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Author Topic: Discerning between RCC and EOC: Contraception and Ecumenical Councils.  (Read 3974 times) Average Rating: 0
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truthseeker32
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« on: March 30, 2013, 04:32:12 PM »

Hello everyone,

I hope this is the right place for my topic. Over the past few years I have been attempting to figure things out, and it has been a roller coaster of sorts. At times I am quite confident that I ought to be Roman Catholic, other times I lean towards Orthodoxy, and still other times I feel like giving up altogether and just going back to my former Episcopalian parish.

I am in the strange position of being firmly convinced of some Roman Catholic doctrines distinct from Orthodox beliefs, and at the same time I am firmly convinced of some Orthodox Christian doctrines that are incompatible with Roman Catholic theology. For example, I believe Eastern Orthodoxy's perspective on Hell is correct, but I find the Catholic argument for accepting ecumenical councils and rejecting artificial contraception more convincing. To be fair I wanted to bring the issue here and get your take on why Orthodoxy has a more open view to artificial contraception. Further, I wanted to understand how Orthodoxy is able to discern canonical from heretical councils. Relevant to this query, the "robber council" is often used by Catholics to bolster their position. They claim, using this example, that the only way to discern between an ecumenical council and heretical council, is the approval of the bishop of Rome, since there have been councils (the robber council) where the majority of of bishops supported a heretical position. I am sure there are good responses to this argument, and I would like to get both sides.

Thank you in advance to those who reply.   
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 04:41:50 PM »

Two brief thoughts:

1) Christians in the ancient Church did not wait for approval from Rome before accepting Councils. The Second Ecumenical Council wasn't well received, for example (in fact the presidents of it weren't even in communion with Rome at the time), and some of the canons in particular were long disputed by Rome. Churches in the East didn't care a bit that Rome didn't give the ok.

2) According to the Church Fathers who spoke against contraception, any attempt to have sex while getting around or making less likely the chance of getting pregnant wasn't ok. It didn't matter if it was a barrier of some type, a chemical, or a "natural" timing method. Every single one of them who spoke against NFP as a form of contraception. Now not all Fathers spoke against contraception, but if you are going to follow the ones that did in speaking strenuously against it (Sts. Gregory the Great, Augustine, Jerome, etc.), then I suggest being consistent and rejecting both the Roman Catholics and Orthodox modern approaches to it. Having said that, you may want to put your foot in the water to test it before you do so. Once you jump in the water and find out the position of the ancient Christians on all manner of sexual and social morals, you may wish you hadn't been so eager. That was my experience, anyway.
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 04:51:36 PM »

Two brief thoughts:

1) Christians in the ancient Church did not wait for approval from Rome before accepting Councils. The Second Ecumenical Council wasn't well received, for example (in fact the presidents of it weren't even in communion with Rome at the time), and some of the canons in particular were long disputed by Rome. Churches in the East didn't care a bit that Rome didn't give the ok.

2) According to the Church Fathers who spoke against contraception, any attempt to have sex while getting around or making less likely the chance of getting pregnant wasn't ok. It didn't matter if it was a barrier of some type, a chemical, or a "natural" timing method. Every single one of them who spoke against NFP as a form of contraception. Now not all Fathers spoke against contraception, but if you are going to follow the ones that did in speaking strenuously against it (Sts. Gregory the Great, Augustine, Jerome, etc.), then I suggest being consistent and rejecting both the Roman Catholics and Orthodox modern approaches to it. Having said that, you may want to put your foot in the water to test it before you do so. Once you jump in the water and find out the position of the ancient Christians on all manner of sexual and social morals, you may wish you hadn't been so eager. That was my experience, anyway.
Thanks for the input. On your point about contraception, I am more concerned about the "why?" behind a church's stance on contraception, i.e. on what principle do you say this is right or wrong. The ECF's are important, but not without reason. At the end of the day "I believe this is immoral simply because these guys said so" isn't a good argument. There has to be a compelling explanationas to why they held the views they did.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 04:52:28 PM by truthseeker32 » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2013, 05:03:24 PM »

Orthodoxy is not more open to contraception. We are even stricter than Catholics since we don't distinguish NFP from other non-abortificient forms of birth-control.
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2013, 05:06:27 PM »

Orthodoxy is not more open to contraception. We are even stricter than Catholics since we don't distinguish NFP from other non-abortificient forms of birth-control.
Okay, let me rephrase the question for you, then. On what grounds does the Orthodox faith hold that contraception is sometimes permissible?
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2013, 05:08:43 PM »

Orthodoxy is not more open to contraception. We are even stricter than Catholics since we don't distinguish NFP from other non-abortificient forms of birth-control.
Okay, let me rephrase the question for you, then. On what grounds does the Orthodox faith hold that contraception is sometimes permissible?

On what grounds does the Catholic faith hold that NFP is sometimes permissible?
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2013, 05:09:57 PM »

Same reason the Orthodox can't agree on a Bible canon: they've never done so, and you shouldn't expect them to come to a consensus any time soon Wink
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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2013, 05:19:13 PM »

Orthodoxy is not more open to contraception. We are even stricter than Catholics since we don't distinguish NFP from other non-abortificient forms of birth-control.
Okay, let me rephrase the question for you, then. On what grounds does the Orthodox faith hold that contraception is sometimes permissible?

