Hey everybody. I'm a Latin Rite Catholic of the Western Church, and although there are many aspects and changes in the Western Church of which I disagree, there are some recent changes which I feel are for the better. In particular, I am pleased to discover that mental disorders (such as depression, bipolar, etc.) are now, in the Western Church, taken into serious consideration in determining the personal responsibiility for sin.
For example, since it is now known that many individuals who commit suicide do so with a limited free and in a depressive disorder, the Church now declares, in somewhat contrast to earlier teaching, that we cannot know the true factors behind a suicide, and that we should pray for the person because he may not have freely chosen death.
Also, people with manic depression are now recognized as having a disease, and are now recognized to be less personally responsible for any sins they commit, especially if these sins are comitted in a manic phase, when there is little self-control.
In any case, last night I was reading the spiritual advice of the great St. Seraphim of Sarov. Much of what he writes is sound advice, but when he speaks about "despondency" and "despair," he speaks of these as though their causes are not enough prayer to ward off the evil spirits. While I agree with St. Seraphim of Sarov that prayer in such cases is necessary, and while I to a degree believe that demons are behind every kind of illness, including modern mental disorders, I wonder if St. Seraphim of Sarov's teachings prove true today for those who are recognized to have mental illness.
So, do the Orthodox take into consideration medical and other scientific factors when making a pastoral decision? Or, do the Orthodox rely more heavily on the ancient traditions of the Fathers and other great spiritual writers? A healthy mixture?