IMPORTANT: Informational Sharing: Full Open Text of the official English translation of this Official ROCOR 1956 "Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad"
*READ THIS: The important general meaning of this official ROCOR document from October, 1956:"This document, which has been effect in the Russian Church Abroad since 1956, covers all matters of ecclesiastical jurisprudence within the Church Abroad. It is quite comprehensive and detailed. It was translated into English under the title Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and was included in the Compendium of Regulations, Statutes and Laws of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia published in 2006. I have not been able to locate a digitized version of the English translation."
*Where the full Compendium, "Sbornik", [ with Russian original texts and also English translations of other but pertinent materials and historical documents can be read], in which this document, in original Russian and English translation, is a part of:www.allsaintsofamerica.com/
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
(Established by the Council [Sobor] of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on 3/16 October and 4/17 October, 1956.6)
A. GENERAL POSITIONS.
1. The judicial authority of the Orthodox Church is based on the will of the divine Founder of the Church of Christ, expressed in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition and church practice.
2. The Ecclesiastical Court has as its objectives:
a. to preserve the unity, sanctity and integrity of Divine teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church, the holiness of the Church’s Mysteries, the sanctity and inviolability of other general Church institutions, including the hierarchical, conciliar order of the Church as the sole canonical form of ecclesiastical administration and the basis of church life;
b. to restore in the Church the truth of Holy Orthodoxy which has been distorted by apostasy, and the violated order of church life, to restore its purity, unity and holiness, as well as the force and stability of
the Church’s laws, rules and customs, and the normal canonical relations developed upon their foundations;
c. to eliminate any sort of misunderstanding and quarrels between members of the Church, and
d. to subject the guilty to measures of correction, punishment, and even full excommunication from the Church as the Body of Christ, and in instances of correction, to restore them partly or fully in their rights and calling they had relinquished.
3. The Ecclesiastical Court of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia exists in three instances: a. the Diocesan Court;
b. the Court of the Synod of Bishops;
c. the Court of the Council of Bishops.
4. The fundamental norms of the Church Court in all its instances are: a) Holy Scripture;
6 Note: The numeration system has been changed from the original for the sake of clarity.
d) Church canons and the general laws of the Holy Universal Orthodox Church;
e) the ecclesiastical laws of the Local Russian Orthodox Church, its regulations and customs;
f) the resolutions of Councils [Sobors] of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and of the Synod of Bishops, and the regulations and rules established by them.
g) the resolution of the Patriarch, Holy Synod and Supreme Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, dated 7/20 November, 1920, #362;
h) the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, confirmed by the Council [Sobor] of Bishops in 1956;
i). local civil laws which do not contradict the spirit and teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church, and
j) the present Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court.
B. THE DIOCESAN COURT. (On persons and matters subject to the Diocesan Court.)
5. The Diocesan Court is the court of first instance. Members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, clergy or laity, who have fallen into apostasy, heresy or schism, who have established a parasynagogue, or who have fallen away from the Holy Orthodox Church for other reasons, and speak ill of her and her hierarchy, and cause obvious harm to the Church, are subject to the Diocesan Court.
6. In addition, members of the clergy are subject to the Diocesan Court:
a) for offenses and crimes in breach of their duties, good order and conduct;
b) in disputes between clergymen over the sharing of revenues and the use of the movable and immovable property of the church or parish;
c) on the complaint of clergy and laity for offenses caused to them by clergy;
d) on complaints of the breach by clergy of indisputable obligations, and on requests to compel payment of indisputable debts;
e) in matters of offense against private individuals in word or deed;
f) for slander; and
g) for appearing in public in a state of intoxication or in a state inappropriate for a clergyman.
7. Clergymen may not turn to the civil courts and bypass the Ecclesiastical Court with any of claims against other clergymen arising out of the performance of their duties or concerning the performance of same.
8. Clergymen are subject to the Ecclesiastical Court in cases of committing civil or criminal crimes which lead
a) by decree of the Supreme Ecclesiastical authority, i.e., the Synod of Bishops, or its President; b) on the order of the Diocesan Bishop;
c) at the proposal of the Diocesan Council;
d) upon information from civil institutions and officials;
e) upon reports of diocesan deans or members of the clergy;
f) upon the complaint of private persons, parish councils and parishioners;
g) on information which may in one way or another reach the Diocesan Bishop, and h) on personal admission.
10. Laymen are subject to the Diocesan Court not only on the basis set out in par. 6 but also:
a) in matters concerning the declaration of invalid and illegal marriages, and in divorce matters;
b) in cases calling for the attestation as to the validity of marriages and legitimacy of birth;
c) for for various misdeeds and crimes which subject the guilty parties to penance by the Church, to the curtailment of church rights, or excommunication from the Church.
