The Orthodox Pages

email: pater@christopherklitou.com 

 ASK AN ORTHODOX PRIEST

Homepage

 

Back      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Question 22.

Can A catholic married to an orthodox in the Greek church christen in an Orthodox Church?

 

Answer to Question 22.

 

Not so long ago there was a post asking why Catholics can’t baptize a child in the Orthodox Church and when a priest in the group answered with “it’s a matter of faith and there are rules” some chose not to understand and responded with “but why they are Christian as well” and other similar arguments, some being silly and uneducated.  The reason a Catholic cannot be a Godparent to an Orthodox cannot be explained in just a few words so be prepared to read this through to the end. 

I will begin with the question if all Christians are the same? If we were then the divisions that exist today would not exist. It is not enough to say that we believe in Christ therefore we are the same no matter what denomination we belong to. The fact is we are not all the same and neither do we believe in the same things. To understand this we must go back to the early Church that Christ instituted. Christ the High-priest established the church and gave spiritual authority to his Apostles. This authority was then conferred by the Apostles to others who were chosen to be ordained with the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority. This authority is known as the Priesthood and consist of a hierarchical order of first Bishops, then Priests and then Deacons. No one can enter this priesthood by himself, a bishop must be ordained by other bishops within the same body of the Church that Christ established. This is because there is only one Christ, therefore only one church of which he is the head. If a bishop breaks away from this church he automatically forfeits the priesthood, because the Body of Christ cannot be divided. One either remains within this Body or leaves and loses the sacramental authority.

Up until 1054 the Church in the East, now known as the Orthodox Church and the Church in the West, now known as the Roman Catholic Church were in complete union because they were one Church with the same Church Fathers, the same Saints, the same doctrines, the same Sacraments, but more especially the same priesthood. When The Roman Catholic Church chose to separate themselves from this union in 1054 they placed themselves outside of the Body of Christ. This means that they automatically lost the grace of the priesthood because they broke the chain of Apostolic Succession. Without the Apostolic Succession of the Priesthood, they were now in fact just ordinary laymen and had no authority either to baptize or to ordain anyone. Thus because they forfeited the priesthood they couldn’t impart the grace of the Spirit to others. There is no need to mention whether the Protestant Churches have Apostolic Succession because if the Roman Catholic Church has lost the Priesthood, then by logical reasoning the Protestant Churches which broke away from Rome definitely cannot have it. By what I am saying I do not intentionally want to attack anyone’s faith so no-one should take offence. I am only stating historical facts and logical reasoning concerning the body of Christ which cannot be divided and which is verified by the Canons of the Church. 

If then the Roman Catholic Church and all the other Churches that have developed from the Reformation do not have the Priesthood, then all those millions of people who believe they are baptized are not truly baptized because baptism is a Sacrament and must be performed by a Priest with Apostolic Succession. All those that say they have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we may ask: “do they indeed have the Holy Spirit?” Who gave it to them? The Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost and The Apostles in turn, passed on the gifts of the Holy Spirit to others by the laying on of their hands upon the heads of the faithful. We read in the Acts of the Apostles: “Then laid they their hands on them, [those who were baptized] and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8: 17). It also says: “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them” (Acts 19: 6). We see then that the gifts of the Holy Spirit is given by the laying on of hands, but not just anyone’s hand, but a hand that has been ordained unto the Priesthood which has Apostolic Succession. 

So coming back to the question of whether all Christians are the same, the answer is a definite No. People may call themselves Christians because they believe in Jesus, but a true Christian is a person who have been baptised into his Church and received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Christ cannot be divided therefore the Church cannot be divided and cut into 1000s of small pieces each presenting itself as the Church of Christ. St. Paul said “There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God.” Eph 4:4-6) Thus in the eyes of the Orthodox Church a Roman Catholic or Protestant isn’t baptized and therefore cannot be a Godparent to an Orthodox child.  But in recent years we have seen Catholics standing as second Godparents. The Church has allowed this as a dispensation - what we call “economia” because she understands that we live in multi-racial and multi-religious societies and close relationships with non-Orthodox cannot be avoided. But the second Catholic Godparent doesn’t actually take part in the service: he/she simply stands next to the first Godparent who is the only Godparent the Church officially recognizes by entering his/her name on the Baptism certificate and in the Church’s register.

The Greek word for sponsor is ‘Ανάδοχος’ and means someone who receives and in the case of a baptism it refers to the Godparent receiving in his/her arms the baptized child. In truth there can only be one Ανάδοχος because only one person actually receives the child from the baptismal font.  But let’s also say something about the Godparent because in the previous posts mentioned above some of you just kept repeating “the parents have the right to choose whoever they want as the Godparent because they have that right to choose who will bring up their child if something happens to them. This argument doesn’t stand. If a family has four children and the parents die, then by this argument the children will be divided and will be brought up by four different families. With Greek families it is usual for the children to be raised by the immediate family like the grandparents or uncles and aunts. But having said this, the Godparent, or to use the proper term the Sponsor, does have obligations towards the child: he/she is responsible and obliged, together with the child’s parents, to educate and rear the child in the Orthodox faith. During the service he is the child’s representative and confesses the faith on behalf of the child who cannot speak for himself. 

When choosing Godparents for our children we rarely look to see if they have any religious beliefs and whether they will be capable of helping us teach our children the Orthodox faith. The first thing we look at is our friendship and for some if they have the economical standing to bring expensive gifts to their children on their birthdays, name-days, Christmas and Easter. If as I have mentioned the Godparent’s responsibility is to educate the child in the faith, how can a Catholic teach an Orthodox child the Orthodox faith? Isn’t this hypocrisy? If it is important to you to baptize your children in the Orthodox Church then it should also be of equal importance to provide for them the proper spiritual upbringing.