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Author Topic: Coptic View of Contraception  (Read 6867 times) Average Rating: 0
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drewmeister2
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« on: August 29, 2005, 08:59:41 PM »

What is the Coptic teaching on contraception?

Thanks Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2005, 09:30:11 PM »

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Drewmeister2,
The Lord give you His peace.

Perhaps a better question would be, what is the Orthodox understanding on contraception?  Orthodoxy isn't "enclosed" to one place or location, but it is universal.

This has been brought up many times on this forum, and the truth is that many Fathers do condemn it; however, it has also been pointed out that contraception may be allowed (through the guidance of one's FOC) and it has been pointed out to me also many Fathers DO believe it is okay to use.

I believe the best advice was from Prodomos (sp?) who from my reading, has stated he personally is against it.  At the same time, he believes that if one's spiritual guide believes it is best to use it (other than falling into self-pleasuring), it is better to use the contraception.

I'll leave my personal views (since I know it will erupt into a huge argument) to myself; or if need be, we may discuss it through PM.

in XC,
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2005, 10:19:42 PM »

I would say the Coptic and Eastern Orthodox views are quite different, if the statement at lacopts.org is representative of the Coptic view. On it, Bp Serapion states that the IUD is acceptable (unless that page has been changed)!!!

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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2005, 10:30:11 PM »

IC XC NIKA
Anastasios,
The Lord give you His peace.
What is IUD?  Forgive my ignorance.
in XC,
shawn
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2005, 11:40:56 PM »

Here is the definition of an IUD:

"A birth control device, such as a plastic or metallic loop, ring, or spiral, that is inserted into the uterus to prevent implantation."

Sadly, they are abortifacient (bascially, they induce an abortion).  I would hope that the Copts still don't encourage their use!  When they first came out, I think that they didn't know they were abortifacient, but with further study, we now know that they are abortifacient, and Im sure now the Copts condemn them (as they do condemn abortion).  Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2005, 06:22:39 AM »

In his book “Homosexuality and the Ordination of Women”, H.H Pope Shenouda III says concerning contraception:

”Yes, we accept it only if it is not a means of abortion i.e. it is used to avoid, rather than to terminate, a pregnancy. However, once a pregnancy has occurred, then it is a sin to abort the baby, even if its only one hour old.”

Peace.
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2005, 09:00:13 AM »

In his book “Homosexuality and the Ordination of Women”, H.H Pope Shenouda III says concerning contraception:

”Yes, we accept it only if it is not a means of abortion i.e. it is used to avoid, rather than to terminate, a pregnancy. However, once a pregnancy has occurred, then it is a sin to abort the baby, even if its only one hour old.”

Peace.

Thanks! Now my question is, why is it permitted?
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2005, 01:29:57 PM »

IC XC NIKA
WHOOPS!  I meant Paradosis, not Prodomos.
in XC,
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2005, 02:26:36 PM »

If the contraception induces abortion, there is no way the Coptic Church will support that.

And sex doesn't only mean procreation; it is also a special relationship between married couples.  St. Paul teaches not to deprive one another of this sort of relationship, especially when the devil can easily tempt you, but then again, not to abuse it, but to learn to abstain for spiritual growth.

God bless.
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2005, 07:36:09 PM »

Thanks, all of you!

I would assume, then, that the casual use of birth control (ie, there is no real need for the couple to be using birth control) is forbidden?
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2005, 11:08:29 PM »

Thanks, all of you!

I would assume, then, that the casual use of birth control (ie, there is no real need for the couple to be using birth control) is forbidden?

Does anyone know?
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2005, 09:58:47 PM »

What is the Coptic teaching on contraception?

Thanks Smiley

I actually posted a link to this recently on my blog.



Family Planning
By His Grace Bishop Serapion
   

Family Planning means that the family plans to have children according to its economic and social conditions, as well as according to its ability to care for the children spiritually, economically, and socially. The family’s role is not limited only to having children, but more essentially to raising the children well.

The family’s awareness of her responsibility towards raising her children is essential. For the Church, the core of family planning is centralized in the family’s awareness of her responsibility towards raising the children, and that this role is carried out as well as can be. For economic, social, or spiritual reasons the family may find that she can’t carry out her responsibility. Thus, contraception is considered. This is an important factor to consider when accepting the principle of family planning: the inability of the family to provide comprehensive care for the children.

The Church acknowledges the need for family planning in order to face the worldwide problem of population growth, which threatens the economy of many nations. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III said, "The rise in population growth poses a danger to the countries, and birth control has become an economic and social necessity, which will greatly affect the future of our country. Therefore, we have to restrain the problem of the explosive population growth, which drains all our projects and national economy."

The presence of a common necessity allows us to accept the principle of family planning. However, the circumstances of each family are different. Therefore, the decision of family planning is a personal one, left up to every family to decide in accordance with her situation, so long as she is aware of her responsibilities towards raising her children, as well as towards the society in which we live.

We will discuss some points, which will raise the family’s awareness in regards to family planning:

1. One of the goals of marriage is procreation. However, it is not the only reason for marriage. A Christian marriage will continue even if it is not blessed by children. Therefore, in Christianity infertility is not a reason for divorce.

2. Children are a blessing from God. God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." (Gen. 9:1) God also blessed Abraham and told him, "And I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great." (Gen. 12:2) He promised him that his descendants will be like the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16), and as the stars of the heaven in number (Gen. 15:5). God also told Abraham, "No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations." (Gen. 17:5) Also, in Psalms it is written, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord." (Ps. 127:3)

But not all offspring is a blessing from God. God, Who promised Abraham to bless him by having many descendants, also placed a condition for that. He said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations." (Gen. 17:9) God gave him circumcision as a sign of His covenant. Also God’s covenant was not with all of Abraham’s descendants. He said, "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac." (Gen. 17:21) and from Isaac’s offspring He chose Jacob.

