“What God has joined, let not man separate.”
(Matthew 19:6)

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 21 November 1973 encyclical of His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, a divorce is given and considered valid, when:

1. … a marriage is entered into by force, blackmail or false reasons.
2. … one or both parties is guilty of adultery.
3. … one party is proven to be mad, insane or suffers from a social disease which was not disclosed to the spouse prior to the marriage.
4. … one party has conspired against the life of the spouse.
5. … one party is imprisoned for more than seven years.
6. … one party abandons the other for more than three years without approval.
7. … one partner should be absent from home without the others approval, except in in stances when the latter is assured that such absence is due to psycho-neurotic illness.
8. … one partner forces the other to engage in illicit affairs with others.
9. … one partner does not fulfill the responsibilities of marriage, or when it is medically proven that one party is physically impotent or as the result of a social venereal disease.
10. … one partner is an addict, thereby creating undue economic hardship.

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:

1. The Church Marriage Certificate
2. A certified copy of the civil decree of divorce
3. A signed petition to the Ecclesiastical Court stating the grounds of divorce
4. A money order or cashier check in the amount of $250 made out to the “Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco” 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. 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 parish priest.

The Sanctity of Human Life

A major and overarching concern of the Church arises with its commitment to the God-given sanctity of human life. Some of the developments of the biological manipulation of human life, though promising amazing therapeutic achievements, may also be understood as undermining respect for the integrity of human existence. Others may be seen as providing a new means of healing human illness. Discerning the difference is the challenge the Church faces in developing it’s teaching on these newly appearing issues.

  • Human Life

    The Church’s teaching about human life is based on Holy Tradition, including the Scriptures as a primary resource and the ongoing teaching and interpretation of the Orthodox Faith. Life is a gift of God in the formation of the created world. All life is precious, but human life is uniquely created by God in the “image and likeness of God.” Human life as such is deserving of deep respect and individual human beings are to be treated in accordance to their inherent human dignity.

    Thus, racism, unjust prejudicial treatment of men and women, genocide, forms of sexual exploitation, domestic violence, child abuse, rape, theft or destruction of legitimately owned property, deceptions and deceit, environmental plunder and other such manipulative behaviors violate the human dignity of others. Human life as a gift of God should be respected.

  • Circumcision

    It is known that Jews and Moslems practice circumcision for religious reasons. Some doctors deem circumcision necessary for reasons of health and cleanliness. The Orthodox Church does not prohibit circumcision as long as it is not practiced for religious reasons and is performed by a physician.
  • Suicide

    Since no one is permitted to take the life of another, no one is permitted to take his or her own life, that is, to commit suicide. Suicide is self-murder and consequently a grave sin.

    Committing suicide signifies loss of patience, hope, and faith in our loving, forgiving, and sustaining God. A person of faith does not lose hope, no matter the difficulties he or she faces. If a person has committed suicide as a result of a belief that: such an action is rationally or ethically defensible, the Orthodox Church denies that person a Church funeral, because such beliefs and actions separate a person from the community of faith. The Church shows compassion, however, on those who have taken their own life as a result of mental illness or severe emotional stress, when a condition or impaired rationality can be verified by a physician.
  • Autopsy

    When the causes of illness have not been diagnosed before a person’s death, doctors with the permission of the next of kin, may perform an autopsy. Often an autopsy leads to enlightening observations. Because of this the Orthodox Church does not prohibit autopsies, although a body may not be given strictly for medical research or experimentation. Because the human body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Orthodox Church insists that those who perform the autopsies accord the utmost respect to the body.
  • Cremation

    Various Christian groups, instead of burial, prefer the cremation of the dead, which was customary among many ancient peoples. The Orthodox Church, however, mindful of the fact that the human body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and inspired by the affection toward her departed children, refuses to deliberately destroy the body, and has adopted the burial of the dead, in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself as it appears in the Catacombs, and in the graves of the Martyrs and Saints. Cremation, therefore, is contrary to the faith and tradition of our Church and is forbidden to Orthodox Christians. The Church instead insists that the body be buried so that the natural physical process of decomposition may take place. The Church does not grant funerals, either in the sanctuary or at the funeral home, or at any other place, to persons who have chosen to be cremated.
  • Abortion

    The Church from the very beginning of existence has sought to protect “the life in the womb” and has considered abortion as a form of murder in its theology and canons. Orthodox Christians are admonished not to encourage women to have abortions, nor assist in the committing of abortion. Those who perform abortions and those who have sought it are doing an immoral deed, and are called to repentance thru the sacrament of confession with the parish priest or spiritual father.
  • Donation of Organs

    “No greater love has a person than he lay down his life for a friend.” The Orthodox Church encourages Orthodox Christians to donate their organs. The organ(s) donated gives life to a fellow human being and provides more time on earth for repentance. Even in death, we can ease the pain of some and grant life to others. Again, it is important to note that organs be donated for therapeutic purposes to those requiring healing and not for otherwise experimental reasons. Organ transplants should never be commercialized nor coerced nor take place without proper consent, nor place in jeopardy the identity of the donor or recipient, such as the use of animal organs. Nor should the death of the donor be hastened in order to harvest organs for transplantation to another person. In all cases, respect for the body of the donor should be maintained.