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Author Topic: Divorce/Contraception Orthodox Style  (Read 23754 times) Average Rating: 0
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rosborn
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« on: February 11, 2004, 08:56:36 AM »

Howdy,

I am asking these questions with the greatest sincerity.  I am seeking to understand the Orthodox practice of divorce and contraception and I welcome any resources that can be offered to understand these things better.

Why does the Orthodox Church allow divorce when Jesus said that divorce was not permitted, even though God permitted it for certain circumstances for the Jews?  Why allow up to three marriages but not more than three?  Why is three the magic number in Orthodoxy?  If you can direct me to some “official” documents/books regarding this issue I would greatly appreciate it.

Why does the Orthodox Church allow contraception?  It seems to me that the Orthodox Church has become more lenient on this issue since the 1930’s.  I have spoken with a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and he told me that contraception is not allowed by ROCOR.  I understand that this is no changing within ROCOR and that now contraception is being allowed.  This is hard to understand when NFP, if practiced properly, is extremely effective in regulating births.  Finally, again, if you can direct me to some “official” documents/books regarding this issue, and why it has changed so greatly over time, I would greatly appreciate it.
   
Thank you and God bless,

Rob
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2004, 09:28:46 AM »

Why does the Orthodox Church allow contraception?

This is news to me. To the best of my knowledge the Orthodox church does not allow contraception, nor is NFP recommended for the same reasons.

A friend of ours was permitted you use contraceptives while she was undergoing treatment for an illness that required the use of some pretty heavy drugs. If she had conceived while undergoing treatment, the baby would have been seriously affected. However, while using the contraceptives, she was permitted to have Holy Communion only three times during the year.

John.
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ania
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2004, 11:14:45 AM »

Does anyone have any concrete writings by the church fathers opposing contraception?  I know opposing abortion there are writings, yes, but contraception?
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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2004, 01:01:58 PM »

Contraception pretty much wasn't around until the late 19th century.

However, there is a story from the Bible, about a man who used "withdrawal contraception," and God slew him. I think it was in Genesis. I would be interested in knowing what the fathers think about this story from the Bible.
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« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2004, 01:03:15 PM »

Abortifacients, however, are from the dim times.
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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2004, 01:04:15 PM »

Onan isn't a great example because IIRC he was specifically commanded to father a child.
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2004, 01:04:33 PM »

Gen. 38:1-11
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2004, 01:05:36 PM »

I have heard that argument, Keble. I am not sure I buy it, but I haven't formulated a response yet. What do the Fathers say?
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PhosZoe
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2004, 01:06:06 PM »

I hate to tell you, but unlike the Roman Catholic church are NOT any official documents by the early church fathers or an official church document. Will you find many writings on the subject? Conflicting opinions? Yes, you will. Seeing that Ortho trycyclin didn't emerge until the 1960s... Anyway..

Here is the best explaination I was able to find...
http://www.oca.org/pages/orth_chri/Q-and-A_OLD/Meeting-the-Orthodox.html#19
 
I HIGHLY reccomend this book as well.  "Love, Sexuality, and the Sacrament of Marriage"  by John Chryssavgis. It is available on Amazon.com It's the best Orthodox christian view on sexuality and marriage, IMHO.

The best person to consult would be your parish priest.  You're going to get 300 different views of "what is right".



by John Chryssavgis
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2004, 01:09:13 PM »

This is news to me. To the best of my knowledge the Orthodox church does not allow contraception, nor is NFP recommended for the same reasons.

A friend of ours was permitted you use contraceptives while she was undergoing treatment for an illness that required the use of some pretty heavy drugs. If she had conceived while undergoing treatment, the baby would have been seriously affected. However, while using the contraceptives, she was permitted to have Holy Communion only three times during the year.

John.

I know that I am speaking as someone "outside" of Orthodoxy, but I also have read from time to time posts or articles that indicate that a certain amount of "oeconomia" is practiced on the parish level in some Orthodox jurisdictions regarding the regulation of births.  I have a book at home--the title escapes me now--on Orthodox Moral Theology (Conciliar Press?  Not sure right now) which discusses the practice of "oeconomia" and the specific intentions of the contracepting Orthodox couple.  This book also approves of certain artificial conception methods--i.e., in vitro fertilization--for the Orthodox couple seeking to overcome problems in conceiving.  After reading the book, I realized that it was not Orthodox dogma/doctrine and likely would not be approved by many Orthodox jurisdictions . . . but I'm not totally sure.  I'll post the book title this evening.

The RC position on these uses is not all that juridical as some Orthodox claim.  I hope that there is pretty much a convergence of opinion between Orthodox and Catholics on unnatural forms of conception as there is on abortion on demand.  I really don't know if there is a similar convergence of views regarding artificial means of birth regulation.  I'm speaking of a convergence of the Magisteria of both Orthodoxy and Catholicism.  I already know the Catholic laity's opinion.  I perceive that 89-94% of Catholic laity contracept.  And don't anybody call this the "sensus fidelium" because that is NOT what the RCC teaches about the "SF!"

I don't understand why this woman was permitted to receive Holy Communion only three times a year.  The medical use of contraceptives to regulate an errant menstrual cycle is well established.  The RCC recognizes the use of contraceptives for legitimate medical purposes as opposed to a thinly veiled "excuse" to contracept.  What's the problem from the Orthodox perspective, if there is a problem?Huh

What's the Orthodox problem with NFP?  It is an effective method to use for couples who have trouble conceiving.  I won't go into details but I have some personal experience with NFP and it does work.  No pills, no chemicals, no "breakthrough," no abortions--just natural, plain and simple!  Well "simple" may be the wrong word to use.  How about "not all that complicated" provided you're willing to do your homework?

Jim C.

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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2004, 01:14:02 PM »

These questions are addressed in much detail in "The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers" by Fr. Stanley Harakas. If you don't have this book I highley recommend it since he tackles many of the issues that we face in the modern world today in a very educated and loving manner.

He talks directly about birth control in question 56 and a quick summery of the article is that there has always been much debate in the church about this topic and that both sides have biblical backing. He does say that even if birthcontrol is practiced it should not be of permant form which would perclude the possibilty of conception. Of course birth control is only practiced within the confines of marriage because sex outside of marriage is a no no.

Again I would recommend getting this book and reading the article more in depth. The answer to birthcontrol is one of the lenghtier articles and for good reason since there is no clear cut straight answer.
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2004, 01:49:56 PM »

These questions are addressed in much detail in "The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers" by Fr. Stanley Harakas. If you don't have this book I highley recommend it since he tackles many of the issues that we face in the modern world today in a very educated and loving manner.

He talks directly about birth control in question 56 and a quick summery of the article is that there has always been much debate in the church about this topic and that both sides have biblical backing. He does say that even if birthcontrol is practiced it should not be of permant form which would perclude the possibilty of conception. Of course birth control is only practiced within the confines of marriage because sex outside of marriage is a no no.

Again I would recommend getting this book and reading the article more in depth. The answer to birthcontrol is one of the lenghtier articles and for good reason since there is no clear cut straight answer.


Thanks for the recommendation!  I think I'll order the book although SWiMBO will probably crucify me if she catches me sneaking "another new book!" into the house and under her radar!

Oh . . . Dies Irae!

JBC
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PhosZoe
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2004, 02:29:19 PM »

These questions are addressed in much detail in "The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers" by Fr. Stanley Harakas. If you don't have this book I highley recommend it since he tackles many of the issues that we face in the modern world today in a very educated and loving manner.

