Do Eastern Catholics have a better sense of God's love and mercy than Western Catholics?

I’ve often felt during the last couple years (and not just based on this forum) that Western Catholics are obsessed with going/ not going to Hell and with having black letter rules to follow (or complaining because others aren’t following black letter rules), rather than focusing on building a healthy, functional relationship with a loving and merciful God.

Do Eastern Catholics have a better balance on this? Not trying to start an argument, just wondering.

I know the East in general is less preoccupied with black letter rules.

P.S. Just in case this needs to be said, I’m seeking views from Eastern CATHOLICS - not Eastern Orthodox or any other religion or from atheists, etc.

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I’m seriously starting to suspect they do. I’m planning to check out the Byzantine Catholic parish nearby.


If they do you can partially blame the Western Church for it.

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There’s definitely more emphasis on this in the East. The Church is viewed as a hospital for sinners; the bar is set high(fasting) and is seen as something to strive for not necessarily a sin if one doesn’t do the extreme; God as all merciful and all loving etc.

As someone who was raised Roman and who struggles with scupulosity/OCD it’s been very healthy for me. All my years as a Roman catholic I always felt like a bad person and that God didn’t love me; I wasn’t good enough etc. It was very damaging. Eastern theology is much more fluid and uses the canons of the church as medicine…what’s good for one may be too much for another.


Can I ask why you think this?

Look at the theology is the short answer.

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Yeah, I’ve been to some Eastern parishes, they’re very nice, but I am not going to be joining them any time soon other than as a visitor.

From a cultural and heritage standpoint I belong with the RCs and there are plenty of good RC saints on the love and mercy bandwagon…Therese, Faustina etc…who still did not lose sense of sin or minimize it. And some modern-day preachers too like Fr. Groeschel.

I just wonder about the general attitude with Eastern Catholics because I don’t get to talk to as many of them in real life.


Well, true if you mean that the West = scholasticism and the East = mysticism.


All my years as a Roman Catholic I felt like God did love me but that most of the other Roman Catholics on earth didn’t like me much and also didn’t have much of a clue. I hate to be so uncharitable towards my RC brethren but a lot of them drive me nuts. Sadly I think some of the reason why I used to sin big is that I didn’t want to be like them, although that’s not an excuse and I also had other self-interested reasons. These days I avoid sin but I still don’t want to be like most of the Church people I meet who are under about age 65; the elderly people who pray all the time are mostly okay except when they go down the Fr. Gruner Fatima rabbit hole or something like that.


Oh I feel the same way on occasion. People in general annoy me but I really can’t stand rad trad types and for me personally it’s a trigger since I struggle with scruples. I avoid most of them for that reason.


Im amazed. Outside the TLM I have never heard a sermon that even mentions sin, let alone hell.


There are also plenty of just generally boring types who never had an original thought because it might be a sin. Or the type who never thought about a relationship with God until they joined some group activity like an ACTS retreat or Women of Grace. I guess if it works for them, fine, but I run from such stuff.

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In my experience as a Roman-turned-Eastern - having traveled through the Byzantine tradition and now comfortably settled in the Maronite tradition - I feel I can confidently say that there certainly is somewhat more of an emphasis on God’s mercy in the East than there is in the West (at least in the pseudo-academic, neo-Thomistic West).That being said, among those of the “John Paul II Generation” in the West, there has been a growing emphasis on mercy, fueled in large part by JPII’s popularizing of the Divine Mercy message; and possibly also by the growing devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux and her “Little Way.”

That being said, there are also many in the East who have a more “fire and brimstone” approach to spirituality, as in the West. They prefer to talk of God’s judgment and think of salvation merely in terms of “avoiding hell” and “going to heaven.” There are those who emphasize the rules, and are quick to admonish others (either behind their backs or to their faces) when they step out of line.

Lest we think that this is a new development in the Church, the Book of Steps (which dates back to the 3rd Century) warns against a spiritual class of folks the author calls the “spiritual ill,” and whom he puts in a lower category than those who are completely ignorant of the Faith. These are people who, today, we’d likely define as having a “Pharisaical attitude” toward the Faith.


For me, it’s less about an inordinate fear of Hell (although I certainly know the type you’re referring to) and more with a frustration with the Latin impulse to frame everything in a neat logical proof or a clearly defined list. From what I understand, the East is just much more comfortable saying “we’re not exactly sure/we’re not going to try to define it in a way that you could put on an excel spreadsheet.”

Basically, as Angel Gabriel said, mysticism vs. scholasticism.


That has certainly NOT been my personal experience. I’ve been to plenty of N.O. Masses that talked of the dangers of sin and the reality of hell.

Same for me. :grin:

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I do too…I don’t like retreats and emotionally charged charismatic things.

This is a good point. We (Easterners) often eschew terminology (much to the chagrin of Westerns) like transubstantiation simply b/c it takes away the mystery of the, well… Mystery lol! I’d even add that saying how many times you did a sin would fit into this as well.


Well, I do use Excel sheets to track my earned indulgences/ souls prayed for/ saints added to my Holy Alliance etc, and I guess that’s pretty Western of me :smile:

But yeah, I’m not really into the neat logical proofs of God’s existence trip. I prefer the Western mystics. I never liked proofs of anything that wasn’t math, never wanted to take a philosophy course or any of that. Proofs are a tool, I don’t see them as having much value for faith stuff.

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One can find OF Masses with homilies about hell. Aside from the “traditional OF” type priests that we’re seeing a lot more of lately, the cultural background of the priest is a factor. Priests from Africa and Latin America have no qualms about discussing sin and hell from the pulpit.

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I was focusing more on Eastern Catholics here because it can be hard to have discussions with Eastern Orthodox as they seem to often come at it from a standpoint of wanting to criticize or make negative comments about the Catholic Church. It makes me reluctant to discuss with them. ECs on the other hand are our fellow Church members so I think they are both more tolerant of Church teaching and also they’re “all in the family”.

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