Major theological differences between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches

I’ve been reading about the Eastern Orthodox Church and can find little difference in doctrine either than the teaching of the immaculate conception and the question of whether the Holy Spirit emanates from god the father or the son. There is also the question of papal infallibility. Is this it, or is there more I’ve missed?

In the ever growing destructive exchanges between extreme liberal and conservative Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox Church seems to be beckoning me as a sea of tranquility. Am I mistaken as seeing the Orthodox Church as basically united on doctrine?


I would recommend that you take the time to pray on this. Don’t let your head get spun up on doctrinal controversies. An internet forum can help you find some information, but there is a lot of back and forth which can cause an inquirer (of any faith) to be twisted in knots.

I would recommend that you attend a Divine Liturgy at your nearest Orthodox Church. Talk to a priest…but I would also say that you should talk to your own Latin Priest and really discern where it is you want to go. God be with you in your discernment.

Thank you, words of wisdom.

I would encourage you to stay in the Catholic Church.The Church has always suffered persecution, but has survived. Do not leave the Church because a few people do not accept the Church’s teachings. Talk to your pastor.

Satan is tempting you. Do not fall to his temptations. The Catholic Church is the One, True, Church.

First I would say go where God is leading you but don’t repent in leisure. One of my friends is Russian Orthodox, I find her first very anti catholic, until I told her I am not anti Orthodox so why was she anti Catholic, they seem to have a thing about the Catholic Church.

What you said on the differences are correct, but unfortunately they are a bit like the Protestants, there are different branches and not any two are connected to each other, for example, the Russian Orthodox, are not united with the Greek/Serbian or any other Orthodox nor they with the Russian Orthodox, they don’t have any clear up to date doctrine, for instance I asked my friend what is the stand from the Orthodox on abortion/contraception/going to Liturgy etc, there is none. There teachings have not kept up with modern times. One Orthodox might not recognize another Orthodox Church, they are divided among themselves. To me this is like all the different Protestant denominations, plus they don’t like one another. I am a Convert to the Catholic Church from the Jewish Religion, and I see the Orthodox like the Jewish Religion with Progressive/Orthdox/ultra Orthodox/Messiah Jews/ the list goes on a house divided. No thanks, not for me.

God leads everyone to the Catholic Church.

This is not accurate information. We are not like “the Protestants” (which in itself is a multi faceted thing), secondly we are quite united in Faith. At my Greek Orthodox Cathedral we had a Russian Orthodox Bishop con-celebrate Divine Liturgy. I could fly to Moscow, Serbia or Georgia tomorrow and present myself to the priest for confession…and take Holy Communion. We don’t like each other? That is news to me…I just had some delicious Liver pie that was made by the wife of the Ukrainian priest here the other day. I ask for his blessing just as surely as I ask for it from my own priest.

As for “up to date”…I am not sure what you mean. We have a stance on these issues, and you can find them on the official website of the Greek, Antiochian and Russian Church Abroad websites…the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) is also a good resource.

I post this not to attack you, as I believe this post was made in genuine ignorance and not out of malice.

To the OP: Please seek out the right information, and pray about it…don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself.


Which “Orthodox Church” are you going to join?

There are the separated bodies associated with Constantinople (Greek, Russian, etc), which recognize seven Councils; some in communion with Bartholomew I and some not. With respect, I do not think it is one Church, nor a sea of tranquility. True, they didn’t undergo the same upheaval we underwent in the late 20th century, and thus don’t have the same crisis; but they’ve had their own upheavals of a different nature. Caesaropapism is one of the issues involved, not to mention jurisdictional conflicts and disputes over what constitutes “Orthodoxy.”

Then there are the so-called Non-Chalcedonians (Coptics, Ethiopians, Armenians, etc) who recognize only three ecumenical Councils; and the separated Assyrians who recognize but two.

On what grounds will you decide which body or federation of bodies is the true Church? Because it brings relief to the crises in the Church you are in? – only to be replaced by other crises.

There is only one Orthodox Church, and it is rather unfair to bring up the Old Believers and Old Calendarist schisms when I could just as easily bring up the Old Catholics, SSPX, the Polish National Church, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, etc etc…) Does that mean that your Church has no unity? You would assert that this isn’t the case.

As for the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrians, why bring them up when the Latin Church is just as “implicated” in their separation as we are. I could hurl them at you as well and say “There you see? They aren’t united either.”

The Jurisdictional Conflicts you mention are an unfortunate result of the collapse of the Russian Empire. Multiple bishops in one area are not a uniquely Orthodox thing…I will point out the “Eastern Catholic” jurisdictions…How many Archbishops of Antioch does your communion have?

In a sense you’re right. The salient difference is our divinely instituted center of unity. Without that our situation would be no better than yours if not worse; actually it would be the same situation.

The Eucharist is the divinely instituted center of unity. No Patriarch or Bishop is superior to that.

Our Faith endures, Our Communion continues…as it always has.

Again, in a sense you’re right. But if having the Eucharist alone were sufficient to make one body, we would not be having this disagreement. Sigh, I do sincerely wish we were one.

