Diocese of the West
The Orthodox Church in America
September 7, 1991
St. John, Novgorod Wonderworker
Dear Father N. N.,
The Lord's blessings be upon you!
(...) I will sum up the normal steps we take in petitioning and granting
blessings for second marriages. Please refer to it in the future. (...) I'm
sure you'll agree that our procedures are more in line with Orthodox
theology as you understand it than some other procedures followed in the
past and elsewhere. You may wish to keep this handy for any future cases
which may come into your pastoral care.
The procedures are based on these premises:
- In an Orthodox marriage, God Himself is the Agent of the marriage: "What
GOD hath joined together, let no man put asunder."
- The Orthodox person who effects a divorce sins thereby, except in the
cases outlined in the Scriptures and Canons, for example, in a case of
adultery, or the taking of monastic vows by husband and wife when the
husband is elected to the episcopate.
- In an Orthodox marriage, it is only the husband or wife who are agents
of a divorce, and the Church does not divorce anyone. (The "Church
divorces" of the past, those accomplished in societies where the
(state)Church performed such functions of the state as marriage registry
because the civil law provided for that, make no sense at all where the
Church is free of such civil obligations, and the priest does not therefore
have to act as a county clerk or other bureaucratic functionary of the
- THE FIRST, MAIN, AND THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE IS THE SALVATION OF
THE PERSONS BEING MARRIED. And the basis of a second marriage, whether of a
divorced person or a widowed one, is the same, but it is based on the
Apostolic injunction, "Better to marry than to burn."
Based on the above premises:
The person coming to the parish priest petitioning for the blessing of a
second marriage must attest to the following:
I hope this is all relatively clear, Father N. Perhaps it's providential
that this case has arisen right now: it will clarify future courses of
action for you in similar cases which are bound to arise in an age when
Americans, even Orthodox Americans, believe everyone is entitled to an
ideal marriage, or at least one which lives up to "expectations."
- He or she has exhausted, by his or her own persistent and untiring
efforts, all means of reconciliation with the spouse God gave him or her,
and that spouse has, in spite of his or her protestations and
representations and efforts at reconciliation, sued for divorce and
- He or she has repented of the sin of divorce, and this was an
involuntary sin, except in cases having a scriptural or canonical basis,
where it may be, but not necessarily, a voluntary sin, based on a refusal
- He or she has lived some time in this divorced state and now fears for
his or her own salvation if he or she does not marry the person whom he or
she now intends to marry.
- The Priest gives counsel to the person coming for a divorce, and insures
that the above is, in fact, the case, as far as he can determine. He then
advises the petitioner to put a petition in writing, petitioning for a
second marriage and attesting to the above. He obtains a copy of the
- If the Priest is in agreement with the petitioner, he then sends me his
own petition, petitioning to be blessed to marry the petitioner to his or
her intended. He includes in the petition his own estimation of the facts
of the case, a clear statement that the petitioner has, indeed, repented,
and has undergone the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He includes
in his petition a copy of the petitioner's petition and divorce decree, but
NO DIOCESAN FEES.
Sending a blessing and assuring you prayer
With love in Christ
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