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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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26.

 As for a Presbyter who has unwittingly entangled himself in an unlawful marriage, let him retain his rights to sitting with his rank, in accordance with what has been prescribed to us as legislation by the sacred Canon, but let him refrain from the rest of functions and activities. For a pardon is sufficient for him; but for him to bless another person when he ought to be looking after his own wounds, is inconsistent: for blessing is the impartation of sanctification. But how can one who lacks this, on account of his lapse as a result of ignorance, impart it to another? Let him therefore bless no one either publicly or privately; neither let him distribute the body of Christ to others, nor perform any other liturgical office. On the contrary, while contenting himself with the presidency, let him persistently weep to others, and to the Lord, to be pardoned for the iniquitous deed which he has unwittingly perpetrated. For it is obvious that any such unlawful marriage must be dissolved, and that the man will have no essential share in the sacred office of which he has been deprived.

(Ap. c. XIX; c. III of the 6th; c. II of Neocaesarea; cc. XXIII, XXVII, LXXVIII of Basil.)

 

Interpretation.

This Canon is the same as the twenty-seventh Canon of St. Basil the Great, which prescribes that that priest who unwittingly marries any female relative of his, must, because of his not knowing about the relationship, be pardoned, and must also retain the honor of sitting with the priests, but must refrain from all other activities of the priesthood. For it is enough that such a person is not subjected to canonical penances, but is pardoned. But for him to bless another person when he himself ought to be trying to heal his own wounds, or, in other words, to be repentant of his unlawful marriage, is not at all becoming. For blessing is an impartation of sanctity. So, inasmuch as such a priest is destitute of that sanctity, how can he give it to another person? Therefore let him neither openly nor secretly pronounce any blessing upon or administer any communion to others, or do anything else of the kind; but, on the contrary, contenting himself as best he may with the honor of occupying the high seat, as we have said, let him set himself to praying, first of all to God, in order to have his unwitting iniquity pardoned, and, as a further recourse, to others, in order that they too may entreat the Lord in his behalf. Up to this point it is the Canon of St. Basil. But the Council adds that he is to enjoy this honor of sitting in the high seat only after he has first annulled that illegitimate marriage on account of which he has been deposed from holy orders. For if he does not annul it, not only will he be deprived of the honor of sitting in the high seat, but he will even be compelled to undergo penances. Read also Ap. c. XIX.

 

 




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