It is often brought up by Catholics that the Orthodox Church approve contraception. While a few Orthodox Bishops took this view in America they acted inappropriately. For when it comes to Orthodox theology in order to change it one must have the approval of all the Bishops around the world. This is why it’s not easy to change things a whim in the Orthodox Church and how the deposit of faith is kept intact.
The Orthodox Church primarily views everything through the lens of the early Church fathers. In the Church fathers, we find a binding and unanimous agreement that contraception is wrong. I will offer some quotes towards the end of this article.
These quotes are great for Catholics too because many Catholic priests and Bishops approve of contraception in contradiction of their churches infallible teaching on the issue. The reason the quotes have power for Catholics is that the council of Trent (considered to be infallible by the Catholic Church) along with Vatican 1 (again an infallible council) is taught that one must adhere to the unanimous interpretation of the father’s scripture and Tradition.
The fathers quite clearly taught that contraception was completely wrong. Therefore Catholic or Orthodox priests and Bishops who contend otherwise are fighting the fathers on this issue.
“[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered.” Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 9:12 (A.D. 225).
“They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption?” Epiphanius of Salamis, Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 (A.D. 375).
“Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], 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 [natural] 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.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 24 (A.D. 391).
These are just three quotes of nearly 50 available to me. When we read scriptures through the lens of the Fathers and observe what it is they believed to be true, we see that they were definitely against contraception. However, in modern Catholic theology, the fathers and Patristic writings are viewed as old and irrelevant. This is in stark contrast to their Churches infallible councils that hold the interpretation of scriptures by the fathers in high regard and binding upon all the faithful.
Years ago on national T.V and on one of Irelands popular late-night chat shows, a newly ordained redemptorist priest about the age of 30, openly stated he didn’t believe in his churches stance on Contraception. It was devastating to hear because I remember him well. I visited this seminary at a time when he had been still a seminarian. I had only been 23 at the time and he was 1 of three priests being ordained that year. With such a small number of priests being ordained I was shocked that such a man had been admitted to the priesthood.
I am likewise shocked but not surprised to hear Orthodox priests in the west buckle in compromise to the devilish doctrines of lust. Why? Because the western world is steeped in sin and it’s difficult not to be affected by its sodomite culture. However, we must congratulate those Christians be they Catholic or Orthodox for having the common sense to side with the early Church fathers on this one.
The quotes above even call into question the Catholic Churches teaching of NFP which is natural contraception. It’s obvious the fathers did not agree with that either. For to have intercourse without the purpose of procreation was simply to turn one’s wife into a harlot and mistress for lustful pleasure. It’s tough teaching to consume for someone who grew up on this understanding and view it as normal. However, this post is mainly written for Christians committed to their faith and thirst for truth.