Eastern orthodoxy and birth control

What is the eastern orthodox position on birth control ?

I’m no expert, but I attending a carnival at a Greek parish and the priest gave us a very nice tour of his church. During the question session, someone asked about the orthodox view of birth control. The preist responded that it was officially the teaching of the church that birth control was sinful, but nearly all American Orthodox women use it anyway. I didn’t really like the way he said that. It was clear from his attitude that he thought the teaching was old-fashioned and silly. (Like some blue law that was technically still on the books but no one had taken the initiative to have it removed.)

No idea, though I have problems with the pill and believe orthodox should not take it.

According to my coworker, who just happens to be on facebook, and who is a Coptic Orthodox Christian, the general teaching of the Orthodox Church is that it is sinful to use birth control except in very rare occasions that need to be discussed with a priest. So, in other words, if you are Orthodox and want permission to use birth control, I know the preist you should talk to!

I’m not Orthodox, but I’m sure this is what they would say. An Orthodox Christian would probably be advised to avoid hypotheticals and just consult his or her pastor.

Historically, Orthodox Christianity has condemned the use of contraception and, as far as I know, continues to do so officially. Any case-by-case exceptions would be done on the particular level, for a particular couple, only in consultation with their spiritual father, and as an exercise of economy.

Any additions or corrections by Orthodox Christians on this forum are welcome. :slight_smile:

Go about um… two-third (give or take) down this link. There is a section titled Sex, Children, Birth Control, Divorce. Though not very kind to Catholic teaching, so be weary of that.

I can never seem to understand the alleged differences in theology that Orthodox Christians claim to have with the Catholic Church. For example, in the link provided in the above post, the author writes,

“This teaching of our Church, however, should not be construed as being the same kind of teaching as is found in the Roman Catholic Church. The consistent teaching of the Church of Rome has been and is that having children is the primary function of marriage. This is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy, by contrast, gives the first place to the spiritual purpose of marriage—which is the mutual salvation of the husband and wife. Each is to help and encourage the other in save his or her soul. Each exists for the other, as a companion, a helper, a friend.”

The author attempts to explain the differences between Catholic and Orthodox view of marriage. (Though his explaination of the Catholic view is missing crucial elements.) Basically, he says that Catholics think marriage is primarily for procreation and Orthodox think marriage is primarily for a spiritual bond. (Of course, we know that the Church teaches that the purpose of marriage is BOTH unitive and procreative.)

However, a few paragraphs later, the author writes this,

“And so, although in the Orthodox Church the first purpose of marriage is not merely to have children, the desire of most young marrieds today to wait before having children is considered sinful. As a priest, I must say to any couple that approaches me for marriage that, if they are not prepared and willing to conceive and bear a child, without interfering with the will of God by means of artificial birth control, then they are not ready to be married.”

So on one hand, Catholics beleive that marriage has two equally important purposes, (unitive and procreative) while the Orthodox believe that marriage has a primary purpose, (unitive) and a secondary purpose (procreative) that isn’t as important but still important enough that the priest who wrote the artical believes he couldn’t marry a couple that wasn’t ready to follow that second-not-as-important-but-still-crucial-to-the-equation purpose.

Am I crazy, or are we just splitting hairs here?


This link touches briefly on the Greek Orthodox Church’s traditional/historical stance- “No”, but there are those within the Church who believe that the Fathers who related birth control as equal to abortion didn’t understand medically how it all works.

In a nutshell, as long as the birth control method used does not cause an abortion, then generally a Greek Orthodox couple has permission to use it for reasons of health and ability to provide for their children and strengthening of marriage. Like with all things in Orthodoxy, a couple is wise to discuss this with their priest before putting it into practice.

What may surprise some Catholics is that Orthodox view Natural Family Planning as form of Birth Control and since it does not cause an abortion, it would generally be permissible for an Orthodox couple with children to use.

