Catholicism or Orthodoxy?


I have some problems, whether I become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The first part is what my story is, the second what my questions and problems with both churches are, would you be so kind to help me with them and give your explanations to my problems :o

Since childhood I held to protestant beliefs and looked down upon catholic teaching and thought, for example, that statues or icons were all idolatry and thought the notion of the Real Presence was insane, like most calvinists do, this was even taught in school.

One day I stumble upon a little book called “Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images”, written by a certain John of Damascus, who, within a few pages of reading, convinced me that all what I’d heard or thought about icons and statues were all wrong! God even ordered the making of statues, images testified to the Incarnation and some old testament persons even ‘worshipped’ (proskynesis, not latreia) evil men. Thus, images of Christ and of the saints are not bad. After reading the book my world was upside down. Could it then be, I said to myself, that the Catholics are right about more things and I’m just wrong? If they can be right on this fundamental doctrine, they could be right about more things.

Not before long I was reading all I can about Church History and the Fathers, looking especially towards the earlier ones. One day I was at home, sick in bed, and started reading some of the earliest Chuch Fathers, and then I read a book called the “Martyrdom of Ignatius”. In chapter 6 I read:

"For only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr."

Wow, I thought, relics in early Christianity! Later I learned that the date of his martyrdom could be even before the closing of the first century! How interesting! I though, maybe I could read some of this man’s writing, that would be a way to know exactly what and how these men, taught by the Apostles themselves, believed! So I went on to read some of his epistles. On of the first I read was the “Epistle to the Smyrnaeans”. In that I read:

“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes”"

The early christians did, unlike I was taught, believe in the Real Presence! And I read in the New Testament that: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:53-57)”

So, if the Eucharist is literally and not symbolically the Body of Christ, and unless I partake of it I will have no life in me, I though it might be a good idea to join the Church which, to this day, teaches these doctrines and gives these sacraments. I continued to read the works of the Church Fathers, and from St. Polycarp and St. Justin Martyr to St. John of Damascus, almost everything seemed to agree with Catholic doctrine and everyone with key doctrines. So then I tried to find this “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” against which the Gates of Hell will never prevail, and this has been the hard part for me.

I started to do some research, and I thought I’d had cut down the list to two communions. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Catholic (Eastern Orthodox) Churches. Both can lay claim to being the Church founded on pentecost in 33AD, both can trace the lines of their bishops back to the Apostles and both retain basically the same teaching. Both have their problems however.

I have been in beautiful Catholic Cathedrals many times, and a few months ago I went to Greece and there I saw some Orthodox Churches and monasteries. I must confess that I had never seen such beauty before! I knew not whether I was in heaven or on earth. Be it in small village churches or great monasteries, I was awestruck and had never see such greatness before. I have a great weakness to Eastern Christianity and can look hours to icons, my sleeping room is too small for all the icons I now have :rolleyes:.

Anyway, this is how I came to the conclusion that either the Catholic or the Orthodox Church is the True Church.

Anyway, this are the problems I have with determining what is the Church against which the gates of Hell will not prevail.

Roman Catholicism:

1. Liturgical innovations

Their new rite, the one from the '60’s, doesn’t really stand in liturgical tradition and some I’ve seen are very modern and do not include traditional hymns or Gregorian Chants. However, the ‘new’ liturgy with gregorian chants and being done in Latin is ten minutes on the bike away. But somehow the fact that it is sometimes done so ‘modern’ (I heard sometimes even with guitar music :eek:) in the CC disturbs me.

2. Liberalism

Also, many Catholics I know are very liberal in their view on religion and society but yet I greatly admire the local bishops who fight for Truth and Tradition against the ‘public opinion’. This I always greatly admired in Catholicism, if only the lay people would conform more to what their bishops teach :shrug:.

  1. The Filioque.

The original creed (the one from 381, not 325) says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Latin West added ‘and from the Son’ so that now it says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Gospel of John (15:26), which the 381 creed quotes, says:

"even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: "

Almost all Eastern Fathers interpreted the procession of the Holy Spirit as that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and those who didn’t said the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone said that he proceeds fom the Father through the Son. However, the RCC says in its Catechism:

"246 The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)”. The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration. . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

I don’t see how this, especially the underlined, is in harmony with the Scriptures as well as the Fathers, but please explain, for I confess that I do not understand it completely and that many among you know this way better than I do.

