The Old Testament people of Israel were a prototype of the people of God, the New Testament Church of Christ. The redemptive feat of Christ the Savior laid the foundation for the existence of the Church as a new humanity — the spiritual offspring of the forefather Abraham. With His Blood, Christ “redeemed us to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The Church, by its very nature, is universal and therefore supranational.
FOUNDATIONS OF THE SOCIAL CONCEPT OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
This document, adopted by the Consecrated Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, sets out the basic provisions of its teaching on issues of church-state relations and on a number of contemporary socially significant problems. The document also reflects the official position of the Moscow Patriarchate in the sphere of relations with the state and secular society. In addition, it lays down a number of guiding principles applied in this area by the episcopate, the clergy and the laity.
The nature of the document is determined by its appeal to the needs of the Plenitude of the Russian Orthodox Church during a long historical period in the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate and beyond it. Therefore, its main subject is fundamental theological and church-social issues, as well as those aspects of the life of states and societies that were and remain equally relevant for the entire Church Plenitude at the end of the 20th century and in the near future.
The sacred history of the Old Testament testifies that the state did not take shape immediately. Before the departure of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt, the Old Testament people did not have a state, but a patriarchal tribal community existed. The state is gradually taking shape in the era of the Judges. As a result of a complex historical development, which is guided by the Providence of God, the complication of social relations led to the formation of states.
DATE-June 9, 2008
I. Basic theological provisions
I.1. The Church is a gathering of believers in Christ, into which He Himself calls everyone to enter. In it, “everything heavenly and earthly” must be united in Christ, for He is the Head of “the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). In the Church, the deification of creation is accomplished by the action of the Holy Spirit, the original plan of God for the world and man is fulfilled.
The Church is the result of the redemptive feat of the Son, sent by the Father, and the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit, who descended on the great day of Pentecost. According to St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Christ led humanity by Himself, became the Head of the renewed human nature — His body, in which access to the source of the Holy Spirit is obtained. The Church is the unity of the “new man in Christ”, “the unity of God’s grace living in a multitude of rational creatures who submit to grace” (A.S. Khomyakov). “Men, women, children, deeply divided in relation to race, people, language, way of life, work, science, rank, wealth … – the Church recreates them all in the Spirit … All receive from her a single nature, inaccessible to destruction, a nature unaffected by the many and profound differences by which men differ from one another…
I.2. The Church is a divine-human organism. Being the body of Christ, it combines in itself two natures – divine and human – with their inherent actions and wills. The Church is connected with the world by its human, created nature. However, it interacts with him not as a purely earthly organism, but in all its mysterious fullness. It is the divine-human nature of the Church that makes possible the grace-filled transfiguration and purification of the world, which takes place in history in creative cooperation, “synergy” of the members and the Head of the church body.
The Church is not of this world, just as her Lord, Christ, is not of this world. But He came into this world, having “humbled” Himself to its conditions, into the world which it was necessary for Him to save and restore. The Church must go through a process of historical kenosis in fulfilling her redemptive mission. Its purpose is not only to save the people of this world, but also to save and restore the world itself. The Church is called to act in the world in the image of Christ, to testify of Him and His Kingdom. Members of the Church are called to partake of the mission of Christ, His service to the world, which is possible for the Church only as a conciliar service, “that the world may believe” (John 17:21). The Church is called to serve the salvation of the world, for the Son of Man Himself “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”(Mark 10:45).
The Savior says of Himself: “I am in the midst of you as a servant” (Luke 22:27). Service in the name of the salvation of the world and man cannot be limited by national or religious boundaries, as the Lord Himself clearly says about this in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Moreover, members of the Church come into contact with Christ, who bore all the sins and sufferings of the world, meeting every hungry, homeless, sick, prisoner. Help to those who are suffering is in the full sense help to Christ Himself, and the eternal destiny of every person is connected with the fulfillment of this commandment (Matt. 25:31-46). Christ calls upon His disciples not to abhor the world, but to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”
The Church, being the body of the God-man Christ, is God-human. But if Christ is the perfect God-Man, then the Church is not yet perfect God-manhood, for on earth she fights against sin, and her humanity, although inwardly united with the Divine, by no means expresses Him in everything and corresponds to Him.
I.3. Life in the Church, to which every person is called, is unceasing service to God and people. All the people of God are called to this service. Members of the body of Christ, participating in the general ministry, perform their own special functions. Each is given a special gift to serve all. “Serve one another, each with the gift that you have received, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10). “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; faith to another, by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; miracles to another, prophecy to another, discernment of spirits to another, tongues to another, interpretation of tongues to another. All this is done by the same Spirit, dividing to each one individually, as He pleases.(1 Corinthians 12:8-11). The gifts of the manifold grace of God are given to each one separately, but for the joint service of the people of God (including the service of the world). And this is a common service to the Church, performed on the basis of not one, but various gifts. The difference in gifts also creates a difference in ministries, but “the ministries are different, but the Lord is one and the same; and the actions are different, but God is one and the same, working everything in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:5-6).
The Church also calls on her faithful children to participate in public life, which should be based on the principles of Christian morality. In the High Priestly Prayer, the Lord Jesus asked the Heavenly Father for His followers: “I do not pray that You take them out of the world, but that You save them from evil… Just as You sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world”(John 17:15:18). The Manichean disdain for the life of the surrounding world is unacceptable. The participation of a Christian in it should be based on the understanding that the world, society, the state are the object of God’s love, because they are destined for transformation and purification on the basis of God-commanded love. The Christian must see the world and society in the light of its ultimate destiny, in the eschatological light of the Kingdom of God. The distinction of gifts in the Church is manifested in a special way in the field of her public ministry. The indivisible church organism participates in the life of the surrounding world in its entirety, but the clergy, monastics and laity can exercise such participation in different ways and to varying degrees.
I.4. Fulfilling the mission of saving the human race, the Church does this not only through direct preaching, but also through good deeds aimed at improving the spiritual, moral and material condition of the world around. For this, it interacts with the state, even if it is not of a Christian nature, as well as with various public associations and individuals, even if they do not identify themselves with the Christian faith. Without setting the direct task of converting everyone to Orthodoxy as a condition for cooperation, the Church hopes that joint charity will lead her co-workers and people around them to the knowledge of the Truth, help them maintain or restore fidelity to God-given moral norms, move them towards peace, harmony and prosperity, in conditions which the Church can best carry out her salvific work.
II. Church and nation
II.1. The Old Testament people of Israel were a prototype of the people of God, the New Testament Church of Christ. The redemptive feat of Christ the Savior laid the foundation for the existence of the Church as a new humanity — the spiritual offspring of the forefather Abraham. With His Blood, Christ “redeemed us to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The Church, by its very nature, is universal and therefore supranational. In the Church “there is no difference between a Jew and a Greek” (Rom. 10:12). Just as God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of those who come from pagan nations (Rom. 3:29), so the Church does not divide people either by nationality or by class: in her “there is neither Greek nor Jew, no circumcision, no uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but all and in all Christ”(Col. 3:11).
In the modern world, the concept of “nation” is used in two senses – as an ethnic community and as a set of citizens of a particular state. The relationship between the Church and the nation must be considered in the context of both the first and second meanings of the word.
In the Old Testament, the words ‘am and goy are used to denote the concept of “people”. In the Hebrew Bible, both terms received a very specific meaning: the first was the people of Israel, God’s chosen people; the second, in the plural (goyim), are pagan peoples. In the Greek Bible (Septuagint), the first term was rendered by the words laos (people) or demos (people as a political entity); the second – with the word ethnos (nation; pl. ethne – pagans).
The opposition of the God-chosen people of Israel and other peoples runs through all the books of the Old Testament, in one way or another affecting the history of Israel. The people of Israel were God’s chosen people, not because they outnumbered other peoples in numbers or anything else, but because God chose and loved them (Deut. 7:6-8). The concept of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament was a religious concept. The sense of national community characteristic of the sons of Israel was rooted in the consciousness of their belonging to God through the covenant made by the Lord with their fathers. The people of Israel became the people of God, whose calling is to keep the faith in the one true God and bear witness to this faith in the face of other nations, so that through it the Savior of all people, the God-Man Jesus Christ, would appear to the world.
The unity of the people of God was ensured, in addition to the belonging of all its representatives to one religion, also by tribal and linguistic community, rooted in a certain land – the fatherland.
The tribal community of the Israelites was based on their origin from one forefather – Abraham. “Our father is Abraham” (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8), the ancient Jews said, emphasizing their belonging to the offspring of the one whom God had judged to become “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). Great importance was attached to the preservation of the purity of blood: marriages with foreigners were not approved, since in such marriages the “holy seed” was mixed with “foreign peoples” (Ezra 9. 2).
The people of Israel were given by God the promised land. Coming out of Egypt, this people went to Canaan, the land of their ancestors, and, by the command of God, conquered it. From that moment on, the land of Canaan became the land of Israel, and its capital, Jerusalem, acquired the significance of the main spiritual and political center of God’s chosen people. The people of Israel spoke the same language, which was not only the language of everyday life, but also the language of prayer. Moreover, Hebrew was the language of Revelation, for it was God Himself who spoke to the people of Israel. In the era before the advent of Christ, when the inhabitants of Judea spoke Aramaic, and Greek was elevated to the rank of the state language, Jewish continued to be treated as a holy language in which worship was performed in the temple.
Being by nature universal, the Church is at the same time a single organism, a body (1 Cor. 12:12). She is a community of the children of God, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy people, a people taken as inheritance… once not a people, but now the people of God” (1 Pet. 2:9-10). The unity of this new people is ensured not by a national, cultural or linguistic community, but by faith in Christ and Baptism. The new people of God “have no permanent city here, but seek the future” (Heb. 13:14). The spiritual homeland of all Christians is not earthly, but “higher” Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26). The gospel of Christ is preached not in a sacred language accessible to one people, but in all languages (Acts 2:3-11). The gospel is preached not so that one chosen people will keep the true faith, but so that“at the name of Jesus every knee bowed, in heaven, on earth, and in the underworld, and every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
II.2. The universal character of the Church, however, does not mean that Christians do not have the right to national identity, national self-expression. On the contrary, the Church combines the universal principle with the national one. Thus, the Orthodox Church, being universal, consists of many Autocephalous Local Churches. Orthodox Christians, realizing themselves as citizens of the heavenly fatherland, should not forget about their earthly homeland. The Divine Founder of the Church Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not have an earthly refuge (Matt. 8:20) and pointed out that the teaching He brought was not of a local or national character: “The time is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem you will worship the Father” (John 4:21). He, however, identified himself with the people to which he belonged by human birth. Conversing with the Samaritan woman“You do not know what you are bowing to; but we know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Jesus was a loyal subject of the Roman Empire and paid taxes in favor of Caesar (Matt. 22:16-21). The Apostle Paul, who in his epistles taught about the supranational nature of the Church of Christ, did not forget that by birth he was a “Jew of the Jews” (Phil. 3:5), and by citizenship he was a Roman (Acts 22:25-29) .
The cultural differences of individual peoples find their expression in liturgical and other church creativity, in the peculiarities of the Christian way of life. All this creates a national Christian culture.
Among the saints revered by the Orthodox Church, many have become famous for their love for their earthly fatherland and devotion to it. Russian hagiographic sources praise the holy noble prince Michael of Tverskoy, who “lay down his life for his fatherland”, comparing his feat with the martyrdom of the holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica, “good fatherland lover … reksha about his fatherland Selun city: Lord, if you destroy this city then I will perish with them, if you save them, then I will be saved.” In all epochs, the Church called on her children to love their earthly fatherland and not spare their lives to protect it if it was in danger.
The Russian Church has many times blessed the people to take part in the war of liberation. So, in 1380, St. Sergius, hegumen and wonderworker of Radonezh, blessed the Russian army, led by the holy noble prince Dimitry Donskoy, for the battle with the Tatar-Mongol conquerors. In 1612, St. Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, blessed the people’s militia to fight against the Polish interventionists. In 1813, during the war with the French invaders, St. Philaret of Moscow said to his flock: “If you evade death for the honor of the faith and for the freedom of the Fatherland, you will die a criminal or a slave; die for the faith and the Fatherland – you will receive life and a crown in heaven.
The holy righteous John of Kronstadt wrote about love for the earthly fatherland: “Love the earthly fatherland … it brought you up, distinguished you, honored you, satisfies you with everything; but especially love the heavenly fatherland… that fatherland is incomparably more precious than this one, because it is holy and righteous, incorruptible. This fatherland is deserved to you by the priceless blood of the Son of God. But in order to be members of that fatherland, respect and love (its) laws, just as you are obliged to respect and respect the laws of the earthly fatherland.
II.3. Christian patriotism simultaneously manifests itself in relation to the nation as an ethnic community and as a community of citizens of the state. An Orthodox Christian is called to love his fatherland, which has a territorial dimension, and his blood brothers living all over the world. Such love is one of the ways to fulfill God’s commandment to love one’s neighbor, which includes love for one’s family, fellow tribesmen and fellow citizens.
The patriotism of an Orthodox Christian must be active. It is manifested in the defense of the fatherland from the enemy, work for the good of the fatherland, concern for the arrangement of people’s life, including through participation in the affairs of state administration. A Christian is called upon to preserve and develop the national culture, national self-consciousness. When a nation, civil or ethnic, is wholly or predominantly a mono-confessional Orthodox community, it can in some sense be perceived as a single community of faith – an Orthodox people.
II.4. At the same time, national feelings can become the cause of sinful phenomena, such as aggressive nationalism, xenophobia, national exclusivity, interethnic hostility. In their extreme expression, these phenomena often lead to the restriction of the rights of individuals and peoples, wars and other manifestations of violence.
Orthodox ethics is contrary to the division of peoples into the best and the worst, the belittling of any ethnic or civil nation. All the more disagree with Orthodoxy are the teachings that put the nation in the place of God or reduce faith to one of the aspects of national self-consciousness.
Confronting such sinful manifestations, the Orthodox Church carries out the mission of reconciliation between the nations involved in hostility and their representatives. So, in the course of interethnic conflicts, it does not take sides, except in cases of obvious aggression or injustice shown by one of the parties.
III. Church and State
III.1. The Church as a divine-human organism has not only a mysterious essence that is not subject to the elements of the world, but also a historical component that comes into contact and interaction with the outside world, including the state. The state, which exists to arrange worldly life, also comes into contact and interacts with the Church. The relationship between the state and the followers of the true religion has changed in the course of history.
The family was the primary unit of human society. The sacred history of the Old Testament testifies that the state did not take shape immediately. Before the departure of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt, the Old Testament people did not have a state, but a patriarchal tribal community existed. The state is gradually taking shape in the era of the Judges. As a result of a complex historical development, which is guided by the Providence of God, the complication of social relations led to the formation of states.
In ancient Israel, before the period of Kings, there was the only true theocracy in history, that is, the rule of God. However, as society moved away from obedience to God as the organizer of worldly affairs, people began to think about the need to have an earthly ruler. The Lord, accepting the people’s choice and sanctioning a new form of government, at the same time regrets their abandonment of the government of God: “And the Lord said to Samuel: listen to the voices of the people in everything they say to you; for they did not reject you, but rejected me, so that I would not reign over them … Therefore, listen to their voices; just present to them and declare to them the rights of the king who will reign over them ” (1 Sam. 8. 7, 9).
Thus, the emergence of an earthly state should be understood not as an initially God-established reality, but as God providing people with the opportunity to arrange their social life based on their free will, so that such an arrangement, which is a response to earthly reality distorted by sin, helps to avoid even more sin through opposition to it by means of worldly power. At the same time, the Lord, through the mouth of Samuel, clearly says that he expects from this authority fidelity to His commandments and doing good deeds:“Therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have demanded; Behold, the Lord has made a king over you. If you fear the Lord, and serve Him, and listen to His voice, and do not resist the commandments of the Lord, then you and your king who reigns over you will walk after the Lord your God … But if you do not listen to the voice of the Lord Lord, and you resist the commandments of the Lord, the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers” (1 Sam. 12:13-15). When Saul transgressed the commandments of the Lord, God rejected him (1 Samuel 16:1), commanding Samuel to anoint another of His chosen ones, David, the son of the common man Jesse, as king.
The Son of God, ruling over the earth and Heaven (Matt. 28:18), through incarnation subjected Himself to the earthly order of things; He obeyed the bearers of state power. To His crucifier Pilate, the Roman procurator in Jerusalem, the Lord said: “You would have no power over me, if it had not been given to you from above” (John 19:11). In response to the Pharisee’s tempting question about the permissibility of giving tribute to Caesar, the Savior said: “Give Caesar’s things to Caesar, and God’s things to God” (Matt. 22:21).
Revealing Christ’s teaching about the correct attitude towards state power, the apostle Paul wrote:“Let every soul be submissive to the higher authorities; for there is no authority except from God, but the existing authorities are established by God. Wherefore he who opposes the authority opposes God’s ordinance; but those who oppose themselves will bring condemnation upon themselves. For those who are in authority are not terrible to good deeds, but to evil ones. Do you want to not be afraid of power? Do good and you will receive praise from her; for the leader is God’s servant, it’s good for you. But if you do evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain: he is God’s servant, the avenger in punishment for the one who does evil. And therefore it is necessary to obey not only out of fear of punishment, but also out of conscience. For this, you pay taxes, for they are God’s servants, constantly busy with this. So give everyone their due: to whom to give, to give; to whom dues, dues; to whom fear, fear; who is honored, honored”(Rom. 13:1-7). The apostle Peter expressed the same thought: “Therefore, be submissive to every human authority, for the Lord: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to rulers, as sent from him to punish criminals and to encourage those who do good — for such is the will of God that we, doing good, stopped the mouths of the ignorance of foolish people – as free people, not as using freedom to cover up evil, but as servants of God ” (1 Peter 2: 13-16). The apostles taught Christians to obey the authorities regardless of their relationship to the Church. In the apostolic age, the Church of Christ was persecuted both by the local Jewish authorities and by the Roman state. This did not prevent the martyrs and other Christians of those times from praying for the persecutors and recognizing their authority.
III.2. The fall of Adam brought into the world sins and vices that needed public opposition – the first of these was the murder of Abel by Cain (Gen. 4. 1-16). People, realizing this, in all known societies began to establish laws to limit evil and support good. For the people of the Old Testament, God Himself was the Legislator, who gave the rules that regulated not only religious, but also social life (Ex. 20-23).
The state as a necessary element of life in a world corrupted by sin, where the individual and society need protection from the dangerous manifestations of sin, is blessed by God. At the same time, the necessity of the state follows not directly from the will of God concerning the primordial Adam, but from the consequences of the fall and from the agreement of actions to limit the dominance of sin in the world with His will. Holy Scripture calls on those in power to use the power of the state to limit evil and support good, which is the moral meaning of the existence of the state (Rom. 13: 3-4). Based on the foregoing, anarchy – the absence of a proper arrangement of the state and society – as well as calls for it and an attempt to establish it are contrary to the Christian worldview (Rom. 13.2).
The Church not only instructs her children to obey state authority, regardless of the beliefs and religion of its bearers, but also to pray for it, “so that we can lead a quiet and serene life in all piety and purity”(1 Tim. 2:2). At the same time, Christians must avoid making power absolute, from not recognizing the boundaries of its purely earthly, temporal and transient value, due to the presence of sin in the world and the need to restrain it. According to the teachings of the Church, the power itself also has no right to absolutize itself, expanding its borders to complete autonomy from God and the order of things established by Him, which can lead to abuses of power and even to the deification of rulers. The state, like other human institutions, even if they are aimed at the good, may tend to become a self-contained institution. Numerous historical examples of such a transformation show that in this case the state loses its true purpose.
III.3. In the relationship between the Church and the state, the difference in their natures must be taken into account. The Church was founded directly by God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ; God-established state power reveals itself indirectly in the historical process. The goal of the Church is the eternal salvation of people, the goal of the state is their earthly well-being.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” says the Savior (John 18:36). “This world” partly obeys God, partly, and mainly, autonomizes itself from its own Creator and Lord. To the extent that the world does not obey God, it obeys the “father of lies” Satan and “lies in evil” (John 8:44; 1 John 5:19). The Church, on the other hand, is “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27), “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (1 Tim. 3:15)—in its mysterious essence, it cannot have any evil or shadow of darkness in it. Since the state is a part of “this world”, it has no part in the Kingdom of God, for where Christ is “everything and in everything”(Col. 3:11), there is no place for coercion, no place for the opposition of the human and God, and consequently, there is no state there either.
In the modern world, the state is usually secular and does not bind itself to any religious obligations. His cooperation with the Church is limited to a number of areas and is based on mutual non-interference in each other’s affairs. However, as a rule, the state is aware that earthly prosperity is unthinkable without observing certain moral norms – the very ones that are necessary for the eternal salvation of man. Therefore, the tasks and activities of the Church and the state can coincide not only in achieving purely earthly benefits, but also in carrying out the saving mission of the Church.
It is impossible to understand the principle of secularism of the state as meaning the radical displacement of religion from all spheres of the life of the people, the removal of religious associations from participation in solving socially significant problems, depriving them of the right to evaluate the actions of the authorities. This principle presupposes only a certain separation of the spheres of competence of the Church and authorities, their non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
The church should not take on the functions that belong to the state: resisting sin through violence, using worldly powers, assuming functions of state power that involve coercion or restriction. At the same time, the Church may appeal to the state authorities with a request or an appeal to use power in certain cases, but the right to resolve this issue remains with the state.
The state should not interfere in the life of the Church, in its administration, doctrine, liturgical life, spiritual practice, and so on, as well as in general in the activities of canonical church institutions, with the exception of those parties that involve activity as a legal entity, inevitably entering into the relevant relations with the state, its legislation and authorities. The Church expects from the state respect for its canonical norms and other internal regulations.
III.4. In the course of history, various models of relations between the Orthodox Church and the state have evolved. In the Orthodox tradition, a certain idea has been formed about the ideal form of the relationship between the Church and the state. Since church-state relations are a two-sided phenomenon, the above ideal form could historically be developed only in a state that recognizes the Orthodox Church as the greatest national shrine, in other words, in an Orthodox state.
Attempts to develop such a form were made in Byzantium, where the principles of church-state relations found their expression in the canons and state laws of the empire, and were reflected in patristic writings. Taken together, these principles are called the symphony of Church and State. Its essence is mutual cooperation, mutual support and mutual responsibility, without intrusion of one side into the sphere of exclusive competence of the other. The bishop is subject to state authority as a subject, and not because his episcopal authority comes from a representative of state authority. In the same way, a representative of state authority obeys the bishop as a member of the Church seeking salvation in her, and not because his authority comes from the authority of the bishop. The state, in symphonic relations with the Church, seeks spiritual support from her,
In the 6th short story of St. Justinian, the principle underlying the symphony of the Church and the state is formulated: kingdom, state power) directs and takes care of human affairs, and both, proceeding from the same source, constitute the ornament of human life. Therefore, nothing rests on the hearts of kings so much as the honor of the clergy, who, for their part, serve them, praying unceasingly to God for them. And if the priesthood is well-organized in everything and pleasing to God, and the state power truly governs the state entrusted to it, then there will be complete agreement between them in everything that serves the benefit and good of the human race. Therefore, we make the greatest effort to guard the true dogmas of God and the honor of the priesthood, hoping to receive great blessings from God through this and to hold firmly those that we have. Guided by this norm, Emperor Justinian in his short stories recognized the power of state laws behind the canons.
The classical Byzantine formula for the relationship between state and ecclesiastical power is contained in the Epanagoge (second half of the 9th century): . The well-being of the state consists in their connection and harmony.
