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Contraception

ialmisry

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Anastasia1 said:
There is a discussion elsewhere online where Catholics are arguing that contraception leads to objectification. I wish their was a way to explain easily that they are wrong and have them understand it.
Plenty of one night stands with strangers end in preganancy-is it more personal and committed because they didn't use birth control?  Or does it not change the objectification a jot?
 

ialmisry

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minasoliman said:
Antonious Nikolas said:
minasoliman said:
While it may be true that there was a Western issue of seeing sex as an evil due to propagation of Original Sin, I will have to say that it is possible a more nuanced Roman Catholic approach and some EOs I hear would probably be that sex, while not evil, came as a result of the Fall, and thus needed to be used in a regulated manner, like food, ideally.
Sure, everything in moderation.

My perception of sex within marriage - as formed by my previous and current fathers of confession, as well as an older OCA priest I really, really respect - runs pretty much as follows: everything within the marriage - including sex - should be sacramental and holy.  I don't feel "bad" or "dirty" if I have a natural desire for my wife like some self-flagellating, cilice-wearing weirdo.

I agree with Fr. Josiah Trenham that while sex did not exist before the Fall, it can be good if used according to God's design, which does not necessarily mean strictly for procreation.

sexual relations are good only when used according to God's design. God has designed sexual relations for three basic reasons: to avoid fornication, to unite the husband and wife as a powerful adhesive, and to bring forth children to be raised to worship God and for the upbuilding of the Church...Sexual relations in marriage provide a safe and calm harbor to tame and redirect these unruly passions and desires. Sexual relations are also designed to serve as marital glue. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the two shall become one flesh." The physical union of intercourse is designed to strengthen the marital bond by both enacting a very real physical unity and by producing a child, who is a creation not from only husband or wife alone, buy from both the husband and wife together.
http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/frjosiah_sexualrelations.aspx

I also like what this article from the Antiochian Church has to say about "Blessed Sexual Love" and hedonistic practices cheapening and undermining "the holiness and sanctity of sex".

http://www.antiochian.org/node/17964

I don't think some people are willing to acknowledge that there is such a thing as the holy, sanctified and blessed sex within marriage the article describes.

minasoliman said:
We do also have to mention briefly that there is still a remnant of that "Western neurosis" when people still practice the 40/80 rule of churching, where the reason for the 80 days is because a woman gave birth to a woman who will give birth to more babies "in sin", and thus the "double" time for churching.  So we need to clean house on that first and clarify our practices.
I agree.  But I was always taught that the doubling of the time was for a different reason:

http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=7&catid=45
Interesting!  I have recently learned of this reason by a blog by a Coptic blogger, Donna Rizk:

http://learnpraylove.com/churching-of-women-and-baptism-4080-days/

After some search, it seems to be that the quoted email she received is actually verbatim from a Protestant commentary on Leviticus!   :-\

In any case, I recently listened to a podcast with Fr. Josiah, and he seemed to be adamantly against contraception.  He also rebuked any couple who, when getting married, are holding off any plan to have children because "they're not ready".  It seems to me he believes getting children should happen immediately (if possible).  Another interesting tidbit of Fr. Josiah is that he believes eventually in the marriage, a couple should be able to get to a point at their old age where they practice celibacy.

That is not to contradict anything you quoted from Fr. Josiah, but he does hold some other interesting views.
Some other interesting ideas of Fr. Josiah:
1) ideally homosexuals should enter the monastery.
2) viagra increases libido. I've only seen it claimed that it helps you be able to do something with the libido you have (trials on women to raise there libido with viagra were miserable failures IIRC).
 

ialmisry

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minasoliman said:
Nephi said:
Mor Ephrem said:
Nephi said:
I honestly have a really hard time believing that sex came about entirely after the Fall.
You're not the only one. 
:-*

