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Signposts for an Eastern Orthodox inclusive anthropological ethics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2022

Petre Maican*
Affiliation:
Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
*
*Corresponding author. Email: petre.maican@gmail.com

Abstract

Despite the strong interest of Eastern Orthodox theologians in the area of anthropology, their reflection has almost never included intellectual disability. The article aims to take the discussion further by providing the contours of an inclusive anthropological ethics. In this sense, it will develop constructively the three main principles of Dumitru Stăniloae's dialogical anthropology: (1) that each human being is a person because she is called to dialogue with God from the womb of her mother; (2) that this dialogue with God is mediated by one's neighbour; (3) that the materiality of creation is meant to be transformed into a gift of communion with other humans and God.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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References

1 Kinard, Summer, Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019)Google Scholar; Chryssavgis, John, ‘Ministry, Disability and Brokenness: Orthodox Insights into the Authority of the Priesthood’, Pacifica: Australasian Theological Studies 12/2 (June 1999), pp. 169–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Chryssavgis, John, The Body of Christ: A Place of Welcome for People with Disabilities (New York: Department of Stewardship, Outreach & Evangelism Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2017)Google Scholar; Pekridou, Aikaterini, ‘Disability as a Question for Ecumenical Dialogue’, in Kalaïtzidēs, Pantelēs (ed.), Orthodox Handbook on Ecumenism: Resources for Theological Education; ‘That They All May Be One’ (John 17:21) (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2014), pp. 822–6Google Scholar; Tataryn, Myroslaw I., Discovering Trinity in Disability: A Theology for Embracing Difference (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013)Google Scholar; Maican, Petre, ‘Overcoming Exclusion in Eastern Orthodoxy: Human Dignity and Disability from a Christological Perspective’, Studies in Christian Ethics 33/4 (November 2020), pp. 496509CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Konstantinos Papanikolaou, ‘Persons with Disabilities and Chronic Diseases in Greek Orthodox Society’ (PhD thesis, (University of Winchester, 2019).

2 Alexis Torrance, ‘The Category of “Ethical Apophaticism” in Modern Orthodox Theology’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 17 (January 2021), pp. 1–2.

3 Petre Maican, ‘The Care of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in Romania: Between Politics and Theology’, Political Theology 2 (March 2021), pp. 1–14.

4 Dumitru Stăniloae, Teologia Dogmatică Ortodoxă [hereafter TDO], vol. 1 (Bucharest: Institutul Biblic şi de Misiune Ortodoxă, 2010), p. 380.

5 Calinic Berger, ‘A Contemporary Synthesis of St. Maximus’ Theology: The Work of Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae’, Revista Teologica 1 (2013), pp. 23–38; Calinic Berger, Teognosia: Sinteza Dogmatică şi Duhovnicească a Părintelui Dumitru Stăniloae, trans. Nicolae Daraban (Sibiu: Deisis, 2014); Viorel Coman, Dumitru Stăniloae's Trinitarian Ecclesiology: Orthodoxy and the Filioque (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2019).

6 Dumitru Stăniloae, ‘Dinamica Creaţiei În Biserică’, Ortodoxia 3–4 (1977), pp. 289–91.

7 Ciprian Costin Apintiliesei, La structure ontologique-communionnelle de la personne: Aux sources théologiques et philosophiques du père Dumitru Stăniloae (Leuven: Peeters, 2020), pp. 371–99; Marian Pătru, ‘Mutuality – Presence – Personal Revelation through the Word: Father Dumitru Stăniloae and Martin Buber's Relational Ontology’, Review of Ecumenical Studies 5/3 (2013), pp. 320–38.

8 Brian Brock, Wondrously Wounded: Theology, Disability, and the Body of Christ (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2019), p. 29.

9 Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, ed. and trans. Nicholas Constas, 1.28–9 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), pp. 95–103.

10 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 2, p. 9; translation from Dumitru Stăniloae, The Experience of God, trans. Ioan Ioniță and Robert Barringer, vol. 3 (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2011), p. 3.

11 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, p. 348; Stăniloae, The Experience of God, trans. Ioan Ioniță and Robert Barringer, vol. 2 (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2000), p. 12.

12 Ibid.

13 Dumitru Stăniloae, ‘Responsabilitatea Crestină’, Ortodoxia 22/2 (1970), p. 190.

14 Ibid., p. 181.

15 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, p. 144.

16 Stăniloae, ‘Responsabilitatea Crestină’, p. 186.

17 Stăniloae, ‘Dinamica Creaţiei În Biserică’, pp. 289–91.

18 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, pp. 198–9, 356.

19 Dumitru Stăniloae, Chipul Nemuritor al lui Dumnezeu in om, vol. 1 (Bucharest: Cristal, 1995), p. 123.

20 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, pp. 355–7.