However, the symphony in Byzantium did not exist in an absolutely pure form. In practice, it was subject to violations and distortions. The church repeatedly turned out to be the object of Caesaropapist claims on the part of the state authorities. Their essence was that the head of state, the emperor, claimed the decisive word in the arrangement of church affairs. In addition to the sinful human lust for power, such encroachments also had a historical reason. The Christian emperors of Byzantium were the direct successors of the pagan Roman princeps, who, among many of their titles, also had this: pontifex maximus – supreme high priest. The Caesaropapist tendency was revealed most frankly and most dangerously for the Church in the policy of the heretic emperors, especially in the iconoclastic epoch.
The Russian sovereigns, unlike the Byzantine basileus, had a different heritage. Therefore, and also due to other historical reasons, the relationship between church and state power in Russian antiquity was more harmonious. However, deviations from canonical norms also took place (the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the clash between Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and Patriarch Nikon).
As for the Synodal era, the undoubted distortion of the symphonic norm over the course of two centuries of church history is connected with the clearly traceable influence of the Protestant doctrine of territorialism and state churchness (see below) on Russian legal consciousness and political life. An attempt to establish the ideal of the symphony in the new conditions, when the empire fell, was undertaken by the Local Council of 1917-1918. In the declaration preceding the Determination on the Relationship between the Church and the State, the demand for the separation of the Church from the state is compared with the wish that “the sun does not shine, and the fire does not warm. The Church, according to the inner law of her being, cannot refuse the calling to enlighten, transform the whole life of mankind, to penetrate it with her rays. In the Determination of the Council on the legal status of the Orthodox Russian Church, the state, in particular, is called upon to accept the following provisions: “The Orthodox Russian Church, being part of the one Ecumenical Church of Christ, occupies in the Russian State a public-legal position that is superior among other confessions, befitting it as the greatest shrine of the vast majority of the population and as a great historical force that created the Russian State … Resolutions and legalizations issued for itself by the Orthodox Church in the manner established by it, from the time of their promulgation by church authorities, likewise, acts of church administration and court are recognized by the State as having legal force and significance, since they do not violate state laws … State laws relating to the Orthodox Church are not issued otherwise than by agreement with the ecclesiastical authority. Subsequent Local Councils were held under conditions when history made it impossible to return to the pre-revolutionary principles of church-state relations. Nevertheless, the Church reaffirmed its traditional role in the life of society and expressed its readiness to work in the public sphere. Thus, the Local Council of 1990 stated: “Throughout a thousand-year history, the Russian Orthodox Church has educated believers in the spirit of patriotism and peacefulness. Patriotism is manifested in a careful attitude to the historical heritage of the Fatherland, in active citizenship, including participation in the joys and trials of one’s people, in zealous and conscientious work, in caring for the moral state of society, in caring for the preservation of nature ”(from the Message of the Council). Nevertheless, the Church reaffirmed its traditional role in the life of society and expressed its readiness to work in the public sphere. Thus, the Local Council of 1990 stated: “Throughout a thousand-year history, the Russian Orthodox Church has educated believers in the spirit of patriotism and peacefulness. Patriotism is manifested in a careful attitude to the historical heritage of the Fatherland, in active citizenship, including participation in the joys and trials of one’s people, in zealous and conscientious work, in caring for the moral state of society, in caring for the preservation of nature ”(from the Message of the Council). Nevertheless, the Church reaffirmed its traditional role in the life of society and expressed its readiness to work in the public sphere. Thus, the Local Council of 1990 stated: “Throughout a thousand-year history, the Russian Orthodox Church has educated believers in the spirit of patriotism and peacefulness. Patriotism is manifested in a careful attitude to the historical heritage of the Fatherland, in active citizenship, including participation in the joys and trials of one’s people, in zealous and conscientious work, in caring for the moral state of society, in caring for the preservation of nature ”(from the Message of the Council).
In the European West in the Middle Ages, not without the influence of the creation of Blessed Augustine “On the City of God”, the doctrine of “two swords” developed, according to which both authorities, church and state, one directly, and the other indirectly, ascend to the Bishop of Rome. The popes were absolute monarchs over a part of Italy – the Papal States, the remnant of which is the modern Vatican; many bishops, especially in feudally fragmented Germany, were princes who had state jurisdiction over their territory, their own governments and the troops they led.
The Reformation left no ground for maintaining the state power of the pope and Catholic bishops in the territories of countries that had become Protestant. In the 17th-19th centuries, legal conditions in Catholic countries also changed so much that in practice the Catholic Church was removed from state power. However, in addition to the state of the Vatican, the practice of concluding treaties by the Roman Curia in the form of concordats with states in whose territory Catholic communities are located remains a remnant of the “two swords” doctrine. As a result, the legal status of these communities is determined in many countries not only by internal laws, but also by the law governing international relations, the subject of which is the state of the Vatican.
In countries where the Reformation won, and then in some Catholic countries, the principle of territorialism was established in state-church relations, the essence of which lies in full state sovereignty in the relevant territory, including over the religious communities located on it. The motto of this system of relationships was the words cujus est regio, illius est religio (whose power is religion). With consistent implementation, this system implies the removal from the state of adherents of a religion that is different from that shared by the bearers of the highest state power (this has been carried out more than once in practice). However, a softened form of realization of this principle, the so-called state ecclesiasticism, has firmly established itself in life. At the same time, the religious community, usually constituting the majority of the population, to which the sovereign, officially called the head of the Church, belongs, enjoys the advantages of the state Church. The combination of elements of this system of church-state relations with the remnants of the traditional symphony inherited from Byzantium determined the originality of the legal status of the Orthodox Church in Russia in the Synodal era.
In the United States of America, which was originally a multi-confessional state, the principle of a radical separation of the Church from the state was established, which implies a neutral nature of the power system in relation to all confessions. However, absolute neutrality is hardly achievable at all. Every state has to reckon with the real religious composition of its population. No single Christian denomination makes up a majority in the United States, but the overwhelming majority of US residents are Christians. This reality is reflected, in particular, in the presidential swearing-in ceremony on the Bible, the presence of an official day off on Sunday, and so on.
The principle of the separation of church and state, however, also has a different genealogy. On the European continent, it was the result of an anti-clerical or outright anti-church struggle, well known, in particular, from the history of the French revolutions. In such cases, the Church is separated from the state not because of the multi-confessional nature of the population of the country, but because the state associates itself with one or another anti-Christian or generally anti-religious ideology – here we are no longer talking about the neutrality of the state in relation to religion and even about its purely secular character. For the Church, this usually entails oppression, restrictions on rights, discrimination, or outright persecution. The history of the 20th century has shown many examples of such an attitude of the state towards religion and the Church in different countries of the world.
There is also a form of church-state relations, which is intermediate in nature between the radical separation of the Church from the state, when the Church has the status of a private corporation, and the state church. We are talking about the status of the Church as a corporation of public law. In this case, the Church may have a number of privileges and duties delegated to it by the state, without being a state Church in the proper sense of the word.
A number of modern countries – for example, Great Britain, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Greece – retain the state church. Other states, which are growing in number over time (USA, France), build their relations with religious communities on the principle of complete separation. In Germany, the Catholic, Evangelical and some other churches have the status of corporations of public law, while other religious communities are completely separated from the state and are treated as private corporations. In practice, however, the real situation of religious communities in most of these countries depends little on whether or not they are separated from the state. In some countries where Churches retain state status, it comes down to the collection of taxes on their maintenance through state tax institutions, and also to the fact that,
The Orthodox Church now performs its service to God and people in different countries. In some, it represents a national religion (Greece, Romania, Bulgaria), in others, multinational, the religion of the national majority (Russia), in others, the persons belonging to it constitute a religious minority living surrounded by either heterodox Christians (USA, Poland, Finland) or Gentiles (Syria, Turkey, Japan). In some few countries the Orthodox Church has the status of a state religion (Greece, Finland, Cyprus), in others it is separated from the state. The specific legal and political conditions in which the Local Orthodox Churches live also differ. However, all of them rely both in their internal structure and in their attitude to state power on the commandments of Christ, on the teaching of the apostles,
III.5. Having different natures, the Church and the state use different means to achieve their goals. The state relies mainly on material power, including the power of coercion, as well as on the corresponding secular systems of ideas. The Church, on the other hand, has at its disposal religious and moral means for the spiritual guidance of the flock and for the acquisition of new children.
The Church infallibly preaches the Truth of Christ and teaches people moral commandments that come from God Himself, and therefore has no power to change anything in her teaching. It has no power to be silent, to stop preaching the truth, no matter what other teachings are prescribed or disseminated by state authorities. In this respect, the Church is completely free from the state. For the sake of unhindered and inwardly free preaching of the truth, the Church has more than once in history endured persecution from the enemies of Christ. But the persecuted Church is also called upon to endure persecution with patience, without denying loyalty to the state persecuting her. Legal sovereignty on the territory of the state belongs to its authorities.
Consequently, they determine the legal status of the Local Church or a part of it, giving them the opportunity to unhindered fulfillment of the church mission or limiting such an opportunity. Thus, in the face of the Eternal Truth, the state power passes judgment on itself and in the end predicts its own fate. The Church remains loyal to the state, but above the requirement of loyalty is the Divine commandment: to do the work of saving people in any conditions and under any circumstances.
If the authorities force Orthodox believers to apostatize from Christ and His Church, as well as to sinful, soul-damaging acts, the Church must refuse obedience to the state. A Christian, following the dictates of his conscience, may not fulfill the commands of the authorities that compel him to commit serious sin. If it is impossible to obey the state laws and orders of the authorities on the part of the Church Plenitude, the Church Hierarchy, after due consideration of the issue, can take the following actions: enter into a direct dialogue with the authorities on the problem that has arisen; call on the people to apply the mechanisms of democracy to change legislation or review the decision of the authorities; apply to international institutions and world public opinion; appeal to their children with a call for peaceful civil disobedience.
III.6. The principle of freedom of conscience, which appeared as a legal concept in the 18th-19th centuries, turns into one of the fundamental principles of interpersonal relations only after the First World War. Now it is approved by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is included in the constitutions of most states. The emergence of the principle of freedom of conscience is evidence that in the modern world religion is turning from a “common cause” into a “private affair” of a person. In itself, this process testifies to the collapse of the system of spiritual values, the loss of aspiration for salvation in the majority of society, which affirms the principle of freedom of conscience. If initially the state arose as an instrument for the establishment of divine law in society, then freedom of conscience finally turns the state into an exclusively earthly institution that does not bind itself with religious obligations.
The affirmation of the legal principle of freedom of conscience testifies to the loss by society of religious goals and values, to mass apostasy and actual indifference to the cause of the Church and to victory over sin. But this principle turns out to be one of the means of the existence of the Church in a non-religious world, allowing her to have a legal status in a secular state and independence from other or unbelieving sections of society.
The religious and ideological neutrality of the state does not contradict the Christian idea of the vocation of the Church in society. However, the Church must point out to the state the inadmissibility of the spread of beliefs or actions leading to the establishment of complete control over the life of the individual, his beliefs and relationships with other people, as well as to the destruction of personal, family or public morality, insulting religious feelings, damaging cultural and spiritual identity people or threat to the sacred gift of life. In the implementation of its social, charitable, educational and other socially significant programs, the Church can count on the help and assistance of the state. She also has the right to expect
III.7. The form and methods of government are largely determined by the spiritual and moral state of society. Knowing this, the Church accepts the corresponding choice of people, or at least does not oppose it.
In judging, the social system described in the Book of Judges, the power acted not through coercion, but by the power of authority, and this authority was communicated by Divine sanction. In order for such power to be effectively exercised, faith in society must be very strong. Under a monarchy, power remains God-given, but for its implementation it uses not so much spiritual authority as coercion. The transition from judging to monarchy testified to the weakening of faith, which is why the need arose to replace the Invisible King with a visible king. Modern democracies, including monarchical in form, do not seek the divine sanction of power. They are a form of power in a secular society, which implies the right of every capable citizen to express their will through elections.
Changing the form of power to a more religiously rooted one without spiritualizing society itself will inevitably degenerate into lies and hypocrisy, weaken this form and devalue it in the eyes of people. However, one cannot completely exclude the possibility of such a spiritual revival of society, when a religiously higher form of state organization becomes natural. In the conditions of slavery, in accordance with the advice of the Apostle Paul, “if you can make yourself free, then use the best” (1 Cor. 7:21).
At the same time, the Church should pay the main attention not to the system of the external organization of the state, but to the condition of the hearts of its members. Therefore, the Church does not consider it possible for itself to become the initiator of a change in the form of government, and the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994 emphasized the correctness of the position that “any state system, any of the existing political doctrines is not preferable for the Church.”
III.8. The state, including the secular state, as a rule, is aware of its calling to organize the life of the people on the basis of goodness and truth, taking care of the material and spiritual well-being of society. Therefore, the Church can interact with the state in matters that serve the good of the Church itself, the individual and society. For the Church, such interaction should be part of her salvific mission, which encompasses the comprehensive care of a person. The Church is called to take part in the organization of human life in all areas where it is possible, and to unite appropriate efforts with representatives of secular authorities.
The conditions for church-state interaction should be the conformity of church participation in state labors with the nature and vocation of the Church, the absence of state dictates in the social activities of the Church, the non-involvement of the Church in those areas of state activity where her labors are impossible due to canonical and other reasons.
The areas of cooperation between the Church and the state in the current historical period are:
a) peacekeeping at the international, interethnic and civil levels, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between people, peoples and states;
b) concern for the preservation of morality in society;
c) spiritual, cultural, moral and patriotic education and upbringing;
d) works of mercy and charity, development of joint social programs;
e) protection, restoration and development of historical and cultural heritage, including care for the protection of historical and cultural monuments;
f) dialogue with state authorities of any branches and levels on issues significant for the Church and society, including in connection with the development of relevant laws, by-laws, orders and decisions;
g) care for soldiers and employees of law enforcement agencies, their spiritual and moral education;
h) work on the prevention of offenses, care for persons in places of deprivation of liberty;
i) science, including humanities research;
j) health care;
k) culture and creative activity;
l) work of ecclesiastical and secular mass media;
m) activities for the preservation of the environment;
o) economic activity for the benefit of the Church, state and society;
o) support for the institution of the family, motherhood and childhood;
p) countering the activities of pseudo-religious structures that pose a danger to the individual and society.
Church-state cooperation is also possible in a number of other areas in cases where it serves to fulfill the tasks corresponding to the above areas of church-state interaction.
At the same time, there are areas in which clergy and canonical church structures cannot provide assistance to the state and cooperate with it. These are:
a) political struggle, election campaigning, campaigns in support of certain political parties, public and political leaders;
b) waging a civil war or an aggressive foreign war;
c) direct participation in intelligence and any other activity that, in accordance with state law, requires secrecy even at confession and when reporting to the Church Hierarchy.
The traditional area of social work of the Orthodox Church is the mourning before the state authorities about the needs of the people, about the rights and concerns of individual citizens or social groups. Such mourning, which is the duty of the Church, is carried out through an oral or written appeal to state authorities of various branches and levels by the relevant church authorities.
III.9. In a modern state, as a rule, there is a separation of powers into legislative, executive and judicial; There are different levels of government: national, regional, local. This determines the specifics of the relationship of the Church with the authorities of different branches and levels.
Relations with the legislature represent a dialogue between the Church and legislators on the improvement of national and local law related to the life of the Church, church-state cooperation and areas of public concern of the Church. This dialogue also concerns the resolutions and decisions of the legislature, which are not directly related to lawmaking.
In contacts with the executive authorities, the Church should engage in a dialogue on decision-making issues related to the life of the Church, church-state cooperation and areas of public concern of the Church, for which it maintains contact at the appropriate level with central and local executive authorities, including those responsible for solution of practical issues of life and activities of religious associations and supervision of their compliance with the law (organs of justice, prosecutor’s office, internal affairs, etc.).
The relationship of the Church with the judiciary at various levels should be limited to representing, if necessary, the interests of the Church in court. The Church does not interfere in the direct exercise by the judiciary of its functions and powers. The interests of the Church in court, with the exception of extreme necessity, are represented by laity authorized by the Hierarchy at the appropriate level (Chalcis. 9). Internal church disputes should not be submitted to secular courts (Antioch. 12). Interfaith conflicts, as well as conflicts with schismatics that do not affect issues of dogma, can be taken to a secular court (Carth. 59).
III.10. The holy canons forbid the clergy to apply to state power without the permission of the church authorities. Thus, Canon 11 of the Sardic Council reads: “If any bishop, or presbyter, or in general any of the clergy, without the permission and letters from the bishop of the region, and especially from the bishop of the metropolis, dares to go to the king: such shall be dismissed, and deprived not only of fellowship, but also of the dignity that he had … But if the necessary need forces someone to go to the king: let him do this with the consideration and permission of the bishop of the metropolis and other bishops of that region, and let him be parted by letters from them.
Contacts and interaction of the Church with the highest bodies of state power are carried out by the Patriarch and the Holy Synod directly or through representatives who have written authority. Contacts and interaction with regional authorities are carried out by diocesan bishops directly or through representatives who also have written authority confirmed. Contacts and interaction with local authorities and self-government are carried out by deaneries and parishes with the blessing of the diocesan Bishops. Authorized representatives of the Church Hierarchy for contacts with authorities can be appointed both on a permanent basis and for consultations on individual problems.
In the event that an issue previously considered at the local or regional level is referred to the highest bodies of state power, the diocesan Bishop informs the Patriarch and the Holy Synod about this and asks them to maintain contact with the state during further consideration of this issue. In the event that a court case is transferred from the local or regional level to the highest level, the diocesan Bishop informs the Patriarch and the Holy Synod in writing about the progress of the previous court proceedings. Primates of self-governing church districts and administrators of dioceses in individual states have a special blessing from the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to maintain constant contacts with the top leadership of these states.
III.11. In order to avoid confusion between church and state affairs and so that church power does not acquire a secular character, the canons forbid clerics to take part in the affairs of state administration. The 81st Canon of the Apostles says: “It is not fitting for a bishop or presbyter to enter into public administration, but it is not to be neglected to be in the affairs of the church.” The same is said in the 6th Apostolic Canon, as well as in the 10th Canon of the VII Ecumenical Council. In the modern context, these provisions concern not only the exercise of administrative power, but also participation in representative bodies of power (see V.2).
IV. Christian ethics and secular law
IV.1. God is perfection, and therefore the world created by Him is perfect and harmonious. Following the divine laws is life, since God Himself is an endless and complete life. Through the fall of the forefathers, evil and sin entered the world. At the same time, fallen man retained the freedom to choose the right path with God’s help. At the same time, the observance of the God-given commandments affirms life, while a deviation from them inevitably leads to damage and death, since such a deviation is nothing but a deviation from God, and, consequently, from being and life, which can only be in Him:“Behold, today I have offered you life and good, death and evil. I, who command you today, love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, and do his commandments and his ordinances and his laws: and you will live … But if your heart turns away, and you will not listen, and you will go astray. .. you will perish, and you will not stay long on earth ” (Deut. 30. 15-18). In the earthly order of things, sin and retribution often do not immediately follow each other, but are separated by many years and even generations: “I am the Lord your God, a jealous God, for the guilt of the fathers punishing children to the third and fourth Mercy unto a thousand generations to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”(Deut. 5:9-10). Such dilution of crime and punishment, on the one hand, preserves freedom for a person, and on the other hand, it forces reasonable and pious people to study divine institutions with special attention in order to learn to distinguish right from wrong, lawful from lawless.
Numerous collections of teachings and laws are the oldest monuments of the written word. Undoubtedly, they go back to an even earlier, pre-literate existence of mankind, since the “work of the law” is written by God in human hearts (Rom. 2:15). Law exists in human society from time immemorial. The first laws are given to man in Paradise (Genesis 2:16-17). After the fall, which is a violation of the divine law by a person, the right becomes a boundary, going beyond which threatens to destroy both the personality of a person and the human community.
IV.2. Law is intended to be a manifestation of the unified divine law of the universe in the social and political sphere. At the same time, any system of law created by the human community, being a product of historical development, bears the stamp of limitation and imperfection. Law is a special sphere, different from the ethical sphere adjacent to it: it does not determine the internal states of the human heart, since only God is the Knower of the Heart.
However, the behavior and actions of people are the object of legal regulation, which is the content of the legislation. The law also provides for the adoption of measures to enforce compliance with the law. The sanctions envisaged by the legislator to restore the violated legal order make the law a reliable bond of society until, as has happened many times in history, the entire system of existing law is not overturned. However, no human community can exist without law, and therefore, in place of the destroyed legal order, a new legislative system always arises.
Law contains a certain minimum of moral norms that are obligatory for all members of society. The task of secular law is not to turn the world lying in evil into the Kingdom of God, but to prevent it from turning into hell. The fundamental principle of law is “do not do to others what you do not wish for yourself.” If a person committed an unrighteous act against another, then the damage caused to the integrity of the divine world order can be made up for through the suffering of the offender or through pardon, when the moral consequences of the sinful act are assumed by the person who pardons the offender (ruler, confessor, community, and so on). Suffering heals the sin-stricken soul. The voluntary suffering of innocent criminals for the sins is the highest form of redemption, which has as its limit the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, who took upon Himself the sin of the world (John 1:29).
IV.3. The understanding of where the “line of injury” lies, separating man from man, differed in different societies and in different eras. The more religious the human community, the greater is the consciousness of the unity, the wholeness of the world. People in a religiously integral society are considered in two ways: and as unique individuals who stand or fall before God (Rom. 14:4), and therefore are not judged by other people; and as members of a single social body, in which the disease of one organ leads to indisposition, and even to the death of the whole organism. In the latter case, each person can and should be judged by the community, by the world, since the actions of one influence many. The acquisition of a peaceful spirit by one righteous person, according to the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov, leads to the salvation of thousands of people around, and the commission of a sin by one lawless person entails the death of many.
Such an attitude towards sinful and criminal manifestations has a firm foundation in Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. “By the blessing of the righteous a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed” (Prov. 11:11). Saint Basil the Great taught the inhabitants of Caesarea Cappadocia who suffered from thirst and hunger: “And for the few, disasters come to the whole nation, and for the evil deeds of one, many eat its fruits. Akhar committed sacrilege, and the whole regiment was beaten; Zamri committed fornication with a Midianite woman, and Israel was punished.” St. Cyprian of Moscow writes about the same thing: “Don’t you know that human sin attacks princes and princely sin attacks people?”
Therefore, the ancient sudniks also regulate such aspects of life that are now outside the field of legal regulation. For example, adultery was subject to the death penalty under the legal provisions of the Pentateuch (Lev. 20:10), and at present it is not considered an offense in most states. With the loss of a vision of the world in its integrity, the field of legal regulation is reduced only to cases of obvious damage, and the scope of the latter is reduced along with the destruction of public morality and the secularization of consciousness. For example, witchcraft, which was a serious crime in ancient societies, is now considered by law as an imaginary act and therefore is not punished.
The fall of man’s nature, which has distorted his consciousness, does not allow him to accept the divine law in its entirety. In different epochs, only a part of this law was conscious. This is well illustrated in the Savior’s gospel discourse on divorce. Moses allowed fellow tribesmen to dissolve the marriage “according to their hardness of heart”, “from the beginning” it was different, since in marriage a person becomes “one flesh” with his wife, and therefore marriage is indissoluble (Matt. 19. 3-6).
However, in those cases when human law completely rejects the absolute divine norm, replacing it with the opposite, it ceases to be law, becoming lawlessness, no matter what legal clothes it may dress up. For example, the Decalogue clearly states: “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12). Any secular norm that contradicts this commandment makes not the violator of it a criminal, but the legislator himself. In other words, human law never contains the fullness of divine law, but in order to remain law, it must conform to God-established principles, and not destroy them. IV.4. Historically, religious and secular law come from the same source and for a long time were only two aspects of a single legal field. This idea of law is also characteristic of the Old Testament.
