The article presents the testimonial of a Coptic man called Edward who used to work at
Tantā University before emigrating to Australia. He married a Coptic woman from Tantā but following the marriage
discovered that his bride was not a virgin. He stated that he convinced her to tell him everything about her past life and
sexual history and promised that he would not harm her.
Over the course of three weeks he recorded her confessions on
four tapes. He discovered that she had worked in the prostitution industry with her sister and brothers headed by their
After recording the cassettes, he kicked her out and went to the bishopric to get a divorce, taking the four
cassettes as proof.
In the bishopric they asked him to go to the court and get a divorce and come back to get
permission to remarry. He stated that Bishop Bula of the personal status affairs in the Coptic Orthodox Church listened to
the recorded cassettes in the presence of his former wife and her brother. Bishop Bula made her sign a document asserting
that it was her voice in the cassettes and that she had said what she said of her own free will.
A copy of the
cassettes was saved with the case folio and the originals stayed with Edward.
Edward stated that he got a divorce
after five years in the civil courts. The court did depend on the cassettes to issue the ruling but the divorce was decided
as a result of the fact that the couple had been separated for more than three years.
After that he got permission to
remarry that was signed by Bishop Bula himself. However, Edward stated that he was shocked when he saw the priest responsible
for the clerical court in Tantā in his office with his ex-wife and the case folio. The priest [Reviewer: No names
mentioned] stated that he would never allow him to remarry and gave the folio to the divorced wife who took the document she
signed with her confessions and tore it apart.
Edward stated that his ex-wife was allowed to marry again in the Coptic
Orthodox Church in Tantā, which he believes is a violation of Pope Shenouda’s instructions, criticizing the so-called
"clerical council" that he described as "two or three priests who gather to judge whether or not a person who has a court
ruling for a divorce should be allowed to marry again."
He also stated that the authorization for a second marriage is
an ordinary piece of paper written and signed by a priest without any official reference. The permission is valid for one
year after which the person needs to renew it if they are not yet married. In Edward’s case, he cannot renew it in Australia
but needs to go back to Bishop Bula every year.
In case Edward wants to marry someone from a governorate other than
Tantā, she will need to verify the validity of the permission, and will have to go to the church it was issued in where,
Edward says, the priest will deny in his case the validity of his permission under the pretext that his ex-wife was married
again according to the church’s permission and that if the church allowed her to remarry it means that she was innocent and
her husband was guilty, and consequently cannot be allowed a second marriage.
Edward believes that the government
should stop the church authority from having such control over personal status issues and make it the sole jurisdiction of
civil courts. He called for effectuating the state decision issued in 1955 to stop denominational religious courts.
severely criticized the luxury and authority of priests in the Coptic Orthodox Church and referred to special cases of
corruption in the Coptic Orthodox Church clerical council in Tantā.