Melkite-Greek Catholics


"Some of you might remember me from the old messageboard, and I'm here briefly to report on a few interesting developments regarding the Melkite-Greek Catholic Church. A few months ago, I posted Melkite Bishop John Elya's evaluation of his church's position on contraception, which can be found in the Q & A forum on the Melkite Church's website. Here it is in its entirety:

Birth Control: How do Melkites view birth control?

Bishop John's Answer: In response to your question, let me say that as Melkite Catholics, we freely embrace the moral teachings of the One Catholic Church of the East as of the West. We find that our own traditions support the teachings of the Church in ways that add to our celebration of faith.

Since Pope Paul VI promulgated the encyclical Humanae vitae in 1968, volumes have been written by way of response. In the last few years, the wisdom of his words has become more and more apparent. In our Melkite celebration of marriage, we begin by praying with the Psalmist that the couple might one day "see their children's children like olive branches around their table." This poetic language captures the fundamental values of both the unitive and procreative aspects of the sacramental marital union. Just prior to crowning the couple, the priest prays that the Father will stretch forth his hand and make the two one in flesh granting them fair children for education in the faith and fear of God. The symbol of the marriage crown speaks to the glory and honor of their chaste love that is seen as a sublime gift from the Father. Our liturgy proclaims the truths of marital love that is rich in meaning and challenge.

You might agree that we live in a culture that presents great challenge to Christian couples as they live out their commitments to one another in marriage. Human sexuality is poorly appreciated in our modern culture. In Humanae vitae, the Pope writes: "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil." This moral teaching poses a true challenge to many in our modern culture. We hope to deal with the issues with compassion and truth. Anything less detracts from God-given values.

In his recent writings, Pope John Paul II has emphasized the fundamental value of the Christian family as a microcosm of the church itself. The theological insights of the Holy Father deserve the serious consideration of every serious Christian as we search for the fullest meaning of married life. I recommend that you read what is contained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Nos. 2368-2371. God bless you."

Evidently, the language in Bishop Elya's reply (Pope John Paul II's "theological insights" deserve "the *serious consideration* of every serious Christian", "I *recommend* that you read what is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church") was too equivocal, for the Bishop recently amended his reply with the following passage:

"Our Church teaching is the same as that of the whole Catholic Church throughout the world that faithful Christians may not make use of any artificial means of contraception." Bishop Elya goes on to endorse NFP, which he characterizes as "natural methods" for married couples "who would like to 'plan' their children's birth."

Here's the link to Bishop Elya's recent response, for those of you who wish to read the complete text: - Contraception


I will follow this post with another post which reflects the dissenting view of an esteemed Melkite theologian.



Melkite-Greek Catholics, Part 2


I found this excerpt from the book "Crowning: The Christian Marriage", written by Melkite Archbishop Joseph Raya. I found it on a forum for discussion of Eastern Rite Catholic issues. According to the Melkite Catholic who posted this excerpt, Archbishop Raya's book is used in some Melkite marriage preparation programs. Here are the Archbishop's words:

"In a world where eroticism dominates the hearts and minds of men and women, it is almost impossible to honor the Christian vision of a sexuality more precious than pleasure and more honorable than social necessity. In our days, the problems of birth control are heart rending.

In his praiseworthy attempt to counteract a sexual morality falsified by a secularized society and atheistic propaganda, Pope Paul VI, who at the time of the Second Vatican Council had reserved to himself the final decision on birth control, called upon a papal commission to advise him before publishing the official Church doctrine.

Over three quarters of the members, chosen by the Pope for their wisdom and reliability, offered the majority opinion endorsing a carefully qualified use of birth control, and proposed a revision of the current unqualified condemnation.

Pope Paul VI, however, disregarded their advice and published the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, maintaining the negative position. There is a present a painful tension between the supporters of rigidity in this matter, and those who believe it is unjustified.

The Byzantine ceremony of Crowning glorifies Christian chastity. Chastity means integrity of the human relation, integration of the forces of life into the personalistic aspects of nuptial love, which leads the couple into the Kingdom, into the peace and harmony of life. Both fertile and childless couples go beyond the mere functional: the combine the instinctive and passionate movements of their love, integrating them into a single act of ascent of pure goodness. It is not in spite of marriage, but in its fulfillment in peace, harmony and supreme joy that couples live the supernatural and holy reality of their union, chastity.

In the embrace of love, Christian couples are chaste. They are perfectly and entirely for each other. "I am my Belovedís and my Beloved is mine" (Canticle of Canticles). In genuine faith, they assume their human and spiritual responsibilities, and choose the best ways, pleasing to God, to achieve what they have set out to do. Birth control is in some way their responsibility. Vatican Council II has clearly established that conscience is the most sacred core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.

The theologian Paul Evdokimos, in his study on the "Sacrament of Love", summarizes the attitude of Eastern theology on birth control: The Church "addresses herself to evangelical metanoia, and hopes to change man and woman into a new creation, to render them charismatic; She exorcises demonic powers and protects the Gate of Life; She discerns among the spirits, and shows the pathways to ultimate liberation; She does not define the rules of social life, and does not prescribe panacaeas. . . " (p.175). The Church should never refuse to advise when advice is sought, but should not try to manipulate the intimacy of husband and wife. Patriarch Maximos IV of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem proclaimed at the Council of Vatican II, "The Church does not penetrate into the nuptial chamber. She stands at the door."

The Byzantine Church does indeed believe that the Sacrament of Crowning establishes the man and woman as prophets, king and queen of supernatural worth, and robes them with the Royal Priesthood of Christ. Their dignity is real. Consequently, their vocation will be to form personal decisions, and to judge situations, in order to find solutions to the individual circumstances of their lives."

Here's a link to the page. You will need to scroll down to find the message in which this excerpt originally appeared:;f=2;t=001383