The true blessing the family receives from the Lord is the good, God-fearing children. The family of Eli the priest was not blessed, because of his evil sons. (1Sam. 2:27-35) Thus it is neither the gender nor the number of children that is important. The family should not be happy with how many children she has, but with the good children she offers to the Lord, the Church, and society.

3. Family Planning does not contradict nature. God placed a natural means of birth control in humanity since a woman is unable to conceive after a certain age. Also, during her childbearing years, she is fertile during certain times of her monthly cycle. During the rest of the time, she is not fertile. All natural family planning is based on determining this period and abstaining from all marital physical relations during this period.

4. Family Planning does not oppose God’s will. As previously mentioned, God placed the principle of family planning naturally. When man realized this scientific fact, he was able to utilize it as a means for natural contraception. Also, better understanding of the reproductive system and how it functions made it possible to find different means of contraception. God allows man to use these discoveries for the goodness and happiness of humanity. This principle also applies to man’s understanding of medicine, in which there is prevention of diseases, using herbal or chemical pharmaceuticals, performing surgical operations, etc. All the above help to prevent illnesses or heal diseases, especially the ones that are deadly. Again, all of these medical developments do not oppose God’s will.

5. Christianity teaches monogamy, and divorce is not allowed due to infertility. In a Christian marriage, the couple abstains from intimate physical relations during periods of fasting and before Holy Communion in order to dedicate oneself to worship. Although the goal of these matters is not family planning, yet they help.

6. Some use the story of Onan, son of Judah, (Gen. 38:6-10) as the basis for rejecting the principle of family planning. However, it is clear in this story that Onan refused because the offspring would carry his brother’s name, "But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother." (Gen. 38:9) God caused Onan to die, because he refused to give an heir to his brother as the Mosaic Law dictated at that time. Onan would certainly not have done the same thing if the offspring was going to carry his name, not his brother’s name.

7. As long as there is a necessity, the Church agrees on the principle of family planning. However, the method used for contraception must have two elements:

a. It should not endanger the mother’s health. This does not apply to the side effects that occur due to the intake of any medication. Also, it has to be determined which method best suits the mother’s health and well being. This is left up to her gynecologist, and may vary from one woman to another. b. That the method will not cause the abortion of the fetus. The life of the fetus begins from the moment the sperm fertilizes the ovum, and abortion is rejected as a means of contraception.

A question was raised regarding the usage of an intra-uterine device (IUD), and if it causes early abortion. The Bishopric of Social Welfare gave special attention to this matter and formed a scientific committee to research how the IUD works. A scientific summary was presented, supported by scientific research. The most important points are the following:

1. There is a lot of development in the different kinds of IUD’s used. The kind that was used in the seventies prevented the implantation of the fertilized ovum. This is considered abortion. 2. Nowadays, the IUD’s used cause a chemical reaction in the uterus, which prevents the motility of the sperms; thus the ovum is not fertilized.

In the USA, only two IUD’s are marketed, and they are progesterone-releasing, which effectively prevents fertilization.

We recommend that women consult with their physicians before the insertion of an IUD to make sure how it functions. It is preferable to use a different method of contraception if there is doubt on how the IUD works or if it may result in early abortion.
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« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2005, 11:14:32 AM »

Thanks! But I wonder about something else.  According to this site: http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ274.HTM ,

Any form of active contraception--interposition of a barrier between the couple, poisoning of the gametes, destruction or disabling of the reproductive organs, or sexual activity that does not conclude in coital consummation--is per se sinful. A cycle of periodic abstinence followed by intercourse during infertile periods is not, in itself, sinful. The condom, for example, interposes a barrier between the couple. NFPers are totally open to conception during their intercourse. That conception does not usually occur is due to the female body's natural reproductive cycle, not to the positive action of the couple. Or to put it another way, the NFPers are avoiding conception only when they are abstaining from intercourse, which, assuming it is not done indefinitely or for the wrong reasons, can never be blameworthy. You can't force the female body to conceive when it won't. And abstaining from intercourse (within reason) is not blameworthy. Use of a condom, however, always blocks conception.

It is the use of artifical contraception that is sinful and has always been condemned as such by the Church. Natural contraception, while not wholly unproblematic, is not in itself sinful. This is clear from the constant teaching of the Church that chastity, even in marriage, is a good. A fulfilled pledge of abstinence in marriage is clearly contraceptive, and yet that has been seen as a spiritual good, from the holy and chaste union of the Theotokos and St. Joseph, to 20/c worthies like Jacques and Raissa Maritain. (For a critical study of the subject, see Dyan Elliott, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (Princeton U. Pr., 1993).) NFP takes up this insight in a limited fashion, i.e., by use of temporary, as opposed to perpetual, abstinence. The reason that abstinence, whether temporary or perpetual, is not in itself sinful, while being contraceptive, is that nothing is interposed between the couple--they remain open to conception, while recognizing their freedom not to have intercourse (by mutual agreement). There are purely natural ways in which conception could still result: irregular periods, periodic changes in menstrual cycle, exceptionally long-lived spermatozoa, etc.

So shouldn't, according to Coptic view, all unnatural forms of birth control be thrown out, but at the same time, NFP should be allowed, as it is natural?

Thanks for helping me understand Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2005, 09:05:41 PM »

Thanks! But I wonder about something else.ÂÂ  According to this site: http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ274.HTM ,

Any form of active contraception--interposition of a barrier between the couple, poisoning of the gametes, destruction or disabling of the reproductive organs, or sexual activity that does not conclude in coital consummation--is per se sinful. A cycle of periodic abstinence followed by intercourse during infertile periods is not, in itself, sinful. The condom, for example, interposes a barrier between the couple. NFPers are totally open to conception during their intercourse. That conception does not usually occur is due to the female body's natural reproductive cycle, not to the positive action of the couple. Or to put it another way, the NFPers are avoiding conception only when they are abstaining from intercourse, which, assuming it is not done indefinitely or for the wrong reasons, can never be blameworthy. You can't force the female body to conceive when it won't. And abstaining from intercourse (within reason) is not blameworthy. Use of a condom, however, always blocks conception.

