Doctrinal Differences Between Romans & Melkites?


The issue of Eastern(Byzantine) Catholics in generally striving to become more and more “Orthodox” or to live more and more like “Orthodox in Communion with Rome” is, in large part, the fruit of the Second Vatican Council. At the Council Eastern Catholics were called to shed their Latinizations (both liturgically and the “Latinization of the mind”) and return to the ancient patrimony of the mother Churches. The only Latins who don’t think such a de-latinization is possible are the Latins who equate Catholicism with the particularly Roman expression of Catholicism. They forget that the Catholic Faith is much larger than the Roman tradition.

The time when people died rather than be considered Orthodox was a complex time that was largely the product of political pressures. The martyrs of that time deserve to be considered martyrs, but that doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their insistence on various latinizations (if they, in fact, did insist on any). Almost as heroic were the people who worked tirelessly to restore their Eastern traditions. Check out the life of Met. Andrew Sheptytsky - a man who is highly revered, especially among the Ukrainians.


In terms of Orthodox becoming “Catholic specifically to become more Orthodox,” I suggest checking out the Zoghby Initiative on how being in communion with Rome actually means being more Orthodox. It has nothing to do with shedding our liturgical, spiritual and theological traditions in favor of Latinization, rather it is seen as embracing the full tradition of unity with the See of Peter. Archbishop Zoghby had a wonderful insight that it is just as much a part of the Orthodox tradition to be in communion with the See of Rome, as it is for the Roman See to be in communion with the various Eastern Sees.


What about Pope Paul VI’s decree on the eastern churches, Orientalium Ecclesiarium? The documents states that eastern catholics have a duty to keep their liturgies and ecclesiastical traditions (i.e. theology, devotions). Remember, Catholic is not synonymous for roman catholic. There are 24 churches that make up the Catholic Church.



Zoghbys ideas were condemned because they placed communion before mutual faith.


His ideas were not condemned. His proposal for establishing dual communion for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church - so that the particular church sui iuris would be simultaneously in communion with Rome and the Antiochian Orthodox Church - is what was condemned… and even “condemned” is a bit too strong. The document simply rejects the proposal without commenting on the doctrinal orthodoxy of it.


I think many here are confusing criticism of Melkites confusing theology at times with traditions that are to be kept. Nobody disagrees with a truly authentic Byzantine expression of your faith however the issues comes when we disagree on matters of faith…

Where the Catholic Church officially recognizes 21 ecumenical councils and some Melkites say there are 7. Where we teach immaculate conception and some Melkites say it’s a latin teaching they aren’t bound to. As if truth is relative to tradition. That is the main criticism and what we mean when we say some Melkites are trying to be EO in faith while Catholic in identification.

Here is an example to make this clear:

The Council of Nicaea was composed mainly of eastern bishops and this is evidenced in the theological formulation of the most holy trinitarian dogma. It was formulated frankly in Greek theological terms.

The latins could not deny the council’s teaching on the basis that it was formulated in a manner foreign to our tradition so thus it was purely an eastern teaching.
Rather the latins accepted it as the sense/idea the Greek formula was trying to convey was true.

There is no such thing as a concept that is true cannot be formulated in your traditions theological language otherwise that only shows the deficiency of the theological language. I think we can all agree Greek theology is not deficient. Thus it is more of a stubbornness that prevents some Melkites from accepting dogmas like the filioque, immaculate conception, papal supremacy and infallibility etc


@ziapueblo @RyanBlack @Phillip_Rolfes @dochawk @poche

(I) On Prejudice Against Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics today have no concern for or interest in “latinizing” Eastern Catholics’ spiritual heritage (liturgy, theology, discipline and so forth). I have never heard a Roman Catholic express even the remote inkling of a desire to “latinize” the Byzantines. Whether Byzantine Catholics fervently obtain indulgences on behalf of the souls in purgatory, for example, does not matter to Roman Catholics by-and-large. In reality, those Roman Catholics aware of the Eastern Catholic Churches’ existence respect the spiritual heritage of those Eastern Catholic Churches. More importantly, the issue of “latinization” is altogether outside the scope of the question presented.

(II) On de Facto Communion Between the Sister Churches. What is of serious concern to Roman Catholics, however, is whether large numbers of the Catholic flock do not to adhere to dogmatic articles of faith. Because, as Catholics, Latins believe that "Faith is . . . a personal adherence of man to God . . . [and] free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed." CCC 150 (italics not supplied). And, “[b]y adhering to [the Deposit of Faith] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” CCC 84. And that, “[t]here is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas . . . if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.” CCC 89. In sum, it contravenes first principles of Catholic religion to deny essential articles of the Catholic faith. So then, certain concerns of Roman Catholics are valid and respectable.

(III) Question Presented. Therefore, the question raised here, very simply, is whether Melkites - who profess “communion with Rome” - bind themselves to certain essential articles of the Catholic faith. In particular, (A) whether Melkites and Roman Catholics are bound by religious submission of will and intellect to the same deposit of faith - say, for example, on belief in the Immaculate Conception, (B) whether Melkites are duty-bound to submit to the Roman Pontiff with the same religious obedience as Roman Catholics on pronouncements intended to universally bind the faithful in matters of faith and morals - say, for example, Humanae Vitae’s Magisterial prohibition on artificial contraception, and (C ) whether Melkites must adhere to the same ecumenical councils as Roman Catholics - say, for example, the dogmatic pronouncements of the First and Second Vatican Councils.

The more candid and particularized the answer, the more respectable the response. Of course, I trust in the profound elements of salvation found in both sister Churches.

Caritas in veritate.


