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Author Topic: Divorce/Contraception Orthodox Style  (Read 27482 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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« 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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« 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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« 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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« 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.

Not to worry!  I'm an Aristotelian-Thomist, not an Augustinian-Platonist!  How about if I hurl syllogisms? Grin

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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!

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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.

anastasios
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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?

Quote
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.  

Quote
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 »

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
"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.

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?

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 »

Quote
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.

Quote
"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.

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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

Quote
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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« Reply #45 on: February 13, 2004, 10:52:59 AM »

Surely scripture teaches no such thing...

I believe we are told in Genesis 38:9 that Onan "he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother."  Granted, some commentaries say that Onan's bigger sin was not following God's direct commandment to foster offspring from his brother's wife and the use of Tamar for sexual gratification only.  

But the word used to describe his action is "wasted".  

Used condoms generally end up in landfills or at least the side of the road or in parking lots (where I'm from, anyways...gotta love city life!).  Sounds like a "waste" to me.

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« Reply #46 on: February 13, 2004, 12:30:54 PM »


Used condoms generally end up in landfills or at least the side of the road or in parking lots (where I'm from, anyways...gotta love city life!).  Sounds like a "waste" to me.

Pittsburghese (unpublished) - "Allegheny Whitefish"

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« Reply #47 on: February 13, 2004, 12:45:00 PM »

Oh my!  I haven't heard that one in years!  My father used to rant about the decline of morals in Pittsburgh and cited "Allegheny Whitefish" as one of the reasons.  For years, I thought he had something against fish.
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« Reply #48 on: February 13, 2004, 06:09:30 PM »

Quote
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.

This is also the position of the Coptic Church on divorce.
I wanted to ask the following questions:
1- Do Catholics and EO have annullment of marriages and for what reasons ?
2- Do Catholics and EO allow mixed marriages (one spouse of other denominations or even other religions) ?

Peace,
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« Reply #49 on: February 13, 2004, 06:16:32 PM »

the RCC does not accept divorce as an theological reality. What God has put together, let no man put asunder. Annulments (actually I prefer to call them "declarations of nullity,") happen when the marriage can be proven to have never existed from the start. Perhaps the marriage wasn't consumated. Perhaps the would be husband has another wife. Maybe she's a man!

Annulments however have been grossly abused, and in the USA it is tantamount to divorce.

As far as mixed marriages go, they are discouraged. One needs permission to marry outside of the RCC, and IIRC one needs dispensation from the Bishop to marry non-Christians. This to has been abused.
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« Reply #50 on: February 13, 2004, 06:28:13 PM »

Thanks Caffeinator for your response.
I did not fully understand what you meant by "RC don't accept divorce as a thological reality" and maybe that is why I will ask whether in the case of Adultry the RC does still not grant divorce?

Peace,
Stavro
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« Reply #51 on: February 13, 2004, 06:52:50 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).

I'm going to disagree here.  Barring some kind of miracle, God is bound by the laws of nature.  

A friend of mine, a Southern Baptist, recently married a man who had a vasectomy.  His has two children by his previous (deceased) wife.  He's decided not to reverse the procedure because they believe that if God wants them to have a child, they will.  That strikes me as being so bizarre.  

I don't believe that God would make a condom break.
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« Reply #52 on: February 13, 2004, 06:58:32 PM »

I have a question.  What if a husband and wife learn that they are carriers for cystic fibrosis.  Statistics says that if they have four children, one of the children will have CF and two of the children will be carriers.  

I know the RC answer to this question.  They can't divorce and being carriers for CF doesn't make their marriage invalid.  Although one could argue that nature never intended for them to marry and have children together so maybe that makes their marriage invalid, e.g. unnatural.  Of course they can't use birth control and won't be able to use NFP to keep from ever having a child.  

What's the Orthodox solution?  

Suppose it's an even worse disease such as Tay Sachs?  

Of course the sensible way around these problems is for people to do genetic testing before they marry.  
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« Reply #53 on: February 13, 2004, 06:59:21 PM »

How can God be bound by the laws of nature, and not, then, be subject to it?  Is nature higher than God?  Or do you mean that He respects it/them?
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« Reply #54 on: February 13, 2004, 07:14:59 PM »

How can God be bound by the laws of nature, and not, then, be subject to it?  Is nature higher than God?  Or do you mean that He respects it/them?

I mean that He respects the laws of nature because He set them up.  I'm not a theologian so I'm probably off here.  But Jesus "obeyed" the laws of nature.  He didn't fly, for example.  Although he performed miracles which went against "nature."  But overall, he "complied" with the laws of nature.  

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« Reply #55 on: February 13, 2004, 08:34:41 PM »

I'm going to disagree here.  Barring some kind of miracle, God is bound by the laws of nature.  

A friend of mine, a Southern Baptist, recently married a man who had a vasectomy.  His has two children by his previous (deceased) wife.  He's decided not to reverse the procedure because they believe that if God wants them to have a child, they will.  That strikes me as being so bizarre.  

I don't believe that God would make a condom break.  

God bound by the laws of nature?  I don't think so.  I am NO theologican but isn't a miracle an "event" that transcends the laws of nature as we know it.  E.g., rising from the dead--Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus was dead and came back to life!

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« Reply #56 on: February 13, 2004, 08:40:36 PM »

the RCC does not accept divorce as an theological reality. What God has put together, let no man put asunder. Annulments (actually I prefer to call them "declarations of nullity,") happen when the marriage can be proven to have never existed from the start. Perhaps the marriage wasn't consumated. Perhaps the would be husband has another wife. Maybe she's a man!

Maybe he's a Kennedy!
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« Reply #57 on: February 13, 2004, 08:49:37 PM »

Quote
Used condoms generally end up in landfills or at least the side of the road or in parking lots (where I'm from, anyways...gotta love city life!). Sounds like a "waste" to me.

A few comments about this interpretation:

The external component of Onan’s action has all too often overshadowed the deeper reality behind this passage. Onan wasted his seed because of his sinful intent explicitly made clear in the text, to avoid his obligation to carry on his dead brother’s lineage as had been commanded of him by God. Far from being a compelling text against birth control per se, it is a clear and forceful text against the contraceptive mentality, which pertains to a sinful will by always denigrating the blessing of children in favour of some other self-seeking entity.

Additionally, Rome herself legitimizes these forms of birth control in particular hard cases, from which an argument may be made to extent the principle involved to other hard cases. For instance, the use of condoms in sex for the purpose of taking a sperm sample has been sanctioned, sperm which later goes to waste. Here we have contraceptive sex, by Rome’s standards “divorced from the unitive and procreative elements.” If allowed in this scenario, obvious legitimate extensions can be made to other hard cases without impinging on the essence of the doctrine, namely the contraceptive mentality.



Quote
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.


Keble,

Good point, but I was referring to temptations to sin. Sex itself isn’t sin unless severed from its proper context. Avoiding sex during the wife’s fertile periods can be seen as an excellent ascetical practice designed to discipline one’s desire for sex when it's unavailable, e.g. being away from his wife on a business trip for a week, a man needs to practice abstinence for the time being and learn to keep his passions under control. The liberal use of contraceptives fosters an attitude where sex should “always be available when I need it, where I need it.”
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« Reply #58 on: February 13, 2004, 08:50:39 PM »

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Thanks Caffeinator for your response.
I did not fully understand what you meant by "RC don't accept divorce as a thological reality" and maybe that is why I will ask whether in the case of Adultry the RC does still not grant divorce?

If I understand it correctly, no. Or at least, what we have on the books doesn't read that way. The RCC reads the gospel verse, "except in the case of fornication," to mean a previous marriage. I think!
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« Reply #59 on: February 13, 2004, 09:04:19 PM »

Rob,

Sorry, I should’ve responded to your question earlier.

The answer is, there is no “official” Orthodox teaching on contraception. Rome and Orthodoxy operate under different ecclesiological lines; a local church that invests itself with the kind of power and authority that Rome has given itself will simply need to make a pronouncement and everyone needs to follow. Orthodoxy, as you may know, does not have a centralized model but one following more sacramental lines - every local church (if in communion with the others) is fully a church and cannot settle dogmatic questions on its own without the other churches scattered around the world. There are many historical precedents not just for this model but for Rome’s authority being resisted. One case that comes to mind is the issue of baptism in the 3rd century, where Pope Stephen demanded the Roman practice of not re-baptizing heretics/schismatics be enforced in the African churches, a demand strongly opposed and rejected by St. Cyprian and the Africans who upheld their received tradition and defended the autonomy of their local churches. On the question of birth control, again, the Orthodox Church will never issue standard universal formulas on a moral/pastoral matter which clearly needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. What I said about the contraceptive mentality is and always has been the universal position of the Orthodox Church. As John Meyendorff states, couples can “make the right decision only if they accept their Christian commitment with ultimate seriousness, if they believe in the providence of God, if they avoid being concerned too much with material security (“Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth,” Matt. 6:19), if they realize that children are a great joy and a gift of God, if their love is not a selfish and egoistic one, if they remember that love reduced to sexual pleasure is not true love.” I hope this helps in some way. I’ll try and give you some info about the divorce question next.

Regards,

Byz
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« Reply #60 on: February 13, 2004, 09:05:46 PM »

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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.



Keble,

That’s so true. I’m reminded of the Vatican celibates who before the release of Humanae Vitae deemed the medical conditions of women warranting the use of the pill as not grave enough reasons to justify its use.
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« Reply #61 on: February 13, 2004, 09:16:45 PM »

God bound by the laws of nature?  I don't think so.  I am NO theologican but isn't a miracle an "event" that transcends the laws of nature as we know it.  E.g., rising from the dead--Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus was dead and came back to life!



Yes but miracles don't occur very often.  I'm not expressing myself well here but what I'm trying to say is that God made the laws of the universe and generally abides by them.  He is free to not abide by them if He so chooses but most often he abides by them.  So if a man has a hysterectomy, he will not impregnate a woman barring some kind of miracle.  

I guess what I'm trying to get at here is not when a person conceives while using birth control that there's a miracle.  God doesn't make a condom break or cause an infertile woman to ovulate.  He can.  He did it for St. Elizabeth but it's a million to one shot that it won't happen to you or me.  

For example, if I had cancer, I would have surgery or chemo or radiation therapy.  I wouldn't just pray and expect God to remove the tumor.  He has the power to do that and there are a few cases where that happens but nature would cause the tumor to grow in my body and God will respect nature that he created.  The same with reproduction.
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« Reply #62 on: February 13, 2004, 10:18:31 PM »

Byz,

I'm sorry but I don't view what you write above as reflecting the way things really work in the Orthodox Church.

First of all, the Church can and should issue such pronouncements.  Birth control is a serious issue.  It should be addressed on a universal level.  What about slavery? Is the Church powerless to speak against slavery? Against masturbation? Is that on a case-by-case basis too?

And I think it can be demonstrated that many Orthodox hierarchs previously condemned birth control, until very recently.

anastasios
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« Reply #63 on: February 14, 2004, 02:11:48 AM »

I'll be accused of "liberalism" for saying this but I don't think birth control can be separated from "feminism" (I'm a feminist so don't see that as pejorative term.)  

I know that the only reason I've been able to achieve what I have in my life is because I had control over my reproductive functions.  I don't see how a man can understand this but there's no way women can be equal unless they have control over reproduction.  It's no accident that almost all of the noteworthy women in the past were single.  

As a somewhat ambitious woman, one reason I hesitate to marry is that I don't want pregnancy after pregnancy.  I'm a good Catholic and wouldn't use artificial birth control so for me to be independent and have my own life I stay single at least for now.  

That's the paradox for the Church because they don't have an answer for women like me.  

I think that you men will see it so simply.  The Fathers said birth control is wrong.  Well the Fathers were men by definition.  The hierarchs were operating under what we know to be a flawed assumption, that women were somehow second class citizens.  

Women were not involved in the decision making process.  I'm not suggesting that women should be priests or much less bishops because I accept the male priesthood.  But I do think that men are not necessarily capable of understanding just how important it is for women to have control over reproduction.  

It's entirely too simplistic to reduce this to a conflict between the "selfish" career woman and the long-suffering mother.  The idea that women are completely fulfilled by motherhood is a myth.  It's a useful myth.  It serves a purpose in society.  It enforces the gender norms.  But it's simply not true.  No man is completely fulfilled by fatherhood and no woman is completely fulfilled by motherhood.  One could say "fulfilled" is a "secular" term.  It is "secular" but God gave us intellect.  He gave us interests.  
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« Reply #64 on: February 14, 2004, 04:19:52 AM »


Quote
First of all, the Church can and should issue such pronouncements.  Birth control is a serious issue.  It should be addressed on a universal level.  

And so it should. Sorry, I never wanted to imply that we shouldn't issue any pronouncements on the issue. But issuing standard formulas like Rome in a case as intricate and complicated as this one is not popular in Orthodoxy. What do you expect a pan-Orthodox Council to decree on this matter? How do you cater for the different voices in Orthodoxy, which like in the RCC, range from:

1) No birth control methods permissible whatsoever.
2) NFP only.
3) Birth control permissible under certain conditions.


Quote
And I think it can be demonstrated that many Orthodox hierarchs previously condemned birth control, until very recently.

Well, what's your standard? Given that you're inferring Orthodoxy has taken the wrong position, what are you measuring the impermissibility of birth control (except NFP) against? Orthodox heirarchs have obviously seen for themselves how new conditions in all spheres of human life have necessitated a different teaching while still retaining its essence, one which is no longer applicable to 3rd century or 19th century standards for that matter. Teachings about the purpose of sex have undergone numerous changes time by stripping away all sorts of rigoristic philosophies which held it hostage (such as Stoicism and Manicheism); why do we not accomodate to new conditions the way we've accommodated other teachings to new conditions (e.g. usury)? We have grave exceptions for killing (war of self-defence), abortion (life of mother), divorce, attending Liturgy on Sundays, working on Sundays etc. etc....

I'm thankful that Orthodox heirarchs are sympathetic to the hardships facing couples and wouldn't tell me to abstain for life if, for some reason, either my spouse or I were to suffer from a grave medical condition which would absolutely necessitate a birth control method other than NFP. Read for yourself to what extent couples in such situations have had their marriages strained because they were forbidden from using birth control methods other than rhythm or NFP.
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« Reply #65 on: February 14, 2004, 11:04:23 AM »

Excellent post, Jennifer. I agree with your analysis of the history on this issue.
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« Reply #66 on: February 14, 2004, 04:08:27 PM »

I'll be accused of "liberalism" for saying this but I don't think birth control can be separated from "feminism" (I'm a feminist so don't see that as pejorative term.)

I too am RC.  IMHO if (artificial methods of) birth control cannot be separated from feminism then feminism is pejorative.  However, feminism may not necessarily by definition be linked with forbidden methods of birth control.  I just can't tell myself.  I surmise the answer is based upon the life and lifestyle of individual feminists, individual by individual.  When someone tells me that he/she is a feminist (some men are too!), I’m not always sure what to think.  It depends upon the individual woman (or man!).

If you are not in favor of artificial means of birth control, then you are not a liberal in my opinion. Then again, this is my opinion only; certainly nobody is bound by my opinion (except me!).

Quote
I know that the only reason I've been able to achieve what I have in my life is because I had control over my reproductive functions.  I don't see how a man can understand this but there's no way women can be equal unless they have control over reproduction.  It's no accident that almost all of the noteworthy women in the past were single.  

As a somewhat ambitious woman, one reason I hesitate to marry is that I don't want pregnancy after pregnancy.  I'm a good Catholic and wouldn't use artificial birth control so for me to be independent and have my own life I stay single at least for now.

That's the paradox for the Church because they don't have an answer for women like me.  

But you do have control over your reproductive functions!  You can choose to have sex or not to have sex without regard to the impulses men and women experience in this life, in this sex-drenched society, and even with our being burdened by the concupiscence of the flesh.

The Church does have an answer.  Stay single.  Being single does not necessarily mean being called to the monastic life.  

As an aside . . . Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Orthodox look upon the monastic life as the "default" life for a Christian and that the life of the laity ought to correspond in some way within their own station in life "in and not of the world" with monasticism?

Yeah, the "stay single" recommendation seems patently oversimplified for a clerical celibate to recommend.  But no one--man or women--according to Church teachings may ever engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

If you want to say, for example, that men have it easy, that they marry, have sex, and still put their careers in first place, then you would likely be correct.  They traditionally don't catch the "hell" they should get for doing so yet a woman in the same position is condemned for this behavior.  Well the world is changing and not for the better.  Women are increasingly able to pull this off like the men have done.  And unfortunately they are starting to act more like men!

Careerism is a mortal sin under many circumstances.  So is the indulgence of materialistic consumerism.  My pastor once complained from the ambo that many parents care more about buying their next large-sized, expensive, SUV than putting their children in a Catholic School.  Or a larger house or a high status, high paying job, etc.  He of course is right on . . . except I must sadly state that some of the religious education in Catholic schools is sadly lacking nowadays.

