Divorce and Remarriage

Question

You said:

” Orthodox Church recognizes the sanctity of marriage and sees it as a life-long commitment. However, there are certain circumstances in which it becomes evident that there is no love or commitment in a relationship. While the Church stands opposed to divorce, the Church, in its concern for the salvation of its people, does permit divorced individuals to marry a second and even a third time.

“The Order of the Second or Third Marriage is somewhat different than that celebrated as a first marriage and it bears a penitential character. Second or third marriages are performed by “economy”—that is, out of concern for the spiritual well being of the parties involved and as an exception to the rule, so to speak.”

But, unless I am mistaken, Jesus said that unless the divorce is because of adultery (Mt 5:31-32), or it is because a non-believer wants out of the marriage (I can’t find the source), the divorcees cannot remarry.


Answer

Thank you for your enquiry concerning answers which had been previously offered with regard to second and third marriages and the world’s Orthodox population.

Of course I am aware that Christ’s scriptural injunction admits adultery as the only reason for divorce. The question that I had answered involved the contemporary practice of the Orthodox Church rather than the scriptural injunction. I have been a priest for nearly 25 years. I have seen quite a number of couples seek divorces. I have never seen a case that did not involve adultery—whether it be a case of giving oneself over to another person, or to another thing, such as alcohol, drugs, work, etc. One can surely put their spouse in a secondary position as a result of becoming infatuated, obsessed and/or controlled with/by another person; one can also surely put their spouse in a secondary position as a result of becoming infatuated, obsessed and/or controlled with/by power, wealth, addictions, careers, etc.

In the answer that was given the principle of economia (“the Church, in its concern for the salvation of its people”) was being emphasized.


Please bear in mind, that usually those who submit questions are coming from a very specific perspective. I try to answer their specific questions without providing a complete theological treatise on every minute detail of a subject. Unfortunately, when we “generalize” the questions and answers for the web page, the nuances are sometimes lost.

As a further clarification, my original answer talks of “an exception to the rule”—implying that the “rule” is one marriage. Also it is very clear in the answer that “the Church stands opposed to divorce.” Had the original questioner asked, “What is the Orthodox ideal of Marriage?”, I would have responded somewhat differently. The question, however, was whether or not the Orthodox Church permits second marriages with special attention to whether there is a difference in the service.