On what grounds does the Catholic faith hold that NFP is sometimes permissible?
On the idea that an act should be done in the correct manner. In the case of sex this means intercourse should be done without barriers or other interruption, otherwise the act is incomplete. When a couple engages in NFP there is never a point at which the sexual act isn't being carried out properly, since it is either being done correctly, or not at all.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 05:20:19 PM by truthseeker32 » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2013, 05:22:13 PM »

there is never a point at which the sexual act isn't being carried out properly, since it is either being done correctly, or not at all.

I like that way of thinking.
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2013, 05:30:42 PM »

Two brief thoughts:

1) Christians in the ancient Church did not wait for approval from Rome before accepting Councils. The Second Ecumenical Council wasn't well received, for example (in fact the presidents of it weren't even in communion with Rome at the time), and some of the canons in particular were long disputed by Rome. Churches in the East didn't care a bit that Rome didn't give the ok.

2) According to the Church Fathers who spoke against contraception, any attempt to have sex while getting around or making less likely the chance of getting pregnant wasn't ok. It didn't matter if it was a barrier of some type, a chemical, or a "natural" timing method. Every single one of them who spoke against NFP as a form of contraception. Now not all Fathers spoke against contraception, but if you are going to follow the ones that did in speaking strenuously against it (Sts. Gregory the Great, Augustine, Jerome, etc.), then I suggest being consistent and rejecting both the Roman Catholics and Orthodox modern approaches to it. Having said that, you may want to put your foot in the water to test it before you do so. Once you jump in the water and find out the position of the ancient Christians on all manner of sexual and social morals, you may wish you hadn't been so eager. That was my experience, anyway.
Thanks for the input. On your point about contraception, I am more concerned about the "why?" behind a church's stance on contraception, i.e. on what principle do you say this is right or wrong. The ECF's are important, but not without reason. At the end of the day "I believe this is immoral simply because these guys said so" isn't a good argument. There has to be a compelling explanationas to why they held the views they did.
Because they were really Stoics.
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2013, 05:43:23 PM »

Because they were really Stoics.

Well, this is a bit like dismissing the Church Fathers as Platonists... Or accusing the American Orthodox of being American...

 

 
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2013, 05:48:42 PM »

Because they were really Stoics.

Not even close.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 05:48:49 PM by Cyrillic » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2013, 06:22:55 PM »

oh you guys....

Seriously though, I will admit that this is an issue I have struggled with. It is definitely true that there is a difference between contraceptive sex and NFP, but is there an actual moral difference? In both cases there is an intent of temporarily avoiding children for reasons of economia. It just so happens that in the case of NFP that intent does not involve compromising the sexual act. Thus it seems that the question to asses and debate is whether or not there is any moral bearing on compromising the sexual act in and of itself, or if the moral bearing rests only upon the intent the couple has.

There does seem to be something to the reality that couples using NFP, rather than just having sex anyways and interfering with conception, instead abstain and rather hold that if the act can't be used properly it shouldn't be used. 
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2013, 06:52:07 PM »

Hello everyone,

I hope this is the right place for my topic. Over the past few years I have been attempting to figure things out, and it has been a roller coaster of sorts. At times I am quite confident that I ought to be Roman Catholic, other times I lean towards Orthodoxy, and still other times I feel like giving up altogether and just going back to my former Episcopalian parish.

I am in the strange position of being firmly convinced of some Roman Catholic doctrines distinct from Orthodox beliefs, and at the same time I am firmly convinced of some Orthodox Christian doctrines that are incompatible with Roman Catholic theology. For example, I believe Eastern Orthodoxy's perspective on Hell is correct, but I find the Catholic argument for accepting ecumenical councils and rejecting artificial contraception more convincing. To be fair I wanted to bring the issue here and get your take on why Orthodoxy has a more open view to artificial contraception. Further, I wanted to understand how Orthodoxy is able to discern canonical from heretical councils. Relevant to this query, the "robber council" is often used by Catholics to bolster their position. They claim, using this example, that the only way to discern between an ecumenical council and heretical council, is the approval of the bishop of Rome, since there have been councils (the robber council) where the majority of of bishops supported a heretical position. I am sure there are good responses to this argument, and I would like to get both sides.

Thank you in advance to those who reply.   

Pray a lot and go where your heart (the Holy Spirit) leads you. Be still and listen..

Your listed as "in RCIA". Have you been baptized? Or do you just need to be confirmed?
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2013, 11:32:30 PM »

since it is either being done correctly, or not at all.

AFAIK the point of NFP is to have sex only when there is no danger of conception. I fail to see how that is correct.
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« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2013, 12:21:15 AM »

Pray a lot and go where your heart (the Holy Spirit) leads you. Be still and listen..

