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#390094 - 01/23/13 05:28 PM Sexual Morality and Oeconomia
AdoptedUkie Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/28/12
Posts: 1
Loc: East Coast
Greetings! This is my first post here even though I have been a floater for years. I have a question that has been nagging me.

I have been following a thread on a certain RC forum that shall remain nameless about a tough sexual morality case. Essentially, it is a young couple (early thirties), four kids. With each pregnancy the wife has gotten progressively more crippled from a disorder in the pelvic bones (think: confined to a wheelchair, in adult diapers, unable to move for the majority of the pregnancy and some time afterwords). After the third pregnancy they began using a conservative method of the Marquette NFP method, but still somehow got pregnant. Their doctor has told them on no uncertain terms that any more pregnancies will cripple the wife for life (she is only now beginning to regain mobility after the last pregnancy, quite a while after the baby was born) and leave her in agonizing pain. He told them that they either needed to be sterilized or be on hormonal birth control + condoms until after menopause. They sought additional opinions and these ideas were confirmed. No more pregnancies if the wife does not want a life of agonizing pain.

The husband came to the forum quite distraught because they feared church teaching and were not sure what to do.

I was quite disturbed reading the responses because it seemed as though everyone agreed they needed to simply abstain completely until after menopause (which the husband said was an estimated 15-20 years away). Basically the husband was told that if he could not abstain that much he did not truly love his wife, if he thought nearly 20 years of abstinance would threaten his marriage and/or cause them to develop immoral habits, clearly he like sex too much and did he wife know he only got married to have sex? ECT. The most compassionate versions said: wow, sorry that is awful, but nothing can justify immorality.

This seems to be a place where oeconomia would come in to play. To be celebate is a hard calling and a calling best lived out in a monastery with support. To ask a married couple to abstain for 15-20 YEARS is extraordinary and in most cases is going cause serious marital issues and possibly lead to immorality in two healthy adults living together. While there may be a few cases of married couples doing this, it does not seem to me to be the most appropriate response.

I am however open to correction and am interested in hearing your thoughts. Taking the senario one step further, what do you think would be advised in the east if the senario had been the wife was crippled in an accident and physicially unable to have intercourse (something put forth by the respondents in the original thread as well).

How does oeconomia come in to play with sexual morality (where the west is so black and white on the issue)?

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#390113 - 01/24/13 11:55 AM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
StuartK Offline
Member

Registered: 11/09/01
Posts: 7394
Loc: Falls Church, VA
From Archbishop Joseph (Raya)'s excellent little book, Crowning: The Christian Marriage:


Quote:
Birth Control

In a world where eroticism dominates the hearts and minds of men and women, it is almost impossible to honor the Christian vision of a sexuality more precious than pleasure and more honorable than social necessity. In our days, the problems of birth control are heart rending.

In his praiseworthy attempt to counteract a sexual morality falsified by a secularized society and atheistic propaganda, Pope Paul VI, who at the time of the Second Vatican Council had reserved to himself the final decision on birth control, called upon a papal commission to advise him before publishing the official Church doctrine.

Over three quarters of the members, chosen by the Pope for their wisdom and reliability, offered the majority opinion endorsing a carefully qualified use of birth control, and proposed a revision of the current unqualified condemnation.

Pope Paul VI, however, disregarded their advice and published the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, maintaining the negative position. There is a present a painful tension between the supporters of rigidity in this matter, and those who believe it is unjustified.

The Byzantine ceremony of Crowning glorifies Christian chastity. Chastity means integrity of the human relation, integration of the forces of life into the personalistic aspects of nuptial love, which leads the couple into the Kingdom, into the peace and harmony of life. Both fertile and childless couples go beyond the mere functional: the combine the instinctive and passionate movements of their love, integrating them into a single act of ascent of pure goodness. It is not in spite of marriage, but in its fulfillment in peace, harmony and supreme joy that couples live the supernatural and holy reality of their union, chastity.

In the embrace of love, Christian couples are chaste. They are perfectly and entirely for each other. “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” (Canticle of Canticles). In genuine faith, they assume their human and spiritual responsibilities, and choose the best ways, pleasing to God, to achieve what they have set out to do. Birth control is in some way their responsibility. Vatican Council II has clearly established that conscience is the most sacred core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.

