The Orthodox Church firmly believes in the sanctity of the marriage bond. St. Paul refers to marriage as a “great mystery”, likening the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. Our Lord defended the sanctity of marriage, justifying divorce only on the grounds of unchastity. For this reason the Church is deeply concerned about each marriage and seeks to reconcile differences arising between husband and wife in the normal course of life.
The Church also realistically recognizes that some marriages may become completely unworkable, causing more damage than good, and thus does allow for divorce. Whenever serious difficulties arise threatening the dissolution of the marriage, the troubled couple should seek help from the Church first by contacting the priest rather than come to the Church when things are so bad that nothing can be done. Only when the marriage is seen by the Church to be completely unsalvageable is consideration given to divorce.
Although a civil decree of divorce legally dissolves a marriage in the eyes of the civil authorities, it does not dissolve a marriage in the eyes of the Church if the marriage was blessed in the Orthodox Church. The Church is under no obligation to grant a divorce just because a civil court granted a civil divorce.
In accordance with Church Canon Law, an Ecclesiastical Divorce is granted only under certain circumstances in accordance with the 2011 encyclical of His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, a divorce is given and considered valid for the following reasons:
- Deceit, coercion, fear, mental, emotional and physical abuse.
- Mental illness.
- Impotency or sexually transmitted disease (kept secret prior or during marriage)
- Conspiring against the life or honor of one’s spouse.
- Lengthy separation or abandonment of spouse.
- When one of the spouses is lawfully convicted or imprisoned for a lengthy period of time.
- Immoral behavior with others.
- Various addictions which lead to the destruction of harmonious family relationships.
- Refusal of childbearing.
If such grounds exist, after one year of the issuance of the civil decree of divorce, a petition may be filed with the priest for the ecclesiastical dissolution of the marriage. At that time, the petitioner, who must be current with his/her Stewardship Pledge, must submit all of the following:
- The Church Marriage Certificate
- A certified copy of the civil decree of divorce
- A signed petition to the Ecclesiastical Court stating the grounds of divorce
- A money order or cashier check to the Metropolis of Denver for the processing of the Ecclesiastical Divorce.
The four items, along with the priest’s report as to the results of his efforts to reconcile the couple, are then submitted to the Metropolitan of Denver. The Metropolitan reviews the file, and if there are grounds for an Ecclesiastical Divorce, a date is set for the Ecclesiastical Court to be held. If the Ecclesiastical Court finds sufficient grounds for divorce, the Metropolitan will issue the official decree.
For more information concerning Ecclesiastical Divorce, you should contact the Cathedral Dean.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
3511 Yoakum Boulevard
Houston, TX 77006
Office: (713) 526-5377
Fax: (713) 526-1048
Office Hours: Weekdays 8am-4:30pm