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Author Topic: Noonan: Contraception  (Read 8087 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: April 13, 2003, 04:01:22 PM »

Anyone who's even glanced at the debate concerning contraception has no doubt heard of John T. Noonan's book on Contraception. I just recently finished it, and will post some comments in a few days, but while I'm collecting my thoughts (and notes Grin ), I figured I'd post on here and see if anyone else has read this book?

One reason I ask is because I already had my mind made up "going in" as to what my position was, and I knew that the book wasn't going to change my mind (since I knew from quotes that it more or less agreed with what I believe). I'm curious as to how those without a deeply held belief one way or the other were effected by the text. One other reason that I'm asking is because I tended to focus on a few issues in particular, and probably won't give a balanced "review" of the content in any further comments I make. I don't want to misrepresent what the book discusses (or to what extent the book discusses certain subjects), so I was hoping others would post.

____
I guess before I post this I'll give a few short paragraphs of my thoughts on the book.

First, not that many Church Fathers were discussed; or at least, not as many as I had hoped for. Noonan's justification for this was that only a few fathers were actually original or special in their treatments (Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, and a few others). I guess that's a fair excuse, though as someone who was particularly interested in the patristic understanding, some additional fathers being mentioned would have been nice.

Second, I saw nothing in this book to justify the usage of NFP among Orthodox/Catholics. Noonan even notes that the first explicit condemnation of contraception is ironically the only contraceptive form allowed by 20th century Catholic theologians. He says from page one that NFP has as it's purpose to prevent conception, and therefore is contraception. I'm a bit mystified how Dave Armstrong, et al. can justify using this book so extensively when Noonan doesn't even agree with such an important--and directly related--aspect of their belief on this matter.

Third (probably of little interest to anyone other than me), celibacy within marriage was not only allowed, but actually suggested in some cases. What was condemned by Chrysostom and other fathers was the practice of two non-married people trying to live together as "brother and sister". Married people, on the other hand, are told that it's best to be celibate in a number of cases (financial problems, don't want any more children, etc.)

Fourth, Noonan was much more liberal* minded than I had expected, which was  big let down. Now, he wasn't on the level of Hans Kung or anything like that, but he's still more liberal than an Orthodox could accept. His whole methodology was flawed as well, which made the book pretty much useless in some areas (where you had to trust his scholarship since he didn't have enough time to build a case in the text to demonstrate what he was saying).

Justin

* By liberal I mean the opposite of traditional. E.g., he went along with the whole line of scholarship that casts doubt onto the authenticity of numerous letters of saint Paul. So, when comparing 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, he acts as though their are two authors, and that there is some theological/practical friction between them.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2003, 04:03:54 PM by Paradosis » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2003, 04:35:33 PM »

Justin, I haven't read Noonan's book, and I don't intend to.  Concerning contraception: as far as I am concerned, this is a private matter for the couple to decide with their father-confessor, and is no one else's business.  Once children are already in the picture, health (especially on the part of the mother) and financial considerations may demand it.  Procreation is *not* the sole purpose of marriage--otherwise, it would be ridiculous to have the Orthodox Marriage Service for elderly couples far beyond childbearing years.  And sexual continence *within marriage* is not for everyone.  Pastoral considerations must also be made for the fact of "mixed marriages," wherein the non-Orthodox Christian partner may, in conscience, subscribe to using contraceptives after children have come into the picture.

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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2003, 06:01:52 PM »

Hypo-Ortho

Quote
Concerning contraception: as far as I am concerned, this is a private matter for the couple to decide with their father-confessor, and is no one else's business.

Agreed!

Now, if more Orthodox Christians would start giving them non-distorted information about what the Fathers taught on this issue, and a real discussion would take place, then people would have some reliable data to make a decision with. After all, you said the couple should decide with their father-confessor: but this begs the question: what data will they be using to come to their decision?

There's another issue here. Sex is a private matter: but that doesn't mean the Church says nothing about sex. Whether a couple has oral sex is not my concern, or yours, it's the couples and their confessor. However, this being a "private" matter doesn't mean that no one ever talks about the general Orthodox position on oral sex. I think this is getting confused today: people recognize that sex is a "private matter," but then falsely assume that this means there are no general principles to go by and that no standards can be outlined.

Quote
Once children are already in the picture, health (especially on the part of the mother) and financial considerations may demand it.

Well it's not my business to judge individuals if this is the case; however, the Fathers would suggest that contraception should be avoided if at all possible. (this illustrates what I was trying to get at: the general principle is "don't use it if it can be helped," while the application is a private matter)

Quote
Procreation is *not* the sole purpose of marriage--otherwise, it would be ridiculous to have the Orthodox Marriage Service for elderly couples far beyond childbearing years.

A number of Church Fathers (and not just those following Augustine) would disagree with you, but I happen to agree. There is one, or perhaps two, other reasons for having sexual relations; marriage is a whole other ball game entirely, with there being many more reasons for getting married (sexuality is, after all, a very small part of us, one that won't even continue into the afterlife, but is earthly and temporary).

