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Question 44.
Dear Fr. Christopher,

Your blessing!
In the Ἡμερολόγιον of our Archdiocese, there is a section dedicated to wedding guidelines. It states, “Ἐπιτρέπονται κατ' οἰκονομίαν γάμοι Ὀρθοδόξων μετά ἑτεροδόξων Χριστιανῶν...* What is this οἰκονομία that we have in our religion? What is its meaning and purpose in the Church?
*Marriages between Orthodox and Christians from other denominations are permitted as a dispensation.

With respect

Evangelos


 

Answer to Question 44.

Dear Evangelos,
Good to hear from you again.
Your question on “κατ' οἰκονομίαν” (economia) is a question that should be answered by all the Bishops of the Orthodox Churches in an Ecumenical Synod.
What is “Ecomonia”?
Economia is an idiom of the Greek Church and there is no equivalent translation in English. What it means is that the Church economises on the strictness of the Canons, a dispensation, a concession or special consideration used for the good of someone’s salvation. In our times “Economia” is used freely especially during confession where we rarely apply the penances mentioned in the Canons. When it is used in connection with the Sacrament of marriage, what the Church is actually saying is that she accepts the baptism of some heretical churches like Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. This is in fact un-canonical and according to the sacred canons any bishop or priest who accepts the baptism of a heretic as correct and true should be deposed from office.
Canon 46 of the Apostolic Canons states:
“We order any Bishop, or Presbyter, that has accepted any heretics’ Baptism, or sacrifice, to be deposed; for “what concord has Christ with Beliar? or what part has the believer with an infidel?”
Canon 47 states:
“If a Bishop or Presbyter baptize anew anyone that has had a true baptism, of fail to baptize anyone that has been polluted by the impious, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is mocking the Cross and death of the Lord and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false priests.”

The majority of the canons call for the opposite of “κατ' οἰκονομίαν” which is “κατ’ ακρίβεια” which translated means a rigorism, a strictness or accuracy to the letter with no accommodation for any deviation from the law.
In the early centuries the Church allowed the “baptism economia” to be used for certain heretics returning to the Orthodox Church. This was not to make it easier for those returning but to protect the church from the main body of these heretics who were politically very strong at the time. But the “baptism economia” was not to be used arbitrarily: the baptism of heretics was only to be accepted if the baptism was performed in exactly the same way as observed by the Orthodox – in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and with triple immersions.
The use of “economia” is supposed to be a temporary measure until and when the Church is no more in danger which then it should be removed. When the Roman Catholic Church split away from the Orthodox Church she was at first considered a schismatic church, and the “κατ' οἰκονομίαν” was at first used. In time the Roman Catholic Church clearly became a heretic Church by adding dogmas contrary to the Apostolic teaching. She also changed the ritual of Baptism and instead of triple immersion she introduced the use of sprinkling a little water on the persons face. Thus the “κατ’ ακρίβεια” was used for those who wanted to join the Orthodox Church but had been baptized by the Latin church after the schism. At certain intervals certain Orthodox Churches adapted the “κατ' οἰκονομίαν”  for the Latins and received them only with the mystery of Chrism. This was mainly at a time when the Roman Catholic Church was at its prime and had all the forces and powers of the kings of Europe in its hands, while, on the other hand, our own kingdom was breathing its last breaths. This was a compromise and one can say church diplomacy but it was considered essential at the time for the survival of the Church because by saying that we did not accept their baptism it would have been the same as calling them heretics to their face, in other words non Christians, but heathens which would have forced the Pope to rouse the Latin races against the Easterners, take them prisoners, kill them, and inflict countless other barbarous acts upon them.
From the 17th century some Orthodox Churches insisted on re-baptism while others used the “economia” and received Latins through Chrism. The Russian Church was mainly in favour of “Chrism” while the Greek Church insisted on baptism. In 1756 the council of Constantinople decided that the “κατ’ ακρίβεια” was to be used this was not universally put into practice. The following is the decree from that council:

 

