Monday, April 12, 2010

Penal Law in the Church?

There is no such thing as "penal law"in the Orthodox Church. We aren't into punishment. A priest hardly ever lays a "penance" upon us after we have confessed our sins, unless it is a very grave sin such as adultery, and then he may prescribe some discipline as medicine for soul and body, although he will still read the prayer of absolution over us. He may even tell us we are not spiritual healthy enough to receive Holy Communion for the time being, without harming ourselves further. This, because we believe partaking of the awesome Mysteries of the Lord without proper preparation backfires and is actually damaging to soul and body. (I Corinthians 11:29-20)

Even excommunication is supposed to be an act of love, for the correction and healing of the person and, in the second place, for the good of the Church. (I Corinthians 5: 4-7) Excommunication does NOT mean toe the line or go to hell.

Anyway, we don't have penal law. Everybody is already in bad enough shape and the whole idea is the cure their miseries, not add to them.


GretchenJoanna said...

Anastasia, did you forget the word "no" in your first sentence? Otherwise it seems to contradict the rest of the post.

But, glory to God for His healing and forgiveness!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

GretchenJoanna, yes to the "no" - I forgot it.

Thanks for pointing that out. Will correct right now!

James the Thickheaded said...

I think the problem is that the Western experience with excommunication is... well.. not good. And this makes it difficult for folks to accept as something that even here is for our good.

Consider that in the bad old days of medieval europe in the West at least, excommunication essentially removed the protections afforded you from church and state, and folks were free to whack you without fear of consequences before the law or before god. It was an awful and terrible experience few survived without a protectors who had to be strong enough to not fear excommunication in their own right. Needless to say, there were few if any of these and it was often a death sentence.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

James, I hadn't realized excommunication was that dire in the West once upon a time. That's valuable perspective and thank you for sharing it.

It explains much. Such as, for one example among many, why the Vatican's newly published Guidelines on Sexual Abuse Allegations speaks of a whole range of penalties for sexually abusive priests, but among these is NOT excommunication. If raping children doesn't get you excommunicated, what does?

But given the perspective you've added, well, perhaps the Catholics, by omitting it, are trying to be merciful.

For us, of course, it's simply unimaginable that the Orthodox Church would allow herself to remain in communion with such a person.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I mean, of course, until after that person had been through a longish period of counselling and repentance and displaying of the fruits of repentance.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, here it is, what James said, from the online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Excommunication - Exclusion from the communion, the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society.

Anonymous said...

Oftentimes, that which is for our betterment, growth, and saving can be painful....not because of the pain it causes directly, but because it takes away something we find in excommunication.

I agree with GretchenJoanna....glory to God for His healing and forgiveness!!!