Protestant vs. Orthodox to Catholicism

First thread I’ve ever started, but one thing I keep wondering…

I read a lot of threads on here, talk a lot with Christians (spectrum of devout Catholics to lapsed to fiery non-denominational Evangelicals) anyway…

I notice a recurring trend among Catholics to “bring Protestants home to Rome.” etc… I even enjoyed reading Scott Hahn’s story. Not saying I disagree with efforts by Catholics to correct common misconceptions etc, but why the difference in approaches?

It’s like Catholics view the Orthodox as Christian equals, yet whenever possible action must be taken to enlighten our “separated brethren” Protestants. especially when a given topic is say the Papacy, something the Orthodox & Protestants can hold together vs. Catholicism.

Guessing the main reasons are: Since the Protestant Reformation was against the RCC & a function of living in the USA where it’s mostly Catholics & Protestants…


While a Catholic is probably going to be better than me at answering this, I remember Benedict XVI upset some Protestants when he first took the Papal Throne when he referred to Protestants as heretics. In the same document he referred to Orthodox as “deficient”.

I think that’s the difference. The Catholic Church holds we lack only a few little things, while Protestants are something quite different.
Whether or not this is correct, isn’t for me to say.

Thanks. Yikes. I cringe at that type of rhetoric. The Father sent his only son so that we may bash each other…

Actually, we view Protestants as Christians (Apart from JW and Mormons, I have to be honest about that). But the Protestants believe in the creed, fully- and are baptized in the Trinity- that makes them our fellow brothers, no questions. I don’t think there’s an effort “to bring them home”- Honestly, I think that Catholics are the worst evangelizers IMO. They tend not to try even with Muslims, unlike the Evangelicals and Orthodox. I really don’t know, but I think Catholics have a type of spiritual inferiority complex or if not, they have a hidden but innate belief that everyone is kind of OK where they are as long as they do their best. But there’s a lot of mythology and misconceptions about Catholicism, and many Protestants who uncover them want to tell everyone what they’ve found! Also, you’ll notice that even with Orthodox or non-Christians, not just Protestants, people who display misconceptions about Catholicism will attract Catholics trying to correct that. Protestants don’t have most of the sacraments and devotion to the Saints- That’s the main thing why people see them as “lacking” something. Catholics know that at a protestant church, they will not find Jesus in the flesh, forgiveness in confession and the devotion to our mother. That’s the difference you’re noticing.

There are indeed a few differences in dealing with Protestants vs dealing with Orthodox.

For the Orthodox, there are a handful of churches that each hold completely correct doctrine. They are “deficient” only in that they lack ecclesiastical communion with the Pope of Rome. When we deal with them, we deal with entire churches and they (up to hundreds of millions of believers) could be restored at the stroke of a pen. Even those individuals who dislike the Papacy would be restored. The restorative work is simple. The main obstacle is hurt and lack of charity.

For Protestants, their doctrine of personal interpretation has effectively created hundreds of millions of churches: each with a congregation of one. For each, the lack of catechism requires us to teach them the full faith before receiving them into full communion. The restorative work is much more complex.

First and foremost: division in the Body of Christ is lamentable in the truest sense of the term. Secondly, I think that the Pope is correct - but necessary proportion must be applied to his comments. The Orthodox trace directly to Christ, as does the Catholic. There have been arguments for over 1,000 years about the differences, which tend to obscure the vast majority of both beliefs and practices that are in complete harmony. Yet, talks continue, as they will until either re-unification, or the Parousia. “Deficiency” can mean that .0001% is missing.

As to this phenomenon known loosely as protestantism, there is complete disunity, severe doctrinal disagreement - heresy facilitated if not actually defined. Although, technically, today’s protestants may not be actual heretics, since they never were in full communion with the Catholic Church. I tend to view them as victims of prior heresy, but that’s just me. You and I both well know the absolutely profound relationship with Christ via the Sacraments, which are 100% as valid in the Orthodox Churches as they are in the Catholic.

Protestants, with the normal exception of Baptism and Matrimony, either do not possess valid Sacraments, or they deny them. Truly a sad development that separates them from God’s grace. There is only one in this world who desires that.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace - but (rather) a sword!” “Remember, if the world hates you, it hated Me first”

For the record, the pope was probably not trying to bash anyone - that’s not in character for him. Doubtless, we have to take care when using those types of words because they can be taken as bashing (and if we’re not careful they can actually lead us to bashing if we get in an argument over them), but when used to simply mean what they mean they aren’t so bad.

For instance, they answered your question: we disagree with the Orthodox on several things, but we tend to think that (many of the) protestants are much further from the truth. (For instance, Orthodox have valid sacraments, Protestants don’t.)

There’s more to it than that. RCs understand Orthodox churches to be “true particular churches.” They are in schism from Rome, but they have valid sacraments and true bishops. Thus, the focus is going to fall much more on working for reunion of whole Orthodox churches, led by their own valid bishops, with Rome.

