coptic church

I was reading a Coptic forum talking about the differences between them and Catholicism. One post stood out which ill quote below. I just want to hear what tye differences are from catholic perspective and did we mistreat Coptic Christians in the past?

"I can understand your frustrations regarding the Catholic Church. What you have to understand is that as Coptic Christians we have also had to endure hardships at their hands. They treated us during the crusades as they treated your people, with utter contempt.

Also quite similarly to your situation, they have canonized the apparitions at Zeitoun as an official miracle and they also celebrate with us this great blessing that occurred.

However in light of the recent apologies of Pope John Paul and the efforts ecumenism efforts that have taken place, I would like to think that we can all put these sad matters behind us and start to witness orthodoxy to them so they might recognize their heterodox beliefs.

Anyway back to the original post.

There are a few differences between us and the Catholic Church, I’m going to list all the ones I can recall from my foggy and unreliable memory so this is list is by no means definitive.

  1. Purgatory

During the time of one of the Popes (Leo I believe), they were faced with the issue of what happens to people if they don’t repent from sins during their lifetime?

From this an idea was created that we went to place which was neither heaven nor hell but a place where you would suffer until you were purified of sin.

Our concerns with this are that it puts a finite value on sin, in that a certain degree of suffering can forgive a sin. This is quite contrary to St. Athanasius teaching on sin/propitiation.

Also this implies if you follow it that the devil suffer and then be allowed into heaven after his time is up.

  1. Indulgences

During the middle ages the church became quite corrupt and offered people the forgiveness of sins through payments towards the building of churches.

  1. Holiness credits?

I’m not exactly sure the name of this difference is correct and I believe it is in some way related to the indulgences but it is believed that some people like saints become so good in their life time that they have over attained their right to the forgivness of sins.

They are now free to distribute this as a gift to others…

  1. Salvation without Christ

The Catholic church now believes that you can be saved without Christ by a ‘secret’ participation of grace in the heart of an unbeliever. This is a modern teaching which has come as a result of the ecumenical movement.

  1. Quasi-Nestorian interpretations of the Tome of Leo

While our church does not formally accept or even like the way the tome of leo is worded, we have accepted that EO Churches have a orthodox understanding of the document. However many modern theologians in the Catholic Church tend to interpret it in a way that has a worrying Nestorian bias.

They also signed a Christological agreement with the Assyrian Church of the east which is the modern day equivalent of the Nestorian movement. This is in conflict with one they signed with us earlier agreeing to our Cyrillian theology.

  1. St. Paul’s Indulgence

This is rarely used but they believe through a misinterpretation of one of Paul’s discourses that it is okay for a Christian to marry a non-believer.

  1. The filoque

This is the most famous difference and caused the split between the Catholics and the EO. They altered the creed so that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son rather than just the Father. This is based on a misinterpretation of the Son’s ability to ‘send’ the Holy Spirit.

  1. Papal infallibility

The Catholics believe that when the Pope is sitting on the seat of St. Peter he is give the ability to never utter a wrong teaching.

  1. The supremacy of Rome

The Catholics believe that their Pope is the head of the Church on earth and has authority over all. This is a belief we can’t accept because Christ is the head of the Church.

  1. Penance

Catholics seem to have disturbing ways of performing acts of penance. An example is Lourdes where people travel long distances on their knees, having them all cut and bruised by the time they arrive at the site.

Umm, I’m starting to run out of obvious differences…

There are other lesser things like their belief in the Co-demprix which isn’t an official belief but some Catholics want to elevate Mary to the status of being a co-redeemer.

There are also some not “fully” orthodox ideas which they have adopted from St. Augustine like his suggestion that the Holy Spirit was the love relationship between the Father and the Son and also his views on the Original Sin from the City of God.

It is at this point that I would like to put a disclaimer on all that I have written. If I am mistaken about anything please respond to let me know."

Wow! It would be a lot easier if each question was on it’s own.

Incorrect: See
Purgatory is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

Incorrect: See
The word indulgence (from indulgeo, to be kind or tender) originally meant kindness or favor; in post-classic Latin it came to mean the remission of a tax or debt. In Roman law and in the Vulgate of the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1) it was used to express release from captivity or punishment. In the special sense in which it is here considered, an indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven.

I don’t know about that last paragraph, but this issue is also taken up in the article of indulgences

The Council of Trent describes the process of salvation. This teaching is hundreds of years old, See

Read the part on Individual Salvation. It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner’s heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God.

Can’t help here, not that familiar with Leo, Nestorianism, or the Assyrian Church of the east.

Can’t help here.

There is no agreement on this in the EO Church either. But my understanding is that the argument is more political than theological

Incorrect: See
The Roman Pontiff, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church — is, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature and not by reason of the Church’s consent"

You say a bit too much here, but you are close. The pope is the vicar of Christ, He is not Christ, but his vicar on earth. Christ is the head, the pope is the ‘prime minister’.

Definition: Vicar: a representative or deputy of a bishop (Merriam-Webster)

Ah yes, those crazy Catholics. There is no requirement for this, only a person’s humility before God. Can’t blame God’s Church for things God’s people do in recognition of their sinful nature.

Thank you even! I was getting worried no one would respond to this. Do you know if we did anything bad to Coptic and eastern orthodox people as the guy said? If so what were the circumstances and how do we address someone who brings this up to us?

I would suspect that they were treated badly by the Crusaders. There were uneducated people with a sword and an enemy. How could they tell Copts from Muslims? If they win, they get land, so they probably acted like heathens.

The Church did not condone this, but you can’t stop people from sinning.:shrug:

Hi Shaolen. I just found this thread. Honestly, I’m rather surprised it hasn’t received a lot of replies. (It could be because there’s quite a lot of different topics in here, but I can’t say for sure.)

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