It is the use of artifical contraception that is sinful and has always been condemned as such by the Church. Natural contraception, while not wholly unproblematic, is not in itself sinful. This is clear from the constant teaching of the Church that chastity, even in marriage, is a good. A fulfilled pledge of abstinence in marriage is clearly contraceptive, and yet that has been seen as a spiritual good, from the holy and chaste union of the Theotokos and St. Joseph, to 20/c worthies like Jacques and Raissa Maritain. (For a critical study of the subject, see Dyan Elliott, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (Princeton U. Pr., 1993).) NFP takes up this insight in a limited fashion, i.e., by use of temporary, as opposed to perpetual, abstinence. The reason that abstinence, whether temporary or perpetual, is not in itself sinful, while being contraceptive, is that nothing is interposed between the couple--they remain open to conception, while recognizing their freedom not to have intercourse (by mutual agreement). There are purely natural ways in which conception could still result: irregular periods, periodic changes in menstrual cycle, exceptionally long-lived spermatozoa, etc.

So shouldn't, according to Coptic view, all unnatural forms of birth control be thrown out, but at the same time, NFP should be allowed, as it is natural?

Thanks for helping me understand Smiley

Anyone have any thoughts?
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2005, 11:55:47 PM »

Drewmeister,

I really don’t see what sort of a problem the excerpts that you paste present for the pro-contraception position; they merely present an opinion — a judgment, on the matter.

I personally find it amusing that the article makes this arbitrary distinction between NFP and the use of condoms, as if the former is “okay” whilst the latter is “sinful.” This disconnects the action from the will and intent of the actors. As such, I find the article itself to be inconsistent, for it initially attempts to establish the idea that the “use of any means of preventing sexual intercourse from resulting in conception” is per se sinful (i.e. it establishes contraception as a sin based on the intent to prevent conception from sexual intercourse), however it then goes on to arbitrarily advocate a very “means” of fulfilling the intent that was just condemned, simply upon the basis that it’s a “natural” act. I can think of other “natural” methods that require no artificial barrier or intervention — how about “spilling the seed”? Not only does such a natural method of contraception involve no artifical barriers or products, but it also does not require any sort of abstinence as NFP requires. The distinction between “natural” and “artificial” is simply meaningless if both are performed with the same mens rea in order to promote the same ultimate ends.

Furthermore, that NFP encourages abstinence between couples is meaningless. I do not know about other Orthodox Church’s, but the Coptic Church fasts approximately 75-80% of the year; there is the nativity fast, the great lent fast, the fast for the Virgin St Mary, the fast of the Apostles, as well as the regular Wednesday and Friday fasts for every week of the year. I think that is enough abstinence for one year, and couples should have the right to control conception for those other non-fasting periods; we are not rabbits, we are rational human beings, and our reproductive organs were given to us by God, along with a rational mind and free will i.e. He has given us the gift of being “co-creators" and the ability to discern (with the help of a spiritual adviser - as is the case with any decision one makes) when to carry out that "human" aspect of the human-divine synergic process of creating a human being, and when to go about preventing it.

Peace.
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« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2005, 12:11:24 AM »

But if you read the link, you will see Fathers condemn barriers.

Why is this that the Coptic Church doesn't also condemn them?
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« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2005, 12:29:43 AM »

Drewmesiter,

As I believe my previous post has proven, if we were to interpret some of those quotations of the Fathers in the same manner that the author of that article has interpreted them, NFP is then likewise condemned (for the apparent underlying basis of their condemnation is the intent to accomplish a particular ultimate ends, and not the means by which such an ends is accomplished), so why doesn’t the Catholic Church also condemn NFP?

The two possible explanations for the positions of those Fathers as I see it, and as would need to be further investigated, are a) they are reflecting a primitive understanding of sex that is still developing within the Church, even till this very day, and hence not applicable to this day, b) they are being taken out of context. Contraception isn’t an issue I’ve studied in any depth; so far my posts have just been guided by what I believe to be common sense.

Peace.
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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2005, 12:44:08 AM »

I can think of other “natural” methods that require no artificial barrier or intervention — how about “spilling the seed”? Not only does such a natural method of contraception involve no artifical barriers or products, but it also does not require any sort of abstinence as NFP requires. The distinction between “natural” and “artificial” is simply meaningless if both are performed with the same mens rea in order to promote the same ultimate ends.

I'm not going to delve too much into this debate since a) I am not a Copt and b) I have made my opinions known on this issue before but I want to add a few comments.  Spilling the seed is not a natural act, it is a disordered act condemned by God and the canons of the Church (I am not sure if the Coptic canons outline this but the Byzantine ones do).  Only finishing off of vaginal intercourse via ejaculation is natural.

Quote
I think that is enough abstinence for one year, and couples should have the right to control conception for those other non-fasting periods;

Even when we do not fast we cannot engage in gluttony; contraceptive sex is just gluttony of the reproductive organs.

Quote
we are not rabbits, we are rational human beings, and our reproductive organs were given to us by God, along with a rational mind and free will

Good point. Since we are not rabbits, we do not have sex because of animal instinct.  Given that intercourse for pleasure that is contraceptive is based on animal lust (not all sex has to be to have children but on the converse no sex can morally be closed to life), it makes sense that God gave us a brain to be able to control these urges.

Quote
i.e. He has given us the gift of being “co-creators" and the ability to discern (with the help of a spiritual adviser - as is the case with any decision one makes) when to carry out that "human" aspect of the human-divine synergic process of creating a human being, and when to go about preventing it.

Peace.

There is only one way to avoid having children that is moral: don't have sex.

Anastasios

PS I am not talking about exceptions that we have gone around and around on on this forum. Just basic, healthy, child-bearing age people with no extinuating circumstances (like my wife and me).
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« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2005, 01:06:29 AM »

Quote
Even when we do not fast we cannot engage in gluttony; contraceptive sex is just gluttony of the reproductive organs.

Dear Anastasios,

I respectfully disagree with this assertion.  Gluttony is to abuse or overdo something.  To have sex daily is absolutely gluttony, but to have sex once with contraceptives is not gluttony.

To say this, that the Coptic Church supports a certain "sin" to be practiced is insulting to the Coptic Church.

I've also mentioned that St. Paul himself is not against having sex for simply having sex, or at least that's how I was taught interpreting it.  One is to abstain from it, absolutely, just like you must abstain from eating your ice cream, unless then you want to call taking just one scoop of ice cream once in a blue moon as "gluttony".

God bless.
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« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2005, 01:14:50 AM »

Anastasios,

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Spilling the seed is not a natural act, it is a disordered act condemned by God and the canons of the Church

I think you miss my point, which is, that spilling the seed is about as natural as NFP — the act of depositing the seed with the intent to prevent conception, and the knowledge that conception will not occur. Both NFP and spilling the seed are based on the same “why” and “what” — the only difference is that the “why” and “what” of the former is achieved by the “when”, whilst the “why” and “what” of the latter is achieved by the “where.”

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I think that is enough abstinence for one year, and couples should have the right to control conception for those other non-fasting periods;

Even when we do not fast we cannot engage in gluttony; contraceptive sex is just gluttony of the reproductive organs.

And who is to say it is gluttony? Gluttony is defined by excess in a thing, and not that thing per se. A couple with two children, who wish no more, and who adhere to the fasting regulations of the Church and hence abstain from sexual relations for approximately 75-80% of each and every year, and who practice contraceptive non-abortive sex moderately in the non-fasting periods of the Church, are not committing a sinful thing; they are both lawfully and moderately enjoying a God-given gift.

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Since we are not rabbits, we do not have sex because of animal instinct.

You don’t believe in “making love”? That’s a shame. Fortunately, some of us do.

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it makes sense that God gave us a brain to be able to control these urges.

It also makes sense that God made sex pleasurable, and a thing to be lawfully and moderately enjoyed on the holy and undefiled bed of a married couple.

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There is only one way to avoid having children that is moral: don't have sex.

Well I beg to differ. In any event, and correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think the Eastern Orthodox Church has ratified or exonerated one particular position over another on this issue?

Peace.
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« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2005, 01:54:07 AM »

Dear Anastasios,

I respectfully disagree with this assertion.ÂÂ  Gluttony is to abuse or overdo something.ÂÂ  To have sex daily is absolutely gluttony, but to have sex once with contraceptives is not gluttony.

I disagree completely.ÂÂ  One time having contraceptive sex is too much *if* contraception is wrong (I say if because I admit I have not proven my case and we are disagreeing on the level of opinion at least at this point).

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To say this, that the Coptic Church supports a certain "sin" to be practiced is insulting to the Coptic Church.

It's not my intention to insult the Coptic Church at all, and given my track record of admiration and support for the Non-Chalcedonians I am sure you know that is not my intention.ÂÂ  However, from my point of view, the use of contraception IS a sin, and I am shocked that a Coptic bishop endorses it, and furthermore even endorses the IUD, which is an abortion-causing device.ÂÂ  The fault is not the Coptic Church's but seems to me to lie with some bishops who have not thought through the issue clearly enough.ÂÂ  One of our EO bishops in California recently stated that he supported gay civil unions (but not church blessings) and one has to oppose him as well; to do so is not an insult to the EO church but merely opposing error which can infiltrate any church body.

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I've also mentioned that St. Paul himself is not against having sex for simply having sex, or at least that's how I was taught interpreting it.ÂÂ  One is to abstain from it, absolutely, just like you must abstain from eating your ice cream, unless then you want to call taking just one scoop of ice cream once in a blue moon as "gluttony".

Saint Paul encourages sex between married people but given that he does not address the topic of the unitive and procreative aspects of sex, he cannot be taken as the sole source of our theology on sex.

Anastasios
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« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2005, 02:10:20 AM »

Anastasios,

I think you miss my point, which is, that spilling the seed is about as natural as NFP — the act of depositing the seed with the intent to prevent conception, and the knowledge that conception will not occur. Both NFP and spilling the seed are based on the same “why” and “what” — the only difference is that the “why” and “what” of the former is achieved by the “when”, whilst the “why” and “what” of the latter is achieved by the “where.”

I tend to agree with you, however, abstaining from sex cannot be equated with deliberately spilling seed. One is intrinsically evil while the other is a morally neutral choice.

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And who is to say it is gluttony? Gluttony is defined by excess in a thing, and not that thing per se. A couple with two children, who wish no more,

They "wish" no more? Small familes is a problem in and of itself that the Church needs to address.  "It's ok to just have one or two" seems to be a secular teaching that is infiltrating all of our Churches at an alarming rate.

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and who adhere to the fasting regulations of the Church and hence abstain from sexual relations for approximately 75-80% of each and every year, and who practice contraceptive non-abortive sex moderately in the non-fasting periods of the Church, are not committing a sinful thing; they are both lawfully and moderately enjoying a God-given gift.

If contraception is in itself a sin--and I believe it is--then it doesn't matter if you do it once or 1000 times. It's still a sin and an abuse of God's sexual gift.

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You don’t believe in “making love”? That’s a shame. Fortunately, some of us do.

I didn't say that, thanks.  Notice I said that not all sex has to be for procreation (i.e. you don't have to say "ok I want a baby, so this time it's ok for me to have intercourse) but rather that all occasions of sex must be open to life. In other words, one can go about making love with his wife whenever he pleases (outside of fasting times) as long as each time he does it, he is open to life by not preventing conception.  While I agree that NFP can be abused, at the same time, with NFP you are not ever having sex in a way that is not open to life in that you are not artificially modifying the body.  (I am arguing both for and against NFP in this thread because I am still undecided on this point, of whether NFP is licit).

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It also makes sense that God made sex pleasurable, and a thing to be lawfully and moderately enjoyed on the holy and undefiled bed of a married couple.

I doubt any holy father would approve of "recreational sex" and I fail to see how being closed to life is "love." Emotionally, sure love exists there, but it's not the spiritual love that God gave the couple.  Sex must be about uniting a couple AND being open to life which is the natural product of physical life.

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Well I beg to differ. In any event, and correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think the Eastern Orthodox Church has ratified or exonerated one particular position over another on this issue?

It is my contention that it has, but that is why I am an Orthodox traditionalist, because the majority of Eastern Orthodox in this country at least would probably disagree with me.  Many will tell you there is "no offical Orthodox position" or that "one should consult his spiritual father."  I would contend from my research that this is erroneous but I am not going to fight this battle to the point that I alienate our posters who disagree with me.

Anastasios
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« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2005, 03:37:30 AM »

Quote
It's not my intention to insult the Coptic Church at all, and given my track record of admiration and support for the Non-Chalcedonians I am sure you know that is not my intention.  However, from my point of view, the use of contraception IS a sin, and I am shocked that a Coptic bishop endorses it, and furthermore even endorses the IUD, which is an abortion-causing device.  The fault is not the Coptic Church's but seems to me to lie with some bishops who have not thought through the issue clearly enough.  One of our EO bishops in California recently stated that he supported gay civil unions (but not church blessings) and one has to oppose him as well; to do so is not an insult to the EO church but merely opposing error which can infiltrate any church body.

The problem with your criticism is that it is not only against one bishop.  Sure if there are disagreements within the Coptic Church, then your post is justified.  But this is something that the whole Coptic synod agreed to, not just this one bishop.

HG Bishop Serapion, the bishop we're talking about, used to be a physician and knows what he's talking about in these issues, at least I hope so.  There are several forms of IUD, forms which cause abortion, and forms which prevent fertilization.  We obviously condemn any abortifactents, but the other forms of IUD are acceptable.  This is what I was told about HG's interpretation of the issue.

I can agree with you that we must condemn any bishop that supports heresy or sin.  But in this issue, the whole Coptic synod (100+ bishops) have agreed, and many which could have had the same beliefs as you, but nevertheless with an open mind, they all accepted it.

God bless.
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« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2005, 04:24:50 AM »

Anastasios,

Quote
abstaining from sex cannot be equated with deliberately spilling seed.

However, this is not the equation that I was making. I was equating the act of depositing the seed via vaginal intercourse with the knowledge that the season in which such an act is performed will not allow for conception, with the spilling of the seed elsewhere. Both acts are performed with the intention of preventing conception and the knowledge that conception will not take place.

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"It's ok to just have one or two" seems to be a secular teaching that is infiltrating all of our Churches at an alarming rate.

A “secular teaching”? I didn’t know that the number of children “okay” for a couple to have, was either a “secular” or even a “religious” teaching - this is all new to me. Surely in the complexity of modern life, couples are able to use their God-given reason to discern for themselves (under the guidance of their spiritual adviser) the appropriate, reasonable and consequently responsible, amount of children to have.

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If contraception is in itself a sin--and I believe it is--then it doesn't matter if you do it once or 1000 times.

True that, however, I was addressing the issue of gluttony, and gluttony has nothing to do with the unlawful, but rather the unlawful excess of the lawful.

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Notice I said that not all sex has to be for procreation

Excellent, we can agree this far at least — that makes things easier…

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but rather that all occasions of sex must be open to life.

This makes us akin to rabbits as opposed to rational human beings endowed with free will, choice and reason. As I stated previously, we are co-creators with God in the human-divine synergic process that results in new life. All our actions are subject to His will, but we act with knowledge, reason and choice, not uncertainty, negligence, or even recklessness — which is how I’d describe a couple having intercourse with no specific intention, plan, or even preparation for new life, yet being “open to it.”

Peace.
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« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2005, 12:18:02 PM »

Dear minasoliman,

Is there any material in English that details the Coptic Synod's statements on this issue or any deliberations, etc?  Since you state that this article is not merely Bp Serapion's teaching but the entire Coptic Church's, I would like to see what the reasoning is, etc.  I still am very surprised that the Coptic Church--which is the most ascetic Church I know of--allows contraception.  I don't mean to be offensive, it just really does surprise me.

EkhristosAnesti,

The issue of the number of children is an important one, and the Catholics have done the best job of discussing it.  I am sure you can find some material online.  I would like for Orthodox to have this type of discussion in an Orthodox millieu but it seems like many Orthodox have turned a blind eye to the topic or are like you and didn't realize that there are people (like me) who think that this is even an issue Smiley

"This makes us akin to rabbits."

You could use this argument to support many things that we have the ability to do but shouldn't.  We can genetically engineer animals, but should we?  I believe that Christian life entails a lot of denial of our abilities.  We have the free will to not do something irresponsible, which I believe contraceptive sex is.  I would describe a couple who marry when they are unable to care for children to be behaving recklessly as procreation is one of the primary reasons for marriage (the first reason is mutual salvation, with procreation and union of the couple coming in right after that. I would argue you can't have true union without procreation being a possible outcome, nor can you have procreation if you are not united).  One cannot have the fruit without the toil.

Anastasios
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« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2005, 02:12:02 PM »

Anastasios,

Let me recap the points you make in order to expose some inconsistencies within your position:

(1)   “I would describe a couple who marry when they are unable to care for children to be behaving recklessly as procreation is one of the primary reasons for marriage”
(2)   “We have the free will to not do something irresponsible..”
(3)   "not all sex has to be for procreation"
(4)   "all occasions of sex must be open to life"

(1) is a sound principle that I agree with; a couple ought to be prepared and able to raise children before considering marriage (since procreation is an essential purpose to marriage) and would be deemed irresponsible if they headed into marriage otherwise. However, a couple cannot reasonably be considered reckless if they head into marriage unprepared to raise an indefinite amount of children. In fact it would be (a) reckless of them to head into a marriage if they were be (b) inevitably open to the possibility of being the guardians of an indefinite amount of children, yet also (c) unprepared for the possibility of being the guardians of an indefinite amount of children.

Combining your propositions (3) and (4), your position entails that the average married couple should be (b) inevitably open to the possibility of being the guardians of an indefinite amount of children. I would however argue that common sense dictates that all couples are by default (c) unprepared for the possibility of being the guardians of an indefinite amount of children, due to the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, your conception of marriage [which entails (b) + (c) as a consequence of (3) + (4)] is by definition (a) reckless, and hence in contradiction to proposition (2).

How thus do we reconcile 1), 2), 3), and 4) such that they are in harmony? Well you have two choices - 1) modify (3) just a little so that it reads, "all sex has to be for procreation", or 2)  modify (4) just a little so that it reads: “not all occasions of sex must be open to life.”  Wink

Peace.
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« Reply #26 on: September 20, 2005, 02:27:29 PM »

His Grace Bishop Youssef of the Coptic Orthodox Church, essentially affirms the point that I was trying to prove above, as the basis for the permissability of contraception within the Church: i.e. to prevent irresponsibility and recknlessness:

Source: http://suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=23&catid=52

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The issue of birth control is governed by three important factors: faith, health and economy. Faith in God induces us to bless marriage and childbearing, trusting that God is able to provide means of livelihood for all. Health considerations orient this faith towards regard for the health of the mother and children. Economic considerations should induce the family to sit down first and calculate not only the expenses of food, drink and clothing, but also all the obligations involved in the process of bringing up the children.

The church cannot prohibit the means of contraceptives and command upon people to reproduce without limit while missing to provide help for those unable to bring up children, otherwise she would involve the family in poverty, illness, and ignorance and cause the state economic crises which it cannot cope with due to over-population.

In using contraceptives, attention should be paid toward the mechanism of action. Some contraceptive are abortificant e.g., the morning-after pill is NOT a contraceptive; it is an abortificant. These contraceptives, which are abortificant, must not be used.

Family planning can be done without contraceptives using some careful cycle calculations. Copts who observe correctly all the fasts of our church should not have great difficulty controlling birth.

Peace.
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« Reply #27 on: September 20, 2005, 05:56:50 PM »

Part of this argument seems to point to "spilling the seed" as sin, in differentiating Byzantine and Coptic perspectives.  The Coptic church perspective is that it is a natural process of man to have an emission, otherwise he is sterile (recall Origen and his unacceptable self-castration), but disorder arises from lacking purity of intention.  For example, if a man is having marital relations using a condom, then this is acceptable, but the church fathers recommend not using contraception early in marriage so that a couple may know if they are fertile and produce children.  (Biologically speaking, as an aside, a man's ejaculate contains millions of individual sperm, not all of which reach an an ovum and die.)  The two purposes of sexual relations within a proper marital context is twofold:
1.  A physical manifestation of love between man and woman.
2.  Procreation.

Many, particularly the Romans, point to this sin of Onan, as a Biblical reference to this alleged disorderment, but the sin of Onan was not one of "spilling seed."  Rather, Onan disobeyed God by not impregnating Tamar, and subsequently died as a result.  The Byzantine canon seems to focus on the propriety of use rather than the purity of intention, as in the Coptic tradition.  Thus, sin is attributed to the context of the act, not so much the matter of dispensation alone.  If a man is using his sexuality within a Christian marital context, then not only is he in the right, but also fulfilling his obligation as husband, and the bed is undefiled.  If the case is otherwise, a man is subject to sin.

     
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« Reply #28 on: September 20, 2005, 11:30:09 PM »

Drewmesiter,

As I believe my previous post has proven, if we were to interpret some of those quotations of the Fathers in the same manner that the author of that article has interpreted them, NFP is then likewise condemned (for the apparent underlying basis of their condemnation is the intent to accomplish a particular ultimate ends, and not the means by which such an ends is accomplished), so why doesn’t the Catholic Church also condemn NFP?

The two possible explanations for the positions of those Fathers as I see it, and as would need to be further investigated, are a) they are reflecting a primitive understanding of sex that is still developing within the Church, even till this very day, and hence not applicable to this day, b) they are being taken out of context. Contraception isn’t an issue I’ve studied in any depth; so far my posts have just been guided by what I believe to be common sense.

Peace.

For the most part, I see NFP and barriers as the same thing (as they both stop conception), EXCEPT one major thing: NFP doesn't break the uniative aspect of nature.  Do you, or any other Copt, care to comment on the COC's position on how barriers break the uniative aspect? 

Thanks.
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« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2005, 03:13:55 PM »

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For the most part, I see NFP and barriers as the same thing (as they both stop conception), EXCEPT one major thing: NFP doesn't break the uniative aspect of nature.  Do you, or any other Copt, care to comment on the COC's position on how barriers break the uniative aspect?

Barriers are okay to use in marriage, as aforementioned.  However, as stated on the Southern US Diocese website:

"In using contraceptives, attention should be paid toward the mechanism of action. Some contraceptives are abortificant e.g., the morning-after pill is NOT a contraceptive; it is an abortificant. These contraceptives, which are abortificant, must not be used."

and:

"Family planning can be done without contraceptives using some careful cycle calculations. Copts who correctly observe all the fasts of our church should not have great difficulty controlling birth."