The theologian Paul Evdokimos, in his study on the “Sacrament of Love”, summarizes the attitude of Eastern theology on birth control: The Church “addresses herself to evangelical metanoia, and hopes to change man and woman into a new creation, to render them charismatic; She exorcises demonic powers and protects the Gate of Life; She discerns among the spirits, and shows the pathways to ultimate liberation; She does not define the rules of social life, and does not prescribe panacaeas. . . “ (p.175). The Church should never refuse to advise when advice is sought, but should not try to manipulate the intimacy of husband and wife. Patriarch Maximos IV of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem proclaimed at the Council of Vatican II, “The Church does not penetrate into the nuptial chamber. She stands at the door.”

The Byzantine Church does indeed believe that the Sacrament of Crowning establishes the man and woman as prophets, king and queen of supernatural worth, and robes them with the Royal Priesthood of Christ. Their dignity is real. Consequently, their vocation will be to form personal decisions, and to judge situations, in order to find solutions to the individual circumstances of their lives.

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#390119 - 01/24/13 05:43 PM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
Epiphanius Offline
Za myr z'wysot ...
Member

Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 1116
Loc: Florida
It has occurred to me that the real issue is the Western distinction between mortal and venial sin. A major problem with this distinction is that it seems to lead inevitably to an attitude in which only sins labeled as "mortal" are taken seriously, while everything else is reduced to a virtual insignificance. This attitude then leads, in turn, to more and more things being designated as mortal sins.

In such an environment, to say that artificial contraception *might not* be a mortal sin in *some* circumstances is exactly equivalent to saying it's not a mortal sin (since a mortal sin by definition is intrinsically evil and admits no exceptions), and is therefore morally insignificant.

Something to think about.


Peace,
Deacon Richard

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#390139 - 01/25/13 05:21 AM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: StuartK]
jjp Offline
Member

Registered: 08/05/10
Posts: 696
Loc: California

Originally Posted By: StuartK
From Archbishop Joseph (Raya)'s excellent little book, Crowning: The Christian Marriage:


Quote:
Birth Control

In a world where eroticism dominates the hearts and minds of men and women, it is almost impossible to honor the Christian vision of a sexuality more precious than pleasure and more honorable than social necessity. In our days, the problems of birth control are heart rending.

In his praiseworthy attempt to counteract a sexual morality falsified by a secularized society and atheistic propaganda, Pope Paul VI, who at the time of the Second Vatican Council had reserved to himself the final decision on birth control, called upon a papal commission to advise him before publishing the official Church doctrine.

Over three quarters of the members, chosen by the Pope for their wisdom and reliability, offered the majority opinion endorsing a carefully qualified use of birth control, and proposed a revision of the current unqualified condemnation.

Pope Paul VI, however, disregarded their advice and published the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, maintaining the negative position. There is a present a painful tension between the supporters of rigidity in this matter, and those who believe it is unjustified.

The Byzantine ceremony of Crowning glorifies Christian chastity. Chastity means integrity of the human relation, integration of the forces of life into the personalistic aspects of nuptial love, which leads the couple into the Kingdom, into the peace and harmony of life. Both fertile and childless couples go beyond the mere functional: the combine the instinctive and passionate movements of their love, integrating them into a single act of ascent of pure goodness. It is not in spite of marriage, but in its fulfillment in peace, harmony and supreme joy that couples live the supernatural and holy reality of their union, chastity.

In the embrace of love, Christian couples are chaste. They are perfectly and entirely for each other. “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” (Canticle of Canticles). In genuine faith, they assume their human and spiritual responsibilities, and choose the best ways, pleasing to God, to achieve what they have set out to do. Birth control is in some way their responsibility. Vatican Council II has clearly established that conscience is the most sacred core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.

The theologian Paul Evdokimos, in his study on the “Sacrament of Love”, summarizes the attitude of Eastern theology on birth control: The Church “addresses herself to evangelical metanoia, and hopes to change man and woman into a new creation, to render them charismatic; She exorcises demonic powers and protects the Gate of Life; She discerns among the spirits, and shows the pathways to ultimate liberation; She does not define the rules of social life, and does not prescribe panacaeas. . . “ (p.175). The Church should never refuse to advise when advice is sought, but should not try to manipulate the intimacy of husband and wife. Patriarch Maximos IV of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem proclaimed at the Council of Vatican II, “The Church does not penetrate into the nuptial chamber. She stands at the door.”

The Byzantine Church does indeed believe that the Sacrament of Crowning establishes the man and woman as prophets, king and queen of supernatural worth, and robes them with the Royal Priesthood of Christ. Their dignity is real. Consequently, their vocation will be to form personal decisions, and to judge situations, in order to find solutions to the individual circumstances of their lives.


A thousand times, this.

I point here first whenever a Catholic tells me that the "Orthodox" view of contraception and economy is not "Catholic."