11. Persons occupying administrative positions within the parish, e.g. the rector, the church warden, members of parish councils and auditing committees and others in responsible positions in parish organizations, may be judged by the Diocesan Court as a result of improper or illegal acts that they have committed if these acts lead to the harm and detriment of the parish, or to the undermining of the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church and her hierarchy, and also bring about the material or moral decline of the parish, harm to church or clergy property, or to individuals who have lodged a complaint against the incorrect or illegal acts of the parish administration before the Church authorities.
C. THE CHURCH COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE. (The Court of the Bishop and the Collegial [Diocesan] Court.)
The Court of the Bishop.
12. The following are subject to the direct jurisdiction of the bishop:
a) acts of negligence and unintentional accidents of clergymen and church functionaries that require correction or the cleansing of their priestly conscience by hierarchical act of the bishop yet inappropriate to the publicity and method of ordinary trial;
b) the acts of clergymen which are contrary to duty and good conduct, whose former conduct was
13. The Diocesan Bishop may directly instruct the dean or other trusted clergyman to conduct a discreet inquiry to establish the validity of an accusation, and in case of its confirmation, may summon the accused into his presence to examine his conscience. Judging by the misdeed and evidence of repentance, the bishop may either dismiss him with an archpastoral admonition; impose on him a suitable penance to be carried out in his presence, or in the bishop’s residence, or in another place, of up to two weeks’ duration; transfer the accused to another place of ministry for the benefit of the Church; or forbid him to perform certain sacramental acts or ministerial functions.
14. In dioceses comprising vast territories, where a summons in the cases indicated above is inappropriate due to distance, the bishop may instruct a trusted clergyman to admonish the accused, or he may subject him to a penance, with temporary suspension from serving (up to two weeks).
15 . No appeal may be made of the judgment of an episcopal court conducted directly by a bishop, and the details of the proceedings of the Court of the Bishop are not entered into the clergyman’s records.
16. In the case of a clergyman's failure to appear without valid reason before the Diocesan Bishop to provide an explanation regarding the complaints lodged against them, he will be subject to stricter penalties than described in paragraphs 13 and 14, and the punishments will be noted in the records.
The Collegial (Diocesan) Court.
17. The Diocesan Court attached to the Diocesan Bishop comprises the President and two members, being members of the clergy of no lower than priestly rank.
18. The President of the Diocesan Court is appointed and dismissed by the Diocesan Bishop, and the members of the Court and their alternates, in equal number, are elected every three years by the Diocesan Council and confirmed in their position by the Diocesan Bishop. One of the members of the Court serves as secretary of the Court, if there is no specific court secretary in the Diocesan Administration.
Note: In the event of illness or absence of one of the members of the Diocesan Court, the Diocesan Bishop temporarily appoints another person to replace of the absent President, but in the place of an absent member, he will call upon one of the elected alternates of the members of the Court.
19. All cases tried by the Diocesan Court are decided by a majority of votes after a thorough investigation and hearing of the case and the examination of interested parties and their witnesses, when required. Moreover, decisions of the Diocesan Court are executed only upon their confirmation by the Diocesan Bishop.
20. If there is disagreement in the resolution of a case, the dissenting member of the Court informs the Court at a general meeting of his intention to present a dissenting opinion within three days for appending it to the decision of the Diocesan Court, for presentation to the Diocesan Bishop.
21. If the Diocesan Bishop does not agree with the decision of the Diocesan Court, then the entire case, together with the resolution of the Diocesan Bishop, is returned to the Court for reexamination, in whole or in part, within a period designated by the bishop. If, even after reexamining the case, the decision of the Diocesan Court is unacceptable to the Diocesan Bishop, the latter either decides the matter himself (in which case the decision
22. The Diocesan Court examines and decides all cases concerning clergy and laity which are directed by the Diocesan Bishop to this Court, in which public enquiry, with examination of witnesses, or a formal investigation are necessary or have already been conducted. This applies to all cases concerning marriages and the issuance of certificates concerning the validity of marriages and the legitimacy of children.
23. In matters concerning the dissolution of church marriages, the Diocesan Court is guided, besides the basic norms of the Church Court indicated in par. 4 of these Regulations, by the decision of the Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church concerning the grounds for the sundering of a marriage blessed by the Church, dated 7/20 April, 1918, and 20 August/2 September, 1918, and by the Temporary Rules for proceedings for divorce, confirmed by the resolution of His Holiness, the Patriarch and the Holy Synod in joint session with the Supreme Church Council dated 7/20 December 1918, #471, and also by the special decisions and additions of the Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the interpretations of its Synod of Bishops.
24. In all legal proceedings, including those involving divorce cases, both sides and their witnesses are examined by the Diocesan Court if the Court finds this helpful in elucidating the case.