BTW, I'm not saying that if you work at a career, then you shouldn't marry.  My wife works.  In fact, if I croaked today, my wife would be able to support our children and still get them to adult life.  It cuts down on the need for expensive life insurance and frankly is an emotional comfort to me given the worry wart that I am!  We live below our means and are not in any debt other than a mortgage which is about to go away.  Is it because we make a lot of money?  W do well because we are both college educated and professionals.  No, we do it because we do not believe in consumer debt whatsoever.  We are not into high status or living beyond our means.  Yes, we are doing better now than when we first married but we act financially pretty much the same way as when we were first married.  

Yet we have NEVER neglect our children and we don't spoil them like so many of their friends are spoiled.  Yet it is still a lot of hard work.  My wife stayed home when our children were real young--yes women have to do this more than men.  Why?  Well you may not like this statement, but the umbilical chord doesn't really separate from the baby at work.  By the good grace of God my mother is still alive and pushing 80.  The umbilical chord has never truly separated between us and I'm no mama's boy!

Motherhood is the lot of women, not men.  Yes, men could do a lot better.  But most of the secular feminists refuse to acknowledge this role of women and in it's most extreme rejection of this role--pathological man hatred and lesbianism--we have big trouble for society.  I’m not saying that men too cause much of this trouble in our society.

Quote
I think that you men will see it so simply.  The Fathers said birth control is wrong.  Well the Fathers were men by definition.  The hierarchs were operating under what we know to be a flawed assumption, that women were somehow second class citizens.  

Women were not involved in the decision making process.  I'm not suggesting that women should be priests or much less bishops because I accept the male priesthood.  But I do think that men are not necessarily capable of understanding just how important it is for women to have control over reproduction.  

Birth control is right or wrong based upon objective criteria.  For example, adultery is always wrong.  There can be no equivocation about it although concrete circumstances may mitigate the spiritual crime of adultery, e.g., the maturity of the offender, undue influence, poor catechesis, etc..  That's why the Lord Jesus Christ ONLY is the Judge (with a capital "J") and not us.  Even if these guys (the hierarchs) are a bunch of ignorant or prejudiced men, if what they are saying comes from God, then that is what's important.  Yes, I know that these words and concepts are not of much comfort to anyone, man or woman, in this miserable life in which we live.

Quote
It's entirely too simplistic to reduce this to a conflict between the "selfish" career woman and the long-suffering mother.  The idea that women are completely fulfilled by motherhood is a myth.  It's a useful myth.  It serves a purpose in society.  It enforces the gender norms.  But it's simply not true.  No man is completely fulfilled by fatherhood and no woman is completely fulfilled by motherhood.  One could say "fulfilled" is a "secular" term.  It is "secular" but God gave us intellect.  He gave us interests.  

I understand and agree to a certain extent what you have just stated above.  Nevertheless, no matter how fulfilled a man may be in reaching his career ambitions, if it hurts his family then he has not done God's will for his life and the life of his family.  Same with a mom.  Besides, marriage and sex represent a sacrifice pure and simple (well, maybe not simple!) even in the happiest and holiest of marriages.

Sometimes I think that those called to the monastic life have it easier.  A woman doesn’t have to put up with a man and vice versa.  Oh yes, I know even if I don’t understand that monastic life has its own challenges.  Monastics after all wage spiritual warfare on behalf of us all, even if we in our secular lives too must take up arms against the Devil and our own flesh.  

Your personal and concrete circumstances as a RC woman in this society are unique and different from mine or anyone else's on OC.net or elsewhere.  Yet your life in some sense is not different from mine or anyone else's.  It's the human condition which is fallen in nature but redeemable by the Holy Sacrifice of the Law with which we are burdened.

When I look back at my life (I'm almost 55), I could see myself doing things differently.  Thank God I can't go back and change things else I would mess it up even more than I have messed it up to date!  Yet my life has been pretty good when I think about it though I can't claim the credit for it.  The Lord Himself surely could have put me in a lot worse circumstances and the right choices that I have made were because of Him and definitely not because of me.  This I know for certain though I cannot explain it.

Jim
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« Reply #67 on: February 14, 2004, 04:35:07 PM »

http://forums.catholic-convert.com/viewtopic.php?p=210597#210597

I asked some Catholics about the issue of embryo adoption.  Let's see what they have to say.

anastasios
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« Reply #68 on: February 14, 2004, 04:43:48 PM »




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  Re:When Does Life Begin?
-½ Reply #8 on: Today at 03:41:52 PM -+  

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Quote from: jbc1949 on Today at 03:08:27 PM
I too am RC.  IMHO if (artificial methods of) birth control cannot be separated from feminism then feminism is pejorative.  However, feminism may not necessarily by definition be linked with forbidden methods of birth control.  I just can't tell myself.  I surmise the answer is based upon the life and lifestyle of individual feminists, individual by individual.  When someone tells me that he/she is a feminist (some men are too!), I’m not always sure what to think.  It depends upon the individual woman (or man!).

 
 

Feminism is about equality and equality must include a way to regulate reproductive function.  

Quote:
If you are not in favor of artificial means of birth control, then you are not a liberal in my opinion. Then again, this is my opinion only; certainly nobody is bound by my opinion (except me!).
 
 

It's not that I am opposed to artificial birth control but rather that I am obedient to the Church.  

Quote:
But you do have control over your reproductive functions!  You can choose to have sex or not to have sex without regard to the impulses men and women experience in this life, in this sex-drenched society, and even with our being burdened by the concupiscence of the flesh.
 
 

That's been the choice I've made.  But that also means I've made the choice not to marry, at least for now.  

Quote:
The Church does have an answer.  Stay single.  Being single does not necessarily mean being called to the monastic life.  
 
 

Actually my choice to stay single isn't the Church's answer to my problem.  The Church (and I don't mean the Church in its official function but its reality) is not welcoming of single people, especially single women.  

And I don't necessarily agree that I've been 'called' never to have children.  It's just that I feel like that's the choice I've been given by the Church, lots of children or no children.  

Quote:
Yeah, the "stay single" recommendation seems patently oversimplified for a clerical celibate to recommend.  But no one--man or women--according to Church teachings may ever engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage.
 
 

I haven't been told to "stay single" by any priest.  

Quote:
If you want to say, for example, that men have it easy, that they marry, have sex, and still put their careers in first place, then you would likely be correct.  They traditionally don't catch the "hell" they should get for doing so yet a woman in the same position is condemned for this behavior.
 
 

I don't think women are "condemned" for wanting to have it all.  It's just not possible.  Most Catholic women simply ignore the Church's teaching on birth control because they know it doesn't fit into the reality of their lives.  

Quote:
Well the world is changing and not for the better.  Women are increasingly able to pull this off like the men have done.  And unfortunately they are starting to act more like men!
 
 

Women have always been more than a womb.  It's just that male society never recognized that reality.  

Quote:
Careerism is a mortal sin under many circumstances.  So is the indulgence of materialistic consumerism.  My pastor once complained from the ambo that many parents care more about buying their next large-sized, expensive, SUV than putting their children in a Catholic School.  Or a larger house or a high status, high paying job, etc.  He of course is right on . . . except I must sadly state that some of the religious education in Catholic schools is sadly lacking nowadays.
 
 

Careerism doens't necessarily equal consumerism.  Men and women are more than gamete contributors.  Women are more than wombs.  Recognizing this fact doesn't equal "careerism."  

Quote:
BTW, I'm not saying that if you work at a career, then you shouldn't marry.  My wife works.  In fact, if I croaked today, my wife would be able to support our children and still get them to adult life.  It cuts down on the need for expensive life insurance and frankly is an emotional comfort to me given the worry wart that I am!  We live below our means and are not in any debt other than a mortgage which is about to go away.  Is it because we make a lot of money?  W do well because we are both college educated and professionals.  No, we do it because we do not believe in consumer debt whatsoever.  We are not into high status or living beyond our means.  Yes, we are doing better now than when we first married but we act financially pretty much the same way as when we were first married.  

Yet we have NEVER neglect our children and we don't spoil them like so many of their friends are spoiled.  Yet it is still a lot of hard work.  My wife stayed home when our children were real young--yes women have to do this more than men.  Why?  Well you may not like this statement, but the umbilical chord doesn't really separate from the baby at work.
 
 

Why wouldn't I like that statement?  I also don't think that a mother who works is 'neglecting' her children.  

I think most women are fundamentally unsatisfied by the role assigned to them by society.  We're told that becoming a mother is supposed to fulfill us but it doesn't.  Does being a father fulfill all of your needs?  People, men and women, are intellectual beings.  

Quote:
Motherhood is the lot of women, not men.  Yes, men could do a lot better.  But most of the secular feminists refuse to acknowledge this role of women and in it's most extreme rejection of this role--pathological man hatred and lesbianism--we have big trouble for society.
 
 

I'd say that pathological male hatred and lesbianism are not caused by secular feminism but rather by male behavior.  I've read that most lesbians were sexually molested as children.  Other lesbians say that their choice is 'political,' e.g. a rejection of the patriarchial heirarchy in the 'typical' family.  

Two out of every 5 women will be the victim of sexual violence at some point in their lives.  

The surprising thing is that most women don't hate men.  Really, more of us should.  That would be a rational response to the way most of us have been treated.  

I've known a few decent men but most (I apologize for generalizing) are real jerks.  I blame society for male 'jerk-ness.'  

Quote:
I’m not saying that men too cause much of this trouble in our society.
 
 

Men are the ones with control.  

Quote:
Birth control is right or wrong based upon objective criteria.  For example, adultery is always wrong.  There can be no equivocation about it although concrete circumstances may mitigate the spiritual crime of adultery, e.g., the maturity of the offender, undue influence, poor catechesis, etc..
 
 

My parents used artificial birth control and still had four children.  Most other Catholic couples I know use birth control.  I don't think it's led to some kind of 'evil' in their relationships.  I see the Church's argument about the slippery slope and the "contraceptive" culture.  

Quote:
That's why the Lord Jesus Christ ONLY is the Judge (with a capital "J") and not us.  Even if these guys (the hierarchs) are a bunch of ignorant or prejudiced men, if what they are saying comes from God, then that is what's important.
 
 

Female opinions on this issue are fundamentally different from male opinions.  And I don't think that God has intended for women to be 'chained' to their reproductive functions.  

Quote:
  Yes, I know that these words and concepts are not of much comfort to anyone, man or woman, in this miserable life in which we live.I understand and agree to a certain extent what you have just stated above.  Nevertheless, no matter how fulfilled a man may be in reaching his career ambitions, if it hurts his family then he has not done God's will for his life and the life of his family.  Same with a mom.  Besides, marriage and sex represent a sacrifice pure and simple (well, maybe not simple!) even in the happiest and holiest of marriages.
 
 

We're not talking about career fulfillment.  That's as much as myth as 'the cult of motherhood.'  
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« Reply #69 on: February 14, 2004, 06:30:38 PM »

http://forums.catholic-convert.com/viewtopic.php?p=210597#210597

I asked some Catholics about the issue of embryo adoption.  Let's see what they have to say.

anastasios

Thanks for the links.  I have read them.  I see the advantage of the concept of "embryo adoption" as leading to the recognition in legal terms that embryos are human beings with inalienable rights.  Although I recognize that this is a hot topic in RCC moral theology circles, I predict that the RCC will not sanction embryo adoption as a moral procedure.

I realize that this would be most controversial.  People with good will are attempting to rescue these humans from a tragic situation.  Frankly, I don't know how it will turn out but, even considering the emergency situation that frozen embryos represent, embyro adoption is basically in vitro fertilization followed by implantation which the RCC has condemned.

One thing never ceases to amaze me is the capacity for human beings to muck things up royally!

Thanks,

Jim C.
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« Reply #70 on: February 14, 2004, 07:10:45 PM »

First of all, your replies are excellent.  I'm replying to only two of your statements not because of necessary agreement with that which you have stated or even disagreement.  Rather, the scope of the subject is so big that we could never exhaust the topic:

Jennifer writes:

Quote
Does being a father fulfill all of your needs?  People, men and women, are intellectual beings.

Being a father (and husband) is more fulfilling than my work.  Yes, I have a career of sorts--I'm 2 years from a voluntary retirement but may go further because my children are in high school and hopefully bound for college.  My wife and I entered a mutually late 1st marriage.  Is my work fulfilling?  Not really in the long run although some of the people with whom I work make it acceptable.  Intellectual? I'm mostly a bureaucrat now but I still must draw on my science and engineering background.

BTW, I have met many people whose work is intellectually demanding yet unfulfilling.  Most people lead lives of quiet desperation (Thoreau) at least to some extent.  Perhaps this is a way that people are fickle of a sort and need some change.  That maybe why they change spouses too often!  Who knows?

Am I in career burnout?  No, but I realize that even the most successful careers cannot bring true fulfillment because the end goal of a career is materialistic, not the buying the bigger car type of materialism, but because it is time conditioned and does not make a big difference eternally.  The lowest paid laborer's work, provided it is legal, is just as honorable as the work of a corporate senior executive.  

I have met folks with big bucks and big jobs whose kids are total jerks.  Mom and Dad never put the time in to their formation as human beings.  Notice that I said Mom and Dad.

I work at what I do because it brings the $'s in that allow my children to go to a Catholic high school and will allow them to go to college.  My big problem--well not so "big"--is to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, that is, post-employment.  I don't intend to sit around all day and do nothing or even just putter around the house.  It is not the money after a certain point that matters.

As far as intellectual satisfaction, reading and decent discussions with friends help, faith (of course), and more than I can just write on this cyber piece of paper.  Formal education helps but after 2 graduate degrees and the equivalent of a 3rd, I don't feel all that smart

In short, my life is not defined by my work.  I am not my job even if sometimes it seems to be so.


Quote
We're not talking about career fulfillment.  That's as much as myth as 'the cult of motherhood.'  

Perhaps I already responded to this above!

I can at least agree with you regarding career fulfillment.  I perceive you present some valid points about being not merely a "womb carrier."  Nevertheless, I'm not sure I like equating "cult" with "motherhood."

On a very pessimistic note that relates to your statements but is not due to your opinions, I believe that our society, not just the U.S. but all of Western Civilization, is too far gone to be fixed.  I perceive that much of the discontent that women and men experience in this society (yes, men too!) is in some way bound up with this sorry state of sociey.  OK, someone will tell me that it has always been this way.  Yes, human nature has been in a sorry state since the great Fall in the Garden of Eden.  Nevertheless, since the Englightenment I perceive that we have been living in a crisis point which is being increasingly noticeable in the latter 20th Century and into the 21st.

I don't know what civilization will follow but the lives we all live in common in the West without regard to being Catholic, Protestand, Orthodox, or Jewish, etc., are being confronted with an apocalypse something along the lines of what Fr. Seraphim Rose has written and some other Orthodox books I have read.

Does this mean that I believe that the Second Coming is imminent in my lifetime or within the lifetimes of my children?  No, I'm not saying this.  But I think that Western Civilization is in the position that the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the South Kingdom of Judah each faced just before they fell to the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively.  I think that Assyria and Babylonia are at our collective doorsteps.

Morosely yours!

Jim C.


Jim


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« Reply #71 on: February 14, 2004, 07:31:08 PM »

"I don't see how a man can understand this but there's no way women can be equal unless they have control over reproduction.  It's no accident that almost all of the noteworthy women in the past were single."

I cringe when I read this for 2 reasons:

(1)  Men and women are definitely not "equal."  This hits home every single time my wife and I discuss children and she tells me (and truthfully, I must add) that she will be the one carrying it, not me.... I will merely participate in the enjoyable part Smiley   Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory wrote about this too.....  "equality" between men and women makes no sense.  It would be much better to call it "of equal importance" or something similar, for men and women will never be "equal."  Of course both men and women are equally important in the eyes of God.

(2)  Who qualifies as a "noteworthy woman"?  This sounds like college-level psychobabble garbage.  Is my priest's wife not a "noteworthy woman?"  (she more or less runs our parish and is extremely noteworthy in our eyes!)  Or worse yet, is my wife not "noteworthy" because she is married?  Is my own mother not "noteworthy" b/c she was married?

Jennifer, if you're talking about "worldly success" then just call it that.  There are millions of noteworthy women that the world never hears about.  And honestly, I doubt that those women really care.
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« Reply #72 on: February 14, 2004, 08:53:52 PM »

On a very pessimistic note that relates to your statements but is not due to your opinions, I believe that our society, not just the U.S. but all of Western Civilization, is too far gone to be fixed.  I perceive that much of the discontent that women and men experience in this society (yes, men too!) is in some way bound up with this sorry state of sociey.  OK, someone will tell me that it has always been this way.  Yes, human nature has been in a sorry state since the great Fall in the Garden of Eden.  Nevertheless, since the Englightenment I perceive that we have been living in a crisis point which is being increasingly noticeable in the latter 20th Century and into the 21st.


