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Is there a reason why the cleanup tag, wiki formatting, and grammar editing have been taken out and replaced by what seems to be basically the originally posted article? Vandrona 04:17, March 6, 2007 (PST)

It looks like the original poster came back with corrections and re-posted a updated article. This wiped out the edits by others. The original poster may not have known that the article was updated.
To he original poster: Please keep in mind that this is a community project. Always edit the latest version of an article. If you have a work in progress, please use the Template:Inprogress template. Andrew 05:14, March 6, 2007 (PST)
It doesn't seem to have helped. My contributions to the article were deleted, together with the cleanup tag, without an explanation. Vandrona 10:10, April 19, 2007 (PDT)


This article reads like a homily, citing many sources that are of borderline relevance. The topic, I think, should be focused on the issue of what various Orthodox sources have to say about sexual issues. The nature of marriage is obviously the starting point (and didn't I hear that marriage is equal in dignity to the monastic life, not inferior to it as this article suggests?).

One important problem is the extent to which "the Church" can be said to offer a single, coherent answer to issues such as masturbation. I would be surprised to find many authoritative writings or sermons referring to it (more on undefined "temptations") but I'm sure they exist. The question then becomes, can such pronouncements be described as marginal to the church, or are they integral to it?

A more serious issue is that of "fornication" (read, nonmarital sex relations, presumed to be heterosexual and nonadulterous). Certainly any number of biblical and patristic citations thunder against it, and yet, the attitude of spiritual fathers who must deal with real-world relationships is not always so uncompromising. Do they (the confessors) too not represent the Church? Is it un-Orthodox to claim that such rules (like the question of polygamy, perhaps) owe as much to secular social mores as to universal moral principles?

Other topics which ought to be covered include homosexuality and birth control. Zla'od 00:32, January 4, 2008 (PST)

More Suggestions

Several times I have written things, only to have them deleted, with the only discussion being the comments in the summary box. Not only does this discourage me, and probably others, from contributing, but it seems unlikely to allow for a decent article to develop. May I suggest that try to agree here on how the article should look? Otherwise, the text will just revert to whoever has the most strident views and the most time.

So, what DOES Orthodoxy teach about sex? We desperately need a methodology for establishing this. On one hand, as I understand matters, the Orthodox faithful are not REQUIRED to believe anything that is not specifically mentioned in the creeds (which would include all sexual subjects except those pertaining to the Virgin Mary). Even matters specifically proscribed by the Bible (such as shrimp-eating) need not be assumed to be applicable.

On the other hand, there is the matter of Tradition. Certainly any number of authorities within Orthodoxy have made pronouncements of various types, which would yield a lengthy list of recommendations and prohibitions. The problem here is that it is difficult to establish which of these are to be included within the "Tradition." For example, I believe Chrysostom recommended marriage at a relatively young age (before military service for men), which strikes most people today as profoundly bad advice.

The issue of personal advice from one's spiritual father is another vexed issue. For many people, the Church "speaks" on such matters through this very personalized route, which does not well lend itself to being summarized, transcribed, or generalized about. By making pronouncements to the effect that the Church commands this or that, we perhaps render too concrete advice that is meant to be personalized. (Also, there seems to be some disagreement as to the appropriateness of approaching one's spiritual father for help with personal decisions such as who to date, or what to do with them while dating.

Anyway, may I suggest the following topics?

  • The nature of romantic love
  • The nature of marriage (Genesis, Cana)
  • The nature and applicability of commandments pertaining to sex and marriage
  • The theme of resisting lust and temptation
  • Traditions of celibacy and fasting (from sex as well as food)
  • A catalogue of sexual topics, mentioning which Orthodox authorities have taken which positions
  • Examples of dating and relationship advice (I am aware of pamphlets)
  • A floor-plan showing which sections of church might legitimately be used for sex, provided no other condition prohibited it (ha ha, just kidding on this one)

Your thoughts? Zla'od 17:15, January 7, 2008 (PST)

My .02

Hi, Zla'od! I'm Mike, Gabriela's husband. Welcome to Orthodoxwiki! I normally don't make comments or edit heavily, leaving that to my darling wife, but I am a longtime reader of Orthodoxwiki. I don't think we've had this much discussion on an article here on our humble little site for awhile! :)

I think first I want to say is that it is extremely important that articles stick to a certain mainstream Chalcedonian Orthodox POV. I'll give you an example:

On occasion, I do write articles on saints and when fancy strikes me, heresy and different religious movements. Awhile back, I wrote an article on Mormonism, complete with detailed descriptions of Mormon history and its theology. Fr. Andrew kindly directed me on how my article wasn't fitting with the rest of Orthodoxwiki, and that I needed to "Orthodoxize" it. So I went back and made points about how Mormon theology and history doesn't fit with Orthodox theology and the way we view ecclesiastical history. It is important that all articles follow with this theme.