4. Papal Infallibilty and Papal Supremecy
From the Church History I read it seems to me that, especially in the first millenium, the Pope wasn’t an ‘ecclesiastical dictator’ (excuse me for the term) but that the Church was governed with councils, local as well as Ecumenical ones. The Fifth Ecumenical Council was even held in opposition to the Pope and a former pope, the heretic Honorius, was even anathemised, because he confessed, in an official letter concerning faith and morals, to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the monothelite heresy. The second Ecumenical council was presided by St. Meletius of Antioch, a bishop in schism from Rome at the time. In a huge fight between St. Cyprian of Carthage and the Pope, St. Cyprian called in the East and won the fight and the list goes on and on.

And if there is Papal Infallibilty, why then was there the need to hold the 7 Ecumenical Councils if an ex cathedra pronouncement of the Pope would have sufficed? Why the 4th Ecumenical Council if the Tome of Leo was already written years earlier? It seems to me that both Papal Supremecy and Infallibilty or Universal Jurisdiction were never universally accepted in the in the pre-schism Church, but please, correct me if I’m wrong, for this are only some of my impressions.
5. Development of Doctrine and Scholasticism.**
I don’t think that anyone knows the faith better than the Apostles, the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils; therefore I don’t believe that our ‘understandings’ develops and this theory leads to unwarrented innovation. Also I don’t think that the Mysteries of the Faith ( the almost scientific definition of transsubstantion) can be described or even determined the way the (hyper-)scholastics like St. Thomas Aquinas did it. But I guess lots of Eastern Catholics think the same as I do on this one :wink:

6. The replacement of the Septuagint with the Hebrew OT since St. Jerome
Why didn’t you listen to St. Augustine? The LXX is the Christian OT, used by the Apostles and the entire Church up until St. Jerome decided to translate the Hebrew OT and the West decided to use his Vulgate over the Vetus Latina. Besides, the Vulgate OT is inconsequent for using the LXX in some verses (for example Daniel, Esther and some psalms) and the Hebrew OT in the other verses. Modern Catholic Bibles even use the antichristian Masoretic Text which was made by Jews some 800-900 years after Christ. This is a huge shame. Sorry if this sounds somewhat antisemitic, that is not my intention.

Orthodox Church:

1. Divided
It seems to me that most Orthodox Churches are heavily divided amongst themselves about a great many things. Tollhouses or not? Ecumenism or not? And the list goes on and on. Doesn’t look very ‘catholic’ (lower case) to me.

2. Nationalism, phyletism etc.
Nationalism, phyletism, overlapping jurisdictions and an overall organisatory chaos are a great problem, especially outside the traditional Orthodox countries. These things don’t look very ‘catholic’ (lower case) to me as well. However, I understand that these are historic errors which will be fixed eventually. Overlapping jurisdictions are a problem in the Catholic Church as well, they have like 3 Bishops of Antioch! :eek:

  1. Loss of the Pope.
    The absence of the Pope, who was very important in the early Church and councils.

Why don’t you try one of the Eastern Catholic churches?

  1. The changes in the liturgy were (I think) only for the Latin church and the Oriental Churches. Also, keep in mind that although the Gregorian chants are great and have been around over 1000 years, they weren’t always around in the Church. There was once a time when they were “modern”. :wink:

  2. Jesus had a bad disciple, so does that mean he wasn’t the Son of God? Of course the liberalism is very disturbing, but it shouldn’t be what drives you away from the CC.

  3. I thought Jesus also said somewhere in the Scriptures that he would give his disciples the Holy Spirit. :shrug: There was an analogy used in a different thread (I can’t remember who used it–probably someone like mardukm :D) that was like this: Think of the Procession of the Holy Spirit in this way: The Father is a spring, The Son is a river, and the Holy Spirit is a sea. Except this is an eternal procession of the Spirit, so the Holy Spirit’s “source” is from the Father, but proceeds eternally from the Father and/through the Son. The way I think of this is that there was never a beginning to when the water started to flow from the spring (Father), and there was always a river in which the water flowed (Son) into the sea (Holy Spirit). The water in the sea proceeds from the spring and the river, but also from the spring through the river.

That’s the best analogy for it that I’ve heard.

  1. I’m probably not the best to answer this, but when all of the bishops come together to proclaim dogma in an Ecumenical Council, the entire magisterium of the Church comes together to proclaim it, not just the pope, so it shows the Catholicity of the Church.