25. If any difficulties arise for the Diocesan Court in the resolution of a case, demanding expert witness, the Diocesan Court, with the knowledge and blessing of the Diocesan Bishop, may turn to knowledgable persons for advice and information.
26. In all matters decided by the Diocesan Court and already confirmed or overturned by the Diocesan Bishop (see paragraphs 20-23) which do not satisfy the interested parties (the plaintiffs or respondents), the latter may give notice of their objection or dissatisfaction within seven days after being informed of the Court's or bishop's decision, and they have the right to file an appeal with the Synod of Bishops within thirty days after being informed of the decision.
27. Notices of appeal to the Synod of Bishops must be submitted to the Diocesan Bishop who, within the thirty-day period, presents them to the Synod together with his opinion as to the merits of the appeal.
28. The Synod of Bishops shall reject the appeal:
a) if it includes reproachful or inappropriate expressions;
b) if it is not signed by the appellant personally, or, if he is illiterate, if the signatures and addresses of the persons who wrote the appeal are absent;
c) if the appeal concerns a case decided directly by the Diocesan Bishop, and are not subject to appeal.
29. An appeal which has come directly to the Synod will be forwarded by the latter to the Diocesan Bishop with a request for his opinion within a period of thirty days.
30. Parties dissatisfied with a decision of the Diocesan Court have the right, upon appeal to the Synod of Bishops, to demand copies of the judgment, and they or their authorized representatives are permitted to read the record of the case in the presence of a member or secretary of the Court.
Note: Laymen occupying administrative positions and subjected to court proceedings on the accusation of abuse of their position, may be temporarily relieved of their duties before the trial by order of the Diocesan authorities.
32. By resolution of the Diocesan Court, clergymen may be subjected to the following corrective measures and punishment:
d) stern reprimand;
e) stern reprimand and fine; f) closer oversight;
g) temporary confinement to the episcopal residence or a monastery;
h) temporary suspension (of the right to serve) without dismissal from duties;
i) dismissal from duties and transfer to another place;
j) temporary suspension and dismissal from duties with demotion;
k) dismissal from duties and forced retirement;
l) defrocking (in the case of monastics, deprivation of rank and monasticism with exclusion from the ranks of the clergy;
m) excommunication from ecclesial fellowship;
n) excommunication from the Church with pronouncement of ecclesiastical anathema.
Note: Punishments listed above, starting from stern reprimand, are entered in the service record.
33. Laypersons may be subjected by the Diocesan Court to the following punishments: a) reproof;
d) subjection to public penance;
e) withdrawal of the right to perform certain duties in the parish or carry out certain obligations in church; f) temporary relegation to standing in the narthex of the church;
g) deprivation of right to be sponsor [Godparent] at a baptism;
h) deprivation of the right to marry;
i) deprivation of Holy Communion;
j) deprivation of a Christian burial in an Orthodox cemetery;
k) excommunication from church fellowship;
l) excommunication from the Church with public pronouncement of anathema on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
34. When in the examination of matters subject to the Diocesan Court, a crime is discovered which merits criminal punishment, the civil authorities are informed.
35. Priests found violating the confidentiality of confession are subject to suspension from serving for a period of three years, and in cases of repetition of this offense, are to be defrocked. They are subject to the same punishment if it is discovered that they knowingly performed illegal marriages. Moreover, if in investigating the performance of an illegal marriage it is discovered that the priest performed the unlawful marriage for mercenary reasons, then he shall also be subject to a monetary fine for the benefit of the Charitable Fund of the Synod of Bishops. A member of the lower clergy who has knowingly participated in this offense shall be relieved of his duties.
36. A priest found to have dared, in or out of church, to perform divine services in vestments while in a state of intoxication, for the first infraction is relieved of his post and suspended from serving until he repents and reforms. If this offense is repeated, the clergyman who has celebrated the Divine Liturgy while intoxicated is defrocked.
37. A priest who has dared in church during a service to strike someone with his hand or with some implement, is defrocked and relegated to the lower clergy. Lower clergy guilty of a similar act are relieved of their duties. Similarly, priests or lower clergy incur the same penalties if, by indecent words or acts during the services, they cause scandal or embarrassment which brings the service to a halt. A priest who is convicted of battery in every other case is subjected to stern canonical suspension up to defrocking, depending on the degree of his guilt.
38. Clergymen of whatever rank who, outside church, show disrespect for the Church, for holy things and for whatever is held sacred through improper words or acts, for the first infraction are subjected to the punishment of a stern rebuke, possibly with the imposition of an penance, depending on the seriousness of the act. For a second infraction, they should be sent to a monastery for repentance for a period up to three months, and given the most difficult tasks as obedience. The third time, they should be completely removed from their posts and priests are suspended from celebrating the divine services until they display true repentance and complete reformation.