I'm not one of those "back to the land" types but I think part of the problem stems from industrialization when there was a separation of home and work.  Placing women solely in the 'home' atmosphere is unnatural.  That's what I mean by the 'cult of motherhood.'  That's a creature of the Victorian era.  Placing men solely in the 'work' atmosphere is equally unnatural.  
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« Reply #73 on: February 14, 2004, 08:58:52 PM »

I cringe when I read this for 2 reasons:

(1)  Men and women are definitely not "equal."  This hits home every single time my wife and I discuss children and she tells me (and truthfully, I must add) that she will be the one carrying it, not me.... I will merely participate in the enjoyable part Smiley   Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory wrote about this too.....  "equality" between men and women makes no sense.  It would be much better to call it "of equal importance" or something similar, for men and women will never be "equal."  Of course both men and women are equally important in the eyes of God.


Equality doesn't mean the same.  Men and women are different but still equal.  

Quote
(2)  Who qualifies as a "noteworthy woman"?  This sounds like college-level psychobabble garbage.  Is my priest's wife not a "noteworthy woman?"  (she more or less runs our parish and is extremely noteworthy in our eyes!)  Or worse yet, is my wife not "noteworthy" because she is married?  Is my own mother not "noteworthy" b/c she was married?


I didn't write that a woman could not be 'noteworthy' and be married.  What I noted was that most women throughout history who have achieved something have not been married.  

Quote
Jennifer, if you're talking about "worldly success" then just call it that.  There are millions of noteworthy women that the world never hears about.  And honestly, I doubt that those women really care.

I'm not talking about "worldly success."  How many women throughout history have had "worldly success?"  Marriage was historically the path to power and money for women.  

I'm a Roman Catholic so I'll point to RC women here.  What about St. Theresa of Avila or St. Therese?  Could they have achieved what they did if they had been responsible for a family?  
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« Reply #74 on: February 15, 2004, 07:10:28 AM »

What I noted was that most women throughout history who have achieved something have not been married.

I'm afraid I must agree with gregory2, this is an unsupported subjective opinion offered to support another yet another subjective opinion.

Quote

I'm a Roman Catholic so I'll point to RC women here.  What about St. Theresa of Avila or St. Therese?  Could they have achieved what they did if they had been responsible for a family?  


I think we can forgive Jennifer for not knowing the Orthodox view (the opinion asked in this thread) of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage.
As to the saints cited above, can you 'prove' that they could not?

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« Reply #75 on: February 15, 2004, 10:26:42 AM »

I'm afraid I must agree with gregory2, this is an unsupported subjective opinion offered to support another yet another subjective opinion.


Of course it's a "subjective" opinion.  I don't think I claimed otherwise.  

I think we can forgive Jennifer for not knowing the Orthodox view (the opinion asked in this thread) of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage.
As to the saints cited above, can you 'prove' that they could not?

Demetri
Quote

Why does this threaten you so much?  

Of course I can't "prove" that St. Theresa would have accomplished the same things had she been married.  This isn't a "prove" conversation.  We're not talking facts here.  This is subjective, of course.  

I think what I find most interesting about this "discussion" is the hostile responses indicating what I think is a kind of fear.  Male fear of women, perhaps?  Male fear of losing power?  Fear of change?  

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« Reply #76 on: February 15, 2004, 12:19:55 PM »


I think what I find most interesting about this "discussion" is the hostile responses indicating what I think is a kind of fear.  Male fear of women, perhaps?  Male fear of losing power?  Fear of change?  

Hostile responses?  If any of this pertains to my responses to your posts, please specify.

Thanks,

JBC
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« Reply #77 on: February 15, 2004, 01:03:55 PM »


DemetriWhy does this threaten you so much?  

I think what I find most interesting about this "discussion" is the hostile responses indicating what I think is a kind of fear.  Male fear of women, perhaps?  Male fear of losing power?  Fear of change?  


Please, go tell it to your liberal professors;  you seem to speak as one "just out of PC-USA College". What you perceive as "hostility" is more being utterly tired of Orthodox discussions being hijacked by non-Orthodox with some other agenda to push. I have no power to worry over and if you think you have some "power" to gain, then perhaps the "fear" is you realizing that your argument might be silly and dismissed as irrelevant in a topic dealing with Orthodox Divorce and Contraception.
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« Reply #78 on: February 15, 2004, 01:49:01 PM »

Please, go tell it to your liberal professors;  you seem to speak as one "just out of PC-USA College". What you perceive as "hostility" is more being utterly tired of Orthodox discussions being hijacked by non-Orthodox with some other agenda to push. I have no power to worry over and if you think you have some "power" to gain, then perhaps the "fear" is you realizing that your argument might be silly and dismissed as irrelevant in a topic dealing with Orthodox Divorce and Contraception.
Demetri

Okay, please forgive me, I've made a decision that I don't talk to people who use phrases like "liberal professors" and "just out of PC-USA College."  Life is just too short.
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« Reply #79 on: February 15, 2004, 01:51:13 PM »

Hostile responses?  If any of this pertains to my responses to your posts, please specify.

Thanks,

JBC


JBC, you haven't been "hostile."  You've been able to discuss these issues in a rational manner which I very much appreciate.  

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« Reply #80 on: February 15, 2004, 06:27:56 PM »

Jennifer,

1) When you write, "What I noted was that most women throughout history who have achieved something have not been married." it does sound more than just your subjective opinion.  It sounds like you are ponitificating to be honest.

2) You dismiss Demetri quite rudely because he makes a generalization about liberal professors but you yourself throw out some wild accusations about "Male fear of women, perhaps?  Male fear of losing power?  Fear of change?"  I sense a double standard that perhaps you would like to address? Demetri could just as easily say he "does't respond to anti-male generalizations" because life is too short.

Demetri,

I would add that perhaps you would like to not offer generalizations about liberal college professors.  While I certainly had my share of liberal college professors back when I was in college, we did have conservative ones and even my liberal ones in most instances fully allowed others to voice their opinions (the truly liberal and antagonist ones eventually got sidelined by the administration because students just stopped taking their classes).

anastasios
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« Reply #81 on: February 15, 2004, 06:30:49 PM »

I would like to see this topic get back on topic, namely divorce and contraception in an Orthodox context.  Thank you.

Anastasios
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« Reply #82 on: February 16, 2004, 11:19:04 AM »

Quote from: anastasios
link=board=3;threadid=2892;start=msg35783#msg35783 date=1076884249
I would like to see this topic get back on topic, namely divorce and
contraception in an Orthodox context.  Thank you.
Quote

Well, rather than make specific arguments I would prefer to talk about
some of the influences I see coming out of this discussion.

First, there's the very curious sense I get of a RC argument being
carried into an Orthodox context. The form of Humanae Vitae is
very much that of a Thomist scholastic argument. That's a major reason
why anglicans don't (as a rule) buy it; we simply don't accept the
theory of teleology that it presupposes. What's striking to me, though,
is that it isn't at all clear to me that Orthodoxy would accept this
theory either. Indeed, to me it seems strange to see a palpably RC
argument arising out of an Orthodox milieu.

Second, there's the whole conservative/liberal thing. Now, one thing
nearly every commentator on American politics notes is that there is a
transformation of conservative viewpoints in the 1970s. Up to that
point, the liberals were the keeper of the idea that the political world
should embody, in all aspects, their moral vision. This idea came from
two sources: a secularized, totalitarian Marxism, and a deeply religious
activist Christianity that traces right back into Victorian England and
which was further elaborated by Reinhold Niebuhr (whose own political
views, ironically, were on the conservative side). In the '70s, however,
the so-called religious right awoke to the idea that they needed to
seize the political reins. And the issue that set this off, everyone
agrees, was abortion.

Now, I think the moral consensus on abortion is well-formed and clear.
The signs are plain: agreement on this issue cuts across other lines,
and there is a decided moral squeamishness that comes out whenever the
specifics get too close (complemented by a moral obtuseness in courts when specific methods are discussed). And moreover, the ways in which the issue is discussed don't vary that much from group to group.

It's equally clear that none of this exists for contraception. Instead, the argument jumps directly to theology. And it does so in a way which is clearly giving us trouble here: it falls immediately into an argument for other people having children-- and which disregards sin.

Let me cut to the chase: monastics are in a poor moral position to be telling others about having babies (or maybe even sex, for that matter). "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" cuts deeply here, because the symmetry implicit in the statement is broken. To fix it requires a ceding of authority to the other person.

This problem bellows itself out particularly loudly in the male-vs.-female component of this. Sorry guys, but as far as "do unto others" is concerned, the feminists have "the patriarchy" dead to rights on this one. There is too much sin in the world not to take the feminist complaint against male prerogative seriously. Sexual morality is likewise too easily converted into a source of self-satisfaction for the chaste.

What I also sense, to a degree, is that positions get staked out because they are conservative, and then justified after the fact. This I have a big problem with, because it basically lives out a lie about liberals, claiming that they are amoral. Well, amorality is apolitical, or rather, opportunistic. Liberals are actually intensely concerned with moral issues. And thus both sides sin profusely in their positioning, but in ways that are both obscure to themselves and transparent to the opposition. And in opposing The World, churchmen are plainly vulnerable to falling into pharisaic opposition to things whose usage is morally complex.

I don't see how anyone can dispute a long history of opposition to abortion in Orthodoxy. But I don't see how this transfers neatly into opposition to contraception, and I would think that the RC theory would be looked upon with suspicion because of the intellectual baggage that come with it. So what really are Orthodox positions?
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« Reply #83 on: February 16, 2004, 03:47:31 PM »

Excellent post, Keble.  

I too sense a "RC approach" here.  I often wonder if "western" "RC" thought is so pervasive that it's nearly impossible for eastern Christians to be unaffected by it.  

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« Reply #84 on: February 16, 2004, 04:00:18 PM »

So, what about the fact that not one Christian Church espoused contraception prior to the Lambeth Conference in 1939?  Human Vitae wasn't even a glimmer in anyone's eye at that time - regardless of the Thomist philosophy.  Not one Christian Church approved of contraception prior to this time.  The Anglicans approved its use and the rest of Christendom fell, except for the Catholic Church.

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« Reply #85 on: February 16, 2004, 04:13:08 PM »

Additionally, whther you think the words of a monastic are valid or not - regarding sex/birth control - monastics are the ones from whose ranks the bishops are chosen in the Orthodox Church.  Quite frankly, if you have a problem with the direction of monastics then you probably don't have a place in the Orthodox Church.  Otherwise, you'll be fighting their leadership every step of the way.

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« Reply #86 on: February 16, 2004, 05:35:40 PM »

Keble,

It is unfortunate that Fr John Schroedel's argument against contraception is not in print.  It is a thesis at SVS from 2002.  It is the best I have read on the subject from an Orthodox.

As far as Thomism, I repeat what I said before: so what? Just because something can theoretically be traced to some other intellectual influence doesn't make it wrong.  I think that contraception is wrong and I think that the Orthodox have not reflected enough on it in an Orthodox manner but that doesn't mean that they can't use a "Thomistic" argument to discuss the issue.  Not everything Latin is bad...

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« Reply #87 on: February 16, 2004, 05:49:42 PM »

Keble,

It is unfortunate that Fr John Schroedel's argument against contraception is not in print.  It is a thesis at SVS from 2002.  It is the best I have read on the subject from an Orthodox.

As far as Thomism, I repeat what I said before: so what? Just because something can theoretically be traced to some other intellectual influence doesn't make it wrong.  I think that contraception is wrong and I think that the Orthodox have not reflected enough on it in an Orthodox manner but that doesn't mean that they can't use a "Thomistic" argument to discuss the issue.  Not everything Latin is bad...

anastasios

This is a response to Keble more than a response to you, Anastasios; it's just that I am not yet good at isolating segments from long quotes!

I have read HV several times and I am somewhat familiar with Aristotelian-Thomism being an Aristotelian-Thomist myself!  Nevertheless, I do not see the Thomism in HV so please explain what you mean by it.

I would also hope that those who object to HV at least read the document so we could be more or less on a common level of knowledge.  I am not saying that you (Keble & Anastasios) haven't read it.  If you look at Paul VI's predictions in HV, you just might possibly think that he was a bit of a prophet in what he said.  Well, perhaps not.

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« Reply #88 on: February 16, 2004, 06:43:24 PM »

There is a term in rhetoric for the type of argument people often use...

"I think birth control is good," and the retort is, "Yeah, well you're an anglican and anglicanism is heretical."

I think it would be better if we would deal with the issues and not completely dismiss their origins as thomist or western. If you just tell me, "well, you're Catholic and Catholics got everything wrong," I will be most unconvinced.
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« Reply #89 on: February 17, 2004, 08:42:10 AM »

Keble,

It is unfortunate that Fr John Schroedel's argument against contraception is not in print.  It is a thesis at SVS from 2002.  It is the best I have read on the subject from an Orthodox.

As far as Thomism, I repeat what I said before: so what? Just because something can theoretically be traced to some other intellectual influence doesn't make it wrong.  I think that contraception is wrong and I think that the Orthodox have not reflected enough on it in an Orthodox manner but that doesn't mean that they can't use a "Thomistic" argument to discuss the issue.  Not everything Latin is bad...

Can we tone down the hyperbole a bit? The problem with resorting to Thomist argument is precisely that nobody in The Real World will use it anymore. And they don't use it because it has obvious problems. The big problem in this case is its emphasis on single purpose teleology. Natural things, as a rule, don't have single purposes; an acorn's purpose is both tree and food.

In the case of sex, Genesis itself testifies to a double purpose, and it's not hard to argue from nature that it is the unitive and familial aspect which is primary. Infertility doesn't condemn people to celebacy, after all.
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« Reply #90 on: February 17, 2004, 08:50:57 AM »

Quote
I would also hope that those who object to HV at least read the document so we could be more or less on a common level of knowledge.  I am not saying that you (Keble & Anastasios) haven't read it.  If you look at Paul VI's predictions in HV, you just might possibly think that he was a bit of a prophet in what he said.  Well, perhaps not.

That's true jc. However, do you think the societal havoc was caused rather by the promiscuity encouraged by the unjustified use of contraception? I don't see how a married Christian couple living out their vocation in marriage selflessly and regarding children as an invaluable blessing can suffer the fate predicted by Pope Paul VI were they to resort to contraception for grave health reasons. I don't see Orthodoxy reflecting a "what's wrong with contraception?" mentality but one that's very sympathetic to a married couple's need to express their love sexually when grave factors necessitating a birth control method are necessary.

The Russian church has dealt with this issue in its Jubilee Bishops' Council:

XII. 3. Among the problems which need a religious and moral assessment is that of contraception. Some contraceptives have an abortive effect, interrupting artificially the life of the embryo on the very first stages of his life. Therefore, the same judgements are applicable to the use of them as to abortion. But other means, which do not involve interrupting an already conceived life, cannot be equated with abortion in the least. In defining their attitude to the non-abortive contraceptives, Christian spouses should remember that human reproduction is one of the principal purposes of the divinely established marital union (see, X. 4). The deliberate refusal of childbirth on egoistic grounds devalues marriage and is a definite sin.
At the same time, spouses are responsible before God for the comprehensive upbringing of their children. One of the ways to be responsible for their birth is to restrain themselves from sexual relations for a time. However, Christian spouses should remember the words of St. Paul addressed to them: -½Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency-+ (1 Cor. 7:5). Clearly, spouses should make such decisions mutually on the counsel of their spiritual father. The latter should take into account, with pastoral prudence, the concrete living conditions of the couple, their age, health, degree of spiritual maturity and many other circumstances. In doing so, he should distinguish those who can hold the high demands of continence from those to whom it is not given (Mt. 19:11), taking care above all of the preservation and consolidation of the family.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in its Decision of December 28, 1998, instructed the clergy serving as spiritual guides that -½it is inadmissible to coerce or induce the flock toGǪ refuse conjugal relations in marriage-+. It also reminded the pastors of the need -½to show special chastity and special pastoral prudence in discussing with the flock the questions involved in particular aspects of their family life-+.

I posed the question of birth control methods to a very saintly spiritual mother from my jurisdiction and the response mirrored the grave reason rationale i've been providing, the NFP method taking first preference any other time.
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« Reply #91 on: February 17, 2004, 08:52:17 AM »

Additionally, whther you think the words of a monastic are valid or not - regarding sex/birth control - monastics are the ones from whose ranks the bishops are chosen in the Orthodox Church.  Quite frankly, if you have a problem with the direction of monastics then you probably don't have a place in the Orthodox Church.  Otherwise, you'll be fighting their leadership every step of the way.

Bishops who will not listen to others, especially those others whose experience is more relevant, are hardly the model of humility that should be the mark of a bishop. Making moral rules about something one cannot know directly is so obviously an occaision for sin that it should hardly be necessary that I point it out.