I also agree with Fr Deacon Richard's observation re: the Roman outlook of mortal and venial sin, and I find it to be incongruous with the Byzantine outlook so beautifully and astutely put by Archbishop Raya, of blessed memory.

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#390178 - 01/25/13 07:07 PM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: Epiphanius]
Cavaradossi Offline
Member

Registered: 05/21/12
Posts: 76
Loc: Houston, TX
Originally Posted By: Epiphanius
It has occurred to me that the real issue is the Western distinction between mortal and venial sin. A major problem with this distinction is that it seems to lead inevitably to an attitude in which only sins labeled as "mortal" are taken seriously, while everything else is reduced to a virtual insignificance. This attitude then leads, in turn, to more and more things being designated as mortal sins.

In such an environment, to say that artificial contraception *might not* be a mortal sin in *some* circumstances is exactly equivalent to saying it's not a mortal sin (since a mortal sin by definition is intrinsically evil and admits no exceptions), and is therefore morally insignificant.

Something to think about.


Peace,
Deacon Richard


Is the Roman Catholic Church this rigid pastorally with other issues? I recall that there is a certain amount of pastoral discretion involved in determining whether something is a mortal sin or not, as for a sin to be mortal, it requires a full consent of the will, whereas sins committed without full consent of the will (that is, sins which are resisted by the will, but prevail over the will), are considered venial.

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#390179 - 01/25/13 07:37 PM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
StuartK Offline
Member

Registered: 11/09/01
Posts: 7394
Loc: Falls Church, VA
Is the Roman Catholic Church this rigid pastorally with other issues?

Well, look at how it handles remarriage after divorce. Rather than acknowledge it is pastorally prudent to allow remarriage after divorce rather than to tempt people into fornication or adultery, the Latin Church goes through the motions of determining that no true marriage existed in the first place--even if this action takes place decades after the fact and when the union has produced several children. With some 25,000 decrees of nullity issued in the U.S. alone (often for specious reasons such as "defect of intent" or "defect of form", no wonder, then, that "annulment" is commonly perceived as "Catholic divorce", and no wonder that it creates both hard feelings on the part of the aggrieved spouse, as well as widespread cynicism among the laity and contempt for Church teachings.

Archbishop Joseph spoke on that matter as well:


Quote:
Remarriage

The first law of God at the beginning of creation was that the union of man and woman was to be permanent (Gen 2:24). Jesus Christ our Lord, referring to this will of the creator in Genesis, declared that, in the Kingdom of God which he was inaugurating, and which was already present, marriage was to be indissoluble. But in the Old Testament, Moses permitted divorce. The Book of Deuteronomy states: “When a man has taken a wife, and married her, and it came to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because she is in some way unclean; then let him write her a bill of divorce . . . she may go and be another man’s wife” (Deut 24:1-2). Our Lord and God Jesus Christ refused such an easy way to put away a wife. He refused to allow his followers the right to enter into later a relationship of marriage with the woman who had been put away so easily. Our Lord always sought to save the dignity and integrity of the human person: “Whosoever shall marry her who was put away commits adultery. . .” The disciples objected to this saying of the Lord as too hard an ideal: “Lord, if this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not good to marry at all” (Matt 19:10). He answered, “Not anyone can accept what I said, only those to whom it is given” (Matt 19:11). But in order to save the dignity and integrity of the human person, he added: “I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication. . . “ (Matt. 5:23).

The Lord addresses the Gospel in its totality to every person in this world, but to each one in an individual way. He calls every person to the absolute of the Gospel, but he does not force it indiscriminately on all humanity. He simply offers his divine ideals as he offered the Beatitudes, as graces of blessedness and sources of security and joy:

Blessed are the poor in sprit,
Blessed are the merciful,
Blessed are the pure in heart. . .
(Matt 5:3ff)

To the young man who asked what to do to gain eternal life, Our Blessed Lord answered by recommending the observance of the Ten Commandments as a good and sufficient practice. But the young man was wishing for more perfection. He asked for something special to elevate him above the ordinary. He was trying for a way of life on the level of the Gospel’s expectations. The Lord then said to him: “If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow me” (Mark 10:21-22). The young man went away disappointed: he was not made for such perfection. Jesus, Our Lord, did not condemn him in any way.

Let us also remember the scribe who came with enthusiasm and seemingly great generosity to follow him. But the Lord sent him away with a delicate and respectful refusal: “The foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt 8:20).