40. Clergymen of whatever rank exposed as fornicators or adulterers, or living in an illegal union, or guilty of other vices in violation of the seventh Commandment, are subjected to defrocking or reduced in rank. Lesser clergy guilty of the same offenses are relieved of their duties and subjected to lengthy periods of repentance and deprivation of the right to receive Holy Communion until they show full repentance and reformation.
41. Monks in holy orders are subject to the same measures as are all clergymen who commit corresponding acts and offenses. Simple monks are subject to punishment in accordance with the monastery’s regulations.
42. Persons who apostasize from the Orthodox Faith and join other faiths, and who also begin to preach unbelief, heresy and schism, and cause disturbances and divisions within the Church of God for the sake of wordly advantages and goals, in the case of their incorrigibility and persistence after exhortation, are subject to the following punishments: priests are defrocked and lesser clergy and those in responsible positions in the Church are relieved of their duties and excommunicated; regular laymen are excommunicated.
43. Priests and deacons who scorn their lawful bishops and willfully separate themselves from them, and without their permission and blessing organize gatherings for the celebration of services, or lay traps for their lawful bishop: in the case of their refusal to repent and reform after exhortation, are defrocked.
44. Clergy convicted of extortion in payment for their celebration of the Mysteries or other services of need are held answerable, up to and including suspension.
45. A priest who, through negligence in the performance of his duties, has allowed a child to die without holy baptism, or has permitted a dying person to die without the last rites, is held answerable, up to and including suspension.
46. Clergymen of any rank who, on the complaints of parishioners, are found guilty of carelessness in the performance of services and also of divisiveness, are subject to corresponding penalties at the discretion of the Diocesan Bishop or the Diocesan Court.
47. Decisions of defrockment by the Diocesan Court are executed after their confirmation by the Synod of Bishops. In the case of an appeal against such decisions filed within the allowable time to the Synod, the execution of the verdict of the Diocesan Court is suspended until a final decision of the case by the Synod of Bishops, after which this latter verdict is imediately brought into force.
48. Decisions of the Diocesan Court concerning laymen, irrespective of whether they are officers in the parish, are also carried into effect if the convicted person fails to present an appeal within the allotted time and manner against the decision with which they are dissatisfied. If they file an appeal, then the final decision of the Synod of Bishops is carried into effect.
49. In order to ensure the Diocesan Court’s authority and prevent biased judgments, the parties (plaintiffs and respondents) may challenge ecclesiastical judges when the latter are involved in some way in the pending case, or if they are closely related to the plaintiffs or respondents (either by blood or marriage, since such relationships constitute an impediment to church marriage).
Note: For the same reasons, the plaintiffs or respondents may challenge persons who conduct inquiries or investigations.
E. PRIVATE PLAINTIFFS OR ACCUSERS, RIGHTS OF RESPONDENTS, OF THE ACCUSED AND OF WITNESSES.
51. In church matters, as well as the private matters of clergy concerning their duties and conduct, complaints and accusations from all private individuals are not accepted without investigation, however, there should be a preliminary investigation in respect of their standing in society (IV Ecumenical Council, Canon 21). In the cases mentioned above, accusations against clergy are not accepted:
a) from unbelievers, Jews, heretics (Council of Carthage 144, Apostolic Canon 75, II Ecumenical Council Canon 6);
b) from condemned and defrocked clergymen or excommunicated laymen, and also from those who are before the court and those against whom information has been brought (II Ecumenical Council 6, Council of Carthage 137);
c) from those who have been discredited and those of bad morals (Council of Carthage 8, 28);
d) from those who examined this same matter before or were present when it was examined, and from those in their household (Council of Carthage 7);
e) from those not permitted by the civil law to bring information (Council of Carthage 144);
f) from persons on whom lies a stain of dishonor, e.g. from infamous people, and those who have taken part in shameful acts, and those who are illegally cohabitating or are living together without the Church’s blessing (Council of Carthage 144);
g) from persons who have brought many accusations and one has already been examined and could not be proved (Council of Carthage 145);
h) from those of tender years; and
i) from the mentally ill.
52. A private complaint against clergymen, for example a claim for property or other offense, must be accepted from any person (II Ecumenical Council 6).
53. The time and place of the hearing must be announced to the parties, the accusers and accused, and also the witnesses who will give information to the Court, in advance, by special notice.
54. The accused or respondent must be charged via written notice in a timely manner by the Diocesan legal authority on the basis of evidentiary material obtained, precisely describing the accusations, to which he has the right in his defense to respond in written form before the Court sits, and to respond orally during the hearing. However, written answers do not preclude the appearance of the respondent at the hearing, and in the Court’s
55. The accused (or respondent) may ask the Church Court for the time required to prepare his defense (lst canon of St. Cyril of Alexandria); but in cases demanding swift settlement, depending on the circumstances, the time for the accused’s defense may be limited by decision of the Court.
