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Author Topic: Economia / Consult Your Spiritual Father  (Read 679 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: July 23, 2012, 02:29:18 AM »

While recognizing that these things are an essential aspect of our Orthodox Faith, I honestly struggle with the concept, because I think it has been abused. Too many times on this forum and elsewhere, when serious moral or ethical questions are at stake, the answer is "Ask your Priest." This poses two main problems as I see it: 1) it seems far too subjective and relativistic, and 2) it seems to make every Priest a "Pope" of his own parish, whereby he can individually decide whether or not it is ok for married couples to use birth control, whether or not a girl can get an abortion, whether or not someone can divorce their spouse, etc.

These concerns were highlighted last week when I attended an Orthodox Bible Study at a Greek Orthodox Church. The Priest, who I respect very much, made two comments that were both disturbing and contradictory in my estimation. He was discussing the topic of Confession, and a lot of questions were raised. Someone asked why penance should ever include abstaining from receiving the Holy Eucharist. The Priest said that such penance is very rare, and even when it is given it is usually only for a short period of time. But then he said that a woman once came to him and said that another Priest had told her she could not receive the Sacraments for ten years, because she had confessed to having an abortion. The Priest at our Bible Study said he could do nothing to undo the penance that she had been given. I think everyone here who has read my numerous posts knows how strongly I feel about the issue of abortion, but even I thought it to be overly severe to give a woman who has confessed an abortion a penance of abstaining from the Eucharist for ten years. But then again, I don't know the whole story. Perhaps the woman was a repeat offender who had confessed this sin multiple times before, and the Priest felt he needed to help her realize the severity of her sins. I don't know.

Anyway, to continue the story... Later during this same Bible Study, the Priest made a second statement saying there are only two instances where the Church allows abortion: in the cases of rape or incest. I raised my hand and as respectfully as I could I explained that I thought he was mistaken about that. I have never heard any such Church teaching (maybe there is a difference in this regard between my EOTC Church and the Greek Church.) Presvytera explained that she works in a hospital and has seen certain situations where abortion and euthanasia are the best options. I was deeply troubled and disturbed by this, and I gently but firmly expressed my disapproval without pressing the issue to the point of unnecessary contention.

So, there seemed to be two contradictory extremes. On the one hand a woman was refused Communion for ten years because she had an abortion, and on the other hand it was stated that euthanasia and abortion are essentially issues of "economia." 

I really need to go to Confession soon, badly! But now I am terrified because I feel that I am placing myself at the arbitrary whim of an individual Priest. And while I respect this Priest very much, his statements at Bible Study really gave me pause. I have complete trust in the Teachings and Traditions of the Church, but I am leery of individual Priests who seem to be wishy washy or ill informed about vital moral issues such as abortion, birth control, etc. And I certainly don't want to "Church hop" until I think I have found the perfect Priest, as that was the pattern I too often fell into during my Protestant years.

I know it is ultimately a matter of faith, and I am planning on going to Confession soon regardless of my concerns. But my main question here is about these concepts of "economia" and the "ask your Priest" thing. Isn't there a grave danger that individual Priests will advise or counsel things that are actually contrary to Church Teaching? I do realize that if a renegade Priest is consistently giving out unOrthodox advice or teaching things contrary to the Church that they will be held accountable by the Bishop and probably "defrocked" (if that is an Orthodox term?) But the problem is that Confession is private and personal, and so if a Priest is giving unOrthodox advice then how will he ever be held accountable?

Well, I know this post and these questions were not articulated very clearly, but I hope you get the gist of my concerns. I really would appreciate some sound Orthodox answers here.

Thank you. Smiley



Selam 
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2012, 03:40:01 AM »

Two posts which already deal with this issue:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,30486.msg697251.html#msg697251
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,30486.msg697191.html#msg697191

To sum it up: euthanasia and abortion are murder; however, with abortion, if the mother's life is endangered, that might give reason to reduce the penance, and with euthanasia, the proscription of euthanasia does not mean that extreme medical measures must be used in order to extend the patient's life at all costs, when death is imminent.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2012, 03:46:34 AM by Cavaradossi » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2012, 09:30:59 AM »

The main reason to go to confession is to confess your sins to Jesus Christ and to receive absolution. Go for that reason and with that focus.

You aren't using birth control or aborting babies, so the level to which any given priest imposes penances on people who do use birth control or abort babies isn't relevant.

As for your fear of harsh penances (the example you gave simply follows St Basil's canon): Very few priests nowadays, especially in the West, impose penances of any length. In your particular case, it seems very, very, very, very unlikely the priest would do so. So, what's the worry? If you want to be harder on yourself, you always can be, but I see no reason to expect anything worrisome or arbitrary.