Following the teaching and example of the Master, the Christian Church upholds the rule of indissolubility of marriage, while admitting exceptions. The high ideals of the Gospel are presented to every human being, but never forced upon them because it would be unjust and an insult to human dignity to impose heroism indiscriminately. A person wronged by the permanent absence of the other would have to become overnight an exceptional soul, or perish.

Perfection is possible only for “those to whom it is given” (Matt 19:11). The Church understands the high ideals of Christ and has always proclaimed and upheld them while realizing that high ideals cannot be imposed equally no everyone and in all circumstances. Following the example of the Master, and in order to protect the honor and dignity of its children against the consequences of sin or of a partner’s death that separate and isolate the remaining spouse, the Church allows the innocent party or the survivor to taken another companion for life. People marry in order to avoid continence and solitude, a state to which few are called. No one has a right to impose the weight of the world upon another’s shoulders: only a giant, an Atlas or a Hercules, could face such a task.

The practice of discernment and compassion is called Oikonomia.

Oikonomia is the prolongation of the divine intention of God “to save what was lost” (Matt 18:11). Our Lord said it and repeated it again and again: “The Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). To the Lord, humanity is infinitely more precious than any law. He never hesitated to break the law for the sake of restoring sinners to their dignity. He saved the adulteress from the law by which she should have been stoned. He talked to a Samaritan woman and invited himself to her house—while Samaritans were to be shunned and avoided, He broke the law of the Sabbath, declaring, “The Sabbath is at the service of man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The law of the Temple was clearer yet and stronger about keeping company with sinners: “He who frequents a sinner is worse than a prostitute”. But in order to restore sinners to their human dignity, our Lord met with them, ate with them, and felt at ease in their company. This was the Oikonomia of the Lord.

The Holy Orthodox Church of Byzantium has been indulgent to widows and widowers, and to victims of abandonment. It did not allow legalism to take over, nor did it forget the divine Gospel commitment to love and forgive. It considered in all seriousness the words of the Lord, that “the Sabbath was made for man”, and that laws existed only to enhance their sacramental reality and vitality, not to be a millstone around their necks.

St. Epiphanios of Cyprus, who lived in the fourth century, says that “he who cannot keep continence after the death of his first wife, or for a valid motive such as fornication, adultery or another misdeed, if he takes a wife, or if the wife (in similar circumstances) takes another husband, the Divine Logos does not condemn them or exclude them from the Church.

The Council of Neocaesarea imposed on the clergy the obligation to divorce an adulterous wife (See on this subject the study in Concillium, Vol.55-1970, p.76f). And Father Nicholas van der Wal adds: This position may have been reached in the early Byzantine Church by taking Matthew 5:53 as part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is indeed possible to see the exhortation of the Sermon as the precepts of an ideal ethic which the Christian striving after perfection must try to live up to (and here the Byzantine Church would first of all think of monks and nuns) while this would not be asked of ordinary people” (p.80) (See also Korbianman Ritzer for details, Concillium, Vol.55-1970, p.67 seq.).

St. Basil has a special dissertation on Oikonomia which was officially approved by the Sixth Ecumenical Council of the Undivided Church of East and West, the Second Council of Constantinople in 680. Canon 25 states: “Spouses abandoned without reason are excused, and this pardon means they will be accepted to communion if they remarry”. St. John Chrysostom adds, “It is better to break up a marriage than be damned”. Archbishop Elias Zoghby declared at the Second Vatican Council that “even the Church of the West maintained this practice for many hundreds of years with the positive approval of many bishops, popes and synods; and in fact, never attempted to condemn it in the East, even afte4r it had ceased to practice it” (The Melkite Church at Vatican II, p.24).

The single life presupposes a very special vocation and a very special calling, an heroic disposition, and a rare faith. Indissolubility is an ideal, a lofty ideal, a standard of supreme generosity worthy of the human person, but not every person is able to assume it. Faithfulness and the eternal character of the self-revelation made by man and woman to one another are truly precious and unbreakable. The compassion of the Church only permits and reluctantly admits remarriage. The ceremony that blesses such a marriage in the Byzantine Church is so full of sadness and sorrow for human weakness and misery that is a powerful testimony and proclamation of the indissoluble character of Christian “Crowning”.

Remarriage after a death or divorce is called simply, “remarriage”, not “crowning”, yet it is a binding covenant. It is a partnership of grace and refreshment. There are no crowns, no processions of priesthood, no singing or ringing of bells. There is no incense by which the Church glorifies the divinization of the human person, there is no cup of wine, nor the Body and Blood of the Lord. This is not a priesthood, but a contract made in a ceremony of penance, expressing regret for human frailty and the loss of Christian gifts caused by social conditions.

