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What does the Orthodox Church teach on Contraception and the sin of Onan?

Xavier

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Does the Orthodox Church have a teaching on the sin of Onan in Genesis, and its relation to contraception to general? Before about 1930, almost all Christians denominations, even Protestants, rejected Luther. There are texts of the Protestant reforms condemning Onan. What is the teaching of Orthodoxy on Onan's sin and is contraception a grave sin?

Some testimonies from the Fathers on the subject.

1. St. Augustine, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."

2. St. Chrysostom, "Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well.... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws? ... Yet such turpitude ... the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks"

3. St. Caesarius, "Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman""

Thoughts?
 

Dominika

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What I've read and had at classes (even this semester, as one of my subjects is sacramentology:
the purpose of the marriage is not to have children in the first place, but it's a path to salvation, it has to lead into the Kingdom of God, to be united in one flesh and spirit in love which pattern is love in the Holy Trinity. It's also a foretaste of the Divine Kingdom (unity in love and joy).

However, preventing to not conceive children only because of the egoism is a sin. The Orthodox Church, as in every spiritual matter, has an individual approach and it has to be discussed between the spouse and their spiritual father(s).

And, of course, onanism (=masturbation) is a sin as it's egoism and not sacrificial love (=sex in marriage).
 

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Dominika said:
And, of course, onanism (=masturbation) is a sin as it's egoism and not sacrificial love (=sex in marriage).
I've always wondered how Onan's sin, which is actually the 'pulling out' method of contraception, came to be associated with masturbation. I can understand someone whose linguistic/translating skills weren't up to scratch making the mistake first, but that's not enough.

Unless, back in the day, just like today, a bit of conception avoidance wasn't as big a deal as masturbation. ;D
 

Alveus Lacuna

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I am Orthodox and totally oppose the use of artificial contraceptives. This is the traditional teaching of the church, and other takes are recent compromises that are based in practicality rather than sound theology. No saint or father of the church teaches contraception, and any that speak on it condemn it.
 

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Dominika said:
What I've read and had at classes (even this semester, as one of my subjects is sacramentology:
the purpose of the marriage is not to have children in the first place, but it's a path to salvation, it has to lead into the Kingdom of God, to be united in one flesh and spirit in love which pattern is love in the Holy Trinity.
"To be united in one flesh" is referring to having children. A child is literally the combination of the two partners into one person. The first command associated with the marriage is to multiply. It sounds like I'd be concerned with the contents of your class.
 

ialmisry

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Alveus Lacuna said:
Dominika said:
What I've read and had at classes (even this semester, as one of my subjects is sacramentology:
the purpose of the marriage is not to have children in the first place, but it's a path to salvation, it has to lead into the Kingdom of God, to be united in one flesh and spirit in love which pattern is love in the Holy Trinity.
"To be united in one flesh" is referring to having children. A child is literally the combination of the two partners into one person. The first command associated with the marriage is to multiply. It sounds like I'd be concerned with the contents of your class.
No, it does not consist in having children (which is the result). St. Paul makes that clear when it talks about the idea of uniting with a prostitute, and St. John C. makes a point that the two become one even if the marriage does not bear fruit in children.
 

ialmisry

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Xavier said:
Does the Orthodox Church have a teaching on the sin of Onan in Genesis, and its relation to contraception to general? Before about 1930, almost all Christians denominations, even Protestants, rejected Luther. There are texts of the Protestant reforms condemning Onan. What is the teaching of Orthodoxy on Onan's sin and is contraception a grave sin?

Some testimonies from the Fathers on the subject.

1. St. Augustine, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."

2. St. Chrysostom, "Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well.... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws? ... Yet such turpitude ... the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks"

3. St. Caesarius, "Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman""

Thoughts?
Just quick ones (as I have to go).

In number 2) St. John is talking about adulterers and abortion. Abortion=/=contraception.

It amuses me no end those who worry about Onan's last tiny spermazoa, but don't worry about Thamar (who is the object of the Patristic concerns) being used as a sex toy.
 

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Arachne said:
Dominika said:
And, of course, onanism (=masturbation) is a sin as it's egoism and not sacrificial love (=sex in marriage).
I've always wondered how Onan's sin, which is actually the 'pulling out' method of contraception, came to be associated with masturbation. I can understand someone whose linguistic/translating skills weren't up to scratch making the mistake first, but that's not enough.

Unless, back in the day, just like today, a bit of conception avoidance wasn't as big a deal as masturbation. ;D
Well, an on-the-face reading of the Onan passage shows that contraception wasn't the issue as much as it was because he was treating his brother's wife dishonorably.  In modern terms, it was rape by deception.
 

Arachne

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Agabus said:
Arachne said:
Dominika said:
And, of course, onanism (=masturbation) is a sin as it's egoism and not sacrificial love (=sex in marriage).
I've always wondered how Onan's sin, which is actually the 'pulling out' method of contraception, came to be associated with masturbation. I can understand someone whose linguistic/translating skills weren't up to scratch making the mistake first, but that's not enough.

Unless, back in the day, just like today, a bit of conception avoidance wasn't as big a deal as masturbation. ;D
Well, an on-the-face reading of the Onan passage shows that contraception wasn't the issue as much as it was because he was treating his brother's wife dishonorably.  In modern terms, it was rape by deception.
There's a lot in what Onan did that we could fingerwag at. Using his brother's wife as an object of pleasure, avoiding impregnating her contrary to the purpose of their marital arrangement, and doing so in order to improve his own inheritance chances. I've seen emphasis placed on each and every one of those, and which one they pick probably tells more about the one analysing the passage than the words themselves.
 

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ialmisry said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
Dominika said:
What I've read and had at classes (even this semester, as one of my subjects is sacramentology:
the purpose of the marriage is not to have children in the first place, but it's a path to salvation, it has to lead into the Kingdom of God, to be united in one flesh and spirit in love which pattern is love in the Holy Trinity.
"To be united in one flesh" is referring to having children. A child is literally the combination of the two partners into one person. The first command associated with the marriage is to multiply. It sounds like I'd be concerned with the contents of your class.
No, it does not consist in having children (which is the result). St. Paul makes that clear when it talks about the idea of uniting with a prostitute, and St. John C. makes a point that the two become one even if the marriage does not bear fruit in children.
It is not the exclusive meaning, but it is a primary part of the definition. The union is made complete in the child. A marriage without children, trying to say it sensitively, contains something missing in the marriage's purpose. The prayers in the Orthodox marriage service make one of the primary ends of the union pretty clear.
 

noahzarc1

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Xavier said:
Does the Orthodox Church have a teaching on the sin of Onan in Genesis, and its relation to contraception to general? Before about 1930, almost all Christians denominations, even Protestants, rejected Luther. There are texts of the Protestant reforms condemning Onan. What is the teaching of Orthodoxy on Onan's sin and is contraception a grave sin?

Some testimonies from the Fathers on the subject.

1. St. Augustine, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."

2. St. Chrysostom, "Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well.... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws? ... Yet such turpitude ... the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks"

3. St. Caesarius, "Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman""

Thoughts?
What does Xavier and the modern Catholic Church have to say about Vademecum for Confessors? Some of the finer points you may have never read:

"Frequent relapse into sins of contraception does not in itself constitute a motive for denying absolution; absolution cannot be imparted, however, in the absence of sufficient repentance or of the resolution not to fall again into sin."

More importantly I notice the sin of Onan is never addressed once. Why? Caesarius, Chrysostom and Augustine are also never mentioned once? Why do you place a burden to the Orthodox not even the Pontifical Council placed on you or the Catholic Church in that document? Apparently the Pontifical Council wasn't interested in some of the testimonies from the Fathers.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_12021997_vademecum_en.html

Humanae Vitae never mentioned the sin of Onan, or quoted Caesarius, Augustine or Chrysostom. Why do you lay a Burden not even St. Pope Paul VI laid on Catholics? Apparently Paul VI wasn't interested in the testimony from the Fathers.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html
 

Ainnir

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Alveus Lacuna said:
ialmisry said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
Dominika said:
What I've read and had at classes (even this semester, as one of my subjects is sacramentology:
the purpose of the marriage is not to have children in the first place, but it's a path to salvation, it has to lead into the Kingdom of God, to be united in one flesh and spirit in love which pattern is love in the Holy Trinity.
"To be united in one flesh" is referring to having children. A child is literally the combination of the two partners into one person. The first command associated with the marriage is to multiply. It sounds like I'd be concerned with the contents of your class.
No, it does not consist in having children (which is the result). St. Paul makes that clear when it talks about the idea of uniting with a prostitute, and St. John C. makes a point that the two become one even if the marriage does not bear fruit in children.
It is not the exclusive meaning, but it is a primary part of the definition. The union is made complete in the child. A marriage without children, trying to say it sensitively, contains something missing in the marriage's purpose. The prayers in the Orthodox marriage service make one of the primary ends of the union pretty clear.
If that were an intentional thing, I'd absolutely agree with you.  If it can't be helped, though... there are other forms of parenthood that couple can pursue, and I'd like to think God would bless that effort.  But at the very least, I don't think we can confidently say He wouldn't.
 

Iconodule

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The "natural family planning" method advocated in Humanae Vitae is functionally the same as Onan's contraceptive method.
 

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Iconodule said:
The "natural family planning" method advocated in Humanae Vitae is functionally the same as Onan's contraceptive method.
Right. No need to pull out if you're avoiding fertile periods altogether.
 

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Here come the Zealots and Religious Pharisees.
 

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In orthodox confession manuals “the sin of Onan” is called “malachy “ with a scholium “sin with the devil”. “Gomorry “ is explained as “ sin with the mouth”.
 

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Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
 

SolEX01

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Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
 

augustin717

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Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
yeah I gather that’s a discourse meant to be friendlier to contemporary mores, show the church can be sorta cool too, but “marriage is for showing the Trinitarian  love through sex between spouses” is to contemporary sexual mores what The Babylon Bee is to The Onion.
 

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SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.

augustin717 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
yeah I gather that’s a discourse meant to be friendlier to contemporary mores, show the church can be sorta cool too, but “marriage is for showing the Trinitarian  love through sex between spouses” is to contemporary sexual mores what The Babylon Bee is to The Onion.
Yeah, that kind of idea is a completely modern fabrication.
 

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SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
It depends on how healthy they are. Impotence is grounds for divorce in our church.
 

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Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
 

SolEX01

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Tzimis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
It depends on how healthy they are. Impotence is grounds for divorce in our church.
Impotence can be treated.  In scripture, there are numerous examples of older couples having children late in life.  Gee, I'm starting to sound like augustin.  ::)
 

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SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
Thats not true. Gamos is a sexual act having nothing to do with kids. As long as you can perform your ok. The children are a byproduct. If your blessed at that age and you need a godfather.  Call me.
 

ialmisry

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Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
It was EXACTLY this last opinion that St. John Chrysostom fought against.
Antonis said:
augustin717 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
yeah I gather that’s a discourse meant to be friendlier to contemporary mores, show the church can be sorta cool too, but “marriage is for showing the Trinitarian  love through sex between spouses” is to contemporary sexual mores what The Babylon Bee is to The Onion.
Yeah, that kind of idea is a completely modern fabrication.
I wasn't aware that Pope St. Athanasius the Great et alia were modern fabricators.
 

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Tzimis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
Thats not true. Gamos is a sexual act
Now you're sounding like augustin, lol.

Tzimis said:
 
having nothing to do with kids. As long as you can perform your ok. The children are a byproduct. If your blessed at that age and you need a godfather.  Call me.
I'm done with having kids.  Not worth the hassle; however, I still want the option of getting married in the church instead of the local courthouse.
 

Tzimis

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SolEX01 said:
Tzimis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
Thats not true. Gamos is a sexual act
Now you're sounding like augustin, lol.

Tzimis said:
 
having nothing to do with kids. As long as you can perform your ok. The children are a byproduct. If your blessed at that age and you need a godfather.  Call me.
I'm done with having kids.  Not worth the hassle; however, I still want the option of getting married in the church.
I don't see anything wrong with that. Like I said though. You both have to be capable of the act. Otherwise, i don't think its sacramental. 
 

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SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
No, that is not what I said. In cases where an elderly couple would get married (that was your question, after all), they would either be widow and widower, in which case it is definitely a concession from a Patristic standpoint, or they were never married, in which case it would be somewhat puzzling that they get married at such a late age rather than retain their previous continency.

It was EXACTLY this last opinion that St. John Chrysostom fought against.
Let’s see it.
 

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Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
No, that is not what I said. In cases where an elderly couple would get married (that was your question, after all), they would either be widow and widower, in which case it is definitely a concession from a Patristic standpoint, or they were never married, in which case it would be somewhat puzzling that they get married at such a late age rather than retain their previous continency.

It was EXACTLY this last opinion that St. John Chrysostom fought against.
Let’s see it.
Listen son. Your probably a little young and dont know the power of a 40 something year old woman.  They make 18 years old boy look docile.  Don't ask me how I know.
 

platypus

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Xavier said:
Does the Orthodox Church have a teaching on the sin of Onan in Genesis, and its relation to contraception to general? Before about 1930, almost all Christians denominations, even Protestants, rejected Luther. There are texts of the Protestant reforms condemning Onan. What is the teaching of Orthodoxy on Onan's sin and is contraception a grave sin?

Some testimonies from the Fathers on the subject.

1. St. Augustine, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."

2. St. Chrysostom, "Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well.... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws? ... Yet such turpitude ... the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks"

3. St. Caesarius, "Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman""

Thoughts?
As I suspect you already know, the Church doesn't have a universal teaching on contraception. The Fathers who did speak on the subject, with a few possible exceptions, were dead set against any sexual intercourse that would not produce children. They saw it as wrong even for a man to have sex with his wife after she lost fertility. Such a teaching is decidedly against the scriptures, and that's likely why neither the Church nor the Catholics or Protestants have retained it.

The issue of contraception, such as condoms or natural family planning, thus becomes a bit more complicated. It's opponents often had misguided views about the sinfulness of married sex, and also may have lacked the medical knowledge to distinguish between something purely contraceptive (like condoms or NFP, which I believe are relatively recent inventions), and something which causes abortion.

The Roman Church presented the following solution: allow NFP, ban artificial contraception. I'll admit that it doesn't quite make sense to me, when the result is the same. They don't, for example, teach that it's okay to go places but only if you walk instead of taking artificial transportation.

In Orthodox practice here in the US, whether or not a married couple may use contraception is a decision made with their confessor. I'm not sure how it's done in other countries.
 

hecma925

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If two senior citizens want to get married to have sex, good.

Except homosexuals.  That's bad.
 

biro

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They saw it as wrong even for a man to have sex with his wife after she lost fertility. Such a teaching is decidedly against the scriptures, and that's likely why neither the Church nor the Catholics or Protestants have retained it.
So, even the consensus of the Fathers can err.
 

SolEX01

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Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
SolEX01 said:
Antonis said:
Unless you’ve never experienced an Orthodox marriage service, it’s kind of absurd to say that children are not integral to the whole thing.
Even when 2 senior citizens are getting married?
Despite the contemporary “aw” factor, such a thing would not likely be received very positively from a Patristic perspective save perhaps as a concession.
So, when a person no longer wants to (or is unable to) have children, he/she should forget about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
No, that is not what I said. In cases where an elderly couple would get married (that was your question, after all), they would either be widow and widower, in which case it is definitely a concession from a Patristic standpoint, or they were never married, in which case it would be somewhat puzzling that they get married at such a late age rather than retain their previous continency.
Wanting the church to bless their marriage is puzzling?
 

SolEX01

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hecma925 said:
If two senior citizens want to get married to have sex, good.
How about if the senior citizens are unable or unwilling to have sex, is that still good?
 

SolEX01

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biro said:
Who are you to question someone else's marital privacy?
The same ones who question an elderly couple's ability to have children as a condition of being married in the church.
 
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