Divorce and Ordination


If a person had been married, and then is divorced, can he be ordained? Let’s say that the divorce was not his fault, and now he has remarried, can he pursue a priestly vocation?

Does Canon Law prohibit his ordination, or is it left up to the discretion of the local Bishop?

Can a person be ordained without finishing seminary, or is that left up to the discretion of the local Bishop? I know there is an exception to every rule!


Concerning ordination, married men may be ordained to the diaconate and priesthood. However, they must be married only one time to a woman who also has been married only one time. If a man is a widower, he too may be ordained, provided that he has not remarried, and he may not marry after his ordination. The Tradition of the Orthodox Church is that both the priest as well as his wife must have been married only one timeā€”to each other. And this would apply regardless of whether the person is no longer married due to divorce or to widowhood.

There have been a few rare exceptions to this, but I emphasize that in each case it is a “rare” exception, if not an abnormality which is not generally in keeping with the Tradition and canons of the Church.

Seminary: Within the Orthodox Church in America, unless some extraordinary circumstance exists, all candidates for the priesthood are expected to complete the prescribed course of study at one of the OCA’s three seminaries. Graduation from an OCA seminary, however, does not guarantee ordination. Ordination is not the prerogative of a seminary administration but, rather, of the bishops of the Church.

In exceptional cases the Holy Synod of Bishops may agree to permit the ordination of a man who has been prepared for the priesthood under other circumstances, but in general this option is applied only in the case of non-Orthodox clergy who have converted to Orthodoxy, have successfully completed a specialized course of study, and have passed the standard “late vocations” examination. Mature men who aspire to the permanent diaconate may study in specially designed courses for this purpose. It is made clear, however, that the course of study does not “replace” seminary training, does not guarantee eventual ordination to the diaconate, and does not lead to eventual ordination to the priesthood without further training, usually in a seminary. Again, there have been a few exceptions to the above, but in each instance they represent extremely unusual or extraordinary circumstances.