Second, the Church practices oikonomia, which essentially means flexible observance of the canons. During confession, many priests exercise oikonomia when penitents seek out pastoral direction in special circumstances, and consequently, penances may be lower than what the canons prescribe. This does not say that the Church condones certain exercises such as masturbation, adultery, or fornication. However, the Church in her wisdom grants us this mercy because we are weak.

Let me give you an example: Christ said in both the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Matthew that couples should never divorce and re-marry, lest they commit adultery (though in St. Matthew's, Christ states that men and women can divorce on the grounds of fornication). Chrysostom in Homily 19 on 1 Corinthians VII states that while this is a law which Christ established, separations do occur, and that sometimes it is necessary for two people to separate in order to save both their souls. In perfect circumstances, they should stay together. But again, we live in a fallen world.

I hope these examples have given you a look into how we view things, and that unlike Roman Catholics, we aren't legalistic - but that doesn't make us libertines as some of your comments seem to express. These are just my views. I am not a priest or a theologian, I could very much be wrong. Things regarding these matters should be discussed with an Orthodox priest that you feel comfortable talking to.

I hope to be seeing you around the Wiki more often.

The Sinner Mike 18:33, January 7, 2008 (PST)

Hello Mike, and thank you for the welcome. I do understand the "Chalcedonian bias" and in fact am trying to work within that. One point which I am very fuzzy on is the canons. What precisely do the canons says? Are they different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction? May one reject some or all of their prescriptions, and yet remain Orthodox? Assuming that some of the canons concern sexuality, these questions would be very important. Orthodox sometimes claim not to be as "legalistic" as the Catholics (does that represent a caricature?) but it seems to me that they do operate on the basis of rules (even if allowances are made for human frailty). If there are no rules, then we have no basis for saying (for example) that the Church opposes fornication or homosexuality or what have you.
According to what I was told, the Greek word translated as "fornication" in the NT really means "prostitution." (After all, how could fornication--as distinct from adultery--be grounds for divorce? That makes no sense at all.) Of course many church authorities would oppose fornication in the modern sense of the word, no matter what the Greek of the NT meant. (And in fact many of the Fathers insisted on the authority of the Greek OT over the Hebrew original!) Here we come to an interesting problem. In what sense does "the Church" oppose fornication? Because it is in the canons somewhere? (But perhaps the canons contain other material which is no longer believed or observed...?) Because the majority of its authoritative figures believe this? Is it possible for a "liberal Orthodoxy" to exist--say, if a priest comes to a different conclusion about the matter of fornication? (Such disagreement apparently exists with respect to Universalism.)
Anyway, how do you (and the Mrs.!) think the article should be organized?Zla'od 00:45, January 8, 2008 (PST)
A few things to respond to, Zla'od.
I don't know who told you that the Greek verb "to fornicate" in that specific passage is restricted only to prostitution (Matt 5:32). If we look at Attic Greek, where a large majority of Koine gets its "linguistic background," the word porneias (which is what Christ is using) is commonly translated in this case as "fornication" or "harlotry" (you can consult both Liddell & Scott Greek dictionary as well as Perseus online if you do not wish to take my word for it). Yes, it can refer to prostitution, but we have to look at circumstances and context, as most Greek writers usually are very specific, and will tell you that a certain person "accepted money" for sex, or "took it as a profession."
This word was used interchangeably for both fornication and prostitution, but it does not mean that the ancients viewed prostitution (having sex for money) and fornication similarly.
We can see this in Lysias (b. 458 B.C.), an Ancient Athenian forensic rhetorician. Lysias' job in Athens was writing speeches for plaintiffs and defendants in court cases. In most Ancient Greek city-states, men represented themselves, and there were no lawyers. So in order to give a good apology in court, they hired speech writers to write their statements before they addressed them to court.
But I digress. Lysias once wrote a defense statement for a man who killed another man on the grounds that he caught said man and his wife in bed together performing the act (Against Eratosthenes). The verb which Lysias used in this case was porneo, and from this context, classicists have translated the verb as "to fornicate." To glean that Christ only meant that prostitution is the only element in the grounds for a divorce implies a poor understanding of how this word was used in the Greco-Roman world.
Second, to really define the word canon, we have to look at Greek once again. The word kanon, which means rule, is different than the word for law, which is nomos. This does not mean that Orthodoxy has no rules or moral backbone behind it, where everyone is free to interpret the canons and do things willy nilly. To the contrary, we have had two millenniums full of martyrs who have died for what they and the Church believes to be right - spiritually and morally. However, the Church understands that not all people are the same and each circumstance is different. For example, it states in the kanons clearly that a person who has sex outside of marriage should be forbidden to receive from the chalice at Holy Communion for a certain period of time. However, a teenage boy who loses his virginity to a girl one night might be permitted to continue to receive Communion (provided that he repents), so as not to draw suspicion towards himself by other parishioners or even his family members. This not only ensures the security of the confessional and the confidentiality between the penitent and his spiritual father, it also provides the penitent with a way to get over his sin and move on without feeling ashamed to show his face in Church again, which is something good and profitable for his soul. The important thing is that the individual has repented, and turned away from this sinful behavior (The example which I have given is of no known individual, but was discussed by me to my spiritual father regarding penances and confession).
Let me give you another example. The canons say specifically that the age for ordaining men to the diaconate is twenty-five. However, in the past there have been many exceptions to this rule, especially in monasteries. This does not mean that they are disobeying the canons. They applying economia due to need or individual circumstance (i.e. the person demonstrates extreme maturity to take the position at a younger age than the one specified).
For the moment, I do not know how this article should be written. I really didn't have any qualms with it in the first place before this major edit took place. I thought that it gave a pretty basic rundown on our views on sex (i.e. that it should be kept in marriage, the virtues of celibacy as well as marriage, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.). Any major questions about sex that I have, I take up with my spiritual father.Mike 17:46, January 8, 2008 (PST)
Are these canons / kanons available in English online somewhere? I would like to see citations of all its rules concerning sexuality. (While noting, of course, that they're not so much "rules" as uh, inflexible suggestions?) Zla'od 01:58, January 9, 2008 (PST)

My reasoning in response to Zla'od

I'm sorry if I came across as abrupt, Zla'od. In order to understand why, let me just say a few things.

  • On Orthowiki, the Talk pages aren't heavily used as they are on normal Wikipedia. There's more of a general consensus about what we believe, so there's no need to dispute the basics in a litigious manner. This isn't to say, of course, that there are never disagreements. Also, we tend to have a lot fewer users, and most of these users are more or less familiar with the others, at least those who contribute more or less regularly.
  • Because the article was originally written by a Holy Cross seminarian, I also didn't think that it needed much modification theologically.

As far as the canons go, I would suggest searching through this page, which contains the Didache, the Rudder, and the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, all online:

I stated that some of your changes were "moral relativism" because I assumed that it was taken for granted in Orthodox circles that fornication and masturbation were considered wrong. Of course, as my husband stated, the later is more of a touchy subject that may be subject to economia in certain cases. This does not mean that the Church considers it acceptable, as masturbation is a subset of fornication. The Church has a clear moral teaching on basic issues, passed down through Holy Tradition, that one must believe just as one believes in the Trinity, the Creed, etc.

Again, I do not mean to offend you, but this is what I believe. Gabriela 17:45, January 9, 2008 (PST)

Hey Gabriela, Thanks for your response here. I just wanted to note that I disagree with you on your two points above (not you second-to-last paragraph though) -- 1. I think it's just a factor of having fewer people. Some talk pages have been very active with disputes, and there are certainly things that could be talked through more carefully, even if, thankfully, we do have a much larger set of common beliefs and values than folks on Wikipedia. 2. I wouldn't say that just because an article was written by a seminarian, its necessarily theologically correct -- I wish that were the case, but we really can't take much for granted. I don't mean to imply anything about the original author of the article here, of course. Thanks again, Yours in Christ, — FrJohn (talk)


This article has been long overdue for a rewrite, so I went ahead and did what I could. I hope that the structure is now more conducive to additions and corrections than the previous version, and I'm sorry if I didn't include portions or topics that should have been kept (or added). —magda (talk) 19:55, March 20, 2008 (PDT)

Purpose Section and St. John Chrysostom

Quite confused. I am wondering if anybody has a link to the last quote in this section by St. John Chrysostom, mainly the quote "Neither is it necessary to allow for the possibility of conceiving, and thus having a large number of children, something you may not want." I'm not overly familiar with SJC, but I can recall that his 24th Homily on Romans has many anti-contraception and anti-abortion viewpoints, and it would appear that this viewpoint is one that is very pro-contraception. It is quoted as being from his sermon "On Virginity." I have looked and cannot find this quote in that sermon (though perhaps I do not have a full version). The actual citation here in the wiki is a book I am not familiar with. If SJC did in fact say this, could someone provide a link to the quotation? I think a stronger source is needed than simply a secondary quotation through a novel.

Note: I was referring to this part from the Homily on Romans [1]

Mets 09:19, June 17, 2009 (UTC)

Unfortunately, that's all the information I have. The secondary source, You Call My Words Immodest is written by a Greek theologian, and is a textbook rather than a novel, as far as I can tell. I don't like using secondary sources when I can find primary ones, I admit. I am unable to find any version of Chrysostom's "On Virginity" after searching online for over an hour.
In terms of the quotation, in context, I had hoped it was clear that St. John Chrysostom is speaking of having versus abstaining from sex, rather than (active) contraception. To paraphrase: you don't have to have sex in order to have children if you're not ready for children. Perhaps more clarification is necessary? —magda (talk) 18:25, July 31, 2009 (UTC)
Return to "Sex" page.