A ditto reccomendation for this book.
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Anastasios
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2004, 03:49:00 PM »

www.orthodoxnfp.org
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2004, 03:54:15 PM »

http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ274.HTM
WARNING: Site is by RC Apologist who is notoriously Anti-Orthodox. Link provided for citations moreso than anything else.

Contraception:
Early Church Teaching
by William Klimon

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom condemned contraceptors as "stand[ing]" with heretics (On Galatians 5, PG 61:668-669) and as doing the work of "murderers" (Homily 62 on Matthew 19, PG 58:599).

St. John is referring to castration. Castration is, of course, an extreme form of contraception--but it is nonetheless a form of contraception, one that has been fairly widely used during this century in population control, e.g., in India and China. In fact, sterilization is the most popular form of contraception in the world (according to the UN Population Division): 30% of contraceptors rely on female sterilization and 8% rely on male sterlization.

(1) Castration is a form of contraception.
(2) St. John was preaching in opposition to Gnostics who used castration precisely as a form of contraception.

(3) The Fathers and canons condemned self-castration because it was primarily a contraceptive method.

(4) St. John uses exactly the same language with regard to a pharmacological-type and other forms of contraception.

(5) Sterilization is simply surgical or chemical castration.

Sodomy is also contraception, a notion based on texts like Gen. 1:28 and Gen. 38:6-10. The whole rabbinical commentary tradition certainly did. See Jeremy Cohen, "Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It": The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (1989).
In any event, they are all forms of contraception, which is defined as the "use of any means of preventing sexual intercourse from resulting in conception."--The Oxford Companion to Law, ed. D.M. Walker (1980), s.v. "Contraception."

St. John also called the use of contraceptives "a murder before birth" (PG 60:626.50-51). This reference is to the use of "medicines of sterility":

Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit? Where there are medicines of sterility? Where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. Do you see that from drunkenness comes fornication, from fornication adultery, from adultery murder? Indeed, it is something worse than murder and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you contemn the gift of God, and fight with His laws? What is a curse, do you seek as though it were a blessing? Do you make the anteroom of birth the anteroom of slaughter? Do you teach the woman who is given to you for the procreation of offspring to perpetrate killing? That she may always be beautiful and lovable to her lovers, and that she may rake in more money, she does not refuse to do this, heaping fire on your head; and even if the crime is hers, you are the cause. Hence also arise idolatries. To look pretty many of these women use incantations, libations, philtres, potions, and innumerable other things. Yet after such turpitude, after murder, after idolatry, the matter still seems indifferent to many men--even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the marrie dmen there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumberable tricks, invocations of demons, incantations of the dead, daily wars, ceaseless battles, and unremitting contentions.
{St. John Chrysostom, Homily 24 on the Epistle to the Romans (PG 60:626-27) }

Men who are avaricious and desirous to avoid children as a burden "mutilate nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live."--St. John Chrysostom, Homily 28 on Matthew 5 (P 57:357). The NPNF series translates this roughly as "prevent their being born," contrasting infanticide with abortion.
Contraception in the Ancient World / Eastern and Western Patristic Views

For a more complete treatment of patristic thought on the subject, see John T. Noonan, Jr., Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), ch. 3.

The best study of Orthodox thought on sexuality is: Eve Levin, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989). Here is Prof. Levin's conclusion about the Orthodox attitude to contraception based on extensive research in liturgical and canon law manuscript material:

Because only the birth of a child justified sexual intercourse between husband and wife, any attempt to prevent conception was regarded as evil. From the medieval Slavic perspective, contraception, abortion, and infanticide were similar offenses; provisions against birth control did not always distinguish among them. All three represented the same thing: an attempt to forestall the introduction into the world of a new soul. For that reason, all three offenses were sometimes called dusegube, literally, 'the destruction of a soul.'
{Levin, pp. 175-176}

There was no lack of birth control in the ancient world. I don't think that there is any type of contraception known today that was not known in the ancient world: pharmacological, barrier (both chemical and mechanical), coitus interruptus, sodomy, sterilization, etc. For a brief introduction to the subject by the foremost historian of the subject, see John M. Riddle, et al., "Ever Since Eve . . .: Birth Control in the Ancient World", Archaeology, March/April 1994, pp. 29-35. We really do underestimate the ingenuity of our ancestors. While in the past these were far from always effective or reliable, people kept trying. See John M. Riddle: Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance (1992), and Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West (1997).
For centuries, historians paid no attention to ancient accounts that claimed certain plants provided an effective means of birth control. . . . Modern laboratory analysis of various plants [including silphium, asafoetida, seeds of Queen Anne's lace, pennyroyal, willow, date palm, pomegranate, inter al.], however, gives us reason to believe that the classical potions were effective, and that women in antiquity had more control over their reproductive lives than previously thought.
{Riddle, op. cit., p. 30}

There is a consensus in the Catholic Church. The Orthodox churches not in communion with Rome are outside of this consensus:
The propositions constituting a condemnation of contraception are, it will be seen, recurrent. Since the first clear mention of contraception by a Christian theologian, when a harsh third-century moralist accused a pope of encouraging it, the articulated judgment has been the same. In the world of the late Empire known to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, in the Ostrogothic Arles of Bishop Caesarius and the Suevian Braga of Bishop Martin, in the Paris of St. Albert and St. Thomas, in the Renaissance Rome of Sixtus V and the Renaissance Milan of St. Charles Borromeo, in the Naples of St. Alphonsus Liguori and Liege of Charles Billuart, in the Philadelphia of Bishop Kenrick, and in the Bombay of Cardinal Gracias, the teachers of the Church have taught without hestitation or variation that certain acts preventing procreation are gravely sinful. No Catholic theologian has ever taught, 'Contraception is a good act.' The teaching on contraception is clear and apparently fixed forever.
{John T. Noonan, Jr., Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (1965), p. 6}

The use of contraception was condemned by church fathers. The Penitential ascribed to John IV Nesteutes [St. John the Faster] considers it a form of infanticide, categorizing several kinds of birth control: application of ointment ([?] trimata) that is perceived as the least heinous; drinking a potion (pharmakon); and the worst--the use of a herbs to induce abortion (PG 88:1904C). Another text attributed to the same author (col. 1924A) required sinners to confess their desire to remain childless, induce an abortion, or use contraceptive herbs. [St.] John Chrysostom calls the use of contraception 'a murder before birth' (PG 60:626.50-51) and views it as harmful not only because it prevents procreation but also because it leads to involvement in contraceptive magic and idolatry (ibid., 627.6-8). The practice of contraception was usually limited to prostitutes and to women tempted to break their vows of chastity or of marital fidelity. Married couples, however, sometimes abstained from or restricted sexual intercourse after having produced a child or two [NFP, anyone?]. [St.] Epiphanios of Cyprus (Panarion 26.5.2-6) describes with indignation (and evidently with strong exaggeration) the habits of heretical Gnostics who did not wish to bear children but fornicated for the sake of pleasure, using coitus interruptus or abortion as a means of contraception; they are even reported to have ground up the embryo in a mortar, mixed it with honey, pepper, and other spices, and to have eaten it at their loathsome assemblies.
Byzantine medical writers, esp. Paul of Aegina in the 7th C., transmitted the theories and techniques of contraception outlined by the 2nd-C. Gynaikeia of Soranos, which recommended vaginal wool suppositories and the application of olive oil, honey, cedar resin, alum, balsam gum, or white lead to prevent sperm from passing into the uterus. Paul, however, provided only one herbal contraception recipe, whereas Dioskorides had 20. In the 6th C. Aetios of Amida recommended magical protection such as wearing an amulet of cat's liver or a womb of a lioness in an ivory tube.

