Confusion about Catholic Church attitude towards Orthodox Church

I have been reading some different things about relations between the Catholic Church and the various Orthodox churches and the quest for reunion.

I understand that from a Catholic perspective, the orthodox have all valid sacraments. I understand the quest for reunion and all that, but several things raised questions that I was not able to answer.

Specifically reading about how the Catholic Church permits children of Catholic-Orthodox marriages to be raised Orthodox, and how the Catholic Church does not seek for people to join the Catholic Church, but to simply remain in the Orthodox Church.

That raised some questions I was not able to answer, especially considering the seriousness of Schism in the early fathers and all that. :shrug:

So my questions are,

1. Does the Catholic Church consider the Orthodox Church to be in a state of schism? Or does that no longer apply, given the lifting of excommunications? Are we now just separated, without the “Schism” aspect?..Because to be charged with Schism is very serious, it was for that reason that the doctrine of “No Salvation Outside of the Church” was meant.

2. Does the Catholic Church teach Orthodox have any obligation to become Catholic? If not, how does that work theologically?

and last 3. Are Catholics and Orthodox in two similarly related Church’s, or in one Church that has experienced a separation?

I think you’re absolutely right about the seriousness of it, but I would add that it cuts both ways: it’s a serious matter for either a Catholic to leave Catholicism for Orthodox or for an Orthodox to leave Orthodoxy for Catholicism.

I don’t mean to sound rude or anything, but if you don’t mind me asking, why do you say that?

Never heard of this. Could you provide a source? Possibly it is a decision of an individual priest rather than an official policy from the Holy See.

Yes, but the Church acknowledges that so many centuries removed from the initial separation, many people don’t know any better (no offense intended).

Yes. Vatican II teaches that “some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church … [but] it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation,’ that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.” (Unitatis Redintegratio 3)

Neither. There is the Church which Christ founded, and there are Christians separated from that Church. Nevertheless, because Orthodox have valid Apostolic Succession, a local diocese or patriarchate can legitimately be called a Particular Church, in nearly the same sense as a Catholic diocese or patriarchate may be so called.

I don’t really have an answer - only more questions.

Chief among them: what’s the Orthodox attitude regarding the Balamand Statement?

Here’s a quote - lifted from Peter J’s profile:

“Pastoral activity in the Catholic Church, Latin as well as Eastern, no longer aims at having the faithful of one Church pass over to the other”

  • the Balamand Statement

So, OK, the Catholic Church no longer tries to convince Orthodox folks to leave their EO Churches and become Catholics.

But did the EO Churches at Balamand make a similar pledge?

I was involved with ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) and later with the reunited ROCOR-Moscow Patriarchate and they were working full steam to convince Catholics to convert to the EOC. They definitely didn’t care about the Balamand Statement.

I don’t know about the Greek, Antiochian, OCA, etc. Is there anyone on the Orthodox side that takes the Balamand Statement seriously?

Or is the Balamand agreement a fully one-sided deal, where only the Catholic Church made this pledge, not reciprocated by a similar pledge from the Orthodox side?

The Balamand agreement is particular to the Melkite Catholics. It stated the Melkite position. There no Orthodox Churches there.

I think it depends on who gives the answers. There is it seems to me to be cultural as well as political differences between Catholic and Orthodox fractions and differences in how doctrines and dogma’s are understood between the two sides. I do think in a general way that there is a lot of confusion by Catholic’s about the Orthodox Churches and what it is they believe. Over the centuries there has been a growing distance between the two Catholic and Orthodox Churches that still needs to be addressed and that might take some doing to sort out all the differences that exist as well as that what is agreed on. When the two sides finely come to understand each other and those difference that seperates us with respect and dignity, union just might be possible after all and that only happens when there is mutual understanding.


We should not actively seek to go out and convert individual Orthodox members into the Catholic Communion. We should not persuade Orthodox members from leaving their parishes.

Now, if an Orthodox member approaches a Catholic parish on his own initiative, and seeks full communion, then that’s a different story. If he approaches us with complete freedom of conscience, and not because of any proselytization on our part, then we can receive him.

The Catholic Church does seek the full communion of all Apostolic Christians, but this is done corporately, by means of the initiatives of the Ecumenical dialogues, and no longer by any other means which may offend our separated brethren in these Churches.

Here is an example of an agreement that backs up what I’m saying:

Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and of the Pope of Alexandria Shenouda III:

“In the name of this charity, we reject all forms of proselytism, in the sense of acts by which persons seek to disturb each other’s communities by recruiting new members from each other through methods, or because of attitudes of mind, which are opposed to the exigencies of Christian love or to what should characterize the relationships between Churches. Let it cease, where it may exist.”

God bless,


There are still Catholics who believe that, but they don’t hold the kind of sway that they did before Vatican II.

Yes Sir, I just meant they seem to never be assumed to be that by those in dialogue with them, namely, the Holy Father and related Bishops and Cardinals.

Right. Whereas, before Vatican II, that idea – i.e. the idea that Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc. need to become Catholic (i.e. in communion with Rome) – was dominant.

I thank all of you that have replied, but my confusion has not abated. I am still confused in regards to schism and if that is even a valid term that could be used anymore.

My first and second question are still as puzzling to me as when I started the thread.


The vast majority of the current members of the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Churches of Oriental Orthodoxy, and of the Assyrian Church of the East, are not schismatic, meaning, they are not responsible before God for the sin of schism. This is because, through no fault of their own, they were born into these Churches. They were initiated into Christ as infants. They grew up in Christ, and are being nourished by His Body and Blood.

Now, a few members of these Churches are converts from the Catholic Church. These members may or may not be responsible before God for the sin of schism, depending on the formation of their conscience, and depending on how much they know about the necessity of the Catholic Church. In these cases, only God knows their hearts, and the real reasons of what they have done.

In general, when referring to the members of these Churches, I just refer to them as separated brethren, which is how Vatican II calls them.

God bless,


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