That is precisely why the Catholic moral leadership is in trouble now in the USA. Humanae Vitae has been followed at length by the current abuse scandals, and these scandals are so blatantly an abuse of episcopal authority that the entire American bishopric isnow tainted with it. It didn't follow the archepiscopal flap in the GOA closely, but from what I gather it had some of the same flavor. Orthodox churches are not immune to ths squandering of authority-- nothing is.
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« Reply #92 on: February 17, 2004, 09:00:54 AM »

Certainly monastics have proven time and again to be the faithful champions of Orthodoxy but they can get things wrong. The idea of sex as being somehow sinful was not exclusive to St. Augustine and his followers. Some monastics in the East shared similar views.
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« Reply #93 on: February 18, 2004, 03:55:13 PM »

...I didn't write that a woman could not be 'noteworthy' and be married.  What I noted was that most women throughout history who have achieved something have not been married...  

...I'm a Roman Catholic so I'll point to RC women here.  What about St. Theresa of Avila or St. Therese?  Could they have achieved what they did if they had been responsible for a family?  

What about the blessed Mother of our Lord, the most 'noteworthy' woman in history and forever.  I think she achieved a great deal.  In fact I believe my wife has achieved a great deal by blessing us and the world with two precious children.  

S.J.
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« Reply #94 on: February 18, 2004, 04:37:22 PM »

That's true jc. However, do you think the societal havoc was caused rather by the promiscuity encouraged by the unjustified use of contraception? I don't see how a married Christian couple living out their vocation in marriage selflessly and regarding children as an invaluable blessing can suffer the fate predicted by Pope Paul VI were they to resort to contraception for grave health reasons. I don't see Orthodoxy reflecting a "what's wrong with contraception?" mentality but one that's very sympathetic to a married couple's need to express their love sexually when grave factors necessitating a birth control method are necessary.

First of all, I apologize for taking so long to answer your question.  This Forum is so extensive that it is easy to miss something.  Besides, as Camerlengo of another Forum I don't always get to take the time really required to peruse OC.net to the extent that it deserves.

My comment regading reading HV was not directed at you or anyone else specifically.  I have on other occasions read or engaged in conversations about birth control in which my "opponents" [inaccurate although convenient label] complained about the RC's hierarchical stance without ever reading the official basis of that stance.  BTW, for those so interested and motivated, HV does not stand alone in this subject.  I would refer you gentle readers to Pius XI's Casti Conubii (sp?).

I don't think that we will ever come to a complete meeting of the minds but ISTM that Orthodoxy and Catholicism in many ways have a general convergence of views on artificial birth control when both denominations are confronted by the views and practices of the secular world.  Yes, I do opine that the free availability of the pill since 1960 contributed to the sexual promiscuity of the more recent modern area.  Nevertheless, sexual promiscuity has been prevalent since time immemorial.  For example, I have in my library at home a very interesting socio/historical work:

Quote
Laurence Stone, Family, Sex, and Marriage: England 1500-1800.

Stone's book has a long section with sexual biographies of some famous English elites such as Boswell and Thomas Pepys.  After reading this book (many years ago), I conclude that the modern age has no monopoly on libertinism!

In my previous post I in no way intended to imply that married folks who contracept are necessarily promoting libertinism.  I realize that the marriage bed is sacred--actually "undefiled" according to Holy Writ.  However, my belief in the RC teaching as explained by Paul 6 is bound by obedience, trust, and the good sense made by the essential arguments of HV.  In some ways, HV is quite liberal compared to Casti Conubii.  HV discussed both the procreative and unitive ends of marriage, each a worthy goal in itself.  CC discussed both also but it seems to have subordinated the unitive end to the procreative.  Both encylicals, however, refuse to separate the two ends in the sense that one can be achieved without the other.  It is clear to me that Orthodoxy does not necessarily agree with this inseparableness for each and every conjugal act.  I conclude this means that we have agreed to disagree!

I still think that the perceived tremendous rise in sexual sin in our society to include abortion, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, homosexual sex, bestiality (yep! this too.), pedofilia and pederasty is related in some way to the pill, etc.  The pill and other easy access to birth control and abortifacent devices has promoted the libidinous climate that we see everywhere in our society.  Let's face it, I've turned into a big prude in my dotage! Grin

I do not opine that the RO document that you have posted would find much objection in RC hierarchical circles.  Of course people will always argue about specifics.  People are just that way!  I also opine that NFP allows the Christian couple to separate but only for a time for prayer and control of the passions, yet provides for the regular conjugal relations that inform so much of married life.

Jim C.
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« Reply #95 on: February 18, 2004, 09:26:31 PM »

jbc,

That’s ok buddy, take your time Smiley

I fully respect your obedience to Humanae Vitae and past papal decrees on this matter. One thing I’ve always respected about HV (and Pope Paul VI’s pontificate in general) is the pope’s gentle, pastoral tone reflecting the deep concern he had for married couples.

When you say homosexuality, bestiality and pederasty are tied in some way to the availability of the contraceptive pill, do you mean that the impetus of the above movements was inspired by the (heterosexual) sexual revolution which in turn was inspired by the availability of the pill? In that sense I can certainly see a causality at work.

You also stated that “NFP allows the Christian couple to separate but only for a time for prayer and control of the passions, yet provides for the regular conjugal relations that inform so much of married life.”

I’m totally in agreement here. If there’s a contraceptive method that enforces St. Paul’s advice and can be applied in today’s context it’s a calendar method and a calendar method only. I oppose the use of barrier and chemical methods because they violate that advice by fostering an attitude that sex should always be available, especially on occasions when the passions do need to be restrained, such as in times of illness (cold, flu, headache nüè)

However, if certain grave conditions facing either one or both the couple render their sexual union dangerous without the use of another form of contraception (eg. Medical conditions such as anaphylaxix and ecclampsia come to mind), given that the unitive aspect is the prime purpose of sex a couple cannot be denied their right to express their love sexually. Call it economia or double effect - married couples are not called to lifelong celibacy (a gift which Christ said is given to a few) nor is it prudent to predispose either one of the couple to satisfy their sexual urges in a sinful way (masturbation, at worst adultery), nor does lifelong abstinence foster the well-being and harmony of marriage, where sexual union is one of the vital factors in maintaining bodily, mental and spiritual health, fidelity, management of emotions leading to sin (anger, impatience) and fostering of emotions conducive to virtue (patience, kindness etc.). The good outweighs the bad. This, I believe, forms the basis for the conditional permissibility of contraceptives from the Orthodox standpoint. I have not come across any Orthodox local council pronouncements which encourage contraception, nor do I see Orthodoxy freely embracing contraception in a manner which some tracts criticizing the Orthodox position seem to charge. In any case I would like to see more local Orthodox churches address the issue more closely, and if I seemed to be making comments to the contrary in previous posts then I’ll be glad to correct myself.

I don’t see the acceptance of contraception in grave cases as an illegitimate development because the principles and conditions which have guided this particular development do have a precedent in other moral cases, in which a teaching was altered and adjusted to new conditions yet retaining its essence. If we take the case of war as an example, you’ll find in the early church a unanimous condemnation of all war and military involvement because of the pagan cult associated with the military and the taking of lives. When the Church began to co-operate closer with the Roman state, this view gradually came to be adjusted and the necessity of military service was acknowledged; yet war was justified only within bounds and under certain limited conditions, and the essence of the teaching remained - killing, though sin, may unfortunately be required under certain circumstances.

I see the Orthodox position on contraception following the same principles - retaining the essence of the teaching which condemns the egoistic ends and the identification of children as burdens which characterizes the contraceptive mentality, yet recognizing the necessity and unavoidable use of contraception to prevent worse evils, which may range from psychological, physical and economic hardships on the couple, to the depriving of a stable upbringing for the child conceived in such conditions. We are living through the paradigm shift that goes hand in hand with the development of doctrine, so it isn’t unusual to experience the head scratching and eyebrow raising that usually accompanies such phenomena. It is a delicate issue that requires much understanding, sympathy, a great deal of prayer and participation in the Sacraments and experience and closeness to God on the part of the spiritual Father/Mother.
 
As you mentioned, the disagreement lies in whether or not the procreative and unitive ends can be separated. But in practice, how can we deny that the use of NFP does precisely that? The unitive aspect of sex is sought while the procreative end is suspended. This also applies to couples infertile and elderly. In all sexual unions between married Christian couples, the unitive aspect will always be present - isn’t this indicative of precisely that as the prime end of sex? I see this perspective as being harmonious with the wisdom of St. John Chrysostom I mentioned in a previous post:

“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).
 
Quote
I do not opine that the RO document that you have posted would find much objection in RC hierarchical circles. Of course people will always argue about specifics. People are just that way!


If this is true, then Orthodoxy and Rome stand neck and neck on this issue. The main difference being one local church (Rome) officially taking the minority view by absolutely prohibiting all forms of chemical and barrier contraceptives.
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« Reply #96 on: February 18, 2004, 11:35:21 PM »

Byzanto writes:

When you say homosexuality, bestiality and pederasty are tied in some way to the availability of the contraceptive pill, do you mean that the impetus of the above movements was inspired by the (heterosexual) sexual revolution which in turn was inspired by the availability of the pill? In that sense I can certainly see a causality at work.



Responsio:

Actually when I read your post and then went back over my last post this late at night, I really haven't the slightest idea what I meant!  It must have been another senior moment. Grin  Seriously, though, I think perhaps it was or is the general highly sexualized environment in which we live that promotes all these sins as somehow "value added" for people.  The pill has something to do with it because it is part of this highly sexualized environment.

Byzantino writes:

As you mentioned, the disagreement lies in whether or not the procreative and unitive ends can be separated. But in practice, how can we deny that the use of NFP does precisely that? The unitive aspect of sex is sought while the procreative end is suspended. This also applies to couples infertile and elderly. In all sexual unions between married Christian couples, the unitive aspect will always be present - isn’t this indicative of precisely that as the prime end of sex? I see this perspective as being harmonious with the wisdom of St. John Chrysostom I mentioned in a previous post:



Responsio:

I think that I neglected to say with respect to separating the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love is the artificial or unnatural separation.  I perceive that it is the "artificialness" that Rome condemns.  Interestingly, though, your comment about NFP doing the separating is the basis for ultra Traditionalist Catholics condemning even NFP!  They look upon this method as a way to avoid having large families--i.e., to be fruitful and multiply.

NFP doesn't do this IMHO although I think you have made a perceptive observation.  If we could take this to an extreme then NFP would be used to guarantee that the unitive and procreative aspects remain united.  In otherwords, sex only when the wifelet has the most optimum chance to conceive! Smiley  Of course we both know that this will go over like a lead balloon for lots of folks!

Your most recent post pretty much explains quite nicely the "birth control" convergence and the divergence between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

Jim



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« Reply #97 on: February 19, 2004, 05:31:02 AM »

Hi Jim,

You said:

Quote
Interestingly, though, your comment about NFP doing the separating is the basis for ultra Traditionalist Catholics condemning even NFP!  They look upon this method as a way to avoid having large families--i.e., to be fruitful and multiply.

Is that really their rationale? All couples should be baby machines, have 10 kids regardless of finances, mental & physical health, etc. ? Maybe they should read St. John Chrysostom.

Regarding the condemnation of barrier and chemical methods of contraception because of their artificiality, I once was listening to a radio recording on Catholic Answers (about a year and a half ago) where the guest, who was a lecturing on Pope JPII's theology of the body, stated the RCC doesn't condemn contraception because of its artificiality but because it's contraceptive. I don't know how to reconcile that with RC teaching, so you might have to explain it for us if you can.

Honestly, I don't see the contraception issue as a major barrier (no pun intended) between our efforts for unity. The exercising of papal primacy and the state of the RC Liturgy I think are the big issues. Coming to Orthodoxy from a RC background entirely faithful to the Magisterium and inculcated with RC internet apologetics i vowed not to change my stance on contraception once Orthodox; this was one of those issues that proved to be a major stumbling block for me, but the more i read up on opposing views, spoke to priests and did some deep reflection, I put my views under some serious scrutiny and in the end was compelled to rethink my position.

Also, would you have any idea of the level of dissent from Rome's official stance on this teaching among U.S. clergy?

Thanks!


Byz

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« Reply #98 on: February 19, 2004, 01:05:47 PM »

Hi Jim,

You said:Is that really their rationale? All couples should be baby machines, have 10 kids regardless of finances, mental & physical health, etc. ? Maybe they should read St. John Chrysostom.

Well maybe that is their intent.  Yes, large families!  And other traditional to conservative groups seem to head this way too IMHO.  For example, I have a book somewhere at home on home schooling published by the Seaton Home Schooling Association.  The lady that runs the association is a professional educator who has a large family.  She has a son who married--they showed wedding pictures etc.--who anticipated a large family.  The Seaton Home Schooling Association is on the web FYI.

Quote
Regarding the condemnation of barrier and chemical methods of contraception because of their artificiality, I once was listening to a radio recording on Catholic Answers (about a year and a half ago) where the guest, who was a lecturing on Pope JPII's theology of the body, stated the RCC doesn't condemn contraception because of its artificiality but because it's contraceptive. I don't know how to reconcile that with RC teaching, so you might have to explain it for us if you can.

You got me!  I know of JP-II's Theology of the Body but I have not read about it.  There may even be a JP-II encylical on this.  The last encyclical I have read is Fides Et Ratio so I am at least 2 behind!  There is a Pontifical College set up somewhere in the U.S. that awards graduate degrees in this area and in the Gospel of Life subjects (i.e., Evangelium Vitae).  I think the objection is that artificiality means "not natural." I'm not sure I can explain it to someone from a Church that values, usually quite appropriately, oeconomia in the Christian life.  One can always come up with seemingly worthy exceptions to a rule (OK, I'm being a little jurdical--so go easy on me!).  But oeconomia is much like NFP in some ways.  NFP really works only I don't know how many people really have the discipline to follow it as a lifetime vocation.  You can always depend upon human beings to muck up even the easiest of things.  Can oeconomia also be abused?  You bet!

Sorry, I don't have a satisfactory answer for your question.


Quote
Honestly, I don't see the contraception issue as a major barrier (no pun intended) between our efforts for unity. The exercising of papal primacy and the state of the RC Liturgy I think are the big issues. Coming to Orthodoxy from a RC background entirely faithful to the Magisterium and inculcated with RC internet apologetics i vowed not to change my stance on contraception once Orthodox; this was one of those issues that proved to be a major stumbling block for me, but the more i read up on opposing views, spoke to priests and did some deep reflection, I put my views under some serious scrutiny and in the end was compelled to rethink my position.

Good pun!  Problems with the liturgy?  I'm not surprised only I don't usually hear of this complaint about the RC's modern liturgy from the Orthodox--other than saying that the modern RC mass is just not a very inspiring liturgy.  The Orthodox shouldn't complain too much about the modern mass.  The modern RC liturgy even has an epiclesis now, although it precedes the institution narrative rather than succeeding it as in the two major anaphorae of the Byzantine rite.  Right? [not such a good pun but it will have to do! Tongue]

Quote
Also, would you have any idea of the level of dissent from Rome's official stance on this teaching among U.S. clergy?

OK, don't any of you "Orthies" beat me up on my statistics.  There are enough problems accounting for UGC's, UOC-MP, UOAC, and the UOC-KP  in another thread of OC.net!

I would say that 89-94% of the Catholic laity "flip off" JP-II when it comes to birth control.  I haven't been to confession to a large subset of RC's priests and the ones I have been to I can't tell you about--the Seal of the Confessional and all and my private life.  Nevertheless, I perceive--I have no proof for this statement--that it may be a "don't ask; don't tell" situation by and large.    Some of the newly ordained clergy are more faithful to the RC's teachings, maybe 50-50?  I don't know.

I have read, however, that the abortion and divorce rates for Catholics pretty much follow the national overall rate in the U.S.  In absence of other information, I would presume that contraception pretty much follows the national rate too.

I got the 89% from Fr. Andrew Greeley's web site a number of years ago.  I got the 94% somewhere else but I don't remember where.  It is utterly amazing how the AmChurch hierarchy has failed to support Church teaching in this regard!  Lately, however, more American RC bishops have been speaking out in favor of the Church's teaching.  Also, many marriage preparation programs have been promoting NFP and even requiring attendance at NFP presentations and training sessions.  I guess you could call this giving the sheep-in-the-pews "official notice" of Church teaching.  This must mean that Confessors are not doing their job!

Proper formation regarding birth control is not the only problem.  In general, the catechesis of Catholics--children and adults--has been terrible since V2.  IMHO, speaking as a pre-V2 "throwback" myself, I assert that the pre-V2 catechesis was not that good either.  There have been some good changes recently in improving catechesis.  The only problem for me, however, is that I'm a true Latin Mass traditionalist, Thomistic-leaning, doctrine oriented throwback even though I live and raise my family in a Novus Ordo environment.  What I'm trying to say is that nothing catechetically related truly pleases me, even the good stuff which is not (yet) all that plentiful out there.  Too much bible and not enough doctrine.  No, I'm not against biblical literacy.  It is just that Holy Mother the Church interprets authoritatively Sacred Scripture for me.  I don't need every Tom, Dick, and Harry telling me in some religious ed program what the bible means for them personally.  And I also can't do much with the views of bible scholars who try to explain away sacred scripture.  I won't say that all of them are modernists.  It's just that their teaching is mostly useless when it comes to applying it to my Christian life.  Yes, I'm definitely a throwback!

