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Author Topic: Divorce/Contraception Orthodox Style  (Read 27018 times) Average Rating: 0
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Byzantino
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« Reply #90 on: February 17, 2004, 08:50:57 AM »

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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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Byzantino
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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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Byzantino
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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]

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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.

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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?

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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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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

Quote
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."  

Quote
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

Quote
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.  

Quote
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


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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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