Revista Studii Teologice


JA slide show

"Biserica Ortodoxă în faţa problematicii căsătoriilor mixte"

The Orthodox Church’s Position towards Mixed Marriages

Autor(i): Pr. Patriciu VLAICU

In today’s context marked by cultural and religious pluralism, professional mobility, massive population displacements, a new attitude towards communications, time and space, the matter of mixed marriages is increasingly important and requires a responsible doctrinal and canonical approach. The present study offers the author’s threefold perspective – from the doctrinal, canonical and pastoral standpoint – on the extremely relevant and complex issue of mixed marriages.
Since its inception, the Church has encountered marriage as a civil social institution and, as it organized and structured its doctrine and life, it appropriated the civil marriage through the sacramental union. Although the Apostles and their disciples did not encourage mixed marriages, and even recommended to avoid them, the fact that Apostle Paul and the Holy Fathers as well as canonical Tradition allowed a convert spouse to cohabitate with the non-Christian other, demonstrates that there was no doctrinal incompatibility regarding family cohabitation between an Orthodox and a non-Orthodox. The Church’s circumspection has a pastoral character, intended to avoid the risk of religious indifference or abandonment of Orthodoxy due to the mixed marriage. Canon 31 Laodicea and Canon 14 of the fourth Ecumenical Council allow mixed marriages only if the non-Orthodox spouse pledged to adhere to the Orthodox Church. This also shows that both spouses’ belonging to the Orthodox Church was not an absolute condition for receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony. The fudamental prerequisite for a mixed marriage is the spouses’ willingnes and commitment to start a family in the Orthodox Church, baptize and raise their children in the Orthodox Church.
Based on the fact that mixed marriages were prohibited on pastoral and disciplinarian grounds, and not for a doctrinal reason, local Churches resorted to a nuanced approach and were more strict (to oppose the danger of proselytism) or more permissive, when pastoral-missionary circumstances required lenience. This economy concerning mixed marriages was the decision of the local bishop on behalf of the entire Church, according to the decisions of the Synod of the Autocephalous Church he belonged to, decisions made in the spirit of communion with the entire Orthodox Church. Imposing strictness at all costs, with regard to mixed marriages, may prompt the non-Orthodox spouse to adhere only formally. One who joins the Othodox Church only to please the Orthodox spouse, but not freely and willingly, cannot be considered an actual member of the Church.
The Orthodox Church evinces understanding and openness towards those who wish to bring their families closer to the Church, including the members of mixed families. The pastoral openness of the Church should not be understood as its accepting a relativization of the religious awareness. It is a manifestation of its economy, in the etymological meaning of the term, namely the management of Church life. In its pastoral activity, the Church evinces respect to the freedom granted by God to man, freedom with which God Himself will not interfere. Respecting freedom, however, is not unconditional tolerance to disorder or ignoring the risks, but a pedagogical concern with assuming rules willingly. The Church also points out that if differences in mentality and values are not taken into account, they may cause great difficulties in the life of mixed families or even jeopardize the progress of spouses and their children. Instead, when Church’s spiritual children keep close to it, despite their problems and shortcomings, the Church does not reject them, but strives to reintegrate them to te extent that they are able to do so. Therefore the Church should intensify its activity to prepare teenagers and young people for family life, and tackle all issues related to family life in Christ and in the Church.

Pagini: 167-190