  2. Scholasticism is just a way of trying to grasp the faith more clearly using philosophical terms. Transubstantiation is just a fancy way of saying the bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ while still looking like bread and wine.

  3. I don’t get this but whatever. :shrug:

hope that helps. :slight_smile:

My final advice: Become an Eastern Catholic. :thumbsup:

I could, only there are not many, if any, Eastern Catholic Churches in the Netherlands as far as I know.

Well, now we understand another aspect of your dilemma!

Has the remnant Catholic Church in the Netherlands become that “liberalized”? BTW - I am familiar with the Old Catholic Church and its history, but do understand that it too has taken on a very liberal orientation in many matters. Is this a generalized phenomonon in the Netherlands, isolated perhaps only in Orthodoxy?

Here’s a few thoughts. I had a radical born anew experience back in 73 that literally turned my life around…I looked into things like you and if I if I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me that I must be catholic or orthodox to be in His Will I would choose orthodox in a heartbeat. I feel the cc went astray when they left the rest of the sees…Sin usually begets more sin.One break, nothing fixed and more splintering. Even though the orthodox have there own issues they are nothing compared to what cc went through then and even to this day. In the scriptures they met as a council and not Peter calling all the shots. Be that as it may there are those hot, luke warm and cold sitting among us all. What gets us to heaven, not the name on the building we gather together in but being a reborn creation in Christ. To me the orthodox are more mirrored in the scriptures.Even today with other brothers and sisters in Christ they acknowledge today they know where the “church” is but they don’t know where it isn’t rather than calling others in Christ as “defective” and “seperated”… Icons and relics can have their part( I have a cross that was made Israel in my kitchen) but when you get down to it our faith depends on a living and and daily dependence on Christ… May the Lord guide you on the path you need to draw closer to Him. Grace and peace to you…

i would suggest you also post this same question on an Orthodox website. Taken together you should get a balance view. you have presented some very good summarizing research. God Bless you in your journey to an Apostolic faith.

Well, truth is not in numbers, I think.

Sounds like you describe the reformation :rolleyes:

That is indeed true.

The building itself are just stones. The Church, the Body of Christ is alive and only through the Church can we get the Sacraments, like baptism, through which we are ‘born again’.

And you too.

Great idea. Will do.

The building is made of living stones…As for the reformation…It’s the previous that caused the break and not is the the results where the blame lies…the result of the sin
is not the cause for the blame…Repentance opens the door…

I sympathize, it can be a tough call and some people work on it for years and years!

Orthodox Christians are guests here, so I am sure you understand Orthodox will not proselytise you here. That job is relegated to the Roman Catholics for which purpose this website was set up.

However Orthodox will be more than happy to discuss the merits and contexts of any theological point of view. I feel that open discussion is healthy, and you are doing the right thing if you are posting on both the Roman Catholic boards and also Orthodox boards with your concerns. That way you get “the full catastrophe” (to quote Zorba the Greek). :slight_smile:

Good luck in your Faith journey.

Prayers …

Hi Credo Ergo Sum,

I think this is going to be a good thread. :slight_smile: Here I’m going to address the first two points.

  1. I think St. Augustine said, “in essential things, unity, in non-essential things, diversity, and in all things, charity”. Various rites, including the Novus Ordo Mass, are legitimate diversity in my mind. Whether we use the ancient “St. James the Apostle’s Liturgy” composed in the 1st century (still in use by EO Churches), St. John Chrysostom’s Divine Liturgy composed in the 5th century (used by Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches), the Tridentine Mass (composed around the 16th century, if I’m not mistaken), or the Novus Ordo Mass composed in the 1960s, the essential element is there: they express the same faith in various forms. There is unity in the eesentials, while there is legitimate diversity in the form of expression of that same faith. (Of course, there’s the filioque difference between Catholics and EO, but that deserves to be treated separately.)

The EO Churches today use at least 4 or 5 variations of the Divine Liturgy: St. James the Apostle’s DL, the DL of St. John Chrysostom, and at least two different variants of the DL for Western Rite EO Churches.

The Catholic Church has more than a dozen variations of the DL/Mass in use: for example, the Franciscan friars have a Mass of their own, which is different from the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass. The Roman Catholic Church also has some 2 or 3 more rites in use, in addition to the Tridentine, Novus Ordo, and Franciscan Masses. Then, let’s add in the various Eastern Catholic Churches (Byzantine, Maronite, Melkite, Syro-Malabar, etc) each with their own separate “rites” or separate variants of the Divine Liturgy or Mass.