{The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. A.P. Kazhdan (Oxford, 1991, 3 vols.), s.v. "Contraception"}

Soranus of Ephesus, physician under Trajan and Hadrian (AD 98-138), studied at Alexandria and practised at Rome. He wrote around twenty books . . . [including] Gynaecology. The latter gives valuable information on gynaecology and obstetrics in the Roman Empire. . . . Although Galen was the more influential writer for gynaecology in the Latin west in late antiquity and the Middle Ages, sections of Soranus were translated into Latin and adapted for different audiences. In the Greek east, Soranus' gynaecology survived in the work of the encyclopaedists.

{The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. S. Hornblower & A. Spawforth (3d ed., 1996), s.v. "Soranus"}

A contraceptive differs from an abortive, for the first does not let conception take place, while the latter destroys what has been conceived. Let us therefore call the one 'abortive' [phthorion] and the other 'contraceptive' [atokion].

{Soranos Eph., Gynaeciorum libri, 1.60}

Soranos' Gynaecology was probably the most widely circulated book on the subject in the classical and Byzantine world. See L. Berkowitz & K.A. Squitier, TLG Canon of Greek Authors and Works (3d ed., Oxford U. Pr., 1990), p. 367 (noting 42,426 (!) manuscripts of the work surviving).

t has been argued that many of the remedies given as general gynaecological cures in the ancient medical tradition did in fact contain substances, mostly of plant origin, effective both as contraceptives and as early-stage abortifacients. Some substances were sued as barriers; for example, sponges soaked in vinegar or oil, or cedar resin applied to the mouth of the womb. These could have acted as spermicides. Others could either be taken orally or used as pessaries, and included pomegranate skin, pennyroyal, willow, and the squirting cucumber, which forcefully ejects its seeds.

{Oxford Classical Dictionary, op. cit., s.v. "Contraception"}

The real issue is not how these herbs worked, but whether the ancients thought they did. The later issue is clear: they certainly did. The Fathers knew this, and they condemned the use of such things.
Concerning the Gnostics:

They exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption.
St. Epiphanios, Panarion 26.5.2 (GCS 25:281)

The author of the Elenchos (c. 220-30) criticizes the concubinage of Christian free women and slaves when "on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered"--Elenchos 9.12.25 (GCS 26:250). The author goes on to describe such conduct as "murder."
There are canons and penitentials in the West that condemn contraception, beginning with St. Martin of Braga's Chapters from the Synods of the Eastern Fathers, 77 (A.D. 572).

Masturbation in the sense of solitary sin, self-abuse, was generally not be considered contraceptive. Masturbation in the sense of coitus interruptus undoubtedly is contraceptive, and was so considered. And indeed, e.g., the Penitential of St. Hubert (c. A.D. 850) prescribes exactly the same penance (10 years of fasting) for intentional homicide, contraception by potion, and coitus interruptus!!! See Noonan, op. cit., p. 164. Cf. the Penitential of Vigila of Alvelda (c. A.D. 800), canon 45: "A woman, also, who takes a potion shall consider herself to be guilty of as many acts of homicide as the number of those she was due to conceive or bear." Reprinted in Medieval Handbooks of Penance, ed. J.T. McNeill & H.M. Gamer (Columbia U. Pr., 1938), p. 291.

Crucial, Essential Distinctions Between Artificial Contraception and Natural Family Planning

The means of contraception and Natural Family Planning (NFP) - the latter accepted by the Catholic Church - are totally different: NFP involves studying the female body's natural fertile cycle and abstaining from sexual intercourse, if necessary, during fertile periods. (Of course, it can be and is also used to assist in conception by indicating periods of highest fertility!) This is a wholly salutary thing.

Artifical contraception involves using a chemical or physical barrier, or other method, that thwarts the natural fertile cycle or otherwise blocks conception. Contracepted intercourse can then be had at will. Many Eastern commentators through the ages recognized that this also thwarted God's will in preventing the conception and birth of new human beings--thus they analogized to murder.

The origins of NFP can be found as far back as 1845, based on the work of the French physiologist F.A. Pouchet. See Noonan, op. cit., ch. 14. NFP is based on modern scientific discoveries concerning natural infertile periods. NFP could be abused, if couples used it to avoid conception indefinitely or without good reason. That is a matter of their intention. It can also be used in a non-sinful way. The latter is never true with artifical contraceptives. The simple, mutually-agreed-upon act of refraining from intercourse, though, cannot be objected to--otherwise celibacy would have to be condemned. The Church has never said that sexual intercourse must take place at any given time! Neither can the act of intercourse during natural infertile periods be condemned: the Church has never condemned intercourse during post-pregnancy anovulatory periods, or post-menopausally.

Any form of active contraception--interposition of a barrier between the couple, poisoning of the gametes, destruction or disabling of the reproductive organs, or sexual activity that does not conclude in coital consummation--is per se sinful. A cycle of periodic abstinence followed by intercourse during infertile periods is not, in itself, sinful. The condom, for example, interposes a barrier between the couple. NFPers are totally open to conception during their intercourse. That conception does not usually occur is due to the female body's natural reproductive cycle, not to the positive action of the couple. Or to put it another way, the NFPers are avoiding conception only when they are abstaining from intercourse, which, assuming it is not done indefinitely or for the wrong reasons, can never be blameworthy. You can't force the female body to conceive when it won't. And abstaining from intercourse (within reason) is not blameworthy. Use of a condom, however, always blocks conception.

It is the use of artifical contraception that is sinful and has always been condemned as such by the Church. Natural contraception, while not wholly unproblematic, is not in itself sinful. This is clear from the constant teaching of the Church that chastity, even in marriage, is a good. A fulfilled pledge of abstinence in marriage is clearly contraceptive, and yet that has been seen as a spiritual good, from the holy and chaste union of the Theotokos and St. Joseph, to 20/c worthies like Jacques and Raissa Maritain. (For a critical study of the subject, see Dyan Elliott, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (Princeton U. Pr., 1993).) NFP takes up this insight in a limited fashion, i.e., by use of temporary, as opposed to perpetual, abstinence. The reason that abstinence, whether temporary or perpetual, is not in itself sinful, while being contraceptive, is that nothing is interposed between the couple--they remain open to conception, while recognizing their freedom not to have intercourse (by mutual agreement). There are purely natural ways in which conception could still result: irregular periods, periodic changes in menstrual cycle, exceptionally long-lived spermatozoa, etc.

NFP used as a long-term or permanent means of avoiding conception involves a sinful disposition. The use of continence as a means of contraception, though, is not in itself sinful. As the late Fr. John Meyendorff noted, "both the New Testament and Church tradition consider continence as an acceptable form of family planning."--J. Meyendorff, Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective (3d rev. ed., St. Vlad. Sem. Pr., 1984), p. 62.

Orthodox observe approximately 180 fast days in the year, in which sexual intercourse is prohibited. At other times it is also not allowed for other reasons. Thus one Orthodox priest wrote that Orthodox do not need contraception -- they only need to keep the fasts! This is certainly analogous, in principle, to NFP.