56. If the respondent’s personal appearance at the proceedings is required, and indicated in the notice of the trial, his non-appearance without sufficient cause furthers the extent of his guilt, and the Court, upon certification of the fact that he received the summons, will examine the matter in his absence, on the basis of the material entered in evidence at the inquiry or formal investigation held previous to the Court, and also the oral statements of the accuser(s) and witnesses present at the hearings (Apostolic canon 74, Council of Carthage 28).
57. The personal appearance of respondents at the proceedings is not essential in all cases when the Court and respondent are not located in the same country or circumstances exist independent of the respondent’s will which prevent his appearance. In such cases, the Court will form its decision on the basis of material presented, the written replies of the respondent, and other material that he may submit.
58. The trial may be postponed at the request of both parties, or only one of the parties, if there are especially compelling reasons, at the discretion of the Court.
59. The Court itself may postpone the final examination of the case if supplementary details are required for its complete elucidation which can be made available to the Court only after a further on-site investigation, or if, during the proceedings, it becomes necessary to complete the evidence with new facts hitherto unknown to the Court.
60. A Church Court may not condemn anyone and impose one or another punishment without sufficient proof establishing the accused’s guilt (Theophilus of Alexandria 6). Accusatory testimony of only one person without other proof is insufficient to pass sentence on the accused.
61. If the accusers, summoned by Court notice to be present personally at the proceedings during the investigation of the matter, are intentionally absent or discredit themselves in some way, the accusation is not taken into account and the case itself is terminated (Council of Carthage 28), if it is not of a criminal nature.
62. If, during the trial, the blatantly defamatory nature of an accusation becomes clear, the accuser(s), as belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, is (are) subjected to various forms of ecclesiastical penance, depending on the nature of the slander, the persons against whom it was directed and the degree of scandal caused by the slander. Malicious slanderers who attempt to undermine the authority of the Church may be punished by excommunication from the Holy Orthodox Church until their complete repentance and correction.
63. With the aim of affirming the authority of the Church Court and to protect clergy from unjust accusations, persons who bring unjust and unfounded charges may be subjected by the Church Court to the same or corresponding punishments as the accused would have been, if the crimes of which he was accused had been proved at trial.
64. In ecclesiastical cases and in private matters of clergy concerning their duties and conduct, the following may not be witnesses in Church Courts:
a) unbelievers, pagans, Jews (Council of Carthage 144)
d) defrocked clergy and excommunicated laymen;
e) persons formerly brought up on charges and still not acquitted (Ecumenical Council 6);
f) persons discredited (Council of Carthage 7, 8, 28) if as a sole witness, even if Orthodox (Apostolic Canon 75, I Ecumenical Council 2);
g) persons from whom charges accusations are unacceptable;
h) informers from their own household;
i) persons under the age of 14 (Council of Carthage 146);
j) persons who previously served as judge the matter for which they have been summoned to give testimony;
k) mentally-disturbed persons; and
l) persons in irreconcilable enmity with one of the parties to be judged.
65. Witnesses of the parties, as well as witnesses called by the judicial organs of the Church, before interrogation in Court (as well as during formal investigations) are sworn in, before which they submit to pastoral admonition to tell the whole truth in Court and to acknowledge their responsibility in civil law and before God and His Dread Judgment.
66. The testimony of an adult eyewitness has greater weight for the Church Court than that of underage witnesses who are passing on the information of others, whether eyewitnesses or not.
67. The disqualification of witnesses by the parties is permitted with sufficient legal basis, as mentioned in par. 64.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL COURT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS.
68. The Court of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is divided into: A. the Court of first instance;
B. the Court of second instance; and
C. the Court of third instance.
a) Diocesan and vicar bishops and also retired bishops (with the exception of the First Hierarch who is answerable only to the Council of Bishops);
b) priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in matters concerning their defrocking by the Diocesan Court, insofar as their defrocking requires the assent and confirmation of the Synod of Bishops;
c) clerical and lay officials in the service of the Synod of Bishops or in other organizations subject directly to the Synod of Bishops;
d) Orthodox persons in matters involving their excommunication from the Orthodox Church, which also requires the assent and confirmation of the Synod of Bishops; and
e) Orthodox clergymen, monastics and laymen of parishes or otherwise, in spiritual missions, monasteries and Synodal affiliates directly subject to the Synod of Bishops.
70. Bishops are subject to the Court of the Synod of Bishops of first instance:
a) for public utterances from the cathedra, in print, in public or private meetings, and also in private written or oral addresses contrary to the teachings of the Orthodox Faith and Christian morality;
b) for a significant violation of Church discipline and order;
c) for offenses, misdemeanors and crimes connected with the performance of their duties;
d) for deliberately exceeding their authority;
e) for personal misbehavior and activity or occupations not in keeping with their exalted rank which undermine episcopal authority and the authority of the Orthodox Church;
f) for personal criminal and political offenses, etc. In this regard, bishops who are proven guilty in Court of these or other acts or offenses, are subject to strict penalties set by the church canons to a greater degree than the clergy of other ranks, especially in case of stubborn refusal to repent and be corrected.
