Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 11663
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Viscuso , Patrick D.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: The Prohibition of Second Marriage for Women Married to Priests
  • Source: Byzantine Studies Conference. Abstracts of Papers 22, ( 1996): Pages 71
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Byzantium Canon Law Clergy- Sexual Behavior Remarriage Theodore Balsamon, Patriarch of Antioch Theology
  • Geographic Area: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Century: 12
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  • Abstract: The roles and sexual life of women are often discussed in canon laws governing marriage and other types of relationships. This brief study will present the canonical and theological explanation offered by the Byzantine canonist Theodore Balsamon (c. 1140 - c. 1195) regarding the prohibition of second marriage for women married to priests. Balsamon was a patriarch of Antioch, known for his authorship of important legal commentaries and other canonical works. According to certain modern scholars, his prohibition of second marriage for these women was inconsistent with his other views on marriage, viz., the allowing of an active sexual life for priests and their wives in accordance with the Council in Trullo. This study will show that Balsamon's explanation for the impediment in fact presupposed the existence of such nuptial relations and that this was consistent with his thought on marriage. Legislation prohibiting second marriage of priests' wives was not contained in those first seven ecumenical councils, or writings of certain Fathers recognized as having canonical authority by middle and late Byzantine canonists. Nevertheless, an impediment for second marriage by wives of priests is discussed by Theodore Balsamon in his commentaries on canons forty-eight of the Council in Trullo and forty-four of Basil the Great, as well in his treatise entitled, "Decision regarding the question that was discussed in a synod, concerning whether it is possible for one and the same man to be joined to two second cousins." In all three cases, the discussion may be characterized as "implied," i.e., although not directly the subject of the legislation in question, Balsamon introduces the question as related. The forty-eighth canon of Trullo legislated that wives of candidates for the episcopacy separate from their husbands by mutual consent. Balsamon's commentary raises a number of issues regarding the nature of the dissolution and monastic tonsure. The canonist makes a comparison between such wives and the spouses of priests, emphasizing the impediments arising from ordination. Canon forty-four of Basil the Great deals with a deaconess who commits fornication with a pagan. Balsamon views the body of a deaconess as consecrated and required to be preserved from any profane or sensual use. A parallel prohibition is drawn concerning the bodies of priests. The wives of priests are in turn identified with the bodies of their husbands, and thus are forbidden remarriage. In Balsamon's treatise on the prohibition of consecutive marriage to two second cousins, the canonist makes an analogy between marriage and the Holy Trinity through the use of the word, "hypostases." This trinitarian analogy is extended and linked to Herennius Modestinus' definition of marriage. On the basis of this discussion, Balsamon proceeds to justify the prohibition of remarriage for priest spouses. The study will draw general conclusions concerning Balsamon's view of nuptial relations and marital unity. An explanation will be attempted of the canonist's characterization of priest wives as "ordained so to speak," and from this perspective, of his justification for prohibiting their remarriage. These conclusions will contribute to the broader study of sexuality, clergy, and women in Byzantine society. [Reproduced by permission of the author.].
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  • Year of Publication: 1996.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 01473387
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