if St. Paul allowed marrying widows divorce/remarriage is not necessarily completely verboten either. It's still a serious sin though and something to be confessed and lamented.

Also, AFAIK it's the patristic position.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2014, 10:45:29 AM by Alpo »
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Offline Yurysprudentsiya

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2014, 10:55:50 AM »
Read the Gospels carefully.

Deut. 24:1-4 recognizes the possibility of divorce.

When Christ was asked about this, He says in Matt. 19:8, that divorce, although unnatural, is permitted because of the hardness of men's hearts.  It is a sin, but sometimes it is the lesser of two evils and was tolerated by God because of our weakness.

So too we see Paul stating that it is better to marry than to burn.

Christ understood the physical weaknesses of his hearers.  The Church does the same.  One must first realize that a sin is missing the mark rather than offending Gods honor.  This when the choice is between a lesser sin and a greater sin, the church may, in this case, tolerate the lesser sin to save the sinner.   But it is still sin and the sinner must still be healed. 

Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2014, 10:58:32 AM »
I wouldn't call it permissive at all. Why do you think it is permissive?
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Offline William

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2014, 10:59:23 AM »
I wouldn't call it permissive at all. Why do you think it is permissive?

Because it is permitted.
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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2014, 11:07:36 AM »
I wouldn't call it permissive at all. Why do you think it is permissive?

Because it is permitted.

Here are two definitions - which were you using? The first I would definitely disagree with.

"adjective: permissive
1. allowing or characterized by great or excessive freedom of behavior.

synonyms: liberal, broad-minded, open-minded, free, free and easy, easygoing, live-and-let-live, latitudinarian, laissez-faire, libertarian, tolerant, forbearing, indulgent, lenient; More

overindulgent, lax, soft

2. Law

allowed but not obligatory; optional.

"the Hague Convention was permissive, not mandatory"
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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2014, 11:44:24 AM »
I do not think the issue of divorce is an isolated case, and even the early Church as found in the Bible saw fit to modify some of what Jesus commanded (e.g. compare Matt. 23:1-3 with Acts 15). We also tend to take passages like Matt. 5:29 or Matt. 6:25 as applicable on a selective basis (or we are selective about whether we follow them at all), but do we have that authority to begin with? Who gets to decide which sayings and even commands of Jesus must be followed at all times, which are applicable only in certain situations, etc.? How is it decided? When? We were given Scripture to inform us, Tradition to inform and live out the Christian life, and the Church to guide, complete with leaders who watch out for us (Heb. 13:7, 17), have the power to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18; Jn. 20:21-23), etc. At some point the Church decided that the talk about not divorcing except for cases of adultery was too difficult for many to follow, and attempts to follow it strictly was doing more harm than good. It was seen as part of what Jesus was talking about when he said 'be perfect...' (Matt. 5:48), which is to say, for most of us a goal to strive for, rather than a state that everyone can already expect to live out. Moses modified the wishes of God to meet the weakness of the people; the question is: does the Church have the same authority?

Btw, regarding the passage about divorce in Matt. 19, Fr. John Behr gives some interesting thoughts in this podcast (especially starting at 47:30) which are quite relevant. Whether you will agree with his interpretive thoughts I'm not sure, but that podcast in general is terrific.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2014, 11:45:43 AM by Asteriktos »

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2014, 12:22:34 PM »
This is a scriptural and patristic description of remarriage, but I'm not going to debate.

You equated the practice of the Orthodox Church with polygamy, stating it more as a matter of fact and not merely your personal opinion, but you would be hard pressed to find an Orthodox bishop who, charged with the interpretation and application of canons concerning marriage, divorce, and possible re-marriage, believed his prudential decisions in specific cases were "polygamy".  If you don't want debate, you ought to clearly identify your personal feelings as such or else stop mis-representing the Church from outside it by making inflammatory remarks (the one I cited was not the only one) when you know better.

Quote
I wanted to be honest with my thoughts so that those who have similar backgrounds and biases could empathize and give heartfelt advice. Sorry if the OP is too polemical for you. If you have any helpful resources, books, articles or whatever, it'd be appreciated.

Never having been RC and then converting to Orthodoxy, my initial response would be more along the lines of what Yurysprudentsiya and Asteriktos have posted.  The teaching in the NT itself appears to vary at first glance (even our Lord's words are recorded differently...IIRC, only St Matthew includes the infidelity/sexual immorality clause), so I would say we need to examine how (if?) all of these things fit together in order to determine what "the Scriptural teaching" is concerning marriage in the first place, and then divorce and possible re-marriage.  Then we need to see how "the Scriptural teaching" was understood and applied through history until now and determine how (if?) it is consistent throughout. 

