A different take on Russian roulette

I have a hard time trusting the press when reporting things such as this.  I am inclined to believe what LifeSite reports.

Still, I think this requires additional explanations.

I thought that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church were drawing closer in many respects.

Need more irony?

Russian Orthodox Church approves condom use in wake of Pope Benedict’s remarks


MOSCOW, December 1, 2010 (LifeSIteNews.com) – Even though Pope Benedict XVI did not approve the use of condoms in the massively misreported statement he made to interviewer Peter Seewald, the Russian Orthodox Church has now issued a statement saying the use of condoms is acceptable.

“The Foundations of the Social Policy of the Russian Orthodox Church distinguishes between abortive and non-abortive contraception. Priests can allow people to use the latter,” [Priests can allow?] said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, to the Russian news service Interfax.

Father Vsevolod added that he did not mean that the Church approves of “any egoistical decisions made by spouses not to have children.

The archpriest further remarked that people who are infected with HIV should not rely on condoms but rather abstain from sex.

Fr. Vsevolod called on these people to “seriously think whether they should have sex because infection can spread not only by direct sexual contact.”

A request to the office of His Grace Job, Bishop of Kashira and the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada, for comment and clarification on the statement by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, was not returned by press time.

Contact information for the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada:

Office Of The Patriarchal Parishes In Canada
10812-108 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T5H 3A6
Phone: 780-420-9945
Fax: 780-426-5163
e-mail: bishjob@telus.net

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Eric says:

    I have heard from some of the internet Orthodox that condoms fall under the principle of oikonomia and the priest can give permission to do so like they can give permission to not folllow fasting rules and the bishop can give permission for a young priest with young kids to marry again if his young wife dies.

  2. Dr. Eric says:

    Having written that, I have heard that NFP also is only done under the principle of oikonomia as well. The Orthodox consider using NFP the same as using a condom. (Once again, this comes from comboxing with various members of the Orthodox Church over the internet.)

  3. Father G says:

    Actually, the Russian Church had made this decision on the use of contraceptives a few years ago: http://www.mospat.ru/en/documents/social-concepts/xii/

  4. Childermass says:

    Orthodoxy is generally okay with artificial birth control among married couples these days, as long as they don’t outright exclude having any children. Many Orthodox consider us hypocritical for allowing NFP, as they consider it the same thing. They also point out that Rome forbid the “rhythm method” for centuries till recent times, so we are having our cake and eating it too.

    Most Orthodox hierarchs today don’t consider the Fathers wrong as much as they consider them to have had an incomplete understanding of the process of reproduction in their times. Now, the majority of Orthodox bishops say, we know know that the Pill and condoms are not abortifascient and thus these two things can have a legitimate place in married couples’ family planning regimen.

    The Orthodox also allow up to three marriages through the principle of “economy”.

  5. Oleksander says:

    “economy” is an overused exuse of theirs imo,

    For example ROCOR baptizes all new converts members, OCA baptizes just non-Christian convert or those from questionable denominations, completely illogical so a ROCOR priest could be concelebrating with another priest that the ROCOR would not consider to be baptized! I dont think economy can metaphysically baptize past-tense when an issue arises and a politically correct solution is needed.

  6. AnnAsher says:

    I don’t think this is a new position for the Orthodox Church in Russia (also the Greek). I believe it has long been an option to use barrier methods with the approval of the Priest.

  7. AnnAsher says:

    Childermass- I must inform you that the pill is most certainly abortificient. It’s first aim is to prevent ovulation. If this fails, and ovulation followed by conception takes place, the new person will enter a uterus hostile to Life. The secondary effects of the pill are to disrupt the ph balance inutero and thin and irritate the lining so that the new person can not implant. Failing implantation- the never to be born child is flushed from his mothers body- an induced miscarriage=an automatic abortion.

  8. GordonB says:

    This news, and reading the preceding posts kinda freaks me out a little!

  9. Maltese says:

    It’s an insane argument. There is no moral difference between using a condom and engaging in anal sex: both are ways to circumvent the life-giving modality that Christ (Almighty God) gave us to pass-on life, complete with mother and father; a family to build that nascent life.

    It’s amazing to me that the concept of family could even be questioned in such ways.

    I am very strong against contraception for several reasons. I became a Catholic partly based on this teaching, a), I think contraception a slap in God’s face, b), and, my precious Madelyn was recently born; and but for my strong stance against contraception, she wouldn’t have been. She’s my fourth daughter (I also have one son), and she is nine months, and as beautiful as a baby can be.

    So, the Church’s stance on birth control has given me a beautiful life; and I’m not a sentimentalist. I know others, scared by life by the contraception-mentality, who wait, and wait, and wait, and then it’s too late; as they’re scared to conceive, and bring-forth life. That’s very sad, and somewhat indicative of our anti-life culture…

  10. Fr. Basil says:

    The very title of the quoted article betrays a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

    The misunderstood statement by Pope Benedict did NOT precipitate the statement by the Russian Orthodox Church.

    In any case, this is no different from what the Russian Orthodox Church has been saying for decades.

    Not all Orthodox clergy feel the same way about the morality of contraception, however.

  11. Scott W. says:

    I’ve heard many statements from the Orthodox on what the teaching on contraception is, and I still don’t really know with any certainity. I had a guy leave the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy and intened to become a priest (yes, he was married) who swore up and down that the Orthodox teaching was exactly the same as the Catholic Church.

    On NFP being equivalent to artificial contraception–only if you are a consequentialist.

  12. Mashenka says:

    I’m just a convert and an old maid besides, so I know very little about these matters, but there’s one thing that I think could do with a bit of emphasis–my spiritual father (of eternal memory) used to tell the young folks: “Orthodox Christians don’t use birth control: they use self-control!”

    I read the original article in “Interfax” and I get the general impression that there may be a hole or two in the translation, plus the well-known “Grauniad”, as they call it, is by no means an official organ of the Orthodox Church. I tend to think of the Grauniad in the same way I think of the devil’s Bible….

  13. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    As a Orthodox Priest I want to inform all that the Church does not allow abortive forms of birth control. Also, the Church sees sex in marriage as a kenotic experience which does not have to have as its sole purpose the pro-creation of a child.

  14. Mike says:

    Subdeacon Joseph—what about the Pill? Condoms?

    The Roman Catholic Church also has traditionally seen three ends in marriage–offspring, sacramental graces, and the good of fidelity that is life-long…

  15. richmondtom says:

    Eh, so a schismatic group falls into moral error, having cut themselves off from the infallible source of moral and religious truth? As with the Anglicans, the East has long suffered from this moral compromising, albeit at a slower rate, perhaps because they at least still have the benefit of sacramental graces.

  16. Joe in Canada says:

    Subdeacon Joseph, or Priest Joseph;
    Procreation not the sole purpose; can it be deliberately obstructed as a purpose?

  17. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    Nothing new here. The Orthodox church followed the Anglicans off the Lambeth cliff a long time ago. Along with practically all Protestants.

  18. Subdeacon Joseph says:


    The pill would not be allowed because it does not prevent conception from occurring. Only non-abortive forms of birth control are sanctioned, and this is only for a good reason, and usually with a blessing.

    Joe in Canada,

    If the use of nfp is obstruction then I suppose one is obstructing.

    Robert Pittsburghensis and richmondtom,

    You know many Orthodox consider Roman Catholics to be the first of the Protestants to leave the Catholic faith. I, however, do not. The argument can go both ways. Why are all the Orthodox patriarchates still in communion and the lone patriarchate of Rome is a communion of one (Until they falsely poached off our people in the scandalous UNIA, and often times at the end of musket barrels.) ? Lay off the polemics.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Joseph

  19. Salaam says:

    I think it’s safe to say that there’s a debate in the Orthodox churches, both Eastern and Oriental. There are many who think artificial contraception is not part of God’s plan for us, including at least one well known spokesman and hierararch, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, who also happens to be a major part of Orthodox/Catholic discussions.

    For more a comprehensive discussion of Orthodoxy and contraception, see:


  20. Mike says:

    Fr. Joseph,

    Thank you for the reply.

    Although I see the added evil of an abortive method of birth control, I guess I find true and therefore compelling the RC view that usurping the role of the Creator by frustrating the marriage act–by any method whatsover–thereby making ones self the sole arbiter of life.

    As NFP doesn’t do this–there’s so marriage act corrupted, so to speak, by man’s intervention, so that that is the truly Christian manner of spacing births.

  21. Subdeacon Joseph says:


    I would agree wit you. My wife and I use this method.

    Fr. Joseph

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Joseph,
    Are you Russian Orthodox? Just curious. I’m confused by your title.

  23. Subdeacon Joseph says:


    Yes I am a Russian Orthodox priest in NYC. When I started following this great blog I was a subdeacon in seminary. I suppose I need to write Fr. Z and change my blog name.

  24. ikseret says:

    What’s the chances the Russian Church’s statement is misinterpreted as much as the Pope’s was?

    In any case, who makes magisterial pronouncements in the Orthodox Churches. It seems different synods say different -even contradictory- things.

  25. Mike says:

    Fr. Joseph,
    May God continue to bless your ministry!

  26. Mashenka says:

    ikseret, a great deal of the article on the Izvestia website (which has vanished onto page 2 from their news of religion) http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=7945 is made up of quoted material from the Manchester Guardian (what we laughingly call “The Grauniad). If you read the whole article, you will see that the Grauniad makes “New York Times” types of mistakes. Izvestia did have the grace to quote the following, all the way at the end:

    [QUOTE] “Vatican Press Office Director Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. “In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality,” rather, the use of the condom to lessen the danger of contagion may be “a first act of responsibility” and “a first step on the path toward a more human sexuality” rather than acting to put another’s life at risk, Rev. Lombardi said in his statement.

    [QUOTE]”Nevertheless, he said in his statement that the pope’s comment neither “reforms nor changes” church teachings, which prohibits observant Catholics from using condoms. ” [UNQUOTE]

    I think there is every likelihood that those who read, or called the Patriarchate’s attention to, the “Grauniad’s” coverage could have, perhaps unwittingly, passed on a misunderstanding of the same type we saw in our discussion of last week. If you peruse the Izvestia website, you will soon see that their articles and translations are not always in Perfect English. I am hopeful that a clarification will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, however, remember that it takes more than one Patriarch to move that kind of statement into the Canons!

  27. Mashenka says:

    I had “Izestia” on the brain for some reason, ikseret! Sorry! Every time I said “Izvestia” above, please substitute “Interfax”! Please accept my apologies! It was Interfax, not Izvestia, who published the article in Russia!

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