by Fr. David G. Bissias
If it were not well-intentioned, Petre Maican’s article “Image and Likeness and Profound Cognitive Disability: Rethinking Patristic Categories” (published on Public Orthodoxy, July 2, 2019), could be offensive. In the final analysis, it is simply misguided due to several failures: of coherency, doctrinal perspective, and a failure to grasp the full “spectrum of human existence” for which he rightly expresses concern.
Maican’s argument is unconvincing for several reasons. It is summarized in a few sentences from his opening paragraph:
Is it useful to speak about image and likeness in the cases of persons with profound intellectual disabilities? I think not. Especially, when the main requirement for attaining likeness is ethical freedom. As I will point out further, since the movement from image to likeness is dependent on the use of freedom, persons with profound cognitive disabilities are excluded from attaining the goal of their own existence, perfection in Christ.
Maican properly believes a “robust” Orthodox anthropology must affirm why any person, including the profoundly disabled, “should live” and why such a life is “worth it.” Continue reading
by Petre Maican
The distinction between image and likeness is one of the recurring themes in the patristic writings and one of the main building blocks of modern Orthodox theology. But is this distinction useful for answering the anthropological question from the perspective of disability? Is it useful to speak about image and likeness in the cases of persons with profound intellectual disabilities? I think not. Especially, when the main requirement for attaining likeness is ethical freedom. As I will point out further, since the movement from image to likeness is dependent on the use of freedom, persons with profound cognitive disabilities are excluded from attaining the goal of their own existence, perfection in Christ.
It is part of Orthodox identity to remain faithful not only to Scripture or the ecumenical councils, but also to the Tradition of the Fathers. And there are good reasons for this. Without a strong common ground, the faith of the Church becomes the sum of all individual beliefs, with personal opinions and experiences receiving the status of dogmas. Unfortunately, however, the Fathers did not answer all the questions humanity might have throughout the ages. They could not have since they inhabited a different world. They did not have access to the same technology nor did they have the same concerns. Thus, they did not have a doctrine of the Church nor a very developed anthropology. Continue reading
by Christina Lappa | ελληνικά
Religion and spirituality have been a part of almost every culture throughout history and have affected the lives of many individuals, and society in general. A multitude of studies deal with the influence of spirituality and religious beliefs on the personal development and well-being of people with physical disabilities and serious mental illnesses, since it is widely accepted that religious faith is an important source of hope, warmth, consolation, meaning, and purpose in life. It has been shown that the protective and beneficial effects of religious faith are particularly strong in people with diseases and disabilities. In particular, research has shown that religious beliefs stabilized the lives of people with physical disabilities, provided an interpretation of the disabilities they were experiencing and helped them cope with them.
Spirituality is now recognized as an important dimension in people’s lives, including those with Intellectual Disability (ID). ID is a condition with reduced or incomplete development, which does not allow the person to keep up with the social environment. It is diagnosed before the age of 18 and is characterized by significant constraints in both intellectual function and adaptive behavior which is manifested in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills. Continue reading