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Author Topic: Orthodox v. Catholic on the issue of sex  (Read 1482 times) Average Rating: 0
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StGeorge
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St. George


« on: June 20, 2005, 07:57:12 PM »

I have read on numerous boards and in numerous books that St. Augustine, through his writings, has helped cause the Western Church to become relatively more opposed to sex than has the Eastern Church, which mostly ignores the theological ideas of Augustine, at least concerning Original Sin.ÂÂ  However, I don't fully understand how the Western Church and the Eastern Church are different on the issue of sex.ÂÂ  Sure, the Latin Rite of the Western Church traditionally allows only unmarried men to be ordained (except in rare cases, such as conversion); whereas the Eastern Church allows married and sexually active men to become priests.ÂÂ  But how do the Orthodox view sexuality different from Catholics when it comes down to the average joe, the average married lay person?ÂÂ  

Although I am Latin Rite, I do not fully know all the documents of the Catholic Church relating to sexuality.ÂÂ  I'm not married yet, so I haven't really looked into them.ÂÂ  But my gut feeling, by learning through the teaching instruments of the Church--sermons, books, television, etc.--I have not once heard a priest or lay person mention human sexuality or the pleasure thereof in a positive way, even in marriage.ÂÂ  I get the sense that sex is something of our fallen nature, something of conscupience, which takes our minds off God and therefore is, if not sinful, at least detrimental to our relationship with God.ÂÂ  It certainly involves too much pleasure to be something pure and clean in the eyes of God.ÂÂ  If a couple must needs have sex, it should be as pleasureless as possible, and should primarily be done to have children.ÂÂ  The couple that practices continence is viewed as a couple avoiding the impurity of sex, and so is to be commended--that's how I see things; but then again, I don't claim to be representing the actual teaching of the Catholic Church; but this is what I understand from my Catholic experience so far, and I do try to increase my understanding of the Catholic faith so as not to misrepresent it.ÂÂ  

Many of my Orthodox friends tell me that the Orthodox do not view sexuality the same way as do Western Catholics.ÂÂ  I don't really understand what my friends mean.ÂÂ  Do Orthodox view sex more as a gift of God?ÂÂ  Is the pleasure achieved in sex something one should feel ashamed about?ÂÂ  Where might I find in the Bible or in early Patristic literature information regarding the purity and acceptability of sex in marriage, if indeed it is pure and acceptable?

Thanks for your help!ÂÂ  SmileyÂÂ  

ÂÂ  
« Last Edit: June 20, 2005, 08:04:15 PM by StGeorge » Logged
Justin Kissel
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2005, 10:34:57 PM »

I would strongly suggest getting Women and Men in the Early Church: The Full Views of St. John Chrysostom by David C. Ford. While the main subject matter is about St. John's views of sexuality, marriage, etc., the book also gives the best summary I've seen on what the other early Church Fathers believed on the subject. In fact, reading this book made me totally rethink my own beliefs about sexuality and particularly contraception. It's an amazing piece of work.
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cizinec
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2005, 11:14:15 PM »

Paradosis,

Have you seen Fr. Wahba's book on St. Athanasius and an honorable marriage?

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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2005, 09:00:43 PM »

cizinec

I had not read that one, but I found 4 copies available under the New and Used section of Amazon.com... I'll give it a read if you recommend it.


StGeorge,

I will type out and post tomorrow (probably) an excerpt from the book I mentioned above, which might be helpful in understanding the typical Orthodox position on the subject.

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cizinec
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2005, 09:59:03 PM »

Well, it's been a few years and I lent it out and never got it back.  I seem to recall it being very interesting.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2005, 12:15:41 AM »

I shall have to give it a read then. Smiley

Regarding the excerpt that I mentioned before, here is something...

Quote
Similarly, in his fourth sermon on Genesis, he states, as an example of God's philanthropia ("love of mankind"), "God also linked them together by their natural needs--linked them as if by an unbroken bond when he encircled them with the chain of desire. you see how sin [at the Fall] led to woman's subjection, but how God, so ingenious and wise, used these things for our benefit."

