The Divorced Patriarch

How am I the last to find out that Patriarch Alexei was divorced?

I was reading his obituary in The Daily Telegraph and it says at the very end: “He married, in 1950, Vera Alekseeva, the daughter of a priest from Tallinn, but the marriage was dissolved within a year.” But somehow I missed this in the Wikipedia article about him and various other sources.

He got married on Tuesday, deaconed on Friday, and priested on Sunday, all in the same week.

Now I used to know a man who was an Orthodox priest (though admittedly not a Russian), whose wife ran off with someone else and divorced him and he was defrocked as a result. I understood this to be the more normative response to the divorce of clergy. Yet not only did this not prevent Alexei from continuing as a priest, but it was also not a bar to the episcopate and further elevation within that.

How does this work, exactly?

12 Responses to “The Divorced Patriarch”

  1. Athanasia Says:

    Well, well, well…this is an interesting bit of info. I’ll have to see what I can scare up on this.


  2. debd Says:

    I saw that in an article I read over the weekend…and almost asked about it at an O forum I frequent, but I didn’t want to stir up the pot- — I’m chicken.

    I am curious, because I also thought that a divorced priest would be defrocked. However, there are monastics who have been divorced. Is it possible to give up being a priest and still become a monk/bishop/patriarch ??

  3. debd Says:

    oh, another question. Can a bishop serve Liturgy if he was not previously ordained a priest? How does that work?

  4. sol Says:

    There is no such thing as a bishop who is not a priest. A bishop can be chosen from the laity. However, it takes a minimum of three days to consecrate him, because he has to be ordained deacon and then priest first. In the case of St Ambrose, he was not even baptised when he was chosen bishop of Milan, but he was consecrated within a week.

    There is no reason that a monastic cannot have been divorced, but no reason that a monastic has to be ordained.

  5. Mimi Says:

    I think the answer is that his divorce happened prior to his ordination.

  6. sol Says:

    No, he got ordained the same week he got married and got divorced a year later. All the sources agree on this.

  7. Mimi Says:

    Oh well, then, I’m out. Grin!

  8. Mimi Says:

    Ok, so the more I’ve been thinking about it, maybe by becoming monastic after the divorce, it ceased from being a defrockable issue?

    I’m curious, I must admit.

  9. sol Says:

    I don’t see how it could. Monasticism or no monasticism, he was married then he wasn’t.

    Seems like somebody decided to make an exception. Perhaps Comrade Ridiger was just too valuable at the time.

  10. sol Says:

    I’m sure that’s the reason that was used since it is a catch all for doing anything forbidden by the Canons or even the Tradition.

  11. Kealani Alexandra Says:

    It almost certainly has to do with the reason for the divorce, the manner of the divorce, and the ruling of the overseeing bishop – who can have had different opinions for the bishop who defrocked the poor blighter priest mentioned whose wife ran off on him.
    The action of the overseeing bishop is key and individual. Since we don’t know the divorce details, it’s insensible to speculate.
    Please accept my advance appologies for anything misspelled.

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