Quote
And sexual continence *within marriage* is not for everyone.

I agree. It's extremely difficult, and those who have insisted on such a rule for living were rightly condemned.

Quote
Pastoral considerations must also be made for the fact of "mixed marriages," wherein the non-Orthodox Christian partner may, in conscience, subscribe to using contraceptives after children have come into the picture.

Agreed, fidelity and a loving attitude is more important than most other aspects of the discussion.  

Again, it's none of my business whether hypo, anastasios, nicholas, mor, or anyone else uses contraception with their wives. However, that being said does not prevent me from posting what the Fathers thought about the issue. Smiley



Edit: I guess what I'm saying is, I'd like to give a somewhat more balanced look at what the Fathers taught than is normally given, that way couples can make their decision based on more information (and, IMO, info more true to what the Fathers actually taught). If they disagree either with 1) what I say, or 2) what the Fathers say, then I can't/won't judge them for that (or I'll try not to at least, though I need to do a better job, I realise)
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« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2003, 06:45:18 PM »

I don't want to sound obscene, but what do the Holy Fathers teach on different sexual acts? I guess my question is that for a married couple, are all things permissible sexually?
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« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2003, 06:58:56 PM »

Dear friends,

The traditional Orthodox position cannot allow for contraception.  Hypo is right that marriage is never for procreation alone, but one cannot separate procreation from other purposes of lovemaking.  They go together like Bobby (our other Administrator) and stupid jokes  Tongue; in other words, inseparable.

My opinion is that articifical contraception is wrong under all circumstances.  It is not a personal matter between husband and wife (this idea is to me a totally Protestant import into Orthodoxy--I know, because I used to be Protestant and let me tell you when some Orthodox defend contraception they sound just like Protestants) since family life and Church life are inseparable; if contraception is intriniscally bad, it will have bad effects on a marriage; if it has bad effects on a marriage, it will have bad effects on the Church. I do not use contraception with my wife, btw, just for anyone who wanted to know   Smiley

NFP is an acceptable alternative I believe since it uses the natural knowledge that God gave us about a woman's fertility cycles to make responsible choices if spacing of children is needed for financial reasons, health reasons (i.e. another pregnancy would hurt the woman), etc. Again, I don't even use that at this time but would if my spiritual father, wife, and I decided that it was in our best interest.

Fr. John Schroedel wrote a wonderful thesis on Contraception called "Orthodox Christianity and Contraception".  You can order a copy probably from St. Vladimir's Seminary Library for a fair copying price.  I have it in front of me right now.  To see some of his work online, visit:

http://home.uchicago.edu/%7Ejas/stephanos/index.html

Now that being said, I would NEVER judge an Orthodox using contraception (as long as it is not abortofacient such as the pill) since I cannot judge my brother, but I merely felt the need to speak up against the idea that "anything goes" as long as the spiritual father okays it.  For instance, if my spiritual father said it was alright to watch erotic movies so that I wouldn't cheat on my wife, I'd have to wonder....  Tongue (I am trying to keep this discussion light since it is in actuality so very serious).

In Christ,

anastasios
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« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2003, 06:58:59 PM »

I don't want to sound obscene, but what do the Holy Fathers teach on different sexual acts? I guess my question is that for a married couple, are all things permissible sexually?

Sinjin, to the pure, all things (that they do) are pure.  Since most of the Holy Fathers were monks and strict ascetics, I don't think that I've ever read where they proscribed specific sexual acts for married couples.  Chastity--both in and outside of marriage--is what the Holy Fathers counseled.

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« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2003, 08:11:56 PM »

A good book to check out is "Love and Responsibility" by Pope John Paul II (I know, I know, he's an ecumenist heretic Wink). Very hard to read, but covers just about everything on human sexuality. I agree with you, anastasios, contraception is inherently immoral, considering its effect on marriage, which is really an image of the Trinity. Married couples should not introduce anything that will disfigure that image, whether it be celibacy without the consent of the other or crass materialism. Good discussion!

Matt
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« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2003, 10:55:44 AM »

Ok friends, help me understand!

1) The goal of NFP is to avoid conception through a knowledge of biology.

2) The purposeful avoidance of conception is called contraception.

So how is NFP ok? Smiley

Would the Fathers have ok'd NFP? No, actually such methods (in admittedly archaic forms) were among the first methods to be talked about in a negative light (ie. not allowed). Pro-creation was the key to sex (not  necessarily marriage) for the Fathers. Curbing lust was another thing that some Fathers were concerned with, but it was always with pro-creation in mind. The Fathers simply didn't allow actions that would fulfill sexual desire while leaving no room (or trying to avoid) procreation. Augustine admitted that he didn't know anyone who thought about pro-creation every time they had sex, but that was the goal set by the Fathers, nonetheless (sort of like other nearly unattainable goals we must work at, such as "be ye perfect")

Therefore, oral and anal sex, masturbation, etc. were not permitted. Pro-creation wasn't, of course, the thing that had to be kept in mind for infertile couples, and infertile couples (or elderly couples in general) did not have to cease from have sex (though they were counselled to do so, and some Fathers thought it was shameful for those beyond the child-bearing years to have sex, but these were usually the Fathers who considered procreation the only proper use of sex).