There is no hint here (as opposed to Western Fathers whom we studied in Chapter One) of sexual attraction being evil, or inevitably tainted with lust of "concupisence," the common Western translation of epithymia. [33] Rather, it is an intregal part of our human nature, which is still basically good after the Fall. And since it is natural and God-given, its proper expression is meant to be enjoyed; as Chrysostom says, in commenting on Romans 1:26-27,"For genuine pleasure (gnesia hedone) [35] is that which is according to nature... Here... he sets the pleasure according to nature which they would have enjoyed with more sense of security and greater glad-heartedness, and so would have been far removed from shameful sins."

Moreover, it is this very sexual desire (epithymia) which God has given to preeminently express and accomplish human unity, whether or not it results in the issuance of children:  "The child is a bridge connecting mother to father, so the three become one flesh... But suppose there is no child; do they then remain two and not one? No, since their intercourse effects the joining of their bodies, and they are made one, just as when perfume is mixed with ointment."

...It is noteworthy that Chrysostom does not lable the intercourse occuring during fornication as unclean; rather, it is the misdirected use of a good thing which is evil... Such misuse results from choosing to entertain sinful attitudes, yielding to promptings to sin, which then make someone's life and will unclean (at least temporarily, until the cleansing of repentance)... "To sin is rather a matter of violence than of constraint. For God has implanted in our nature a charm (philtron) in order that we would love one another... Do not blame natural desire (epithymia). Natural desire was bestowed with a view to marriage and to the procreation of children, not with a view to adultery and corruption."


[33] epithymia means "desire, lust, concupiscense"; or "desire, longing, good or indifferent"; or specifically "sexual desire, without the connotation of sin" (Lampe, p. 524). It only means "lust" when the "desire" becomes, through misuse of the will, inordinate and compulsive...

[35] hedone = "enjoyment, pleasure... properly of sensual pleasures"... Lampe gives one definition of hedone as "sexual pleasure" which is "legitimate" and "natural" and quotes this very passage from St. John Chrysostom as an example of this use of the word...

--David C. Ford, Women and Men in the Early Church: The Full Views of St. John Chrysostom, (St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 1996), pp. 47-49

I only included footnotes when it helped to make sense of what Mr. Ford was saying. Also, Mr. Ford seems to have been very selective in what he quoted (in a good way), perhaps to avoid a scandal among more conservative types, perhaps so as not to lose the reader's attention or go off into too many digressions, or who knows why else. Anyway, for an example, he quoted Homily 12 on Colossians in the above quote, where St. John mentions intercourse as making two into one, but there is an even more powerful statement made by St. John in that particular homily:

"And how become they one flesh? As if thou shouldest take away the purest part of gold, and mingle it with other gold; so in truth here also the woman as it were receiving the richest part fused by pleasure, nourisheth it and cherisheth it, and withal contributing her own share, restoreth it back a Man."

As I said in a previous post, this book totally changed the way I looked at certain aspects of this issue (and I used to be quite firm in my stance on those aspects of the issue).
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mpfarr
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2005, 11:07:41 PM »

Dear friends, although this thread seems a little old, I would like to offer a few more sources for exploring God's beautiful gift of sexuality.  You may have since found these helpful, but I love Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body (129 General Audiences).  Christopher West has compiled this teaching and persents it in an audio series called "Naked Without Shame: PJP II's TOB (Theology of the Body)."  It is scholarly, but comprehensive...beneficial for any Christian, lay or religious, married or single.  Also, West has written an excellent reader: Good News about Sex and Marriage.  I highly recommend it.  Bishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote "Three to get Married;" beautiful, poetic, practical and philosophical, it speaks beautifully about the complete integration of body and soul, and God's intention in our creation. 
These are among the texts I'm using for a research paper on Liturgy and Marriage for a theology class.  For something less technical, Dave Sloan runs a website called God of Desire at www.godofdesire.com
Best wishes and blessings on you as you seek God's will for your lives.
Peace be with you!
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