This is very clear.  As long as abortion of any life is avoided, barriers are fine within the proper marital context.  It would be a ridiculous notion that every time a married couple initiates copulation, a baby would have to result.  I say this with the obvious understanding that not every time a couple has sex without barriers fertilization will result.  I also know that God gave man common sense and free will, and he will be responsible before God with regards to his children.

Now then, I have a question posed for the Eastern Orthodox brethren: I would like clarification on what is meant by this statement on the goarch.org website:

"The possible exception to the above affirmation of continuity of teaching is the view of the Orthodox Church on the issue of contraception. Because of the lack of a full understanding of the implications of the biology of reproduction, earlier writers tended to identify abortion with contraception. However, of late a new view has taken hold among Orthodox writers and thinkers on this topic, which permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health."

http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7101.asp

And:

"The control of the conception of a child by any means is also condemned by the Church if it means the lack of fulfillment in the family, the hatred of children, the fear of responsibility, the desire for sexual pleasure as purely fleshly, lustful satisfaction, etc."

"Again, however, married people practicing birth control are not necessarily deprived of Holy Communion, if in conscience before God and with the blessing of their spiritual father, they are convinced that their motives are not entirely unworthy. Here again, however, such a couple cannot pretend to justify themselves in the light of the absolute perfection of the Kingdom of God."

http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=147&SID=3

It seems to me that the ruling is up to a man's conscience.  It is something that really should be discussed between a man (or woman) and father of confession.

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« Reply #30 on: September 23, 2005, 07:42:01 AM »

Do you, or any other Copt, care to comment on the COC's position on how barriers break the uniative aspect?

Can you elaborate upon what you mean exactly by "[breaking] the uniative aspect"?

Peace.
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« Reply #31 on: September 23, 2005, 10:28:16 AM »

Dear minasoliman,

Is there any material in English that details the Coptic Synod's statements on this issue or any deliberations, etc?ÂÂ  Since you state that this article is not merely Bp Serapion's teaching but the entire Coptic Church's, I would like to see what the reasoning is, etc.ÂÂ  I still am very surprised that the Coptic Church--which is the most ascetic Church I know of--allows contraception.ÂÂ  I don't mean to be offensive, it just really does surprise me.

I can't find any texts write now.ÂÂ  But I remember a sermon by His Holiness Pope Shenouda (he has hundreds of sermons) that says "The Coptic Church believes..." and goes on about the matter supporting non-abortive contraceptives.ÂÂ  There is another Coptic bishop I heard say that there is nothing wrong in contraceptives, but you can always use natural contraceptives when having sexual relations (i.e. a woman's menstrual cycle), suggesting that he may advise against, yet not condemning it.

The clearest point is that it seems all Coptic bishops believe, according to many bishops, that using non-abortive contraceptives is not a sin.  As a matter of fact, I've never heard a Coptic bishop that clearly condemns it.ÂÂ  If I find a text of the Holy Synod, I will share it.

God bless.
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« Reply #32 on: September 23, 2005, 10:48:28 AM »

Can you elaborate upon what you mean exactly by "[breaking] the uniative aspect"?

Peace.

I have had it explained to me that they break the uniative aspect because they don't allow the man to finish inside the woman.
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« Reply #33 on: September 23, 2005, 11:30:44 AM »

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I have had it explained to me that they break the uniative aspect because they don't allow the man to finish inside the woman.

Well, technically speaking the man is able to finish inside the woman; that there is a piece of rubber preventing the secretion from reaching fertile ground does not change this. Furthermore, the quoted statement attempts to look at sex from a technical, mechanical and somewhat legalistic perspective, which is ironic considering the fact that the “uniative aspect” of sex concerns the emotional and spiritual experience involved — it is on a metaphysical level, and hence not subject to the technical physical detail of whether Mr. Joe is going in clothed or in his birthday suit. As such it is just as possible for a couple to break the uniative aspect of sex in the absence of contraception, as it is for a couple employing contraception, for in the end it comes down to intention (is the act motivated by the selfless desire to achieve an emotional and spiritual bond, or simply for personal recreation/entertainment?), emotion (love, compassion, affection) and spiritual experience.

Peace.

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« Reply #34 on: September 23, 2005, 11:37:05 AM »

Well, technically speaking the man is able to finish inside the woman; that there is a piece of rubber preventing the secretion from reaching fertile ground does not change this. Furthermore, the quoted statement attempts to look at sex from a technical, mechanical and somewhat legalistic perspective, which is ironic considering the fact that the “uniative aspect” of sex concerns the emotional and spiritual experience involved — it is on a metaphysical level, and hence not subject to the technical physical detail of whether Mr. Joe is going in clothed or in his birthday suit.


But couldn't then one argue, then, that saying that you can't use abortifacients is being legalistic?

(BTW, I am NOT advocating the use of abortifacients, ever).
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« Reply #35 on: September 23, 2005, 11:58:27 AM »

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But couldn't then one argue, then, that saying that you can't use abortifacients is being legalistic?

The Church’s prohibition against abortifacients has nothing to do with their relationship to the “uniative aspect” of sex, so your question doesn’t really challenge my above response in any way; it’s kind of a red herring really.

Peace.
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« Reply #36 on: September 23, 2005, 01:05:26 PM »

Oops, I deleted my post after you deleted your last post, thinking I had posted it twice by accident.

Sorry!

The post I made was:

If it is legalistic to say "you can't use barriers, but you can use NFP", isn't it legalistic to say: "you can use barriers, but you can't use abortifacients"?

EA, could you repost what you wrote?ÂÂ  I found it informative.  Thanks!
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« Reply #37 on: September 23, 2005, 01:08:39 PM »

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Sorry, I didn't ask the question well.  Since you said that it can become legalistic by saying "you can't use barriers, but you can use NFP", can't one also say that saying "you can use barriers, but you can't use abortifacients" is legalistic?

Legalism, briefly defined, is the literal interpretation of the law applied without due regard for its spirit or essential purpose.

