Where Orthodox Canonists disagree with Catholic ones about Soldiers in War Communicating

First a word about the status of the canons of St Basil in Orthodox Canon Law:* "and which are confirmed indefinitely by c. I of the 4th and c, 1 of the 7th: but by c. II of the 6th Ecumenical Council definitely (that Council, in fact, borrowed many Canons of St. Basil and made them its own);" (etc.) The following is thus a quote, down to where I start footnotes marked with asterisks [the footnote marked with numeral is within the text]:

Our Fathers did not consider murders committed in the course of wars to he classifiable as murders at all, on the score, it seems to me, of allowing a pardon to men fighting in defense of sobriety and piety. Perhaps, though, it might be advisable to refuse them communion for three years, on the ground that they are not clean-handed.

(Ap c LXVI; c XCII of thc 6th; cc XXI, XXII, XXIII of Ancyra cc XII, XLIII. LIV, LVI, LVII of Basil: the Epistle of Athanasius to Amun; c V of Nyssa.)

By "Our Fathers" here Basil the Great means Athanasius the Great and his followers. For Athanasius says in his Epistle to Amun that for one to slay enemies in war is lawful and praiseworthy. But St. Basil explains also the reason why the more ancient Fathers permitted them to be pardoned, which is that those men who slay men in the course of war are fighting for the faith and for the maintenance of sobriety. For if once the barbarians and infidels should succeed in gaining the upper hand, neither piety will be left, since they disregard it and seek to establish their own wicked faith and bad belief, nor sobriety and maintenance of honor, seeing that their victory would be followed by many instances of violation and ravishment of young women and of young men. The Saint goes on to add, however, on his own part, not a definitive Canon, but an advisory and indecisive suggestion that although these men who slay others in war were not considered murderers by the more ancient Fathers, yet, since their hands are not unstained by blood, it might perhaps be well for them to abstain from communion for three years solely as regards the Mysteries, but not to be expelled; that is to say, from the Church, like other penitents.1

See also Ap[ostolic]. c[anon]. LXVI.

1 But why did the old Fathers not canonize** men who kill others in war. while St. Basil deprived them of communion for three years? God Himself solves this bewildering question in the second Book of Numbers (ch. 3 I , v. 19 and 24): wherein He commands that Jews returning from the war with the Midianites shall stand outside of the camp for seven d a y s. w ash their garments. be purified. and then be permitted to enter the camp. "And abide ye outside of the camp for seven days. Whosoever hath killed anyone and whosoever hath touched anyone slain, purify both yourselves and your captives; and wash your garments on the seventh day, and ye shall be clean, and afterwards ye may come into the camp" (Num. 31:19 and 24). And the reason is, according to the interpretation offered by Philo the Jew, that although the killing of enemies in war was lawful, yet anyone that killed a human being whether justly and rightfully, or for revenge, or that slays any person as a matter of violence and coercion, appears in spite of this to be responsible for the commission of a sin and crime, because he has killed a human being who is of the same race and of the same nature as his own. For this reason and on this account those who had slain Midianites in war, though they did so rightfully and justly, though they slew them as enemies, too, and though it was for the sake of revenge, too, as required by the passage saying: "for, said God to Moses, "Take revenge for the children of Israel on the Midianites" (Num. 3 1:2), yet as having slain kindred human beings of the same nature, and having consequently fallen under the stigma of sin and foul murder, they had to be purified of it by the seven days' purification outside of the camp. This same reason is advanced also by Procopius and Adelus in their interpretations of these passages, and not any reason that, as some have said, the seven days purification was after they slew the wives of the Midianites and not before. For that seven days' purification was carried out later, after they had put the wives of die Midianites to death, and not before. as is plainly stated in die same chapter. Hence, following this example, St. Basil the Great advises that it would be well for men who have killed others in war to abstain from communion for three years, because they polluted themselves with the blood of their fellow men, but also perhaps because they became adepts at injuring and destroying God's creation (see also the Footnote to Ap, c. LXVI). But the Saint offered the Canon as one embodying advice and indecision, and out of respect and regard for the more ancient Fathers who left such persons uncanonized (i .e. unpunished): and on account perhaps of his philosophical modesty of mind and reverence. But that this Canon of the Saint was accepted by the Church as a declarative Canon, and a definition, and a law, and not as a simple piece of indecisive advice, is a fact which is attested by the events which ensued in the reign of Nicephoros Phocas and which are recorded by both the expositors Zonaras and Balsamon. and by Dositheus (page 533 of his Dodecabiblus). For that Emperor had sought in his time to have Christian soldiers numbered with the martyrs. and to be honored and glorified as martyrs, when they were killed in war with barbarians. But the Patriarch and Synod of Bishops in that period were opposed to this idea, and failing to convince the Emperor, they finally proposed this Canon of the Saint as a Canon of the Church, asking, "Are we going to number with the Martyrs men who have killed others in war and whom Basil the Great excluded from the Mysteries for three years as not having clean hands?" Moreover, even Basil himself. in his c, LV, cited this Canon there as being advisory, recommendatory. definitive, and decisive, according to Balsamon after forbidding robbers to partake of communion if they had killed laymen who were actually attacking them. If it be objected that Zonaras asserts that this recommendation of the Saint's, or rather the Canon, appears to be too heavy and onerous, owing to the fact that Christian soldiers engaged in continual and consecutive wars have never thus far been able to desist for three years straight and thus get a chance to commune, we too agree with this, that as long as soldiers are at war they cannot commune, but may do so only after three years' cessation from war. [end of quote]

*The Rudder or Pedalion

At top is shown two windows about left what page is shown and right total number of pages. In the left page window, one can write 801 and then click "enter" to get to that page.

**Canonise = canonically penalise. When speaking of canonisng saints, the orthodox use the word "glorify" rather than canonise.

Obviously Roman Catholics, including myself, do not agree that soldiers must completely cease from Communion during a war. We may not despise Balsamon but we honour other canonists closer to our tradition of the West. I quote this canon only to put the reference to "XIII'th Canon of St Basil" in proper perspective./HGL


Paul-A. Hardy said...

Of course, it quite obvious that the Roman Catholic position is that of the barbarians, about whom the St Basil speaks. Hence, it is not surprising that they would take a different position. True enough, they are converted barbarians. Nevertheless, the Catholic position seems to be self-serving.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

It seems you forget that soldiers in wars risk death.

It seems you also forget the passage of OT on which the disciplinary rule is modelled stipulated staying out of the camp for one week.

What makes you think the Barbarians even had any position about this matter?

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

It seems the text for the Pedalion is no longer on that link.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I just learned, that one of the publishers of Pedalion is Apóstolos Makrákis

"26) The RUDDER or PEDALION, of the Metaphorical Ship of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Orthodox Christians (All the Sacred and Divine Canons). (Editor)."

In English.

While some canons could well be older, it includes one Nikodemos commenting on Voltaire:

"St. Nicodemos in the Rudder says the atheist Voltaire's works, and all such like it, should be burned."

Cited by Craig Crawford.