Response to the Pre-Conciliar Document on Marriage and Its Impediments

Toward the Holy and Great Council: Theological Reflections
Co-authors: Fr. Robert M. Arida, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David Dunn, Maria McDowell, Teva Regule, and Bryce E. Rich.
New York: Department of Inter-Orthodox Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations, 2016, pp. 34-44

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A collaborative essay from Fr. Robert M. Arida, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David Dunn, Maria McDowell, Bryce E. Rich, and Teva Regule. First published online at Public Orthodoxy in a series sponsored by the Orthodox Theological Society in America’s Project on the Holy and Great Council.


The document on marriage does not refer to its long and complex history and accompanying theology. What is offered to the faithful and to the world is a statement that bases marriage on a particular understanding of natural and divine law (sec.I, par.2 and 6). Resting upon this foundation the authors attempt to protect marriage and its inextricable bond to the family from the encroachments of secularism and moral relativism (sec.I, par.1). However, in doing so, the authors appear to have constructed a paradigm of marriage based more on a particular ideology than its theological underpinnings. They present an image of the Church that can only speak of marriage as it is related to the law and not as a bond forged and nurtured by love and divine grace. By virtually ignoring the Church’s emphasis on grace the authors have restricted the Church’s dexterity in responding to the myriad of pastoral issues related to globalization, not the least being inter-religious marriage. In addition to minimizing the place of love and grace, the authors have also presented marriage as a bourgeois institution without taking into account the safeguarding of children or women in cases of domestic violence, and the possible need for dissolving the marriage bond.

9 October 2016