Orthodoxy on the Morality of Artificial Contraception

In the first edition, first printing (1963) of The Orthodox Church by Timothy (Kallistos) Ware - a widely-cited and authoritative source on Orthodox teaching -, the author states (page 302):

Artificial methods of birth control are forbidden in the Orthodox Church.
The first edition, revised 1984 version of The Orthodox Church, however (NY: Penguin Books, page 302), states (emphasis added):
The use of contraceptives and other devices for birth control is on the whole strongly discouraged in the Orthodox Church. Some bishops and theologians altogether condemn the employment of such methods. Others, however, have recently begun to adopt a less strict position, and urge that the question is best left to the discretion of each individual couple, in consultation with the spiritual father.
The second edition, revised 1993 version of The Orthodox Church reveals even further alarming departure from Orthodox and previously universal Christian Tradition (page 296; emphasis added):
Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences.
Or note another statement from a revered Orthodox Patriarch, in 1968:
We assure you that we remain close to you, above all in these recent days when you have taken the good step of publishing the encyclical Humanae Vitae. We are in total agreement with you, and wish you all God's help to continue your mission in the world.
{Telegram from Patriarch Athenagoras to Pope Paul VI, 9 August 1968, reprinted in Towards the Healing of Schism, ed. & trans. E.J. Stormon (1987), p. 197}


 

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« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2004, 05:02:25 PM »


Thank you for providing this link.  This is the best single statement from that link and is THE JUSTIFICATION for NFP:

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NFP is not simply a method of birth control—it is a countercultural way of life. Because it flows  from the acceptance of fertility as a gift from God, it helps couples regain a Christian vision of sexuality in a sexually-confused world.

Given the Janet Jackson-isms of our modern(ist) age, I believe that the aforementioned quote sets sexuality in its rightful context . . . within marriage.

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« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2004, 05:04:23 PM »

Dude, this is just too much to read on-line.  But somewhat interesting - what I did read.
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« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2004, 05:29:06 PM »

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Thus one Orthodox priest wrote that Orthodox do not need contraception -- they only need to keep the fasts! This is certainly analogous, in principle, to NFP.

Yes, we should keep the fasts, but it is not analogous in principle to NFP. NFP is not an ascetical discipline. It is birth control. A couple practices NFP to control when the wife conceives, plain and simple. NFP is very effective. A couple has a better chance of conceiving using a condom than a couple who are pros using NFP.

The "natural" argument does not hold. A condom is unnatural. Yes, and so is eating meat...yet God allows it because of our fallen nature (Adam and Eve would not kill to eat meat before the Fall).

If you feel that birth control is wrong, you can't use NFP. If you have intercourse using NFP and you are always "open" to accept children (which all married couples should always feel open), yet you are using NFP that night with the will and intention not to conceive during that particular night, it is still birth control.

If you feel that regulating birth is okay, use a condom or NFP, but not the pill, etc.

You can't be against birth control and use NFP.

BTW, I am on the fence with this issue: birth control or no birth control, that is the question. But not NFP and no birth control.

Greg
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« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2004, 06:25:31 PM »

Yes, we should keep the fasts, but it is not analogous in principle to NFP. NFP is not an ascetical discipline. It is birth control. A couple practices NFP to control when the wife conceives, plain and simple. NFP is very effective. A couple has a better chance of conceiving using a condom than a couple who are pros using NFP.

The "natural" argument does not hold. A condom is unnatural. Yes, and so is eating meat...yet God allows it because of our fallen nature (Adam and Eve would not kill to eat meat before the Fall).

If you feel that birth control is wrong, you can't use NFP. If you have intercourse using NFP and you are always "open" to accept children (which all married couples should always feel open), yet you are using NFP that night with the will and intention not to conceive during that particular night, it is still birth control.

If you feel that regulating birth is okay, use a condom or NFP, but not the pill, etc.

You can't be against birth control and use NFP.

BTW, I am on the fence with this issue: birth control or no birth control, that is the question. But not NFP and no birth control.

Greg

God allows the use of a condom because of our fallen nature?

I believe the issue is not being against birth control per se; it is being against artificial birth control.  I'm not sure I understand your point about "using NFP that night . . . "  NFP is not a one night or one sex act at a time practice.  It is basically an awareness of the wife's fertility cycle throughout the fertile years of marriage.  If you are against birth control without qualification then you would use NFP to "schedule" sexual intercourse only during the wife's fertile periods, abstention for ascetical purposes notwithstanding.

One thing the condom doesn't do and that is promote marital fidelity!  I can just see it now . . . two young unmarried lovers using the sympto-thermal method of NFP in lieu of a much more convenient, though slightly less effective method, a condom! Cheesy

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Now listening to: The Augustinian minded posters hurling stones at me.

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« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2004, 07:54:32 PM »

NFP can be used as birth control.  In such uses it is wrong.

Augustinianism is not bad per se. Not everything western is evil.  In Fr John Schroedel's thesis though which is unfortunately unpublished, he devotes a chapter to showing how natural law arguments have been used by the Orthodox before.

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« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2004, 07:58:47 PM »

By the way I just don't think NFP can be birth control because one abstains from sex.  It can't be a sin to abstain from sex.  And having sex at "non fertile times" is never 100% guaranteed to keep away pregancy.

The Catholics say you can use NFP for child spacing which is a legitimate concern for emotional, spiritual, and economic reasons, but that you can never use it to NOT have children in a permanent sense.  I totally agree with this view.

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« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2004, 09:43:26 PM »

A few observations about the article posted by anastasios:

As you would expect the author has chosen to cite from Orthodox works only those statements which directly or indirectly suggest that the RC teaching is the only legitimate one. He could’ve cited the rest of the paragraph he quoted from John Meyendorff’s work “Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective” to give the reader a more unbiased and accurate context of the Orthodox position:  

‘Recent Roman Catholic teaching also recommends periodic continence, but forbids the “artificial” means, such as the “pill.” But is there a real difference between the means called “artificial” and those considered “natural”? Is continence really “natural”? Is not any medical control of human functions “artificial”? Should it therefore be condemned as sinful? And finally, a serious theological question: is anything “natural” necessarily “good”? For even St. Paul saw that continence can lead to “burning.” Is not science able to render childbirth more humane, by controlling it, just as it controls food, habitat and health?

Straight condemnation of birth-control fails to give satisfactory answers to all these questions. It has never been endorsed by the Orthodox Church as a whole, even if, at times, local Church authorities may have issued statements on the matter identical to that of the Pope. In any case, it has never been the Church’s practice to give moral guidance by issuing standard formulas claiming universal validity on questions which actually require a personal act of conscience. There are forms of birth control which will be acceptable, and even unavoidable, for certain couples, while others will prefer avoiding them. This is particularly true of the “pill”’ (Meyendorff, Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective, p. 62, SVSP).

Secondly I find the entire charge against Orthodoxy’s “departure” from Tradition on this question to be patently hypocritical and flawed. When we compare Rome’s current teaching with its past identification of sex as a necessary evil (the result of raising St. Augustine as the ultimate patristic authority), the straightforward condemnation of sex for any other reason but procreation, and on a different subject matter, the condemnation of usury which was later overturned, are we not dealing with a so-called “departure from Tradtion” in matters of morality by the author’s standards?

Thirdly I found it ironic to notice the author asserting that “it is the use of artifical contraception that is sinful and has always been condemned as such by the Church” inferring the allegedly longstanding legitimacy of NFP, when St. Augustine himself condemned even the “natural” methods of birth control!

I think past and present teaching of the RCC on this and related issues can be better understood in a historical context by taking into account the development of the doctrine of Original Sin and the influence of pagan philosophy such as Stoicism, the latter from which, in certain eras, the East also was not immune.  The earliest traces in the West of a doctrine of Original Sin bearing resemblance to St. Augustine’s doctrine is discerned in St. Irenaeus and Tertullian.