Your listed as "in RCIA". Have you been baptized? Or do you just need to be confirmed?
I have been going through RCIA since 2009. Something always holds me back from committing. The list of setbacks has included: birth control, the real presence, papal infallibility, hell (this one is huge and still an issue for me), and just doubt in general.
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« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2013, 12:23:33 AM »

since it is either being done correctly, or not at all.

AFAIK the point of NFP is to have sex only when there is no danger of conception. I fail to see how that is correct.
To be more accurate, the point of NFP is to reduce the chance that conception will occur when grave reasons permit. Catholics can't simply use NFP whenever they want. The idea behind it all is that abstaining to avoid conception is better than distorting the sexual act to avoid conception.
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« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2013, 04:15:40 AM »

since it is either being done correctly, or not at all.

AFAIK the point of NFP is to have sex only when there is no danger of conception. I fail to see how that is correct.
To be more accurate, the point of NFP is to reduce the chance that conception will occur when grave reasons permit. Catholics can't simply use NFP whenever they want. The idea behind it all is that abstaining to avoid conception is better than distorting the sexual act to avoid conception.

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
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« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2013, 04:51:46 AM »

Because they were really Stoics.

Not even close.
Oh?  Somewhere here I've posted their quotes, and they are practically lifted word for word from the Stoic philosophers.
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« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2013, 04:51:46 AM »

Pray a lot and go where your heart (the Holy Spirit) leads you. Be still and listen..

Your listed as "in RCIA". Have you been baptized? Or do you just need to be confirmed?
I have been going through RCIA since 2009. Something always holds me back from committing. The list of setbacks has included: birth control, the real presence, papal infallibility, hell (this one is huge and still an issue for me), and just doubt in general.
and the Real Presence isn't a problem for you in Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #20 on: April 01, 2013, 04:51:46 AM »

Because they were really Stoics.

Well, this is a bit like dismissing the Church Fathers as Platonists... Or accusing the American Orthodox of being American...

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck.

Btw, being American isn't incompatible with being Orthodox.  Being 100% Plantonist is incompatible with Orthodoxy (that whole resurrection thing).
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« Reply #21 on: April 01, 2013, 06:35:05 AM »

Because they were really Stoics.

Not even close.
Oh?  Somewhere here I've posted their quotes, and they are practically lifted word for word from the Stoic philosophers.

Have you ever compared the letters of St. Basil to those of Seneca? But if you've got a list of quotes I'd like to see it.
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« Reply #22 on: April 03, 2013, 02:53:39 AM »

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
The difference is that, according to Catholic rules, if a married couple believes they have good reason to temporarily avoid conceiving a child they must abstain from the sexual act when conception is most likely whereas an Orthodox Christian may use contraception in certain circumstances. While the goal of both, being the avoidance of conception, is the same, the way in which it is gone about is different. The Catholic couple seems to make a sacrifice, whereas the Orthodox couple seems able, with permission of course, to have their cake and eat it too. So once again, the main question of discussion is whether interfering with the act itself is immoral, or whether the end goal is the only factor for determining the morality of the issue.

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« Reply #23 on: April 03, 2013, 06:47:39 AM »

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
The difference is that, according to Catholic rules, if a married couple believes they have good reason to temporarily avoid conceiving a child they must abstain from the sexual act when conception is most likely whereas an Orthodox Christian may use contraception in certain circumstances. While the goal of both, being the avoidance of conception, is the same, the way in which it is gone about is different. The Catholic couple seems to make a sacrifice, whereas the Orthodox couple seems able, with permission of course, to have their cake and eat it too. So once again, the main question of discussion is whether interfering with the act itself is immoral, or whether the end goal is the only factor for determining the morality of the issue.

Does the Fathers talk about sinfulness of interfering with the act or just about sinfulness of contraception in general?
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« Reply #24 on: April 03, 2013, 09:39:13 AM »

Pray a lot and go where your heart (the Holy Spirit) leads you. Be still and listen..

Your listed as "in RCIA". Have you been baptized? Or do you just need to be confirmed?
I have been going through RCIA since 2009. Something always holds me back from committing. The list of setbacks has included: birth control, the real presence, papal infallibility, hell (this one is huge and still an issue for me), and just doubt in general.

Why is hell a problem for you?
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« Reply #25 on: April 03, 2013, 09:43:16 AM »

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
The difference is that, according to Catholic rules, if a married couple believes they have good reason to temporarily avoid conceiving a child they must abstain from the sexual act when conception is most likely whereas an Orthodox Christian may use contraception in certain circumstances. While the goal of both, being the avoidance of conception, is the same, the way in which it is gone about is different. The Catholic couple seems to make a sacrifice, whereas the Orthodox couple seems able, with permission of course, to have their cake and eat it too. So once again, the main question of discussion is whether interfering with the act itself is immoral, or whether the end goal is the only factor for determining the morality of the issue.

Does the Fathers talk about sinfulness of interfering with the act or just about sinfulness of contraception in general?