I actually thought I was. Every time I've heard or seen it brought up by Orthodox (EO, I suppose), it was always consistent in saying that sex didn't exist before the Fall and likewise won't exist after the Resurrection. The notion strikes me as a bit Manichean, to which many EO seem inclined to lean toward anyway on these, and other, topics. The somewhat recent episode on Ancient Faith Today talked about this stuff, and I just found it unsatisfying.
I don't disagree with you.  There's a danger in Fr. Josiah's thinking, but I sympathize with him because he is pretty much trying to feel consistent with whatever Patristic testimony he did his research from.  The problem is that as you speculate further based on the present understanding of the biological and physiological functions of the human being, you could end up saying in the Kingdom, after the General Resurrection, all of our flesh may never really be needed.  Fr. Josiah mentioned we'll probably rise from the dead without reproductive organs, gastrointestinal organs, or eyelashes (I distinctly remember these particular systems he said, and maybe sweat glands too he also mentioned).  I find it troubling if you take this speculation to a certain extreme.  One of the callers into the program even mentioned that we don't need our eyes in the general resurrection, and so that too will be done away with.

Where does one draw the line?  Beats me!  In heaven we probably don't need our bones, our nerves, our muscles, or our skin, because they only filled a physical purpose in our fallen nature :p ...  or maybe the absurdity in all of this does need reevaluation of thinking, and I hope Fr. Josiah would be a bit more informed as to the strange implications of his views.
Adam said "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh," and God made them "male and female," so they had male and female parts in paradise.

What are you listening to from Fr. Josiah?
 

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minasoliman said:
I don't disagree with you.  There's a danger in Fr. Josiah's thinking, but I sympathize with him because he is pretty much trying to feel consistent with whatever Patristic testimony he did his research from.  The problem is that as you speculate further based on the present understanding of the biological and physiological functions of the human being, you could end up saying in the Kingdom, after the General Resurrection, all of our flesh may never really be needed.  Fr. Josiah mentioned we'll probably rise from the dead without reproductive organs, gastrointestinal organs, or eyelashes (I distinctly remember these particular systems he said, and maybe sweat glands too he also mentioned).  I find it troubling if you take this speculation to a certain extreme.  One of the callers into the program even mentioned that we don't need our eyes in the general resurrection, and so that too will be done away with.

Where does one draw the line?  Beats me!  In heaven we probably don't need our bones, our nerves, our muscles, or our skin, because they only filled a physical purpose in our fallen nature :p ...  or maybe the absurdity in all of this does need reevaluation of thinking, and I hope Fr. Josiah would be a bit more informed as to the strange implications of his views.
I hadn't even put a whole lot of thought into those implications, but they certainly do open up a whole can of worms. It does end up seeming like our prelapsarian or even post-resurrection flesh is inconsequential at best or a burden at worst. I tend to be inclined to think that God created us as flesh-spirit beings for us to actually be flesh-spirit beings, not merely spirit beings with flesh facade. I remember one comment in that AFT episode was that pre-fall reproduction was possibly done hypostatically. All of this sounds way too dualistic to me, with its constant emphasis of the spiritual over and against the physical in every aspect.

You know, I wonder: should we even draw icons of Christ (or Mary and the saints) without eyes/hair/etc.? I mean, we are depicting the spiritual reality and not merely a fleshly one. ;)
 

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Stavro said:
I remember a Western journalist confronting a monk running a family clinic that dispensed contraceptives, on the problem of a minority not procreating.
Where is this family clinic?
of course.  The monk talked about how the patients were religious, and to secular arguments on the issue they turned a deaf ear.
 

ialmisry

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minasoliman said:
Antonious Nikolas said:
Anastasia1 said:
Is contraception something that necessarily results in objectification?
I suppose it depends upon whether or not you believe the sole purpose of sex inside of the bonds of Holy Matrimony is procreation.  I don't believe that it is, and thankfully, neither does my Church.  Here are some contemporary Coptic commentaries on this issue:

http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=23&catid=52
http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=1355&catid=567
http://lacopts.org/articles/family-planning/
I think we need to stress though that just because the church allows contraception doesn't mean it should be a regular encouragement of use.