After ceasing to apply the principle Oikonomia, in its concern and solicitude for its children, the Western Church established the system generally known as annulment. It should rather be called “declaration of nullity”. It consists in a declaration that since one of the partners had entered a prospective marriage without fulfilling one of the basic conditions of indissolubility—full consent, freedom and understanding—the marriage actually had never existed, even after children had been born. Both partners are then free to remarry.

In some instances, this system has been extended by western Marriage Tribunals—rightfully or not, it is not for us to judge—to cases in which marriage were presently and actually dead, even though originally valid.

The Church of Rome uses its power over the sacrament of the priesthood, and releases some of its bishops and priests from the ministry of their priesthood. The bond of priesthood is no less sacred and no less eternal than the bond of matrimony. The Church of Rome allows bishops and priests to give up their life of ministry in the Church and marry, while still recognizing the eternal character of their priesthood. In fact, this same power is used [in the Byzantine Church] over the sacrament of marriage to help and heal a painful state of abandonment and solitude.

There are some unavoidable circumstances in which some people are totally unable to continue living with their original sacramental partner. If in such cases, a union is contracted with a different partner, this in fact honors the Gospel command making the human person more precious than the law of indissolubility. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Absolute enforcement would lead to cruel legalism.

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#390204 - 01/26/13 03:24 PM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
zaida Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/24/13
Posts: 4
Loc: Scotland
Hi everyone - Is this oeconomia a concept of the orthodox churches, or the eastern catholic churches - or both? Could the eastern catholic churches follow it, in relation to marriage, given they are in full communion with Rome, and Rome's teaching on marriage?

Thanks -

Z

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#390904 - 02/12/13 12:15 AM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
Logos - Alexis Offline
Member

Registered: 08/10/02
Posts: 4680
Loc: Georgia
I find Stuart's discussion of annulment in the last post less convincing than his first post about contraception. I admit I've never found the arguments against annulments (and in favor of a more "pastoral" approach to divorce and remarriage) to be compelling.

However, contraception is sometimes a different story, and this seems to be a prime example of just one such case. I would imagine a knowledgeable Roman Catholic priest would have the answer to this.

I think also sometimes that we mistake Roman Catholicism's penchant for these clearly defined rules as unpastoral, whereas, in reality, taking the entire philosophical legacy of the Western Church into consideration, there often exists a way around the hard and fast rule that comes not through oikonomia, as in the East, but rather through the application of the philosophy itself (alluded to above in describing sin as a willful engagement to do an act). It often comes out to be six of one, half dozen of the other.

Alexis

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#391132 - 02/15/13 05:55 AM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: Logos - Alexis]
Dr. Eric Offline
Catholic Gyoza
Member

Registered: 11/17/05
Posts: 4518
Loc: The Most Corrupt State
I suspect that there is a problem here, the wife is in a wheelchair and is in diapers. Something seems not quite right with this story, it seems like a "gotcha!" scenario.

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#391144 - 02/15/13 06:00 PM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
Booth Offline
Member

Registered: 02/13/04
Posts: 263
Loc: upstate NY
I'm no expert on this topic, and do not necessarily endorse the conjecture that follows ...

... what about perforated condoms? They are "licit" for other uses. So as to not offend any delicate sensibilities, I won't go into detail. But Dr. Hilgers' organization uses them for specific tasks, I believe.

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#391697 - 03/01/13 03:08 PM Re: Sexual Morality and Oeconomia [Re: AdoptedUkie]
Andrew Ray Offline
Member

Registered: 05/29/11
Posts: 35
Loc: Husak, Slovakia
I am a "semi-expert" on this topic, at least with regard to contraceptives, being married to a pro-life activist who reads far more than I have time to.

There seems to be an assumption that contraceptives are of higher effectiveness, but people still get pregnant from contraceptives-- condoms fail, hormonal pills fail, etc., at varying rates depending on how carefully people use them. There are also the negative health side effects of hormonal contraceptives to be weighed.

Without regard to the question of morality, it seems that what this couple should be wondering is whether surgical options that would render one of them infertile would be justifiable, for if it would be truly neccesary for the woman never to become pregnant again, then from a medical point of view, why would the doctor be suggesting the use of contraceptives, which have around a 5% failure rate in actual use, rather than sterilization?

But then also, Dr. Eric has a good point. What is the medical condition which would cause this? Is it caused by pregnancy, or by giving birth? If it is a problem with pelvic bones, then it seems like C-sections to avoid giving birth would be the answer.

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