21 TDO, vol. 1, p. 357.

22 Stăniloae, Chipul Nemuritor, 1:49; Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 3, pp. 94–5.

23 I agree that one of the main features of Eastern Orthodox personalist thought is the irreducibility of person to nature, and that this feature allows Eastern Orthodoxy to avoid defining human beings starting from a predefined set of natural attributes. See Alexis Torrance, Human Perfection in Byzantine Theology: Attaining the Fullness of Christ (New York: OUP, 2020), 14; Alexis Torrance, ‘Personhood and Patristics in Orthodox Theology: Reassessing the Debate’, Heythrop Journal 52/4 (July 2011), pp. 700–7. This positive feature has even been developed by Linda Woodhead in an essay on apophatic anthropology and disability. Linda Woodhead, ‘Apophatic Anthropology’, in Richard Kendall Soulen and Linda Woodhead (eds), God and Human Dignity (Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans, 2006), pp. 233–47. However, I think that at least a certain tension between this anthropological apophaticism and the distinction between individual and person should be admitted, since for Eastern Orthodox personalists ‘the human “individual” is considered the enemy of the human “person”’ (Torrance, Human Perfection, p. 14). In my view, it is this second statement that introduces a hierarchy of the modes of existence between those who can become persons and those who, for various reasons, remain individuals. As Torrance himself points out, ‘There is a presupposition that to fulfil one's vocation as a human person or hypostasis is to be a deified human being: personhood and deification go hand in hand’. (Human Perfection, p. 15)

24 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Greenwood: Attic Press, 1968), p. 25.

25 Ibid., p. 122.

26 John Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1985), p. 52.

27 Ibid., pp. 54–5.

28 Ibid., p. 40.

29 Ibid., p. 41.

30 Jean Zizioulas, Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (London: T&T Clark, 2006), p. 109.

31 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, p. 424.

32 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, p. 425; Stăniloae, The Experience of God, trans. Ioan Ioniță and Robert Barringer, vol. 2 (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1994), pp. 100–1.

33 Jonathan Martin Ciraulo, ‘Sacraments and Personhood: John Zizioulas’ Impasse and a Way Forward’, Heythrop Journal 53/6 (November 2012), pp. 993–1004. Joanna Leidenhag, ‘The Challenge of Autism for Relational Approaches to Theological Anthropology’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 17 (December 2020).

34 See for instance Woodhead, ‘Apophatic Anthropology’; Hans S. Reinders, Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2008), pp. 227–75.

35 See esp. chapters 3 and 4 in Brock, Wondrously Wounded, pp. 59–99.

36 A very good overview of the relationship between medicine and disability is found in Catherine Kudlick, ‘Oxford Handbook of Disability History’, in Michael Rembis, Catherine Kudlick and Kim E. Nielsen (eds), Social History of Medicine and Disability History, vol. 1 (Oxford: OUP, 2018).

37 Brock, Wondrously Wounded, pp. 75–98.

38 Ibid., pp. 24–5.

39 Ibid., p. 27.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid., p. 35.

43 See Maican, ‘Overcoming Exclusion in Eastern Orthodoxy’.

44 Stăniloae, ‘Responsabilitatea Crestină’.

45 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 1, pp. 143–9.

46 Dumitru Stăniloae, ‘Munca și proprietatea în Testamentul Nou’, Revista Teologică 16/8–10 (1926), pp. 230–40.

47 Dumitru Stăniloae, Studii de teologie dogmatică ortodoxă (Craiova: Editura Mitropoliei Olteniei, 1990), pp. 191–2.

48 Dumitru Stăniloae, Prayer and Holiness: The Icon of Man Renewed in God (Fairacres: SLG Press, 1993), p. 8.

49 Ibid., p. 7.

50 For an overview of the discussions on the ethics of care, see Frans J. H Vosman, Andries J Baart and Jacobus Retief Hoffman (eds), The Ethics of Care: The State of the Art (Leuven: Peeters, 2020).

51 Brock, Wondrously Wounded, p. 52.

52 Ibid.

53 Stăniloae, TDO, vol. 3, pp. 7–14.

54 Colin Barnes, ‘Understanding the Social Model of Disability’, in Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies (London: Routledge, 2013), p. 14.

55 Clark, Laurence, ‘Barriers’, in Cameron, Colin (ed.), Disability Studies: A Student's Guide (London: SAGE Publications, 2014), p. 15Google Scholar.

56 Swinton, John, ‘From Inclusion to Belonging: A Practical Theology of Community, Disability and Humanness’, Journal of Religion, Disability and Health 16/2 (April 2012), pp. 183–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57 Ibid., pp. 180–1.

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