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DBH on divorce, annulments, remarriage

Iconodule

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Lots of excellent stuff in this article. This part stood out for me:

The very premise that a marriage can be pronounced null and void, in effect retroactively (since that same marriage would be regarded as real and legitimate if suit for annulment had never been brought forward), on the grounds of some original defect of intention that means it was never a real marriage to begin with (though again, it would be considered a real marriage if that defect were never exposed), basically provides a license to regard every marriage as provisional only. After all, in what union of a man and a woman could one not detect some crucial defect of original intention if one were to seek it? Moreover, if one looks at the criteria customarily used to prove that a marriage was never really a marriage, they scarcely differ at all from the criteria that the Orthodox Church—in principle, at least—is supposed to accept as legitimate grounds for divorce. And what is a divorce, after all, other than a recognition that the original marriage was contracted in ignorance and without full mutual commitment to everything a true marriage is?

In the end, both communions grant dissolutions of marriages and tolerate remarriages with perhaps far too little reluctance; certainly neither requires a real penitential reconciliation with the church, as prescribed by the ancient canons. It might make Catholics feel better about their Eastern brethren if the Orthodox Church called these separations “annulments,” and issued formal absolutions from wedding vows under such terms. I have to say, however, that I am glad it does neither. To my mind, the concept of annulment is not only specious and logically contradictory, but also somewhat insidious—in fact, often rather cynical and cruel. It is terrible enough when a marriage—something on which a man and a woman, at what is usually a fairly innocent moment in their lives, have staked their futures and their hopes for happiness—falls apart. It is somehow all the more terrible when, solely for the sake of avoiding institutional embarrassment, we are asked to indulge in the fiction that it was never a real marriage to begin with.
 

Lepanto

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In theory, the Catholic approach is more appropriate to the sacrament of marriage imho. Naturally, I am biased. In practice, I must admit it does not make any difference. Maybe it is even worse for us Catholics.
 

RobS

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To be honest, many modern believers would be shocked to learn how late in Christian history a clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved, and how long it took for it to be absolutely distinguished from what would come to be thought of as common-law unions, or for the church to insist on its solemnization in all cases. They would be even more disturbed, I imagine (as much on democratic principles as religious), to discover that throughout much of the Middle Ages the whole issue of wedlock certified by the church concerned mostly the aristocracy, inasmuch as marriage was chiefly a matter of property, inheritance, and politics. As far as we can tell, among the peasantry of many lands, and for many centuries, marital union was a remarkably mercurial sort of arrangement, one that coalesced and dissolved with considerable informality, as circumstances dictated. And the clergy did not, for the most part, give a damn.
I'd love to read more about this, any suggestions?
 

FinnJames

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RobS said:
To be honest, many modern believers would be shocked to learn how late in Christian history a clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved, and how long it took for it to be absolutely distinguished from what would come to be thought of as common-law unions, or for the church to insist on its solemnization in all cases. They would be even more disturbed, I imagine (as much on democratic principles as religious), to discover that throughout much of the Middle Ages the whole issue of wedlock certified by the church concerned mostly the aristocracy, inasmuch as marriage was chiefly a matter of property, inheritance, and politics. As far as we can tell, among the peasantry of many lands, and for many centuries, marital union was a remarkably mercurial sort of arrangement, one that coalesced and dissolved with considerable informality, as circumstances dictated. And the clergy did not, for the most part, give a damn.
I'd love to read more about this, any suggestions?
Eve Levin, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 (Cornell UP,1989) has a chapter on marriage and covers many other topics as well. The very well researched book is based on Bulgarian, Serbian and Russian canons and penitential manuals among other sources contemporary to the time period she studies. I would say that what Levin reports is in line with the passage you quote in your post.
 

RobS

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Excellent, thank you.
 
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