Oh by the way, I perceive that Orthodoxy has some problems in catechetical regards too.  The Orthodox are losing their cradle "young" due to secularlization and mixed marriages.  I perceive that recent increases in the Orthodox faithful have been due largely to immigration from traditionally Orthodox countries and a mostly Protestant conversion boomlet (some Catholics too).  I'm going out on a limb and am guessing that Orthodox catechesis on the parish level is a continuing challenge!  Perhaps some of the historical Protestant militancy from the formerly Protestant Orthodox will help turn things around PROVIDED there is no "us vs them" attitude from Orthodox throwbacks toward their recently converted brethren!!!! Grin

. . . awaiting with some trepidation the black and blue marks on my cyber-body from the inevitable Orthodox counter punch due to my not-so-tactful comments! . . . I trust I remain . . .

An unrepentant throwback, Grin

Jim C.


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« Reply #99 on: February 19, 2004, 02:24:34 PM »

Well, the big RC problem in this country is that people are executing their own moral reasoning-- and it's not coming out the same way that the hierarchy says. Now, surely some of this is because the reasoning itself is bad; nevertheless, the scope of the disobedience is striking. At the very least it shows that standing on their episcopal authority isn't good enough, and I would suggest that it is eroding respect for that very authority.

In the context of normal reasoning, the dogmatic reasoning fails. In ordinary life, we are no longer Aristotelians-- and that isn't going to change. Discarding ordinary reasoning and turning on some special theological reasoning is not something that rational people do easily, because it borders on special pleading. It isn't unreasonable to expect a theology which is compatible in some way with ordinary reasoning.
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« Reply #100 on: February 19, 2004, 02:37:05 PM »

Well, the big RC problem in this country is that people are executing their own moral reasoning-- and it's not coming out the same way that the hierarchy says. Now, surely some of this is because the reasoning itself is bad; nevertheless, the scope of the disobedience is striking. At the very least it shows that standing on their episcopal authority isn't good enough, and I would suggest that it is eroding respect for that very authority.

In the context of normal reasoning, the dogmatic reasoning fails. In ordinary life, we are no longer Aristotelians-- and that isn't going to change. Discarding ordinary reasoning and turning on some special theological reasoning is not something that rational people do easily, because it borders on special pleading. It isn't unreasonable to expect a theology which is compatible in some way with ordinary reasoning.


I gather you don't care for aristotelianism!  Nevertheless, HV is not a Thomistic document . . . or at least I don't perceive it to be.  Unfortunately (in my opinion) Thomism is largely ignored in the post-V2 RCC even though the Fathers of V2 called for its promotion!

I tend to see the phenomenon of Catholics who are "executing their own moral reasoning" as acting more Protestant than Catholic.  In retrospect, however, I attribute it more to secularization than merely acting like Protestants.  Our secular society is usually blamed on the Reformers because it is anti-authoritarian (Sola Scriptura/Sola Fide--individual interpretation, etc.), yet our society is blantantly somewhere between indifferentist and outright agnostic/atheist in its day-to-day implications.

Jim C.
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« Reply #101 on: February 19, 2004, 04:52:25 PM »

Hello Jim,

you wrote:

"I would say that 89-94% of the Catholic laity "flip off" JP-II when it comes to birth control.  I haven't been to confession to a large subset of RC's priests and the ones I have been to I can't tell you about--the Seal of the Confessional and all and my private life.  Nevertheless, I perceive--I have no proof for this statement--that it may be a "don't ask; don't tell" situation by and large.    Some of the newly ordained clergy are more faithful to the RC's teachings, maybe 50-50?  I don't know."

I always thought the seal of Confession prohibited the priest from revealing what was confessed by the penitent. I didn't think it meant the penitent was forbidden to reveal what guidance the priest gives a person as well. I'm not asking you to reveal anything. I was just wondering if the Seal works both ways. I have never been taught that.

In Christ,
Anthony
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« Reply #102 on: February 19, 2004, 05:44:21 PM »

Tony, Greetings!  I notice you use the icon of St. Ambrose of Optino that I uploaded.  You are most certainly welcome to it (they are free for the using!), but I note you are Roman Catholic, and wonder if you knew that St. Ambrose, while canonized by the Orthodox, is not by the Roman church?  In any case, I'm sure Saint Ambrose appreciates your veneration, and is an effective intercessor for whomever calls on him.
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« Reply #103 on: February 19, 2004, 06:01:19 PM »

Hello Ambrose,

I'm not Roman Catholic. Yes, I know a lot about St Ambrose of Optina. I've been using this image for awhile. I didn't know you brought it to the website.

In Christ,
Anthony
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« Reply #104 on: February 19, 2004, 06:12:07 PM »

I gather you don't care for aristotelianism!  Nevertheless, HV is not a Thomistic document . . . or at least I don't perceive it to be.

Well, Anglican readers of it do see it as Thomist, because most of the problems they have with it they trace directly to the Aristotlean assumptions the see it making. Be that as it may.....

Quote
I tend to see the phenomenon of Catholics who are "executing their own moral reasoning" as acting more Protestant than Catholic.  In retrospect, however, I attribute it more to secularization than merely acting like Protestants.  Our secular society is usually blamed on the Reformers because it is anti-authoritarian (Sola Scriptura/Sola Fide--individual interpretation, etc.), yet our society is blantantly somewhere between indifferentist and outright agnostic/atheist in its day-to-day implications.

I'm sorry, but this is a bit of a cop-out. It's true that American society tends to anti-authoritarian thinking, but there is a historical reason for that: the state is founded out of the abuse of authority. Likewise, Protestantism is founded out of the same abuse, in this case by the papacy.

If our society is amoral, the churches bear a lot of responsibility for getting it that way. Not because they have acceded to that moral indifference, but because they spent their moral capital unwisely. The Catholic hierarchy in particular allowed itself to painted as a legalistic and often cruel institution; they made themselves easy to rebel against.

There is also the problem that most people don't realize how effective contraceptive methods have to be. The answer is, "very". If a couple uses a method that is 98% effective and have sex once a week, they have only a 77% chance of getting through a year without a pregnancy. They have only a 7% chance of getting through a decade without a pregnancy. Reliability numbers here are treacherous and I don't have NFP numbers at hand, but I'm betting that they aren't nearly this favorable. And these numbers are neutral as to the couple; what you are actually seeing a huge variation in effectiveness, particularly in NFP methods where one is at the mercy of the woman's physiology.

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« Reply #105 on: February 19, 2004, 06:37:41 PM »

Hello Jim,

you wrote:

I always thought the seal of Confession prohibited the priest from revealing what was confessed by the penitent. I didn't think it meant the penitent was forbidden to reveal what guidance the priest gives a person as well. I'm not asking you to reveal anything. I was just wondering if the Seal works both ways. I have never been taught that.

In Christ,
Anthony

You are absolutely correct.  The penitent can reveal the contents of his confession for  just purposes such as further spiritual counseling, etc.  I believe that there are also some very restricted circumstances in which a penitent can give permission for the Confessor to consult with others over a particular vexing spiritual issue regarding the penitent.  But I don't know how this is done.

Nevertheless, the priest has to give his life if necessary to maintain the Holy Seal so we the sheep should treat our confessions with great reverence and not reveal them casually to others.  We should stand in solidarity with our priests who bear such a heavy cross on our behalf.

Of course I hope you realize that a layman is also bound by the same Seal should he overhear or otherwise come to knowledge of someone else's confession.  And we don't even have some of the legal protections that are granted by custom to clerics regarding confession!

And I have nothing to reveal.  I'm sinless! Grin . . . yeah right! Angry

Jim
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« Reply #106 on: February 19, 2004, 06:51:42 PM »

If our society is amoral, the churches bear a lot of responsibility for getting it that way. Not because they have acceded to that moral indifference, but because they spent their moral capital unwisely. The Catholic hierarchy in particular allowed itself to painted as a legalistic and often cruel institution; they made themselves easy to rebel against.

I agree with some of this but I perceive the "cruel" is somewhat of an overstatement applied to modern Catholicism.

Quote
There is also the problem that most people don't realize how effective contraceptive methods have to be. The answer is, "very". If a couple uses a method that is 98% effective and have sex once a week, they have only a 77% chance of getting through a year without a pregnancy. They have only a 7% chance of getting through a decade without a pregnancy. Reliability numbers here are treacherous and I don't have NFP numbers at hand, but I'm betting that they aren't nearly this favorable. And these numbers are neutral as to the couple; what you are actually seeing a huge variation in effectiveness, particularly in NFP methods where one is at the mercy of the woman's physiology.

I calculate that the chance of getting pregnant using your numbers is 1.04 times out of a 52 sexual intercourses assuming the chance of getting pregnant during each encounter is 2%.  Of course I am assuming that the couple are workaholics and don't take vacations! Grin

Basically, I agree.  Regarding NFP, it's theoretical effectiveness is one thing.  The willingness of the couple to do their homework and process the paperwork (charting) is another.  So I do not know what the true working effectiveness of NFP is given the population of NFP practitioners out there.

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« Reply #107 on: February 19, 2004, 11:30:41 PM »

Keble,

Ousia vs. hypostasis is Aristetolian (Aristotle called it "primary ousia" vs. "secondary ousia" but it is the same thing).  Does that mean we reject it?

anastasios
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« Reply #108 on: February 19, 2004, 11:31:05 PM »

Some more resources from Orthodox (the same group as orthodoxnfp but different content I believe):

http://www.paratheke.net/stephanos/
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« Reply #109 on: February 20, 2004, 12:25:21 AM »

I agree with some of this but I perceive the "cruel" is somewhat of an overstatement applied to modern Catholicism.

It is of course a matter of perception.

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I calculate that the chance of getting pregnant using your numbers is 1.04 times out of a 52 sexual intercourses assuming the chance of getting pregnant during each encounter is 2%.  Of course I am assuming that the couple are workaholics and don't take vacations! Grin

Well, I calculated it on the basis of having a contraceptive success each time, and factoring that the couple wouldn't be fertile every week anyway (I assumed 1 week of fertility a month). This isn't exactly correct because it doesn't account for the fact that one can't get doubly pregnant, but it's close enough.

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Basically, I agree.  Regarding NFP, it's theoretical effectiveness is one thing.  The willingness of the couple to do their homework and process the paperwork (charting) is another.  So I do not know what the true working effectiveness of NFP is given the population of NFP practitioners out there.

This is a problem with contraception statistics in general. One can't tell how much of the failure rate is caused by doing it wrong or forgetting to use it; one presumes that conscientious users could do better than the published numbers.  In fact I have just looked at one site which gives differential numbers between typical and optimal use. Studies in the field give failure rates in terms of chance of pregnancy per year (which hides the frequency issue). The numbers for NFP are not that good: best failure rates seem to be about 10%, with around 25% being more common.
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« Reply #110 on: February 20, 2004, 12:55:29 AM »

Ousia vs. hypostasis is Aristetolian (Aristotle called it "primary ousia" vs. "secondary ousia" but it is the same thing).  Does that mean we reject it?

The key question is whether it can be rephrased in other terminology. For the Trinity, the answer appears to be Yes. It involves a considerable shift of language-- in modern English the word "substance" for "ousia" would tend to imply three separate dieties, so modern translations have preferred to use words which indicate that the three Persons don't have separate existences, but one single unified existence. But if you can live with the paradox, it isn't that hard to state.

In the case of HV, though, we're running into the harder to fix problem that there are claims about how the universe works that we no longer believe. Single teleology isn't accepted anymore. For example, here is an example that John Krumm uses. What is the purpose of an acorn? The answer is, this doesn't have a single absolute answer, but only relative ones. Acorns are both for new trees and for squirrel food.

Scripture points to at least a dual purpose for sex too. In fact, hardly any of it has to do with fertility, and almost all of it has to do with the unification of man and woman. And the problem also arises in considering artificiality. It is the nature of humans to exert their will and control things; therefore the line between the natural and the artificial wanders about.

Clearly it matters to what end fertility is regulated; intent is important. And thus we get to yet another single teleology problem in terms of deciding whcih means of regulation are acceptable and which are not. A woman who chooses to use the pill because abstinence methods don't work for her stands in a different relationship to the method than one who uses it because she wants unchecked sexuality. The purposes involved are at odds with each other and it is presumptuous for the church to pick one over the other.
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« Reply #111 on: February 20, 2004, 04:10:43 AM »

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the info and for sharing your thoughts with us!

I double checked my previous statement about the condemnation of contraception based on grounds other than artificiality and managed to fork up some more concrete proof in favour of it from a reliable RC source:

"The reason the Church denounces contraception is not because it is artificial. After all, the Church allows the use of countless artificial drugs and other technological advances that medicine can offer man. However, these are to be used to heal dysfunction and promote the proper functioning of the body as God ordained it. Contraception does the opposite: It prevents the natural functioning of the body" (Jason Evert, If You Really Loved Me, Catholic Answers, San Diego, 2003, p. 140).

This line of argument doesn't convince me because a case can be made that smoking prevents (in fact, gradually ruins over time) the functioning of not just the lungs but all major organs and systems, yet there is no condemnation of smoking as a sin. Appetite suppressors also prevent the natural functioning of the body but in some cases may be a necessary option. I think the argument that convinces me the most and to which I ascribe is the argument from asceticism/fasting that I outlined in my other posts, at the same time allowing for non-calendar methods of contraception in grave cases. I'm just not convinced by many other arguments, i'm afraid.

Good observations about Orthodoxy...very true and perceptive. I'm also worried about Protestant converts to Orthodoxy because a number of them tend to bring their anti-RC baggage and those quacky Protestant contra-papal arguments with them.  One of the big problems with Orthodoxy in my country that's effectively driving away youth is the language barrier. The Greek church is notably intractable and very irritating when it comes to making progress. The old folks just don't seem to realize that Orthodoxy in the Diaspora is not a "Greek church, by the Greeks, for the Greeks" phenomenon anymore - the essential mission of the Church is to bring the Gospel to everybody, which won't be that much use for those who don't speak Greek. Would that they were somehow conscious of these necessities they could be a bit more utilitarian and sacrifice for a greater good by introducing measures to satisfy them (services half in English and half in Greek might be a start). "Traditions of men" like this are infusing more blood into the Pentecostal churches, where nobody experiences thoughts like "maybe I should learn Greek."    


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« Reply #112 on: February 20, 2004, 09:32:26 AM »

Tony, I mistook your quote of Jim (concerning confession to RC priests) as your own words.  I apologize for the confusion.
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« Reply #113 on: February 20, 2004, 12:40:10 PM »

Well, I calculated it on the basis of having a contraceptive success each time, and factoring that the couple wouldn't be fertile every week anyway (I assumed 1 week of fertility a month). This isn't exactly correct because it doesn't account for the fact that one can't get doubly pregnant, but it's close enough.

Well I too was very oversimplified in my approach!  Given a 2% error rate (I'm used to dealing with counting statistics of nuclear radiation detection instrumentation) one can arrive at a very gross estimate of the number of failures out of 52 sexual encounters, 1+.  One problem with statistics, of course you probably know this already--I call tell by your comments--is that they apply to aggregate data only and not to individuals.  That is why sociological data that has been analyzed statistically can yield only specific, non-general conclusions that are not applicable "for all time"--sort of like the accounting snapshot that a balance sheet gives you.  Yes, close enough.  For conservative purposes your 7% estimate might be a good one to focus on.  BTW, are you in your education a scientist, engineer, mathematician, or statistician or related fields?Huh

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This is a problem with contraception statistics in general. One can't tell how much of the failure rate is caused by doing it wrong or forgetting to use it; one presumes that conscientious users could do better than the published numbers.  In fact I have just looked at one site which gives differential numbers between typical and optimal use. Studies in the field give failure rates in terms of chance of pregnancy per year (which hides the frequency issue). The numbers for NFP are not that good: best failure rates seem to be about 10%, with around 25% being more common.

This is a reasonable conclusion.  People rarely do things perfectly or correctly most of the time.   Just like their behavior!  I suspect that there is also a natural failure rate which in portfolio theory (i.e., about investing in stocks, etc.) is called systematic risk.  You cannot eliminate or minimize systematic risk.  It is the risk you assume by playing the game.  You can only minimize, though never eliminate, unsystematic risk, in this case the risk caused by the correct or incorrect applicaton of NFP methods.  You can still get pregnant no matter how carefully you apply the method!  The stork rules! Grin
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« Reply #114 on: February 20, 2004, 02:19:03 PM »

The key question is whether it can be rephrased in other terminology. For the Trinity, the answer appears to be Yes. It involves a considerable shift of language-- in modern English the word "substance" for "ousia" would tend to imply three separate dieties, so modern translations have preferred to use words which indicate that the three Persons don't have separate existences, but one single unified existence. But if you can live with the paradox, it isn't that hard to state.