The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse. Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable. The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.
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« Reply #26 on: April 03, 2013, 10:02:37 AM »

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
The difference is that, according to Catholic rules, if a married couple believes they have good reason to temporarily avoid conceiving a child they must abstain from the sexual act when conception is most likely whereas an Orthodox Christian may use contraception in certain circumstances. While the goal of both, being the avoidance of conception, is the same, the way in which it is gone about is different. The Catholic couple seems to make a sacrifice, whereas the Orthodox couple seems able, with permission of course, to have their cake and eat it too. So once again, the main question of discussion is whether interfering with the act itself is immoral, or whether the end goal is the only factor for determining the morality of the issue.

Does the Fathers talk about sinfulness of interfering with the act or just about sinfulness of contraception in general?

Some talk about the "sinfulness" of the act itself.
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« Reply #27 on: April 03, 2013, 12:37:44 PM »

Because they were really Stoics.

Not even close.
Oh?  Somewhere here I've posted their quotes, and they are practically lifted word for word from the Stoic philosophers.

Have you ever compared the letters of St. Basil to those of Seneca? But if you've got a list of quotes I'd like to see it.
In the meantime, this was brought up on the granddaddy thread of this issue here, with a quote from Noonan on the quoting of Stoic philosophers on contraception (including "NFP"):
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,29748.msg890760/topicseen.html#msg890760
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« Reply #28 on: April 03, 2013, 01:04:48 PM »

The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse.
Is one actually frustrating the natural end of sexual intercourse if they aren't even doing it?

Quote
Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable.
It seems like you are saying that there is no moral difference in actions if the intent is the same. For example, if a person's intent is the death of someone there would be no difference between letting the person die and actively murdering them. Another example, it seems like this NFP vs. contraception issue is similar to the lying vs. staying silent example. Let's pretend you have a friend who was framed for a crime and is now hiding from the police. When being interviewed by the police you may either stay silent to protect your friend or lie to mislead the police. Either way your goal, to protect your friend, is the same. Is there really no moral difference between staying silent and lying to the police simply because your goal is the same? A third and final example that seems fitting is bulimia vs. limiting your food intake. In the first case you eat as much as you want and then force yourself to vomit so you don't gain weight. In the second, you instead abstain from eating too much in order to avoid weight gain. Is there really no difference between bulimia and controlling your eating simply because the end goal is the same?

Quote
The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.
So it is sinful for a married couple to intend not to have children? Even temporarily? If a married couple wishes to avoid having a child is it okay for them to practice abstinence during both fertile and infertile periods?
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« Reply #29 on: April 03, 2013, 01:06:40 PM »

Why is hell a problem for you?
Because I can't imagine anyone choosing Hell, and I can't imagine how a good God would allow someone to suffer for eternity. This is a bit off topic so I will leave it at that. If you have further questions feel free to message me.
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« Reply #30 on: April 03, 2013, 01:25:39 PM »

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
The difference is that, according to Catholic rules, if a married couple believes they have good reason to temporarily avoid conceiving a child they must abstain from the sexual act when conception is most likely whereas an Orthodox Christian may use contraception in certain circumstances. While the goal of both, being the avoidance of conception, is the same, the way in which it is gone about is different. The Catholic couple seems to make a sacrifice, whereas the Orthodox couple seems able, with permission of course, to have their cake and eat it too. So once again, the main question of discussion is whether interfering with the act itself is immoral, or whether the end goal is the only factor for determining the morality of the issue.

Does the Fathers talk about sinfulness of interfering with the act or just about sinfulness of contraception in general?


The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse. Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable. The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.

And this is madness.
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« Reply #31 on: April 03, 2013, 01:26:32 PM »

Why is hell a problem for you?
Because I can't imagine anyone choosing Hell

Oh I can. Well not imagine, but have seen as close as I am going to see such a thing happen on earth.
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« Reply #32 on: April 03, 2013, 01:27:41 PM »

Oh I can. Well not imagine, but have seen as close as I am going to see such a thing happen on earth.
Did the person do it freely, or was their decision a product of mental impairment?
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« Reply #33 on: April 03, 2013, 01:58:26 PM »

How is this different from the Orthodox stance?
The difference is that, according to Catholic rules, if a married couple believes they have good reason to temporarily avoid conceiving a child they must abstain from the sexual act when conception is most likely whereas an Orthodox Christian may use contraception in certain circumstances. While the goal of both, being the avoidance of conception, is the same, the way in which it is gone about is different. The Catholic couple seems to make a sacrifice, whereas the Orthodox couple seems able, with permission of course, to have their cake and eat it too. So once again, the main question of discussion is whether interfering with the act itself is immoral, or whether the end goal is the only factor for determining the morality of the issue.

Does the Fathers talk about sinfulness of interfering with the act or just about sinfulness of contraception in general?


The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse. Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable. The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.

And this is madness.

So we are told. But, if one does not believe in the sinfulness of contraception, then the permission to use contraception in Orthodoxy by economy should not be bothersome. If one does believe in the sinfulness of contraception, then he should be brought to realize that the periodic abstinence observed when using fertility methods is in no way virtuous, as the intention inclines to sin, rather than virtue. The argument is intended for one who accepts the patristic teaching on contraception (and who therefore would be more likely to accept the patristic teaching on sin in general), not for one who rejects it.
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« Reply #34 on: April 03, 2013, 02:01:25 PM »

Oh I can. Well not imagine, but have seen as close as I am going to see such a thing happen on earth.
Did the person do it freely, or was their decision a product of mental impairment?