I think this is all legitimate diversity.

Certain practices (certain musical instruments etc) go too far, they are more than “legitimate diversity”, because they distract from the solemn atmosphere intended - and it is legitimate to criticize those. The Catholic Church does recognize that “legitimate diversity” is not a “free for all”, and works to curb those practices that distract from the solemn atmosphere intended for Mass.

On a side note, there’s an ongoing dispute among certain EO Churches regarding the legitimacy of any musical instruments whatsoever. I used to attend ROCOR’s (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) DL, and they believe music at DL must be strictly limited to human voice (btw, their chanting at DL is most amazing and beautiful - they do not use any instruments, they sing most of the DL, and they really sing beautifully). ROCOR believes the use of organs by the Greek and Antiochian EO Churches is a heresy.

  1. Liberalism - interestingly I am uneasy about the EO Churches officially allowing artificial birth control (ABC) and even surgical sterilizations for some cases, while the Catholic Church stands steadfast to the teachings of the Early Church Fathers who condemned ABC, sterilization, and abortion. Some of the EOC even allow abortion, and give their blessing to a pregnant woman aborting her child, if she is undergoing a risky pregnancy that puts her life at risk. The Catholic Church never caved on any of those issues - although, for sure, we had a few Judases among our ranks, even Catholic Bishops and Priests who tried to undermine the teaching and express dissent. Nevertheless, the Pope has the final say, and it’s easy to know what does the CC teach: Pope Pius XI in 1930 condemned ABC in his encyclical Casti Connubii, and Pope Paul VI condemned it again in his encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. Prior to 1930, there was never an issue about it, because all Christian denominations and Churches condemned ABC, including the Protestants, EO, etc. But first the Church of England caved and approved ABC at its Lambeth Conference of 1930. The EO Churches gradually caved during the 1970s-1980s. The first edition of Kallistos (Timothy) Ware’s classic book The Orthodox Church, written in 1963 or so, simply states, “the EOC forbid ABC”. However the edition from the 1980s states that “a new position is taking hold” and many EO priests and spiritual fathers now allow ABC.

Another thing that makes me uneasy is that, for example the Russian EOC, allows ecclesiastical divorce and remarriage when the spouse is prolongedly absent (i.e. a husband becomes a prisoner of war for many years), as well as when the spouse contracts illnesses such as leprosy, STDs, or serious mental illness. This seems to contradict the indissolubility of marriage, I regard it as “liberalism” or “innovation”, and I notice that the Catholic Church resisted the lure to innovate like this.

Although I have nothing to add that can help you in your journey, I do want to say thank you for this post, and thank you to the reponders. I learned much from it and will surely be considering a lot of the points for some time to come. Having only recently (almost 8 years now) returned to my faith, I’m still in the process, and expect to be for the rest of my life, of re-learning it.
So thank you for opening my mind and heart to more learning / growing opportunities.
God bless you and keep you in your journey to discovering Him more fully.

Are you anywhere near this place:

The Slavic-Byzantine Community of the Transfiguration of the Lord, located in The Hague celebrated this year (1999) its fiftieth anniversary.

This little community is a special part of the Church in this Diocese, because it forms a link between the Western Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. "There are nine Byzantine Churches in The Netherlands.

We fall under the leadership of Rome, but the liturgy is celebrated according to the Slavic-Byzantine Rite in Church Slavonic. Our Church is set up according to the Eastern tradition.

Before us stands the iconostasis, a wall with icons behind which stands the altar. What we see here has all been painted by Father Methodius, the first priest of this church", says Eugene Sarolea, the secretary of the Church located on the “Raamsweg” in The Hague.

Many of its laity, yes. Only recently a Catholic parish in the south of the country went into schism because they wanted to be “a church without dogma’s”, openly did gay marriages and such. They didn´t have a priest since 5 years and just roleplayed the Mass, which the bishop didn´t really like it and he intervened after 5 (!) years, causing 80% to form their new church.

Yes, as close as the nearest Orthodox parish. However, it is not weekly liturgy, only twice in the month or so. It is more of a group of Latins who occasionally meet and do DL with a priest than that it is, for example, a Melkite or Greek Catholic parish.

