Caveat Emptor: Ware’s ‘The Orthodox Church’

This is a short post on changes in the book “The Orthodox Church” by Kallistos Timothy Ware regarding the Orthodox teaching about contraception.

Natural family planning is acceptable, because it simply involves abstinence from sex during times when fertility is likely. Such is the teaching of the Church of Greece as expressed in her encyclical of October 14, 1937.

From a ‘Booklet on Contraception’. Click the chart to see it.

Timothy Ware’s book, The Orthodox Church, an extremely well respected book in Eastern Orthodox circles. The alterations which have been made through the various revisions tell us an interesting story, and paints a rather troubling picture concerning recent developments within Eastern Orthodoxy:

1963 Version

“Artificial methods of contraception are forbidden in the Orthodox Church”

1984 Version

“The use of contraceptives and other devices for birth control is on the whole strongly discouraged in the Orthodox Church. Some bishops and theologians altogether condemn the employment of such methods. Others, however, have recently begun to adopt a less strict position, and urge that the question is best left to the discretion of each individual couple, in consultation with the spiritual father”

1993 Version

“Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences”

 

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About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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