Asteriktos asked at the end of his post whether or not the Church has the same authority as Moses.  While I would argue that the power of the keys is greater than the power of Moses, it is also clear that the power of the keys has its limits (e.g., the Church cannot invoke it to allow three men and an armadillo to marry one another).  So I believe the Church can make the kind of "exceptions" that Moses made as long as it's not overstepping its bounds, and I think the Scriptures do allow enough "wiggle room" (for lack of a better expression) to allow what the Church allows, and I think history, for the most part, confirms this understanding.   

Are you more interested in a general approach to this question, or do you have some specific issues that are concerning to you? 
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2014, 12:33:33 PM »
William, how about you stop stating as given, that which is not given?
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Offline ZealousZeal

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2014, 12:33:40 PM »
Asteriktos makes really good points, and further even in Matthew 19 Jesus says “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Why not take this literally as well? You could ask if the Church is likewise permissive in letting people keep possessions, instead of literally following Jesus' instruction to sell everything and give to the poor.
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Offline William

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2014, 12:46:11 PM »
Is a bishop's permission needed for each case of remarriage, or is this left to the priests?
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Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2014, 01:06:01 PM »
Is a bishop's permission needed for each case of remarriage, or is this left to the priests?

I believe the bishop's permission is needed, a priest cannot do it on his own.  In fact, in some jurisdictions, it's still a decision made (or at least reviewed and approved prior to taking effect) by the Synod or Primate of a Church. 
I think you can say ~ In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and post with charitable and prayerful intentions.

Offline Arachne

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2014, 01:32:32 PM »
Is a bishop's permission needed for each case of remarriage, or is this left to the priests?

In the Greek Church, the bishop's office issues the licences, so permission is needed for each case of marriage, regardless of number.
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Offline Jonathan Gress

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2014, 02:02:06 PM »
William, one of the rules of correct debating is to agree on terms with your opponent. Polygamy means being married to more than one person at the same time. Now, you may believe that there is no such thing as divorce and that that a divorced couple are in fact still married, and then argue from there that if one spouse remarries he is committing polygamy. But you will then be using the term differently from your interlocutor, who recognizes divorce and no longer considers the couple in question to be married. From his point of view, there is no polygamy. So it's incorrect to accuse him of supporting polygamy when the real problem, from your point of view, is that he is supporting divorce and remarriage.

Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2014, 02:08:16 PM »
In order to receive an ecclesiastical divorce, generally speaking, documentation must be submitted to the Bishop by the priest in a Spiritual Court. The Bishop, advised by other experienced priests, who serve on the Spiritual Court, then makes the decision whether or not to grant the ecclesiastical divorce. Most priests will personally present the case and petition, if the petitioner is their parishioner, and time and travel permit.
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Offline William

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2014, 02:14:53 PM »
William, one of the rules of correct debating is to agree on terms with your opponent. Polygamy means being married to more than one person at the same time. Now, you may believe that there is no such thing as divorce and that that a divorced couple are in fact still married, and then argue from there that if one spouse remarries he is committing polygamy. But you will then be using the term differently from your interlocutor, who recognizes divorce and no longer considers the couple in question to be married. From his point of view, there is no polygamy. So it's incorrect to accuse him of supporting polygamy when the real problem, from your point of view, is that he is supporting divorce and remarriage.

Take it up with St. Basil I guess. But it's really not the point of the thread, so no need to make a post about it.
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Offline Jonathan Gress

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2014, 02:33:41 PM »
William, one of the rules of correct debating is to agree on terms with your opponent. Polygamy means being married to more than one person at the same time. Now, you may believe that there is no such thing as divorce and that that a divorced couple are in fact still married, and then argue from there that if one spouse remarries he is committing polygamy. But you will then be using the term differently from your interlocutor, who recognizes divorce and no longer considers the couple in question to be married. From his point of view, there is no polygamy. So it's incorrect to accuse him of supporting polygamy when the real problem, from your point of view, is that he is supporting divorce and remarriage.

Take it up with St. Basil I guess. But it's really not the point of the thread, so no need to make a post about it.

Without citing the relevant passage of St Basil your comeback has no force.

Offline ZealousZeal

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2014, 03:03:27 PM »
William, one of the rules of correct debating is to agree on terms with your opponent. Polygamy means being married to more than one person at the same time. Now, you may believe that there is no such thing as divorce and that that a divorced couple are in fact still married, and then argue from there that if one spouse remarries he is committing polygamy. But you will then be using the term differently from your interlocutor, who recognizes divorce and no longer considers the couple in question to be married. From his point of view, there is no polygamy. So it's incorrect to accuse him of supporting polygamy when the real problem, from your point of view, is that he is supporting divorce and remarriage.

