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Russian Orthodox Church Council adopts an official document on family law


Increasingly ill received attempts at importing some of the modern methods invading family life under the pretext of protecting the rights of children have been for some time provoking heated arguments and strong objections in Russia.

Against this backdrop, the Russian Orthodox Church, the most influential Christian denomination in Russia, has on the 4th of February officially stated where it stands on the issue. The Bishops’ Council, one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s supreme organs, has published a document called The position of the Russian Orthodox Church on reform of family law and juvenile judiciary.

In it, the bishops, while “supporting the state’s efforts to protect children from criminal offence”, are setting out a number of important principles the Church is to follow.

In particular, the document states that:

“The Church maintains that the state has no right to invade the family life, apart from proven cases of life, health, and moral hazards where such hazards cannot be eliminated by assisting or persuading the parents. At the same time, actions undertaken by governmental agents must be based on clearly defined legal criteria. It is the parents that must, within the limits set by the need to secure the life, health, and moral well-being of the child, choose the methods and forms of their children’s education. Such is their God-given right and duty. State interference in lives of individual families, itself justifiable only in exceptional circumstances, that through either direct action of the state or its endorsement of social initiatives polices family life to the effect that it undermines this institution, discourages the parents to bring up their children in accordance with traditional cultural, religious, social and other values, is unacceptable”.

Moreover, the document notes that in certain countries the law

“Tends to artificially set the rights of the child against the rights of the parents and give the former unconditional priority, contrary to principles of family life as founded in the Bible, where you cannot extend the rights of the child by curtailing the rights of the parent and artificially set them at odds with each other”.

“For children there can be no right to spiritually and morally unfounded disobedience to their parents, to immorality, promiscuity, lack of respect of elders and peers, and misdemeanour,” – add the bishops.

The document also stresses:

“It is important to safeguard the right of the parents to bring up their children in accordance with their world-view, religious and moral convictions, to define for them a reasonable daily routine, diet, and style of dress, to encourage them to perform their family, social, and religious duties, to regulate how they mix with the opposite sex, access information, and to physically prevent them harming their spiritual, moral, or physical health”.

photo: Moscow Patriarchate’s Press-Service