Here are the biggest differences: [LIST]
*]The Orthodox deny papal infallibility and supremacy
*]They deny that the saints and angels see the Beatific Vision
*]They permit contraception
*]They permit divorce and remarriage (you can divorce twice before you have to stick with someone)
*]They deny the Immaculate Conception
*]They deny the Filioque
*]They deny the doctrine of original sin
*]They deny purgatory
[/LIST] The things on that list are very important and if you knowingly reject the Catholic teaching on those things you put yourself in a state of mortal sin. So don’t convert to Orthodoxy. But toward the bottom of that list you see things that are on the border between being “different doctrine” and “different emphasis.” For example, although the Orthodox say that they deny original sin, they do believe that human nature is weak in fighting temptation and is headed toward death, and that this is a result of Adam and Eve’s fall. To me, that’s all the doctrine of original sin says. (Look it up in the Catechism.) The Orthodox also deny purgatory, but they do believe that some of the dead are somehow waiting to get to heaven, and our prayers can help them in that in-between state. I wonder if that isn’t similar enough to our belief to qualify as being a purgatorial state. But classic Orthodox apologists deny that it is. On the other side of the “different emphasis” border there are these things: [list]
*]There is the essence/energies debate.
[/list] This one is difficult to get our heads around in modern times because it’s fallen out of discussion in Western circles. But God’s energies are the substance of His actions. Grace is a divine energy; it flows from God into His creatures. The Orthodox say that God’s energies are really distinct from God’s substance, but they are still uncreated and eternal. Classically, Catholic apologists have argued that this idea constitutes heresy because if you have any real thing that exists eternally alongside God, you have multiple eternal beings, which is polytheistic even if the things are impersonal beings like energies. So Catholics have historically said that God’s energies are just extensions of His own being. For example, when God pours grace into your heart, He pours Himself into your heart. So there’s a difference about whether God’s energies are extensions of His own essence or not. [list]
*]There is a difference about whether the Old Testament should be translated from the original Hebrew or the Greek Septuagint.
[/list] Catholics value going to the original languages in our Bible translations. The Orthodox love the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, which is fine, but they often seem to like it so much that they prefer the translation over the originals, similar to KJV-onlyism but more ancient. I have seen Orthodox prayer books that explicitly reject Old Testament translations from the Hebrew and claim that Orthodox should only use the Greek Septuagint (or a translation of that) for the Old Testament. I don’t think the Church would demand that they adopt the Hebrew Old Testament if the Orthodox wanted to come back into union with the Church; but it is a little weird.

There are a few other different points of emphasis like the Orthodox not liking Aristotelian philosophy and not accepting the idea that doctrine can develop over time a la Cardinal Newman’s theory of doctrinal development. But faithful Catholics can disagree about those things too, so I don’t think they make that big of a difference. The major ones I think I’ve mentioned by now.

No, not in a sense. They separated from you just as they separated from us. The Assyrians who you bring up don’t even call themselves Orthodox, so I’m not sure why you throw them at us - especially since the Catholic Church teaches that we all believe the exact same thing (and yet you still have schism between you).

No, if anything this makes your schism worse. You believe it is over nothing, we believe there are serious issues.

When talking about people being “anti” something, it is important you define what you mean. I’ve heard people on this forum call others anti-Catholic just for disagreeing with the Catholic Church (by that measure every non-Catholic is anti-Catholic, just as every non-Orthodox person is anti-Orthodox).

There is also the danger of seeing ignorance on the subject of the other church as being “anti”. Some of the posters in this thread are making statements that seem very anti-Orthodox, however I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it is just ignorance. I find Westerners have a very hard time understanding Eastern Christianity, often because they want to view it through the Latin framework (which doesn’t work), you can see that in some of the comments here as well.

Sorry, it is just a pet-peeve of mine.

I disagree with your anti-Orthodox views. If the poster genuinely believes the Holy Spirit is leading her to the Orthodox Church (which by the way also considers themselves the One, True, Church) then I would not discount that. And I certainly would not label this as the work of Satan. Please…

There is freedom to be found at the cross of Christ

But, ad orientem, which Catholic Church do I belong to? With the rage and vitriol being stirred by the quoting, or misquoting of Pope Francis I am starting to question if we any longer have “one faith”. And it’s not the disagreement which upsets me most, but the anger and bitterness thrust by each extreme to the other. None of this shows any Christian love. Each side is so focused on proving the other wrong that Jesus seems to be elbowed to the side lines.

I also don’t like how this thread is descending into an attack against misplaced book who was just trying to give me a compassionate answer to my question.

If we are the “one true church” how can the words of our “divinely inspired leader” produce such animosity? This is the first time in 60 years that I have questioned the church. I don’t believe the devil is tempting me away, if anything he’s dancing with glee at the controversy and anger being reignited. If anything the devil would tempt me to muck in and fight along with everyone else.

I’ve gone through a one year battle with cancer, which, praise be to God, I seem to have won. The Rosary, padre pio, pope John Paul II, and the writings of Pope Benedict helped me get through. But I’m now seeing both popes and the beliefs of padre pio being deprecated and maligned by the left and misrepresented by the right. I’m looking for a church which is united in what they profess. If you claim we are ,“the one true church”, prove it through it’s actions. We can no longer continue chanting that mantra while tearing each other apart. In love of Christian unity.

Great information :thumbsup:

I hear you. The polarization in the Church disturbs me too, and you’re right to call it, but at the same time, consider this. If hypocrisy could invalidate the Lord’s institutions, none would stand. We are sinners, all of us, and there are crises in every age. At one time many Eastern bishops were Arians; at another time it was not unheard of for Latin clergy to have concubines. I think you’re looking for a perfectly divinized Church on earth which doesn’t exist.

I agree with you that a perfect church does not exist, but I am troubled by the direction our church is taking right now. The one quote of the pope’s interview which deeply troubled me was “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not equivalent.” He then fails to explain what he means by this. If the church’s dogmatic teachings do not spring from and support her moral teachings why are they there? This is an accusation which the Eastern Orthodox Church has made against the Catholic Church, that her dogmas relate more to earthly concerns than to apostolic teaching. Is the pope in agreement with this? We don’t know because he fails to clarify his statement. This statement and the fact that his favourite writer is Dostoyevsky might lead one to believe that he is leaning towards the Orthodox Church.
Don’t jump all over me, I assume he’s not, but I would like someone to explain that statement.

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