Take it up with St. Basil I guess. But it's really not the point of the thread, so no need to make a post about it.

Then why bring up polygamy at all?
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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2014, 03:06:26 PM »
Btw, regarding the passage about divorce in Matt. 19, Fr. John Behr gives some interesting thoughts in this podcast (especially starting at 47:30) which are quite relevant. Whether you will agree with his interpretive thoughts I'm not sure, but that podcast in general is terrific.

I listened to this again and need to correct myself. It was the podcast I was thinking of, but Fr. John did not touch on what I thought he did, or at least did not go in the direction I thought he had. Still an insightful listen, but not nearly as relevant to this thread as I had said.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2014, 03:07:18 PM by Asteriktos »

Offline William

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #21 on: April 29, 2014, 03:56:36 PM »
What're the best books on these things? I'm looking at the one by Fr. Meyendorff right now.
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Offline OrthodoxInTheDesert

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2014, 05:04:34 PM »
As a Catholic convert, I basically had to hold my nose on this one. I don't accept the practice and, frankly, it's not a dogma of the faith. That and contraception delayed by conversion for a few years. I know the standard line - contraception and remarriage are not guaranteed, only with consent of spiritual father and bishop respectively, etc. However, in practice, that's not how things work. Lots of cradle Orthodox just contracept as they see fit and remarriages are doled out (by some jurisdictions) with very little evidence whatsoever. In the Greek and (not 100% on this) Antiochian jurisdictions, second marriages are not even necessarily done as second marriages (i.e., with the penitential rites). I know this because a good friend married a guy who was married and divorced in the Church. Their marriage was celebrated as a first.

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2014, 05:07:45 PM »
I know this because a good friend married a guy who was married and divorced in the Church. Their marriage was celebrated as a first.

Was your good friend getting married for the first time or was it also her second marriage? 
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Offline OrthodoxInTheDesert

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #24 on: April 29, 2014, 05:08:24 PM »
It was her first.

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2014, 05:14:56 PM »
It was her first.

And that was why it was served as a first marriage rather than the penitential second marriage rite.  In order to use the latter, both parties have to be entering into their second marriage, whether through divorce, death of previous spouses, or a combination. 
I think you can say ~ In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and post with charitable and prayerful intentions.

Offline Anna.T

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #26 on: April 29, 2014, 06:04:31 PM »
Read the Gospels carefully.

Deut. 24:1-4 recognizes the possibility of divorce.

When Christ was asked about this, He says in Matt. 19:8, that divorce, although unnatural, is permitted because of the hardness of men's hearts.  It is a sin, but sometimes it is the lesser of two evils and was tolerated by God because of our weakness.

So too we see Paul stating that it is better to marry than to burn.

Christ understood the physical weaknesses of his hearers.  The Church does the same.  One must first realize that a sin is missing the mark rather than offending Gods honor.  This when the choice is between a lesser sin and a greater sin, the church may, in this case, tolerate the lesser sin to save the sinner.   But it is still sin and the sinner must still be healed. 

I was not Catholic, and I have even divorced and remarried, but at the same time, I have always believed divorce was not to be allowed.

I did struggle a bit with the idea that the Orthodox church seemed to be, to my mind, less strict on it than they should be. Many, many protestant churches are much more outspoken against divorce (and indeed have done much damage to people in unfortunate circumstances). By comparison, the Catholic church can seem permissive, since I have heard they give annulments. (I don't wish to create arguments or be insulting, I know little about this, just have heard of it.)

But yes, protestant churches can and do bar people from ministry positions, set them aside from social functions, and treat them as moral failures on the basis of divorce (let alone remarriage). It happens. Even in the case of Scriptural reasons for divorce.

How I dealt with it ... was one of those cases where I put it aside for a while. In the meantime I heard many suggestions of how priests would handle particular problems a person might have that would make the usual ways of the church impose an undue hardship. Some might not be able to fast as prescribed, and the priest found ways to make the fast meaningful but not detrimental. Or the usual process of reception into the church would cause distress to families, so some parts are done in private. And so on. I was so encouraged to hear of the pastoral wisdom so often shown in the church. It gave me a very different view of the priesthood.

Within that understanding, when I look at the issues surrounding divorce and remarriage, it starts to make a lot more sense. We are human beings. Our lives are messy. We can't always fast as we should, pray as we should, have the family life we should. The goal of the priest seems to always be to take human-ness into consideration, and from our frail ability, find a way to "make things work" that lifts us up and makes us more able to grow spiritually and come closer to God's ideals for us. I have a far, far greater appreciation for the pastoral wisdom of the Church, and the guidance of the priest and other spiritual fathers, than I ever did before.

Given that appreciation and understanding, when I look at things like Yurysprudentsiya mentioned, and I understand how life works, I see the wisdom in considering a person's unique circumstances and how much better it seems to make allowances, where needed, to prevent temptation or occasion to sin, and so on. I am thankful for the compassion of the Church.

Given the circumstances of my first marriage - it would have been cruel if I had had to continue in it. I do believe God forgave me for the divorce. (I was outside the Orthodox church.) My church ... not so much on the forgiveness part. It took years for me to reconcile myself to God over it. The understanding and help of a priest might have made that process much shorter. And still, I struggled over the idea of remarrying. It was almost necessary for me, it would have been very difficult for me to continue without it. It was a compassion, and I do think allowed by God. I don't think I could have met and married my husband without plenty of direct help from God. There were many circumstances that make me think that, and much prayer involved. Still it was hard. Again, a priest to counsel would have been immensely helpful.

Because of all those things, I think I have stepped out of my judgmental-ness. I hope so. It's not my place to judge the Church's stance, but I do see so much wisdom, how it would have helped me, and how in the end, the fruits and spiritual benefits can far outweigh what might be the result of considering it a Law that cannot be made exception for the sake of compassion.

That has made it much easier to accept the Church's position and see it as wisdom and compassion, where my position on the matter before reflected only Law. In short, I think the Church is right and I was wrong.
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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2014, 07:06:35 PM »
As a Catholic convert, I basically had to hold my nose on this one. I don't accept the practice and, frankly, it's not a dogma of the faith. That and contraception delayed by conversion for a few years. I know the standard line - contraception and remarriage are not guaranteed, only with consent of spiritual father and bishop respectively, etc. However, in practice, that's not how things work. Lots of cradle Orthodox just contracept as they see fit and remarriages are doled out (by some jurisdictions) with very little evidence whatsoever. In the Greek and (not 100% on this) Antiochian jurisdictions, second marriages are not even necessarily done as second marriages (i.e., with the penitential rites). I know this because a good friend married a guy who was married and divorced in the Church. Their marriage was celebrated as a first.

I don't mean to pile on, but I see similar things often. Someone doesn't see the penitential rite ( iirc it can be done at another time) and immediately concludes that the Church is lax about divorce.
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Offline Jonathan Gress

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #28 on: April 29, 2014, 07:17:57 PM »
Well, Christ explicitly said that divorce should be forbidden except in the case of fornication. I honestly don't understand how the Catholics explain that one away.

Offline augustin717

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2014, 07:22:56 PM »
As a Catholic convert, I basically had to hold my nose on this one. I don't accept the practice and, frankly, it's not a dogma of the faith. That and contraception delayed by conversion for a few years. I know the standard line - contraception and remarriage are not guaranteed, only with consent of spiritual father and bishop respectively, etc. However, in practice, that's not how things work. Lots of cradle Orthodox just contracept as they see fit and remarriages are doled out (by some jurisdictions) with very little evidence whatsoever. In the Greek and (not 100% on this) Antiochian jurisdictions, second marriages are not even necessarily done as second marriages (i.e., with the penitential rites). I know this because a good friend married a guy who was married and divorced in the Church. Their marriage was celebrated as a first.

I don't mean to pile on, but I see similar things often. Someone doesn't see the penitential rite ( iirc it can be done at another time) and immediately concludes that the Church is lax about divorce.
The church is lax about divorce. Not saying it shouldn't  but let's  gave the. Guts to admit it. In the Romanian church there were a few hundred priests divorced and remarried. dunno how others are but when it comes to divorce the Romanian church is very liberal. And so I hear are the Russians.
"I saw a miracle where 2 people entered church one by baptism and one by chrismation. On pictures the one received by full baptism was shinning in light the one by chrismation no."

Offline katherine 2001

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #30 on: April 29, 2014, 07:38:46 PM »
What're the best books on these things? I'm looking at the one by Fr. Meyendorff right now.

Why be concerned about it?  It is the decision of the person's bishop. 

Offline William

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Re: Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage
« Reply #31 on: April 29, 2014, 07:53:17 PM »
What're the best books on these things? I'm looking at the one by Fr. Meyendorff right now.

Why be concerned about it?  It is the decision of the person's bishop. 

I don't know. I suppose it calls into question certain other things about the very nature of what it to means to obey the Gospel and the authority of the bishops. We all have passages in the Gospels that we read and cringe when we realize how we live in an exact opposite way, but we don't ask the bishops to free us from the explicit commandments of Christ. Perhaps I could write Metropolitan Silouan and ask if I can remember grudges?

I don't care what other people do if they aren't annoying me, especially in their private lives. But when I accepted the Orthodox faith, I felt as though I should get myself to come to terms with its practice on divorce, even if it bothered me.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2014, 07:56:40 PM by William »
Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.