Confused about theological diversity

I was just recently received into the Latin Rite, but one thing that’s bugging me is the diversity between Latin and Byzantine modes of theological belief. I mean no offense, it’s just that I can’t understand how we can hold to different beliefs that sometimes seem contradictory to me: although I understand I may just be ill-informed and the truth may well be that they’re completely complementary. I feel drawn to Eastern styles of Christianity, and some of the theology and spirituality (and culture) is actually more “appealing” to me, but what brought me to Catholicism from Protestantism was a need for doctrinal certainty so this diversity is challenging me.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Eastern Christianity, having checked out Orthodoxy before becoming Roman Catholic, and a part of me wants to switch over but I need some better understanding to make a decision like that. I kinda feel like I don’t fit in when it comes to the Latin Rite, and unfortunately I’m realizing this AFTER being Confirmed :shrug:

I’m not sure what your difficulties are exactly, but maybe you can look at your situation in a different way. Rather than seeing your parish as something you need to escape, maybe you can see it a something that God is calling on you to improve.

God’s peace. As a member of the SFO (I am the Formation Director for my fraternity), I encourage you to contact your local fraternity and engage in the discernment process.

The diversity that you are experiencing between eastern and western Catholicism is a diversity of perspective, not doctrine. Remember that the Church doesn’t define everything. A lot of people come out of the morass of Protestantism into the Church seeking absolute, authoritative definitions for everything. I can understand this–I am a convert from the Episcopal Church. There, you could basically believe anything you wanted to about anything and still be an Anglican in good standing. But be patient! It doesn’t all have to make sense right away. Peace and Good, ~Br. Carlo~

The diversity of theological opinions in the Catholic Church, both East-West and within the East or the West, could be of several different kinds.

  1. Some of the differences only boil down to differences of emphasis or of practice. The Church is made of many kinds of people and many cultures, so it is not surprising that there should be this kind of diversity within her ranks. It can even be a good thing. One person may emphasize what we can know about God, another what we cannot know about God. The presence of both people within the same Church allows each to be a reminder to the other not to go too far in the direction they are naturally inclined towards, either being so confident about your descriptions of God that you forget you do not really know Him as He exists in His divine simplicity, or focusing so much on the mysteriousness of God that you begin to deny what really can be known and said about Him.

Along the same lines of this would be differences in terminology, perhaps based on whether a particular theological tradition developed using Greek or Latin, but which ultimately describe the same thing. A rose by any other name smells as sweet.

  1. Another source of disagreement is the fact that some issues have never been definitively settled by the Magisterium. The question of how grace and free will interact is an example of this that has been particularly important within Western Christianity, but which touches on East-West distinctions as well. Some differences between the schools of thought on this matter may simply be differences of emphasis (do you like to focus on God’s sovereignty or man’s free will, on man’s fallen nature or the goodness that nature has retained, etc.), but some of the differences are mutually exclusive. Either God moves the will through intrinsically efficacious grace or he does not, for example. In cases such as this some people are right and some people are wrong. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging this and stating your opinion that a theological tradition other than your own is incorrect on this or that subject. However, we must avoid proclaiming people heretics when the dispute has not been officially settled by the Magisterium.

Again, this sort of “legitimate theological diversity” means that none of the schools of thought are condemned as heresy, not that they are all free from error.

  1. Finally, it is, of course, possible for a Catholic to fall into heresy and still call himself or herself a Catholic. If a particular belief of an Eastern or Western Catholic absolutely denies something the Magisterium has formally defined, it is heresy. This is true even if the heretic is Eastern and the doctrine was defined in the geographical and cultural West and in Western terminology (e.g. transubstantiation or the immaculate conception of Mary). In such cases an Eastern Christian may still prefer to use Eastern terminology and emphases when discussing the topic, but he or she is not free to simply reject the doctrine.

When encountering apparent differences between Eastern and Western Christianity, it is generally going to be more prudent and charitable to assume that a given difference you encounter is of the first or second kinds I described, not the third, unless the person tells you specifically that he or she rejects this or that Church teaching, or until you really have a rock solid understanding of their position and the Church’s teaching with regard to it.

If you just entered the Catholic Church it’s understandable that you don’t feel like you fit in 100%. This is how I felt at first after I had converted, and I likewise considered whether Eastern Christianity might have been a better fit.

You were brought up in a different tradition, a different culture really, so it generally takes longer to fully think and feel like a Catholic than it takes to come on board doctrinally and be received into the Church. I know in my case the process took over five years, but now I definitely feel the West is right for me.

My own personal advice is that, if you were raised Protestant (which comes out of the Western tradition, even if it has sometimes adopted some elements resembling Eastern Christianity) and/or if your cultural and ancestral background goes back to Western Europe or peoples evangelized by Western missionaries, then stick with your Western patrimony, even if you continue to feel attracted to certain Eastern traditions. There is nothing wrong with using icons or praying the Jesus Prayer or whatnot even as a Latin Rite Catholic. Indeed, one might even propose that a greater comfort level with East-West exchange of traditions is itself an element of the Western tradition.

It is possible to have different methods of proof. Analytic geometry is essentially equivalent to real and complex algebraic geometry, but the the methods of proof are quite different.