Another thing related is the practicing Orthodox Christian following the Fasts of the Church refrains from sexual relations with their spouse roughly 50% of the year already naturally limiting the opportunities for pregnancy.

Granting there are probably many couples within the Orthodox Church that do not practice the Church’s Teachings so people may find woman using the birth control pills, IUDs or other abortion causing forms of birth control.

I do have a question, when I was in the Catholic Church I remember hearing on a Catholic radio station something along the lines that the current Pope had granted permission for married couples in Africa to use a condom IF their intent was not to prevent children but was to attempt to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to their unaffected partner. First, is this true & second is it limited to couples on the continent of Africa?

Would you mind explaining your combination of user name and religion?

I don’t want to stray of topic. I will answer you question briefly. When I joined Catholic Answers I was a Catholic but through the reading & study of the Bible, the Church Fathers & History combined with much Prayer, Contemplation & Spiritual Direction, I entered the Orthodox Church and then changed my religion on here and attempted to do the same on Facebook, but it doesn’t allow me to. *

Certainly looks like splitting hairs to me. It often seems to me that our non-Roman brothers and sisters have to find justification for not agreeing with us, for fear that they would have to join us. I see this with some of my high-church Episcopalian fiends.

When I see things like this being talked about, I sigh a deep sigh.

With so many really big issues and hard times upon us, I just can’t get into a discussion over birth control.

I have a cousin, right now, dying of pancreatic cancer. A step-father with Alzheimer’s and a blood clotting issue that needs surgical intervention. Another family member needing serious dental surgery, bills to be paid,

I could go on and on.

I just dont have the energy to go round and round over birth control.

And if Yeshua doesn’t get that, oh well…The He doesnt get how serious plate of serious issues face me and my family…

And birth control isnt one of those issues. Not by a long shot… :shrug:

I will pray for your family.

Thank you, so very much, for your prayers. We need them, and appreciate them…

I don’t think this will surprise us. Catholics also somewhat view NFP as form of “birth control”, however, the most important thing is the absence of an artificial or unnatural barrier.

I will pray for you too. May God provide you strength through this rough times, and the grace so your faith in Him shall not waiver. :hug1:

The focus of Othodox theology is on the couple and family. Hence, whether contraception is permissible depends on whether it will be beneficial or detrimental to the relationship.

The focus of Catholic theology is on the act of contracepting itself. Hence the couple’s situation is not taken into account, and contraception is a priori assumed to be detrimental.

In my opinion the Catholics have it backwards, but that’s me.

Thank you.

My cousin died last night. She was in her mid-40’s…


The media coverage of this topic was very poor. Tons of sources reported the event in the way you described, but the transcript of the event tells a different story. The Holy Father was reflecting on how a homosexual male prostitute using a condom with the intent of protecting sexual partners from STDs can be seen as a step in a moral direction. This is not a statement condoning the use of condoms, but merely a recognition that they can be used with good intentions. The reason a homosexual male is used in the example is to remove the issue of thwarting God-given fertility from the equation. It’s a nuanced example, but I hope this helps answer your question.

The Catholic position is that contraception is inherently evil, and is therefore never beneficial for a relationship.

Now, with NFP, a couple’s situation is taken into consideration. It is still morally offensive to utilize NFP to avoid conception without a grave reason. So the question between Catholics and Orthodox, as you present it, is not who focuses on the couple and the family. The question is which means of family planning are morally acceptable.

To make things the clearest possible, let me use your example and change the means of family planning to a method that is not seen as morally licit by Catholics and Orthodox.

"The focus of Othodox theology is on the couple and family. Hence, whether abortion is permissible depends on whether it will be beneficial or detrimental to the relationship.

The focus of Catholic theology is on the act of abortion itself. Hence the couple’s situation is not taken into account, and abortion is a priori assumed to be detrimental."

The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that both the intent (situation of the family, etc) and the method are both important. Hopefully this helps. God bless.

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