Speaking seriously to Isa's previous mention of marriage carrying a risk of objectification, I agree.  However the difference is this.  If one marries merely because that person is hot and probably going to lead to a great sex life, that marriage is at a high risk of failure.  We know marriage is more than just sex. We also know that marriage is more than just children.  I believe we should interpret the Coptic stance as, it's not wrong to use contraceptive, but a couple should also practice some ascetism as well in their lives.  That is why even after marriage, although for good reasons a couple may have married, contraceptives can still hold that risk of objectification, and then it becomes a bit problematic in spiritual lives.
btw, on this, often it seems that the celibates talk as if married couples would be joined at the hips 24/7 if you let them.

LOL.

I can guarantee that even with the most sexually active married couples, their sex life in the marital bed takes up a minority of the time. 

Children are good at preventing more children.

Fr. Josiah, who has been mentioned above, states that the couple cannot make love on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays etc.... I once worked it out and it seems he only left just over a hundred days out of the year.  And yet, if they did it every day they could, I get the feeling that he would say it was overindulgence.
 

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ialmisry said:
Fr. Josiah, who has been mentioned above, states that the couple cannot make love on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays etc.... I once worked it out and it seems he only left just over a hundred days out of the year.  And yet, if they did it every day they could, I get the feeling that he would say it was overindulgence.
You forgot Mondays.  We fast on Mondays in honour of the Bodiless Powers.  No bodies, no sex. 
 

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ialmisry said:
Children are good at preventing more children.
This made me LOL.
 

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Not having sex is technically a form of contraception. If refraining from sex in order to avoid having children is permitted, why wouldn't using birth control, wearing a condom, or "NFP" studying your wife's menstrual cycle like a book be permitted as well?  The difference is only in the mechanism. But the spiritual disposition and affect is still the same. I imagine God would be more concerned with your spiritual state and disposition than he would the mechanism you use to manifest it. That's really why I don't get how any Christian can be against contraception--unless they're willing to concede that marital abstinence from sex to avoid children is also not permissible.
 

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Orest said:
Gebre Menfes Kidus said:
Here's something I wrote about the subject of birth control:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,52495.0.html


Selam
You wrote it & it is your personal opinion NOT the statement of the Orthodox Church.
I never said it was an official statement of the Orthodox Church. But I provided Orthodox support for my views. If you think the Church teaches something different than what I have written, please demonstrate it with clear Church teaching to the contrary.


Selam
 

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minasoliman said:
Interesting!  I have recently learned of this reason by a blog by a Coptic blogger, Donna Rizk:

http://learnpraylove.com/churching-of-women-and-baptism-4080-days/

After some search, it seems to be that the quoted email she received is actually verbatim from a Protestant commentary on Leviticus!   :-\
Hi Mina.  Can you tell me a little more about this?  Frankly, I'm at work right now and don't have time to read through her blog.  You don't mean that the reason for this practice as stated on the SUS Copts site originates in Protestant circles, right?  Which statement on her blog post are you referencing?

minasoliman said:
In any case, I recently listened to a podcast with Fr. Josiah, and he seemed to be adamantly against contraception.  He also rebuked any couple who, when getting married, are holding off any plan to have children because "they're not ready".  It seems to me he believes getting children should happen immediately (if possible). 
I'm glad he's not my priest.  I'll stick with what I've been taught.

I had a friend in the OCA once - a zealous convert - who read some "Traditionalist' literature and decided that he and his wife were going to live together as brother and sister, that they were going to do 1,000 prostrations before going to bed at night to wear themselves out so they wouldn't be tempted, all this crazy kind of stuff.  He almost torpedoed his marriage until his priest stepped in and rebuked him, telling him that he and his wife weren't called to the monastic life and he'd better cut it out.

I agree with the spirit of what you're saying, but I'll never see sex within marriage as anything other than sacramental and eucharistic, and while I understand how someone abusing or perverting that beautiful thing could be lead to objectifying the person they love, I would regard that as a perversion of something sacred, not its logical conclusion.

minasoliman said:
Another interesting tidbit of Fr. Josiah is that he believes eventually in the marriage, a couple should be able to get to a point at their old age where they practice celibacy.
This probably occurs naturally over time if one lives long enough.  No need to force it.

minasoliman said:
That is not to contradict anything you quoted from Fr. Josiah, but he does hold some other interesting views.
Sure.  The guy's not an authority for me or anything.  I just happened to agree with that bit of text I posted which aligns with what I've always been taught on the subject.  I realize that this can be a hot button issue for some folks, and to some extent I see where they're coming from, but for me, the idea that sex within marriage is anything other than sacramental - that it is some sort of tolerated aberration or evil - is bizarre.
 

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Just to be fair to Fr. Josiah, I'm pretty sure he would have stepped in to rebuke that couple for trying to live as brother and sister at the peril of their marriage.  He would also probably agree with the purity and holiness as well as the sacramental nature of marital relations in the bedroom, but would mention that contraception, among other sexual practices, is a defilement to that sacramental nature.

Donna Rizk quoted an email she received from SUSCopts.  It's not a public source like the one you showed me.  I sent Donna Rizk a message about her email source.  I'll see what she says, but yes, assuming the email is true (I have no reason to believe it's not; the blogger seems to be a very well respected and educated church servant and seminary graduate), I hope it wasn't His Grace Bishop Youssef. At the point, I'll suspect some entrusted priest or layman who used a misguided source.
 

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This is the smaartest thing I have read in this thread:
I'm glad he's not my priest.  I'll stick with what I've been taught.
 

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minasoliman said:
Just to be fair to Fr. Josiah, I'm pretty sure he would have stepped in to rebuke that couple for trying to live as brother and sister at the peril of their marriage.  He would also probably agree with the purity and holiness as well as the sacramental nature of marital relations in the bedroom, but would mention that contraception, among other sexual practices, is a defilement to that sacramental nature.
He's free to his own theologoumenon as it pertains to contraception.  I happen to disagree with him and agree with the statements issued by the Coptic Orthodox Church on the matter.  So far, nothing I've read in this thread has convinced me otherwise, but that's cool.

minasoliman said:
Donna Rizk quoted an email she received from SUSCopts.  It's not a public source like the one you showed me.  I sent Donna Rizk a message about her email source.  I'll see what she says, but yes, assuming the email is true (I have no reason to believe it's not; the blogger seems to be a very well respected and educated church servant and seminary graduate), I hope it wasn't His Grace Bishop Youssef. At the point, I'll suspect some entrusted priest or layman who used a misguided source.
So, are you saying that SUS Copts quoted a Protestant critique of Coptic Orthodox practice?  I'm curious as to why Protestants would be commenting on Coptic practices, unless it was within the context of a historical document or one of their "mission manual" type texts.
 

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Antonious Nikolas said:
minasoliman said:
Just to be fair to Fr. Josiah, I'm pretty sure he would have stepped in to rebuke that couple for trying to live as brother and sister at the peril of their marriage.  He would also probably agree with the purity and holiness as well as the sacramental nature of marital relations in the bedroom, but would mention that contraception, among other sexual practices, is a defilement to that sacramental nature.
He's free to his own theologoumenon as it pertains to contraception.  I happen to disagree with him and agree with the statements issued by the Coptic Orthodox Church on the matter.  So far, nothing I've read in this thread has convinced me otherwise, but that's cool.

minasoliman said:
Donna Rizk quoted an email she received from SUSCopts.  It's not a public source like the one you showed me.  I sent Donna Rizk a message about her email source.  I'll see what she says, but yes, assuming the email is true (I have no reason to believe it's not; the blogger seems to be a very well respected and educated church servant and seminary graduate), I hope it wasn't His Grace Bishop Youssef. At the point, I'll suspect some entrusted priest or layman who used a misguided source.
So, are you saying that SUS Copts quoted a Protestant critique of Coptic Orthodox practice?  I'm curious as to why Protestants would be commenting on Coptic practices, unless it was within the context of a historical document or one of their "mission manual" type texts.
No, SUSCopts allegedly quoted a Protestant commentary on Leviticus to answer Donna's question concerning the 40/80 churching rule.
 

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minasoliman said:
No, SUSCopts allegedly quoted a Protestant commentary on Leviticus to answer Donna's question concerning the 40/80 churching rule.
Wow.  Like you said then, I hope it was a delegated servant doing the answering.  It's truly troubling how pervasive Protestant influence is within certain quarters of the Coptic Orthodox community.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
ialmisry said:
if you are going to use terms like "sold out," you are have to go further into defining what you mean.
Nope. It's an internet forum. I'm only obligated to be as involved as I want to be.

The vague and unqualified patristic concensus is that abortion and contraception are wrong. Two lungs of the same dead culture.
The Holy Fathers did not know the difference between contraception and abortion. They operated under the assumption of Aristotle that the sperm was a tiny human injected into a woman during sexual intercourse. It was not until William Harvey d. 1657 that we knew that what actually happens during conception and that the sperm is not  a tiny human. According to their limited knowledge of science, the Holy Fathers equated contraception with abortion. Therefore their writings must be applied to abortion, not non-abortive methods of birth control..
The Russian Orthodox Church's detailed statement on moral issues states that non-abortive methods of contraception are not a sin, as do most modern Orthodox authorities on moral issues.

Fr. John W. Morris.
 

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frjohnmorris said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
ialmisry said:
if you are going to use terms like "sold out," you are have to go further into defining what you mean.
Nope. It's an internet forum. I'm only obligated to be as involved as I want to be.

The vague and unqualified patristic concensus is that abortion and contraception are wrong. Two lungs of the same dead culture.
The Holy Fathers did not know the difference between contraception and abortion. They operated under the assumption of Aristotle that the sperm was a tiny human injected into a woman during sexual intercourse. It was not until William Harvey d. 1657 that we knew that what actually happens during conception and that the sperm is not  a tiny human. According to their limited knowledge of science, the Holy Fathers equated contraception with abortion. Therefore their writings must be applied to abortion, not non-abortive methods of birth control..
The Russian Orthodox Church's detailed statement on moral issues states that non-abortive methods of contraception are not a sin, as do most modern Orthodox authorities on moral issues.

Fr. John W. Morris.
Couldn't a liberal use this argument to say that the Holy Fathers only thought abortion was wrong because they assumed the sperm was a tiny human, and therefore their writings must not be applied at all?
 

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Regnare said:
frjohnmorris said:
The Holy Fathers did not know the difference between contraception and abortion. They operated under the assumption of Aristotle that the sperm was a tiny human injected into a woman during sexual intercourse. It was not until William Harvey d. 1657 that we knew that what actually happens during conception and that the sperm is not  a tiny human. According to their limited knowledge of science, the Holy Fathers equated contraception with abortion. Therefore their writings must be applied to abortion, not non-abortive methods of birth control..
The Russian Orthodox Church's detailed statement on moral issues states that non-abortive methods of contraception are not a sin, as do most modern Orthodox authorities on moral issues.

Fr. John W. Morris.
Couldn't a liberal use this argument to say that the Holy Fathers only thought abortion was wrong because they assumed the sperm was a tiny human, and therefore their writings must not be applied at all?
Yeah, I don't find the reasoning all that satisfying when it can be easily applied to a plethora of other beliefs to wrong ends.

And to clarify, it's like we're taking the early Church's belief on contraception, skipping over the rest of Church history that similarly believed it to be wrong (with or without the early Church's Aristotelian baggage), and only now rejecting the received stance on contraception solely based on modern reinterpretations of the early Church's perspective while ignoring the rest.
 

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IIRC Moscow basically said that contraception is like divorce Not to be used but tolerated in some circumstances. Which is basically what RCC teaches.
 

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Alpo said:
IIRC Moscow basically said that contraception is like divorce Not to be used but tolerated in some circumstances. Which is basically what RCC teaches.
I don't think that is an accurate comparison.  Orthodox priests do not question their faithful about contraception.
 

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Orest said:
Alpo said:
IIRC Moscow basically said that contraception is like divorce Not to be used but tolerated in some circumstances. Which is basically what RCC teaches.
I don't think that is an accurate comparison.  Orthodox priests do not question their faithful about contraception.
That's probably true. However I was not talking actual practice but about MP's document on social ethics.
 

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Regnare said:
frjohnmorris said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
ialmisry said:
if you are going to use terms like "sold out," you are have to go further into defining what you mean.
Nope. It's an internet forum. I'm only obligated to be as involved as I want to be.

The vague and unqualified patristic concensus is that abortion and contraception are wrong. Two lungs of the same dead culture.
The Holy Fathers did not know the difference between contraception and abortion. They operated under the assumption of Aristotle that the sperm was a tiny human injected into a woman during sexual intercourse. It was not until William Harvey d. 1657 that we knew that what actually happens during conception and that the sperm is not  a tiny human. According to their limited knowledge of science, the Holy Fathers equated contraception with abortion. Therefore their writings must be applied to abortion, not non-abortive methods of birth control..
The Russian Orthodox Church's detailed statement on moral issues states that non-abortive methods of contraception are not a sin, as do most modern Orthodox authorities on moral issues.

Fr. John W. Morris.
Couldn't a liberal use this argument to say that the Holy Fathers only thought abortion was wrong because they assumed the sperm was a tiny human, and therefore their writings must not be applied at all?
Not at all, because once fertilization has taken place the egg becomes a tiny human being. The destruction of an unborn child is the destruction of a human being.

Fr. John W. Morris.
 

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frjohnmorris said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
ialmisry said:
if you are going to use terms like "sold out," you are have to go further into defining what you mean.
Nope. It's an internet forum. I'm only obligated to be as involved as I want to be.

The vague and unqualified patristic concensus is that abortion and contraception are wrong. Two lungs of the same dead culture.
The Holy Fathers did not know the difference between contraception and abortion. They operated under the assumption of Aristotle that the sperm was a tiny human injected into a woman during sexual intercourse. It was not until William Harvey d. 1657 that we knew that what actually happens during conception and that the sperm is not  a tiny human. According to their limited knowledge of science, the Holy Fathers equated contraception with abortion. Therefore their writings must be applied to abortion, not non-abortive methods of birth control..
The Russian Orthodox Church's detailed statement on moral issues states that non-abortive methods of contraception are not a sin, as do most modern Orthodox authorities on moral issues.

Fr. John W. Morris.
Hi Father. Can you explain what you mean by "modern Orthodox authorities" as opposed to "Orthodox authorities"?

I've heard it argued that all Orthodox authorities viewed contraception as sinful until the mid 1970s. This is demonstrated by the fact that Humanae Vitae was applauded by Orthodox bishops. It's also demonstrated by changes in Bp. Ware's The Orthodox Church.

The 1963 edition: Artificial methods of birth control are forbidden in the Orthodox Church.

The 1993 edition: Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences.

I know you've been a priest for several decades. Have you observed such a change? Do you recall if attitudes about contraception were the same in the beginning of your ministry as they are now?

Personally, I find the arguments in favor of contraception to be very hollow. I have to admit that this issue, along with some other seeming changes in the church's previously clear teaching, give me pause.
 

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Read some stuff on Christian sexuality, marriage, and reproduction in the middle ages. 90% of it has changed, and in almost all cases for the better.
 

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William said:
frjohnmorris said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
ialmisry said:
if you are going to use terms like "sold out," you are have to go further into defining what you mean.
Nope. It's an internet forum. I'm only obligated to be as involved as I want to be.

