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Ecclesiastical Courts

Section 1

    The Right to Canonical Process

Every member of the Church, whether cleric, monastic, or lay, is entitled to canonical process in the courts of the Church and can defend and vindicate their legitimate rights in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norm of law.


Section 2  

Standards, Norms and Procedures

The Holy Synod, as the highest canonical authority within the Church, shall establish standards, norms, and procedures to be observed in all matters involving cases presented before the courts of the Church at all levels.

The standards, norms, and procedures established by the Holy Synod and observed in the courts of the Church shall be those set forth in the canons and traditions of the Holy Orthodox Church and shall include, but not be limited to:

  1. The determination by the court of the accuser’s good and irreproachable character and lack of motivations stemming from personal advantage or personal animosity;
  2. The right of the accused that accusations against the accused be in a writing addressed to the Bishop of the Diocese of the accused;
  3. The right of the accused to a written summons to the relevant Church court setting forth the name of the accuser and the nature of the accusation;
  4. The right of the accused to the advice and assistance of any third-party in connection with all procedures of the Church court;
  5. The right of the accused to a reasonable time for the preparation of a defense before any hearing in a Church court;
  6. The right of the accused to be present at and participate in the proceeding of the Church court except in extraordinary and unusual circumstances; and
  7. The right of the accused to present a defense to any accusation, including the presentation of documents on behalf of the accused, the hearing of witnesses designated by the accused, and the presentation of the testimony of experts acceptable to the court.

In all instances, the accused shall have the right to testify on his or her own behalf.

The standards, norms, and procedures approved and promulgated by the Holy Synod shall remain in effect until they are amended or abrogated by the approval and promulgation of subsequent texts by the Holy Synod.


Section 3  

The Diocesan Court

The Diocesan Court shall be established by the Diocesan Bishop and shall be the court of first instance in all matters concerning clergy and laity of the Diocese or otherwise under the authority of the Diocesan Bishop.


Section 4  

Competence of the Diocesan Court

The Diocesan Court shall be competent to adjudicate cases involving allegations of unorthodox belief or teaching, breaches of canonical or moral discipline, issues relating to marriage, disputes between individuals, administration of parish and other Diocesan institutions, and other matters involving good Church order.


Section 5  

The Stavropegial Court

The Stavropegial Court shall be established by the Metropolitan and shall be the court of first instance in all matters within its competence concerning the clergy and laity canonically assigned or attached to, or who freely associate themselves with, stavropegial institutions.


Section 6  

Competence of the Stavropegial Court

The Stavropegial Court shall be competent to adjudicate cases involving allegations of unorthodox belief or teaching, breaches of canonical or moral discipline, issues relating to marriage, disputes between individuals, administration of stavropegial institutions, and other matters involving good Church order.


Section 7  

The Synodal Court                    

The Synodal Court, comprised of the members of the Holy Synod and presided over by the Metropolitan, shall be convened at regular sessions of the Holy Synod and at other times, as necessary, to address judicial matters that are within its competence. If judgment requires the augmentation of the number of bishops, Diocesan Bishops from other Orthodox Churches shall be invited to participate.


Section 8  

Competence of the Synodal Court                    

The Holy Synod shall act as the court of first instance in all matters involving a bishop and as the regular court of final instance in all matters involving a bishop, a member of the clergy, or a member of the laity. The Synodal Court shall never act as court of first instance in cases within the competence of Diocesan or Stavropegial Courts. The judgments of the Holy Synod are not subject to appeal, except those cases which involve the deposition of a bishop or those cases which the Sacred Canons reserve to the judgment of the worldwide communion of Orthodox Churches.


Section 9  

Standing Committee for Canonical Procedure                    

The Holy Synod may in its discretion establish a Standing Committee for Canonical Procedure to which it may appoint experts in canon law, civil law, and other relevant disciplines in order to provide assistance and advice to Ecclesiastical Courts, including Diocesan, Stavropegial, and Synodal Courts. Any Standing Committee for Canonical Procedure may be charged by the Holy Synod to recommend to it for its approval and adoption of general rules for canonical procedure for use and application in all or several Courts of the Church. The Holy Synod may also charge any Standing Committee for Canonical Procedure to recommend to it for its approval and adoption special rules of canonical procedure as may be warranted by particular circumstances, provided however that no such special rules may be promulgated for use in application in any specific, individual case then pending.

 


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