The identification of the human race with Adam’s sin for St. Irenaeus is a real solidarity such that, at the time of the Fall, the entire human race already existed in Adam, making every human being since Adam responsible for the transgression. Man was seminally present in Adam. When we come to Tertullian we find his anthropology marked by his Stoic influences - his key teaching is the belief that both body and soul are generated by sexual intercourse, excluding the idea of God’s creation of the soul simultaneously with the body. For Tertullian, the paternal seed is not just a portion of his body, but is actually charged with soul. Hence, all of us, in a real way, were contained in Adam, subdivided throughout the generations as though every soul is a “twig cut from the parent-stem of Adam, planted out as an independent tree (De an. 19). This was only a step away from the Augustinian doctrine of original sin which was to be adopted by Rome. It becomes evident what logical corollaries can be deduced, firstly, that sex for any reason other than procreation is considered sinful, an secondly, that any method to prevent conception is equally regarded as sinful. These two positions held sway in the West and in some quarters of the East, some even equating the latter position with murder.

Not all Fathers adopted the rigorist view which defined the Western practice. St. John Chrysostom actually prioritized chastity, rather than childbirth, as the main purpose of marriage:

‘There are two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaste, and to make us parents. Of these two, the reason of chastity takes precedence. When desire began, then marriage also beganGǪ.Marriage does not always lead to child-bearing, although there is the word of God which says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” We have as witnesses all those who are married but childless. So the purpose of chastity takes precedence, especially now, when the whole world is filled with our kind’ (Sermon on Marriage, On Marriage and Family Life, p. 85, SVSP).

It’s obvious from reading the Fathers that abortion, infanticide, sterilization and castration are clearly condemned. That being said, I don’t see any compelling teaching (barring St. Augustine) forbidding the legitimate spacing of births and family planning, nor the use of contraceptives for reasons deemed grave. Such a stance, in consideration of ancient views on sexual morality, would by and large have obviously been precluded. What I do see clearly condemned is what both Orthodoxy and Rome have universally and unanimously condemned - the contraceptive mentality, which is the essence of the doctrine itself.

I have several questions for the RCs on this board:

1) Under changing times and conditions, Rome has been compelled to change teachings which were once considered mortally sinful. One obvious case being the teaching on usury, which, once capitalism evolved, was no longer necessary to be deemed sinful; another being Pope Pius XII’s condemnation of prayer with schismatics and heretics as mortally sinful. An evolution of doctrine can be justified for the former while retaining the essence of the teaching, namely, that theft is sinful. On the subject of contraception, our world has experienced the most tumultuous changes over the past 50 years affecting the human condition in all facets - mental and physical health, economically, demographically, socially and financially. Why has Rome refused to relax its rigid teaching on contraception for grave reasons in light of the above considerations?

2) Rome has conceded that abortion, in some, albeit rare circumstances, may be a necessary option justified by the principle of double effect. Hypothetically, if a wife has grave reasons to avoid pregnancy, or may put her life at risk from seminal absorption (anaphylactic shock), should a couple be permitted to use “artificial” contraceptives, or would you expect the couple to abstain for life leaving them to “burn with passion” and face a lifetime of assaults of temptations to fulfill their natural urges? Why is Rome inconsistent with its application of the principle of double-effect, allowing a very undesirable consequence in one scenario, but forbidding another which in degree of gravity is far less great?

3) Prior to the release of his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI indirectly admitted that the teaching on birth control may be changed. In his address to the College of Cardinals on June 23, 1964, the Pope asserted the validity of the traditional RC teaching on birth control “at least as long as we do not feel obliged in conscience to alter it” (Osservatore Romano, June 24, 1964). The RCC places the sinfulness of contraception on a par with adultery, fornication, murder etc. as a mortal sin falling under natural law which cannot be altered. Is the Pope’s frank admission above indicative of a teaching which is unalterable by Rome’s criteria? What would your reaction be were a Pope to state that the teaching on adultery remains the same “as long as we do not feel obliged in conscience to alter it”?

To end this post, I’d like to recommend a very revealing book which deals with the intense moral dilemma Rome was faced with in the 1960s prior to Humanae Vitae, including the Vatican politics influencing the final decision, and the real reasons why Rome enforced the view it did in spite of the unanimous findings of the Birth Control Commission established by the Pope himself. It’s a book by Robert McClory titled “Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission, and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church”.

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« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2004, 11:51:14 PM »

Byzantino writes:

Rome has conceded that abortion, in some, albeit rare circumstances, may be a necessary option justified by the principle of double effect



Your post was excellent if not very comprehensive!  There is more there to keep us in this thread for a year or more.  I don't know much about the moral theology of these issues but I have a comment on my aforementioned abstraction of your post.

The RCC condemns direct abortion absolutely and unequivocably I believe.  Are you perhaps referring to relatively rare cases such as an ectopic pregnancy in which the fallopian tube is removed surgically to prevent the mother's death!  Of course in many cases early medical intervention with drug therapy will cause the embryo to traverse the fallopian tube and implant eventually in the endometrial wall of the uterus, thus obviating the requirement for surgery.

In this type of surgical intervention, the gestating embryo is essentially aborted although not directly.  By not directly I mean a direct attack on the life of the unborn child has not been pursued.  The "abortion" is rather an undesired though inevitable by-product of the surgical procedure.   The RCC does not condemn this type of medical procedure.

Thanks,

Jim C.
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« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2004, 08:27:57 AM »

NFP can be used as birth control.  In such uses it is wrong.

Now wait a minute! Family planning is the same thing as birth control, so I don't know how you are going to make this one fly.

This brings us back to the same question that always seems to plague this. We seem to have two strains of argument here: one that looks more Anglican and pastoral, and one that looks more Roman and juridical. It is the latter that is particularly concerned with methods; but even as I continue to think that this concern rests on an artificial distinction, you've up and combined the two approaches into one whose conclusion is that fertility can hardly be regulated at all-- and certainly not by abstainance.

At any rate, making natural law arguments means that you've ceded some of the territory to scientists and anyone else with data. At the very least a coliliquy between the two is necessary. And a scientist isn't going to accept the kinds of distinction about what is nature and what is artifice; to control fertility is to use artifice.
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« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2004, 09:53:10 AM »

Everyone's talking about contraception, but no one seems to have addressed divorce yet.  Divorce is not allowed in the Orthodox Church.  The only exception to this is the one given by Christ in the Bible, adultury.  The marriage can only be broken when a third party comes in.  It is the marital act that consumates the marriage, and an abuse of that act that has the power to destroy it.  A person is also allowed to remary after their spouse dies, which includes apostacy since having denyed Christ they are spiritually dead.
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« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2004, 09:56:51 AM »

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Now wait a minute! Family planning is the same thing as birth control, so I don't know how you are going to make this one fly.

Thanks, Keble...let us call a spade a spade.

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to control fertility is to use artifice.

Right. And the artifice that is "worse" than a condom or NFP is the will of the person or persons. If you use NFP or integrate it into your way of life you are willfully calculating the female's fertility cycle in order to prevent (at certain times) conception, regardless if the couple is open to raising children.

As an example, lets look at two couples: A couple uses NFP effectively and in reality is not that open to having more children. They may have one child, lets say, and they are not interested in having any more in the future. They feel pretty comfortable about not having more children because their experience with NFP is so effective. Another couple uses condoms, but is open to more children. They already have children and they find them a great blessing. Both couples do not indulge in their passions and observe the Church's fasts. Who, in your opinion, is living according to God's will? If you answer that each couple is in a different circumstance (which I agree to) and that the situation needs to be evaluated separately, then why prohibit the use of condoms categorically?

