A Little Help, Please

I’m in the 5th year of a fairly astounding reversion to my Catholic faith. It has been amazing. What I’ve learned over the past 5 years…well I wish I would have started 30 years ago. I have to admit I am still somewhat mystified about the different rites of the Church. Being “barely Catholic” for my entire adult life certainly didn’t enhance my understanding, that’s for sure. But I honestly never knew, until fairly recently, that there was anything other than “Roman Catholic.”

I know with a little digging I could answer these questions on my own-probably right from this forum. But if anyone has the time and patience to help me start down the path of understanding the differences, I’d greatly appreciate it. What does it mean to be Eastern Cathloic? What are the fundamental differences with the western church? What are “orthodox” catholics (just a capital “O” versus lower case “o” situation?), How does any of this differ or relate to “rites” that are not in union with Rome? Thanks in advance.


Overly simplistic answer based on my understanding:

Eastern Catholics hold to the same doctrines (being in communion with Rome), but do not necessarily hold to the same disciplines (for example, more married priests in Eastern rite churches).

orthodox Catholics are those who strictly follow Catholic teaching (what we all should be).

Note: as I said, this is based on my current understanding and is over simplified, so I’m open to correction.

The Catholic Church consists of 23 Churches sui iuris (of their own law). The came from the eastern regions and from the ancient time. Most represent re-unions with Rome.

For more details on the history you can read the summary at:



There are other apostolic particular churches, the largest of which are not in full communion with the Bishop of Rome:

Assyrian Church of the East (Chaldean and Malabar)

Eastern Orthodox (14 autocephalous churches)

Oriental Orthodox

*]Malankara Orthodox Syrian


Like I said, I’m open to correction.

You’re not incorrect, at least as far as I understand. The various Catholic churches all share the same dogmatic beliefs, though different theological traditions have different emphases or ways of stating things.

For example, it is important to recognize that the Maronites have a different liturgical and theological tradition than the Latin or Ukrainian churches. You wouldn’t necessarily hear the same terms used liturgically or in catechesis. But certainly, churches in communion with one another cannot hold fundamentally different beliefs.

Yes, that is how I understand it. For example, the Eastern Catholic Church and Orthodox Church don’t use the term Transubstantiation, correct? But certainly, both, along with the Roman Catholic Church, believe in the Real Presence and that the bread and wine become the body and blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

We can have a quote battle here unto the ages of ages, or you can show me where in the Liturgical texts of the Eastern Churches do we teach things like Original Sin, Purgatory, Mary’s Assumption without death, Immaculate Conception, etc. Because it doesn’t matter what individual people say, even if they are bishops, the faith of the Church is expressed in the Liturgy. In the East that is what we believe, par exellance. What bishops say doesn’t drive the beliefe of the entire Church until it is accepted by all and codified in the Liturgical texts.

So please, show me where.

From what I understand, the Church doesn’t teach it either way in regards to Mary’s Assumption, only that she was assumed into Heaven. There is no infallible teaching on whether she died before it happened or not.

And in regards to the other things, it is also my understanding that even if these things are not explicitly taught, they are not rejected in teaching either.

Our Liturgical texts are clear that Mary died, that is our belief codified in our Liturgy. Actually the notion of Mary not dying is fairly recent, a modern innovation if you will. The dogmatic definition of the Assumption actually is littered with references to both East and West Fathers and Saints teaching conclusively that Mary did die.

And that is my point. In the East there is no question. When the Dormition Feast is celebrated we sing:

In giving birth, you preserved your virginity. In failing asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You were translated to life, O Mother of Life, and by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death. (Troparion)

Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life, by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb. (Kontakion)

Then I guess I’m a little Eastern in that thinking as I too think she passed before she was assumed.

I think that most of us take it for granted that communion and common faith go hand in hand. This strikes me as an uncontroversial point, which the Eastern Orthodox would readily agree to. The very fact that the Eastern Catholic churches are in communion with Rome and each other makes it clear that they all share a common faith, even if expressed in different ways.

I think it is absurd to think otherwise. Why would Our Lord deprive Our Lady of the glory of sharing in His resurrection - something that is promised to all of the saints? In order to share in His resurrection, she had to first share in His death. As Constantine points out, it is a very recent novelty to think otherwise. St. Mary’s Major in Rome, the most important church dedicated to Our Lady in all of Latin Christendom, has a beautiful and very prominent depiction of Mary’s dormition and subsequent assumption into heaven… it is part of the Latin tradition. Our faith is not limited to dogmatic decrees, but to the entire body of Tradition - and all sources are clear on this point: Our Lady died prior to her assumption.