The Lord Jesus Christ, having called those faithful to Him into the Kingdom not of this world, separated (Luke 12:51-52) the Church as His body from the world lying in evil. In Christianity, the internal law of the Church is free from the spiritually fallen state of the world and is even opposed to it (Matthew 5:21-47). However, this opposition is not a violation, but the fulfillment of the law of the fullness of the divine Truth, which humanity rejected in the fall. Comparing the norms of the Old Testament with the norms of the good news, the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount calls for the achievement of complete identity of life with the absolute divine law, that is, for deification: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
IV.5. In the Church created by the Lord Jesus, a special right operates, the basis of which is Divine Revelation. This right is canonical. If other religious laws are given for humanity that has fallen away from God and by their nature can be part of civil legislation, then Christian law is fundamentally supra-social. It cannot directly be part of civil legislation, although in Christian societies it has a beneficial effect on it, being its moral foundation.
Christian states usually used the modified law of pagan times (for example, Roman law in Justinian’s “Corpus”), since it also contained norms that were consistent with divine truth. However, an attempt to create a civil, criminal or state law based solely on the Gospel cannot be successful, because without the churching of the fullness of life, that is, without a complete victory over sin, the law of the Church cannot become the law of the world. And this victory is possible only in the eschatological perspective.
However, under the holy emperor Justinian, the experience of Christianizing the legal system inherited from pagan Rome turned out to be quite successful, not least because the legislator, when creating the “Corpus”, was fully aware of the boundary separating the order of this world, which even in the Christian era bears on itself the seal of fallenness and sinful damage, from the institutions of the grace-filled body of Christ — the Church — even in the case when the members of this body and the citizens of the Christian state are one and the same person. The “corpus” of Justinian determined the legal system of Byzantium for centuries and had a significant impact on the development of law in Russia and Western European countries in the Middle Ages and modern times.
IV.6. In modern secular legal consciousness, one of the dominant principles has become the idea of the inalienable rights of the individual. The idea of such rights is based on the biblical teaching about man as the image and likeness of God, as an ontologically free being. “Consider your surroundings,” writes St. Anthony of Egypt, “and know that the rulers and masters have power over the body only, and not over the soul, and always keep this in your mind. Why, when they order, for example, to kill or do something else that is inappropriate, unrighteous and mentally harmful, one should not listen to them, even if they torment the body. God created the soul free and autocratic, and she is free to do as she wants – good or bad.
Christian socio-state ethics demanded that a certain autonomous sphere be preserved for a person, where his conscience remains an “autocratic” master, because salvation or death, the path to Christ or the path from Christ ultimately depend on free will. The rights to faith, to life, to the family are the protection of the innermost foundations of human freedom from the arbitrariness of extraneous forces. These internal rights are complemented and guaranteed by other, external ones, such as the rights to freedom of movement, information, creation, possession and transfer of property.
God preserves the freedom of man, never violating his will. On the contrary, Satan seeks to take possession of the will of man, to enslave it. If the law is consistent with the divine truth revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, then it also stands guard over human freedom: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17) and, accordingly, protects the inalienable rights of the individual. The same traditions, which are not familiar with the principle of Christ’s freedom, sometimes seek to subordinate the conscience of a person to the external will of the leader or the collective.
IV.7. With secularization, the high principles of inalienable human rights turned into the concept of the rights of the individual outside of his connection with God. At the same time, the protection of individual freedom was transformed into protection of self-will (as long as it does not harm other individuals), as well as the requirement from the state to guarantee a certain material level of existence of the individual and family. In the system of modern secular humanistic understanding of civil rights, a person is treated not as an image of God, but as a self-sufficient and self-sufficient subject. However, outside of God there is only a fallen man, who is very far from the ideal of perfection that Christians expect, revealed in Christ (“behold, Man!”). Meanwhile, for the Christian sense of justice, the idea of freedom and human rights is inextricably linked with the idea of service. A Christian needs rights first of all so that, having them,
As a result of secularization in modern times, the theory of natural law has become dominant, which in its constructions does not take into account the fall of human nature. However, this theory has not lost touch with the Christian tradition, because it proceeds from the conviction that the concepts of good and evil are inherent in human nature, and therefore law grows out of life itself, based on conscience (“categorical moral imperative”). Until the 19th century, this theory dominated European society. Its practical consequences were, firstly, the principle of the historical continuity of the legal field (right cannot be abolished, just as conscience cannot be abolished, it can only be improved and adapted in a legal way to new circumstances and cases) and, secondly, the principle of precedence (court, in accordance with his conscience and with the custom of law, he can endure the right,
The modern understanding of law is dominated by views that are apologetic towards positive, effective law. In accordance with them, law is a human invention, a construction that society creates for its own benefit, to solve problems determined by itself. Therefore, any change in law, if accepted by society, is legal. There is no absolute legal basis behind a written code. For this view, a revolution is legitimate, forcibly rejecting the laws of the “old world”, and a complete denial of a moral norm is also legitimate, if such a denial is approved by society. So, if the modern society does not consider abortion to be murder, it is not legally one either. Apologists of positive law believe that society can introduce a variety of norms, and on the other hand, they consider any existing law to be legitimate already by virtue of its very existence.
IV.8. The legal order of a particular country is a particular version of the general world ordering law inherent in a certain people. The fundamental principles of the relationship of man with man, power with society, institutions with each other, the national law manifests according to a particular nation moving in history. National law is imperfect, because any nation is imperfect and sinful. However, it creates a framework for people’s life if it translates and adapts the absolute truths of God to specific historical and national existence.
Thus, the rule of law in Russia over the course of a millennium gradually developed and became more complicated along with the development and complication of society itself. As a result of Christianization, elements of Byzantine legislation were added to ordinary Slavic law, which partly retained the ancient general Aryan forms by the 10th century, which, through Justinian’s “Corpus”, ascended to classical Roman law, and the canons of church law, then merged with civil law. Since the 17th century, Russian law has been actively accepting the norms and legal logic of Western European legislation, and this happens quite organically, since the Roman legal tradition, which is basic for Europe, was adopted by Russia from Constantinople along with Christianity back in the 10th-11th centuries. The ancient “Russian Truth”, princely charters and charter letters, court letters and judicial documents, Stoglav and the Cathedral Code of 1649, Peter’s articles and decrees, the legislative acts of Catherine the Great and Alexander I, the reforms of Alexander II and the Fundamental State Laws of 1906 were a single legal fabric of the people’s organism being created. Some norms became obsolete and died out, others came to replace them. Some legal innovations turned out to be unsuccessful, inconsistent with the structure of people’s life, and ceased to be applied. The course of the river of the Russian national legal order, lost in its origins in distant history, was stopped in 1917. On November 22 of this year, the Council of People’s Commissars, in accordance with the spirit of the positive theory of law, repealed all Russian legislation. After the collapse in the early 1990s of Soviet statehood in the CIS and Baltic countries, the legal system is in the process of becoming. It is based on the dominant ideas
IV.9. The Church of Christ, while preserving its own autonomous right, based on the holy canons and not going beyond the boundaries of proper church life, can exist within the framework of the most diverse legal systems, to which it treats with due respect. The Church invariably calls on her flock to be law-abiding citizens of the earthly fatherland. At the same time, she always emphasizes the unshakable border of law-abiding for her faithful children.
In everything that concerns the exclusively earthly order of things, an Orthodox Christian is obliged to obey the laws, no matter how perfect or unsuccessful they are. When the fulfillment of the requirements of the law threatens eternal salvation, involves an act of apostasy or the commission of another undoubted sin against God and neighbor, the Christian is called to the feat of confession for the sake of the truth of God and the salvation of his soul for eternal life. He must openly act legally against the unconditional violation by society or the state of the institutions and commandments of God, and if such legal action is impossible or ineffective, take a position of civil disobedience (see III.5).
V. Church and Politics
VI In modern states, citizens participate in the process of governing the country by voting. A significant part of them belong to political parties, movements, unions, blocs and other similar organizations created on the basis of various political doctrines and views. These organizations, seeking to organize the life of society according to the political convictions of their members, have one of their goals to achieve, retain or reform power in the state. In the course of exercising the powers obtained as a result of the will of citizens in elections, political organizations may participate in the activities of structures of legislative and executive power.
The presence in society of different, sometimes conflicting political beliefs, as well as conflicting interests, gives rise to a political struggle, which is conducted both by legal and morally justified methods, and sometimes by methods that contradict the norms of state law, Christian and natural morality.
V.2. The Church, according to the commandment of God, has as her task to show concern for the unity of her children, for peace and harmony in society, for the involvement of all its members in the common creative work. The Church is called to preach and build peace with all society external to her: “If it is possible for you, be at peace with all people” (Rom. 12:18); “Strive to have peace with everyone” (Heb. 12:14). But even more important for her is the inner unity in faith and love: “I beseech you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that … there will be no divisions between you, but that you be united in one spirit”(1 Cor. 1.10). The unity of the Church as the mystical body of Christ (Eph. 1:23), on whose undamaged existence the eternal salvation of man depends, is for her the highest value. Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, addressing the members of the Church of Christ, writes: “You all make up one temple of God, one altar, one Jesus.”
In the face of political disagreements, contradictions and struggles, the Church preaches peace and cooperation among people who hold different political views. It also admits the presence of various political convictions among its episcopate, clergy and laity, with the exception of those that clearly lead to actions that are contrary to Orthodox dogma and the moral norms of Church Tradition.
It is impossible for the Church Hierarchy and the clergy, and hence the Church Plenitude, to participate in the activities of political organizations, in pre-election processes, such as public support for political organizations or individual candidates participating in elections, campaigning, and so on. It is not allowed to nominate candidates for clergy in the elections of any bodies of representative power at all levels. At the same time, nothing should prevent the participation of hierarchs, clergy and laity, on an equal basis with other citizens, in the expression of the will of the people by voting.
In the history of the Church there are many cases of general church support for various political doctrines, views, organizations and figures. In a number of cases, such support was associated with the need to defend the vital interests of the Church in the extreme conditions of anti-religious persecution, destructive and restrictive actions of heterodox and heterodox authorities. In other cases, such support was the result of pressure from the state or political structures and usually led to divisions and contradictions within the Church, to the departure from it of some people who were not firm in faith.
In the XX century, the clergy and hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church were members of some representative bodies of power, in particular, the State Duma of the Russian Empire, the Supreme Soviets of the USSR and the Russian Federation, a number of local councils and legislative assemblies. In some cases, the participation of clergy in the activities of government bodies benefited the Church and society, but often such participation gave rise to discord and division. This took place in particular when the membership of clergy was allowed only in certain parliamentary factions, and also when clerics put forward their candidacies for elective office without church blessing. In general, the practice of the participation of clergy in the activities of government bodies has shown that“for all… for all, to save at least some” (1 Cor. 9:22). At the same time, history shows that the decision on the participation or non-participation of clergy in political activities was and should be made based on the needs of each specific era, taking into account the internal state of the church organism and its position in the state. However, from a canonical point of view, the question of whether a clergyman holding a public post should work on a professional basis is decided unambiguously in the negative.
On October 8, 1919, Saint Tikhon addressed the clergy of the Russian Church with a message in which he urged the clergy not to interfere in the political struggle and, in particular, pointed out that the servants of the Church “by their rank should stand above and beyond any political interests, should remember the canonical rules Holy Church, by which it forbids its servants to interfere in the political life of the country, to belong to any political parties, and even more so to make liturgical rites and sacred rites an instrument of political demonstrations.
On the eve of the elections of people’s deputies of the USSR, the Holy Synod on December 27, 1988 decided “to bless the representatives of our Church, if they are nominated and elected as people’s deputies, this activity, while expressing our confidence that it will serve the good of believers and our entire society.” In addition to being elected people’s deputies of the USSR, a number of bishops and clergy took deputy seats in republican, regional and local councils. The new conditions of political life prompted the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in October 1989 to devote great attention to the discussion of two questions: “firstly, how far can the Church go along the path of taking responsibility for political decisions without questioning her pastoral authority, and , Secondly,
As a result, the Council of Bishops recognized the decision of the Holy Synod of December 27, 1988 as relevant only to the past elections. For the future, a procedure was adopted, according to which the question of the expediency of the participation of representatives of the clergy in the election campaign should, in each specific case, be preliminarily decided by the Hierarchy (the Holy Synod – in relation to the episcopate, the ruling bishops – in relation to the subordinate clergy).
Some representatives of the clergy, not having received a proper blessing, nevertheless took part in the elections.
On March 20, 1990, the Holy Synod declared with regret that “the Russian Orthodox Church relieves itself of moral and religious responsibility for the participation of these persons in elected bodies of power.” For reasons of economy, the Synod refrained from applying the prescribed sanctions to violators of discipline, “stating that such behavior falls on their conscience.” On October 8, 1993, in view of the creation of a professional parliament in Russia, at an expanded meeting of the Holy Synod, it was decided to order the clergy to refrain from participating in the Russian parliamentary elections as candidates for deputies. According to the corresponding Synodal definition, it was established that the clergy who violated it are subject to defrocking. The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994 approved this definition of the Holy Synod,
The same Council of Bishops, faithful to the holy canons, responding to the challenges of modern reality, established a number of important rules regarding the topic under consideration. So, in one of the definitions of the Council it says: “To confirm the impossibility for the Church Plenitude to support any of the political parties, movements, blocs, unions and similar organizations, as well as their individual figures, primarily in the course of election campaigns … Consider also extremely undesirable is the membership of clergy in political parties, movements, unions, blocs and similar organizations, primarily those leading the election campaign.
The Council of Bishops, held in 1997, developed the principles of the relationship of the Church with political organizations and strengthened one of the decisions of the previous Council, not blessing the clergy to be members of political associations. In the definition of the Council “On Relations with the State and Secular Society,” in particular, it says: “To welcome the dialogue and contacts of the Church with political organizations if such contacts do not have the character of political support. Consider it acceptable to cooperate with such organizations for purposes beneficial to the Church and the people, while excluding the interpretation of such cooperation as political support…
The non-participation of the Church Plenitude in the political struggle, in the activities of political parties and in the pre-election processes does not mean its refusal to publicly express its position on socially significant issues, from presenting this position in the face of the authorities of any country at any level. Such a position is expressed exclusively by Church Councils, the Hierarchy and persons authorized by them. In any case, the right to express it cannot be transferred to state institutions, political or other secular organizations.
V.3. Nothing prevents the participation of Orthodox laity in the activities of legislative, executive and judicial authorities, political organizations. Moreover, such participation, if it is carried out in accordance with the teachings of the Church, its moral norms and its official position on social issues, is one of the forms of the mission of the Church in society. Lay people can and are called upon, fulfilling their civic duty, to participate in the processes connected with the election of authorities at all levels, and to contribute to any morally justified undertakings of the state.
The history of the Orthodox Church has preserved many examples of the most active involvement of the laity in the administration of the state, in the activities of political and other civil associations. Such involvement took place in the conditions of various systems of state structure: autocracy, constitutional monarchy, various types of republic. The participation of Orthodox laity in civil and political processes was hampered only under conditions of heterodox domination or a regime adhering to the policy of state atheism.
Participating in government and political processes, the Orthodox layman is called to base his activities on the norms of evangelical morality, on the unity of justice and mercy (Ps. 84.11), on concern for the spiritual and material welfare of people, on love for the fatherland, on the desire to transform surrounding world according to the word of Christ.
At the same time, a Christian – a politician or a statesman – must be clearly aware that in the conditions of historical reality, and even more so in the context of the current divided and contradictory society, the majority of decisions made and political actions taken benefit one part of society, while simultaneously limiting or infringing on the interests and the desires of others. Many of the decisions and actions mentioned are inevitably associated with sin or the connivance of sin. That is why extreme spiritual and moral sensitivity is required from an Orthodox politician or statesman.
A Christian who works in the field of building state and political life is called upon to acquire the gift of special sacrifice and special self-sacrifice. It is absolutely necessary for him to be attentive to his spiritual state in order to prevent the transformation of state or political activity from service into an end in itself, which feeds pride, greed and other vices. It should be remembered that “whether the authorities, or the authorities, everything was created by Him and for Him … and everything costs Him”(Col. 1:16-17). St. Gregory the Theologian, addressing the rulers, wrote: “With Christ you rule, with Christ you govern: from Him you received the sword.” St. John Chrysostom says: “Truly, the king is the one who conquers anger and envy and voluptuousness, submits everything to the laws of God, keeps his mind free and does not allow passion for pleasure to dominate his soul. Such a man I would like to see ruling over the nations, and the land, and the sea, and cities, and regions, and armies; because whoever subordinated spiritual passions to reason would easily rule people in accordance with divine laws … And who apparently rules over people, but servility to anger and ambition and pleasures, he … will not know how to dispose of power “.
V.4. The participation of Orthodox laity in the activities of government bodies and political processes can be both individual and within the framework of special Christian (Orthodox) political organizations or Christian (Orthodox) components of larger political associations. In both cases, the children of the Church have the freedom to choose and express their political opinions, make decisions and carry out relevant activities. At the same time, the laity, participating in state or political activities individually or within the framework of various organizations, do it on their own, without identifying their political work with the position of the Church Plenitude or any canonical church institutions and without speaking on their behalf. At the same time, the highest church authority does not give a special blessing on the political activities of the laity.
The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994 decided that it is permissible for “the laity” to be members of political organizations and for them to create such organizations themselves, which, if they call themselves Christian and Orthodox, are called for greater interaction with the Church Hierarchy. It is also possible to consider the participation of clergy, including those representing the canonical church structures and the church hierarchy, in certain events of political organizations, as well as church cooperation with them in matters useful to the Church and society, if such participation and cooperation is not in the nature of support political organizations, serves to create peace and harmony among the people and the church environment.
The corresponding definition of the Council of Bishops of 1997, in particular, says: “It is possible to consider the participation of the laity in the activities of political organizations and the creation of such organizations by them if the latter do not include clergy and conduct responsible consultations with the church hierarchy. Decide that such organizations, as participating in the political process, cannot have the blessing of the Church Hierarchy and act on behalf of the Church. Church blessings cannot be received, and if they are, church-public organizations leading an election campaign, involved in political agitation and presenting their opinion as the opinion of the Church, expressed in front of the state and society by Church Councils, the Most Holy Patriarch and the Holy Synod, are deprived of such blessing.
The existence of Christian (Orthodox) political organizations, as well as Christian (Orthodox) components of broader political associations, is perceived by the Church as a positive phenomenon that helps the laity to work together and carry out political and state activities on the basis of Christian spiritual and moral principles. The above-mentioned organizations, being free in their activities, are simultaneously called upon to consult with the Church Hierarchy, to coordinate actions in the field of implementing the position of the Church on public issues.
In the relationship of the Church Plenitude with Christian (Orthodox) political organizations, in whose activities Orthodox laity participate, as well as with individual Orthodox politicians and statesmen, situations may arise when the statements or actions of these organizations and individuals differ significantly from the general church position on public issues or interfere with this position. In such cases, the Hierarchy establishes the fact of a divergence of positions and publicly announces this in order to avoid embarrassment and misunderstanding among believers and the general public. The statement of such a discrepancy should prompt an Orthodox layman participating in political activity to think about the expediency of his further membership in the corresponding political organization.
Organizations of Orthodox Christians should not be in the nature of secret societies that assume exclusive obedience to their leaders and a conscious refusal to disclose the essence of the organization’s activities in the course of consultations with the church authorities and even at confession. The Church cannot approve the participation of Orthodox laity, and even more so of clergy, in non-Orthodox societies of this kind, since by their very nature they reject a person from total devotion to the Church of God and its canonical order.
VI. Labor and its fruits
VI.1. Labor is an organic element of human life. The book of Genesis says that in the beginning “there was no man to till the ground” (Gen. 2:5); Having created the Garden of Eden, God settles a person in it, “to cultivate and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Labor is the creative revelation of man, who, by virtue of the original god-likeness, is given to be a co-creator and co-worker with the Lord. However, after man fell away from the Creator, the nature of labor changed: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground from which you were taken, for dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). The creative component of labor has weakened; it has become for fallen man chiefly a means of earning a livelihood.
VI.2. The Word of God not only draws people’s attention to the need for daily work, but also sets its special rhythm. The fourth commandment says: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days work and do all your work; and the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: on it you shall do no work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maidservant, nor your livestock, nor the stranger that is in your dwellings ” (Ex. 20 .8-10). By this command of the Creator, the process of human labor is correlated with the divine creativity that laid the foundation for the universe. After all, the commandment to keep the Sabbath is substantiated by the fact that at the creation of the world “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, for in it he rested from all His works, which God created and created”(Gen. 2:3). This day should be dedicated to the Lord, so that everyday worries cannot turn a person away from the Creator. At the same time, active manifestations of mercy and selfless help to others are not a violation of the commandment: “Sabbath is for a man, and not a man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In the Christian tradition, since apostolic times, the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection of Christ, has become a day free from labor.
VI.3. The improvement of the tools and methods of labor, its professional division and the transition from its simple forms to more complex ones contribute to the improvement of the material conditions of human life. However, the seduction of the achievements of civilization removes people from the Creator, leads to an imaginary triumph of reason, striving to arrange earthly life without God. The realization of such aspirations in the history of mankind has always ended tragically.
The Holy Scripture says that the first builders of earthly civilization were the descendants of Cain: Lamech and his children invented and produced the first tools made of copper and iron, portable tents and various musical instruments, they were the founders of many crafts and arts (Gen. 4. 20-22 ). However, they, along with other people, did not escape the temptations: “All flesh has perverted its way on earth”(Gen. 6:12), and therefore, by the will of the Creator, the civilization of the Cainites ends with a flood. The most striking biblical image of fallen humanity’s unsuccessful attempt to “make a name for itself” is the building of the Tower of Babel “as high as the heavens.” Pandemonium appears as a symbol of the unification of the efforts of people to achieve an ungodly goal. The Lord punishes the proud: mixing languages, He deprives them of the possibility of mutual understanding and scatters them all over the earth.
VI.4. From a Christian point of view, work in itself is not an unconditional value. He becomes blessed when he is a co-working with the Lord and contributes to the fulfillment of His plan for the world and man. However, labor is not pleasing to God if it is aimed at serving the selfish interests of the individual or human communities, as well as at satisfying the sinful needs of the spirit and flesh.
Holy Scripture testifies to two moral motives for work: to work in order to feed yourself, without burdening anyone, and to work in order to give to the needy. The apostle writes: “It is better to labor, doing with your own hands what is useful, so that you have something to give to the needy.”(Eph. 4:28). Such work educates the soul and strengthens the body of a person, gives the Christian the opportunity to show his faith in charitable deeds of mercy and love for others (Matt. 5:16; James 2:17). Everyone remembers the words of the Apostle Paul: “If anyone does not want to work, do not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).
The ethical significance of labor processes was constantly emphasized by the fathers and teachers of the Church. Thus, Clement of Alexandria called labor “the school of social justice.” Saint Basil the Great argued that “the intention of piety should not serve as a pretext for laziness and flight from work, but as an incentive to even greater labors.” And St. John Chrysostom called to consider “disgrace not work, but idleness.” An example of labor asceticism was set by the monks of many monasteries. Their economic activity was in many ways a role model, and the founders of the largest monastic cloisters had, along with the highest spiritual authority, the glory of great workers. Widely known are examples of the diligent work of the Monk Theodosius of the Caves, Sergius of Radonezh, Cyril of Belozersky, Joseph of Volotsky, Nil of Sorsk and other Russian ascetics.