But back to NFP, what the Fathers were against was the intentional prevention of conception. Fasting from sex during times appointed by the Church (e.g., Lent) was not an intentional avoidance by the couple, so it was ok. Skipping having sex during the times of the month that the woman was deemed to be able to conceive, on the other hand, wasn't allowed. (more quotes will follow, once I get everything organized).

The Fathers did not draw such sharp distinctions between "natural" and "mechanical," between "passive" and "active". Perhaps such a distinction needs to be made today; if so, I'd love to hear it. NFP seems like the best of the worst, so to speak; the least of the evils, if contraception has to be used (and when I say that, I am not just following Augustine Wink ).

As to what acts are allowed and what aren't, I think it depends on whom you ask. Some penitential literature gets quite explicit about what is and isn't aloud (check out this page to get an idea of what I mean), while other early Church texts are pretty vague. Essentially, most Fathers went along a basic line that anything that avoided or would prevent conception would not be allowed. A possible second reason for sex for some fathers was the curbing of lust, but in their mind, doing sexual things that didn't allow for conception was not curbing lust, but was in fact giving into and indulging lustful wants. They did not see oral sex and masturbation as a "release" or "relaxing" action, or one that could be used in the bedroom.

I've read Fr. John's paper (he was kind enough to send it to me a few months ago), and I very much appreciate his effort. He told me that he had gotten a mixed reaction, but that Fr. Thomas Hopko had told him that everyone he knew who had deeply investigated the issue came to the same conclusions (more or less) as Fr. John. On the other hand, Fr. John also allows for NFP, if I remember correctly, one reason that I'll ask him to critique what I write when I write it Smiley (I know my effort will be insignificant, but he has links to things like Indiania List posts on his site, so I know he's willing to consider/read things from even peons like me Grin )

Anyway, I know my stance on this will be accepted by... oh, about... .01% of the Church, lol. This is how I see the Fathers as teaching, though, and I see nothing that would make things different today (unlike other areas of praxis, where our context has necessitated changes)

Justin
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« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2003, 11:57:40 AM »

OK - I have not read the book and I am RC but I was a teacher of NFP so can I come in for a bit ?

Now my understanding of NFP is that there are in fact several methods - Billings [ ovulation method] and then Sympto Thermal [ lots of things built in to this] and then Billings +Sympto Thermal.

Now we were taught that unless you use everything [ do you really want all the details here ?] then no one method is 100% 'safe' so in fact each act of intercourse is open to the conception of a child.

Yes there are times when the perceived risk is greater than at others - but so much can throw the woman's cycle off balance that you can never be 100% sure that conception cannot occur. Therefore the belief is that NFP is an aid to spacing a family rather than a method of preventing a child's conception.

And because both partners have to be involved in NFP it becomes a method of strengthening the bond of love in that marriage - it is essential for the couple to talk about it and make joint decision about whether or not parenthood at that time is a good idea .

Frankly one of the greatest causes of Female infertility is ascending infection - and I don't know whether any one has ever done research into the use of some of the Sympto Thermal indicators actually contribute to the risk of infertility.
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« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2003, 12:05:06 PM »

I have also read (on a somewhat related note) that there is only a less than 1% divorce rate in families that use NFP, regardless of their religious affiliation. NFP can also be used to try and get pregnant, where other forms of birth control cannot.
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« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2003, 12:26:07 PM »

Nik

NFP can also be used to try and get pregnant, where other forms of birth control cannot.

That is very very true - I have taught couples who had been unable to conceive, and by the use of Billings did indeed conceive and have more than one child. Indeed where I taught we had couples referred by their GPs for help, before they went down the rocky path of investigations leading to IVF etc.
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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2003, 05:44:01 PM »

Quote
And because both partners have to be involved in NFP it becomes a method of strengthening the bond of love in that marriage

The problem with this is that the Fathers almost never mention sexual relations when they (rarely) speak of some type of "bond of love" within marriage. When they do speak of the bond through sexual relations, guess what the glue is that makes the bond? Children! Suprise, suprise, procreation is the bond that forms a "bridge" (as Chrysostom says) between the couple. Grin

Now I don't want this to come off wrong or offend anyone, so please don't take this too personally, but the only people who talked about anything close to a "bond of love" or "spiritual experience" within marriage by sexual means were heretics such as the gnostics. Admittedly, these heretics were way out there, and so the Fathers polemics against them should take that into consideration. It's still noteworthy, though, IMO, that the early saints never speak of sex as being good in itself (as though the experience in itself is of benefit, forming some type of bond or being some type of mystical union). Any good that can come from sex is always a byproduct of sexual relations (children, not being tempted to have sex with other women, etc). Most of the Fathers would even be hesitant to say that the sex was "good" in itself, but instead, they'd say that sex led to good things, and therefore was necessary and justifiable.