Besides, the greatest of such groups advertises themselves as a ‘Western Catholic community with an Eastern rite’ and say it’s just their hobby as Latin Catholics, so far for respect for Eastern Christianity :frowning:

Besides, I’m only 17 years old so it would take a lot of pain to get there, and I guess it would be weird to have someone there who isn’t even Roman Catholic :slight_smile:

Hi Credo ergo sum,

I think you should expand your query to the Oriental Orthodox Churches, various schismatic Eastern Orthodox bodies not in communion with each other, such as Old Believers who regard the new forms of Eastern Orthodoxy as heretic, Old Calendar EO Churches who regard the New Calendar EOC as heretics, and do the same about Catholics - e.g. how about SSPX (Society of Saint Pius X) and sedevacantist Catholic Bishops who refuse to come into communion with Pope Benedict XVI, believing that he is not a legitimate Pope, and that the bulk of the Catholic Church has fallen into heresy?

In other words, certain sedevacantist Catholic Bishops may believe that THEY are the true Church, and that the Pope Benedict XVI, as well as the rest of the Bishops in communion with him, are heretics.

Also, ROCOR believed as recently as 2006 that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Greek EOC, the Antiochian EOC, and so on are heretics because they adopted the New Calendar (Gregorian Calendar). According to ROCOR, only those EOC like ROCOR itself, the Serb EOC, and a minority of Greek, Romanian, and Bulgarian Bishops represent the true Church, those whom rejected the innovation of the New (Gregorian) Calendar, and stayed with the Old (Julian) Calendar. The Russian EOC - Moscow Patriarchate healed its own schism with ROCOR in 2006, but priests who came from ROCOR still insisted after the MP-ROCOR reunion that New Calendar EOC are heretics (the MP is also Old Calendar, but ROCOR broke communion with the MP around 1927 because ROCOR believed the MP fell into apostasy under Moscow Patriarch Sergius in 1927, when the MP adopted communism as an official stance). Same thing about Greek EOC Bishops who represent the “Matthewite” and “Florinist” movements in the Greek EOC. They earnestly believe that they (Matthewites, Florinists) represent the true Orthodox Church since they still use the Old Calendar and since they reject the heresy of the New Calendar, and they refuse to commune with any EOC whatsoever who transitioned to the New Calendar.

These questions are not trivial, and they must be addressed, if you are trying to find “where is Jesus Christ’s true Church?”

As for the Oriental Orthodox, they don’t accept the Council of Chalcedon and I don’t think that miaphysitism can be justified except through St. Cyril’s words (μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη), but nonetheless I think they have a beautiful liturgy and history. And I heard that their reunification with the EO is not that far off, some even say within our lifetime or at least the next. Besides, the current Miaphysite churches didn’t come into being before Severus organized the various non-Chalcedonian groups in the early 6th century.

The ROCOR and the Old Believers are for the greatest part back in the Orthodox Communion. And I don’t see how little schismatic groups like the SSPX could ever lay a claim more credible to be the Church as the local reformed church can.

This further underscores the paramount question: How do you know who is right and who is wrong, when schisms occur?

To me, the various schisms such as Catholic (obedient to the Pope) - Catholic (in dissent with the Pope, in favor of gay marriage and other stuff) - (Old Calendar) Eastern Orthodox - (New Calendar) Eastern Orthodox - Oriental Orthodox, all lead back to the fundamental question:

How do you know which fraction is “true” and which is “heretic”, when a schism occurs among validly ordained Bishops and Priests?

The schism can be caused by disagreement about the nature of Christ (see Oriental Orthodox schism), about the filioque (Great schism of 1054 between Cath and EO Churches), about using two fingers only for the sign of the cross versus using three fingers (the Old Believer schism within the EOC of Russia), about using the Old Calendar versus transitioning to the New (Gregorian) Calendar (Old Calendar - New Calendar schism within the EOC), or about accepting versus rejecting gay marriage (contemporary schism within the Catholic Church). Schisms can be caused by various disagreements, but you ultimately always have to go back to the same question, and andswer the same question:

How do you know which fraction is “true” and which is “heretic”, when a schism occurs among validly ordained Bishops and Priests?

Of course, as a Catholic, my answer is this: where is Peter’s successor the Pope (Bishop of Rome), there is the true Church.

This thread is reminding me of the first chapter in 1st Corinthians.

I must confess that you have a valid point. But then again, what if there would sit another Honorius on the Papal Throne openly confessing monothelitism? Just curious.

Yes, schism and heresy are nasty things :frowning:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit