Eastern Orthodox Advice On A Roman Catholic Problem: Divorce, Annulment, And Remarriage

Recent discussions and debates and political brokering in Rome has centered on relational ethics, including the question of divorce.  Although most non-Roman Catholics probably look to papal infallibility as the main stumbling block to uniting or converting to Roman Catholicism, I must confess, as a pastor, the Roman Catholic approach to marriage has always struck me as significantly vexing and problematic. Sometimes I even see it as a bigger problem than Infallibility, which, if it requires a council, doesn’t seem impossible for the two Churches to navigate at some point.  Over dinner during this past weekend’s Image and Spirituality Symposium, I told Adam DeVille that I thought the solution might be for Rome to look to Eastern canon law, which is technically within its own tradition.  Whether that’s viable or not, I don’t know, but seemed to me to be an available “out” if it can be “legislated” correctly in Western Canon Law (and that I cannot say for sure as I’m no Roman Catholic canon lawyer).  Into the foray enters Andrew Cuff, a Ph.D. student at Catholic University (from where he has already earned an MA).  Mr. Cuff seeks to articulate formal distinctions around different kinds of adultery and offers that as a solution–a unique suggestion, with an Eastern Orthodox utilizing Western categories as a means of aid and suggestion:  adultery and the synod on the family

3 Responses

  1. CJ

    I think the RCC would be in for another Lefebvrist schism if they adopted this approach. Most Catholics would rationalize it much as they rationalized the changes to “no salvation outside the church” and religious freedom. But I think there would be a not-insignificant portion of the church that would see it as changing an infallible doctrine and go into schism.

  2. James Ignatius McAuley


    I have come to the conclusion that many Roman Catholics do not understand Rome’s position on marriage, divorce and annulment. I am presently reading Remaining In the Truth of Christ and it is the best presentation/exposition of Rome’s position that I have ever read. It also directly discusses the Orthodox positions (positions as there is no uniform approach among the autocephalous Churches).

    A few points:

    1.) In the background is, and always will be the showdown between King Henry VIII of England and Pope Clement VII and the Anglican Schism.

    2.) Eastern Canon law has its own approaches, but as I understand, is more strict than the Orthodox approach. On point, I remember learning about a speech/discussion the Melkite Archbishop Joseph Raya gave at Christ the King Seminary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo- Melkites who wanted a divorce became Antiochen Orthodox and those aggrieved Antiochens by a divorce would become Melkite.

    1. You could well be right on Eastern Canon law. I meant within the Orthodox Churches, i.e. marriage up to three times. That something like that could be an answer but I admit I don’t know how Rome could work that out. One would think there’d be a way somehow.

Comments are closed.