The Constantinople Council of 1756

The 1756 Council in Constantinople, at the time of Patriarch Cyril, carried out the decision that it is appropriate to receive Roman Catholics and Protestants converting to the Orthodox Church exclusively by way of baptism. In addition to Patriarch Cyril of Constantinople Patriarch of Alexandria Matthew and Patriarch of Jerusalem Parthenios signed this decision. This decree reads:

“Among the means by which we are vouchsafed salvation, baptism is in the first place that was entrusted by God to the Holy Apostles. Inasmuch as the question was raised three years ago whether it is proper to recognize the baptism of heretics turning to us (with a desire to be received into our faith) then - inasmuch as that baptism is performed contrary to the tradition of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers and likewise contrary to the practice and decrees of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, - we, brought up by the mercy of God, in the Orthodox Church, preserving the Canons of the Holy Apostles and the Godly Fathers and recognizing our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and her mysteries, among which is the divine baptism, and consequently, considering everything that takes place among heretics and is not performed as commanded by the Holy Spirit and the Apostles and as it is now performed in Christ's Church, as contrary to all of the apostolic tradition and as an invention of corrupt people - we, by a common decision, sweep aside any heretical baptism and thus receive any heretics turning to us, as not having been sanctified and not being baptized and we first of all, follow in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ who commanded His Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We further follow the Holy and Divine Apostles who established triple immersion with the pronouncing at each of them, one of the names of the Holy Trinity. We further follow the Holy and Equal-to-the Apostles Dionysius who says that the catechumen, having had all his clothes removed, must be baptized in the font, in sanctified water and oil, calling upon the three hypostases of the All-Blessed Divinity, afterwards anointing him in the divinely-created Chrism, then becoming worthy of the salvific Eucharist. Finally we follow the Second and the Quinisext Ecumenical Councils that prescribe that those turning to Orthodoxy be considered as unbaptized who were not baptized by triple immersion, at each of which the name of one of the Divine Hypostases is pronounced, but were baptized by some other means. Adhering to these Holy and Divine decrees we consider heretical baptism to be worthy of judgement and repudiation inasmuch as it does not conform with but contradicts the Apostolic and Divine formation and is nothing more than a useless washing, according to the words of St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius the Great, neither sanctifying the catechumen nor cleanse him from sin. This is why we receive all heretics turning to Orthodoxy as those who were not baptized properly as not having been baptized and without any hesitation baptize them according to the apostolic and conciliar canons upon which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ - the common mother of us all - firmly rests. We affirm this, our unanimous decision which is in conformance with the apostolic and conciliar canons, with a written testament subscribed with our signatures.”

In 1875 a Patriarchal and Synodical letter (26 MAY 1875) examined the two practices of “κατ’ ακρίβεια” and “κατ' οἰκονομίαν” and came to a decision that the issue should rest with each bishop, thus each Metropolitan of each territory had the authority to either accept a Latin only through Chrism and a Libel Document where he denounces the practices of the Latin Church or he could insist that the Latin must be baptized.
Today the majority of the Orthodox Churches have accepted the practice of “κατ' οἰκονομίαν” . This is especially so with the Orthodox Churches of America and the rest of the Diaspora. In truth, today we have no need of “Economia” because the Orthodox Church has nothing to fear from other churches, but it is used politically to show that the Church is in favour of the Ecumenical movement which would have us all compromising our faith in favour of becoming a “World Church”. There is a real fear that if the Orthodox Church reverted to the “κατ’ ακρίβεια” of the canons that she would jeopardise her standing and friendly relations with the World Council of churches.
If you want to know more on the subject you can read a talk I gave on the subject found on the website and titled “talk on the necessity of Baptism dated 8/10/09.
Thus to answer your question on the use of “economia”, marriages between Orthodox and Christians from other denominations (namely Roman Catholic and Anglicans and some others) are performed “κατ' οἰκονομίαν”  because their baptism is accepted. If it wasn’t then they would not be able to marry unless they were first baptized just as we insist with Jews and Muslims who with to marry in the Orthodox Church.


With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher