Contraception in the Mind of the Orthodox Church

(The Morning Offering) – Marriage, for the Orthodox Christian, is to have as it’s foundation, Jesus Christ, and a commitment to live in full communion with the Church. When a couple are joined together in this mystical (sacramental) union with one another, they become one flesh, and begin their relationship as one. The crowning ceremony symbolizes martyrdom of self and a commitment to sacrifice self-will. Marriage is not about sexual gratification, although sexual intimacy is an important component of any healthy marriage, but the intimacy of the marriage bed be open to the possibility of having children. The Church allows no form of contraception that is abortifacient, and the Fathers of the Church, such as Ss. Athanasius the Great, John Chrysostom, Epiphanios, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Caesarious, Gregory the Great, Augustine of Canterbury and Maximos the Confessor, all explicitely condemned abortion as well as the use of abortifacients. There are a range of opinions on the issue of non-abortifacient contraception, however, the bottom line is that a Christian couple must be open to having children. A couple who would choose to have no children, or limit the number of children based on a desire for financial and lifestyle security, forgo the joy that only children can bring to a Christian marriage. Birth control should never be based on selfish motives, or the desire to live a more comfortable lifestyle. This life is not meant for personal gratification, nor personal gain, but that we might give glory and worship to God in all we do. With love in Christ, Abbot Tryphon Byzantine, TX

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  • Gilberto Garza

    So if the couple must be open to life and must not use any method that is potentially abortifacient then what are the range of options that a couple may use?

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    • http://twitter.com/Jake_W Jake Walker

      Condoms are permitted, at least as far as I’ve heard. They aren’t abortifacient. Options like the Morning After Pill/Plan B are not.

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    • Michael Bauman

      Barrier methods, perhaps as Jake indicates; Natural Family Planning is an option.  Marriage is not a license for lust.  There is asceticism for God’s sake in marriage too.  That is one of the things that allows marriage to transcend and unite the two.   

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      • Gil Garza

        Condoms haven’t always been permitted. They used to be forbidden. If they are permitted now what about them has changed? If they are permitted now, do they now contribute to a healthy love life or are they permitted as a concession to human weakness? If they are a concession to human weakness does this concession limit the weakness or increase it? Finally, if condoms and other barrier methods are permitted (that is it is not sinful), does their use lead to sinful activity?

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  • Gil Garza

    If marital intimacy must be open to life as has been established, then please elaborate on how barrier methods harmonize with this openness to life. 

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    • Michael Bauman

      That is why the natural family planning and the judicious use of the marital fast are the better methods, IMO.  Unfortunately, the Orthodox Church is far from unified on this.   The barrier methods might be allowable simply because the are quite subject to failure.  Chemical methods are too, but also have many more side effects for the woman. 

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      • Benjamin Rinehart

        Also, there is ample evidence to suggest that all chemical methods are inherently (even if only 1%) aboritfacient due to creating an atmosphere in the womb that is uninhabitable by a fertilized embryo, ie. a human being.

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