Even though I'm not Orthodox anymore, the arguments you listed are a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so I hope you will forgive me for rushing to Orthodoxy's defense! ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š As to why they are a pet peeve, it is because these are two of the main reasons that e-pologists like Dave Armstrong give for brushing aside Orthodoxy on their way to Catholicism. This, in my view (even as an agnostic) is downright strange (I'm trying to be nice!)
Our Church's apparently more permissive attitude toward divorce and remarriage
Indeed the Orthodox are. Or not. Depending on how you look at it. The Orthodox are more compassionate
, in that they are willing to grant a divorce when one is obviously needed, rather than (like the RCC) making a person flip backwards through 10 hoops--for years on end, I might add--to get the Church to agree that they were never really married to begin with. I have talked to Catholic people who made a mistake when they were younger and married someone that they shouldn't have, and then had to wait, being made to feel guilty all the while, as they filled out all sorts of paper work about the intimate details of their lives for some cleric to read, and waited for years on end to finally be told that they could really
get married (to someone different) now. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
The Orthodox, while not as precisely
following the letter
of the words of Jesus, nonetheless follow the spirit
of his teaching much better. If the Orthodox Church has deemed it proper to grant divorces for reasons other than adultery, and if the Orthodox Church really is part of the Church of Christ (one of the two lungs, in modern RC ecclesiology), and thus she is being led by the Holy Spirit, then why should she not
be allowed to exercize economia (a dispensation) and grant divorces in more cases than are allowed for in Scripture? Certainly the Catholics do not limit themselves to Scriptural injunctions for their moral teachings and practices, but also rely on tradition, nature, and other authorities.
Our Church's apparently more liberal attitude toward contraceptive birth control--I recognize that this is only true of some of our bishops, for many of our bishops are just as opposed to contraceptives as the papacy is.
The funny thing about this argument is that Catholics always cite John Noonan's book on the subject... but if you read that book to the end
, Mr. Noonan contradicts the traditional Catholic position! Noonan also believes that the Church's teachings on Contraception are based on Stoic philosophy (as opposed to, say, oral tradition). Thus, it makes me chuckle when conservative Catholics quote this book as though it's Gospel Truth. Noonan even points out more than once that NFP is not only contraception, but that the most important western theologian, Augustine, explicitly condemned it (well, the ancient version of it). Anyway, I think the contraception thing is a red herring.
First, as with divorce, the Church has the right to guide her flock as she wishes. If she wishes to let people go to a funeral at a Protestant Church, or see a Jewish doctor, or forbids her people from owning slaves, (all positions contradicting former canons/traditions) and so on, then she has a right to. The Catholics taunt Protestants as being unnecessarily bound to Scripture, but then the Catholics turn around and bind themselves to tradition unnecessarily. One day I hope that they develop a 'development of morality' doctrine to go along with their 'development of doctrine' belief. John Noonan, in his most recent book, A Church That Can and Cannot Change
deals with this idea from a Catholic (albeit liberal Catholic) perspective.
The second reason that this argument is a red herring is because, as I already mentioned, the RCC herself allows contraception. It's called Natural Family Planning. Let them read Noonan and all the other books they want: the Church Fathers condemned the act
of having sex while having the intention
of avoiding pregnancy. It didn't matter to the fathers whether conception was avoided through "passive" or "active" means, or "unnatural" or "natural" means. They did not say "Potions are not ok, but the rythym method is," or anything of that sort. Those who spoke against contraception, spoke against all
efforts to avoid conception. I might also add though that generally speaking, the Eastern Fathers were somewhat less concerned with this idea.
I mean, I don't want to play the East Vs. West card or anything, but I think that it's pretty clear from even a casual look at the topic of sexuality that the East was less strict than the west. This is clear not just when it comes to contraception, but also whether sexual pleasure is sinful, whether priests should be celibate, and so forth. I think that David Ford does a pretty good job at summarizing this in his book In Women and Men in the Early Church: The Full Views of St. John Chrysostom
, which (apart from this debate) is probably also the best (and most practical) book on marriage that I've read.