I'm not sure what you are getting at.  If the world refuses too look at the Church's explanation of "ousia" in proclaiming its faith in the Holy Trinity, the problem then becomes to educate the world.  If the philosophical denotation of “substance” cannot be appreciated in this modern world, perhaps one can come up with a substitute vocabulary word that would attend the philosophical meaning of the unchanging essence of something.  I presume that this is what you mean by "ousia."  

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In the case of HV, though, we're running into the harder to fix problem that there are claims about how the universe works that we no longer believe. Single teleology isn't accepted anymore. For example, here is an example that John Krumm uses. What is the purpose of an acorn? The answer is, this doesn't have a single absolute answer, but only relative ones. Acorns are both for new trees and for squirrel food.

Forgive me if I misunderstand you, but doesn't teleology have to do with the ultimate causes in nature or looking at actions in relation to ends?  The Church whether Orthodox or Catholic cannot be blamed for the modern world’s materialist thinking, an ideology that IMHO has led to nihilism that ultimately there is no absolute meaning in life; there is no absolute right and wrong; even the consideration of such "concepts" is meaningless.

The purpose of sexual intercourse is unitive and procreative according to the RCC and I'm going to "guess" that this is essentially the Orthodox position too.  Now how one looks at the union of the two purposes obviously varies among Catholic and Orthodox.  Based upon previous posts on OC.net the difference in POV does not absolutely break out as Orthodox vs. Catholic.  

BTW, I must facetiously add that the ancients probably had a pretty good idea of the two purposes of acorns, except the Platonists, of course, who were obsessed with the idea of "acorness". Grin

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Scripture points to at least a dual purpose for sex too. In fact, hardly any of it has to do with fertility, and almost all of it has to do with the unification of man and woman. And the problem also arises in considering artificiality. It is the nature of humans to exert their will and control things; therefore the line between the natural and the artificial wanders about.

How could sex hardly have anything to do with fertility in the bible?  What about be fruitful and multiply?  Even the pagans were obsessed with this sexual end!  E.g., the gods Baal and Astarte!  The ancients did not have the technology to practice any large scale successful birth control, apart perhaps for Onanism.  Of course sex in those days was used for more than unitive and procreative purposes.  Families and kingdoms were united through marriages of their royal members--i.e., for politics, the quest for power and influence, etc.  Of course this really hasn't changed in modern times either!  For example, the phenomenon of the "trophy wife" is all too prevalent in this society.  You have the key to your teleological means and ends argument here.  What are the legitimate purposes of marriage?  Are purposes other than unitive and procreative essentially Godly?

If there is more than one purpose, can they be separated and how?  The RCC proposes one position that is not even accepted by most of its members, it would seem.  The Orthodox seem to me in principle to tend toward the general conclusions of the RCC even though the pastoral implementation of this preference may vary, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, spiritual father (Confessor) by spiritual father, faithful by faithful.  Funny, this is also true of Catholics—i.e., a Catholic oeconomia of sorts—even if not approved officially by the Magisterium.

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Clearly it matters to what end fertility is regulated; intent is important. And thus we get to yet another single teleology problem in terms of deciding whcih means of regulation are acceptable and which are not. A woman who chooses to use the pill because abstinence methods don't work for her stands in a different relationship to the method than one who uses it because she wants unchecked sexuality. The purposes involved are at odds with each other and it is presumptuous for the church to pick one over the other.

Let's be careful here!  Not only is the practice of non-"natural" contraceptive methods an issue but also the specific specific method employed.  Orthodoxy stands resolutely opposed to abortion, or so it seems to me from everything that I have read or heard to date by/from the Orthodox themselves.  The pill is an abortifacent at least some of the time.  Thus its use is immoral.  I would therefore suggest that at best only barrier methods could potentially be morally acceptable--i.e., the condom or cervical cap (I don't know if the latter is used much anymore--may not be all that successful a device).

Another problem is the principle that the intent to achieve a good end does not legitimize the application of immoral means.  Now the RCC officially considers that the means of artificial birth control cannot be justified just because the husband and wife intend a good end--union.  Others (you for example!) apparently believe otherwise.  We will probably agree that in other scenarios of life--i.e., not necessarily relating to birth control--that the ends do not necessarily justify the means.  For example, killing/murdering a drug dealer to prevent him from corrupting more people through the sale of drugs is an immoral act in and of itself.  The end of "terminating" drug abuse is a worthy end in itself but I'm sure that we can all agree that it cannot be justified by murder.

The whole issue focuses on being able to separate procreation and union.  I perceive the Orthodox are open to the principle of some oeconomia in this case and the Catholics aren’t, at least officially.  On the other hand, neither the Catholics nor the Orthodox recognize any oeconomia in murdering a drug dealer even for a worthy cause.

I have really enjoyed this thread.  I have learned a lot and it has been largely free of polemics yet very open and honest in the presentation of beliefs and positions.

Jim C.
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« Reply #115 on: February 20, 2004, 03:07:56 PM »


"The reason the Church denounces contraception is not because it is artificial. After all, the Church allows the use of countless artificial drugs and other technological advances that medicine can offer man. However, these are to be used to heal dysfunction and promote the proper functioning of the body as God ordained it. Contraception does the opposite: It prevents the natural functioning of the body" (Jason Evert, If You Really Loved Me, Catholic Answers, San Diego, 2003, p. 140).

Aaarg!  I had a complete response prepared and hit the wrong button and lost 10 minutes work!  Lucky you.  You won't have to read through a prolix post.  I'll now have to give you the Reader's Digest version!

Catholic Answers is a good organization but they are lay apologists.  While I basically agree with their statements, they are not of the Magisterium.  They aim their evangelistic efforts, the RCC interprets authoritatively Holy Writ for me, not that I am against biblical arguments.  Something similar can be said about Orthodoxy vis-a-vis the magisterium, I think!

The RCC uses the Natural Law argument that I am not sure is implicit in the aforementioned Catholic Answers statement.  This goes to the ends or purposes of marriage, not because it merely prevents something natural from happening in the body.  Please refer to my recent conversation with Keble.

I think that if Kebe eventually gets the better of me in argument, I will have to sick my Australian Heeler after his Yellow Dog!  The only problem is that my Heeler barks ferociously but is a wimp at heart! Grin

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This line of argument doesn't convince me because a case can be made that smoking prevents (in fact, gradually ruins over time) the functioning of not just the lungs but all major organs and systems, yet there is no condemnation of smoking as a sin. Appetite suppressors also prevent the natural functioning of the body but in some cases may be a necessary option. I think the argument that convinces me the most and to which I ascribe is the argument from asceticism/fasting that I outlined in my other posts, at the same time allowing for non-calendar methods of contraception in grave cases. I'm just not convinced by many other arguments, i'm afraid.

There is no HV counterpart for smoking.  But couldn't smoking be subsumed under the Capital Sin of gluttony?  Same with drug addictions . . . consumerism . . . careerism?  You have raised an excellent point.  Nevertheless, I believe the issue comes down to "means and ends" arguments as I have discussed with Yellow Dog's master!  Or is Yellow Dog the master of Keble?  Time for the PETA folks to comment!

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Good observations about Orthodoxy...very true and perceptive. I'm also worried about Protestant converts to Orthodoxy because a number of them tend to bring their anti-RC baggage and those quacky Protestant contra-papal arguments with them.

Protestants aren't the only ones who carry baggage with them.  I have a friend, a cradle RC, who basically used to hate Evangelicals.  As an orphan he was put into a Protestant-run orphanage that discouraged his and his brother's attendance at Sunday Mass.  Of course my friend insisted on going to mass, not to worship God, but to stick it to his Protetant masters! Eventually he left the Church, embraced atheism, lived a dissolute life, and eventually returned to the Faith (Deo gratias!).  He is the one who turned me onto the Byzantine Rite courtesy of the Ruthenians!  Everybody has a journey and some rotten baggage.  

BTW, my friend now owns his own business and I have seen commercial shorts on the local TV stations in which he is advertizing that very same orphanage!  This is an action of charity on his part; he is not compensated for his endorsements.  See how some things turn around?  Protestants will also turn around, as will Catholics, as will Orthodox, as will . . . .

As I have stated previously, the Proties will bring to Orthodoxy a refreshing militancy that the Orthies sometimes lack.  Their Protie cousins are doing the same thing to the mackeral snappers (RCC)--the likes of Scot Hahn, et. al. and some not so famous ones too--they are renewing the Church.  Ironically enough, they are not becoming Latinist throwbacks like me!  They are also bringing their Catholic Answers-like bible toting apologetics techniques.  I'm a little uncomfortable with this in and of itself unless it is incorporated effectively into the Mysteries (i.e., sacraments) of the Church, something the Orthodox do much better than the Catholics . . . you know . . . "Faith seeking the experience of God" vs. "Faith seeking the understanding of God."

Come to think of it, the Orthodox are "mackeral snappers" too! . . . at least twice a week (Wed & Fri) like I used to be in the "old days," except of course when you are forbidden all flesh on certain days.  

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One of the big problems with Orthodoxy in my country that's effectively driving away youth is the language barrier. The Greek church is notably intractable and very irritating when it comes to making progress. The old folks just don't seem to realize that Orthodoxy in the Diaspora is not a "Greek church, by the Greeks, for the Greeks" phenomenon anymore - the essential mission of the Church is to bring the Gospel to everybody, which won't be that much use for those who don't speak Greek. Would that they were somehow conscious of these necessities they could be a bit more utilitarian and sacrifice for a greater good by introducing measures to satisfy them (services half in English and half in Greek might be a start). "Traditions of men" like this are infusing more blood into the Pentecostal churches, where nobody experiences thoughts like "maybe I should learn Greek."

As an unrepentant Latinist I shouldn't say this but tell them to put a shrimp on the barby and guzzle some Foster's beer! . . . and don't let them chant Waltzing Matilda in Church! Grin    

Seriously though, I am a proponent of Latin in the liturgy.  That doesn't mean I oppose vernacular in the liturgy or even liturgies almost entirely in the vernacular.  The Ruthenians, for example, utter the occasional "Hospodi Pomiluj" and similar Old Slavonic phrases in respect for the liturgical language of the Slavic east, yet most everything else is in English, some Spanish, some German, and once even a little Navajo.  Nothing like being inclusive (i.e., linguistically)!

I'll bet you thought you were actually going to get the Readers' Digest version.  Well, I lied! Roll Eyes


Jim
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« Reply #116 on: February 20, 2004, 09:59:08 PM »

Keble, Jim and Byzantino, I want to thank you for such an interesting conversation.  I would join in but I don't know much about the topic other than my own personal experiences, i.e. anecdotal evidence (or my "silly" and "irrelevant" opinions...LOL Smiley).  

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« Reply #117 on: February 20, 2004, 10:46:56 PM »


If our society is amoral, the churches bear a lot of responsibility for getting it that way. Not because they have acceded to that moral indifference, but because they spent their moral capital unwisely. The Catholic hierarchy in particular allowed itself to painted as a legalistic and often cruel institution; they made themselves easy to rebel against.

(Warning...I'm going to introduce feminism into the discussion.)  Not are they seen as "legalistic" and "cruel," they are also seen as celibate men.  I think the typical American Catholic doesn't think that the hierarchy even begins to understand their life so why should they listen to them?  

It's easy to say that celibate male bishops is tradition and only "liberals" challenge it but that glosses over legitimate criticisms.  I think we've seen from the sex abuse scandals that our bishops are completely out of touch with the laity.  I think we see the truth about them (the little man behind the curtain), that they are mediocre middle management.  The harsh criticism they've received is unfair.  Americans, with our puritanical streak, always want to burn sinners at the stake.  Their secular counterparts aren't much better (see ENRON, etc.).  They were not chosen for their brillance.  They were chosen because they were bureaucrats and like most bureaucrats, they're mediocre.  It's always been that way.  How bishops have become saints?  It's a lot easier to become a saint as a monk or a simple priest than as a bishop.  

But the fact remains that they are celibate men.  What can they possibly know about family life?  I admit that this is a 'stupid' argument on my part.  It's always simplistic and stupid to argue that people who've never been in a situation can't understand it.  But it's still true.  

Also (sorry for introducing my anecdotal evidence which of course is subjective) when the NFP message is preached by a layperson, it's always from people who aren't a realistic representation of the 'average' Catholic family.  My old church brought in a deacon to preach about NFP.  He made the rounds of all of the parishes in the diocese.  But he came from a wealthy family.  During Mass when he was preaching on NFP, I was watching his wife and children and it struck me that they were the epitome of the upper middle class family.  The wife and kids were well dressed.  They had an SUV.  The kids attended Catholic schools.  The wife didn't work.  My parish was very working class.  Most of the fathers worked at American Airlines as mechanics.  The mothers worked part time at Wal-Mart.  The kids went to public school.  Honestly, what does a wife with a wealthy husband so she doesn't have to work have to say to lower middle class wife who has to work regarding family planning?  And these people were really sincere Catholics.  They tried really hard to follow the tenants of the Church.  They tried much harder than I did, certainly.  I'm sure some of them gave up the pill after that sermon.  But I'll bet it caused financial problems for their families.  But I'll bet they wouldn't complain.  I'm the one, who isn't even in their shoes, who's complaining on their behalf.  

My other concern is that I don't see the causal link between contraception and sexual immorality and 'libertine' behavior.  I agree that we live in amoral times.  I also agree that reliable artificial birth control is largely responsible for the 'sexual revolution.'  My mother says that in her day (pre-pill) good girls didn't have sex before marriage except if they wanted to force a guy to marry them.  In my generation, nice girls certainly had sex outside of marriage.  The 'three-date' rule was always the rule of thumb in my circles, e.g. you're supposed to sleep with them after three dates.  If we thought that we'd get pregnant and wouldn't be able to have an abortion, we probably would have been much more careful.  My sorority sisters doing the 'walk of shame' (sneaking in early in the morning wearing the clothes they'd worn out the previous night) were sure that sex didn't have to equal motherhood for them.  

However, I'm less convinced that the use of articial birth control by married couples has lead to immorality.  My own parents (sorry for the anecdotes again) used birth control during their entire marriage and had four children.  They had my sister then my dad went to graduate school and 7 years later I was born.  I was actually born three days before my father received his PhD.  That's family planning for you!  They waited a few more years and had a son than another few more years and had another daughter.  They decided they didn't want to have more children because they didn't want to be sending a kid to college when my dad might be considering retirement.  I don't see how this is 'evil.'  

One could argue that couples would use birth control to prevent conception alltogether which would supposedly be immoral because it goes against the command to "be fruitful and multiply."  But maybe some couples shouldn't have children.  What if they're both carriers for Tay Sachs?  Or more likely they're narcicists or the wife has borderline personality disorder.  What if mom has serious depression?  These things happen and I don't think "God will take of everything" mentality is the only answer.  

Then there is the couple that only has two children because they're 'careerists.'  Maybe education and pastoral counseling is the solution for these couples.  But they think that Father will say they can't use the pill and they'll have 10 kids so they won't even ask for advice.  And yes of course smaller families leads to less vocations.  And it breeds selfishness.  But what about legitimate parental concerns to give their children the "best" of everything.  We can complain about 'secularism' and say that it's worldy to want to give children the 'best' of everything.  However, I would speculate that most of us had at least the 'medium' of everything.  I had ballet lessons, a pair of Guess jeans and a college education.  Clearly 'secular' 'worldly' things, but I'm still grateful.  

Obviously it's easy to attack my "10 kids or artificial birth control" argument because supposedly NFP is effective.  But I'd rather not take the chance.  I'm an American, I believe in pills and science.  I say this as a not particularly "religious" person.  I went through a "religious" phase a few years ago but that's through.  Now I'll pray, but I'm still going to go the doctor.  My argument is simplistic (and probably "silly" and "irrelevant" and "tainted with secularism" and all that) but the way I think is the way the average American Catholic thinks about this argument.  And I'm yet to be convinced by the hierarchy that I'm wrong.  And I'm not likely to be convinced by (please forgive me for saying this) a bunch of single men who don't have sex.  And I'm also not convinced by the intellectual arguments either.  Admittedly because I don't want to be convinced.  But it doesn't strike a 'moral' chord with me.  Abortion horrifies me.  That's an easy one.  Birth control doesn't cause the same kind of moral outrage.  

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« Reply #118 on: February 21, 2004, 11:39:06 AM »

Keble, Jim and Byzantino, I want to thank you for such an interesting conversation.  I would join in but I don't know much about the topic other than my own personal experiences, i.e. anecdotal evidence (or my "silly" and "irrelevant" opinions...LOL Smiley).  

Jennifer,

I know that you were being polite but I wouldn't consider personal opinions regarding this subject to be "silly" or "irrelevant."  It would seem that our human "sexuality" runs smack into our fallen human nature.  And just look at the human mess we are left with!