71. All complaints and reports filed against bishops must be addressed only to the President of the Synod of Bishops who, judging by their contents, nature and importance, either reviews them himself and settles them administratively by taking suitable measures, or takes no action, or passes them on for review by the Synod of Bishops, which decides the matter administratively or resolves to review the case in the context of a legal proceeding. In the latter case, the Synod of Bishops is guided by the general rules of Church jurisprudence.
Note: This does not apply to complaints or referrals submitted to the Synod of Bishops or its President, the First Hierarch, for decision and action by Diocesan Authorities and the Diocesan Court in appellate proceedings.
72. In accordance with the Church’s canons, the Synodal Court cannot hear complaints and reports containing accusations against bishops from the persons mentioned in par. 52 of the present Regulations, except in cases of accusations of a criminal or political character or the bringing of actions of a purely civil nature (for example,
73. The following order is observed in legal proceedings of the Church Court involving bishops: if the matter does not require an urgent decision but time is needed for a detailed and full investigation, the Synod of Bishops, in its usual complement, after first being apprised of the matter presented by the President of the Synod of Bishops, depending on the nature and circumstances of the case, first issues a preliminary decision on the question whether to conduct an inquiry or even a formal investigation concerning the matter on the spot, or to simply require from the accused exhaustive explanations of the counts in the indictment presented by the Synod of Bishops. Either one or the other—evidentiary material with the opinions of the person who conducted the inquiry or formal investigation, or the explanations of the accused—are presented to the Synod of Bishops before the date of its next session, and the Synod of Bishops, in its usual complement, hearing the entire case as well as the supplementary oral explanations of the accused, renders its decision, which is communicated to the accused and put into effect.
74. If the case against the bishop includes accusations so serious that, after their corroboration at trial, could give rise to dismissal from his post, or his retirement, or his suspension, or his defrocking, or even his total excommunication, then the President of the Synod of Bishops summons him to a regular or extraordinary session, in an expanded complement, which, in a special judicial session, reviews the case with all the evidence and evidentiary material and opinions, hearing the oral explanations of the accused (and in certain cases, of the accuser[s] and witnesses, if this is necessary or possible, judging by the circumstances), and then, thoroughly discussing the entire case, renders its decision, which is communicated to the accused and put into effect.
75. In the event of a decision against the accused, he is discharged from his post, or suspended from serving, in accordance with the sentence, but is still not defrocked or excommunicated if, in the course of fourteen days after the communication to him of the Court’s decision, he gives notice of his intention to bring an appeal to the Council of Bishops and files same within the appointed time.
76. If the case requires an urgent decision or dismissal of the bishop from the post occupied by him, the President of the Synod of Bishops, at his extreme discretion, first issues all necessary preliminary instructions, including those in respect of the bishop’s dismissal from his post; then, if necessary, instructs one of the neighboring bishops (or, if needed, a trusted clergyman) to conduct a discreet or public inquiry or if necessary a formal immediate on-site investigation. All the materials obtained by such a local investigation, together with the opinion of the investigator, are presented at the appointed time by the President of the Synod of Bishops for an urgent extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops which, depending on the nature and circumstances of the case, is convoked in its usual or in an expanded complement of members. The Synod of Bishops hears the whole case and the oral explanations of the accused in a judicial session (if this is possible according to the circumstances) and, after thorough consideration, renders its verdict.
Note: The personal appearance in Court of the parties and their witnesses is not necessary, if the parties live outside that country where the Synod of Bishops is located, and if their attendance at Court is impossible. Such persons may present their supplementary, written explanations or statements to supplement the statements or explanations previously given by them during the investigation or inquiry.
77. Bishops sentenced by the Court of the Synod of Bishops have the right to file an appeal against the judgment before the supreme Court of the next regular Council of Bishops within six months after receipt of the Court’s judgment. They must communicate their intention to appeal within two weeks after receipt of the Court’s verdict.
78. In judicial cases of particular importance concerning bishops, the period for the accused to present
79. When especially serious accusations are made against a bishop (for example, offenses against the Orthodox Faith, significant violations of Church discipline, immoral behavior, etc.), the Synod of Bishops may temporarily dismiss the accused from his duties and in some cases forbid him from serving even before the judgment of the Church Court.
80. In case of clear defamatory slander brought against a bishop by his accusers, the latter, in accordance with the 6th canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, are subjected to the same penalties as the accused would have been had he been found guilty.