Sorry, not to be thick, as I think you are sincere, but I don't really believe in unoccluded free will.

It's sorta a catch-22. Why would anyone due x? They would have to be crazy!

Yeah, they probably are.
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« Reply #35 on: April 03, 2013, 03:17:27 PM »

The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse.
Is one actually frustrating the natural end of sexual intercourse if they aren't even doing it?

No, abstinence from intercourse with virtuous intentions (ascesis) is not frustrating the end of intercourse, because in this case, intercourse does not even occur. Planning only to have intercourse when the woman is infertile, and abstaining when she is fertile is inherently sinful because it is performed with the wrong intention, just as giving money to the poor hoping to be seen is sinful. In both cases, the act can be good, but the desires of the mind incline it to evil.

Quote
Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable.
It seems like you are saying that there is no moral difference in actions if the intent is the same.

No, I am saying that sacrifices made for sinful intentions are not God-pleasing. I do not think that such an idea should come as a shock. There is no virtue in performing any sort of asceticism if the desire behind it is sinful. If I were to sleep on a bed of rocks each night for the purpose of the denial of the flesh, this would be virtuous, but if I were to do the same in order to earn the praise of men, this would be sinful. The argument then that NFP is superior to other methods of contraception because of the abstinence involved is not a good one, because abstinence from intercourse is not spiritually profitable if the intention is wrong. I am denying, in other words, that certain actions are inherently virtuous. Virtue comes from fear of God, not from worldly desires.

Quote
For example, if a person's intent is the death of someone there would be no difference between letting the person die and actively murdering them.

In terms of whether the action is sinful? No. The degree of sinfulness differs, but both are sinful and grave because of the evil intentions behind them. This example, however does not apply perfectly, because with the case of NFP and contraception, the same action is performed for the same intentions (intercourse with the intention not to conceive), whereas in this example different actions are performed for the same intention. Intercourse with NFP does not differ from intercourse with contraception as an act except for the planning and periodic abstinence which goes into it, something which its adherents mistakenly think to be virtuous behavior. If anything, there is only one thing which is better about NFP, and that is that the sin is simply committed less often.

Quote
The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.
So it is sinful for a married couple to intend not to have children?

Yes. Marriage is not only for companionship, but also for the begetting of new life.

Even temporarily?

Yes but not unpardonably so, insofar as it only fails to reflect the ideal we are to live up to. This matter, especially in the modern era, however, requires prudence, and this is the role economy plays in the life of the Church.

If a married couple wishes to avoid having a child is it okay for them to practice abstinence during both fertile and infertile periods?

Yes, because intercourse does not occur, it is less sinful in that respect than contraception. It is pardonable if there is some pressing need for the couple not to have children at some point in time. It is, however, not  generally considered pardonable for a couple to avoid having children entirely. Ideally, a couple should engage in abstinence for the purpose of ascesis alone, and also attempt to have children during breaks in abstinence. But as with all ideals of Christian life, this is nearly impossible to attain, which is why it is important that a prudent confessor exercise economy in his treatment of those who fall short of the ideal.

What has not been mentioned yet is that intercourse has multiple ends, one for the union of man and woman, and the other for producing children. The ideal couple would use intercourse for both of these ends without hindering either willfully, and also would willfully abstain from intercourse for periods of time out of a mutual desire for disciplining the flesh. Those who are spiritually healthy can balance all of these things without falling into sin, but those who are spiritually sick (the vast majority of us) will be incapable of handling such an austere manner of life. The confessor then must assess how sick his spiritual children are, and administer the canons with prudence as medicine, being permissive of certain behaviors in order to guide those sick with sin out of sin and steer them away from higher degrees of sin. In this sense, if avoiding having children is necessary, abstinence would be the best method. If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make. It must be understood that in Orthodoxy, we are all held to standards which will likely seem impossibly high, with concessions being made for our weakness that we might grow spiritually rather than be hindered by a strict application of them.
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« Reply #36 on: April 03, 2013, 05:36:04 PM »

Hello everyone,

I hope this is the right place for my topic. Over the past few years I have been attempting to figure things out, and it has been a roller coaster of sorts. At times I am quite confident that I ought to be Roman Catholic, other times I lean towards Orthodoxy, and still other times I feel like giving up altogether and just going back to my former Episcopalian parish.

I am in the strange position of being firmly convinced of some Roman Catholic doctrines distinct from Orthodox beliefs, and at the same time I am firmly convinced of some Orthodox Christian doctrines that are incompatible with Roman Catholic theology. For example, I believe Eastern Orthodoxy's perspective on Hell is correct, but I find the Catholic argument for accepting ecumenical councils and rejecting artificial contraception more convincing. To be fair I wanted to bring the issue here and get your take on why Orthodoxy has a more open view to artificial contraception. Further, I wanted to understand how Orthodoxy is able to discern canonical from heretical councils. Relevant to this query, the "robber council" is often used by Catholics to bolster their position. They claim, using this example, that the only way to discern between an ecumenical council and heretical council, is the approval of the bishop of Rome, since there have been councils (the robber council) where the majority of of bishops supported a heretical position. I am sure there are good responses to this argument, and I would like to get both sides.

Thank you in advance to those who reply.   

Well, for example, the 2nd and 7th Ecumenical Councils were Ecumenical right from the time it was held, regardless of Rome's hesitency to accept them.  Rome recognized the 2nd Ecumenical Council in the mid-5th century, but also acknowledged it was Ecumenical long before it recognized it. 
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« Reply #37 on: April 03, 2013, 05:39:46 PM »

Why is hell a problem for you?
Because I can't imagine anyone choosing Hell

Oh I can. Well not imagine, but have seen as close as I am going to see such a thing happen on earth.

Hell is freezing over.  I agree with orthonorm.  People choose hell all the time. 
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« Reply #38 on: April 03, 2013, 05:58:16 PM »

Why is hell a problem for you?
Because I can't imagine anyone choosing Hell

Oh I can. Well not imagine, but have seen as close as I am going to see such a thing happen on earth.

Hell is freezing over.  I agree with orthonorm.  People choose hell all the time. 

And I see now where Hill came from. The formerly known as bit. My brain will do its best to make sense of gibberish, so I always read HILL I guess without noting it.

It's a learning disorder or something.

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« Reply #39 on: April 03, 2013, 06:14:35 PM »

Why is hell a problem for you?
Because I can't imagine anyone choosing Hell

Oh I can. Well not imagine, but have seen as close as I am going to see such a thing happen on earth.

Hell is freezing over.  I agree with orthonorm.  People choose hell all the time. 
Man is not a rational being, but a being with reason, which is why he longs for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not for the God of the Philosophers.
Are you seriously splitting this hair? A rational being and a being with reason are the same blasted thing. And as for the silly "not the God of the philosophers" nonsense... The philosophers are not claiming to prove the truth fo the Christian faith. They are not claiming to prove the incarnation, or the Trinity, or any such thing. All That philosophy proposes to prove is that there is a God who is simple, one, eternal, unchanging, infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, good, perfect, willing, loving, etc. To know which religion is revealed by this by God, one needs faith.
No, it's not.  A computer is a rational being, its being consisting of reason and logic.  A human being has the faculty of reason.  It does not determine his being.
Rational beings have no free will.  Human beings have free will and reason, and they do not always agree.  Humans make foolish choices all the time.
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« Reply #40 on: April 03, 2013, 07:40:31 PM »

Sorry, not to be thick, as I think you are sincere, but I don't really believe in unoccluded free will.

It's sorta a catch-22. Why would anyone due x? They would have to be crazy!

Yeah, they probably are.
So if God is all good and all powerful, how can he allow someone to choose hell who has done so with an imperfect knowledge or freedom?
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« Reply #41 on: April 03, 2013, 08:20:16 PM »

The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse.
Is one actually frustrating the natural end of sexual intercourse if they aren't even doing it?

No, abstinence from intercourse with virtuous intentions (ascesis) is not frustrating the end of intercourse, because in this case, intercourse does not even occur. Planning only to have intercourse when the woman is infertile, and abstaining when she is fertile is inherently sinful because it is performed with the wrong intention, just as giving money to the poor hoping to be seen is sinful. In both cases, the act can be good, but the desires of the mind incline it to evil.

Quote
Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable.
It seems like you are saying that there is no moral difference in actions if the intent is the same.

No, I am saying that sacrifices made for sinful intentions are not God-pleasing. I do not think that such an idea should come as a shock. There is no virtue in performing any sort of asceticism if the desire behind it is sinful. If I were to sleep on a bed of rocks each night for the purpose of the denial of the flesh, this would be virtuous, but if I were to do the same in order to earn the praise of men, this would be sinful. The argument then that NFP is superior to other methods of contraception because of the abstinence involved is not a good one, because abstinence from intercourse is not spiritually profitable if the intention is wrong. I am denying, in other words, that certain actions are inherently virtuous. Virtue comes from fear of God, not from worldly desires.

Quote
For example, if a person's intent is the death of someone there would be no difference between letting the person die and actively murdering them.

In terms of whether the action is sinful? No. The degree of sinfulness differs, but both are sinful and grave because of the evil intentions behind them. This example, however does not apply perfectly, because with the case of NFP and contraception, the same action is performed for the same intentions (intercourse with the intention not to conceive), whereas in this example different actions are performed for the same intention. Intercourse with NFP does not differ from intercourse with contraception as an act except for the planning and periodic abstinence which goes into it, something which its adherents mistakenly think to be virtuous behavior. If anything, there is only one thing which is better about NFP, and that is that the sin is simply committed less often.

Quote
The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.
So it is sinful for a married couple to intend not to have children?

Yes. Marriage is not only for companionship, but also for the begetting of new life.

Even temporarily?

Yes but not unpardonably so, insofar as it only fails to reflect the ideal we are to live up to. This matter, especially in the modern era, however, requires prudence, and this is the role economy plays in the life of the Church.

If a married couple wishes to avoid having a child is it okay for them to practice abstinence during both fertile and infertile periods?

Yes, because intercourse does not occur, it is less sinful in that respect than contraception. It is pardonable if there is some pressing need for the couple not to have children at some point in time. It is, however, not  generally considered pardonable for a couple to avoid having children entirely. Ideally, a couple should engage in abstinence for the purpose of ascesis alone, and also attempt to have children during breaks in abstinence. But as with all ideals of Christian life, this is nearly impossible to attain, which is why it is important that a prudent confessor exercise economy in his treatment of those who fall short of the ideal.

What has not been mentioned yet is that intercourse has multiple ends, one for the union of man and woman, and the other for producing children. The ideal couple would use intercourse for both of these ends without hindering either willfully, and also would willfully abstain from intercourse for periods of time out of a mutual desire for disciplining the flesh. Those who are spiritually healthy can balance all of these things without falling into sin, but those who are spiritually sick (the vast majority of us) will be incapable of handling such an austere manner of life. The confessor then must assess how sick his spiritual children are, and administer the canons with prudence as medicine, being permissive of certain behaviors in order to guide those sick with sin out of sin and steer them away from higher degrees of sin. In this sense, if avoiding having children is necessary, abstinence would be the best method. If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make. It must be understood that in Orthodoxy, we are all held to standards which will likely seem impossibly high, with concessions being made for our weakness that we might grow spiritually rather than be hindered by a strict application of them.

I liked your post and agreed with almost everything you wrote until this..
" If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make."
The true Church of Christ, the traditional Catholic Church teaches that contraception is a mortal sin, you will go to hell for this, this is why most people today are going to hell, the traditional church also teaches that NFP is a mortal sin, the modern vatican 2 sect teaches that it's ok. Since you are not Catholic you may not care what I post below, but it's relevant to the original poster who is considering catholicism.


Why is NFP wrong?
NFP is wrong because it’s birth control; it’s against conception. It’s a refusal on the part of those
who use it to be open to the children that God planned to send them.It’s no different in its purpose from artificial contraception,
and therefore it’s a moral evil just like artificial 
The Teaching of the Catholic Papal Magisterium
Pope Pius XI spoke from the Chair of Peter in his 1931 encyclical Casti Connubii on Christian marriage. His teaching shows that
all forms of birth prevention are evil . We quote a long excerpt from his encyclical which sums up the issue.
Pope Pius XI,
Casti Connubii
(#’s 53 -56), Dec. 31, 1930:
 “And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First
consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in
matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify  this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one
hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of the family circumstances. “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically
against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good . Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature
and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. “Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘
Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of offspring is prevented.’
Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it (Gen. 38:8 -10).

http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/42_NFP.pdf
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« Reply #42 on: April 03, 2013, 08:55:24 PM »

The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse.
Is one actually frustrating the natural end of sexual intercourse if they aren't even doing it?

No, abstinence from intercourse with virtuous intentions (ascesis) is not frustrating the end of intercourse, because in this case, intercourse does not even occur. Planning only to have intercourse when the woman is infertile, and abstaining when she is fertile is inherently sinful because it is performed with the wrong intention, just as giving money to the poor hoping to be seen is sinful. In both cases, the act can be good, but the desires of the mind incline it to evil.

Quote
Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable.
It seems like you are saying that there is no moral difference in actions if the intent is the same.

No, I am saying that sacrifices made for sinful intentions are not God-pleasing. I do not think that such an idea should come as a shock. There is no virtue in performing any sort of asceticism if the desire behind it is sinful. If I were to sleep on a bed of rocks each night for the purpose of the denial of the flesh, this would be virtuous, but if I were to do the same in order to earn the praise of men, this would be sinful. The argument then that NFP is superior to other methods of contraception because of the abstinence involved is not a good one, because abstinence from intercourse is not spiritually profitable if the intention is wrong. I am denying, in other words, that certain actions are inherently virtuous. Virtue comes from fear of God, not from worldly desires.

Quote
For example, if a person's intent is the death of someone there would be no difference between letting the person die and actively murdering them.

In terms of whether the action is sinful? No. The degree of sinfulness differs, but both are sinful and grave because of the evil intentions behind them. This example, however does not apply perfectly, because with the case of NFP and contraception, the same action is performed for the same intentions (intercourse with the intention not to conceive), whereas in this example different actions are performed for the same intention. Intercourse with NFP does not differ from intercourse with contraception as an act except for the planning and periodic abstinence which goes into it, something which its adherents mistakenly think to be virtuous behavior. If anything, there is only one thing which is better about NFP, and that is that the sin is simply committed less often.

Quote
The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful.
So it is sinful for a married couple to intend not to have children?

Yes. Marriage is not only for companionship, but also for the begetting of new life.

Even temporarily?

Yes but not unpardonably so, insofar as it only fails to reflect the ideal we are to live up to. This matter, especially in the modern era, however, requires prudence, and this is the role economy plays in the life of the Church.

If a married couple wishes to avoid having a child is it okay for them to practice abstinence during both fertile and infertile periods?

Yes, because intercourse does not occur, it is less sinful in that respect than contraception. It is pardonable if there is some pressing need for the couple not to have children at some point in time. It is, however, not  generally considered pardonable for a couple to avoid having children entirely. Ideally, a couple should engage in abstinence for the purpose of ascesis alone, and also attempt to have children during breaks in abstinence. But as with all ideals of Christian life, this is nearly impossible to attain, which is why it is important that a prudent confessor exercise economy in his treatment of those who fall short of the ideal.

What has not been mentioned yet is that intercourse has multiple ends, one for the union of man and woman, and the other for producing children. The ideal couple would use intercourse for both of these ends without hindering either willfully, and also would willfully abstain from intercourse for periods of time out of a mutual desire for disciplining the flesh. Those who are spiritually healthy can balance all of these things without falling into sin, but those who are spiritually sick (the vast majority of us) will be incapable of handling such an austere manner of life. The confessor then must assess how sick his spiritual children are, and administer the canons with prudence as medicine, being permissive of certain behaviors in order to guide those sick with sin out of sin and steer them away from higher degrees of sin. In this sense, if avoiding having children is necessary, abstinence would be the best method. If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make. It must be understood that in Orthodoxy, we are all held to standards which will likely seem impossibly high, with concessions being made for our weakness that we might grow spiritually rather than be hindered by a strict application of them.

I liked your post and agreed with almost everything you wrote until this..
" If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make."
The true Church of Christ, the traditional Catholic Church teaches that contraception is a mortal sin

According to the fathers, the responsibility of the confessor is to apply the appropriate degree of leniency or strictness in order to guide the Christian away from further degrees of sin, and into lesser degrees of sin. This is because one who is enslaved to a passion will be thrown into despair by too harsh of a penance, despair being one of the most serious and grave of all sins, second only to suicide. There is a time when prudence would call for the Christian not to be punished severely for the use of contraception (and a time when prudence would call for the opposite, that he be punished severely), with the goal that he should be guided to further repentance instead of being driven further into sin. Anyhow, I suspect that we will simply have to disagree on the matter of economy, as this is one area where the Latin West departed from the tradition of the Neptic Fathers and canonical tradition of the Greek East.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 08:56:49 PM by Cavaradossi » Logged

Be comforted, and have faith, O Israel, for your God is infinitely simple and one, composed of no parts.
stanley123
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« Reply #43 on: April 03, 2013, 09:33:18 PM »

Man is not a rational being, but a being with reason, which is why he longs for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not for the God of the Philosophers.
Are you seriously splitting this hair? A rational being and a being with reason are the same blasted thing. And as for the silly "not the God of the philosophers" nonsense... The philosophers are not claiming to prove the truth fo the Christian faith. They are not claiming to prove the incarnation, or the Trinity, or any such thing. All That philosophy proposes to prove is that there is a God who is simple, one, eternal, unchanging, infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, good, perfect, willing, loving, etc. To know which religion is revealed by this by God, one needs faith.
No, it's not.  A computer is a rational being, its being consisting of reason and logic.  A human being has the faculty of reason.  It does not determine his being.
Rational beings have no free will.  Human beings have free will and reason, and they do not always agree.  Humans make foolish choices all the time.
I am not sure that computers are rational beings, at least in the human sense. For example, can they evaluate hypotheses? Another objection concerns a result of Godel. For example, Godel has shown that there are statements which cannot be proven within a formal system, where the process of proof is reduced to a rule based manipulation of symbols. Now computers are formal systems.  So a computer cannot recognize the truth of a sentence unprovable within the formal system, but a human should be able to.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 09:34:06 PM by stanley123 » Logged
truthseeker32
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« Reply #44 on: April 03, 2013, 11:40:17 PM »

The true Church of Christ, the traditional Catholic Church teaches that contraception is a mortal sin, you will go to hell for this, this is why most people today are going to hell, the traditional church also teaches that NFP is a mortal sin, the modern vatican 2 sect teaches that it's ok.
A sin is only mortal if done willfully and with knowledge that the act is wrong. Otherwise God is punishing people for doing something they don't even know is wrong.

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Why is NFP wrong?
NFP is wrong because it’s birth control; it’s against conception. It’s a refusal on the part of those
who use it to be open to the children that God planned to send them.
This actually is erroneous. Couples practicing NFP are supposed to use the method prayerfully. If they pray about abstaining for a time and God doesn't tell them to do otherwise then it seems the couple is being perfectly open to God's will.

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It’s no different in its purpose from artificial contraception,
except that NFP can't be called contraception because there is never any contraception taking place.

Quote
“And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First
consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in
matrimony when both parties consent)
but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify  this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one
hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of the family circumstances. “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically
against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good . Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature
and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. “Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘
Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of offspring is prevented.’
Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it (Gen. 38:8 -10).

http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/42_NFP.pdf
The bolded portion seems to fit perfectly well with NFP. Further, this entire passage addresses not misusing the sexual act! It says nothing about abstaining to postpone children being evil.
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