The problem is the important point isn’t driven about this event, which is why people come up with their silly conclusions rather than the truth. Thing is, the biggest question about the Resurrection is what guarantees that we are to be resurrected? Sure, we accept Jesus is God, and so He has the power to resurrect. What guarantees do we have? The Dormition is our guarantee. We believe in life everlasting because Mary herself passed through death and is resurrected to eternal life fulfilling the promise of Christ for the rest of us. :thumbsup:

It is worth noting that the Catholic dogma of the Assumption does not teach Mary’s Assumption without death. While it may be a belief held by many, it is not dogma.

But Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, his November 1, 1950, declaration of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, cites ancient liturgical texts from both East and West, as well as the writings of the Church Fathers, all indicating that the Blessed Virgin had died before her body was assumed into Heaven. Consider this, from Pope Pius XII, who defined the dogma:

[quote=]this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ . . .

The dogma, as defined by Pius XII, leaves the question of whether the Virgin Mary died open. What Catholics must believe is

[quote=]that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Nothing here states that we believe that Mary didn’t die. We simply are not bound by dogma to believe that she did.

Same thing with Purgatory. While many might have greatly expanded on the dogmatic definition of Purgatory, there is nothing in what was taught dogmatically in the Council of Florence that is incompatible with an Eastern understanding of what happens after death.

And yes, there are examples of commonly held beliefs in Orthodoxy that are not reflected in the liturgical texts. Toll houses come to mind first.

Of course. My point is that our Liturgical texts are clear therefore there is no confusion on what we believe.

Byzantine churches baptize infants. That alone is sufficient to show assent to the substance of the dogma.

Any further wrangling about “inherited guilt,” etc. is merely “disputing about words” (2 Timothy 2:14).

Byzantine Christians pray for the dead and believe these prayers to be efficacious. That alone is sufficient to show assent to the substance of the dogma.

Catholic *dogma *on “purgatory” teaches no more than Mark of Ephesus himself acknowledged.

Any further wrangling about "punishment, “fire,” and “toll houses” is merely “disputing about words” (2 Timothy 2:14). Those are strictly Latin theologoumena, and I think you know it.

That’s *not *a part of Catholic teaching, Latin or otherwise. This Latin believes that the Theotokos died, so I’m not sure what your point is here.

As babochka pointed out by citing the man’s own words, even Pope Pius XII, who defined the dogma, explicitly brought up the fact that the Theotokos died.

Feast of the Entrance into The Temple of Our Most Holy Lady The Theotokos
Kontakion (Fourth Tone)

  • The most pure Temple of the Savior;
    The precious Chamber and Virgin;
    The sacred Treasure of the glory of God,
    Is presented today to the house of the Lord.
    She brings with her the grace of the Spirit,
    Therefore, the angels of God praise her:
    “Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.” *

If the Theotokos had grace/the indwelling of the Holy Spirit already as an infant (i.e. “brings with her the grace of the Spirit,” “is the abode of heaven”…) then she wasn’t deprived of it until the Annunciation.

I guess you could still say that she was only born with sanctifying grace rather than conceived with it, though. But I haven’t heard *that *theory from Eastern Orthodox Christians. Have you? I’m guessing not.

I agree with the principle you’re expressing here. I simply fail to understand how you can see that the prayers and actions I cite above are compatible with a denial of the Catholic dogmas they pertain to.

Indeed. Eucharistic sharing is the sign of full communion.

Oh, so you wish the pope had dogmatized even more than he actually did in 1950? :wink:

If Pope Benedict XVI solemnly defined *ex cathedra *and dogmatized the teaching that the Theotokos died and was buried before her bodily Assumption, would you be happy that “the important point is driven about this event,” or would you be irritated at the papal exercise of the infallibility which the Holy Spirit permits the Church to share in?

For the record, that’s a rather tongue-in-cheek question. Further dogmatization would obviously be overkill. We just need to do better at exposing our fellow Catholics to Sacred Tradition. :slight_smile:

Fore Bone: Excellent! Exactly - we are not limited to dogmas…our faith is much deeper and richer than that. As I pointed out earlier, it is clearly part of the Latin Tradition that Our Lady died before she was granted the honor of sharing in the Lord’s resurrection and ascent into Heaven. The fact that some Latins are mistaken on this matter (as many among the faithful are mistaken on many matters) is moot.

Thanks for the responses. I’ve learned a lot already. I didn’t intend to open up a dogmatic can-of-worms! This is all very interesting - I’ll keep researching. Thanks and God bless


You’re welcome. Just one final point:

Don’t let my reply to Constantine mislead you in one respect - West and East are certainly very different. They’re not just different liturgically, but also (in some sense) Sacramentally (though we do share the same Sacraments/Mysteries), spiritually, and theologically as well.

So I don’t want to imply that we’re “the same.” We’re certainly not. All I was trying to emphasize with my post is that we Latins share with Eastern Catholics the same dogmas, the same faith. But the theology and beliefs are certainly different.

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