Canon Law Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Orthodox Church is indeed in a state of canonical disarray and this paper aims to put together a set of plausible arguments in favor of this statement. The best place to start is likely with Viscuso's study "A Quest for Reform of the Orthodox Church: The 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress," which looks back at the 1923 as a quintessential moment in the process of reform that the Orthodox Church could have embarked on at the beginning of the 20th century.

This reform process could have positively affected the development of the church, including by making it more adaptable to the requirements of the 20th century. Some of the initiatives that Melenios put forward at the Congress were, in fact, targeting organizational needs. With the expansion of the Orthodox creed on new continents, including North and South America, his goal was to concentrate leadership in the hands of the Patriarch of Constantinople (Viscuso, 2006).

Beyond the fact that, at that time, this was him, the approach made a lot of sense from a political and organizational point-of-view: such centralization would have allowed for a unitary approach, in everything from canonical law to assigning functions within the church. However, this was not the case, leading to the Orthodox Church adapting itself to the characteristics of the American continents. What are these characteristics that led to the disarray of the Orthodox Church in the United States?

First of all, the size of the country and the spreading out of the population in a large territory have led to autonomy in small orthodox communities, with a noticeable parochialism. Second, the approach towards the church and religion in general in the United States is different than in Europe, for example, with a very distinctive separation between the Church and the State, as stipulated by the Constitution itself.

Saliba () rightly points out towards the church-state synthesis as an important component of the Orthodox Church. In his work, he analyzes the evolution of the Church-State synthesis of the Orthodox cult, starting with the relationship between the Church and the Byzantine state. He points out that "no institution can develop to its full potential in a heterenomous relationship of power" (page 189).

This is certainly correct, but he also clearly mentions that the Church found in the powerful state a friendly ally and interlocutor. Likely, the discussion can go even further with this: the synthesis between State and Church was so complete in the Byzantine world that, towards the end of the Byzantine Empire, the two simply overlapped, with religious figures taking over the government of the state.

It is interesting to note that this was also the case in many of the Orthodox states, as far on as the 20th century. In Russia for example, just like in the Balkans, the religious patriarch would occasionally assume a role in the government, including as a prime minister in several cases.

Today, the synthesis between State and Church is transferred in the budgetary field: the Orthodox Church receives a generous part of the budget, as the official religion of the state (something that obviously brings complains from other religious groups that are not thus represented in the budgetary field).

The reason for this argumentation is that a strong relationship and cohesive synthesis between Church and State leads to fewer…

Sources Used in Document:


1. Lossky, Vladimir. Orthodox Theology: An Introduction. New York, 1978.

2. Allen, Joseph J. Orthodox Synthesis -- the Unity of Theological Thought. New York, 1981.

3. Viscuso, Patrick. A Quest for Reform of the Orthodox Church: The 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress. Berkeley, 2006.

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