Catholics and Orthodox: On Marriage and Family (Pt. I)
Marriage and the family belong to the created order and are not a product of mere human decision. Written into the very nature of human being and revealed to us in the Bible, the family, founded on marriage, was established by God as a union between man and woman.
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By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we, thirty representatives of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches in Europe, from countries stretching from the Urals to the Atlantic, have gathered together for the First European Catholic-Orthodox Forum. We express our gratitude to all who have worked for the success of this meeting, especially to the Archbishop of Trent who warmly received us and offered hospitality. The meeting has been organised by the Council of European Bishops Conferences (CCEE), in close collaboration with various Orthodox Churches and some of the dicasteries of the Holy See.
We have expressed our deep sorrow at the sudden death of His Holiness, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia, who had warmly extended his blessing upon the project of this Forum.
What is the purpose of the Forum? It is not to discuss theological issues that are treated at other levels. Our task rather is to concentrate on anthropological issues of crucial importance for the present and future of humanity. The goal of the Forum is to help define common positions on social and moral questions. By engaging in this exchange, we help each other realize just how close our moral and social doctrines are. At the same time we make the world aware of our concerns.
We agreed to dedicate our first encounter to "The Family: A Good for Humanity". Countless numbers of families have contributed so much to European culture. We are grateful to them and in our prayer for families we remember specially those going through difficulties.
Over our four days together we have discussed topics relating to marriage and family, as well as various aspects of sexual ethics. It has been an opportunity for us to proclaim and live our faith, pray to the Lord for grace and reflect on how we might collaborate more. In particular, animated by the love of Christ for humanity, we have focused on the family, acknowledging all the efforts being done to promote family life on our continent, but also voicing our concern for the deteriorating condition of family life that is evident in many ambits of society.
Marriage and the family belong to the created order and are not a product of mere human decision. Written into the very nature of human being and revealed to us in the Bible, the family, founded on marriage, was established by God as a union between man and woman. The Bible presents us with a vision of the family as a unity of life-giving love, an indissoluble relationship, open to life.
I – Marriage and Family
Over the course of these days, we listened to some reports concerning the views of Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Europe. The following is a summary.
A. Orthodox Views on Marriage and the Family
In the Christian Orthodox tradition marriage is viewed as an eternal union of spouses, strengthened not only by physical, but also by spiritual intimacy. In spite of widespread belief to the contrary, the Orthodox Church "by no means calls on its members to shun the body or sexual intimacy as such, for physical relations between a man and a woman are blessed by God in marriage, where they become a source of the continuation of the human race and express chaste love, total community and the 'unity of souls and bodies' of the spouses." According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, "the transformation of these relations, which are pure and worthy according to God's plan, as well as of the body itself into an object of degrading exploitation and trade aimed at the receiving of egoistic and impersonal, loveless and distorted satisfaction, deserves condemnation." (The Bases of the Social Conception of the Russian Orthodox ChurchX, 6.)
According to the Orthodox understanding, an essential element of the marital union and the fruit of the love between man and wife are children, the birth and upbringing of which are one of the main goals of marriage (Ibid., X 3-4). In accordance with this view, the Orthodox Church considers the freely willed rejection of childbirth and the artificial termination of pregnancy inadmissible. As the equivalent of murder, abortion is unequivocally rejected by the Church, which insists on the personal responsibility of all who take part in this act: the woman, the man (in the case of his consent) and the doctor(Ibid., XII,2).
On the basis of Holy Scripture and Tradition the Orthodox Church denounces homosexual relations, seeing in them the distortion of man's divinely created nature (Ibid., XII, 9). It also rejects all forms of fornication, adultery and marital infidelity, as well as prostitution and promiscuity. At the same time, it recognizes the need to pastorally assist those people who have disordered inclinations and whose way of life does not correspond to the Gospel's moral teaching.
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