Furthermore, on a fasting point of view let us say that a couple observes abstinence during the Church's fasting periods. In my opinion, this is spiritually healthy and all sex outside of these fasting periods is also healthy, as long as both husband and wife agree and consent. The Church sets these fasting periods so that we may try to live a life free from passions. Hence, if the Church deems that these periods are sufficient for abstaining from food, then why not sex also? Why is it necessary to abstain at certain times in addition to what the Church has already prescribed during the fasting periods? People can be food gluttons. People can be sex gluttons. Both are sins, and their evil is measured by the wedge that these passions can separate one from God.

Greg

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« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2004, 11:03:05 AM »

Now wait a minute! Family planning is the same thing as birth control, so I don't know how you are going to make this one fly.

Spacing a child is legitimate.  Deciding you don't want any more is not--except under dire circumstances where the life of the mother will be at risk.

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This brings us back to the same question that always seems to plague this. We seem to have two strains of argument here: one that looks more Anglican and pastoral, and one that looks more Roman and juridical.

The more I read online, the more I am tired of the "Roman = juridicial, everyone else = pastoral" arguments--sorry Keble, that's not directed just at you.  Roman Catholics don't ban birth control *just* because it is the logical outflow of the "Thomistic" distinction between the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, and then extrapolating that the two must both be present in a sexual act for it to be valid.  No, birth control has dire consequences in life and one of those is the mentality of choice that it introduces.

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It is the latter that is particularly concerned with methods; but even as I continue to think that this concern rests on an artificial distinction, you've up and combined the two approaches into one whose conclusion is that fertility can hardly be regulated at all-- and certainly not by abstainance.

Fertility cannot be *supressed*.  Natural Family Planning does not supress fertility but respects it and works with it.  I know, because I used it before (now my wife and I don't even use NFP but rely solely on God's will).  NFP is also used as you know to achieve pregnancy.  God gave us signs of fertility so I don't see how it's wrong when the fertility signs are screaming at you "WE'RE ON!" and you have prayed and received the message from God that it is ok to wait awhile for kids for whatever valid reason there might be, to then abstain from sex, knowing full well that when you have sex again you could still get pregnant!

Quote
At any rate, making natural law arguments means that you've ceded some of the territory to scientists and anyone else with data. At the very least a coliliquy between the two is necessary. And a scientist isn't going to accept the kinds of distinction about what is nature and what is artifice; to control fertility is to use artifice.

There are plenty of Catholic scientists who do make such distinctions.  Besides, with NFP you are not controlling fertility becuase you are NOT SUPRESSING IT.  You are recognizing the natural signs and working within that context.  With artificial birth control I hand my wife some pills and say, "hey this will stop you from getting pregnant. Now we can have sex whenever."  With NFP I say, "hey honey since you are fertile right now I will restrain my urges and wait until a more responsible time".

Keble, the problem with your line of argumentation is you are trying to turn a very basic situation into a philosophical discussion.  But this issue is where the rubber meets the road.  The vast majority of people that I know who have told me they use contraception and see nothing wrong with it or are even proud of it have bad marriages or are generally selfish people.  I am NOT overgeneralizing though so anyone reading this that is saying to him or herself "hey I use it and I am not like he describes!" I am not saying that such people are.  There are exceptions to every rule.  But contraception plays right into a mentality of choice, a mentality of materialism, a mentality of not relying on God's will.

Most of the people I know who use NFP still end up with five or six kids.  I only advocate NFP for child spacing, not for keeping the number of kids down to one or two.  We have to be open to life.

One of the worst effects of contraception is the lack of vocations that ensues.  When I only have 2 kids, do I want them to be priests [not so much an issue when you have married clergy but still it can be], nuns, or monks? No.  But when I have four, five, or six kids, it is easier to give up a child to monasticism.  I'm not approaching this from a "oh you should always be happy to have a priest son" perspective but from the common perspective of the average Christian who goes to Church but for whatever reason doesn't want HIS son being the monk...

Anyway, enough rambling.  I don't believe my arguments and reasons will convince anyone but all I can say from personal experience is thank GOD I discovered the benefits of NOT using contraception.

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« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2004, 12:02:29 PM »

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Spacing a child is legitimate.  Deciding you don't want any more is not--except under dire circumstances where the life of the mother will be at risk.

Spacing = birth control. A couple who uses condoms can still be open to more children. A couple who uses NFP may not be open to more children. Hence, it is the will in question, not the material.

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Natural Family Planning does not supress fertility but respects it and works with it.

Right, it does not supress fertility (it doesn't give it a chance to), but it avoids conception because you are not having sex. Furthermore, NFP does not "respect" fertility because the couple is willfully abstaining from sex when the female is fertile. It is birth control.

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With artificial birth control I hand my wife some pill

Lets leave out the pill. Nobody believes the pill is okay.

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With NFP I say, "hey honey since you are fertile right now I will restrain my urges and wait until a more responsible time".

If the time is outside a fasting period and you and your wife are in the mood, go for it. Better to use a condom and express your mutual love, than to go a take a cold shower because you are afraid of conceiving a child. At least the condom could fail and you could conceive!

This whole issue boils down to this: NFP and condoms are birth control. You can't get around this. Both methods have the intention of preventing pregnancy at certain times. Users of NFP and condoms may both be open to children or not. Just because you use NFP does not mean that you are open to children. So, the question comes down to the condom. It (a piece of plastic that is not intrinsically evil) is frowned upon by strict NFP'ers because it is a material manifestation of their guilt for using birth control (NFP). Hence, they find condoms to be abhorrent. A condom (to NFP'ers) acts as a catalyst where subconscious guilt is brought to the surface and they do not want to be faced with this guilt. Therefore, they use NFP because it is perceived as "natural"; hence, acceptable and a psychological remedy against their guilty feelings.

I am not knocking NFP. If the couple prefers this method, great. But NFP and condoms accomplish the same thing: birth control.

Greg

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« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2004, 12:44:54 PM »

Just a personal opinion of mine, if God really wants you to concieve, you will, no matter if you practice birthcontrol or not.  (My bestfriend was conceived dispite the fact that her parents were using birthcontrol pill, condom, etc).
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« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2004, 02:16:14 PM »

Greg,

Some Orthodox do push the pill and that is a problem.

Condoms are a barrier method and hence they go against the unitive aspect of sex.

"Just because you use NFP does not mean you are open to children."

Exactly, that's why I said it could be abused.

If you were able to push me into a corner and say that NFP is the same thing as artificial birth control, my reaction would not be "oh ok, condoms are ok" but, "well then we should not even use NFP."  I am only arguing NFP in a limited sense for child spacing, whereas a condom cuts off that chance.  Yes, ania is right that one can still get preganant. I don't deny it. But the assumption is that this WILL work.  When you use NFP you do not make that assumption.  You make the assumption that one will PROBABLY not get pregnant but that they might.  Furthermore, NFP is inactive, which cannot be a sin.  Using an active device such as a condom is a sin.

NFP does respect fertility because you are not surpressing it.  You are right that condoms do not supress fertility. However, condoms violate unity of the sexual act. That's why I oppose them.

"Better to use a condom and express your mutual love, than to go a take a cold shower because you are afraid of conceiving a child."

No. Because an act that is purposefully and actively moderated by a device that breaks the unity of the sexual act and which has as its express goal the prevention of pregnancy is not an act of love but of lust.

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« Reply #30 on: February 12, 2004, 03:16:19 PM »

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Some Orthodox do push the pill and that is a problem.

Yes, of course.

Quote
Condoms are a barrier method and hence they go against the unitive aspect of sex...Using an active device such as a condom is a sin.

So, a couple has sex only if the man releases sperm into the woman. Is that what you are getting at? Seriously, I want to understand what you are saying.

Quote
Yes, ania is right that one can still get preganant. I don't deny it. But the assumption is that this WILL work.  When you use NFP you do not make that assumption.

This is just not true. I know a woman that uses NFP that is so "tuned into" her body that she knows exactly when she is fertile without taking her temp, etc. She boasted about this to my wife implying that NFP can be pullet-proof. She never had to "worry" about becoming pregnant. All I am saying is that women can abuse NFP.

Greg
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« Reply #31 on: February 12, 2004, 03:26:56 PM »

I think the key word there is "abuse", Greg.  

Condoms and other inorganic/artifical means of birth control are intrinsically wrong because they supplant lust for love, as Dustin pointed out.

NFP, however, is not intrinsically wrong, but it can be abused, much like anything else that is good in the world.
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« Reply #32 on: February 12, 2004, 04:39:07 PM »

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Condoms and other inorganic/artifical means of birth control are intrinsically wrong because they supplant lust for love, as Dustin pointed out.

So, you are saying that couples that use condoms always engage in lust. What about couples who use condoms and don't have sex during fasting periods as opposed to couples who use NFP but have sex throughout fasting periods. Which couple is living a more ascetical life?

Disclaimer: My wife and I don't use condoms or NFP. We have three girls and have been married for five years. As you can see we are open to children. However lets say for some reason we agreed that having another child within the next 8-12 months would not be a good idea. So, we observe the fasting periods and abstain from sex and use condoms during non-fasting periods. How is that lustful?

Lets put it another way. Same situation, but NFP is used instead of condoms. In both situations we are using condoms or NFP in order not to get pregnant. However, we are still open to accepting another child if that is God's will, using a condom or NFP.

Look, if you know you want to space children for a set amount of time shouldn't you use the most effective method depending on the woman? Sometimes women can't get the hang of NFP (due to irregular period, etc), therefore they are more likely to conceive. The whole point is to control the time of birth.

Bringing lust into the argument doesn't hold water when you are talking about Orthodox Christians living ascetical lives. We are not talking about free-love 1960's hippies.

Greg
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« Reply #33 on: February 12, 2004, 04:48:35 PM »

So, you are saying that couples that use condoms always engage in lust. What about couples who use condoms and don't have sex during fasting periods as opposed to couples who use NFP but have sex throughout fasting periods. Which couple is living a more ascetical life?

I didn't say that at all, but I can see how that could have come across.  

But your argument is just as flawed.  It is based on the same assumption, that if one does not engage in a, the one must engage in b[/b].  What about couples who don't engage in sex during fast periods and use NFP?

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Disclaimer: My wife and I don't use condoms or NFP. We have three girls and have been married for five years. As you can see we are open to children. However lets say for some reason we agreed that having another child within the next 8-12 months would not be a good idea. So, we observe the fasting periods and abstain from sex and use condoms during non-fasting periods. How is that lustful?

I find it lustful because having sex using a condom puts man quite literally in between God and "two people becoming one".  And when man is put before God in such a manner, we are in grave danger of separating ourselves from that which is Love, thus removing love from the act itself.  What then are we left with?  Lust and the search for the orgasm.  

The use of condoms are, intrinsically, the abuse of sexual activity.  

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Bringing lust into the argument doesn't hold water when you are talking about Orthodox Christians living ascetical lives. We are not talking about free-love 1960's hippies.

"Baby, put a condom on so I don't get pregnant" vs. "Baby, we can't have sex because I'm fertile right now."

Which one is more ascetical?  

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« Reply #34 on: February 12, 2004, 05:42:57 PM »

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What about couples who don't engage in sex during fast periods and use NFP?

I am sorry that my statements were not clear. What I mean is that couples that abstain from sex during fasting periods and use NFP or condoms can both live an ascetical life.

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I find it lustful because having sex using a condom puts man quite literally in between God and "two people becoming one".

Please be more clear. Sperm must enter the woman in order to have sex? A serious question.

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"Baby, put a condom on so I don't get pregnant" vs. "Baby, we can't have sex because I'm fertile right now."

Which one is more ascetical?

Again, it depends. In the above example I would say both can be ascetical. I say this because the above example implies that the condom couple would be engaging in lust, which is not necessarily true. Lets say that it is Bright Tuesday and the couple has not had sex since Cheesefare week. Is it really lustful that they went ahead and had sex?

The Church determines timeframes for an ascetical life: fasting periods where we abstain from certain foods and sex. The female's fertility cycle does not. During non-fasting periods the Church allows us to eat meat, daily, etc, as well as engaging in sex. Having the opportunity to engage ascetically in sex only 48% of the year hardly constitutes abusing sex and making an act of lust.

In addition, how many of us really live up to the Church's prescribed fasting periods. Do we observe the fasts, both for food and sex, perfectly? No. Should we. Yes. But lets get real: it is where one is in the spiritual life.  Is it lustful that a couple has sex a few times during Lent when the couple feels that they need to engage in sex? No. It is a matter of understanding where we are in our growth in Christ. Who hasn't had milk or a beer or two during Lent at some point? Does it make one a glutton? Of course not. It just shows our weakness and makes us more dependent on God.

The use of NFP or condoms ought to be pastoral. BTW, the offical stance of the OCA permits the use of condoms (within an All-American Council). Why have our bishops allowed the use of condoms?

Greg
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« Reply #35 on: February 12, 2004, 05:45:34 PM »

Neither... these discussions always make me snort in annoyance because they just go round 'n round 'n round.  
I have my own opinions on this, but will keep them to myself, just wanted to point out that I highly doubt that anything will be resolved.  I think someone should try answering the question regarding divorce that's also in the title of this thread.  
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« Reply #36 on: February 12, 2004, 05:51:50 PM »

Greg,

I am going to try and phase myself out of this discussion because I am not articulate enough to say what I know by experience.  However, since you asked me two direct questions, let me answer:

1) yes, I believe for sex to not be a sin the man must release sperm in the woman.

2) yes, I agree that a woman can abuse NFP.  Like I said, if pushed in a corner I would say "use nothing."

Also, you said, "The use of NFP or condoms ought to be pastoral. BTW, the offical stance of the OCA permits the use of condoms (within an All-American Council). Why have our bishops allowed the use of condoms?"

Answer: because they made a mistake. A local Synod is not infallible.

Sincerely,

anastasios

PS Schultz thanks for saying some of what I was trying to get at.
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« Reply #37 on: February 12, 2004, 05:56:43 PM »

Dear anastasios --

Thanks for the reply.

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1) yes, I believe for sex to not be a sin the man must release sperm in the woman.

Okay, but can someone expand on this as to why this is so?

Quote
Answer: because they made a mistake. A local Synod is not infallible.

Correct, it is not infallible. However, it is the current stance therefore it cannot be dismissed. It is a least worth the time to look into why they proclaimed condoms as permissible.

Greg
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« Reply #38 on: February 12, 2004, 06:45:20 PM »

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Quote:
1) yes, I believe for sex to not be a sin the man must release sperm in the woman.
 

Okay, but can someone expand on this as to why this is so?

I guess, because sex is not a selfish, sterile act. God created us sexual so that we could reproduce...he even told us..."Be fruitful and multiply."

Now, I too find this hard to articulate, and I am unmarried, so I feel a little unqualified. Nevertheless, some people have marked the beginniing of the end of the Anglican Communion as the point when they first allowed artificial birth contol. I pray that both Catholics and Orthodox stay strong (or get stronger) on this issue.
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« Reply #39 on: February 12, 2004, 08:02:32 PM »

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Spacing = birth control. A couple who uses condoms can still be open to more children. A couple who uses NFP may not be open to more children. Hence, it is the will in question, not the material.