Protestants, on the other hand, are from the official RC standpoint only “ecclesial communities,” not true churches. They don’t think we (I say “we” because they definitely include us Anglicans in this category) have valid apostolic succession or a valid Eucharist. They believe that we broke from historic Christianity in a fairly major way, which the Orthodox didn’t.

Granted, the official position of the Vatican focuses on communal reunion with Protestants as well as with Orthodox, and certainly there are Orthodox who convert as individuals and Catholics who try to get them to do so. All I’m saying is that there are good reasons for Catholics to have a very different attitude to Orthodox than to Protestants. And while I’m not sure about the whole “validity” business, I would agree that we Protestants–including Anglicans–have a much more conflicted and complicated relationship to historic, orthodox Christianity than either Catholics or Orthodox do.


Christ is talking about the world vs. those who name the name of Christ. Not Catholics and Calvinists, Lutherans, Baptists, etc.

Actually I don’t think he called Protestants heretics. I don’t remember it, and I followed his various statements at the time of his accession quite closely.

He got a lot of flak for saying that Protestant churches aren’t churches in the full, theological sense of the word, but I think that was silly. Protestant churches, except for Anglicans, don’t claim to have apostolic succession, which is what characterizes a particular church in Catholic theology. So most Protestants had no reason to be offended if they had just paid attention to what he meant (Pope Benedict, both before and after his accession, frequently didn’t take into account sufficiently the facts that most people don’t understand specialized Catholic vocabulary and that his words, coming from a public figure, were going to get widely reported and interpreted out of their proper theological context.)

But even in the case of us Anglicans, I think it’s foolish to take offense or call such statements “bashing.” We have to speak truthfully about the teachings of our respective faiths. Some truths are unpleasant. We shouldn’t take offense when members of another religion tell us something that we dislike, but that they sincerely believe to be true. Perhaps they are right, perhaps they are wrong, but either way “offense” is an inappropriate response unless the statement is made in a callous and uncharitable way. And it’s a very unhelpful response–it won’t convince the “offender” that he or she is wrong, and it makes it impossible for us to learn anything from the unpleasant claim.


Did He say that specifically, or are you interpreting? Seriously, He desired, above all else, that we be one as He and the Father are One. Correct?

Yes, He did say that specifically. If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. He makes it quite obvious that He’s speaking about the world in opposition to those who believe in Christ.

Yes, He desired we be one; I don’t see that as relevant to you comparing His statements about unbelieving humanity to differences between baptized Christians.

The original fallout between the Catholics and the Orthodox was more about powers of church leadership, not so much about Christology, the Real Presence, etc. Except for the older Protestant churches such as the Lutherans and the Anglicans, most Protestant denominations have developed greater differences with the Catholics than have the Orthodox. This would seem to be why the take on conversions is different.

It was long enough ago that I don’t remember exactly what I read. The article was in English, which is unlikely to be the language he used. All I know is that several Protestants I know took it as quite an insult (I’m not sure why they cared, they aren’t the type to care what the Pope says, but they did).

I do remember the word “deficient” specifically was applied to Orthodox.

From what I remember, he called Protestant churches ecclesial communities, as opposed to actual churches. If he had called them heretics, it would have contradicted the Catechism, which states that only the original reformers were heretical and not those born into Protestant traditions.

The Protestants who cared seemed to be from the mainline liberal bodies. Conservatives, for the most part, said “Surprise, the Pope is Catholic.”

Actually that was my own misuse of term. I meant to use the term heresy, not heretics. As you say, a heretic (in the Catholic understanding) would be one who left the faith to follow a heresy.

I think it was stronger than just saying ecclesiastical communities, but my memory has failed me before.

The beliefs of Catholics and Orthodox are pretty similar. They (the Orthodox) have the Eucharist. Protestants dont. That’s a huge difference right there. Today some protestants have certain beliefs which are much more 100 times more problematic than papacy (for me the main issue between Catholics and Orthodox). For example a friend of mine told me Methodists use crackers and grape juice for their “communion”. I dont expect Orthodox to do that.

Most protestants (if not all) hold to the bible alone. Orthodox have traditions.

Protestants dont have valid ordinations, Orthodox do. These things mentioned are big differences. I hold that the Catholic Church is the only true Church Christ founded and that therefore only we have the fullness of the faith. But Orthodox are close. Protestants are too far away. Many can disagree but I just see it that way.

So my opinion is that I think more energy should be put to try to convert a protestant than to convert an Orthodox. If an Orthodox brother mortally sins, he can go to confession. And God forgives him. But what does a protestant brother do if he mortally sins? They dont have confession (no valid priests). So therefore I consider them in more danger than the Orthodox. I dont mean to say that a protestant cant be forgiven by God, rather that the lack of the sacraments is very problematic. No valid ordinations, no Confession, no Eucharist.

Just my opinion.


Heretics are part of this world, aren’t they?

Yes. However, since your own church doesn’t lay the charge of being heretics against those who are not in communion with the Roman bishop, I don’t see how that’s relevant.

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