I"ve been having a similar problem myself. I’m Eastern Orthodox and I’ve been having a problem with their structure. (Hierarchical structure). I looked into a Byzantine Catholic Church because I love the liturgy and eastern spirituality. But when you look at it deep enough, they still have to believe what Rome tells them too. I don’t believe in the Immaculate Conception because I don’t believe in original sin the same way RC do. If there were true “diversity” Rome wouldn’t force their doctrine down the throat of the East. I like the structure of the Roman Church , but I still can’t come to grips with some of their doctrine. I guess I’ll stay where I’m at. If you don’t have a problem with doctrine and just want the liturgical aspects of the Eastern Church, an Eastern Catholic Church would suit you well.:thumbsup:

Here is the prasing of the Immaculate Conception used in the Chaplet of Virtues of the Marians:

V. In Your Conception, O Virgin Mary, You were Immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father whose son, Jesus, you brought forth into the world.
Let us pray.
Father, you prepared the virgin Mary to be the worthy mother of your Son.** You let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death, and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.** Help us by her prayers to live in your presence without sin. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
R. Amen.
V. The Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception
R. Be our Health and our Protection.

Miter of Pope Pius IX depicting the Immaculate Conception

I don’t see a problem with the belief in the immaculate conception. My problem is making it dogma. I believe it was unnecessary. It seems to me that in the dogma of the IC she was not subject to the same conditions of humanity as the rest of us in which Christ became incarnate. I just don’t get it. What was she spared from? It wasn’t death. So what was it?:shrug:

I don’t see why one would HAVE to believe that in order to be a Catholic. Please correct me if I’m wrong on anything. I don’t want to offend anyone or misinterpret anything. :smiley:

Before Christ died, there was not salvation by baptism. “To those in the tomb he granted life.”

She was preserved from some of the consequences of the ancestral sin.

Infants are baptized, although sinless, for they are lacking something brought by death, true in Latin or Eastern Catholic or Orthodox theology; They need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as St. John Chrysostom explains, they receive:

“sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance”.

These are what we have lost through the effects of the ancestral sin, and are one dimension of death.

“You have seen how numerous are the gifts of baptism. Although many men think that the only gift it confers is the remission of sins, we have counted its honors to the number of ten. It is on this account that we baptize even infants, although they are sinless, that they may be given the further gifts of sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance, that they may be brothers and members of Christ, and become dwelling places of the Spirit.”

– John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instruction 3:6.

The bishops petitioned to have the dogma defined, and then the Pope requested their opinions.

From Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 1854)

Now inasmuch as whatever pertains to sacred worship is intimately connected with its object and cannot have either consistency or durability if this object is vague or uncertain, our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, therefore, while directing all their efforts toward an increase of the devotion to the conception, made it their aim not only to emphasize the object with the utmost zeal, but also to enunciate the exact doctrine.[6]

[6]. This has been the constant care of the Popes, as is shown by the condemnation of one of the propositions of Anthony de Rosmini-Serbati (cf. Denzinger, nn. 1891-1930). This is how the 34th proposition runs (Denzinger, n. 1924): “Ad praeservandam B. V. Mariam a labe originis, satis erat, ut incorruptum maneret minimum sesmen in homine, neglectum forte ab ipso demone, e quo incorrupto semine de generatione in generationem transfuso, suo tempore oriretur Virgo Maria.” Decree of the Holy Office, December 14, 1887 (AAS 20, 393). Denz. n. 1924.

Thanks for posting that. It gives me something else to think about…:confused:

I think it was so that the Son of God could be carried in the womb of an absolutely pure vessel. It wouldn’t be right for God made flesh to be born of a woman subject to any sort of stain. The countless prayers of the Eastern Churches seem to constantly imply this truth. For instance:

God took flesh of thy pure blood; wherefore, all generations do hymn thee, O Lady, and throngs of heavenly minds glorify thee, for through thee they have clearly seen Him Who ruleth all things endued with human nature.”

(From the Jordanville prayerbook - Order of Preparation for Holy Communion)

No other human being could ever be described as having “pure blood” except the “God-bearing” Theotokos.

I still don’t understand WHAT she was saved from? Was she saved from the ABILITY to sin?

If we are all born sinless but suffer the consequences of sin, what was she spared from? ::smiley:

We are considering the time before the redemption of Christ (when there was no baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was instituted by Christ), and from conception to the Annunciation at least, in this case, about age 14. Certainly one could potentially sin in that time frame. The Holy Spirit gives nurtures us with the strength to avoid sin.

The consequences of ancestral sin is death and all that brings. It can be seen as twofold because when we are baptised we receive a countermeasure for death: the Holy Spirit that strengthens us, and all the Saint John Chrysostom mentioned that sinless infants receive with baptism, yet there is another consequence of death which is the physical sufferings of life ending in physical death (and some of this comes from attachements). We will be saved from spiritual death however by the Holy Spirit that we choose to cooperate with.

I think it’s interesting that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was originally introduced into the Western Church from the Eastern, which had been celebrating it since the 5th century. In the 12th century it was the Latin Fathers who had their objections (I think St Bonaventure had a problem with it because of a confusion of ‘active conception’, i.e. conception through the conjugal act and ‘animation’ of the spirit by God).

I would argue that there is a dogma, i.e. the expression of a truth through a Latin theological model, in which it makes sense to say that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin, and a doctrine, i.e. the truth itself of Mary’s purity throughout her existence, which, regardless of your theological system, can be expressed in some appropriate way. The Catholic Church recognises that its words are not perfect or universal, belonging to a particular human language, but the eternal truths to which they refer are.

From having a “sin-nature”. We are born with it (notice how babies scream when you take something away from them, and how their first word is usually "mine!).

If Mary weren’t subject to the same conditions of humanity as everyone else, wouldn’t it make it impossible for Christ to become truly human? :smiley:

That’s kind of a cop out don’t you think? Why define it if you can’t explain it?:wink:

Only if you’re equating being “fully human” with being a “sinful human”.
Niether Christ, nor Our Lady ever sinned while on earth and yet both were fully human. :slight_smile:

But that assumes that we are sinful at the moment of birth. She had to have been subject to the same conditions as the rest of us right? Was she spared from the predisposition to sin? Is that the correct way to look at it?

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