What is the Orthodox Church's basis/reason/excuse for Not keeping the Canons of our own Church?

I’m reading through the Rudder - just the actual Canons themselves: Canons of the Holy Apostles & the Canons of the Ecumencials Councils (not the interpretations added later). And it’s all really clear and really simple and I’m only a few hundred pages in and I’ve noticed that there are several that our “world” (as those in the non-ecumenical Orthodox Churches refer to us) Orthodox Churches do not keep…For Example:

  1. No Kneeling on Sundays, yet we, in the Greek Orthodox Church kneel every Sunday except during one season.
  2. Canon XLV “Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that merely joins in prayer with heretics be suspended, but if he has permitted them to perform any service as Clergymen, let him be desposed from office.” - yet our Greek Orthodox Patriarch has prayed with the Catholic Pope & my Priest prayed with Catholic Priests & a Catholic Bishop at a joint prayer service.

Catholics also don’t keep all the Canons either, in additional to the one mentioned above and they also don’t keep Canon VII “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon celebrate the holy day of Easter before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be desposed.” But I think the Catholic reason is that the Catholic Church believes the Pope is above the Canons and can override any Canon if he so chooses - which begs the question, what was the purpose of the Holy Spirit taking the time to inspire all the Canons if no one is required to keep them anyway or they can be overturned at anytime? It also seems that the common Catholic belief that St. Peter set aside his wife for the sake of the Papacy couldn’t be true as the Canons of the Apostles specifically condem a Bishop or Priest who would set aside his wife.

Okay, so back to my original question: What is the Orthodox Church excuse for Not keeping the Canons of our own Church?

(On a side note: it also appears in the Canons of the Apostles that plural marriage may not have been forbidden as Canon XIX reads “Whoever marries two sisters, or a niece, may not be a clergyman.” Poly-Mormons often marry two sisters - which according to the early Church Canons is forbidden. I haven’t come across a Canon that forbids marriage to more than one spouse, but I’ve not read them all yet - hope there is one in there somewhere.)

The Pope celebrates Easter with the Jews?

Some Eastern Orthodox may consider Catholics to be heretics but certainly all do not think that way.

Not just the Pope, but all Catholic Bishops (except a minority in the Holy Land beginning earlier this year, so I’ve heard from a Catholic friend) celebrate Easter aka Pascha aka the Christian Passover Before the Equinox when the Jews happen to celebrate their Jewish Passover. Bottom line, it’s against the Canons of the Church, yet Catholics, I think at least give a reason for this…the Pope has authority above any Canon. What’s the Orthodox Church’s reason?

There is a difference between canons that deal with judicial law and those that deal with moral law. The first can be changed, the second can not.

When to kneel during a service is not part of the moral law and never has been. Therefore it can be changed by the Church.

Also, although the Orthodox Church has the right to teach that some Catholic doctrines are heretical it is not within it’s power to teach that all Catholics are heretics. To do that would require the ability to read the hearts of individuals which the Church isn’t able to do.

As is often said in Orthodoxy, “We know where the Church is, it is not for us to judge where the Church is not”.

I’m not a professional in Theology, however, I understand this as follows:

  1. The Orthodox Church does not consider the Catholics to be heretics. I believe the Orthodox says that Catholics MIGHT be heretics ***(though Catholics are not heretics and do not consider the Orthodox to be heretics either)***.

  2. Canon Law is not dogma. Dogma cannot be changed and is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Canon Law is meant to address “issues of the age,” facilitate logistics, or implement Dogma, etc. Canon Law can be changed and often has been. Dogma cannot be changed. NOTE: The Canon Law that deals with the implementation of Dogma (typical Moral issues) cannot be changed if it would change the Dogma.

  3. Not allowing Bishops to marry for example is a “discipline.” It is not “dogma.” If the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church ever allow married Bishops, then they could do so if they determine that it would be good for the Churches. Discipline can be changed, dogma cannot.