I just hope you don't consider me an expert.  In my recent posts, I think I exhausted my understanding of the subjects discussed.

Best regards,

Jim C.
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« Reply #119 on: February 21, 2004, 12:56:21 PM »

question cocerning NFP or the rhythm method or whatever you want to call it.....

isn't this itself a form of contraception?  i.e., if my wife and i don't have sex during her "fertile period," is this not also a manner of avoiding conception?  i fail to see how this is different than using condoms, etc., since the end is the same -- you're trying to avoid having a baby!
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« Reply #120 on: February 21, 2004, 12:58:06 PM »

to addend to the above, i though the traditional Orthodox standpoint was that you should avoid having sex during fasting periods, i.e., times prescribed by the Church, and other times you should have sex to strengthen your marriage, to express your love, etc., and if a baby is born because of it, then so be it!
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« Reply #121 on: February 21, 2004, 03:29:50 PM »

question cocerning NFP or the rhythm method or whatever you want to call it.....

isn't this itself a form of contraception?  i.e., if my wife and i don't have sex during her "fertile period," is this not also a manner of avoiding conception?  i fail to see how this is different than using condoms, etc., since the end is the same -- you're trying to avoid having a baby!

This may sound pharasiacal, but if it is wrong to avoid conception and if it is wrong to use NFP to avoid contraception because it is essentially just like other methods of contraception in terms of the ultimate goal (no bambino), then should one conclude that you can only legitimately have sex with your wife if it maximizes her chance to conceive?

In the old, old days people naturally played baby roulette.  They did not have the detailed information regarding human fertility that we have now.  In the modern age, the medical knowledge is available to all to be reasonably confident when a woman is fertile and when she is not on the average.  So then one would be required to use a reliable method to determine optimal conceivability rather than merely play roulette!

Sorry, just being a little rambunctious this afternoon!
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« Reply #122 on: February 21, 2004, 03:41:08 PM »


Sorry, just being a little rambunctious this afternoon!
 

I agree with that! jbc1949

There definitely seems a very fine line between 'avoiding' and 'preventing'; but we must also factor in that we Orthodox have about 208 Fast Days per year with 4 lengthy fast periods. Marital relations are to be abstained from as part of the fast. Kinda' helps stack the odds Wink

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« Reply #123 on: February 22, 2004, 05:02:32 AM »


Gregory,

That to me is a very accurate description with the exception of your last sentence, which, let's be frank, can be seen as irresponsible or imprudent. Couples in difficult situations, whether caused by financial, medical or the numerous other factors that can be involved, may not be wise to approach their love-making with a "hey, if a baby is born because of it, so be it!" attitude.

I'm also very enthusiastic about NFP. At the same time i'm not going to play these semantical games - NFP is contraception as far as i'm concerned. Most of the means to prevent conception fall under 3 categories: chemical, barrier, and calendar. NFP falls under the latter. Means to prevent conception = contraception, NFP = contraception.

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« Reply #124 on: February 22, 2004, 06:17:15 AM »

Jennifer,

Please give us more of your input  Smiley  I'm enjoying your perspective on this issue. Let's face it...which sex, male or female, does this issue personally and physically impact on the most? We're not the ones who need to monitor our fertility by medication or by scribbling details in charts or sticking thermometers in our......you get the point.

I do perceive how beneficial on an over-arching level a method like NFP can be for couples, and how the extra effort involved may certainly outweigh the side-effects involved with the pill (as a medication user I know a bit about side-effects and I wouldn't want my wife exposed to similar burdens). But what happens when non-calendar methods cannot guarantee the health of the wife, who in contrast to the husband is much more susceptible to such problems? Moreso, what if the wife loses all patience with charting and taking temperatures and refuses to follow such potentially overwhelming demands any longer?

Very diverse and difficult scenarios such as the ones i've generalized above and in previous posts convinced me that i needed to change my view. Unfortunately, the zeal one has for his/her Church usually entails a vigorous defence of everything that that Church teaches, sometimes without fully considering the challenges to that position out of fear of 'disobeying' church leaders. I've found Orthodoxy in its pastoral dimension to be very sympathetic when it comes to facing such a tough issue and the dilemmas couples must confront (perhaps because our priests can experience them for themselves?) so much so that it's as though I hear Christ's own words admonishing his appointed ministers not to load men with burdens hard to bear, especially ones that they themselves don't touch (cf. Luke 11,46), and the more I learn the more I realize that issuing standard formulae can be neither practical nor realistic.

So no Jennifer, I don't see how your observations could be considered irrelevant.




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« Reply #125 on: February 22, 2004, 06:42:13 PM »

Byzantino,

I agree that NFP is indeed contraception.  It is bizarre to me that some do not see it as such.

Your points are well taken, and I don't mean to be preachy -- please forgive me if I come across as such.  But since no contraceptive method is 100% fail-safe, there is a possibility that a baby will conceive anytime sex happens, regardless of contraception used.

I also agree with Aristokles, that abstaining from sex during the Church's prescribed fasting periods is a good "contraceptive" method itself!
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« Reply #126 on: February 24, 2004, 01:47:16 PM »

I apologize for posting the question I did.  I mean no disrespect but the threads have gotten so far away from the original question it is obvious that this forum is not the place to ask the question(s) I did.

Peace,

Rob
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« Reply #127 on: February 24, 2004, 03:27:51 PM »

I apologize for posting the question I did.  I mean no disrespect but the threads have gotten so far away from the original question it is obvious that this forum is not the place to ask the question(s) I did.

Peace,

Rob

Rob is right!  And I apologize for helping the thread divurge from his original question.  He also asked about the Orthodox pastoral approach to failed marriages . . . divorce.  I too would be interested in coming to a fuller understanding the Orthodox approach and POV.  I have discussed divorce before with an AOC priest but not extensively.

I believe Rob also asked for some reference to official documents.

Thaniks,

Jim C.
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« Reply #128 on: February 24, 2004, 04:23:12 PM »

I apologize for posting the question I did.  I mean no disrespect but the threads have gotten so far away from the original question it is obvious that this forum is not the place to ask the question(s) I did.

I don't think there's any need to apologize; we, your respondents, are responsible for having things careen all over the topical landscape.

And I think that all this discussion about certain points serves to mask a profound unity on a lot of basic issues, to wit:

  • We all agree that contraception is not morally neutral.
  • We all agree that child-bearing is a normal part of marriage.
  • We all object to abortion as a form of birth control.
  • We are all suspicious of the culture of licentiousness that contraception has opened up.
And I think that while we haven't discussed this issue directly, a lot of the controversy arises from two points. First, it seems clear that nobody's theological tradition offers an immediate answer to the question. Contraception as we know it now is something that the church is having to work out now, and not refer to ancient authorities for a canned answer. It requires reasoning, and there simply hasn't been enough time to fully put it to the test.

The second issue is the way that the general position of women has taken over the discussion. I will be blunt: the form of arguments made here claims an objectivity that we obviously and conspicuously lack. Hence, all arguments become personal arguments.

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« Reply #129 on: February 25, 2004, 02:56:35 PM »

I agree with what Jennifer has written on this issue, and that is all I am going to say about it.

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« Reply #130 on: March 17, 2004, 02:02:58 PM »

(speaking as a blue collar, twenty something, married man, though admittedly for only a year and change, without any children...yet.) Smiley

Some thoughts...

- the "natural/unnatural" argument does not strike me as compelling; as Keble pointed out, it seems to be human nature (even in it's most noble manifestations) to do that which is "unnatural".

- the ascecis argument for NFP doesn't seem right; I don't see how something which is being done for fundamentally mercenary purposes constitues a form of asceticism.  While abstaining for periods to avoid conceiving children can be difficult and even cause suffering, the same can be said of the struggles of basically greedy men who build "Fortune 500" companies, in their road/agenda for financial success.

My understanding is that Orthodox Christianity holds up an ideal; that ideal being a Person, our Lord Jesus Christ.  This ideal has been incarnated throughout history in the lives of His Saints.  A central part of that idea is unselfish, unmercenary love for God and all of His creatures, for this is how God loves.  Most of us (myself included) are far from claiming a hold on such selfless devotion to others.  But that is what we're supposed to be struggling toward.  The Holy Gospels give us some very concrete examples/manifestations of behaviour to be found in those who have acquired such love; forgiveness of all offences, love of enemies, turning the other cheek when struck, thinking nothing of lending or outright giving of our possessions to any who ask, etc.  This is why even the greatest Saints cried out for mercy until they breathed their last.

This question of contraception, is a species of a larger question; how much do pastors of souls tolerate (in terms of the regular failings of their spiritual children) from their flocks, before enacting varying degrees of discipline, up to and including barring them from the Holy Mysteries, even outright excommunication?  A large part of this question is answered/informed by the Orthodox understanding of the Church as "spiritual hospital", with human beings basically being sick creatures.  Given this, even punishment has to have (even in it's most extreme manifestations) the goal of healing, both the individual and the community at large.

People calculating their offspring doesn't exactly sound like a glowing endorsement of Christ's teaching on God's providence (His admonishment of those who do not trust God to provide for what is truly needful.)  But then again, is the solution to this to almost totally (or perhaps even totaly) bar such people from the Sacraments?  That would be a decision for those whose insight into what is beneficial for souls is far greater than my own, built upon the wisdom of greater souls still (tradition).  Perhaps there is not one universal answer to this either - what might be helpful for one married couple, might do more harm than good for another.

I sincerely believe that a couple putting their trust in God, do not need to be fearful of their fertility.  With that said, the truth is that fear does exist.  It's a symptom of other problems, without doubt.  Thus, in cases like that, it may not be best to be severe in this one area, while leaving their other problems untreated (why they do not have unflinching confidence in God's ability to provide, etc.)  It's a very complicated thing, since people are complicated things.

Perhaps what is needed more than an "official position" on what various local Orthodox Churches are willing to "allow", is an affirmation of the basic sinfulness of treating fruitfulness as a curse, while admitting the possibility that pastors may not necessarily cut a married couple off from the chalice for failing in this regard.

Fr.Seraphim (Rose) wrote something that I think is valuable in this discussion (I can only remember the saying vaguely, not word for word.)  In essence he said "avoid sin...but even if you really think (though incorrectly) that you must sin, and do go on sinning, at least do not do this one tragic thing; deny that you are sinning - for if that happens, then all is lost."   Obviously, if one attempts to white wash their short comings, or jesuitically deduce ways of justifying their variant of iniquitous behaviour, they're cutting away the possibility to improve themselves.  A lot of this goes on in the discussion/debate of this topic; all or nothing "solutions" being offered, no one wanting to say that on this topic (as it is with so many moral issues as far as the Fathers are concerned) what is most damning: the ideal is incredibly lofty, we're obliged to struggle towards it, and almost all of us fail on a regular basis.

As something of a post script, I'd like to defend the Fathers and all of the "backward", crusty, celibate, (and perhaps most hauntingly of all for some on this forum) male monastics have to say on topics like this (and human sexuality in general).  They're right.  Sure, you'll find unbalanced people everywhere (including monasteries), but what they (and not just they, but great Fathers) say when discussing this matter is the ideal.  That is how it "ought" to be.  Pastorally, what the Church will tolerate (hopefully, only for a time) can often be a different matter, but they (the monks) are right.  We shouldn't be using our "marriage rights" during fasting periods, the time leading up to receiving Holy Communion, should trust God to determine the size of our families, etc.

Seraphim
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« Reply #131 on: May 17, 2004, 10:52:21 AM »

I'm bumping this thread for Benedictus as he had several questions regarding the Orthodox viewpoint of contraception.  I hope this helps!
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« Reply #132 on: May 17, 2004, 11:30:22 AM »

I'm bumping this thread for Benedictus as he had several questions regarding the Orthodox viewpoint of contraception.  I hope this helps!

Thanks for finding this for me.  Now I just need a couple of hours to wade through all nine pages.

Jason
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« Reply #133 on: May 18, 2004, 09:54:17 PM »

Now I just need a couple of hours to wade through all nine pages.

lol.....yep I must do the same before I start asking questions that have already been addressed.
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« Reply #134 on: May 18, 2004, 10:06:20 PM »

Quote
Fertility control, or contraception, is the practice by which mechanical, chemical, or other means are used, either before or after a sexual act, in order to prevent fertilization of the ovum by the sperm, thus circumventing the possible consequences of the sexual act - the conception and ultimate birth of a child.

General agreement exists among Orthodox writers on the following two points:

since at least one of the purposes of marriage is the birth of children, a couple acts immorally when it consistently uses contraceptive methods to avoid the birth of any children, if there are not extenuating circumstances;
contraception is also immoral when used to encourage the practice of fornication and adultery.
Less agreement exists among Eastern Orthodox authors on the issue of contraception within marriage for the spacing of children or for the limitation of the number of children. Some authors take a negative view and count any use of contraceptive methods within or outside of marriage as immoral (Papacostas, pp. 13-18; Gabriel Dionysiatou). These authors tend to emphasize as the primary and almost exclusive purpose of marriage the birth of children and their upbringing. They tend to consider any other exercise of the sexual function as the submission of this holy act to unworthy purposes, i.e., pleasure-seeking, passion, and bodily gratification, which are held to be inappropriate for the Christian growing in spiritual perfection. These teachers hold that the only alternative is sexual abstinence in marriage, which, though difficult, is both desirable and possible through the aid of the grace of God. It must be noted also that, for these writers, abortion and contraception are closely tied together, and often little or no distinction is made between the two. Further, it is hard to discern in their writings any difference in judgment between those who use contraceptive methods so as to have no children and those who use them to space and limit the number of children.

Other Orthodox writers have challenged this view by seriously questioning the Orthodoxy of the exclusive and all-controlling role of the procreative purpose of marriage (Zaphiris; Constantelos, 1975). Some note the inconsistency of the advocacy of sexual continence in marriage with the scriptural teaching that one of the purposes of marriage is to permit the ethical fulfillment of sexual drives, so as to avoid fornication and adultery (1 Cor. 7:1-7). Most authors, however, emphasize the sacramental nature of marriage and its place within the framework of Christian anthropology, seeing the sexual relationship of husband and wife as one aspect of the mutual growth of the couple in love and unity. This approach readily adapts itself to an ethical position that would not only permit but also enjoin sexual relationships of husband and wife for their own sake as expressions of mutual love. Such a view clearly would support the use of contraceptive practices for the purpose of spacing and limiting children so as to permit greater freedom of the couple in the expression of their mutual love.
- From the official GOA website
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« Reply #135 on: October 05, 2005, 09:08:14 AM »

Refuting the modern Orthodox opinion on contraception.
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« Reply #136 on: October 05, 2005, 03:30:31 PM »

Young Fogey,

For everyone's convenience I will include the page you are referring people to (it will take several posts due to its length).

This is how we usually do it here, when referring people to such long-winded explanations. Naturally we properly creditthe originating website as well, instead of providing a 'headline link'.This way we don't have people unnecessarily going to other websites and using up bandwidth, perhaps artificially increasing the visitor count of unsuspecting sites!

http://www.angelfire.com/pa3/OldWorldBasic/NoContraception.html

Bishop Kallistos (Ware) writes in one of the several versions of his book The Orthodox Church, now entirely online on at least two sites:


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. [Emphasis mine.]
Hmm. ‘Recently’. A lot later than the time of the Church Fathers, I reckon. Let’s see... this looks like it came from an older version of the book, and he first published it in 1963 so obviously modern Eastern Orthodox made the change sometime mid-C20.

Regarding the bishop’s last sentence, the apostolic ministry is the means by which Christians have a guarantee of forgiveness for sins against God and has power to change man-made laws, rules the church itself made for its own good order. That power doesn’t include overruling God’s or nature’s laws, which is what trying to OK contraception is.

How specific and how widely held? Enter Wikipedia, another lovely resource:

Prior to the 1930s, contraception was generally condemned by all the major branches of Christianity, including by major reformers like Luther and Calvin. This condemnation was relaxed by the Anglican Communion at the 1930 Lambeth Conference, and most Protestant groups followed suit over the course of the 20th century, though some individual Protestants adhere to the traditional view that contraception is wrong.
The only thing one should add are mock inverted commas around the word ‘reformers’ but other than that this paragraph is entirely correct.

What were the reasons cited?


The Lambeth Conference of 1930 produced a new resolution, "Where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, complete abstinence is the primary and obvious method," but if there was morally sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence, "the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles."

By the 1958 Lambeth Conference, contraception was an accepted part of life among most Anglicans, and a resolution was passed to the effect that the responsibility for deciding upon the number and frequency of children was laid by God upon the consciences of parents "in such ways as are acceptable to husband and wife."

The Anglicans present an excellent microcosm of what happened among Protestant churches in the 1900s.
- A Protestant site
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« Reply #137 on: October 05, 2005, 03:31:34 PM »

Second post of valuable reading:

http://www.angelfire.com/pa3/OldWorldBasic/NoContraception.html

So soon afterwards, some and soon many modern Orthodox suddenly decided that the Church Fathers gave a free pass to non-abortifacients and 1,930 years of tradition were wrong. It’s a bloody miracle! Just like when the Mormons had a revelation that polygamy was wrong just in time for the vote to admit their colony of Utah as a state in the US.

