Fr. Z’s Voice Mail & ASK FATHER: Catholic and Orthodox wedding question

z-voice-mailI’ve been monitoring my voice mail.  A question came in a while back which I can now treat.

Let’s have the audio…

This is an interesting question.

I’m a Latin Church, Catholic priest and not really qualified to speak about the specifics of Greek Orthodox Canon Law.  However, we can make some observations about the Catholic Church’s law and practices.

A Latin Catholic who marries a Greek Orthodox requires (for liceity, not for validity) permission from the local ordinary for a mixed marriage.

If she chooses to marry in the Orthodox Church she requires (for liceity, not for validity) permission from the local ordinary for a wedding outside of the Catholic Church.

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Those two permissions are, generally speaking, pretty freely given for these situations.

If the couple decides to marry in the Catholic Church, only the permission for mixed marriage is required (for liceity, not for validity – Can. 1124 – 1129).

Since the Eastern Churches – both those in communion with Rome and those separated from her – require the presence of a priest to provide a sacerdotal blessing to the couple as an essential element of marriage, a wedding between a Catholic and an Orthodox person are officiated by a priest, not a deacon.

Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems that a Greek Orthodox person who marries outside of the Orthodox Church is considered excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church, even though there was a joint statement by the USCCB (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) and SCOBA (the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) issued in 1990 (HERE) which appeared to show agreement and respect for each others’ beliefs and practices of marriage.

Even if that were the case, it would not affect the validity of the marriage from the Catholic perspective.

In virtue of can. 29 of the 1992 Eastern Code of Canon Law, children born to the marriage would be baptized into and ascribed to the Catholic Church of the mother. If the father later enters the Catholic Church, he would be ascribed to the Hellenic Greek Catholic Church (which does not have a hierarchy in the United States). Subsequently, any children baptized would either belong to the Hellenic Greek Catholic Church, or, if both parents agreed, to the Latin Church.

If I have placed my foot wrongly in this, I hope that knowledgeable Eastern Catholic and/or Orthodox clergy can help me out.

Wanna leave me voice mail?  You have three options:

 WDTPRS

 020 8133 4535

 651-447-6265

Since I pay a fee for the two phone numbers, USA and UK, I am glad when they get some use.  I have occasionally thought about how to integrate the audio into posts, when there are good questions or comments, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

TIPS for leaving voice mail.

  1. Don’t shout.  If you shout, your voice will be distorted and I won’t be able to understand you.
  2. Don’t whisper.  C’mon.  If you have to whisper, maybe you should be calling the police, instead.
  3. Come to your point right away.  That helps.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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2 Responses to Fr. Z’s Voice Mail & ASK FATHER: Catholic and Orthodox wedding question

  1. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems that a Greek Orthodox person who marries outside of the Orthodox Church is considered excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church

    That is my understanding of the general facts on the ground, though it’s an “ask your priest/bishop” question for an Orthodox Christian. Depending on the jurisdiction there may be a more or less rigorous application of that law. The general pastoral practice is for Orthodox Christians who want to continue practicing their Orthodox faith in a mixed marriage to a Catholic to marry before an Orthodox priest (or Bishop) with the permission of the Catholic bishop.

    even though there was a joint statement by the USCCB (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) and SCOBA (the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) issued in 1990 (HERE) which appeared to show agreement and respect for each others’ beliefs and practices of marriage.

    This document is a study document by the U.S. Orthodox/Roman Catholic Consultation. It offers the opinions of the members of the Consultation only and makes recommendations to the NCCB and Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).

    As far as I know, these recommendations were never acted upon in any corporate manner, though the pastoral practice of individual bishops may have been influenced. As you know, the NCCB is now the USCCB. SCOBA has actually ceased to exist. The successor organization (created as part of something called the “Chambésy process”) is the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which doesn’t have a nifty acronym and is instead just referred to as the “Assembly of Bishops”. They’re seeking to unify canonical and other disciplinary practice across the entirety of American Orthodoxy, but the project is largely still in its preliminary phases. Once they get their internal discipline sorted, we may see action on these kinds of ecumenical issues.

    However, if their jurisdictional issues get more sorted out and if the planned Orthodox Council of 2016 actually occurs, we may see these issues not decided locally in the U.S., but kicked upstairs to the Council or its successor bodies/projects, in which case it may take a long time for any definite decision to be made (if ever.)

    My pastor likes to suggest that full Catholic and Orthodox unity will take place “one minute after the parousia.” That may be when we get a satisfactory answer to all these questions too.

  2. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Yes, the Greek Orthodox Christian would be excommunicated. However, here is where it gets murky. Many Orthodox often marry Eastern Catholics. In America where there is for the most part no hostility between the two groups (for example Ruthenian Catholic and Carpatho-Russian Orthodox) the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic bishops would often overlook dispensations and within which Church a couple was married. I have personally witnessed an Orthodox priest commune a Byzantine Catholic 13 or 14 year old girl who brought her 1.5 month old Orthodox goddaughter to communion. Canonically the Byzantine Catholic girl shouldn’t have been a goddaughter, but the Orthodox bishop allowed it. Since the Byzantine Catholic girl didn’t come to the Orthodox parish on a regular basis, and because he wanted to be sensitive to her spiritual life, he chose to communion her when she knelt back. This was a surprise to some, but no one cared and all felt the Orthodox priest acted with good pastoral prudence. This was not an isolated incident. I’m neither advocating or condemning this either.