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"Baby, we can't have sex because I'm fertile right now." Which one is more ascetical?
 


Great points. The argument from asceticism is one of the reasons I’d consider NFP as the preferred method of birth control. Like fasting, it teaches us to give up a great good in order to discipline the passions. If you can say no to sex for a little while, you can say no to the worst of temptations, right?

One of the ways I justify the use of other methods of birth control in grave cases is to treat them as medicine. Many couples have legitimate medical reasons to prevent a pregnancy, some conditions being so serious as to make even the absorption of semen a great danger. Seen in this light, medication given to avoid such dangerous consequences can be seen as a real good in that it still allows a couple to continue to express their love for each other despite their unfortunate circumstances. As St. John Chrysostom said, the main purpose of sex now that we’ve populated the world is chastity; a couple treats each other not as objects to simply gratify sexual urges but as a precious persons who reflect the image and likeness of God. Medication is used to suppress one’s natural function of appetite in the case of a grave condition such as obesity; medication too, can be used to suppress one’s natural function of fertility in the case of grave conditions, which in our day and age seem to be multiplying alarmingly. The temptation to abuse or seek gain for selfish ends, like say the abuse of food or drink, can be overcome by grace and a firm will. But the potential of abusing the resort to birth control does not invalidate its legitimate use, any more than the illegitimate use of steroids for bodybuilding invalidates their legitimate use for asthma. So what it comes down to ultimately is context and will.  

It’s tragic beyond words to learn of the historical denigration of sex itself by it being placed up in the ranks of things evil and tolerable solely for the purpose of procreation, precisely because we know that, like food being a source of nourishment for both body and soul, sex also is a powerful source of nourishment for body and especially soul, a source of grace which fosters the growth of all Christian virtues: many a sexually and emotionally satisfied wife can testify of the intense feelings of love, serenity and patience towards her children, her husband and her peers in the aftermath of her sexual union with her husband.  It’s taken several centuries to disassociate sex from all those negative sexual mores and finally acknowledge its greatness. In the West particularly, we’ve seen the purpose of sex “evolve” from a “necessary evil” from which pleasure must be totally divorced, to a “good” whose only purpose is procreation, and more recently to a “great good” whose procreative element can never be divorced from its unitive element. We’re already witnessing the progression of this process to its next step, which is the separation of the aforementioned elements, the legitimacy of which I think can only be gauged on a case by case basis.  

Frankly I find too many arguments used to justify Rome’s blanket stance against contraception very far fetched and skeptical based on what I see is a teaching whose only real convincing defense is the argument from Rome’s authority. It’s clear to me that Pope Paul VI sought the continuity of the affirmations made by his predecessors on the issue and that a change in teaching would’ve resulted in a great undermining of the RCC’s moral authority, which is why he practically ignored many of the moral arguments made unanimously by the Birth Control Commission in favour of altering the teaching. So when I come across arguments such as “using a condom disrupts the unitive aspect of sex,” not only can it be interpreted in a number of different ways but I think of some of my fornicating friends who still can’t shake off their powerful attachments to their respective girlfriends following long periods of sexual activity using condoms.  

Anyway, i think the divorce issue needs to be addressed.




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« Reply #40 on: February 12, 2004, 08:37:08 PM »

The Caffeine Man writes:

I pray that both Catholics and Orthodox stay strong (or get stronger) on this issue.



Well the Catholics certainly aren't staying strong!  89-94% contracept against the teachings of their own Church.  And the AmChurch bishops haven't provided much leadership on this issue, except for some few in more recent years.

I knew a young Catholic priest, a Mexican educated in a U.S. seminary--the Josephinum--who gave a very mild homily that criticized very gently the contraceptive mentality of American Catholics.  He got *&^%-canned shortly thereafter and sent to a parish on the Arizona-Mexico border!

I guess the lesson is not to disturb the Catholic laity otherwise your collection plate will start getting much lighter!

Contraception rates:  I got 89% from Fr. Andrew Greeley's web site a number of years ago.  I forgot from where I got the 94% rate.  It's probably understated.

Jim C.
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« Reply #41 on: February 13, 2004, 06:39:47 AM »

Yeah but, Jim, whether Catholics engage in contraception or not, it is not officially accepted or condoned by the Catholic Church.  Those Catholics are clearly disobeying the Catholic Church.  That's why my initial question was directed at what the official teaching of the Orthodox Church is.  It really matters little what individual Orthodox Christians do because if they choose to dissent from the official stance of the Orthodox Church then they are still disobeying.  I am not interested in what individual Orthodox couples do but what does the Orthodox Church officially teach.

So far, it seems that the OCA has authorized the use of condoms.  What about the other jurisdictions?

Byzantino, while I appreciate your questions about teachings that have changed within Catholicism, this thread is about contraception and divorce.

Peace,

Rob
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« Reply #42 on: February 13, 2004, 08:49:56 AM »

I find it lustful because having sex using a condom puts man quite literally in between God and "two people becoming one".

How can you tell? ? ? ?   Honestly, I'm starting to get a little irritated at these bland statements about what is going on in the sexual act. Surely scripture teaches no such thing, and one would hope that those engaged in it are too distracted to be reliable witnesses. Grin Lips Sealed

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And when man is put before God in such a manner, we are in grave danger of separating ourselves from that which is Love, thus removing love from the act itself.  What then are we left with?  Lust and the search for the orgasm.  

I don't know about that. I cannot see how replacing actual sex with a theologically-constructed argument about sex is going to give better results. This is inevitably where I run into problems with this method of moral theology: it makes empirical claims about the acts which are either falsifiable or speculative.

After all, which "lust" are we talking about? Is it the human impulse, or merely a label of "sin"? The latter begs the question; the former I am loathe to accept, pending further interviews with the experimental subjects.

And whose orgasm is being sought? Yours-- or hers?

Quote
The use of condoms are, intrinsically, the abuse of sexual activity.  "Baby, put a condom on so I don't get pregnant" vs. "Baby, we can't have sex because I'm fertile right now."

Which one is more ascetical?  

Well, you have a point here. But I guess my next question would be: Given that such asceticism is impossible for many women, what then?
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« Reply #43 on: February 13, 2004, 08:56:46 AM »

If you can say no to sex for a little while, you can say no to the worst of temptations, right?

The worst temptations are those which one does not see as temptations. In this age, I can't see how anyone could fail to see sex as a temptation.
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« Reply #44 on: February 13, 2004, 09:32:48 AM »

The biggest temptation is to work out a moral theology that approves of one's own situation. It's obvious how this works in people who are blatantly trying to fudge the big rules-- fornication and adultery. But it works on everyone.

The celibate, for example, are not directly affected by rules of sexual conduct; therefore rules about menstrual purity and extremes of asceticism are not hard for them to suggest. Likewise, for those who are not yet married, the question is likewise hypothetical, or at least deferred. Those whose wives have simple, predictable cycles may not find abstention methods much of a burden. Those for whom a barrier method works without fail do not have to themselves confront the consequences of a failure.

It seems to me that allowing one's own practices is not the greater temptation here. Again, it is an obvious temptation. Instead, it seems to me that that as Christian moralists we are far more tempted to draw the line just on the other side of what we ourselves do. It is very easy to be pulled into condemning what does not tempt us.

If I may segue into divorce a minute: it is easy enough to see that marriage is not just an arrangement of convenience, but is instead a bond intended by God to be permanent. But the wreckage of actual marriages litters the landscape. When I compare RC theology with what I see in the world, I cannot but conclude that there must be something wrong in their reasoning.
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