The spirit or essential purpose of the promotion of the “uniative aspect” of sex concerns the metaphysical (as I have briefly explained above), hence to disqualify the use of “barriers” on the basis of its alleged defiance of the uniative purpose for sex, upon the observation that there is a physical rubber barrier preventing the secretion from being in physical contact with the female reproductive organ, is a blatant example of legalism.

The spirit or essential purpose of the law prohibiting murder is to protect the sanctity of life. To condemn abortifacients on the basis that they deprive an already brought into being life, of ever seeing the light of day, promotes the spirit or essential purpose of the law, and is thus not legalism. Now some may debate as to when “life” actually begins, and consequently argue that one’s condemnation of abortion is based on a fundamentally legalistic conception of “life” - the charge of legalism in this context is not based on the misunderstanding of the spirit or essential purpose of the law and hence the manner of its application, but rather regards the nature of the facts to which the law is applied, and hence there really is no analogy even if we were to assume that pro-abortionists could validly cry legalism. In fact, there simply is no analogy period since the whole abortion debate simply has no relevance to the validity or non-validity of the use of contraception with respect to whether or not it promotes the "uniative aspect" of sex; it’s simply a whole separate debate, and hence, a red herring.

Peace.
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« Reply #38 on: September 23, 2005, 01:27:25 PM »

I would assume, though, that the COC is against any forms of sterilization?
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« Reply #39 on: September 23, 2005, 01:39:12 PM »

Yes, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III condemns sterilisation as a violation of the sixth commandment on page 24 of his book The Ten Commandments Volume III.

Peace.
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« Reply #40 on: September 23, 2005, 01:46:37 PM »

Thanks!
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« Reply #41 on: September 28, 2005, 09:17:53 PM »

Today, in class, some students were joking about artificial contraception.  But when I heard this, and trying to think from a Coptic perspective, how can one possibly stand up and say, "Please stop, what you are joking about isn't funny" if you are Coptic, since the COC supports contraception?

Thanks for any advice.

(EA, if you happen to come see this message, check your inbox Smiley)
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« Reply #42 on: September 29, 2005, 09:43:22 AM »

Today, in class, some students were joking about artificial contraception. But when I heard this, and trying to think from a Coptic perspective, how can one possibly stand up and say, "Please stop, what you are joking about isn't funny" if you are Coptic, since the COC supports contraception?

They can joke all they want, why should one be bothered by clowns?

The Coptic Orthodox Church’s stance on contraception is, as I believe has been sufficiently proven, both sensible and practical. The approval of contraception does not challenge the highly ascetic nature of the Church (as one — I cannot remember who — implicitly/explicitly argued earlier), which regulates and promotes fasting periods that cover over 60% of the year (in which one is to abstain not only from dairy and meat products, but also sexual relations), and its purpose is not to encourage “recreational sex”, but rather to respond to the legitimate concerns of the Church as briefly outlined by His Grace Bishop Youssef.

Can it be abused? Surely it can — as can anything, but this does not make it inherently sinful in and of itself. In addition to the strict fasting regulations of the Church, which in themselves are intended to help the believer accomplish theosis by building up virtues of self-control and purity (virtues that do not just “disappear” once the Church’s fasting periods are completed, but which are rather well-established in one’s character if one has fasted properly in accordance with the Church) - and which thus help the believer exercise moderation and self-control in all that they do - there is always the issue of one submitting all their decisions and thoughts to the discernment of their spiritual adviser; the general believer should not feel as if they can freely apply a Bishop’s general sanction on a matter at any circumstance and time that they wish.

In conclusion, the sanction of contraception is reasonable, sensible, practical and responsible, when correctly applied (as the Church intends) within the context of a controlled environment encompassing rigorous ascetic ideals and submission to one’s spiritual adviser - I personally don't see anything funny here, the joke is not on the Holy Spirit inspired Coptic Orthodox Church, but rather on those kids who mock in ignorance.

Peace.
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« Reply #43 on: September 29, 2005, 06:20:58 PM »

The problem with your criticism is that it is not only against one bishop.ÂÂ  Sure if there are disagreements within the Coptic Church, then your post is justified.ÂÂ  But this is something that the whole Coptic synod agreed to, not just this one bishop.

HG Bishop Serapion, the bishop we're talking about, used to be a physician and knows what he's talking about in these issues, at least I hope so.ÂÂ  There are several forms of IUD, forms which cause abortion, and forms which prevent fertilization.ÂÂ  We obviously condemn any abortifactents, but the other forms of IUD are acceptable.ÂÂ  This is what I was told about HG's interpretation of the issue.

I can agree with you that we must condemn any bishop that supports heresy or sin.ÂÂ  But in this issue, the whole Coptic synod (100+ bishops) have agreed, and many which could have had the same beliefs as you, but nevertheless with an open mind, they all accepted it.

God bless.


Yes indeed.


I would also say I find the Church's consistency on the matter comforting as far as pastoral care is concerned.  ÃƒÆ’‚ Furthermore the EO is all over the board on this issue.  ÃƒÆ’‚ You go to one priest he is against it.  ÃƒÆ’‚ While another is for it, and allows it.


I know a very nice EO deacon.  ÃƒÆ’‚ His wife right now is on contraception for health reasons, mostly as well as finacial ones.  ÃƒÆ’‚ Since they have 5 kids, and take care of his mother in law and money every so often is tight.


Really if this is a sin then there should be universal policy among the EO, that comdemns it and forbids it.  ÃƒÆ’‚  Because the way it is done now, it is really up to the conscience of every spiritual father to decide for his congregation.  Which to me looks extremely arbitrary....


Furthermore, I think any out and out banning of it, wouild be putting on a "heavy yoke" on those people.  ÃƒÆ’‚ Kind of like the Catholic Church in Central America, with all the poverty, malnutrition etc. that comes from their dogma.
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