Tag Archives: Contraception

On Contraception: A Pastor’s Viewpoint

The Orthodox Christian ideal as regards contraception is clear: We do not use contraception.

This ideal is opposed by liberals, modernists, who, like liberal Protestants and nowadays liberal Roman Catholics (who are virtually indistinguishable from liberal Protestants), appear to think that anything goes. The usual suspects on the fringes of the Orthodox Church include the Parisians and their allies, clerics like the heretic Fr Sergey Bulgakov, as well as Fr Alexander Schmemann and Fr John Meyendorff, and philosophers, also verging on heresy, like Evdokimov, Clement, Yannaras and Berdyayev, not to mention their allies in Constantinople and Finland. It is significant that their works are more often read by heterodox and unconverted converts than those inside the Church, who long ago entered the arena. The liberals’ temptation is that they attempt to dogmatize or absolutize ikonomia, pastoral dispensation. The path that they are on leads directly to sectarian liberalism outside the Church.

At the opposite extreme we have the literalists and idealists, almost always ill-integrated converts of conservative Protestant or conservative Evangelical background. They are horrified by any concept of pastoral dispensation and quote out of context the holy fathers and canons just as they used to quote chapter and verse from the Bible – threatening others with hell. Such individuals lack experience of real Orthodox parishes and real Orthodox life, preferring the convert hothouse to what they condescendingly call ‘ethnic parishes’. Their temptation is in fact the same as that of the liberals, that they attempt to dogmatize or absolutize, only in their case they dogmatize akrivia, the strict teaching, never allowing for pastoral dispensation, not understanding that the essential dogmas concern the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ. The path that they are on leads directly to pharisaical old calendarism outside the Church.

Having considered the two extremes on the fringes of the Church and not of the Church, as they are founded on liberal Protestantism and conservative Protestantism, what then is the Tradition of the Church? It is that the Church has an ideal which we are to strive for, but that for the sake of the salvation of the flock pastors are allowed to make exceptions to specific individuals and in specific contexts, applying pastoral dispensation (ikonomia), wherever it is of spiritual benefit. We do not set the flock a cross that is too heavy and which will break their backs. Those who do so, imposing a spiritual level on those who are not ready for it, will empty the churches, creating pharisaical sects. We have over the last forty years seen too much hypocrisy and too many broken marriages caused by such unwise and ill-discerning converts who dogmatize the ideals of the Church and act without love to weaker brethren and sisters. There is a higher law than the law of the Pharisees; it is called the law of love. That is the law of the Church, of Truth and Mercy, for it alone leads to salvation.