The attitude towards gender and sex in Orthodoxy differs from the attitude towards them in Catholicism. There are several reasons for this. In the initial period, Christianity in the West developed under the rule of Christianity and adopted a lot from the ideological arsenal of the Roman Empire. Christianity in the East evolved in a different direction – local differences, the predominance of the influence of Greek culture, awareness of the need for cooperation with a strong state, the creation of a different liturgy left a certain imprint on his ideas.
In the Christianity of the West, the position of the pope prevailed. Practically the bishops were his vassals. In the eastern branch of Christianity, local centers quickly emerged, gaining great authority. The power here belonged to the assembly of spiritual ranks of the Cathedral. Local centers, although they developed under the influence of Greek culture and language, Byzantine civilization, acquired their own specifics, absorbing national traditions, which affected the attitude to sex.
In the V century . The Byzantine Empire officially became a Christian state, the emperors until the fall of Constantinople felt their responsibility as a Christian monarch. A strong state power determined the activity of the Church, which later influenced the model of its interaction with the state in all countries of Orthodox orientation. Only communities of monks created their settlements, minimizing contacts with the secular authorities. For example, the monastery on Mount Athos was called a monastic state governed by its own laws.
The views of Catholics and Orthodox on the problem of celibacy are particularly different. In the XIII century. in the West, a celibate lifestyle was finally imposed on priests, which in turn contributed to the promotion of relevant ideas. From this moment, rigorism noticeably increases, asceticism regarding sex is proclaimed, virginity is praised, sexual restrictions in marriage, hidden or explicit anti-feminism is manifested.
In the East, celibacy was mandatory only for bishops, priests were allowed to marry before taking office, although this was subject to various regulations, for example, they could not marry a second time. However, that. the fact that Orthodox priests and their parishioners had a certain experience in the sphere of sexual and marital life brought them closer together. We do not consider the importance of celibacy for the development of church discipline, the life of the clergy, its formation, etc. We have limited ourselves only to the sphere of sex.
As for the secular marriage, Orthodoxy adopted the marriage ritual from the Romans, however, with some changes. Marriage was considered as a contract, which, like any contract, can be terminated. Orthodoxy does not tend to delve into the sphere of sex and marriage as meticulously as Catholicism does. The marriage ceremony in Orthodoxy was very lavishly and solemnly furnished.
When remarrying, she assumed the character of repentance, but the possibility of divorce was allowed. Orthodoxy in this respect was more tolerant than the Western church, it was believed that Orthodoxy was the Church of John (spiritual, benevolent, caring for the laity), and the Western church was the Church of Peter (more legal orientation, more severe).
Nowadays, there are fewer differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. One of the differences in the approach of these Churches to divorce and remarriage was the attitude regarding sex, which St. Nicholas wrote about. John Chrysostom. He believed that sexual relations in marriage are not limited only to the purposes of procreation.
Both churches are negative about ways to prevent pregnancy, calling them infanticide. However, their positions differ on issues of birth control. Today, the Catholic Church allows only biological methods to be used, Orthodoxy strives not to interfere in these issues, and believers use those methods that are more suitable for them.
I would like to remind you that after the appearance of the famous encyclical of Pan Paul VI “Hutapae Vitae”, an interview with the then Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras was published in the monthly “Venz”. which confirmed the right to choose the method of preventing pregnancy by the Orthodox believers themselves. It can be said that in everyday practice Orthodoxy shows greater understanding, greater tolerance regarding sex, it interferes less in the intimate life of its believers than Catholicism.