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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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93.

 After her husband’s departure and when he has vanished, yet before becoming convinced of his death, any woman that cohabits with another man is committing adultery. Likewise the wives of soldiers, who, when their husbands have disappeared, get married (again), are subject to the same rule precisely as those who fail to await the return of their husband when he has left home. Nevertheless, in this case there is room for condoning their conduct because there is more suspicion of death. The woman, on the other hand, who has unwittingly married a man who has been temporarily abandoned by his wife, and has been left afterwards because of his former wife’s return to him, is indeed guilty of having committed fornication, but unknowingly. Though she shall not be denied the right to marry, yet it would be better if she should remain as she is. If the soldier should ever return in time whose wife on account of his protracted absence has taken another husband, he shall have the right, if he so should choose, to take back again his own wife, a pardon being granted to her on account of lack of knowledge and to the man who has cohabited with her in the course of a second marriage.[231]

 

Interpretation.

This Canon is composed of three Canons of St. Basil the Great (for its beginning is word for word his c. XXXI) saying that if the husband of a woman departs and does not come back for a long time, and she, before hearing and being informed that her husband has died, takes another man she is an adulteress[232]; (the part following this is word for word the same as c. XXXVI of St. Basil. Likewise if the wives of soldiers get married a second time, on account of not having heard that their husbands are coming back, are adulteresses. However, these women who marry a second time have some claim to pardon (more, that is to say, than have wives of non-soldiers who have married a second time) inasmuch as their husbands, being soldiers and engaged in wars are more to be suspected of having died than of being still alive).[233] That woman, on the other hand, who (this part of the Canon is word for word c. XLVI of Basil) takes to husband that man who was left a long time before by his wife, without knowing that he was married, and who afterwards lets him go when his former wife returns to him, has indeed committed fornication, but quite unwittingly, and she is not to be condemned as adulteress. Hence she shall not be prevented from taking a lawful husband if she wish to do so. It would be better, however, and safer for her not to get married. The rest of the Canon is a decree framed by the Council itself. But if the soldier should return from war after years whose wife has got married a second time because of his having been many years in foreign lands, he, I say, if he so wish, can take back his wife, pardoning both her and her second husband because they married without knowing that he was still alive.[234]

 

 




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