VI.5. The Church blesses every work directed to the good of people; at the same time, no preference is given to any type of human activity, if it corresponds to Christian moral standards. In parables, our Lord Jesus Christ constantly mentions various professions, without singling out any of them. He speaks of the work of the sower (Mk. 4:3-9), servants and steward (Lk. 12:42-48), merchant and fishermen (Mt. 13:45-48), steward and workers in the vineyard (Mt. 20 .1-16). However, modernity has given rise to the development of an entire industry specifically aimed at promoting vice and sin, satisfying pernicious passions and habits, such as drunkenness, drug addiction, fornication and adultery. The Church testifies to the sinfulness of participation in such activities, since it corrupts not only the worker, but society as a whole.
VI.6. The worker has the right to enjoy the fruits of his labor: “Who, having planted a vineyard, does not eat its fruits? Who, when shepherding the flock, does not eat the milk of the flock?.. Whoever plows must plow with hope, and whoever threshes must thresh with the hope of receiving what is expected” (1 Corinthians 9:7,10). The Church teaches that refusal to pay for honest work is not only a crime against a person, but also a sin before God.
Holy Scripture says: “Do not offend the hireling… On the same day, pay his wages… so that he does not cry out against you to the Lord, and there is no sin on you” (Deut. 24: 14-15); “Woe to him who … makes his neighbor work for nothing and does not give him his wages” (Jer. 22:13); “Behold, the wages you withheld from the laborers who reaped your fields are crying out, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (James 5:4).
At the same time, the commandment of God commands workers to take care of those people who, for various reasons, cannot earn their own living – the weak, the sick, strangers (refugees), orphans and widows – and share with them the fruits of labor, “so that the Lord, Your God has blessed you in all the works of your hands” (Deut. 24:19-22).
Continuing on earth the service of Christ, Who identified Himself precisely with the destitute, the Church always comes out in defense of the voiceless and powerless. Therefore, she calls on society for a fair distribution of the products of labor, in which the rich support the poor, the healthy support the sick, the able-bodied support the elderly. Spiritual well-being and self-preservation of society are possible only if ensuring the life, health and minimum well-being of all citizens is considered an unconditional priority in the distribution of material resources.
VII.1. Property is commonly understood as a socially recognized form of people’s attitude to the fruits of labor and natural resources. The main powers of the owner usually include the right to own and use, the right to manage and receive income, the right to alienate, consume, change or destroy property.
The Church does not define people’s rights to property. However, the material side of human life does not remain out of her field of vision. Calling to seek first of all the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), the Church also remembers the need for “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), believing that each person should have enough means for a worthy existence. At the same time, the Church warns against excessive enthusiasm for material goods, condemning those who are deceived by “cares, wealth and worldly pleasures”(Luke 8:14). In the position of the Orthodox Church in relation to property, there is neither ignoring material needs, nor the opposite extreme, extolling the aspiration of people to achieve material wealth as the highest goal and value of being. The property position of a person in itself cannot be considered as evidence of whether he is pleasing or unpleasing to God.
The attitude of an Orthodox Christian to property should be based on the gospel principle of love for one’s neighbor, expressed in the words of the Savior: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” (John 13:34). This commandment is the basis of the moral behavior of Christians. It should serve for them and, from the point of view of the Church, for other people as an imperative in the sphere of regulation of interpersonal relations, including property relations.
According to the teachings of the Church, people receive all earthly blessings from God, to whom belongs the absolute right to own them. The Savior repeatedly shows the relativity of property rights for a person in parables: this is either a vineyard given for use (Mk. 12: 1-9), or talents distributed among people (Mt. 25: 14-30), or an estate given for temporary management (Luke 16:1-13). Expressing the idea inherent in the Church that God is the absolute owner of everything, St. Basil the Great asks: “Tell me, what do you own? Where did you take and bring to life? The sinful attitude to property, manifested in forgetfulness or conscious rejection of this spiritual principle, gives rise to division and alienation between people.
VII.2. Material wealth cannot make a person happy. The Lord Jesus Christ warns: “Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not depend on the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The pursuit of wealth has a detrimental effect on the spiritual state of a person and can lead to complete degradation of the individual. The apostle Paul points out that “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and into a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which plunge people into disaster and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil, which, having indulged, some have deviated from the faith and subjected themselves to many tribulations. But you, man of God, flee from this” (1 Tim. 6:9-11). In a conversation with a young man, the Lord said:“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Then Christ explained these words to the disciples: “It is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven… it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24). Evangelist Mark specifies that it is difficult to enter the Kingdom of God precisely for those who trust not in God, but in material goods, “those who hope for riches” (Mk. 10:24). Only “he who trusts in the Lord, like Mount Zion, will not be moved, remains forever” (Ps. 124.1).
However, even the rich can be saved, for “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). There is no condemnation of wealth as such in Scripture. Wealthy people were Abraham and the Old Testament patriarchs, the righteous Job, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Possessing significant property, he does not sin who uses it in accordance with the will of God, to whom all things belong, and with the law of love, for the joy and fullness of life is not in acquisition and possession, but in giving and sacrifice. The Apostle Paul urges “to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, for He Himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive”(Acts 20:35). St. Basil the Great considers a thief one who does not give part of his property as sacrificial help to his neighbor. St. John Chrysostom emphasizes the same idea: “Not giving from one’s property is also abduction.” The Church calls on a Christian to perceive property as a gift from God, given to be used for the benefit of oneself and others.
At the same time, Holy Scripture recognizes a person’s right to property and condemns encroachment on it. Two of the ten commandments of the Decalogue explicitly state this: “Thou shalt not steal… Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, covet not thy neighbor’s wife, nor his field, nor his servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor any cattle him, nothing that your neighbor has” (Ex. 20:15, 17). In the New Testament, this attitude to property was preserved and acquired a deeper moral justification. The Gospel speaks of this as follows: “The commandments: “Thou shalt not steal” … “Thou shalt not covet another’s” … and all the others are contained in this word: “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Rom. 13:9) .
VII.3. The Church recognizes the existence of diverse forms of ownership. State, public, corporate, private and mixed forms of ownership in different countries have received different rooting in the course of historical development. The Church does not favor any of these forms. With each of them, both sinful phenomena are possible – theft, acquisitiveness, unfair distribution of the fruits of labor, and a worthy, morally justified use of material wealth.
Intellectual property is becoming increasingly important, the objects of which are scientific works and inventions, information technologies, works of art and other achievements of creative thought. The Church welcomes creative work for the benefit of society and condemns the infringement of intellectual property copyrights.
In general, the exclusion and redistribution of property in violation of the rights of its legitimate owners cannot be approved by the Church. An exception may be such expropriation of property on the basis of an appropriate law, which, being due to the interests of the majority of people, is accompanied by just compensation. The experience of national history shows that the violation of these principles inevitably leads to social upheavals and human suffering.
In the history of Christianity, the consolidation of property and the rejection of personal possessive aspirations were characteristic of many communities. This nature of property relations contributed to the strengthening of the spiritual unity of believers and in many cases was economically efficient, as exemplified by Orthodox monasteries. However, the rejection of private property in the early apostolic community (Acts 4:32), and later in cenobitic monasteries, was exclusively voluntary and was associated with personal spiritual choice.
VII.4. A special form of ownership is the property of religious organizations. It is acquired in various ways, but the main component of its formation is the voluntary sacrifice of believers. According to the Holy Scriptures, the sacrifice is holy, that is, in the literal sense, belongs to the Lord; the donor gives to God, not to the priest (Lev. 27:30, Ezra 8:28). Sacrifice is a voluntary act performed by believers for religious purposes (Nehemiah 10:32). The sacrifice is called to support not only the ministers of the Church, but all the people of God (Phil. 4: 14-18). The sacrifice, as consecrated to God, is inviolable, and anyone who steals it must return more than he stole (Lev. 5: 14-15). Donation is one of the main commandments given to man by God (Sirach 7:30-34). In this way, donations are a special case of economic and social relations, and therefore they should not automatically be subject to laws governing the finances and economy of the state, in particular, state taxation. The Church declares that if one or another of its income is of an entrepreneurial nature, then it may be taxed, but any encroachment on the donations of believers is a crime before people and God.
VIII. War and Peace
VIII.1. War is a physical manifestation of the hidden spiritual disease of mankind – fratricidal hatred (Genesis 4:3-12). Wars accompanied the entire history of mankind after the fall and, according to the Gospel, will continue to accompany it: “When you hear about wars and rumors of war, do not be horrified: for this must be” (Mark 13:7). The Apocalypse testifies to this, telling about the last battle between the forces of good and evil at Mount Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Earthly wars are a reflection of the battle of heaven, being generated by pride and opposition to the will of God. A person corrupted by sin has become involved in the elements of this warfare. War is evil. The reason for it, as well as for evil in man in general, is the sinful abuse of God-given freedom,“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts: murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).
Murder, without which wars are indispensable, was regarded as a serious crime before God already at the dawn of sacred history. “Thou shalt not kill,” says the Law of Moses (Ex. 20:13). In the Old Testament, as in all ancient religions, blood has a sacred character, since blood is life (Lev. 17:11-14). “Blood defiles the earth,” says Scripture. But the same biblical text warns those who turn to violence: “The earth is not otherwise cleansed of shed blood, as by the blood of him who shed it” (Numbers 35:33).
VIII.2. Bringing people the good news of reconciliation (Rom. 10:15), but being in “this world”, which is in evil (1 John 5:19) and full of violence, Christians involuntarily face the vital need to participate in various battles. Recognizing war as evil, the Church still does not forbid its children to participate in hostilities when it comes to protecting their neighbors and restoring violated justice. Then war is considered, although undesirable, but a forced means. Orthodoxy at all times treated with the deepest reverence the soldiers who, at the cost of their own lives, preserved the lives and safety of their neighbors. The Holy Church ranked many soldiers among the saints, taking into account their Christian virtues and referring to them the words of Christ: “There is no greater love than if someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
When the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril was sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople to preach the gospel and arrived in the capital of the Saracens, the learned followers of Mohammed entered into a dispute about faith with him. Among other questions, they asked him this: “Christ is your God. He commanded you to pray for your enemies, to do good to those who hate and persecute you, to substitute the other for those who strike you in the cheek, and what are you doing? If someone offends you, refine your weapons, go out to fight, kill. Why don’t you listen to your Christ?” Having listened to this, Saint Cyril asked his companions: “If two commandments are written in any law, which person will be the perfect executor of the law – is it the one who fulfills one commandment, or the one who fulfills both commandments?” When the Hagarites said that the one who keeps both commandments will fulfill the law more perfectly, then the holy preacher continued: “Christ our God, who commanded us to pray for those who offend us and do good to them, also said that none of us in this life can show greater love, unless he lays down his life for his friends (John 15:3 ). That is why we generously endure the insults inflicted on us as private people, but in society we defend each other and put our souls in battle for our neighbors, so that you, having captured our fellow citizens, together with their bodies, would not captivate their souls, forcing them to renounce the faith. and ungodly deeds. Our Christ-loving warriors guard the Holy Church with weapons in their hands, guard the sovereign, in whose sacred person they revere the image of the power of the King of Heaven, guard the fatherland, with the destruction of which the domestic power will inevitably fall and the faith of the Gospel will be shaken. Here are the precious pledges
VIII.3. “Those who take the sword will perish by the sword”(Mt. 26:52), — in these words of the Savior the idea of a just war is substantiated. From a Christian point of view, the concept of moral truth in international relations should be based on the following basic principles: love for one’s neighbors, one’s people and Fatherland; understanding the needs of other nations; the conviction that it is impossible to serve the good of one’s people by immoral means. These three principles determined the moral boundaries of war, which were developed by the Christian world in the Middle Ages, when, applying to a real situation, people tried to curb the elements of military violence. Even then there was a conviction that the war should be conducted according to certain rules, that the fighting person should not lose his moral character, forgetting that his opponent is the same person as himself.
The development of high legal norms in international relations would have been impossible without the moral impact that Christianity had on the minds and hearts of people. The demands of justice in war were by no means often satisfied in practice, but the very raising of the question of justice sometimes kept warring people from excessive cruelty.
In the Western Christian tradition, dating back to Blessed Augustine, when determining the justice of a war, a number of factors are usually cited that determine the admissibility of starting a war on one’s own or someone else’s territory. Among them are the following:
- war should be declared for the sake of restoring justice;
- only legitimate authority has the right to declare war;
- the right to use force should not belong to individuals or groups of individuals, but to representatives of civil authorities established from above;
- war can only be declared after all peaceful means for negotiating with the opposing side and restoring the original situation have been exhausted;
- war should be declared only if there are well-founded hopes of achieving the goals set;
- the planned military losses and destruction must correspond to the situation and the goals of the war (principle of proportionality of means);
- in time of war it is necessary to ensure the protection of the civilian population from direct military action;
- war can only be justified by the desire to restore peace and order.
In the current system of international relations, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish an aggressive war from a defensive one. The line between the first and second is especially thin in cases where one or more states or the world community start hostilities, motivating them by the need to protect the people who are the victims of aggression (see XV. 1). In this regard, the question of support or condemnation by the Church of hostilities needs to be considered separately every time they begin or there is a danger of their beginning.
One of the clear signs by which one can judge the righteousness or injustice of the belligerents is the methods of warfare, as well as the attitude towards the enemy’s prisoners and civilians, especially children, women, and the elderly. Even defending yourself from an attack, you can simultaneously do all sorts of evil and, because of this, in your spiritual and moral state, be no higher than the invader. The war must be waged with righteous anger, but not with malice, greed, lust (1 John 2:16) and other creatures of hell. The most correct assessment of war as a feat or, on the contrary, robbery, can be made only on the basis of an analysis of the moral state of the belligerents. “Do not rejoice in the death of a person, even if he is the most hostile to you: remember that we will all die”, – says the Holy Scripture (Sir. 8. 8). The humane attitude towards the wounded and captives among Christians is based on the words of the Apostle Paul: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink: for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21).
VIII.4. In the iconography of St. George the Victorious, a black serpent is trampled under the hooves of a horse, which is always depicted as bright white. This clearly shows that evil and the struggle against it must be absolutely separated, for, while struggling with sin, it is important not to partake of it. In all life situations connected with the need to use force, a person’s heart should not be in the grip of unkind feelings that make him related to unclean spirits and liken them. Only victory over evil in one’s soul opens up to a person the possibility of a just use of force. Such a view, affirming the primacy of love in relations between people, resolutely rejects the idea of non-resistance to evil by force. The moral Christian law condemns not the fight against evil, not the use of force against its bearer, and not even the deprivation of life as a last resort, but the malice of the human heart,
In this regard, the Church has special care for the military, educating them in the spirit of fidelity to high moral ideals. Agreements on cooperation with the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies, concluded by the Russian Orthodox Church, open up great opportunities for overcoming artificially created middle walls, for returning the army to the centuries-old Orthodox traditions of serving the fatherland. Orthodox pastors, both those who carry out special obedience in the army, and those who serve in monasteries or parishes, are called upon to rigorously feed the military personnel, taking care of their moral condition.
VIII.5. The Christian understanding of the world is based on the promises of God, testified in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. These promises, which give the real meaning to the story, began to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. For His followers, peace is a gracious gift from God, for which we pray and ask the Lord for ourselves and for all people. The Biblical understanding of the world is much broader than the political one. The holy apostle Paul points out that “the peace of God … is beyond all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It is incomparably higher than the world that people are able to create by their own efforts. The world of man with God, with himself and with other people are inseparable from each other.
The Old Testament prophets depict the world as a state that completes the story: “Then the wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie with the goat … They will not do evil and harm on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters fill the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9). This eschatological ideal is connected with the revelation of the Messiah, whose name is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). War and violence will disappear from the Earth: “And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into sickles; the people will not raise the sword against the people, and they will no longer learn to fight ” (Is. 2. 4). However, peace is not only a gift from the Lord, but also the task of mankind. The Bible gives hope for the realization of the world with the help of God already within the limits of the present earthly existence.
According to the testimony of the holy prophet Isaiah, peace is the fruit of righteousness (Isaiah 32:17). Holy Scripture speaks of both the truth of God and the truth of man. Both have to do with the covenant that God made with the chosen people (Jer. 31:35). In this context, truth is predominantly understood as loyalty to allied relations. To the extent that people violate the union with God, that is, to the extent that they are unrighteous, to the extent that they are deprived of the fruit of truth – peace. At the same time, one of the main elements of the Sinai legislation was the requirement of fair treatment of one’s neighbor. The commandments of the law were aimed not at restricting individual freedom, but at building the life of society on the principle of justice in order to achieve relative peace, order and tranquility. For Israel, this meant that peace in public life does not come about by itself, due to certain natural laws, but it is possible, firstly, as a gift of Divine truth, and, secondly, as the fruit of man’s religious efforts, that is, his fidelity to God. Where people gratefully respond with fidelity to the truth of God, there“Mercy and truth meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Ps. 84:11). However, the history of the Old Testament gives many examples of the infidelity and sinful ingratitude of the chosen people. This gives the prophet Jeremiah a reason to point out the reason for the absence of peace in Israel, in which one constantly hears: ““peace! peace!” but there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). The prophetic call to repentance sounds like a song of fidelity to the truth of God. Despite the sins of the people, God promises to make a “new covenant” with them (Jer. 31:31).
Peace in the New Testament, as in the Old, is seen as a gift of God’s love. It is identical with eschatological salvation. The timelessness of the world proclaimed by the prophets is especially evident in the Gospel of John. Sorrow continues to reign in history, but in Christ believers have peace (John 14:27; 16:33). The world in the New Testament is the normal grace-filled state of the human soul, freed from slavery to sin. This is precisely what the wishes of “grace and peace” speak of at the beginning of the epistles of the holy Apostle Paul. This world is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13; Gal. 5:22). The state of reconciliation with God is the normal state of creation, “because God is not a God of disorder, but of peace”(1 Cor. 14:33). Psychologically, this state is expressed in the inner order of the soul, when joy and peace in faith (Rom. 15:13) become almost synonymous.
Peace, by the grace of God, characterizes the life of the Church in both internal and external aspects. But, of course, the grace-filled gift of the world also depends on human efforts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifested only where there is a counter movement of the human heart, repentantly striving towards the truth of God. The gift of peace reveals itself when Christians strive to acquire it, “remembering … the work of faith and the work of love and the patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Thess. 1:3). The aspirations for peace of each individual member of the body of Christ must be independent of time and life conditions. Pleasing to the Lord (Matt. 5:9), they bear fruit wherever and whenever they are performed. Peace, as a gift of God, transforming the inner man, must also manifest itself outside. It should be preserved and warmed up (2 Tim. 1.6), and therefore peacemaking becomes the task of the Church of Christ: “If possible on your part, be at peace with all people” (Rom. 12.18); try to “keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The New Testament call to peacemaking is based on the personal example of the Savior and His teaching. And if the commandments about non-resistance to evil (Matt. 5:39), love for enemies (Matt. 5:44) and forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15) are addressed primarily to the individual, then the commandment about peacemaking –“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matt. 5:9) is directly related to social ethics.
The Russian Orthodox Church seeks to carry out peacekeeping service both on a national and international scale, trying to resolve various contradictions and bring peoples, ethnic groups, governments, and political forces to agreement. To do this, she turns her word to those in power and other influential sections of society, and also makes efforts to organize negotiations between the warring parties and to help those who suffer. The Church also opposes the propaganda of war and violence, as well as various manifestations of hatred that can provoke fratricidal clashes.
IX. Crime, punishment, correction
IX.1. Christians are called to be law-abiding citizens of their earthly homeland, accepting that every soul must be “subject to the highest authorities” (Rom. 13:1), and at the same time remembering Christ’s commandment to render “what is Caesar’s to Caesar, and what is God’s to God” (Luke 20:25). But human sinfulness gives rise to crimes – violations of the boundaries laid down by law. At the same time, the concept of sin, established by Orthodox moral standards, is much broader than the idea of secular law about crimes.
The main source of crime is the darkened state of the human soul: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemy” (Matthew 15:19). It must also be recognized that sometimes economic and social circumstances, the weakness of state power, and the absence of a lawful order contribute to crime. Criminal communities can infiltrate government institutions in order to use them for their own purposes. Finally, the government itself, by committing illegal actions, can become a delinquent. Especially dangerous is crime covered up by political and pseudo-religious motives – terrorism and the like.
To curb manifestations of lawlessness, the state creates law enforcement agencies whose purpose is to prevent, prevent and investigate crimes, as well as punish and re-educate those who have committed them. However, the important tasks of eradicating crime and correcting those who stumble are faced not only by special institutions and even not only by the state, but by the whole people, and therefore by the Church.
IX.2. Prevention of crime is possible primarily through education and enlightenment aimed at establishing true spiritual and moral values in society. In this matter, the Orthodox Church is called to actively cooperate with the school, the media, and law enforcement agencies. In the absence of a positive moral ideal among the people, no measures of coercion, intimidation or punishment can stop the evil will. That is why the best form of preventing violations of the law is the preaching of an honest and dignified lifestyle, especially among children and youth. At the same time, close attention should be paid to persons belonging to the so-called risk groups or who have already committed the first offenses. Special pastoral and educational care should be directed to such people.
At the same time, the Church insists on the need for a humane attitude towards suspects, persons under investigation and citizens convicted of intent to break the law. Cruel and unworthy treatment of such people can strengthen them on the wrong path or push them to it. That is why persons who have not been convicted by a lawful sentence, even while in custody, should not be infringed on their fundamental rights. They need to be guaranteed protection and a fair trial. The Church condemns torture and various forms of humiliation of those under investigation. Even with the aim of helping law enforcement agencies, a clergyman cannot violate the secrecy of confession or any other secret protected by law (for example, the secrecy of adoption). In their spiritual care for the lost and condemned, the shepherds, having learned through repentance what was hidden from the investigation and justice, are guided by the secret confession.
The norm providing for the protection of the secrecy of confession is contained in the legislation of many modern states, including the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the Russian Law “On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations”.
A clergyman is called to show special pastoral sensitivity in cases where he becomes aware of an impending crime during confession. Without exception and under any circumstances, sacredly preserving the secrecy of confession, the pastor is at the same time obliged to make every possible effort to ensure that the criminal intent does not materialize. First of all, this concerns the danger of homicide, especially mass casualties, possible in the event of a terrorist act or the execution of a criminal order during a war. Bearing in mind the equal value of the soul of a potential criminal and the victim he intended, the clergyman must call the confessor to true repentance, that is, to renounce evil intentions. If this call does not take effect, the pastor may, taking care to preserve the secrecy of the confessor’s name and other circumstances, capable of discovering his identity – to warn those whose lives are in danger. In difficult cases, the clergyman should turn to the diocesan bishop.
IX.3. A crime committed and condemned by law presupposes a just punishment. Its meaning is to correct a person who has violated the law, as well as to protect society from a criminal and to stop his illegal activities. The Church, without becoming a judge of a person who has broken the law, is called to take care of his soul. That is why she understands punishment not as revenge, but as a means of internal purification of the sinner.
The Creator, setting the punishment for the criminals, says to Israel: “Destroy the evil from among you” (Deut. 21:21). The punishment of the transgressor of the law serves to teach people. Thus, assuming punishment for false prophecy, God says to Moses: “All Israel will hear this, and will be afraid, and will no longer do such evil among you” (Deut. 13:11). In the Proverbs of Solomon we read: “If you punish the blasphemer, then even the simple will become prudent; and if you rebuke a wise man, he will understand the instruction” (Prov. 19:25). The Old Testament tradition knows several types of punishment: the death penalty, exile, restriction of freedom, corporal punishment, a fine or an order to make a sacrifice for religious purposes.