Some Fathers (such as Augustine) talked about sex in relation to food and I think this is a good comparison. Both can be pleasurable, but both can be easily abused. Both are should be used in moderation, and you shouldn't ordinarily go until you've "had your fill". Both have very practical, good benefits, but both are earthly and will pass away in the next life. Following some of the more moderate fathers, we might also say that both are enjoyable, and that there's nothing wrong with enjoying them, so long as they don't lead you astray (e.g., by eating/doing too much).

Back to NFP, I'd be happy if someone would make a case for it; it'd make my own life much easier, and do the same for others I'm sure Smiley Let me say something right now, just so no one thinks I'm trying to come down hard on everyone in a legalistic sense. I use contraception. Shocked I admit it, I use it (a conservative use of the rythym method, if it matters). My wife has a heart condition that would put her at great risk should she become pregnant (her body couldn't handle the stress). So we had to make a choice, and we decided that, at this point, we weren't capable of being celibate 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. So we decided that it'd be better to take on a "lesser sin" than to take on more than we could handle.

So, if and when I say anything in this conversation, I do not say it as someone who thinks that he's got everything down pat, and all his bases covered. I say it as someone still struggling with the issue, but simultaneously, someone struggling to know what the Fathers actually taught, and conform my life as best I can to that standard. This is probably more information than most of you want, but I think it's important if someone is going to understand my posts. If you didn't want to know.. um... well forget you read this Smiley

Justin
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« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2003, 05:47:21 PM »

Justin, even in NFP were considered bad, I think out of ekonomia because of your wife's heart condition it would be allowed.
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« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2003, 05:52:03 PM »

Perhaps nicholas, but wouldn't that imply that NFP was generally wrong? If ekonomia is used, then the "allowed" action would be the exception that proves the rule, no? Smiley

Perhaps this is a question to put to my new spiritual father!  Grin Grin Grin
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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2003, 06:03:35 PM »

But Justin I said, "IF". Cheesy I am not claiming it is, but if it was, out of ekonomia I am sure it would be allowed for your situation. I have never asked my spiritual father, as I am a single man and have no such concerns.

Yes, you probably should ask your spiritual father. And perhaps, with permission, you can add his comments here.
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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2003, 06:04:16 PM »

Justin, I've been where you are--twice.  NFP never worked for my wife and me as her menstrual cycle was, to put it mildly, irregular and unpredictable.  We lost two children--one was a stillbirth, the other an "incomplete abortion," i.e., miscarriage, in the fifth month. My wife's doctors warned her against pregnancy--she had to stay in bed for five months for one pregnancy, and her blood pressure went sky high.  Her mood swings following pregnancy were quite difficult to deal with--our living children sometimes patiently, sometimes not so, put up with them out of love for their mother, but it was a struggle.  

We're long past that now--she's finished her menopause, we have four living children and six grandchildren, so contraception is no longer an issue I/we have to deal with.  But whatever we did, we did in consultation with our father-confessor and my wife's physicians after much prayer, thought, study and deliberation. I/we have no regrets, no pangs of guilt.  We did what we had to do.  It's easy for those not in the situation and who lack pastoral experience to constantly quote the Fathers.  I mean no disrespect, but which of the Fathers (or the men here) was ever medically-dangerously pregnant?

Hypo-Ortho

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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2003, 06:12:53 PM »

Hypo,

Quote
It's easy for those not in the situation and who lack pastoral experience to constantly quote the Fathers.  I mean no disrespect, but which of the Fathers (or the men here) was ever medically-dangerously pregnant?

Well, I don't have pastoral experience, but I do know the situation personally Smiley And no Father (or Church Mother) that I know of ever had the type of situation mentioned (though numerous Mothers and Fathers did give up sexual relations because of other reasons). However, I affirm an epistemological outlook that does not require direct experience for knowledge. One could ask how saints can read the minds of people, or know the future? It is by the grace of God; so to, IMO, do even celibate saints understand the problems of married peoples (was not the most moderate father, Chrysostom, celibate?).

Justin

PS. Thank you for sharing!  Grin
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« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2003, 06:14:22 PM »

Nicholas,

Right you are! My bad.  Cool
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« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2003, 06:23:37 PM »

Paradosis<<It is by the grace of God; so to, IMO, do even celibate saints understand the problems of married peoples (was not the most moderate father, Chrysostom, celibate?).>>

Indeed, the great Archbishop of Constantinople, Saint John the Golden-mouthed, was celibate.  However, he was also no prude and his attitude towards marriage and sex was healthy, unlike that of *some* of the monastic ascetics who treated sex in marriage as a "necessary evil."  And Chrysostom never mentions *specific* sexual acts within marriage, to my knowledge.

Once again, my brother Justin, I would, after much prayer, defer to the advice of my spiritual father and your wife's physicians.

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« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2003, 06:30:42 PM »

Hypo,

Your situation seems to have been something in the past where maybe economia could have been used, I guess.  However, with the new methods of NFP which have much greater effectiveness (not in existence 25 years ago) based on more than just guessing the cycle, such as temperatures and checking of the fluids, a very very very high rate (comparable to the rate of condoms) of success can be achieved for persons in a situation where children can morally be "spaced" or "avoided" (such as the situation you described).  Irregular cycles are not a problem at all with the NFP "technology."

anastasios
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« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2003, 08:04:55 PM »

I guess from reading this thread sex=bad in Orthodoxy, unless it is done for procreation which makes it less bad but it is still not good.  And that is it REALLY better if we all would just stay single and follow the angelic path. That is more virtuous and not as bestial as marriage can be.  Singleness can be such a blessing to all. Why can't God just form people out of sand??? Why do we have to do all the dirty work? After all, it is dirty work according to some holy fathers.  By the way, you should be like us single folk who don't think about sex and instead think about how to please our God.


One other thing, I don't think this board should be used to air one's dirty laundry. If you cannot have sex with your wife because of some medical problem, frankly no one cares. That is between you, your wife, your spiritual father, and God. Not everybody on this discussion board needs or wants to know about it. For instance, I am currently choosing between graduate schools. Is it anyone's business? No. Does anyone care? No. I know I sound harsh here, and I am sorry to hack some people off but there are some things that should not be discussed. Angry
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« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2003, 08:20:54 PM »

sinjin,

Are you logos from ROCORcafe? If so, I would redirect you to the answers I gave over there. My answers havn't changed, and if they have, they are more sympathetic to the modern view of sexual relations, and less focused on following the Fathers to the letter. I believe, to be blunt, that you are allowing your emotions to color everything you read on this subject. e.g.:

- No one said sex was bad. It isn't "good" (ie. righteous or holy) in itself, but then neither is eating, but no one is saying that we must stop eating to get to heaven (though admittedly, most Fathers teach that we must curb out desire to eat...)

- Most Fathers taught (and I'll give lots of patristic examples in a few days) that if procreation is avoided, then sex is bad. End of story. If this offends you, I suggest you pray that God show you why the Fathers taught this.

- Yes, it really would be better if we were all celibate, according to Saint Paul. Virginity is the most virtuous, and celibacy is also a higher path than sex.

- We were formed out of the sand. Doing the dirty work is what leads to salvation. The struggle you are going through right now is a fine example. Your choice could set in motion numerous other things that could very well be extremely beneficial or extremely detrimental to your hope of salvation. You must only ask yourself: will I follow God, or will I follow only that which I can understand.

- Btw, I'm married, I do have sex, I and do use contraception (which I consider to be a sin). The "it's monastics forcing their morality onto us" argument gets a bit tedious after a time. Lips Sealed

Justin

PS. Just saw what you added; I gave the information to provide a context, so that young fellows like yourself couldn't boo hoo about how I don't know (experientially) what I'm talking about. You haven't always been private about your own life on various fora either, sinjin--though perhaps your emotions were clouding your judgment so much that you didn't realise how much you were wearing your personal life on your sleeve. Wink
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« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2003, 08:48:21 PM »

I do wear my life on my sleeve. That is the way I am, and if you can't accept it, well don't read my posts. As for me not being private on other fora, I was giving my honest opinion on those subjects. Again, you do not have to read my posts.

Did I say that one should just have sex for the sake of having sex? No, I did not imply that. Rather, I was only repeating the many lectures on great the life of celibacy is. I like it and I think it is good. It is much more difficult to live in celibacy because everyone around you is carnally minded and always thinking about marriage and children and sex.  And if you are not a part of the married persons club at church, you are kind of weird and a pariah.  Frankly, I think sex is gross and probably highly overrated. Lips Sealed  Why soil yourself with some daughter of Eve when you can live like the angels? If this offends, there are some fathers who viewed women with suspicion just as there are holy fathers that take a strong stance against sexual activity. Third, I know we are made from dirt. But why must we do the dirty work? Doing the dirty work can lead one to a life in hell as well as in heaven. Why can't God just make us out of sand and let us concentrate on worshipping him instead of copulating like a bunch of rabbits? Here is another thing, in the resurrection, there will be no marriage, no child rearing, no birth of children, so why in the here now do we do something that is totally different from what God intends? I am looking for arguments other than because 'man is fallen.'
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« Reply #23 on: April 14, 2003, 09:08:10 PM »

I do wear my life on my sleeve. That is the way I am, and if you can't accept it, well don't read my posts. As for me not being private on other fora, I was giving my honest opinion on those subjects. Again, you do not have to read my posts.

Perhaps I am the only one who sees it this way, but I think it is very hypocritical of you to say this, while in a previous post, coming out against someone for just the same sort of thing, particularly when you yourself do it, and much more so.  Maybe you should take your own advice and not read posts that might include such things?    