Hope this helps and God Bless.

I think the whole thing about Canon Law is that the disciple of the Church is subject to the authority of the Pope and bishops, it can be reformed. So current Canon Law overrides past Canons, is this correct?

Additionally I’d love to see some explanation of Canon XIX’s reference to marrying two sisters…

EDIT: I have no idea who this author is, and I would add that the source is a bit dated, but this webpage presents some data, *including statements from the Church Fathers * that indicates that polygamy was not acceptable in the early Church, so I question if Canon XIX was really reflecting a special restriction of marriage that implies a more general acceptance of plural marriage among Christians.

It’s kind of like the Amendments to the US Constitution; a new amendment (Canon Law) can superceed/supress a previous one. All Canon Laws are valid unless a newer one specificlly superceeds/supresses it.

There are an awful lot of people in the church who are ignorant of the canons and not kneeling on Sunday is a very good example. People kneel out of piety, not understanding the reason why they are not supposed to kneel on Sunday (and are often adamant that we are supposed to kneel. Whenever I come across such people, I ask them if they could please confirm what the proper practice is with their spiritual father so they can then confirm the same to me. That way they learn the truth from someome they respect.
In my parish there are only a few who kneel. Eventually they too will understand their mistake.

It is my understanding that the 1983 Code of Canon Law supersedes all previous versions.

However, please check to be sure this is correct.

The thing that must be remembered about the Rudder is that it should not be taken as a legal code in the Western sense. We are meant to follow the spirit of the law, not the letter (which is one reason it is dangerous for the laity to casually read it).

The most common answer in this thread regarding worship with Catholics are quite overly legalistic, it seems to be a technicality to say, “they aren’t heretics, therefore clergy can worship with them”.
I would suggest reading it within the context of Tradition. St. Paul told us not to eat foods sacrificed to pagan gods, not because it did something to the food, but because it could cause scandal for others. St. John Chrysostom similarly forbid worshiping with Jews for the very same reason. It seems likely (from my limited experience) that this canon is concerned about causing scandal. If the conditions for worship don’t cause scandal it would seem there is no issue.

On the issue of kneeling - I was unaware the Greeks kneel - the canon was written for the sake of uniformity of practice. You’ll notice there is no prescribed penalty for clergy who allow or promote kneeling, in light of this it should be taken as a guideline rather than a command. There are quite a number of canons like this, generally if the subject has nothing to do with the faith it is just a guideline and can be ignored at the bishop’s discretion.

Economy I guess. There are exceptions to every rule though we should be very careful if we are going to break established practice and the canon. I get the feeling though alot of us would be “uncanonical” if we had to absolutely obey the canons without any sense of charity or understanding of the specific situation.

Two thoughts on that particular canon.

First one comes from a movie I just watched last night from RedBox called “Fill the Void” in which a Jewish woman ended up marrying her sister’s husband after her sister died - perhaps the canon is referring to a man marrying his dead wife’s sister.

The other, while I’m not sure how such conversions are handled now-a-days, I wonder if perhaps during early Christianity when Polygamos men became Christians they weren’t required to divorce all their wive’s but one yet, according to the Canon, it did limit their ability to be full-time servants of the Church?

Idk, maybe, but the first Canon of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states:

“Can. 1 The canons of this Code regard only the Latin Church.”

Randy she is speaking of the Orthodox Canons and not the Latin churches canons, whole different ball of wax.

I spoke with an Orthodox priest whom I highly respect once on the issue of kneeling, and he said that the canon actually forbid prostrations, not kneeling, and that this is a misconception. :shrug:

We should respect all Priests.

I’ve actually read the canon and it specifically uses the word, “kneeling”.

Years ago I attended a parish where the priest (my former spiritual father) had us kneel very rarely (and never on Sundays).

In my current Church the priest (my current spiritual father) has us kneel every liturgy except during the Paschal season.

So I’m not sure asking one’s spiritual father is really going to clear things up.

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