The vague and unqualified patristic concensus is that abortion and contraception are wrong. Two lungs of the same dead culture.
The Holy Fathers did not know the difference between contraception and abortion. They operated under the assumption of Aristotle that the sperm was a tiny human injected into a woman during sexual intercourse. It was not until William Harvey d. 1657 that we knew that what actually happens during conception and that the sperm is not  a tiny human. According to their limited knowledge of science, the Holy Fathers equated contraception with abortion. Therefore their writings must be applied to abortion, not non-abortive methods of birth control..
The Russian Orthodox Church's detailed statement on moral issues states that non-abortive methods of contraception are not a sin, as do most modern Orthodox authorities on moral issues.

Fr. John W. Morris.
Hi Father. Can you explain what you mean by "modern Orthodox authorities" as opposed to "Orthodox authorities"?

I've heard it argued that all Orthodox authorities viewed contraception as sinful until the mid 1970s. This is demonstrated by the fact that Humanae Vitae was applauded by Orthodox bishops. It's also demonstrated by changes in Bp. Ware's The Orthodox Church.

The 1963 edition: Artificial methods of birth control are forbidden in the Orthodox Church.

The 1993 edition: Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences.

I know you've been a priest for several decades. Have you observed such a change? Do you recall if attitudes about contraception were the same in the beginning of your ministry as they are now?

Personally, I find the arguments in favor of contraception to be very hollow. I have to admit that this issue, along with some other seeming changes in the church's previously clear teaching, give me pause.
It is not uncommon in history for the Church to take time to make decisions on moral and doctrinal matters. Nor is it uncommon for different opinions to be held until the Church speaks definitively on a matter. Even after the 1st Ecumenical Council, Nicea I in 325, it took the Church until the 2nd Ecumenical Council, in 381 to resolve the dispute over Arianism. The closest thing that we have to a conciliar decision on this matter is the decision of the Patriarchate of Moscow in it detailed statement on moral and ethical issues The Basis of the Social Concept adopted by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2004, which states that birth control is not a sin.
By the time that i went to seminary in 1978 the shift away from the view that birth control is a sin towards the view now held by most authorities on Orthodox moral teaching that used properly within marriage non-abortive methods of birth control are not sinful had already taken place.
I do not know if you are married, but if you were and you and your wife had had two children and the doctors warned that another pregnancy would endanger the health of your wife, you might have a different view of this subject. if you had two children and were having trouble paying the expenses of a family, you also might have a different attitude towards this matter.
Since the Church has not spoken definitively on the matter,  it is a decision that each couple has to make after consultation with their spiritual father.

Fr. John W. Morris.
 

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[quote author=frjohnmorris] The closest thing that we have to a conciliar decision on this matter is the decision of the Patriarchate of Moscow in it detailed statement on moral and ethical issues The Basis of the Social Concept adopted by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2004, which states that birth control is not a sin.
[/quote]

Not exactly. The position is a bit more nuanced and a bit more strict.

In defining their attitude to the non-abortive contraceptives, Christian spouses should remember that human reproduction is one of the principal purposes of the divinely established marital union. The deliberate refusal of childbirth on egoistic grounds devalues marriage and is a definite sin.

http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/3/14.aspx XII. 3
 

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Alpo said:
[quote author=frjohnmorris] The closest thing that we have to a conciliar decision on this matter is the decision of the Patriarchate of Moscow in it detailed statement on moral and ethical issues The Basis of the Social Concept adopted by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2004, which states that birth control is not a sin.
Not exactly. The position is a bit more nuanced and a bit more strict.

In defining their attitude to the non-abortive contraceptives, Christian spouses should remember that human reproduction is one of the principal purposes of the divinely established marital union. The deliberate refusal of childbirth on egoistic grounds devalues marriage and is a definite sin.

http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/3/14.aspx XII. 3
[/quote]

That is correct. However, it does not mean that every time that a couple makes love they have to be prepared for a pregnancy. A couple can also have sex as an act of their love and union.

Fr. John W. Morris.
 

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frjohnmorris said:
However, it does not mean that every time that a couple makes love they have to be prepared for a pregnancy. A couple can also have sex as an act of their love and union.
Thank you, Father.  This is what my father of confession has always taught me.
 

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Thanks for acknowledging the change in teaching, Father. It raises a few concerns for me.

On the one hand, I acknowledge it is odd for me to have a strong opinion on this subject as someone who is unmarried. That's why I try not to debate about it. On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I'd be more likely to find a spouse that shares my beliefs about marriage and family in one of the several denominations which see children as an absolute blessing, always part of God's compassionate and prudential will, in no way to be limited (barring medical necessity).
 

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William said:
Thanks for acknowledging the change in teaching, Father. It raises a few concerns for me.

On the one hand, I acknowledge it is odd for me to have a strong opinion on this subject as someone who is unmarried. That's why I try not to debate about it. On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I'd be more likely to find a spouse that shares my beliefs about marriage and family in one of the several denominations which see children as an absolute blessing, always part of God's compassionate and prudential will, in no way to be limited (barring medical necessity).
You completely misunderstand me if you do not think that I consider children a blessing. I deeply love and treasure my son and daughter.  I would not marry a couple who told me that they never plan to have children. It is clear from the text of the Orthodox marriage service that having children is one purpose of marriage. However, there is a difference between wanting children and wanting a pregnancy every time that a couple expresses their unity and love through sexual intercourse. I believe that it is legitimate for a couple to use non-abortive methods of birth control to space the birth of their children, limit the number of children to the number they can support, or try to prevent a pregnancy that would threaten the health of the woman. The primary purpose of sex is procreation, but it is also a legitimate expression of the love and unity of a man and woman united in Holy Matrimony. Notice that I favor non-abortive methods of birth control. Abortion is strictly forbidden for Orthodox Christians, except to save the life of the mother. I should add that I have only repeated what I was taught in seminary. I studied ethics under Fr. Stanley Harakas, a well known expert in the moral teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Fr. John W. Morris.
 

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frjohnmorris said:
William said:
Thanks for acknowledging the change in teaching, Father. It raises a few concerns for me.

On the one hand, I acknowledge it is odd for me to have a strong opinion on this subject as someone who is unmarried. That's why I try not to debate about it. On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I'd be more likely to find a spouse that shares my beliefs about marriage and family in one of the several denominations which see children as an absolute blessing, always part of God's compassionate and prudential will, in no way to be limited (barring medical necessity).
You completely misunderstand me if you do not think that I consider children a blessing. I deeply love and treasure my son and daughter.  I would not marry a couple who told me that they never plan to have children. It is clear from the text of the Orthodox marriage service that having children is one purpose of marriage. However, there is a difference between wanting children and wanting a pregnancy every time that a couple expresses their unity and love through sexual intercourse. I believe that it is legitimate for a couple to use non-abortive methods of birth control to space the birth of their children, limit the number of children to the number they can support, or try to prevent a pregnancy that would threaten the health of the woman. The primary purpose of sex is procreation, but it is also a legitimate expression of the love and unity of a man and woman united in Holy Matrimony. Notice that I favor non-abortive methods of birth control. Abortion is strictly forbidden for Orthodox Christians, except to save the life of the mother. I should add that I have only repeated what I was taught in seminary. I studied ethics under Fr. Stanley Harakas, a well known expert in the moral teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Fr. John W. Morris.
Dear Father,

With respect, this is what always troubles me. Somehow along the way we have formed a false dichotomy between sex for pleasure and intimacy within marriage and sex for procreation. It is fine to say that married people do not need to reserve sexual intimacy only for the purpose of procreation, but I think sexual intimacy should always anticipate and welcome the fruit of life - whether that fruit is planned or not. "Unplanned pregnancy" has come to be thought of as some sort of disease, and the entire abortion industry is predicated upon viewing unplanned pregnancy as one of the worst things that could ever happen to a woman. As Orthodox Christians we must strongly resist and fight such a demonic mindset. The fruit of life is always a blessing, always. We should proclaim this truth.


Selam
 
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