What accounts for this change? Apparently some mainline Protestants did it first which gave them the idea.

One also hears from the Orthodox the argument that ‘non-abortifacients are new’ — something their church is still deciding what to do about. False — condoms were used at least as far back as the Victorian era among the upper class.

Acquaintance Jim Coffey cites modern Orthodox theologian Fr Stanley Harakas, whose dodge to allow contraception is to separate the unitive aspect of sex from its procreative potential (yes, the naturally sterile and the old may have sex — Fr Stanley misrepresents the Catholic position in the linked article), setting up a strawman/false opposition between the two. However much Fr Stanley tries to market this as ‘sacramental’, he sounds just like mainline Protestants and, one jump removed from them, secular people:


Fr. Harakas [actually in the Byzantine Rite that should be Fr Stanley] describes the sacramental view, in its affirmative response to contraception under the appropriate circumstances, as emphasizing the close relationship of body and soul, and places the contraceptive issue in the total context of marriage and family. He describes the sexual relations between husband and wife as having an intrinsic value to unite husband and wife in flesh and soul in a bond of mutual love and commitment.

Fr. Harakas states a clear preference for the sacramental approach.
- Contemporary Moral Issues Facing the Orthodox Christian: Revised and Expanded, Light and Light Publishing Co., Minneapolis, 1982, pp. 78-81

Of course it’s rather blasphemous to go against the holistic view of marriage (which unites the unitive and procreative) and call mutual masturbation with your spouse (which is what deliberate contraception is) ‘sacramental’. Not exactly the holistic approach to things that those of us who like religion expect from the Orthodox!

I dare say the patriarch in Istanbul (Fr S’s boss) knows who’s paying his electric bills (the Hankses, Sarbaneses, Snowes and Stephanopouloses).

Still fuming a fortnight after I last answered him, this online adversary also writes:


Serge objected that, in essence, only converts and liberal, pro-Hollywood Greeks believed this.
Actually Serge says ‘would to Бог that only those types believed this’. But this chap disabuses us all of that notion:

I produced statements from non-Greek, non-converts to demonstrate this was not the case. Most important among these was the Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church issued by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000, which states:

Some contraceptives have an abortive effect, interrupting artificially the life of the embryo on the very first stages of his life. Therefore, the same judgements are applicable to the use of them as to abortion. But other means, which do not involve interrupting an already conceived life, cannot be equated with abortion in the least.
In addition to the Patriarch of Moscow, Fr. Alexander Men, the Ukrainian Orthodox, and the very conservative Coptic Church ("Oriental Orthodox"/"Monophysites") share this view. And yes, the Greeks hold this view, as well.
Well, he’s certainly cleared that up. Even more damning that the misquoted allegation of Serge! Thank you.

Sed contra:

Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, ... in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, ... proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offence against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.
- Pope Pius XI, Casti conubii

Causa finita est.

Notes:

This fellow also writes:


Also, the hyper-convert Orthodox Church in America (OCA) seems to endorse this view, at least in part.
In part? Close, but for the real faith of the Church Fathers, try all. Though they get a share of the recent convert boomlet (people who would have become Anglicans or Newman-like RCs 50 years ago) the OCA aren’t hyper-convert; that’s the Antiochians. The OCA are a small, slightly shrinking denomination mostly in the US Northeast and made up of Rust Belt ethnic Slavs, about 60 per cent of whom are descended from former Byzantine Catholics from what’s now Slovakia, Poland and the Ukraine.


I remember "mortal" sins encompassed the "seven deadly sins" and other major iniquities, bringing with them a de facto excommunication until forgiven in penance. (How am I doing?) "Venial" sins, on the other hand, are less important. Masturbation, as I recall, as the latter rather than the former. (My memory here is from my memories of catechism class, not, ahem, from the confessional.)
Incorrect on masturbation. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, it is objectively a mortal sin but many people (such as children) aren’t guilty to that degree. There are three criteria to commit a mortal sin: grave matter, sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Lots of people may fall into the first (an old joke: 99 per cent of guys do it and 1 per cent are liars*) but not the second two criteria.

*It’s just a joke: of course many saints eventually practised perfect chastity in their state of life.

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« Reply #138 on: October 05, 2005, 05:28:46 PM »

Also, the hyper-convert Orthodox Church in America (OCA) seems to endorse this view, at least in part.
In part? Close, but for the real faith of the Church Fathers, try all. Though they get a share of the recent convert boomlet (people who would have become Anglicans or Newman-like RCs 50 years ago) the OCA aren’t hyper-convert; that’s the Antiochians. The OCA are a small, slightly shrinking denomination mostly in the US Northeast and made up of Rust Belt ethnic Slavs, about 60 per cent of whom are descended from former Byzantine Catholics from what’s now Slovakia, Poland and the Ukraine.

I would venture to guess that the AOAA is still majority Arab (Lebanese/Palestinian/Jordanian/etc.) while the OCA has a large and growing number of converts.
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« Reply #139 on: October 05, 2005, 06:36:01 PM »

chris:

Yes, that's quite all right.

It's not like you've proved anything.
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« Reply #140 on: March 09, 2013, 11:58:34 PM »


If our society is amoral, the churches bear a lot of responsibility for getting it that way. Not because they have acceded to that moral indifference, but because they spent their moral capital unwisely. The Catholic hierarchy in particular allowed itself to painted as a legalistic and often cruel institution; they made themselves easy to rebel against.

(Warning...I'm going to introduce feminism into the discussion.)  Not are they seen as "legalistic" and "cruel," they are also seen as celibate men.  I think the typical American Catholic doesn't think that the hierarchy even begins to understand their life so why should they listen to them?  

It's easy to say that celibate male bishops is tradition and only "liberals" challenge it but that glosses over legitimate criticisms.  I think we've seen from the sex abuse scandals that our bishops are completely out of touch with the laity.  I think we see the truth about them (the little man behind the curtain), that they are mediocre middle management.  The harsh criticism they've received is unfair.  Americans, with our puritanical streak, always want to burn sinners at the stake.  Their secular counterparts aren't much better (see ENRON, etc.).  They were not chosen for their brillance.  They were chosen because they were bureaucrats and like most bureaucrats, they're mediocre.  It's always been that way.  How bishops have become saints?  It's a lot easier to become a saint as a monk or a simple priest than as a bishop.  

But the fact remains that they are celibate men.  What can they possibly know about family life?  I admit that this is a 'stupid' argument on my part.  It's always simplistic and stupid to argue that people who've never been in a situation can't understand it.  But it's still true.  

Also (sorry for introducing my anecdotal evidence which of course is subjective) when the NFP message is preached by a layperson, it's always from people who aren't a realistic representation of the 'average' Catholic family.  My old church brought in a deacon to preach about NFP.  He made the rounds of all of the parishes in the diocese.  But he came from a wealthy family.  During Mass when he was preaching on NFP, I was watching his wife and children and it struck me that they were the epitome of the upper middle class family.  The wife and kids were well dressed.  They had an SUV.  The kids attended Catholic schools.  The wife didn't work.  My parish was very working class.  Most of the fathers worked at American Airlines as mechanics.  The mothers worked part time at Wal-Mart.  The kids went to public school.  Honestly, what does a wife with a wealthy husband so she doesn't have to work have to say to lower middle class wife who has to work regarding family planning?  And these people were really sincere Catholics.  They tried really hard to follow the tenants of the Church.  They tried much harder than I did, certainly.  I'm sure some of them gave up the pill after that sermon.  But I'll bet it caused financial problems for their families.  But I'll bet they wouldn't complain.  I'm the one, who isn't even in their shoes, who's complaining on their behalf.  

My other concern is that I don't see the causal link between contraception and sexual immorality and 'libertine' behavior.  I agree that we live in amoral times.  I also agree that reliable artificial birth control is largely responsible for the 'sexual revolution.'  My mother says that in her day (pre-pill) good girls didn't have sex before marriage except if they wanted to force a guy to marry them.  In my generation, nice girls certainly had sex outside of marriage.  The 'three-date' rule was always the rule of thumb in my circles, e.g. you're supposed to sleep with them after three dates.  If we thought that we'd get pregnant and wouldn't be able to have an abortion, we probably would have been much more careful.  My sorority sisters doing the 'walk of shame' (sneaking in early in the morning wearing the clothes they'd worn out the previous night) were sure that sex didn't have to equal motherhood for them.  

However, I'm less convinced that the use of articial birth control by married couples has lead to immorality.  My own parents (sorry for the anecdotes again) used birth control during their entire marriage and had four children.  They had my sister then my dad went to graduate school and 7 years later I was born.  I was actually born three days before my father received his PhD.  That's family planning for you!  They waited a few more years and had a son than another few more years and had another daughter.  They decided they didn't want to have more children because they didn't want to be sending a kid to college when my dad might be considering retirement.  I don't see how this is 'evil.'  

One could argue that couples would use birth control to prevent conception alltogether which would supposedly be immoral because it goes against the command to "be fruitful and multiply."  But maybe some couples shouldn't have children.  What if they're both carriers for Tay Sachs?  Or more likely they're narcicists or the wife has borderline personality disorder.  What if mom has serious depression?  These things happen and I don't think "God will take of everything" mentality is the only answer.  

Then there is the couple that only has two children because they're 'careerists.'  Maybe education and pastoral counseling is the solution for these couples.  But they think that Father will say they can't use the pill and they'll have 10 kids so they won't even ask for advice.  And yes of course smaller families leads to less vocations.  And it breeds selfishness.  But what about legitimate parental concerns to give their children the "best" of everything.  We can complain about 'secularism' and say that it's worldy to want to give children the 'best' of everything.  However, I would speculate that most of us had at least the 'medium' of everything.  I had ballet lessons, a pair of Guess jeans and a college education.  Clearly 'secular' 'worldly' things, but I'm still grateful.  

Obviously it's easy to attack my "10 kids or artificial birth control" argument because supposedly NFP is effective.  But I'd rather not take the chance.  I'm an American, I believe in pills and science.  I say this as a not particularly "religious" person.  I went through a "religious" phase a few years ago but that's through.  Now I'll pray, but I'm still going to go the doctor.  My argument is simplistic (and probably "silly" and "irrelevant" and "tainted with secularism" and all that) but the way I think is the way the average American Catholic thinks about this argument.  And I'm yet to be convinced by the hierarchy that I'm wrong.  And I'm not likely to be convinced by (please forgive me for saying this) a bunch of single men who don't have sex.  And I'm also not convinced by the intellectual arguments either.  Admittedly because I don't want to be convinced.  But it doesn't strike a 'moral' chord with me.  Abortion horrifies me.  That's an easy one.  Birth control doesn't cause the same kind of moral outrage.  


BUMP
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« Reply #141 on: March 13, 2013, 04:41:35 AM »

However, there is a story from the Bible, about a man who used "withdrawal contraception," and God slew him...

God killed him because he was ordered to impregnate the woman for someone, but the man only wanted sex and didn't fulfill his promise. Not because he used contraceptive.
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« Reply #142 on: March 14, 2013, 11:02:44 AM »


If our society is amoral, the churches bear a lot of responsibility for getting it that way. Not because they have acceded to that moral indifference, but because they spent their moral capital unwisely. The Catholic hierarchy in particular allowed itself to painted as a legalistic and often cruel institution; they made themselves easy to rebel against.

(Warning...I'm going to introduce feminism into the discussion.)  Not are they seen as "legalistic" and "cruel," they are also seen as celibate men.  I think the typical American Catholic doesn't think that the hierarchy even begins to understand their life so why should they listen to them?  

It's easy to say that celibate male bishops is tradition and only "liberals" challenge it but that glosses over legitimate criticisms.  I think we've seen from the sex abuse scandals that our bishops are completely out of touch with the laity.  I think we see the truth about them (the little man behind the curtain), that they are mediocre middle management.  The harsh criticism they've received is unfair.  Americans, with our puritanical streak, always want to burn sinners at the stake.  Their secular counterparts aren't much better (see ENRON, etc.).  They were not chosen for their brillance.  They were chosen because they were bureaucrats and like most bureaucrats, they're mediocre.  It's always been that way.  How bishops have become saints?  It's a lot easier to become a saint as a monk or a simple priest than as a bishop.  

But the fact remains that they are celibate men.  What can they possibly know about family life?  I admit that this is a 'stupid' argument on my part.  It's always simplistic and stupid to argue that people who've never been in a situation can't understand it.  But it's still true.  

Also (sorry for introducing my anecdotal evidence which of course is subjective) when the NFP message is preached by a layperson, it's always from people who aren't a realistic representation of the 'average' Catholic family.  My old church brought in a deacon to preach about NFP.  He made the rounds of all of the parishes in the diocese.  But he came from a wealthy family.  During Mass when he was preaching on NFP, I was watching his wife and children and it struck me that they were the epitome of the upper middle class family.  The wife and kids were well dressed.  They had an SUV.  The kids attended Catholic schools.  The wife didn't work.  My parish was very working class.  Most of the fathers worked at American Airlines as mechanics.  The mothers worked part time at Wal-Mart.  The kids went to public school.  Honestly, what does a wife with a wealthy husband so she doesn't have to work have to say to lower middle class wife who has to work regarding family planning?  And these people were really sincere Catholics.  They tried really hard to follow the tenants of the Church.  They tried much harder than I did, certainly.  I'm sure some of them gave up the pill after that sermon.  But I'll bet it caused financial problems for their families.  But I'll bet they wouldn't complain.  I'm the one, who isn't even in their shoes, who's complaining on their behalf.  

My other concern is that I don't see the causal link between contraception and sexual immorality and 'libertine' behavior.  I agree that we live in amoral times.  I also agree that reliable artificial birth control is largely responsible for the 'sexual revolution.'  My mother says that in her day (pre-pill) good girls didn't have sex before marriage except if they wanted to force a guy to marry them.  In my generation, nice girls certainly had sex outside of marriage.  The 'three-date' rule was always the rule of thumb in my circles, e.g. you're supposed to sleep with them after three dates.  If we thought that we'd get pregnant and wouldn't be able to have an abortion, we probably would have been much more careful.  My sorority sisters doing the 'walk of shame' (sneaking in early in the morning wearing the clothes they'd worn out the previous night) were sure that sex didn't have to equal motherhood for them.  

However, I'm less convinced that the use of articial birth control by married couples has lead to immorality.  My own parents (sorry for the anecdotes again) used birth control during their entire marriage and had four children.  They had my sister then my dad went to graduate school and 7 years later I was born.  I was actually born three days before my father received his PhD.  That's family planning for you!  They waited a few more years and had a son than another few more years and had another daughter.  They decided they didn't want to have more children because they didn't want to be sending a kid to college when my dad might be considering retirement.  I don't see how this is 'evil.'  

One could argue that couples would use birth control to prevent conception alltogether which would supposedly be immoral because it goes against the command to "be fruitful and multiply."  But maybe some couples shouldn't have children.  What if they're both carriers for Tay Sachs?  Or more likely they're narcicists or the wife has borderline personality disorder.  What if mom has serious depression?  These things happen and I don't think "God will take of everything" mentality is the only answer.  

Then there is the couple that only has two children because they're 'careerists.'  Maybe education and pastoral counseling is the solution for these couples.  But they think that Father will say they can't use the pill and they'll have 10 kids so they won't even ask for advice.  And yes of course smaller families leads to less vocations.  And it breeds selfishness.  But what about legitimate parental concerns to give their children the "best" of everything.  We can complain about 'secularism' and say that it's worldy to want to give children the 'best' of everything.  However, I would speculate that most of us had at least the 'medium' of everything.  I had ballet lessons, a pair of Guess jeans and a college education.  Clearly 'secular' 'worldly' things, but I'm still grateful.  

Obviously it's easy to attack my "10 kids or artificial birth control" argument because supposedly NFP is effective.  But I'd rather not take the chance.  I'm an American, I believe in pills and science.  I say this as a not particularly "religious" person.  I went through a "religious" phase a few years ago but that's through.  Now I'll pray, but I'm still going to go the doctor.  My argument is simplistic (and probably "silly" and "irrelevant" and "tainted with secularism" and all that) but the way I think is the way the average American Catholic thinks about this argument.  And I'm yet to be convinced by the hierarchy that I'm wrong.  And I'm not likely to be convinced by (please forgive me for saying this) a bunch of single men who don't have sex.  And I'm also not convinced by the intellectual arguments either.  Admittedly because I don't want to be convinced.  But it doesn't strike a 'moral' chord with me.  Abortion horrifies me.  That's an easy one.  Birth control doesn't cause the same kind of moral outrage.  


BUMP

I bumped into your bump.

Based on my memory of Stanley123 at CAF, he might have some comments, but it is in the Faith section.

Hope that helps.

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