Imprisonment, exile (exile), correctional labor and a fine are preserved as punishment in the modern world. All these types of judicial punishment not only make sense from the point of view of protecting society from the evil will of the criminal, but are also called upon to serve to correct him. Thus, deprivation or restriction of freedom gives a person who has placed himself outside society the opportunity to reevaluate his own life in order to return to freedom internally cleansed. Labor contributes to the upbringing of a person in a creative spirit, allows you to acquire useful skills. In the process of corrective labor, the sinful element in the depths of the soul must give way to creation, order, peace of mind. At the same time, it is important that persons in places of deprivation of liberty are not subjected to inhuman treatment, that the conditions of their detention are such that under which their life and health would not be endangered, and their moral state would not be affected by the pernicious example of other prisoners. For this, the state is called upon to take care of the prisoners, and society and the Church must help it in this care.
In Christianity, a kind attitude towards prisoners for the sake of their correction has a deep foundation. The Lord Jesus compares doing good to prisoners with serving Himself: “I was in prison, and you came to Me”(Matthew 25:36). History has preserved many examples of the help of the holy saints of God to people in prison. The Russian Orthodox tradition from time immemorial assumed mercy for the fallen. Saint Innocent, Archbishop of Kherson, addressed the prisoners in the Vologda prison church with the following word: “We have come here not to rebuke you, but to give you consolation and edification. See for yourselves how the Holy Church with all its Mysteries has drawn near to you, do not move away from her either, draw near to her by faith, repentance and the correction of your morals … The Savior now stretches out his hands from the cross to all penitents; repent ye also, and pass from death unto life!”
Fulfilling its ministry in places of deprivation of liberty, the Church must set up churches and prayer rooms there, celebrate the Sacraments and divine services, hold pastoral conversations with prisoners, and distribute spiritual literature. At the same time, personal contact with detainees, including visits to their places of immediate location, is especially important. Correspondence with convicts, collection and transfer of clothes, medicines and other necessary things deserve every encouragement. Such activities should be aimed not only at alleviating the plight of prisoners, but also at helping in the moral healing of crippled souls. Their pain is the pain of the entire Mother Church, which rejoices in the joy of heaven and “for one penitent sinner”(Luke 15:10). The revival of spiritual care for prisoners is becoming the most important direction of pastoral and missionary work, which needs support and development.
A special measure of punishment – the death penalty – was recognized in the Old Testament. There are no indications of the need to abolish it either in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, or in Tradition and the historical heritage of the Orthodox Church. At the same time, the Church often assumed the duty of mourning before the secular authorities about those condemned to death, asking for mercy and mitigation of punishment for them. Moreover, Christian moral influence brought up in the minds of people a negative attitude towards the death penalty. So, in Russia from the middle of the 18th century until the revolution of 1905, it was used extremely rarely. For the Orthodox consciousness, a person’s life does not end with bodily death – that is why the Church does not leave spiritual care for those sentenced to the highest penalty.
The abolition of the death penalty provides more opportunities for pastoral work with the offender and for his own repentance. In addition, it is obvious that the punishment by death cannot have the proper educational value, makes a miscarriage of justice irreparable, and causes ambiguous feelings among the people. Today, many states have abolished the death penalty in law or do not implement it in practice. Remembering that mercy for fallen man is always preferable to revenge, the Church welcomes such steps by the state authorities. At the same time, she recognizes that the issue of abolishing or not using the death penalty should be decided freely by society, taking into account the state of crime in it, law enforcement and judicial systems, and, above all, considerations of protecting the lives of well-meaning members of society.
IX.4. Wishing to help overcome crime, the Church cooperates with law enforcement agencies. Respecting the work of their workers, aimed at protecting citizens and the fatherland from criminal encroachments, as well as correcting those who stumble, the Church extends a helping hand to them. Such assistance can be carried out in a variety of joint educational and educational work aimed at the prevention and prevention of offenses, in scientific and cultural activities, in the pastoral care of the law enforcement officers themselves. The interaction between the Church and the law enforcement system is based on church regulations and special agreements with the leadership of the relevant departments.
However, the most effective in overcoming crime is called to be the pastoral service of the Church, especially in the Sacrament of Penance. To anyone who repents of a committed offense, as an indispensable condition for the resolution of sin, the priest must resolutely offer to renounce the continuation of criminal activity before the Face of God. Only in this way will a person be moved to leave the path of iniquity and return to a virtuous life.
X. Questions of personal, family and public morality
X.1. The difference between the sexes is a special gift of the Creator to the people He created. “And God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:27). Being equally bearers of the image of God and human dignity, a man and a woman are created for integral unity with each other in love: “Therefore, a man will leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Embodying the original will of the Lord about creation, the marital union blessed by Him becomes a means of continuing and multiplying the human race: “And God blessed them, and God said to them: be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it”(Gen. 1:28). Features of the sexes are not reduced to differences in bodily structure. Man and woman are two different ways of being in one humanity. They need communication and mutual replenishment. However, in a fallen world, gender relations can be perverted, ceasing to be an expression of God-given love and degenerating into a manifestation of a sinful predilection of a fallen person for his “I”.
Highly appreciating the feat of voluntary chaste celibacy accepted for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, and recognizing the special role of monasticism in its history and modern life, the Church has never treated marriage with disdain and condemned those who, out of a falsely understood desire for purity, despised marital relations.
The Apostle Paul, who personally chose virginity for himself and called to imitate him in this (1 Cor. 7: 8), nevertheless condemns “the hypocrisy of false talkers, burned in their conscience, forbidding marriage”(1 Tim. 4:2-3). The 51st Canon of the Apostles says: “If anyone … moves away from marriage … not for the sake of the exploit of continence, but because of abhorrence, forgetting … that God, creating man, husband and wife, created them, and thus, blaspheming , slanders the creation – either let it be corrected, or let it be expelled from the sacred rank and rejected from the Church. It is developed by the 1st, 9th and 10th canons of the Gangra Council: “If anyone condemns marriage and abhors a faithful and pious wife who copulates with her husband, or condemns her as unable to enter the Kingdom [of God], let it be under an oath. If anyone is virginal or abstains, moving away from marriage, as one who abhors it, and not for the sake of the very beauty and holiness of virginity, let him be under an oath. If any of those who are virgins for the sake of the Lord exalt themselves over those who are married, let him be under an oath.
X.2. According to Roman law, which formed the basis of the civil codes of most modern states, marriage is an agreement between two parties free in their choice. The Church accepted this definition of marriage, comprehending it on the basis of the evidence of Holy Scripture.
The Roman jurist Modestinus (III century) gave the following definition of marriage: “Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, the community of all life, participation in divine and human law.” In almost unchanged form, this definition was included in the canonical collections of the Orthodox Church, in particular, in the “Nomocanon” of Patriarch Photius (IX century), in the “Syntagma” of Matthew Blastar (XIV century) and in the “Prochiron” of Basil the Macedonian (IX century), included in the Slavic “Kormchaya knigi”. The early Christian Fathers and Doctors of the Church also relied on Roman ideas about marriage. So, Athenagoras in his Apology to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (II century) writes: “Each of us considers his wife the woman to whom he is married according to the laws.” The Apostolic Ordinances, a 4th-century monument, exhort Christians to “marry in accordance with the law.”
Christianity completed the pagan and Old Testament ideas about marriage with the sublime image of the union of Christ and the Church.“Wives, obey your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the body; but as the Church is subject to Christ, so are wives to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, to sanctify her, having cleansed her with a bath of water, through the word; to present her to Himself as a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or anything like that, but that she might be holy and blameless. Thus ought husbands to love their wives as their bodies: he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and warms it, just as the Lord does the Church; because we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great; I speak in relation to Christ and to the Church. So let each of you love his wife as himself; but let the wife be afraid of her husband.”(Eph. 5:22-33).
For Christians, marriage has become not just a legal contract, a means of procreation and satisfaction of temporary natural needs, but, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “the sacrament of love”, the eternal unity of spouses with each other in Christ. Initially, Christians sealed marriage with a church blessing and joint participation in the Eucharist, which was the oldest form of the Sacrament of Marriage.
“Those who marry and marry must enter into an alliance with the consent of the bishop, so that the marriage is about the Lord, and not out of lust,” wrote Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer. According to Tertullian, marriage “sealed by the Church, confirmed by the sacrifice [of the Eucharist], is sealed with blessing and inscribed in heaven by angels.” “It is necessary to call on the priests to confirm the spouses in their life together with prayers and blessings, so that … the spouses lead their lives in joy, united by the help of God,” said St. John Chrysostom. St. Ambrose of Milan pointed out that “marriage should be sanctified with a cover and a priestly blessing.”
During the period of Christianization of the Roman Empire, the legality of marriage was still communicated by civil registration. Consecrating marital unions with prayer and blessing, the Church nevertheless recognized the validity of a civil marriage in cases where church marriage was impossible, and did not subject the spouses to canonical prohibitions. The same practice is currently followed by the Russian Orthodox Church. At the same time, she cannot approve and bless marital unions, which are concluded, although in accordance with the current civil legislation, but in violation of canonical regulations (for example, fourth and subsequent marriages, marriages in unacceptable degrees of consanguinity or spiritual relationship).
According to the 74th short story of Justinian (538), a legal marriage could be concluded both by an ekdik (church notary) and a priest. A similar rule was contained in the eclogue of Emperor Leo III and his son Constantine V (740), as well as in the law of Basil I (879). The most important condition for marriage was the mutual consent of a man and a woman, confirmed before witnesses. The church did not protest against this practice. Only from 893, according to the 89th short story of Emperor Leo VI, free persons were charged with the obligation to marry according to the church rite, and in 1095 Emperor Alexius Komnenos extended this rule to slaves. The introduction of compulsory marriage according to the church rite (IX-XI centuries) meant that by the decision of the state power, all legal regulation of marital relations was transferred exclusively to the jurisdiction of the Church. However,
The order established in Byzantium was adopted in Russia in relation to persons of the Orthodox faith. However, with the adoption of the Decree on the Separation of the Church from the State (1918), marriage according to the church order lost its legal force; formally, believers were given the right to receive a church blessing after marriage was registered with state bodies. However, during a long period of state persecution of religion, the celebration of a solemn wedding in a church actually remained extremely difficult and dangerous.
On December 28, 1998, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church noted with regret that “some confessors declare civil marriage illegal or demand the dissolution of a marriage between spouses who have lived together for many years, but due to certain circumstances did not perform a wedding in a church … Some pastors -Confessors do not allow persons living in an “unmarried” marriage to receive communion, identifying such a marriage with fornication.” The definition adopted by the Synod states: “Insisting on the need for church marriage, remind pastors that the Orthodox Church respects civil marriage.”
The common faith of spouses who are members of the body of Christ is the most important condition for a truly Christian and church marriage. Only a family that is united in faith can become a “domestic church” (Rom. 16:5; Philm. 1:2), in which the husband and wife, together with their children, grow in spiritual perfection and the knowledge of God. Lack of unanimity poses a serious threat to the integrity of the marital union. That is why the Church considers it her duty to urge believers to marry “only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39), that is, with those who share their Christian convictions.
The above-mentioned definition of the Holy Synod also speaks of the respect of the Church “for such a marriage in which only one of the parties belongs to the Orthodox faith, in accordance with the words of the holy Apostle Paul: “An unbelieving husband is sanctified by a believing wife, and an unbelieving wife is sanctified by a believing husband”(1 Corinthians 7:14).” The Fathers of the Trullo Council also referred to this text of Holy Scripture, recognizing as valid the union between persons who, “while still in unbelief and not being counted among the flock of Orthodox, were united among themselves by legal marriage”, if later one of the spouses converted to the faith (rule 72 ). However, in the same rule and other canonical definitions (IV Vs. Sob. 14, Laod. 10, 31), as well as in the works of ancient Christian writers and Church fathers (Tertullian, St. Cyprian of Carthage, Blessed Theodoret and Blessed Augustine), it is forbidden marriages between Orthodox and followers of other religious traditions.
In accordance with the ancient canonical prescriptions, even today the Church does not consecrate marriages between Orthodox and non-Christians, while simultaneously recognizing them as legal and not considering those who are in them to be in fornication. Based on considerations of pastoral economy, the Russian Orthodox Church, both in the past and today, finds it possible for Orthodox Christians to marry Catholics, members of the Ancient Eastern Churches and Protestants professing faith in the Triune God, subject to the blessing of marriage in the Orthodox Church and the upbringing of children in the Orthodox Church. faith. The same practice has been followed in most Orthodox Churches over the past centuries.
By the decree of the Holy Synod of June 23, 1721, marriages of Swedish captives in Siberia with Orthodox brides were allowed under the above conditions. On August 18 of the same year, this decision of the Synod received a detailed biblical and theological justification in a special Synodal Message. The Holy Synod also referred to this message later when resolving questions about mixed marriages in the provinces annexed from Poland, as well as in Finland (decrees of the Holy Synod of 1803 and 1811). In these areas, however, a more free determination of the confessional affiliation of children was allowed (temporarily, this practice sometimes extended to the Baltic provinces). Finally, the rules on mixed marriages for the entire Russian Empire were finally enshrined in the Charter of Spiritual Consistories (1883). An example of mixed marriages were many dynastic marriages, during which the transition of the non-Orthodox side to Orthodoxy was not mandatory (with the exception of the marriage of the heir to the Russian throne). Thus, the Monk Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth entered into marriage with Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, remaining a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and only later, by her own will, accepted Orthodoxy.
X.3. The Church insists on the lifelong fidelity of spouses and the indissolubility of Orthodox marriage, based on the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “What God has joined together, let no man separate … Whoever divorces his wife not for adultery and marries another, he commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:6, 9). Divorce is condemned by the Church as a sin, because it brings severe mental suffering to both spouses (at least one of them), and especially children. I am extremely worried about the current situation, in which a very significant part of marriages are being dissolved, especially among young people. What is happening is becoming a true tragedy for the individual and the people.
The only acceptable grounds for divorce the Lord called adultery, which defiles the sanctity of marriage and destroys the bond of marital fidelity. In cases of various conflicts between spouses, the Church sees its pastoral task in that by all means inherent in it (teaching, prayer, participation in the Sacraments) to protect the integrity of the marriage and prevent divorce. The clergy are also called upon to hold conversations with those wishing to marry, explaining to them the importance and responsibility of the step being taken.
Unfortunately, sometimes, due to sinful imperfection, spouses may be unable to keep the gift of grace received by them in the Sacrament of Marriage and preserve the unity of the family. Desiring the salvation of sinners, the Church gives them the possibility of correction and is ready, after repentance, to again admit them to the Sacraments.
The laws of Byzantium, established by the Christian emperors and not condemned by the Church, allowed various grounds for divorce. In the Russian Empire, the dissolution of a marriage on the basis of existing laws was carried out in an ecclesiastical court.
In 1918, the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in the “Determination on the reasons for the termination of the marriage union, consecrated by the Church” recognized as such, in addition to adultery and the entry of one of the parties into a new marriage, also the falling away of a spouse or wife from Orthodoxy, unnatural vices, inability to marital cohabitation that occurred before marriage or was the result of intentional self-mutilation, illness with leprosy or syphilis, long-term absence, condemnation to a punishment combined with deprivation of all rights of the state, encroachment on the life or health of a spouse or children, sophistication, pimping, deriving benefits from the indecency of a spouse , incurable severe mental illness and malicious abandonment of one spouse by another. Currently, this list of grounds for divorce is supplemented by such reasons as
In order to spiritually educate the spouses and help strengthen marital ties, priests are called upon to explain in detail to the bride and groom the idea of the indissolubility of the church marriage union in the conversation preceding the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage, emphasizing that divorce as an extreme measure can only take place if the spouses acts that are defined by the Church as grounds for divorce. Consent to the dissolution of a church marriage cannot be given for the sake of whimsy or to “confirm” a civil divorce. However, if the breakup of a marriage is a fait accompli – especially when the spouses live apart – and the restoration of the family is not recognized as possible, a church divorce is also allowed by pastoral indulgence. The Church does not encourage second marriage. However, after a legal church divorce, under canon law, a second marriage is permitted to the innocent spouse. Persons whose first marriage broke up and was annulled through their fault are allowed to enter into a second marriage only on condition of repentance and fulfillment of the penance imposed in accordance with canonical rules. In those exceptional cases where a third marriage is allowed, the period of penance, in accordance with the rules of St. Basil the Great, is extended.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, in its Resolution of December 28, 1998, condemned the actions of those confessors who “forbid their spiritual children from entering into a second marriage on the grounds that the second marriage is allegedly condemned by the Church; Forbid married couples to divorce in the event that, due to certain circumstances, family life becomes impossible for the spouses. At the same time, the Holy Synod decided to “remind the pastors that in its attitude to the second marriage, the Orthodox Church is guided by the words of the Apostle Paul: “Are you united with your wife? Don’t seek divorce. Did he leave without a wife? Don’t look for a wife. However, even if you marry, you will not sin; and if a girl marries, she will not sin… A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; if her husband dies, she is free to marry whomever she wants, only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:27-28, 39).
X.4. The special inner closeness of the family and the Church is already evident from the fact that in Holy Scripture Christ speaks of Himself as a bridegroom (Matt. 9:15; 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-36), and the Church is portrayed as His wives and brides (Eph. 5:24; Rev. 21:9). Clement of Alexandria calls the family, like the Church, the house of the Lord, and St. John Chrysostom calls the family a “small church.” “I will also say that,” writes the holy father, “that marriage is a mysterious image of the Church.” The home church is formed by a man and a woman who love each other, united in marriage and aspiring to Christ. The fruit of their love and community are children, the birth and upbringing of which, according to Orthodox teaching, is one of the most important goals of marriage.
“This is an inheritance from the Lord: children; reward from Him is the fruit of the womb,” exclaims the Psalmist (Ps. 126:3). The apostle Paul taught about the saving power of childbearing (1 Tim. 2:13). He also called on the fathers: “Do not provoke your children, but bring them up in the teaching and admonition of the Lord”(Eph. 6:4). “Children are not an accidental acquisition, we are responsible for their salvation… Negligence for children is the greatest of all sins, it leads to extreme impiety… We have no excuse if our children are corrupted,” instructs St. John Chrysostom. Saint Ephraim the Syrian teaches: “Blessed is he who brings up children in a pleasing manner.” “The true father is not the one who gave birth, but the one who raised and taught well,” writes St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. “Parents are primarily responsible for the upbringing of their children and cannot ascribe the blame for their bad upbringing to anyone but themselves,” preached Hieromartyr Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kyiv. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days on earth may be long,” says the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12). In the Old Testament, disrespect towards parents was regarded as the greatest crime (Ex. 21:15, 17; Prov. 20.20; 30.17). The New Testament also teaches children to obey their parents in love:“Children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20).
The family as a domestic church is a single organism whose members live and build their relationships on the basis of the law of love. The experience of family communication teaches a person to overcome sinful egoism and lays the foundations for healthy citizenship. It is in the family, as in a school of piety, that the right attitude towards one’s neighbors, and therefore towards one’s own people, towards society as a whole, is formed and strengthened. The living continuity of generations, starting in the family, finds its continuation in love for ancestors and the fatherland, in a sense of belonging to history. Therefore, the destruction of the traditional ties between parents and children is so dangerous, which, unfortunately, is largely facilitated by the way of life of modern society. The belittling of the social significance of motherhood and fatherhood in comparison with the success of men and women in the professional field leads to that children are beginning to be perceived as an unnecessary burden; it also contributes to alienation and the development of antagonism between generations. The role of the family in the formation of the individual is exceptional; it cannot be replaced by other social institutions. The destruction of family ties is inevitably associated with a disruption in the normal development of children and leaves a long, to a certain extent, indelible imprint on their entire subsequent life.
Orphanhood with living parents has become a glaring misfortune of modern society. Thousands of abandoned children who fill shelters and sometimes end up on the street testify to the deep ill health of society. Providing such children with spiritual and material assistance, taking care of their involvement in spiritual and social life, the Church simultaneously sees its most important duty in strengthening the family and in the awareness of parents of their vocation, which would exclude the tragedy of an abandoned child.
X.5. In the pre-Christian world, there was an idea of a woman as a being of a lower order in comparison with a man. The Church of Christ has fully revealed the dignity and vocation of a woman, giving them a deep religious foundation, the culmination of which is the veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos. According to Orthodox teaching, the blessed Mary, blessed among women (Luke 1:28), revealed by herself that highest degree of moral purity, spiritual perfection and holiness, to which humanity could rise and which surpasses the dignity of angelic ranks. Motherhood is sanctified in Her face and the importance of the feminine principle is affirmed. With the participation of the Mother of God, the mystery of the Incarnation is performed; thus She becomes involved in the salvation and rebirth of mankind. The Church highly venerates the gospel myrrh-bearing women, as well as numerous faces of Christian women, glorified by the exploits of martyrdom, confession and righteousness. From the very beginning of the life of the church community, a woman actively participates in its dispensation, in liturgical life, in the labors of the mission, preaching, education, and charity.
Highly appreciating the social role of women and welcoming their political, cultural and social equality with men, the Church simultaneously opposes the tendency to diminish the role of women as spouses and mothers. The fundamental equality of the dignity of the sexes does not abolish their natural difference and does not mean the identity of their vocations both in the family and in society. In particular, the Church cannot misinterpret the words of the Apostle Paul about the special responsibility of the husband, who is called to be “the head of the wife,” loving her, as Christ loves His Church, and also about the calling of the wife to obey her husband, as the Church obeys Christ (Eph. 5. 22-23; Col. 3:18). In these words, of course, we are not talking about the despotism of a husband or the enslavement of a wife, but about primacy in responsibility, care and love; should also not be forgotten that all Christians are called to mutual “obedience to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). That’s why“Neither a husband without a wife, nor a wife without a husband, in the Lord. For as the wife is from the husband, so is the husband through the wife; yet it is from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12).
Representatives of some social movements tend to belittle, and sometimes even completely deny the importance of marriage and the institution of the family, focusing on the socially significant activities of women, including those incompatible or little compatible with female nature (for example, work associated with heavy physical labor). There are frequent calls for an artificial equalization of the participation of women and men in every sphere of human activity. The Church, however, sees the appointment of a woman not in a simple imitation of a man and not in competition with him, but in the development of all the abilities granted to her by the Lord, including those inherent only in her nature. Without focusing only on the system of distribution of social functions, Christian anthropology assigns a woman a much higher place than modern non-religious ideas. The desire to destroy or minimize the natural divisions in the public sphere is not characteristic of the church mind. Gender differences, like social and ethnic differences, do not hinder access to the salvation that Christ brought for all people: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile; there is no slave nor free; there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). However, this soteriological statement does not mean an artificial impoverishment of human diversity and should not be mechanically transferred to any social relations. nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). However, this soteriological statement does not mean an artificial impoverishment of human diversity and should not be mechanically transferred to any social relations. nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). However, this soteriological statement does not mean an artificial impoverishment of human diversity and should not be mechanically transferred to any social relations.
X.6. The virtue of chastity, preached by the Church, is the basis of the internal unity of the human personality, which must be in a state of harmony of mental and bodily forces. Fornication inevitably destroys the harmony and integrity of a person’s life, causing heavy damage to his spiritual health. Fornication dulls the spiritual sight and hardens the heart, making it incapable of true love. The happiness of a full-blooded family life becomes inaccessible to the fornicator. Thus, the sin against chastity entails negative social consequences. In the conditions of the spiritual crisis of human society, the mass media and works of the so-called mass culture often become instruments of moral corruption, glorifying and glorifying sexual unbridledness, all kinds of sexual perversions, and other sinful passions. Pornography,
The propaganda of vice inflicts particular harm on the unasserted souls of children and youth. In books, movies and other videos, in the media, and in some educational programs, adolescents are often taught a concept of sexuality that is highly degrading to human dignity, as it has no place for the notions of chastity, marital fidelity, and selfless love. Intimate relations between a man and a woman are not only exposed and put on display, offending the natural feeling of modesty, but also presented as an act of purely bodily satisfaction, not associated with a deep inner community and any moral obligations. The Church calls on the faithful, in cooperation with all morally healthy forces, to fight the spread of this devilish temptation, which,
“Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart, ” says the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:28). “Desire… having conceived, gives birth to sin, but the committed sin gives birth to death, ” warns the Apostle James (James 1:15). “Fornicators…the Kingdom of God will not inherit”,— affirms the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 6:9-10). These words fully apply both to consumers and, to an even greater extent, to manufacturers of pornographic products. The words of Christ also apply to the latter: “Whoever offends one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him if they hung a millstone around his neck and drowned him in the depths of the sea … Woe to the person through whom the temptation comes” (Matthew 18:6-7). “Fornication is a poison that mortifies the soul… Whoever commits fornication renounces Christ,” taught St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. St. Demetrius of Rostov wrote: “The body of every Christian is not his, but Christ’s, according to the words of Scripture: “You are the body of Christ, and individually members” (1 Cor. 12:27). And it is not befitting for you to defile the body of Christ with carnal, voluptuous deeds, except for legal matrimony. For you are the house of Christ, according to the apostle: “The temple of God is holy; and this temple is you” (1 Corinthians 3:17). The ancient Church in the writings of its fathers and teachers (such as Clement of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John Chrysostom) invariably condemned obscene theatrical scenes and images. Under pain of excommunication from the Church, Canon 100 of the Council of Trullo forbids the production of “images that … corrupt the mind and ignite impure pleasures.”
The human body is a marvelous creation of God and is destined to become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Condemning pornography and fornication, the Church by no means calls to abhor the body or sexual intimacy as such, for the bodily relations of a man and a woman are blessed by God in marriage, where they become a source of continuation of the human race and express chaste love, complete community, “unanimity of souls and bodies” of spouses for which the Church prays in the rite of marriage. On the contrary, the conversion of these pure and divinely worthy relationships, as well as the human body itself, into an object of humiliating exploitation and trade, designed to extract selfish, impersonal, loveless and perverted satisfaction, deserves condemnation.
Understanding that the school, along with the family, should provide children and adolescents with knowledge about gender relations and about the bodily nature of a person, the Church cannot support those “sex education” programs that recognize premarital relationships as the norm, and even more so various perversions. The imposition of such programs on students is completely unacceptable. The school is designed to resist the vice that destroys the integrity of the individual, to educate chastity, to prepare youth for the creation of a strong family based on loyalty and purity.
XI. Health of the individual and the people
XI.1. The care of human health – mental and bodily – has been the concern of the Church from time immemorial. However, the maintenance of physical health in isolation from spiritual health from the Orthodox point of view is not an unconditional value. The Lord Jesus Christ, preaching in word and deed, healed people, caring not only for their bodies, but especially for their souls, and, as a result, for the integral composition of the personality. According to the Savior Himself, he healed “the whole man”(John 7:23). Healings accompanied the preaching of the gospel as a sign of the Lord’s power to forgive sins. They were also inseparable from the apostolic gospel. The Church of Christ, endowed by its Divine Founder with all the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, was originally a healing community and today, in the rite of confession, reminds its children that they come to the clinic in order to leave healed.
The biblical attitude to medicine is most fully expressed in the book of Jesus the son of Sirach:“Honour the doctor with honor as needed in him; for the Lord created it, and from the Highest healing … The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a prudent person will not neglect them. For this He gave people knowledge, so that they would glorify Him in His wonderful deeds: with them He heals a person and destroys his illness. He who prepares medicines makes a mixture of them, and his occupations do not end, and through him there is good on the face of the earth. My son! Do not be careless in your illness, but pray to the Lord and He will heal you. Leave a sinful life, and correct your hands, and cleanse your heart from all sin … And give a place to the doctor, for the Lord created him, and let him not move away from you, for he is needed. At other times, success is in their hands. For they also pray to the Lord that He will help them to give relief and healing to the sick for the continuation of life.(Cir. 38. 1-2,4,6-10,12-14). The best representatives of ancient medicine, canonized as saints, showed a special image of holiness – unmercenaries and miracle workers. They were glorified not only because they very often ended their lives with martyrdom, but for accepting the medical vocation as a Christian duty of mercy.
The Orthodox Church has consistently high respect for medical practice, which is based on the ministry of love, aimed at preventing and alleviating human suffering. The healing of human nature damaged by illness appears as the fulfillment of God’s plan for man: “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you in all its fullness, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved without blemish in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Thess. 5:23). The body, free from enslavement to sinful passions and their consequences – illnesses, should serve the soul, and spiritual forces and abilities, being transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, should strive towards the ultimate goal and destiny of man – deification. Every true healing is called to participate in this miracle of healing, performed in the Church of Christ. At the same time, it is necessary to distinguish the healing power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by faith in the One Lord Jesus Christ through participation in church sacraments and prayers, from spells, conspiracies, other magical actions and superstitions.
Many diseases remain incurable and cause suffering and death. Faced with such illnesses, an Orthodox Christian is called to rely on the all-good will of God, remembering that the meaning of life is not limited to earthly life, which is preparation for eternity. Suffering is a consequence not only of personal sins, but also of the general damage and limitation of human nature, and therefore must be endured with patience and hope. The Lord voluntarily accepts suffering for the salvation of the human race: “By His stripes we are healed”(Isaiah 53:5). This means that God was pleased to make suffering a means of salvation and purification, which can be effective for everyone who experiences it with humility and trust in the all-good will of God. According to St. John Chrysostom, “he who has learned to thank God for his illnesses is not far from holiness.” The foregoing does not mean that the doctor or the patient should not make efforts to fight the disease. However, when human means are exhausted, the Christian must remember that the power of God is perfected in human weakness and that in the very depths of suffering he is able to meet with Christ, who took upon Himself our infirmities and sicknesses (Isaiah 53:4).
XI.2. The Church calls both shepherds and her children to Christian witness among health workers. It is very important to familiarize teachers and students of medical schools with the fundamentals of the Orthodox faith and Orthodox-oriented biomedical ethics (see XII). The activity of the Church, aimed at proclaiming the word of God and teaching the grace of the Holy Spirit to the suffering and those who care for them, is the essence of counseling in the field of health care. The main place in it is occupied by participation in the saving Sacraments, the creation of a prayerful atmosphere in medical institutions, the provision of various charitable assistance to their patients. The Church’s mission in the medical field is the responsibility not only of the clergy, but also of the Orthodox laity – healthcare workers, designed to create all conditions for the religious consolation of the sick, who ask for it directly or indirectly. A believing physician must understand that a person in need of help expects from him not only appropriate treatment, but also spiritual support, especially when the doctor has a worldview that reveals the secret of suffering and death. To be a merciful Samaritan from the gospel parable for the patient is the duty of every Orthodox medical worker.
The Church blesses the Orthodox brotherhoods and sisterhoods of mercy to be obedient in clinics and other healthcare institutions, and also contributes to the creation of hospital churches, church and monastery hospitals, so that medical care at all stages of treatment and rehabilitation is combined with pastoral care. The Church calls on the laity to provide all possible assistance to the sick, which covers human suffering with merciful love and care.
XI.3. The problem of the health of the individual and the people is not external, purely social for the Church, for it directly correlates with her mission in a world damaged by sin and ailments. The Church is called upon, in cooperation with state structures and interested public circles, to participate in the development of such an understanding of the health of the nation, in which each person could exercise his right to spiritual, physical, mental health and social well-being with a maximum life expectancy.
The doctor-patient relationship must be built on respect for integrity, free choice and dignity of the individual. It is unacceptable to manipulate a person, even for the most good purposes. It is impossible not to welcome the development of dialogue between the doctor and the patient, which is taking place in modern medicine. This approach is undoubtedly rooted in the Christian tradition, although there is a temptation to relegate it to the level of purely contractual relations. At the same time, it should be recognized that the more traditional “paternalistic” model of the relationship between the doctor and the patient, rightly criticized for numerous attempts to justify medical arbitrariness, can also show a truly paternal approach to the patient, which is determined by the moral character of the doctor.
Without giving preference to any model of organizing medical care, the Church believes that this help should be as effective as possible and accessible to all members of society, regardless of their material wealth and social status, including in the distribution of limited medical resources. In order for such a distribution to be truly fair, the criterion of “needs of life” must prevail over the criterion of “market relations”. A doctor should not associate the degree of his responsibility for providing medical care solely with material remuneration and its value, turning his profession into a source of enrichment. At the same time, decent remuneration of medical workers is an important task of society and the state.
Recognizing the possible beneficial consequences of the fact that medicine is increasingly predictive and preventive, and also welcoming a holistic perception of health and disease, the Church warns against attempts to absolutize any medical theories, recalling the importance of maintaining spiritual priorities in human life. Based on its centuries-old experience, the Church also warns of the danger of introducing occult-magical practices under the guise of “alternative medicine”, exposing the will and consciousness of people to the influence of demonic forces. Each person should have the right and a real opportunity not to accept those methods of influence on his body that contradict his religious beliefs.
The Church recalls that bodily health is not self-sufficient, since it is only one of the aspects of integral human existence. However, it must be admitted that preventive measures and the creation of real conditions for physical culture and sports are very important to maintain the health of the individual and the people. Competition is natural in sports. However, the extreme levels of its commercialization, the emergence of a cult of pride associated with it, destructive doping manipulations, and even more so such competitions during which deliberate grievous mutilation occurs, cannot be approved.
XI.4. The Russian Orthodox Church states with deep concern that the peoples traditionally nourished by it are now in a state of demographic crisis. The birth rate and average life expectancy have sharply decreased, and the population is constantly decreasing. The danger is represented by epidemics, the growth of cardiovascular, mental, venereal and other diseases, drug addiction and alcoholism. Childhood morbidity, including dementia, has increased. Demographic problems lead to a deformation of the structure of society and a decrease in the creative potential of peoples, becoming one of the reasons for the weakening of the family. The main reasons that led to the depopulation and critical state of health of the peoples mentioned in the 20th century were wars, revolution, famine and mass repressions, the consequences of which were aggravated by the deep social crisis at the end of the century.
Demographic problems are in the sphere of constant attention of the Church. It is designed to monitor legislative and administrative processes in order to prevent the adoption of decisions that aggravate the severity of the situation. A constant dialogue is needed with the state authorities, as well as with the media to clarify the position of the Church on issues of demographic policy and health care. The fight against depopulation should include active support for scientific, medical and social programs to protect motherhood and childhood, the fetus and the newborn. The state is called upon to support the birth and upbringing of children with all the means at its disposal.
XI.5. The Church considers mental illness as one of the manifestations of the general sinful damage of human nature. Highlighting the spiritual, mental and bodily levels of its organization in the personal structure, the holy fathers distinguished between illnesses that developed “from nature” and illnesses caused by demonic influence or resulting from passions that enslaved a person. In accordance with this distinction, it seems equally unjustified to reduce all mental illnesses to manifestations of possession, which entails the unreasonable performance of the rite of exorcism, and the attempt to treat any spiritual disorders exclusively by clinical methods. In the field of psychotherapy, the most fruitful combination of pastoral and medical care for the mentally ill, with a proper delimitation of the areas of competence of the doctor and the priest.
Mental illness does not detract from the dignity of a person. The Church testifies that the mentally ill person is also a bearer of the image of God, remaining our brother in need of compassion and help. Psychotherapeutic approaches based on the suppression of the patient’s personality and the humiliation of his dignity are morally unacceptable. Occult methods of influencing the psyche, sometimes disguised as scientific psychotherapy, are categorically unacceptable for Orthodoxy. In special cases, the treatment of the mentally ill necessarily requires the use of both isolation and other forms of coercion. However, when choosing forms of medical intervention, one should proceed from the principle of the least restriction on the patient’s freedom.
XI.6. The Bible says that “wine gladdens the heart of a man” (Ps. 103:15) and “it is beneficial…if you drink it in moderation” (Sir. 31:31). However, both in Holy Scripture and in the writings of the Holy Fathers, we repeatedly find a strict condemnation of the vice of drunkenness, which, beginning imperceptibly, entails many other deadly sins. Very often, drunkenness becomes the reason for the breakup of a family, bringing incalculable suffering both to the victim of this sinful disease and to loved ones, especially children.
“Drunkenness is enmity against God… Drunkenness is a voluntarily summoned demon… Drunkenness drives away the Holy Spirit,” wrote St. Basil the Great. “Drunkenness is the root of all evil… A drunkard is a living dead… Drunkenness in itself can serve instead of any punishment, filling souls with confusion, filling the mind with darkness, making a drunken prisoner, subjecting countless diseases, internal and external… Drunkenness … – this is a diverse and many-headed beast … Here fornication grows in him, there – anger; here is dullness of mind and heart, and there is shameful love… No one fulfills the evil will of the devil like a drunkard,” St. John Chrysostom instructed. “A drunk person is capable of any evil, goes to all sorts of temptations … Drunkenness makes its adherent incapable of any business,” testifies St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.
Even more pernicious is the widespread drug addiction – a passion that makes a person enslaved by it extremely vulnerable to the action of dark forces. Every year this terrible disease covers more and more people, taking many lives. Young people are most susceptible to drug addiction, which poses a particular threat to society. The selfish interests of the drug business also influence the formation – especially in youth circles – of a special “drug” pseudo-culture. Immature people are imposed stereotypes of behavior that suggest the use of drugs as a “normal” and even indispensable attribute of communication.
The main reason for the flight of many of our contemporaries into the realm of alcoholic or drug illusions is spiritual emptiness, the loss of the meaning of life, and the blurring of moral guidelines. Drug addiction and alcoholism become manifestations of a spiritual disease not only of an individual, but of the whole society. This is a retribution for the ideology of consumerism, for the cult of material prosperity, for lack of spirituality and the loss of true ideals. Treating victims of drunkenness and drug addiction with pastoral compassion, the Church offers them spiritual support in overcoming vice. Without denying the need for medical assistance in the acute stages of drug addiction, the Church pays special attention to prevention and rehabilitation, which are most effective when the sufferers are consciously involved in the Eucharistic and communal life.
XII. Problems of bioethics
XII.1. The rapid development of biomedical technologies, which are actively invading the life of a modern person from birth to death, as well as the inability to get an answer to the moral problems that arise in this case within the framework of traditional medical ethics, are of serious concern to society. Attempts by people to put themselves in the place of God, changing and “improving” His creation at their own will, can bring new hardships and suffering to humanity. The development of biomedical technologies is far ahead of understanding the possible spiritual, moral and social consequences of their uncontrolled use, which cannot but arouse deep pastoral concern in the Church. Formulating his attitude to the problems of bioethics widely discussed in the modern world, primarily to those of them that are associated with a direct impact on a person,“to the honor of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), to the attainment of the perfection of the Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:48) and to deification, that is, the communion of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
XII.2. Since ancient times, the Church has considered intentional termination of pregnancy (abortion) as a grave sin. Canonical rules equate abortion with murder. Such an assessment is based on the conviction that the birth of a human being is a gift from God, therefore, from the moment of conception, any encroachment on the life of a future human person is criminal.
The psalmist describes the development of the fetus in the mother’s womb as a creative act of God: “You arranged my insides and weaved me in my mother’s womb… My bones were not hidden from You, when I was created in secret, formed in the depths of the womb. Your eyes have seen my fetus” (Ps. 139:13:15-16). Job testifies to the same thing in the words addressed to God: “Your hands worked on me and formed all of me around … Didn’t You pour me out like milk, and, like cottage cheese, thicken me, clothe me with skin and flesh, bones and fastened me with veins, gave me life and mercy, and Your care kept my spirit … You brought me out of the womb ” (Job 10. 8-12, 18). “I formed you in the womb… and before you came out of the womb, I sanctified you”(Jer. 1.5-6), the Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah. “Do not kill a child by causing a miscarriage” – this command is placed among the most important commandments of God in the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, one of the oldest monuments of Christian writing. “A woman who has miscarried is a murderer and will answer before God. For … the fetus in the womb is a living being, about whom the Lord cares, ”wrote Athenagoras, an apologist of the 2nd century. “He who will be a man is already a man,” Tertullian argued at the turn of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. “Those who intentionally destroy the fetus conceived in the womb are subject to condemnation of murder … Those who give medicine for the eruption of the fetus conceived in the womb are murderers, as well as accepting infanticide poisons,” says the 2nd and 8th canons of St. Basil the Great, included in the Book of Rules of the Orthodox Church and confirmed by 91 canons of the VI Ecumenical Council. At the same time, Saint Basil clarifies that the severity of guilt does not depend on the gestational age: “We do not have a distinction between the fetus that has been formed and the fetus that has not yet been formed.” Saint John Chrysostom called abortionists “worse than murderers.”
The Church considers the widespread use and justification of abortion in modern society as a threat to the future of mankind and a clear sign of moral degradation. Loyalty to the biblical and patristic teaching about the holiness and pricelessness of human life from its very beginnings is incompatible with the recognition of the “freedom of choice” of a woman in control of the fate of the fetus. In addition, abortion poses a serious threat to the physical and mental health of the mother. The Church is also unfailingly committed to defending the most vulnerable and dependent human beings, which are the unborn children. The Orthodox Church under no circumstances can give its blessing to the abortion. Not rejecting women who have had an abortion, The Church calls them to repentance and to overcome the pernicious consequences of sin through prayer and penance, followed by participation in the saving Sacraments. In cases where there is a direct threat to the life of the mother during the continuation of the pregnancy, especially if she has other children, it is recommended in pastoral practice to show indulgence. A woman who terminates her pregnancy in such circumstances is not excluded from Eucharistic communion with the Church, but this communion is conditioned by her fulfillment of her personal penitential prayer rule, which is determined by the priest who receives confession. The fight against abortions, which women sometimes resort to due to extreme material need and helplessness, requires the Church and society to develop effective measures to protect motherhood, as well as provide conditions for the adoption of children,
The responsibility for the sin of killing an unborn child, along with the mother, is borne by the father, if he consents to the abortion. If an abortion is performed by the wife without the consent of the husband, this may be grounds for divorce (see X.3). Sin also falls on the soul of a doctor who performs an abortion. The Church calls on the state to recognize the right of medical workers to refuse to perform an abortion for reasons of conscience. It is impossible to recognize as a normal situation when the legal responsibility of a doctor for the death of a mother is incomparably higher than the responsibility for the destruction of the fetus, which provokes doctors, and through them patients, to have an abortion. The doctor should show maximum responsibility for making a diagnosis that could push a woman to terminate a pregnancy;
XII.3. The problem of contraception also requires a religious and moral assessment. Some of the contraceptives actually have an abortive effect, artificially interrupting the life of the embryo at the earliest stages, and therefore judgments relating to abortion apply to their use. Other means, which are not connected with the suppression of an already conceived life, cannot be equated to an abortion in any degree. In determining attitudes towards non-abortive contraceptives, Christian spouses should remember that the continuation of the human race is one of the main goals of the divinely ordained marriage union (see X.4). Deliberately refusing to have children for selfish reasons devalues marriage and is an undeniable sin.
At the same time, spouses are responsible before God for the full upbringing of children. One of the ways to implement a responsible attitude towards their birth is to abstain from sexual relations for a certain time. However, it is necessary to remember the words of the Apostle Paul addressed to Christian spouses: “Do not deviate from each other, except by agreement, for a while, for exercise in fasting and prayer, and then be together again, so that Satan does not tempt you with your intemperance”(1 Corinthians 7:5). It is obvious that spouses must make decisions in this area by mutual agreement, resorting to the advice of a confessor. The latter should, with pastoral discretion, take into account the specific living conditions of a married couple, their age, health, degree of spiritual maturity, and many other circumstances, distinguishing those who can “accommodate” the high demands of abstinence from those to whom it is not “given” ( Matt. 19:11), and caring first of all about the preservation and strengthening of the family.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, in a ruling dated December 28, 1998, pointed out to priests who carry out spiritual service “the inadmissibility of forcing or inducing the flock, against their will, to … renounce married life in marriage,” and also reminded the pastors of the need “ observance of special chastity and special pastoral care when discussing with the flock issues related to certain aspects of their family life.
XII.4. The use of new biomedical methods in many cases makes it possible to overcome the disease of infertility. At the same time, the expanding technological intervention in the process of the origin of human life poses a threat to the spiritual integrity and physical health of the individual. Relationships between people, which have been the foundation of society since ancient times, are also under threat. The development of these technologies is also associated with the spread of the ideology of the so-called reproductive rights, which is now being promoted at the national and international levels. This system of views assumes the priority of the sexual and social realization of the individual over concern for the future of the child, the spiritual and physical health of society, and its moral stability. The world is gradually developing an attitude towards human life as a product,
In the prayers of the wedding ceremony, the Orthodox Church expresses the belief that childbearing is the desired fruit of legal marriage, but at the same time not its only goal. Along with the “fruit of the womb for the good”, spouses are asked for gifts of enduring mutual love, chastity, “unanimity of souls and bodies”. Therefore, the paths to childbearing that do not agree with the plan of the Creator of life, the Church cannot consider morally justified. If a husband or wife is incapable of conceiving a child, and the therapeutic and surgical methods of treating infertility do not help the spouses, they should humbly accept their infertility as a special life calling. Pastoral recommendations in such cases should take into account the possibility of adopting a child by mutual consent of the spouses. Acceptable means of medical care may include artificial insemination with the sex cells of the husband,
The manipulations associated with the donation of germ cells violate the integrity of the individual and the exclusivity of marital relations, allowing them to be invaded by a third party. In addition, this practice encourages irresponsible fatherhood or motherhood, knowingly released from any obligations in relation to those who are “flesh of flesh” anonymous donors. The use of donor material undermines the foundations of family relationships, since it implies that the child, in addition to “social”, also has so-called biological parents. “Surrogate motherhood”, that is, the carrying of a fertilized egg by a woman who returns the child to “customers” after childbirth, is unnatural and morally unacceptable, even in cases where it is carried out on a non-commercial basis.
“Surrogate motherhood” traumatizes both the pregnant woman, whose maternal feelings are violated, and the child, who may subsequently experience a crisis of self-consciousness. Morally unacceptable from the Orthodox point of view are also all varieties of in vitro (out of body) fertilization, involving the preparation, conservation and deliberate destruction of “excessive” embryos. It is on the recognition of human dignity even for the embryo that the moral assessment of abortion, condemned by the Church, is based (see XII.2).
Fertilization of single women using donor germ cells or the realization of “reproductive rights” of single men, as well as persons with the so-called non-standard sexual orientation, deprives the unborn child of the right to have a mother and father. The use of reproductive methods outside the context of a God-blessed family becomes a form of theomachism carried out under the guise of protecting human autonomy and misunderstood individual freedom.
XII.5. A significant part of the total number of human ailments are hereditary diseases. The development of medical genetic methods of diagnosis and treatment can contribute to the prevention of such diseases and alleviate the suffering of many people. However, it is important to remember that genetic disorders often result from the oblivion of moral principles, the result of a vicious lifestyle, as a result of which descendants also suffer. The sinful corruption of human nature is overcome by spiritual effort; if, from generation to generation, vice dominates the life of offspring with increasing force, the words of Holy Scripture come true: “Terrible is the end of an unrighteous generation” (Wisdom 3. 19). And vice versa: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord and deeply loves His commandments. His seed will be strong on the earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed”(Ps. 111. 1-2). Thus, research in the field of genetics only confirms the spiritual laws that were revealed to mankind many centuries ago in the word of God.
Drawing people’s attention to the moral causes of ailments, the Church at the same time welcomes the efforts of physicians aimed at healing hereditary diseases. However, the goal of genetic intervention should not be to artificially “improve” the human race and interfere with God’s plan for man. Therefore, gene therapy can be carried out only with the consent of the patient or his legal representatives and only for medical reasons. Gene therapy of germ cells is extremely dangerous, because it is associated with a change in the genome (a set of hereditary features) in a number of generations, which can lead to unpredictable consequences in the form of new mutations and destabilization of the balance between the human community and the environment.
Advances in deciphering the genetic code create real prerequisites for extensive genetic testing in order to identify information about the natural uniqueness of each person, as well as his predisposition to certain diseases. The creation of a “genetic passport” with a reasonable use of the information obtained would help in a timely manner to correct the development of diseases that are possible for a particular person. However, there is a real danger of misuse of genetic information, in which it can serve as various forms of discrimination. In addition, the possession of information about the hereditary predisposition to serious diseases can become an overwhelming mental burden. Therefore, genetic identification and genetic testing can only be carried out on the basis of respect for the freedom of the individual.
The methods of prenatal (prenatal) diagnostics are also of a dual nature, which make it possible to determine a hereditary disease in the early stages of intrauterine development. Some of these methods may endanger the life and integrity of the embryo or fetus being tested. The identification of an incurable or incurable genetic disease often becomes an incentive to interrupt the life that has arisen; there are cases when parents were put under appropriate pressure. Prenatal diagnosis can be considered morally justified if it is aimed at treating identified ailments as early as possible, as well as preparing parents for special care for a sick child. Every person has the right to life, love and care, regardless of the presence of certain diseases. According to the Holy Scripture, God Himself is “an intercessor for the weak” (Jude 9:11). The Apostle Paul teaches“support the weak” (Acts 20:35; 1 Thess. 5:14); likening the Church to the human body, he points out that “members … who seem to be the weakest are much more needed,” and those less perfect need “greater care” (1 Cor. 12:22,24). It is absolutely unacceptable to use methods of prenatal diagnostics in order to choose the sex of the unborn child that is desirable for parents.
XII.6. The cloning (obtaining genetic copies) of animals carried out by scientists raises the question of the admissibility and possible consequences of human cloning. The implementation of this idea, which is met with protest from many people around the world, can be destructive to society. Cloning, to an even greater extent than other reproductive technologies, opens up the possibility of manipulating the genetic component of the personality and contributes to its further depreciation. A person does not have the right to claim the role of the creator of similar creatures or select genetic prototypes for them, determining their personal characteristics at his own discretion. The idea of cloning is an undoubted challenge to the very nature of man, the image of God embedded in him, an integral part of which is the freedom and uniqueness of the individual.
Human cloning is capable of perverting the natural foundations of childbearing, consanguinity, motherhood and fatherhood. A child can become his mother’s sister, his father’s brother, or his grandfather’s daughter. The psychological consequences of cloning are also extremely dangerous. A person who was born as a result of such a procedure may not feel like an independent person, but just a “copy” of one of the living or previously living people. It must also be taken into account that the “side results” of experiments with human cloning would inevitably be numerous failed lives and, most likely, the birth of a large number of non-viable offspring. At the same time, cloning of isolated cells and tissues of the body is not an infringement on the dignity of the individual and in some cases turns out to be useful in biological and medical practice.
XII.7. Modern transplantation (the theory and practice of organ and tissue transplantation) makes it possible to provide effective assistance to many patients who would previously be doomed to inevitable death or severe disability. At the same time, the development of this field of medicine, increasing the need for the necessary organs, gives rise to certain moral problems and may pose a danger to society. Thus, unscrupulous promotion of donation and commercialization of transplantation activities create preconditions for trade in human body parts, threatening people’s life and health. The Church believes that human organs cannot be considered as an object of purchase and sale. An organ transplant from a living donor can only be based on voluntary self-sacrifice in order to save the life of another person. In this case, consent to explantation (removal of an organ) becomes a manifestation of love and compassion. However, a potential donor must be fully informed about the possible consequences of organ explantation for his health. Explantation that directly threatens the life of the donor is morally unacceptable. The most common practice is to harvest organs from people who have just died. In such cases, ambiguity in determining the moment of death should be excluded. It is unacceptable to reduce the life of one person, including through the rejection of life-sustaining procedures, in order to prolong the life of another. The most common practice is to harvest organs from people who have just died. In such cases, ambiguity in determining the moment of death should be excluded. It is unacceptable to reduce the life of one person, including through the rejection of life-sustaining procedures, in order to prolong the life of another. The most common practice is to harvest organs from people who have just died. In such cases, ambiguity in determining the moment of death should be excluded. It is unacceptable to reduce the life of one person, including through the rejection of life-sustaining procedures, in order to prolong the life of another.
On the basis of Divine Revelation, the Church professes faith in the bodily resurrection of the dead (Is. 26:19; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 52-54; Philp. 3:21). In the rite of Christian burial, the Church expresses the reverence due to the body of a deceased person. However, posthumous organ and tissue donation can be a manifestation of love that extends beyond death. This kind of gift or bequest cannot be considered a duty of a person. Therefore, the voluntary consent of the donor during his lifetime is a condition for the legitimacy and moral acceptability of explantation. If the will of a potential donor is unknown to doctors, they must find out the will of a dying or deceased person, contacting his relatives if necessary. The so-called presumption of consent of a potential donor to the removal of organs and tissues of his body,
Donor organs and tissues are assimilated by the person who perceives them (recipient), being included in the sphere of his personal mental and physical unity. Therefore, under no circumstances can such a transplantation be morally justified, which can entail a threat to the identity of the recipient, affecting his uniqueness as a person and as a representative of the genus. This condition is especially important to remember when solving issues related to the transplantation of tissues and organs of animal origin.
The Church considers the use of the methods of so-called fetal therapy, which is based on the removal and use of tissues and organs of human fetuses aborted at different stages of development, to try to treat various diseases and “rejuvenate” the body, unconditionally unacceptable. Condemning abortion as a mortal sin, the Church cannot find any justification for it even if someone might benefit from the destruction of a conceived human life. Inevitably contributing to the even wider dissemination and commercialization of abortion, such a practice (even if its effectiveness, currently hypothetical, were scientifically proven) is an example of blatant immorality and is criminal in nature.
XII.8. The practice of removing human organs suitable for transplantation, as well as the development of resuscitation, give rise to the problem of correctly ascertaining the moment of death. Previously, the criterion for its onset was considered irreversible cessation of breathing and circulation. However, thanks to the improvement of resuscitation technologies, these vital functions can be artificially maintained for a long time. The act of death is thus transformed into a process of dying, dependent on the decision of the doctor, which imposes a qualitatively new responsibility on modern medicine.
In Holy Scripture, death is presented as the separation of the soul from the body (Ps. 145:4; Luke 12:20). Thus, we can talk about the continuation of life as long as the activity of the organism as a whole is carried out. Prolongation of life by artificial means, in which only individual organs actually function, cannot be regarded as an obligatory and in all cases desirable task of medicine. Delaying the hour of death sometimes only prolongs the suffering of the patient, depriving a person of the right to a dignified, “non-shameful and peaceful” death, which Orthodox Christians ask the Lord for worship. When active therapy becomes impossible, palliative care (pain relief, care, social and psychological support) and pastoral care should take its place.
The Orthodox understanding of a shameful death includes preparation for death, which is regarded as a spiritually significant stage in a person’s life. The patient, surrounded by Christian care, in the last days of earthly existence is able to experience a grace-filled change associated with a new understanding of the path traveled and a repentant stand before eternity. And for the relatives of the dying and medical workers, patient care for the sick becomes an opportunity to serve the Lord Himself, according to the Savior: “Because you did it to one of my least brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). Hiding information from the patient about a difficult condition under the pretext of preserving his spiritual comfort often deprives the dying person of the opportunity to consciously prepare for death and spiritual comfort gained through participation in the Sacraments of the Church,
Near-death physical suffering is not always effectively eliminated by the use of painkillers. Knowing this, the Church in such cases turns to God a prayer: “Allow Your servant to sow unbearable diseases and bitter infirmities that contain him, and give him rest, where the righteous Dusi” (Trebnik. Prayer for the long-suffering). The Lord alone is the Master of life and death (1 Sam. 2:6). “In His hand is the soul of all living things and the spirit of all human flesh” (Job 12:10). Therefore, the Church, remaining faithful to the observance of the commandment of God “Thou shalt not kill”(Ex. 20:13), cannot recognize as morally acceptable the attempts to legalize the so-called euthanasia, which are now widespread in secular society, that is, the intentional killing of the hopelessly ill (including at their request). The patient’s request to hasten death is sometimes due to a state of depression that deprives him of the opportunity to correctly assess his situation. Recognition of the legality of euthanasia would lead to a diminution of dignity and a perversion of the professional duty of a doctor, who is called upon to preserve, and not to stop, life. The “right to die” can easily turn into a threat to the lives of patients for whom there is not enough money to treat.
Thus, euthanasia is a form of murder or suicide, depending on whether the patient participates in it. In the latter case, the relevant canonical rules apply to euthanasia, according to which intentional suicide, as well as assisting in its commission, are regarded as a serious sin. A deliberate suicide who “did this out of human insult or on some other occasion from cowardice” is not honored with a Christian burial and liturgical commemoration (Timothy Alex. rights 14). If a suicide unconsciously took his own life “out of his mind”, that is, in a fit of mental illness, church prayer for him is allowed after the investigation of the case by the ruling bishop. At the same time, it must be remembered that the guilt of a suicide is often shared by the people around him, incapable of effective compassion and the manifestation of mercy. Together with the Apostle Paul, the Church calls:“Carry one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
XII.9. Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church unequivocally condemn homosexual sexual relations, seeing in them a vicious distortion of the God-created nature of man. “If anyone lies with a man as with a woman, then both of them have committed an abomination” (Lev. 20:13). The Bible tells about the severe punishment to which God subjected the inhabitants of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29), according to the interpretation of the holy fathers, precisely for the sin of sodomy. The Apostle Paul, characterizing the moral state of the pagan world, names homosexual relationships among the most “shameful passions” and “lewdness” that defile the human body:“Their women replaced natural use with unnatural; likewise, men, leaving the natural use of the female sex, were inflamed with lust for one another, men doing shameful things with men and receiving in themselves the due punishment for their error ” (Rom. 1. 26-27). “Do not be deceived … neither the Malachis nor the sodomists … they will not inherit the Kingdom of God,”– the apostle wrote to the inhabitants of corrupted Corinth (1 Cor. 6: 9-10). The patristic tradition just as clearly and definitely condemns any manifestation of homosexuality. The “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, the works of Saints Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, Blessed Augustine, the canons of Saint John the Faster express the unchanging teaching of the Church: homosexual relationships are sinful and subject to condemnation. The people involved in them do not have the right to be members of the church clergy (Basilius the Great, pr. 7, Gregory the Great, pr. 4, John the Lent, pr. 30). Turning to those who have stained themselves with the sin of sodomy, the Monk Maximus the Greek cried out: “Know yourselves, cursed ones, what a foul pleasure you have indulged in!.. eternal anathema as an opponent of the Gospel of Christ the Savior and corrupting its teaching. Cleanse yourself with sincere repentance, warm tears and all possible almsgiving and pure prayer… Hate this wickedness with all your soul, so that you will not be the sons of damnation and eternal destruction.
Discussions about the position of the so-called sexual minorities in modern society tend to recognize homosexuality not as a sexual perversion, but only one of the “sexual orientations” that have an equal right to public manifestation and respect. It is also argued that homosexual attraction is due to individual natural predisposition. The Orthodox Church proceeds from the unchanging conviction that the divinely established marriage union of a man and a woman cannot be compared with perverted manifestations of sexuality. She considers homosexuality to be a sinful damage to human nature, which is overcome in a spiritual effort leading to healing and personal growth of a person. Homosexual aspirations, like other passions that torment fallen man, are healed by the Sacraments, prayer, fasting, repentance,
Treating people with homosexual inclinations with pastoral responsibility, the Church at the same time resolutely opposes attempts to present the sinful tendency as a “norm”, and even more so as an object of pride and an example to follow. That is why the Church condemns any propaganda of homosexuality. Without denying anyone the fundamental rights to life, respect for personal dignity and participation in public affairs, the Church, however, believes that persons promoting a homosexual lifestyle should not be allowed to teach, educate and commanding position in the army and correctional institutions.
Sometimes perversions of human sexuality manifest themselves in the form of a painful feeling of belonging to the opposite sex, resulting in an attempt to change sex (transsexualism). The desire to renounce belonging to the gender that the Creator bestowed on a person can only have detrimental consequences for the further development of the individual. “Sex reassignment” through hormonal influence and surgical operation in many cases does not lead to the resolution of psychological problems, but to their aggravation, giving rise to a deep internal crisis. The Church cannot approve of this kind of “rebellion against the Creator” and recognize the artificially changed gender as valid. If a “sex change” happened to a person before Baptism, he can be admitted to this Sacrament, like any sinner, but the Church baptizes him as belonging to the sex in which he was born. The ordination of such a person to the priesthood and his entry into a church marriage is unacceptable.
It is necessary to distinguish from transsexualism the incorrect identification of gender in early childhood as a result of a medical error associated with the pathology of the development of sexual characteristics. Surgical correction in this case does not have the character of sex change.
XIII. Church and environmental problems
XIII.1. The Orthodox Church, aware of her responsibility for the fate of the world, is deeply concerned about the problems generated by modern civilization. An important place among them is occupied by environmental problems. Today the appearance of the Earth is distorted on a planetary scale. Subsoil, soil, water, air, flora and fauna are affected. The nature around us is almost completely involved in the life support of a person who is no longer satisfied with the variety of its gifts, but unrestrainedly exploits entire ecosystems. Human activity, which has reached a scale commensurate with biospheric processes, is constantly increasing due to the acceleration of the pace of development of science and technology. Widespread pollution of the natural environment with industrial waste, improper agricultural practices, destruction of forests and soil cover lead to the suppression of biological activity, to a steady decline in the genetic diversity of life. Irreplaceable mineral resources of the subsoil are being depleted, and clean water reserves are declining. Many harmful substances appear, many of which are not included in the natural cycle and accumulate in the biosphere. The ecological balance is broken; man is faced with the fact of the emergence of irreversible harmful processes in nature, including the undermining of its natural reproductive forces.
All this is happening against the backdrop of an unprecedented and unjustified growth in public consumption in highly developed countries, where the desire for abundance and luxury has become the norm. This situation creates obstacles to the fair distribution of natural resources that are common to all mankind. The consequences of the ecological crisis turned out to be painful not only for nature, but also for man, who is in organic unity with it. As a result, the Earth was on the verge of a global ecological catastrophe.
XIII.2. The relationship between man and the surrounding nature was broken in prehistoric times, the cause of which was the fall of man and his alienation from God. Sin, which originated in the soul of a person, had a detrimental effect not only on himself, but also on the whole world around him. “The creation,” writes the Apostle Paul, “subjected itself to futility, not voluntarily, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be freed from slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails together until now” (Rom. 8:20-22). In nature, as in a mirror, the first human crime was reflected. The seed of sin, having taken effect in the human heart, has grown, as the Holy Scripture testifies, “thorns and thistles”(Gen. 3:18) on earth. The complete organic unity of man and the surrounding world, which existed before the fall into sin, became impossible (Genesis 2:19-20). In their relations with nature, which acquired a consumer character, people began to be increasingly guided by selfish motives. They began to forget that the only Lord of the Universe is God (Ps. 23.1), Who owns “heaven and … earth and everything on it”(Deut. 10:14), while a person, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, is only a “housekeeper” to whom the wealth of the world below is entrusted. This wealth – “air, sun, water, earth, sky, sea, light, stars”, as the same saint notes, God “divided equally among all, as if between brothers.” “Dominion” over nature and “possession” of the earth (Genesis 1:28), to which man is called, according to God’s plan, do not mean permissiveness. They only testify that a person is the bearer of the image of the heavenly House Lord and as such, according to St. Gregory of Nyssa, should show his royal dignity not in domination and violence over the surrounding world, but in “cultivation” and “storage”(Gen. 2:15) the majestic realm of nature, for which he is responsible before God.
XIII.3. The ecological crisis forces us to reconsider our relationship with the outside world. Today, the concept of human dominance over nature and the consumer principle in its relationship with it are increasingly criticized. The realization that modern society pays too high a price for the benefits of civilization provokes opposition to economic egoism. Thus, activities that harm the natural environment are identified. At the same time, a system of its protection is being developed, management methods are being reviewed, attempts are being made to create resource-saving technologies and waste-free industries that could simultaneously “integrate” into the natural cycle. Ecological ethics is developing. The public consciousness guided by it speaks out against the consumerist way of life,
XIII.4. The Orthodox Church appreciates the efforts aimed at overcoming the ecological crisis and calls for active cooperation in public actions aimed at protecting God’s creation. At the same time, she notes that efforts of this kind will be more fruitful if the foundations on which man’s relations with nature are built become not purely humanistic, but also Christian in nature. One of the main principles of the Church’s position in matters of ecology is the principle of the unity and integrity of the world created by God. Orthodoxy does not consider the nature around us in isolation, as a closed structure. Plant, animal and human worlds are interconnected. From the Christian point of view, nature is not a container of resources intended for selfish and irresponsible consumption, but a house, where a person is not a master, but a steward, as well as a temple, where he is a priest, serving, however, not nature, but the one Creator. The understanding of nature as a temple is based on the idea of theocentrism: God, who gives“to everything life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25) is the Source of being. Therefore, life itself in its many different manifestations is of a sacred nature, being a gift of God, the trampling of which is a challenge not only to divine creation, but also to the Lord Himself.
XIII.5. Environmental problems are essentially anthropological in nature, being generated by man, not nature. Therefore, the answers to many of the questions posed by the environmental crisis lie in the human soul, and not in the realms of economics, biology, technology, or politics. Nature truly transforms or perishes not by itself, but under the influence of man. His spiritual state plays a decisive role, because it affects the environment both with external impact on it, and in the absence of such an impact. Church history knows many examples when the love of Christian ascetics for nature, their prayer for the world around them, their compassion for creatures had the most beneficial effect on living beings.
The relationship between anthropology and ecology is revealed with utmost clarity in our days, when the world is going through two crises simultaneously: spiritual and ecological. In modern society, a person sometimes loses the awareness of life as a gift of God, and sometimes even the very meaning of being, which sometimes comes down to physical existence. With such an attitude to life, the surrounding nature is no longer perceived as a house, and even more so as a temple, becoming only a “habitat”. A spiritually degrading personality leads to the degradation of nature as well, for it is unable to have a transforming effect on the world. Blinded by sin, humanity is not helped by colossal technical capabilities – with indifference to the meaning, mystery, miracle of life, they do not bring real benefit, and sometimes cause harm. A person whose activity is not spiritually oriented has technical power, as a rule,
A complete overcoming of the ecological crisis in the conditions of a spiritual crisis is unthinkable. This statement does not mean at all that the Church calls for curtailing environmental activities. However, she connects the hope for a positive change in the relationship between man and nature with the desire of society for spiritual rebirth. The anthropogenic basis of environmental problems shows that we change the world around us in accordance with our inner world, and therefore the transformation of nature must begin with the transformation of the soul. According to St. Maximus the Confessor, a person can turn the whole earth into paradise only when he bears paradise in himself.
XIV. Secular science, culture, education
XIV.1. Christianity, overcoming pagan prejudices, demythologized nature, thereby contributing to the emergence of scientific natural science. Over time, the sciences – both natural and human – have become one of the most important components of culture. By the end of the 20th century, science and technology had achieved such impressive results and such an impact on all aspects of life that they had become, in essence, the determining factor in the existence of civilization. At the same time, despite the initial impact of Christianity on the formation of scientific activity, the development of science and technology under the influence of secular ideologies gave rise to consequences that cause serious concern. The environmental and other crises that afflict the modern world increasingly cast doubt on the chosen path. The scientific and technological level of civilization is now
From a Christian point of view, such consequences have arisen due to a false principle underlying modern scientific and technological development. It lies in the a priori attitude that this development should not be limited by any moral, philosophical or religious requirements. However, with such “freedom”, scientific and technological development is dominated by human passions, primarily vanity, pride, the thirst for the greatest comfort, which destroys the spiritual harmony of life, with all the negative phenomena that follow from this. Therefore, now, in order to ensure a normal human life, it is more than ever necessary to return to the lost connection between scientific knowledge and religious, spiritual and moral values.
The need for such a connection is also due to the fact that a significant number of people do not stop believing in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge. Partly as a result of this view, in the 18th century a number of atheistic thinkers decisively opposed science to religion. At the same time, it is a well-known fact that at all times, including the present, many of the most prominent scientists have been and remain religious people. This would be impossible if there were fundamental contradictions between religion and science. Scientific and religious knowledge have a completely different character. They have different initial premises, different goals, objectives, methods. These spheres can touch, intersect, but not oppose one another. For, on the one hand, in natural science there are no atheistic and religious theories, but there are more or less true theories.
M.V. Lomonosov rightly wrote: science and religion “cannot come into conflict … unless someone exclaims enmity against them out of some vanity and evidence of his sophistication.” The same thought was expressed by St. Philaret of Moscow: “The faith of Christ is not at enmity with true knowledge, because it is not in union with ignorance.” It should also be noted that the opposition between religion and the so-called scientific worldview is incorrect.
By their nature, only religion and philosophy perform an ideological function, but neither individual special sciences, nor all concrete scientific knowledge as a whole, take it upon themselves. The comprehension of scientific achievements and their inclusion in the worldview system can have an arbitrarily wide range – from completely religious to openly atheistic.
Although science can be one of the means of knowing God (Rom. 1:19-20), Orthodoxy also sees in it a natural tool for the improvement of earthly life, which must be used very carefully. The Church warns a person against the temptation to consider science as a field completely independent of moral principles. Modern achievements in various fields, including elementary particle physics, chemistry, microbiology, indicate that they are a double-edged sword that can not only bring good to a person, but also take his life. The gospel norms of life make it possible to educate a person, in which she would not be able to use the acquired knowledge and strength for evil. Therefore, the Church and secular science are called to cooperate in the name of saving life and its due arrangement.
Special mention should be made of the social sciences, which, by virtue of their nature, are inevitably connected with the areas of theology, church history, and canon law. While welcoming the work of secular scholars in this area and recognizing the importance of humanitarian research, the Church at the same time does not consider the rational picture of the world sometimes formed by these studies to be complete and comprehensive. The religious worldview cannot be rejected as a source of ideas about truth, as well as an understanding of history, ethics and many other humanities that have a reason and the right to be present in the system of secular education and upbringing, in the organization of social life. Only the combination of spiritual experience with scientific knowledge gives completeness of knowledge. No social system can be called harmonious, if it has a monopoly of secular worldview in making socially significant judgments. Unfortunately, the danger of the ideologization of science remains, for which the peoples of the world paid a high price in the 20th century. Such ideologization is especially dangerous in the field of public research, which form the basis of state programs and political projects. Opposing the substitution of science for ideology, the Church maintains a particularly responsible dialogue with scientists in the humanities.
Man as an image and likeness of the Incomprehensible Creator is free in his mysterious depths. The Church warns against attempts to use the achievements of science and technology to establish control over the inner world of the individual, to create any kind of technology for suggestion and manipulation of the human consciousness or subconscious.
XIV.2. The Latin word cultura, meaning “cultivation”, “education”, “education”, “development”, comes from the word cultus – “veneration”, “worship”, “cult”. This indicates the religious roots of the culture. Having created man, God placed him in paradise, commanding him to cultivate and preserve His creation (Genesis 2:15). Culture as the preservation of the surrounding world and care for it is a God-commanded doing of man. After the expulsion from paradise, when people faced the need to fight for survival, the production of tools, urban planning, agricultural activities, and art arose. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church emphasized the original divine origin of culture. Clement of Alexandria, in particular, perceived it as the fruit of human creativity under the guidance of the Logos: “Scripture calls by the common name of wisdom all the worldly sciences and arts, everything that the human mind could reach … for every art and every knowledge comes from God.” And St. Gregory the Theologian wrote: “Just as in skillful musical harmony each string emits a different sound, one high, the other low, so in this the Artist and the Creator-Word, although he appointed various inventors of various occupations and arts, he gave everything in the order of all who wish to unite us by bonds of communication and philanthropy and make our life more civilized.
The Church adopted much of what was created by mankind in the field of art and culture, melting down the fruits of creativity in the crucible of religious experience, seeking to cleanse them of soul-destructive elements, and then teach them to people. It sanctifies various aspects of culture and gives a lot for its development. An Orthodox icon painter, poet, philosopher, musician, architect, actor and writer turn to the means of art in order to express the experience of spiritual renewal that they have found in themselves and wish to give to others. The Church allows you to see a person in a new way, his inner world, the meaning of his being. As a result, human creativity, becoming churched, returns to its original religious roots. The Church helps culture to transcend the boundaries of a purely earthly matter: offering the path of purification of the heart and union with the Creator, it makes it open for cooperation with God.
Secular culture is capable of being the bearer of the gospel. This is especially important in cases where the influence of Christianity in society is weakening or when secular authorities enter into an open struggle with the Church. Thus, during the years of state atheism, Russian classical literature, poetry, painting and music became for many almost the only sources of religious knowledge. Cultural traditions help to preserve and multiply the spiritual heritage in a rapidly changing world. This applies to different types of creativity: literature, fine arts, music, architecture, theater, cinema. Any creative style is suitable for preaching about Christ, if the intention of the artist is sincerely pious and if he remains faithful to the Lord.
The Church always addresses the call to people of culture: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may know what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). At the same time, the Church warns: “Beloved! believe not every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). A person does not always have sufficient spiritual vigilance to separate genuine divine inspiration from ecstatic “inspiration”, behind which dark forces often stand, destructively acting on a person. The latter occurs, in particular, as a result of contact with the world of witchcraft and magic, as well as due to the use of drugs. Church education helps to gain spiritual vision, which allows you to distinguish good from bad, divine from demonic.
The meeting of the Church and the world of culture does not always mean simple cooperation and mutual enrichment. “The true Word, when it came, showed that not all opinions and not all teachings are good, but some are bad, while others are good” (St. Justin the Philosopher). Recognizing the right of every person to a moral assessment of the phenomena of culture, the Church reserves such a right for herself. Moreover, she sees this as her direct responsibility. Without insisting that the church system of evaluations be the only one accepted in secular society and the state, the Church, however, is convinced of the ultimate truth and salvation of the path open to her in the Gospel. If creativity contributes to the moral and spiritual transformation of the individual, the Church blesses him. If culture opposes itself to God, becomes anti-religious or anti-human, turns into anti-culture, then the Church opposes it. However, such a confrontation is not a struggle with the carriers of this culture, because“Our battle is not against flesh and blood,” but spiritual warfare, aimed at freeing people from the harmful effects on their souls of dark forces, “spirits of evil in high places” (Eph. 6:12).
Eschatological striving does not allow a Christian to fully identify his life with the world of culture, “for we do not have a permanent city here, but we are looking for the future” (Heb. 13:14). A Christian can work and live in this world, but should not be completely absorbed in earthly activities. The Church reminds people of culture that their calling is to cultivate the souls of people, including their own, restoring the image of God distorted by sin.
Preaching the eternal Truth of Christ to people living in changing historical circumstances, the Church does this through the cultural forms characteristic of the time, nation, and various social groups. What is realized and experienced by some peoples and generations, sometimes must be re-discovered for other people, made close and understandable to them. No culture can be considered the only one acceptable for the expression of the Christian spiritual message. The verbal and figurative language of the gospel, its methods and means naturally change with the course of history, differ depending on the national and other contexts. At the same time, the changing moods of the world are not a reason for rejecting the worthy heritage of past centuries, and even more so for forgetting Church Tradition.
XIV.3. Christian tradition consistently respects secular education. Many Church Fathers studied in secular schools and academies and considered the sciences taught there necessary for a believer. Saint Basil the Great wrote that “external sciences are not useless” for a Christian, who must borrow from them everything that serves moral perfection and intellectual growth. According to St. Gregory the Theologian, “everyone who has a mind recognizes learning (paideusin – education) as the first blessing for us. And not only this most noble and our learning, which … has as its subject only salvation and the beauty of the intelligible, but also external learning, which many Christians, out of ignorance, abhor as unreliable, dangerous and moving away from God.
From an Orthodox point of view, it is desirable that the entire education system be built on religious principles and based on Christian values. Nevertheless, the Church, following a centuries-old tradition, respects the secular school and is ready to build its relationship with it based on the recognition of human freedom. At the same time, the Church considers inadmissible the intentional imposition of anti-religious and anti-Christian ideas on students, the assertion of the monopoly of the materialistic view of the world (see XIV.1). There should not be a repetition of the situation that was characteristic of many countries in the 20th century, when public schools were the instruments of militant-atheistic education. The Church calls for the elimination of the consequences of atheistic control over the public education system.
Unfortunately, the role of religion in shaping the spiritual self-awareness of peoples is still underestimated in many history courses. The Church constantly reminds of the contribution that Christianity has made to the treasury of world and national culture. Orthodox believers deplore attempts to uncritically borrow educational standards, programs and educational principles from organizations known for their negative attitude towards Christianity in general or Orthodoxy in particular. One cannot ignore the danger of occult and neo-pagan influences, destructive sects penetrating into a secular school, under the influence of which a child can be lost both for himself, and for the family, and for society.
The Church considers it useful and necessary to conduct lessons of Christian doctrine in secular schools at the request of children or their parents, as well as in higher educational institutions. The clergy should conduct a dialogue with the state authorities aimed at legislative and practical consolidation of the implementation of the internationally recognized right of believing families to receive religious education and upbringing for their children. For these purposes, the Church also creates Orthodox educational institutions, expecting their support from the state.
The school is a mediator that transmits to new generations the moral values accumulated by previous centuries. In this matter, the school and the Church are called to cooperate. Education, especially aimed at children and adolescents, is not only about conveying information. Kindling in young hearts aspiration for the Truth, a genuine moral feeling, love for neighbors, for one’s fatherland, its history and culture – should be the task of the school no less, and perhaps even more than teaching knowledge. The Church is called upon and seeks to assist the school in its educational mission, for the spiritual and moral image of a person depends on his eternal salvation, as well as the future of individual nations and the entire human race.
XV. Church and secular media
XV.1. The media play an ever-increasing role in the modern world. The Church respects the work of journalists, who are called upon to supply the general public with timely information about what is happening in the world, guiding people in the current complex reality. At the same time, it is important to remember that informing the viewer, listener and reader should be based not only on a firm commitment to the truth, but also on concern for the moral state of the individual and society, which includes the disclosure of positive ideals, as well as the fight against the spread of evil, sin and vice. . Propaganda of violence, enmity and hatred, national, social and religious hatred, as well as the sinful exploitation of human instincts, including for commercial purposes, are unacceptable. Mass media that has a huge impact on the audience, bear the greatest responsibility for the education of people, especially the younger generation. Journalists and media leaders must bear this responsibility in mind.
XV.2. The Church’s enlightening, teaching and social peacemaking mission encourages her to cooperate with secular media, capable of carrying her message to the most diverse sections of society. The Holy Apostle Peter calls on Christians: “Be always ready to give an answer to everyone who requires you to give an account of your hope with meekness and reverence”(1 Pet. 3:15). Any clergyman or layperson is called to pay due attention to contacts with secular media in order to carry out pastoral and educational work, as well as to awaken the interest of secular society in various aspects of church life and Christian culture. At the same time, it is necessary to show wisdom, responsibility and prudence, bearing in mind the position of a particular media outlet in relation to faith and the Church, the moral orientation of the media, the state of relations between the church authorities and one or another information body. Orthodox laity can work directly in the secular media, and in their activities they are called to be preachers and implementers of Christian moral ideals. Journalists who publish materials that lead to the corruption of human souls,
Within the framework of each type of media (print, radio-electronic, computer), which have their own specifics, the Church, both through official institutions and through private initiatives of clergy and laity, has its own information media that have the blessing of the Hierarchy. At the same time, the Church, through its institutions and authorized persons, interacts with the secular media. Such interaction is carried out both through the creation in the secular media of special forms of church presence (special supplements to newspapers and magazines, special pages, series of television and radio programs, headings), and outside of it (individual articles, radio and television reports, interviews, participation in various forms of public dialogues and discussions, advisory assistance to journalists, dissemination of specially prepared information among them,
The interaction of the Church and the secular media implies mutual responsibility. The information provided to the journalist and transmitted by him to the audience must be reliable. The opinions of the clergy or other representatives of the Church, disseminated through the media, must correspond to its teachings and position on public issues. In the case of expressing a purely private opinion, this must be stated unambiguously – both by the person speaking in the media and by the persons responsible for conveying such an opinion to the audience. The interaction of clergy and church institutions with the secular media should take place under the leadership of the Church Hierarchy – when covering general church activities – and diocesan authorities – when interacting with the media at the regional level, which is primarily associated with coverage of the life of the diocese.
XV.3. In the course of relations between the Church and the secular media, complications and even serious conflicts can arise. Problems, in particular, are generated by inaccurate or distorted information about church life, placing it in an inappropriate context, mixing the personal position of the author or the quoted person with the general church position. The relationship between the Church and the secular media is sometimes also clouded by the fault of the clergy and laity themselves, for example, in cases of unjustified denial of access to information to journalists, a painful reaction to correct and correct criticism. Such issues should be resolved in the spirit of peaceful dialogue in order to eliminate misunderstandings and continue cooperation.
At the same time, deeper, fundamental conflicts arise between the Church and the secular media. This happens in the case of blasphemy against the name of God, other manifestations of blasphemy, systematic deliberate distortion of information about church life, deliberate slander against the Church and its servants. In the event of such conflicts, the highest church authority (in relation to the central media) or the diocesan Bishop (in relation to regional and local media) may, upon appropriate warning and after at least one attempt to enter into negotiations, take the following actions: terminate relations with the relevant media or journalist; urge believers to boycott this media outlet; apply to state authorities to resolve the conflict; bring to canonical bans those guilty of sinful deeds, if they are Orthodox Christians. The above actions should be documented, they should be notified to the flock and society as a whole.
XVI. International relationships. Problems of globalization and secularism.
XVI.1. Peoples and states enter into economic, political, military and other relations with each other. As a result, states arise and disappear, change their borders, unite or split; they also create or abolish various unions. The Holy Scriptures contain numerous historical testimonies about the construction of international relations.
One of the first examples of an intertribal agreement concluded between the owner of the land – Abimelech – and the stranger – Abraham – is described in the Book of Genesis: mine; and as I have done well to you, so you will do to me and the land in which you are a guest. And Abraham said: I swear… And they both entered into an alliance.(Gen. 21:22-24, 27). Treaties reduced the danger of wars and clashes (Genesis 26:26-31; Joshua 9:3-27). At times, negotiations and demonstrations of goodwill prevented bloodshed (1 Sam. 25:18-35; 2 Sam. 21:15-22). Wars ended with treaties (1 Kings 20:26-34). The Bible mentions military alliances (Gen. 14:13; Judg. 3:12-13; 1 Kings 22:2-29; Jer. 37:5-7). Sometimes military assistance was purchased for money and other material values (2 Kings 16:7-9; 3 Kings 15:17-20). The agreement between Solomon and Hiram was in the nature of an economic union: “Behold, my servants will be with your servants, and I will give you the wages for your servants, which you appoint; for you know that we do not have people who could cut down trees like the Sidonians … And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and they made an alliance between themselves ”(1 Kings 5:6:12). Through negotiations through ambassadors, such issues as the possibility of passage of armed people through foreign lands (Numbers 20.14-17; 21.21-22), territorial disputes (Court. 11.12-28) were discussed. Treaties could include the transfer of territories from one people to another (1 Kings 9:10-12; 1 Kings 20:34).
The Bible also contains descriptions of diplomatic tricks related to the need for protection from a powerful adversary (Jesus 9:3-27; 2 Kings 15:32-37; 16:16-19; 17:1-16). Sometimes peace was bought (2 Kings 12:18) or paid in tribute. Undoubtedly, one of the means of resolving disputes and conflicts was wars, references to which abound in the books of the Old Testament. However, in the Holy Scriptures there are examples of negotiations aimed at avoiding war shortly before it starts (2 Kings 14:9-10). The practice of reaching agreements in Old Testament times was based on religious and moral principles. Thus, even an agreement with the Gibeonites, concluded as a result of deceit on the part of the latter, was recognized as valid because of its sacred formula: “We swore by the Lord, the God of Israel, and therefore we cannot touch them”(Jesus 9:19). The Bible contains a ban on entering into an alliance with vicious pagan tribes (Ex. 34:15). However, the ancient Jews deviated from this commandment. Various treaties and alliances were also often violated.
The Christian ideal of the behavior of the people and the government in the field of international relations lies in the “golden rule”: “In everything you want people to do to you, do the same to them”(Matthew 7:12). Using this principle not only in personal but also in public life, Orthodox Christians must remember that “God is not in power, but in truth.” At the same time, if someone acts contrary to justice, then its restoration often requires restrictive and even forceful actions in relation to other states and peoples. It is known that, due to the distortion of human nature by sin, nations and states almost inevitably have divergent interests, related, in particular, to the desire to own land, political and military dominance, and maximize profits from production and trade. The need to protect fellow tribesmen, which arises for this reason, imposes some restrictions on the willingness of an individual to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of another people.
Mutual relations between peoples and states should be directed towards peace, mutual assistance and cooperation. The Apostle Paul commands Christians: “If it is possible for you, be at peace with all people”(Rom. 12:18). St. Philaret of Moscow, in his word for the conclusion of peace in 1856, says: “Let us remember the law, let us fulfill the will of the Divine Head of the world – not to remember evil, to forgive insults, to be peaceful even “with those who hate the world” (Ps. 119.6), much more so with those who offer cessation of hostility and stretching out the hand of peace.” With all understanding of the inevitability of international disputes and contradictions in a fallen world, the Church calls on those in power to resolve any conflicts by searching for mutually acceptable solutions. It takes the side of the victims of aggression, as well as illegitimate and morally unjustified political pressure from outside. The use of military force is perceived by the Church as an extreme means of protection against armed aggression on the part of other states. Such protection in the form of assistance can also be provided by the state,
States base their relations with the outside world on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. These principles are considered by the Church as basic for the people to protect their legitimate interests and are the cornerstone of interstate agreements, and hence of all international law. At the same time, for the Christian consciousness it is obvious that any human institutions, including the sovereign power of the state, are relative in the face of God’s omnipotence. History shows the inconstancy of being, borders and forms of states created both on a territorial-ethnic basis, and due to economic, political, military and other similar reasons. Without denying the historical significance of the mono-ethnic state, The Orthodox Church at the same time welcomes the voluntary unification of peoples into a single organism and the creation of multinational states, if they do not violate the rights of any of the peoples. At the same time, it is impossible not to recognize the existence in the modern world of a well-known contradiction between the generally recognized principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, on the one hand, and the desire of the people or part of it for state independence, on the other. The disputes and conflicts arising from this must be resolved peacefully, on the basis of dialogue, with the maximum possible agreement of the parties. Bearing in mind that unity is good, and disunity is evil, the Church welcomes the tendencies towards the unification of countries and peoples, especially those with a historical and cultural commonality, provided that these associations are not directed against a third party. The Church mourns when, in connection with the division of multi-ethnic states, the historical community of people is destroyed, their rights are violated, and suffering comes into the lives of many. The division of multinational states can be considered justified only if one of the peoples is in a clearly oppressed position or if the will of the majority of the inhabitants of the country is definitely not aimed at maintaining unity.
Recent history has shown that the division of a number of Eurasian states gave rise to an artificial rupture of peoples, families and business communities, led to the practice of forcible displacement and displacement of various ethnic, religious and social groups, which was accompanied by the loss of their shrines by the peoples. An attempt to create mono-ethnic states on the ruins of unions became the main cause of the bloody inter-ethnic conflicts that shook Eastern Europe.
Bearing in mind the above, it is necessary to recognize the usefulness of creating interstate alliances aimed at uniting efforts in the political and economic fields, as well as joint protection from external threats and assistance to victims of aggression. In interstate economic and trade cooperation, the same moral rules should be applied as in general in the economic and entrepreneurial activity of a person. The interaction of peoples and states in this area must be based on honesty, justice, the desire to achieve acceptable results of joint work by all its participants (see XVI.3). Welcome international cooperation in the cultural, scientific, educational, informational fields, if it is arranged on an equal and mutually respectful basis,
XVI.2. During the twentieth century, multilateral interstate agreements led to the creation of an extensive system of international law, binding on countries that signed the relevant agreements. The states also formed international organizations, the decisions of which are binding on the participating countries. Some of these organizations are delegated by governments a number of powers that relate to economic, political and military activities and to a large extent affect not only international relations, but also the internal life of peoples. The phenomenon of legal and political regionalization and globalization is becoming a reality.
On the one hand, such a development of interstate relations contributes to the intensification of trade, industrial, military, political and other cooperation, the need for which is dictated by the natural strengthening of international relations and the need for a joint response to the global challenges of our time. In the history of Orthodoxy there are examples of the positive influence of the Church on the development of regional interstate ties. International organizations contribute to the resolution of various disputes and conflicts. On the other hand, the danger of discrepancies between the will of the peoples and the decisions of international organizations should not be underestimated. These organizations can become means of unfair domination of the countries of the strong over the weak, the rich over the poor, technologically and informationally developed over the rest,
All this prompts the Orthodox Church to approach the process of legal and political internationalization with critical caution, calling on those in power, both at the national and international levels, to be held accountable. Any decisions related to the conclusion of fateful international treaties, as well as to determining the position of countries within the framework of the activities of international organizations, should be made only in accordance with the will of the people, based on complete and objective information about the essence and consequences of the planned decisions. When pursuing a policy related to the adoption of binding international agreements and the actions of international organizations, governments must defend the spiritual, cultural and other identity of countries and peoples, the legitimate interests of states. Within the framework of international organizations themselves, it is necessary to ensure the equality of sovereign states in access to decision-making mechanisms and in the right to a decisive vote, including in determining basic international standards. Conflict situations and disputes should be resolved only with the participation and consent of all parties whose vital interests are affected in each specific case. The adoption of binding decisions without the consent of the state, which these decisions have a direct influence on, is possible only in the event of aggression or mass murder within the country. whose vital interests are affected in each particular case. The adoption of binding decisions without the consent of the state, which these decisions have a direct influence on, is possible only in the event of aggression or mass murder within the country. whose vital interests are affected in each particular case. The adoption of binding decisions without the consent of the state, which these decisions have a direct influence on, is possible only in the event of aggression or mass murder within the country.
Mindful of the need for spiritual and moral influence on the actions of political leaders, cooperation with them, mourning for the needs of the people and individuals, the Church enters into dialogue and interaction with international organizations. As part of this process, she invariably testifies to her conviction in the absolute significance of faith and spiritual work for human works, decisions and institutions.
XVI.3. Globalization has not only political and legal, but also economic, cultural and informational dimensions. In the economy, it is associated with the emergence of transnational corporations, where significant material and financial resources are concentrated and where a huge number of citizens of different countries work. Those who are at the head of international economic and financial structures concentrate in their hands a huge power that is not controlled by peoples and even governments and does not recognize any limits – be it state borders, ethnic and cultural identity, or the need to maintain environmental and demographic sustainability. Sometimes they do not want to take into account the traditions and religious foundations of the peoples involved in the implementation of their plans. The Church cannot but be concerned about the practice of financial speculation, erasing the dependence of income on labor expended. One form of these speculations is the financial “pyramids” whose collapse causes widespread shocks. In general, such changes in the economy lead to the loss of the priority of labor and people over capital and means of production.
In the cultural and information sphere, globalization is due to the development of technologies that facilitate the movement of people and objects, the dissemination and receipt of information. Societies, once separated by distances and borders, and therefore mostly homogeneous, now easily touch and become multicultural. However, this process is accompanied by an attempt to establish the dominance of the wealthy elite over other people, some cultures and worldviews over others, which is especially intolerable in the religious sphere. As a result, there is a desire to present as the only possible universal non-spiritual culture based on the understanding of the freedom of a fallen person who does not limit himself in anything, as an absolute value and a measure of truth. This development of globalization is compared by many in the Christian world with the building of the Tower of Babel.
Recognizing the inevitability and naturalness of the processes of globalization, which largely contribute to the communication of people, the dissemination of information, efficient production and business activities, the Church at the same time draws attention to the internal inconsistency of these processes and the dangers associated with them. First, globalization, along with a change in the usual ways of organizing economic processes, is beginning to change the traditional ways of organizing society and exercising power. Secondly, many of the positive fruits of globalization are available only to nations that make up a smaller part of humanity, but have similar economic and political systems. Other peoples, to which five-sixths of the world’s population belong, are thrown to the margins of world civilization. They fall into debt dependence on the financiers of a few industrialized countries and cannot create decent living conditions. Discontent and frustration are growing among their population.
The church raises the question of comprehensive control over transnational corporations and over the processes taking place in the financial sector of the economy. Such control, the purpose of which should be the subordination of any entrepreneurial and financial activity to the interests of a person and the people, should be carried out through the use of all mechanisms available to society and the state.
Spiritual and cultural expansion, fraught with total unification, must be countered by the joint efforts of the Church, state structures, civil society and international organizations for the sake of establishing a truly equal mutual cultural and information exchange in the world, combined with the protection of the identity of nations and other human communities. One way to achieve this can be to ensure that countries and peoples have access to basic technological resources that enable global dissemination and receipt of information. The Church recalls that many national cultures have Christian roots and the followers of Christ are called upon to strengthen the interconnectedness of faith with the cultural heritage of peoples,
In general, the challenge of globalization requires a decent response from modern society, based on concern for the preservation of a peaceful and dignified life for all people, combined with the desire for their spiritual perfection. In addition, it is necessary to achieve such a world order that would be built on the principles of justice and equality of people before God, would exclude the suppression of their will by national or global centers of political, economic and informational influence.
XVI.4. The modern international legal system is based on the priority of the interests of the earthly life of a person and human communities over religious values (especially in cases where the first and second come into conflict). The same priority is enshrined in the national legislation of many countries. Often it is embedded in the principles of regulation of various forms of activity of government bodies, the construction of a state educational system, and so on. Many influential social mechanisms use this principle in open opposition to faith and the Church, aimed at ousting them from public life. These phenomena create a general picture of the secularization of the life of the state and society.
While respecting the ideological choice of non-religious people and their right to influence social processes, the Church, at the same time, cannot positively perceive such a dispensation of the world order, in which the human person darkened by sin is placed at the center of everything. That is why, while always keeping open the possibility of cooperation with people of non-religious convictions, the Church seeks to affirm Christian values in the process of making the most important public decisions both at the national and international levels. It seeks recognition of the legitimacy of the religious worldview as a basis for socially significant acts (including state ones) and as an essential factor that should influence the formation (change) of international law and the activities of international organizations.
The foundations of the social concept of the Russian Orthodox Church are called upon to serve as a guide for Synodal institutions, dioceses, monasteries, parishes and other canonical church institutions in their relations with state power, various secular associations and organizations, and non-church mass media.
On the basis of this document, the Church Hierarchy adopts definitions on various issues, the relevance of which is limited to the framework of individual states or a narrow time period, as well as a rather private subject of consideration. The document is included in the educational process in theological schools of the Moscow Patriarchate.
As the state and public life changes, new problems of significance for the Church appear in this area, the foundations of its social concept can develop and improve. The results of this process are approved by the Holy Synod, Local or Bishops’ Councils.
Moscow, August 13-16, 2000