Frankly, I think sex is gross and probably highly overrated. Lips Sealed

It seems to me that, whatever your feelings regarding sex being good in and of itself or only instrumentally so or only leading to good things, but being neutral or whatever, this is an unhealthy attitude.
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« Reply #24 on: April 14, 2003, 09:10:56 PM »

Sinjin, have you come to a point where you have decided to live the celibate life? It is sounding this way since the way you talk is different from the old Sinjin that always wanted a girlfriend. When you think of the biology in detail of the functions of sexual relations, yes things can be gross indeed.

In my church the single are not treated different, I am sorry that this has been your experience.

As for why God had us procreate? I think its to better understanf Him. When one has children, often it makes them understand why there has to be rules and while discipline is in order. Plus it gives us great power & responsibility to make our own flesh and blood into saints, not to mention understanding the a paradigm of sending your own son to be a sacrifice for many.
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« Reply #25 on: April 17, 2003, 01:20:02 PM »

To a certain degree, I think the conversation on this matter is misguided.  Too much of the debate is labouring under the whole notion that this subject is entirely black and white - that perhaps it is not simply a matter of "right and wrong", but also "perfection" and "falling short of perfection."

The greek word in the Bible for "sin" is hamartia which literally means "missing the mark".  Understood this way, it is no wonder Orthodox Christians spend so much time accusing themselves of being sinners.  This is not false humility; it is the truth.  Even great saints, often failed to be perfect.

Yet this is the calling given by the Saviour - "be ye perfect".  He managed to do this, being God and man - and we move towards it by being assimilated to the likeness of God (by grace).

We are counseled in the Holy Scriptures to give liberally, to the point of making one's self poor - to forgive all wrongs committed against us, and turn the other cheek when struck (how many of us have ever done this?!).  Yet these incredible things, are what we are called to do.  And if we fail to do them, we have sinned, plain and simple.

Thus, why Orthodox Christians spend so much time apologizing.  Truly, we are saved by grace, and not by works (if we were, we'd all be in a heap of trouble.)

It does no good, to whitewash just what the evangelical perfection is in this case - that sexual relations in marriage are for children; any other usage is a form of sexual gluttony.  Do some people have good excuses for totally abstaining from procreative relations?  Of course (health, financial reasons, etc.)  However, did such people have to resort to contraception (or so called "NFP", which I agree, is simply the least of several evils, and not morally neutral) though?  No, they did not.  Such was a capitulation to weakness.  Had they been so inclined, they would simply have fasted from sexual contact.

That sounds harsh, but I don't say it with a finger pointed, since I fully understand this weakness, being a terrible (and married) sinner myself.  I say it, if anything, to accuse myself, and not judge anyone else's situation.

Seraphim
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« Reply #26 on: April 17, 2003, 02:46:46 PM »

Sorry, definately an issue that I'm "too close to" to speak about correctly. Forgive me through God, as I ask forgiveness from him and from you. bbl
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« Reply #27 on: April 18, 2003, 09:04:12 AM »

I have also read (on a somewhat related note) that there is only a less than 1% divorce rate in families that use NFP, regardless of their religious affiliation. NFP can also be used to try and get pregnant, where other forms of birth control cannot.

Actually, I think this is not entirely true. It is common among Orthodox Jews, for example, to use the "Pill" prior to marriage to synchronize the menstrual cycle in order to guarantee that the marriage can be consummated on the wedding night (ritual purity and all that). If it can used for this, surely it could be used to ensure that relations can be timed to the optimal period.

A bit of a moot point considering that the drift of this topic is against regulating fertility at all, but........
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« Reply #28 on: April 18, 2003, 09:23:39 AM »

On a lighter note...

I'm amazed that Orthodox couples ever get pregnant, given that we are not "having relations" for greater than half the year!  Seems like the fasting periods (along with the normal Wednesday/Friday fasts) are rather a God-given form of family planning.  I would think -- at the least -- this would provide good spacing between children!!

 Grin
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« Reply #29 on: April 18, 2003, 09:34:36 AM »

On a lighter note...

I'm amazed that Orthodox couples ever get pregnant, given that we are not "having relations" for greater than half the year!  Seems like the fasting periods (along with the normal Wednesday/Friday fasts) are rather a God-given form of family planning.  I would think -- at the least -- this would provide good spacing between children!!

 Grin
On a more serious note, I wonder how many Orthodox Christians--other than the married clergy, of course--even know that they're supposed to fast from sexual relations on fasting days, much less keep this aspect of the fast (especially given the high percentage of "mixed marriages" here in the USA).

Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #30 on: April 18, 2003, 09:47:23 AM »

Contraception seems, in general, to continue to be an issue. I present an Anglican view on the matter not to argue that it is better but rather to indicate some of the range of ideas on the subject. (There is, IMHO, a lot of legalistic Orthodox and Catholic crap being written by clueless, uncharitable monastics, but at least in the Orthodox case it's pretty clear to me that these people are out of the mainstream.)  I would describe the position I'm about to outline as relatively conservative (except for a few spots where I'll refer to GC statements); obviously you can find people making as liberal a statement as you like (or prefer to dislike).

Anglicans don't accept the teleological assertion that sex is for procreation. Therefore, contraception has never been condemned per se. But its various uses have been criticized at length.

Contraception as an enabler of fornication and adultery is, of course, Right Out. Also, nobody in Anglicanism accepts that there is a difference between "natural" and "artificial" contraception-- from our perspective, it's all artificial. The Episcopal Church used to officially teach that abortion for the purposes of birth control is wrong, though the position of distinguishing between supposedly abortifacient methods (e.g. IUDs) and other methods has never gotten anywhere in Anglicanism. The statement about abortion was backed off from fairly recently, though it's not clear that is going to last. (At any rate the numbers make it quite clear that abortion is mostly used for birth control and only rarely for even tenuously medical reasons.)

As far contraception within marriage is concerned, the predominant view is that regulation of fertility is acceptable within limits. Those who can bear children are expected to do so; using contraception to remain permanently childless is is frowned upon. Total abstenence from sex is also, in general, frowned upon, though not in quite the same way; I think a celebate marriage for certain reasons would be acceptable, but using celebacy strictly to regulate fertility would be disapproved of. The sort of menstrual purity rules that some Orthodox writers have pushed are Right Out; the view is that Acts 15, if not other passages, plainly forbids laying those sorts of rules on people.

Some of the differences here certainly arise because we simply don't accept the "primary purpose of sex is procreation" theory. Also, Anglicanism is intolerant of "how can I get around the rules?" thinking, so a lot of the careful distinctions made elsewhere about acceptable and unacceptable methods don't figure at all for us. The thinking is that if you're trying to work out how to get around the rules, you're probably trying to work out a way to do something you know you shouldn't be doing anyway.
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« Reply #31 on: April 18, 2003, 09:53:45 AM »

Quote
On a more serious note, I wonder how many Orthodox Christians--other than the married clergy, of course--even know that they're supposed to fast from sexual relations on fasting days, much less keep this aspect of the fast

Both of the Orthodox in my household are aware of this, more and more, each and every day as we approach Pascha   Cheesy
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« Reply #32 on: April 18, 2003, 10:39:31 AM »

On a more serious note, I wonder how many Orthodox Christians--other than the married clergy, of course--even know that they're supposed to fast from sexual relations on fasting days, much less keep this aspect of the fast (especially given the high percentage of "mixed marriages" here in the USA).

Hypo-Ortho

I wonder about this myself Hypo.
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« Reply #33 on: April 18, 2003, 02:27:59 PM »


"(especially given the high percentage of "mixed marriages" here in the USA).

Hypo-Ortho"

Well, I'm just a catechumen and I know, so I guess I'm assuming that this is wide-spread knowledge amongst the Orthodox.  

As to "mixed marriages", this is a difficulty where sex is concerned.  As many of you may know, my hubby is (thus far!) not much interested in Orthodoxy.  He is not by any means hostile toward it, just can't quite figure out why I feel so strongly about it.

We have kept the (food) fast in our home -- what he eats when he's at lunch during the daytime at work is his business, but he's been great about it at home.  We have (almost!) kept the sexual fast as well.  I explained to him all aspects of the fast beforehand and told him of my desire to try to keep it.  He has been very understanding.  But he is my husband and I don't think that taking a "NO WAY!" stance on this issue is going to do anything to show him the love of Christ, quite frankly.  So there have been some, shall we say, 'adjustments' made.   Embarrassed

My question is, is this an issue I can discuss with my spiritual father?  I'm not accustomed to speaking about sexual issues with a man other than my husband!
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« Reply #34 on: April 18, 2003, 03:40:42 PM »

javamama<<Well, I'm just a catechumen and [/i]I know, so I guess I'm assuming that this is wide-spread knowledge amongst the Orthodox. >>

Not necessarily so, javamama, not necessarily so.   I have seen callous disregard (with bragging yet!) of the fasting from non-Lenten food by some "cradle" Orthodox in my present and former parishes, so do you really think that such are aware of the fast from sexual relations?  Catechumens are generally much better informed in this area and take it more seriously.  Just my personal observation.

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« Reply #35 on: April 19, 2003, 08:40:25 AM »

My question is, is this an issue I can discuss with my spiritual father?  I'm not accustomed to speaking about sexual issues with a man other than my husband!

Yes it is, he discusses these issues with others too and keeps it all confidential.
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« Reply #36 on: April 20, 2003, 11:19:51 PM »

Dear Paradosis,

I am reading John T. Noonan's Contraception. Janet E. Smith, who wrote one book on Humanae Vitae and edited another, has translated the encyclical, and is a frequent speaker among loyal Catholics, had this to say about about Noonan's Contraception:

In spite of this strong statement about its likely immutability, Noonan's treatment of the history of the Church's teaching subtly supports the hope that it may change. Indeed, the last sentence of Noonan's introduction seems to undercut the force of the paragraph cited (Janet E. Smith, Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later, 1991, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., p. 3).

She has more to say about Noonan's Contraception and much more - Smith's book runs over 400 pages and is very articulate. You may want to check it out.

Here's a link to the text of a speech she gives - Contraception: Why Not?:

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html

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« Reply #37 on: April 01, 2011, 03:35:00 PM »

sex=bad in Orthodoxy, unless it is done for procreation which makes it less bad but it is still not good.  And that is it REALLY better if we all would just stay single and follow the angelic path. That is more virtuous and not as bestial as marriage can be.  Singleness can be such a blessing to all. Why can't God just form people out of sand??? Why do we have to do all the dirty work? After all, it is dirty work according to some holy fathers.  By the way, you should be like us single folk who don't think about sex and instead think about how to please our God.

Did I say that one should just have sex for the sake of having sex? No, I did not imply that. Rather, I was only repeating the many lectures on great the life of celibacy is. I like it and I think it is good. It is much more difficult to live in celibacy because everyone around you is carnally minded and always thinking about marriage and children and sex.  And if you are not a part of the married persons club at church, you are kind of weird and a pariah.  Frankly, I think sex is gross and probably highly overrated. Lips Sealed  Why soil yourself with some daughter of Eve when you can live like the angels? If this offends, there are some fathers who viewed women with suspicion just as there are holy fathers that take a strong stance against sexual activity. Third, I know we are made from dirt. But why must we do the dirty work? Doing the dirty work can lead one to a life in hell as well as in heaven. Why can't God just make us out of sand and let us concentrate on worshipping him instead of copulating like a bunch of rabbits? Here is another thing, in the resurrection, there will be no marriage, no child rearing, no birth of children, so why in the here now do we do something that is totally different from what God intends? I am looking for arguments other than because 'man is fallen.'

Came across this thread on a google search on Noonan. Anyone know what happened to sinjin?

Interesting Roll Eyes summary of thought.
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« Reply #38 on: April 01, 2011, 04:28:43 PM »

Ok friends, help me understand!

1) The goal of NFP is to avoid conception through a knowledge of biology.

2) The purposeful avoidance of conception is called contraception.

So how is NFP ok? Smiley

Justin

Dear Justin,

As long as you do not reject children outrightly, or fear that you would not be able to manage the gift of a child for reasons that rested in your own fears rather than in some very real circumstance...then NFP is permissible. 

The key is in your own heart.  Not in some manual.  In your heart and the heart of your wife.

The best method and least intrusive for spacing children is NFP.   The Church does not demand that you have sex at any particular time.  She only asks that when you do so, regardless of the reason [union or children], that you remain open to life.

But yet again, the goodness of the practice begins and ends in your heart and the heart of your wife and your desire for children and your willingness to trust in God.  The Church can only recommend and asks if you think you have sinned in some moment of weakness, in thought, word or deed that you confess.

Neither Orthodoxy nor the Catholic Church are here to police your life.  You can read your heart.  I know you can...and I've only been listening to you for a few months.

Fear not.

M.

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« Reply #39 on: April 01, 2011, 04:34:50 PM »

Dear Justin,

As long as you do not reject children outrightly, or fear that you would not be able to manage the gift of a child for reasons that rested in your own fears rather than in some very real circumstance...then NFP is permissible. 

The key is in your own heart.  Not in some manual.  In your heart and the heart of your wife.

The best method and least intrusive for spacing children is NFP.   The Church does not demand that you have sex at any particular time.  She only asks that when you do so, regardless of the reason [union or children], that you remain open to life.

But yet again, the goodness of the practice begins and ends in your heart and the heart of your wife and your desire for children and your willingness to trust in God.  The Church can only recommend and asks if you think you have sinned in some moment of weakness, in thought, word or deed that you confess.

Neither Orthodoxy nor the Catholic Church are here to police your life.  You can read your heart.  I know you can...and I've only been listening to you for a few months.

Fear not.

Fwiw, some things have changed since I made that post, but thank you for your post nonetheless Smiley
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« Reply #40 on: April 01, 2011, 04:43:24 PM »

Dear Justin,

As long as you do not reject children outrightly, or fear that you would not be able to manage the gift of a child for reasons that rested in your own fears rather than in some very real circumstance...then NFP is permissible. 

The key is in your own heart.  Not in some manual.  In your heart and the heart of your wife.

The best method and least intrusive for spacing children is NFP.   The Church does not demand that you have sex at any particular time.  She only asks that when you do so, regardless of the reason [union or children], that you remain open to life.

But yet again, the goodness of the practice begins and ends in your heart and the heart of your wife and your desire for children and your willingness to trust in God.  The Church can only recommend and asks if you think you have sinned in some moment of weakness, in thought, word or deed that you confess.

Neither Orthodoxy nor the Catholic Church are here to police your life.  You can read your heart.  I know you can...and I've only been listening to you for a few months.

Fear not.

Fwiw, some things have changed since I made that post, but thank you for your post nonetheless Smiley

  Tongue  wasn't looking at dates   Tongue

Well...you're welcome <smile>
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