81. Personal disputes and misunderstandings between bishops are usually settled by the First Hierarch, to whom the bishops may submit as to an arbitration tribunal. In this case his decision is binding on both parties.
82. If serious disputes and misunderstandings arise between bishops, which serve or may serve in the future as a great temptation for the faithful and undermine the authority of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the First Hierarch is to take strident measures to put an end to the arguments and misunderstandings that have arisen. In the event that such measures are unsuccessful, the First Hierarch may pass the matter on for the review and judgment by the Court of the Synod of Bishops.
The court of Synod of Bishops of first instance in matters concerning clergy, monastics and laymen directly subject to the Synod of Bishops, as well as persons sentenced to be defrocked and excommunicated.
83. All clergy, monastics and laymen within parishes, or outside, in monasteries or Synodal affiliatedses in different parts of the world and in various countries of the Russian diaspora, subject directly to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, are in judicial matters subject to the Court of the Synod of Bishops in its minor complement (the President and two members) as the court of first instance in all Church matters and matters of Church discipline, including matters of Church marriage and divorce, with the application of that legal process as is adopted in Diocesan Courts.
84. Persons described in the preceding paragraph have the right, within the established periods, to file appeals against the decisions of the Synod of Bishops in its minor complement, as a court of first instance.
85. Appeals filed by persons dissatisfied with the verdicts of the court of first instance are brought to the President of the Synod of Bishops and are considered in judicial sessions of the Appellate Court in the normal full composition of the Synod of Bishops, if new material is presented for consideration which indicates new or altered circumstances.
Note: In the case of the absence of one of the members of Synod, one of the alternate members of the Synod takes his place.
86. Punitive measures applied in the judgment of the Synod acting as a court of first instance are the same available to the Diocesan Court in Section D of these Regulations.
87. Clerical or lay officials who work for the Synod and have shown themselves to be negligent in their duties, or have permitted abuses causing material or moral injury to the organization in which they work, apart from
Note: Clerical officials of the Synod of Bishops are subject to the same rules concerning accusers and witnesses are as are applied with respect to all other clergy subject to Church legal proceedings.
B. THE COURT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS OF SECOND INSTANCE: THE APPELLATE COURT.
88. The Appellate Court, a court of second instance, is composed of the Synod of Bishops in its usual complement.
89. The Appellate Court is conducted in a judicial session of the Synod of Bishops and is charged with reviewing all verdicts of courts of first instance which have been brought on appeal before the Synod of Bishops.
90. The Appellate Court is conducted only on the written complaint of the party dissatisfied with the verdict of the court of first instance, and within the limits indicated in the complaint.
91. A motion with the intent to appeal based on dissatisfaction with a court’s decision must be filed within a period of two weeks from the day the verdict is announced, and the appeal itself motion must be submitted within 30 days from the same day.
92. The Appellate Court, at its own discretion, may hear other oral testimony of the parties besides the complaints themselves and the evidence.
93. If the Appellate Court of the Synod of Bishops, on examination of the matter, finds that the court of first instance did not adequately or fully consider the evidence, or the matter was insufficiently and not thoroughly investigated, it may either return the matter to the court of first instance and demand that the material that the court had at its disposal be amplified with new facts, or that it retry the entire case in accordance with the instructions of the Appellate Court and bring verdict, which it presents for the consideration and final decision of the Appellate Court; or, without returning the case to the court of first instance, the Appellate Court may demand from the court of first instance the missing evidence and without any assistance from the court of first instance, retry the case and issue a final verdict.
94. Upon reexamination of the case by the court of first instance if required by the Appellate Court, the participation of the parties and witnesses to provide supplementary new evidence, or of new witnesses who can give new information on the case, is mandatory if specifically instructed by the Appellate Court.
95. Cases are decided in sessions of the Appellate Court of the Synod of Bishops by a simple majority of votes, with the vote of it President prevailing in case of a tie.
96. The recording of proceedings of the Appellate Court and the composition of its draft decisions are the responsibilities of the secretary of the court.
97. Cases on appeal may be terminated by mutual consent of the parties if the circumstances threaten moral or
C. THE COURT OF CASSATION (SUPREME COURT) OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, AS A COURT OF THIRD INSTANCE.
99. The Synod of Bishops renders legal decisions in appeal proceedings which have the aim of obtaining revocation of unsatisfactory verdicts of courts of first instance on purely formal grounds connected with the violation of Church laws and other bases upon which ecclesiastical jurisprudence is founded, and also the very laws of conducting the Church’s legal proceedings.
100. Acting as the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), the Synod of Bishops investigates appealed decisions of the lower courts from a formal point of view, that is, their conformity with or violation of Church and civil laws, the foundations of Ecclesiastical Court and the rules of conduct of ecclesiastical jurisprudence. It confirms or completely vacates the previous judgments in the latter case, sending the matter back for new consideration to the court of first instance in its former composition or in a new one. The decisions of the Court of Cassation are considered final and are not subject to review. Therefore, after publication, it is immediately put into legal effect.
101. Persons who obtain negative results on appeal in the Court of Cassation may not institute proceedings again in an Ecclesiastical Court in such cases, and the ecclesiastical authorities must not accept new processes of cases which have already passed through the higher court of appeal.
102. The Secretary of the Court, under guidance of the President of the Court, records the proceedings and reports of the cases Court of Cassation considers.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL COURT OF THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS.
103. The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is the highest judicial tribunal for all members of this Church. Its judicial judgments are final.
104. The Court of the Council of Bishops has a dual purpose:
A. it is a direct court, like of first instance but final in its decision; and B. an indirect court, like an Appellate Court, but its decisions are final.
A. DIRECT COURT.
105. The following are directly subject to the Court of the Council of Bishops: a. the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia;
b. every bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, if his incriminating actions have not been examined by the Synod of Bishops, or if the Synod has not yet rendered its verdict one way or another in that regard;
106. Legal proceedings involving the First Hierarch are conducted before all the members of the Council of Bishops under the presidency of the most senior hierarch—a member of the Council—on the initiative of no fewer than one third of the members of the Council who have notified the Council of definite accusations, or by a justified resolution of the Synod of Bishops under the presidency of its most senior member.
107. No bishop brought to trial in the court of the Council of Bishops may be deprived of the right to make personal statements in court; to give personal explanations in self-defense before the court; to present documentary proof; or to call his witnesses to be interrogated by the Court or to give testimony.
108. Since within the limits of these present Regulations, the Synod of Bishops and the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are answerable only to the Council of Bishops as the only ecclesiastical court competent to try them, then, in the case of their condemnation by that court and their dissatisfaction with its verdict, they must submit to the decision of the Council. But subsequently, as a special exception and privilege for them, in the absence of a canonical bond with the hierarchy and administration of the local Russian Orthodox Church, they, nevertheless, retain the right to appeal for their rehabilitation to the heads and councils of those local Orthodox Churches which are in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
B. INDIRECT COURT (APPELLATE COURT).
109. The court of the Council of Bishops is a court of second instance, that is, an appellate Court, firstly, for all bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia who have received judgment in the court of the Synod of Bishops, if they are dissatisfied with the latter’s decision and have filed a timely notice of appeal through the First Hierarch; secondly, for every clergyman, monastic and layperson who has received judgment in a direct court of one of the previous Councils of Bishops who wish to be rehabilitated in the eyes of the Church as a result of the altered circumstances of their life and behavior and of their complete repentance.
110. Persons sentenced by the direct court of the Council of Bishops on any basis have the right to petition the succeeding regular Council to lighten the punishment or penance imposed upon them, or to render full revocation on thereof.
111. Petitions for alleviation or revocation of penance imposed by the court of the Council of Bishops are considered by the Council only in the event that, together with their petitions, they present to the Council supporting evidence from their spiritual father and local ecclesiastical authorities. There are no time constraints on the presentation of such petitions.
112. A bishop who has filed a notice of appeal within the allotted time possesses the right to defend himself in an appellate court and give any necessary explanations personally. He is to receive prior notice from the Synod of Bishops of the time and place appointed for the court.
114. All matters in the appellate court of the Council are decided by unanimity of the Council; if this is not possible, then by simple majority. In case of a split vote, the vote of the President is decisive.
115. The Secretary of the Appellate Court of the Council of Bishops, under guidance of the President of the Court, records the proceedings and reports of the cases it considers.
INDIRECT COURT OF THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS:
COURT OF CASSATION (SUPREME COURT) AS COURT OF THIRD INSTANCE.
116. The Court of Cassation of the Council of Bishops considers declarations and complaints brought in the name of persons of various ranks dissatisfied with the legal judgments of lower courts which have been confirmed on formal appeal by the court of the Synod of Bishops.
117. Motions or notices of appeal are submitted to the Council of Bishops through its President, and are signed by the person in whose name the appeal is brought.
118. Since the aim of motions of appeal is to obtain revocation of unsatisfactory verdicts of lower courts by way of protesting formal violations of Church laws and the rules of due legal process, the Court of the Council of Bishops as a Court of Cassation does not investigate the essence of the case, but considers it and the decision proceeding from it a formal legal aspect that is, their conformity with or violation of Church and civil laws,, on which grounds it either confirms the previous decision of lower courts or revokes it completely and sends the case back for reconsideration.
119. The decisions or verdicts of the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) of the Council of Bishops are not subject to further review, are considered final, and take legal effect after their publication through the proper channels.
120. The Secretary of the Court of Cassation, under guidance of the President of the Court, records the proceedings and reports of the cases it considers.