Finally, penance is predicated on a relationship: that the penitent voluntarily seeks reconciliation with Christ, the Church, and voluntarily submits to the penance as a pedagogical experience. Personally, I am not at all convinced that a penance given is somehow magically or legally binding. Yes, there are folk traditions about this, but I don't see solid canonical or theological roots to them. Anyway, a penance is not something to be lightly cast aside, but, ultimately, it is up to the person receiving the penance to embrace it, dialogue with the confessor with the hope of having it changed, or simply to go elsewhere for confession.
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2012, 12:27:32 PM »

But then again, I don't know the whole story. 

And that is the crux of the whole matter, IMHO. I certainly think that one can respectfully ask a priest to explain or expound on statements that may seem to conflict with the Church's teachings, as we understand them. And it's perfectly all right to share with a priest how upset you were by his statements.
The most important thing is to realize that we don't know the whole story. If it's on this forum, we're only getting one side.
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2012, 06:47:38 PM »

The main reason to go to confession is to confess your sins to Jesus Christ and to receive absolution. Go for that reason and with that focus.

You aren't using birth control or aborting babies, so the level to which any given priest imposes penances on people who do use birth control or abort babies isn't relevant.

As for your fear of harsh penances (the example you gave simply follows St Basil's canon): Very few priests nowadays, especially in the West, impose penances of any length. In your particular case, it seems very, very, very, very unlikely the priest would do so. So, what's the worry? If you want to be harder on yourself, you always can be, but I see no reason to expect anything worrisome or arbitrary.

Finally, penance is predicated on a relationship: that the penitent voluntarily seeks reconciliation with Christ, the Church, and voluntarily submits to the penance as a pedagogical experience. Personally, I am not at all convinced that a penance given is somehow magically or legally binding. Yes, there are folk traditions about this, but I don't see solid canonical or theological roots to them. Anyway, a penance is not something to be lightly cast aside, but, ultimately, it is up to the person receiving the penance to embrace it, dialogue with the confessor with the hope of having it changed, or simply to go elsewhere for confession.


Thank you very much for this helpful answer.


Selam
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2012, 07:45:48 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Our relationship with our priests is a matter of synergy with God's Grace.  They are not perfect, just as we are not perfect, they are human like ourselves.  Personally, that is what brings me to confession, knowing the priest and myself are on an equal footing in this regard.  However, similar to the Guru relationship in Indian thought, the priest is sent by God in our lives in a dynamic, individual, and spiritual way.  God speaks to us through our priests, sometimes when we and they agree, and other times when we and they do not.  We are always changing, always in flux, always healing, always wounding, always getting closer to God will trying to resist the centrifugal force of Sin and doubt.  No, priests are not infallible, and there is sometimes an inconsistency, but this actually a gift from God, that He is not rigid with us because we have no room for rigidity in our fluctuating lives.  God changes the rules for us according to what we need, and where we are at, where we are going.  The priests are part of this process.  We do not take their word necessarily as Gospel, but God moves us through them.  If they challenge us, it is God challenging our inner demons.  If they mutually reinforce us, it is God giving us encouragement in the right direction, but either way it is God who gives the increase or the chastening admonishment.  

We say, "Ask your priest" because the books are not infallible, and a fundamentalist approach is legalistically and scholastically flawed compared the the mystics and Mysteries of Grace in synergy with the Holy Spirit and ourselves.  When I talk with folks about these kinds of matters I like to say, "Ask your priest."  Then I conclude by saying, "If you do not have a relationship where you can confess this with your priest, that is where you need to begin in the first place, so find a priest."  This relationship with our priests reflects the depth of our relationship with God, but with all humanized matters it is a process, a becoming, a verb.

stay blessed,
habte selassie

« Last Edit: July 24, 2012, 07:47:26 PM by HabteSelassie » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2012, 08:08:03 PM »

I think that the "consult your priest" comes from the fact that someone who is able to talk to you, knows you, and can peal back layers and at the same time has training in the subject (cf. 6th Can. 102) can deal best with the subject, and certainly better than random posters on an internet forum that happen to see it.   
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2012, 12:13:09 AM »

Thank you Father, and thank you Habte for the good wisdom. I believe in the Sacrament of Confession, and I will avail myself of it in spite of my fears. It is a matter of faith after all.

I agree that personal and intimate guidance with one's Priest is a better source of guidance than reading the scattered opinions on an internet forum. However, I also believe that Priests should uphold and affirm Church Teaching and not adjust it to fit subjective situations. For example, I can understand how penance for abortion can be determined by the individual situation, but I cannot understand how any Priest could advise a woman that aborting an unborn child is acceptable for any reason.

One thing that brought me to Orthodoxy and helps me to remain Orthodox is the fact that the Teachings and Traditions of the Church are biggger, deeper, and truer than the opinions of individual men. Priests and Bispops may err, but the Church will endure uncorrupted by the errors of individuals.

Thanks again for the good insights.

Pray for me, a sinner.


Selam
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2012, 12:46:11 PM »

I think too many times with so many variables, we seek the right answers from sources that may not know or are difficult for those sources to answer.  In the case of abortion and the mother's life being in danger, some may just say "let God's will be done".   As far as birth control goes, I didn't see God create us with birth control.

Remember that priests can make mistakes, and have on numerous occasions been wrong.  Their ordination does not make them perfect.  I disagree with your priest if he said "abortion is okay in incest and rape".   It is murder.  There is always adoption and other options available.

What ifs can stray us in bewilderment. 

The objective is to follow God on the narrow path.  Use the golden rule if you don't know.  If you were a baby of rape or incest would you want to be aborted?  If you were your spouse would you want to be divorced? 

Love one another.
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2012, 12:53:46 PM »

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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2012, 02:43:01 PM »

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« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2012, 03:18:35 PM »

I agree that personal and intimate guidance with one's Priest is a better source of guidance than reading the scattered opinions on an internet forum. However, I also believe that Priests should uphold and affirm Church Teaching and not adjust it to fit subjective situations. For example, I can understand how penance for abortion can be determined by the individual situation, but I cannot understand how any Priest could advise a woman that aborting an unborn child is acceptable for any reason.


True, but still there are ways to say it with difficult topics, as St. Jude informs us:   "And on some have compassion, making a distinction;but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh."  On internet forums you get nonsensical arguments that you will never get from a priest, such as suggestions that abortion is not murder because we call it abortion  Roll Eyes    The truth is that abortion is a specific type of murder, and that is why it has a particular name, just like every other type of murder:  patricide, suicide, etc.  

Quote
One thing that brought me to Orthodoxy and helps me to remain Orthodox is the fact that the Teachings and Traditions of the Church are biggger, deeper, and truer than the opinions of individual men. Priests and Bispops may err, but the Church will endure uncorrupted by the errors of individuals.

This is true, and that is why Bishops and Priests are subject to censure, suspension, or deposition when they step out of line with the Teachings of the Church.  As St. John Chrysostom teaches, if a Priest, Bishop, or even parent, tells us to do something immoral and against the teachings of the Church, we are obliged to not obey, for we must obey God rather than man.  Of course St. Pauls goes even stronger that if even an Apostle or Angel from heaven should instruct otherwise than the Gospel received via the sacred paradosis, their instruction is anathema.  




« Last Edit: July 25, 2012, 03:19:20 PM by FatherHLL » Logged
Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2012, 07:49:20 PM »

I think too many times with so many variables, we seek the right answers from sources that may not know or are difficult for those sources to answer.  In the case of abortion and the mother's life being in danger, some may just say "let God's will be done".   As far as birth control goes, I didn't see God create us with birth control.

Remember that priests can make mistakes, and have on numerous occasions been wrong.  Their ordination does not make them perfect.  I disagree with your priest if he said "abortion is okay in incest and rape".   It is murder.  There is always adoption and other options available.

What ifs can stray us in bewilderment. 

The objective is to follow God on the narrow path.  Use the golden rule if you don't know.  If you were a baby of rape or incest would you want to be aborted?  If you were your spouse would you want to be divorced? 

Love one another.


Amen and amen.


Selam
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« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2012, 07:50:34 PM »

I agree that personal and intimate guidance with one's Priest is a better source of guidance than reading the scattered opinions on an internet forum. However, I also believe that Priests should uphold and affirm Church Teaching and not adjust it to fit subjective situations. For example, I can understand how penance for abortion can be determined by the individual situation, but I cannot understand how any Priest could advise a woman that aborting an unborn child is acceptable for any reason.


True, but still there are ways to say it with difficult topics, as St. Jude informs us:   "And on some have compassion, making a distinction;but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh."  On internet forums you get nonsensical arguments that you will never get from a priest, such as suggestions that abortion is not murder because we call it abortion  Roll Eyes    The truth is that abortion is a specific type of murder, and that is why it has a particular name, just like every other type of murder:  patricide, suicide, etc.  

Quote
One thing that brought me to Orthodoxy and helps me to remain Orthodox is the fact that the Teachings and Traditions of the Church are biggger, deeper, and truer than the opinions of individual men. Priests and Bispops may err, but the Church will endure uncorrupted by the errors of individuals.

This is true, and that is why Bishops and Priests are subject to censure, suspension, or deposition when they step out of line with the Teachings of the Church.  As St. John Chrysostom teaches, if a Priest, Bishop, or even parent, tells us to do something immoral and against the teachings of the Church, we are obliged to not obey, for we must obey God rather than man.  Of course St. Pauls goes even stronger that if even an Apostle or Angel from heaven should instruct otherwise than the Gospel received via the sacred paradosis, their instruction is anathema.  







Father bless. Agreed. Thank you.


Selam
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