All Catholics, Eastern and Western, are bound by the same dogmas of the Faith. The essence is there. How we express those dogmas is often very different, to the point (sometimes) of seeming contradictory. But we do all adhere to the same deposit of Faith.

As to which Councils are ecumenical and which aren’t, that is widely debated as there is no official list of ecumenical councils. Pope Paul VI himself referred to the 14 post-schism councils as “General Synods of the West.”

But again, to reiterate, we adhere to the same deposit of the Faith, we just oftentimes express that deposit differently. A good analogy that I’ve heard is like two people standing at two different points in a room and looking at the same prism. Each person will see different aspects of the same prism, and will talk about those aspects. Neither is wrong, they’re just looking at the one prism from different angles.


Thank you. 1. From what source does this quote originate? And, 2. is there a concrete example of dogmas expressed in seemingly contradictory ways that you’re aware of off-hand?


General council means ecumenical council. “General” meaning for everyone, not a specific region.

Again the Church has given an official number of councils as the second Vatican Council called itself the 21st ecumenical council.

Here is the opening address of Vatican II given by Pope St John XXIII:

“A positive proof of the Catholic Church’s vitality is furnished by every single council held in the long course of the centuries, by the twenty ecumenical councils as well as by the many thousands of memorable regional and provincial ones emblazoned on the scroll of history…

This twenty-first Ecumenical Council can draw upon the most effective and valued assistance of experts in every branch of sacred science, in the practical sphere of the apostolate, and in administration. Its intention is to give to the world the whole of that doctrine which, notwithstanding every difficulty and contradiction, has become the common heritage of mankind to transmit it in all its purity, undiluted, undistorted.“


Hi CorAdCor (I like your screen name, by the way)

  1. I don’t remember the quote off hand. It was one that Archbishop Zoghby quoted in many of his writings. When I was researching this more extensively I was able to locate the original quote buried in a series of books on the writings and talks of Pope Paul VI published by Pauline Books and Media. I no longer have access to those books. If memory serves me correctly, he used the phrase in a talk delivered in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras… but I could be wrong on that one.

  2. I don’t have a specific example, unfortunately. Met. Kallistos Ware once gave a wonderful presentation where he demonstrated that the only uniquely Roman doctrine that the Orthodox did not agree with was the role of the papacy, and even with that they (generally) agree that the Pope is “first among equals,” etc. But what they don’t agree on is how that plays out in the day-to-day life of the Church. In my own experience (which I would recommend taking with a grain of salt), and from many discussion I’ve had with scholars, priests, and laymen alike, the Catholic East tends to think of the Pope in a more “conciliar” way and as a last resort for appeals when disputes can’t be settled. The West, on the other hand, tends to think of the role of the papacy in a more monarchical way.

I hope that makes sense. It’s still somewhat early in the morning for me, and I’ve only just now finished my first cup of coffee.


Yes “general synod” would mean everyone, except that Pope Paul VI qualified “general synod” with “of the West.”

And Pope John XXIII isn’t giving an official proclamation there, but simply opening the Council. So we have two popes (seemingly) contradicting one another here…

I should clarify my own position, though. I’ve seen others on these forums who hold for more ecumenical councils than 7, but fewer than 21, and they make their case based off of the fact that certain of the councils dealt simply with disciplinary issues that were unique to the West - nothing doctrinal was dealt with. Although I believe in the 21 Councils, I lean more towards this “qualified” number of councils.

Ultimately I don’t believe it really matters as the Catholic East and the Catholic West both hold to the same deposit of Faith.


With all due respect I think you’re stretching it here. General synods of the West means the ecumenical councils of the west.

Secondly that was the opening address of the Second Vatican Council by Pope St John XXIII which is an official act of the council. Lastly even if they were contradicting each other the level of authority of the two statements is blatantly obvious. One is an off the cuff remark by Pope Paul VI and one is an official declaration by Pope St John.

The church recognizes 21. The previous 20 were all doctrinal in content. Only Vatican II was purely pastoral.
Either way yes we hold the same faith but we cannot play down the importance of recognizing the same councils.


Yes, @Phillip_Rolfes, thank you, this reply makes sense and corresponds to my inquiry. Indeed this is what I had suspected: that although the theological differences between Eastern and Western Catholics may be subtle, they’re material. They bear substantially on the day-to-day first principles (i.e., beliefs, thoughts, words, and deeds) of the Christian man.

Of course, both sister Churches are owed reverence, respect, and trust from the brothers and sisters of the other, as both possess profound elements of salvation. And it is good for mature Christians to breathe with both lungs.

But, in my opinion, given the discrepancies in adherence to dogma and the concrete day-to-day experience, the Catholic faithful should be wary of this false impression that Churches are identical, or that membership in either is a simple matter of aesthetic taste. Doctrinal ambiguity, confusion, and cafeteria-style disobedience (i.e, latitudinarianism) would very foreseeably result from this view.

How the Christian believes, thinks, speaks, and act in his day-to-day life does, in fact, matter. Obedience to one’s bishop and particular Church - both interior and exterior - does, in fact, matter. And so discrepancies in these first principles should not be ignored. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

Gratias, pax bonum.


You may be right that it was used prior bit he is also right on the use of “Roman Catholic”. I know Ignatious of Antioch spoke of it but I don’t remember if he exactly used the words “Roman Catholic”, I would have to go back and look.

However this link below, from Catholic Answers and what I’ve read at other respected Catholic Apologitics sites do state that “Roman Catholic” was a pejorative used against Catholics during the Reformation like in England. Also from another source, do not have the time to go and find it, I’ve read it was used in early American History against Catholics. However we tool the term and changed it on them. So I think you are both right :slight_smile:

Here is the link where I first read about the term “Roman Catholic”


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