Questions about Orthodoxy

Our friend, who is Antiochian Orthodox, is pretty taken aback that our family is veering to the Catholic Church over Orthodoxy. He just left a book in my mailbox for us to read and as I was skimming through it, I have the following questions.

  1. The author says that Catholics and Orthodox have a different view of atonement. Are the differences substantial or just a different expression of the same belief?

  2. He also says that Orthodox do not believe in Purgatory but I had read somewhere that Orthodox believe in “toll houses”…please explain.

  3. I have also noticed (in our friend, especially) that there seems to be more of a tendency in Orthodoxy for them to be very “unfriendly” toward Catholics but I have NEVER seen or heard a Catholic speak so negatively of Orthodoxy :shrug: In some ways, our friend acts like we’d be better to stay Protestant than become Catholic. Is this a pervasive feeling among Orthodox or is this just our friend?

  4. For Catholics, do you think that Orthodox tend to over-emphasize the differences? For Orthodoxy, do you think Catholics tend to under-emphasize the differences?

Thanks!

Some of your points are generalisations to be fair. I found a Russian Orthodox church when I was thinking of converting, I found them to be friendly, mind you I wasn’t Catholic then. Everyone had Russian heritage, spoke the language and practiced cultural traditions. I felt a bit out of place but they were welcoming enough. The problem was I never understood a word of the Liturgy, it was in Russian. :smiley: :eek:

Point 1&2 I will leave to our Orthodox friends to answer.

Point 3 - Generally speaking, we should endeavour to be respectful to each other regardless of differences. I consider Orthodox believers to be our closest kin, closer than Protestants. There is really no need to emphasize differences at all with each other, the differences have been clear for centuries. The only time I will speak of differences is when others ask me or mistake Orthodoxy for Catholicism which happened the other day.

My best friend (Baptist) was talking to me about youtube videos of Our Lady’s frequent appearances in Egypt witnessed by thousands of people and in one case for over a year. She asked me about it, I had not heard of it, she was certain it was a Catholic Church that she appears over and moves around. I then had to explain that it was most likely Coptic Orthodox Church and the differences. This I don’t mind but I don’t get into differences with my Orthodox friends (mainly Greek). We know they exist, just like they know I’m black and I know they are descended from Greeks. :shrug:

I have not personal experience with this since there aren’t many Orthodox where I live. However, this is a common experience according to many posters in this forum.

  1. For Catholics, do you think that Orthodox tend to over-emphasize the differences? For Orthodoxy, do you think Catholics tend to under-emphasize the differences?

I call it the Little Brother Syndrome. Many Orthodox are VERY conscious of the size and prestige of the Catholic Church and this creates great resentment. Catholics, on the other hand, tend to think of the Orthodox as our little brothers to whom we pay little attention whatsoever. The Catechism gives the impression that our relationship with the EO is much more cordial than it really is.

Catholics think that the Orthodox are almost Catholic and look forward to what they see as inevitable re-unification under the Pope. Orthodox view Catholics as heretics whose very baptisms are invalid.

And btw, if you aren’t Russian or Greek, etc, you will ALWAYS be an outsider.

The love flows one way, I’m afraid.

I’ve known a number of Orthodox personally over the years. I was even Orthodox myself briefly.

I would agree that some Orthodox are afflicted with what you call “Little Brother Syndrome.” I also can assure you that there are plenty of Orthodox who couldn’t care less about the question of numbers.

I know for a fact that not all Orthodox consider Catholic baptisms to be invalid. When I was received into the Orthodox Church by chrismation (confirmation) my Protestant baptism was accepted as valid.

BTW, I am of WASP heritage and was NEVER treated as an outsider in the Orthodox parishes I attended. Furthermore, there are plenty of Catholic parishes that are terribly afflicted with attitudes of ethnocentrism, and some downright racist attitudes.

Oh my, this makes me terribly sad. According to my husband’s brother {who was the one who told the friend we’d been attending a Catholic Church}, the friend was outraged and boldly proclaimed, “What!?!?!? Orthodox is the ONE, TRUE CHURCH! I can’t believe they are going to the Catholic Church!” Apparently, he calmed down and got a little rational before calling my husband and wondering why we hadn’t followed through on Orthodoxy. Then, I found the book today :rolleyes:

The Catechism gives the impression that our relationship with the EO is much more cordial than it really is.

That’s what I was afraid of :frowning:

The love flows one way, I’m afraid.

This makes me incredibly sad. Not surprised, but sad.

1.) I wouldn’t necessarily say so. However, there seems to me at least that in Orthodoxy, penance is more or less done as a matter of a specific medicine for the soul of the individual. As a result, the priest tends to ask you a lot of questions about the circumstances you were in when you sinned, how often, etc. They then give you a personalized regimen for contrition, rather than the standard “say this many prayers, etc.” This is something I rarely encountered in Catholic confessions, and when I did, it was never near the same level of scrutiny. Orthodox confessions are much more like full conversations with your priest.

2.) The belief in toll houses is something I am not too familiar with. Apparently it isn’t universally believed in Orthodoxy, which is probably why I have not heard of it until now. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_toll_house

3.) I really don’t have an answer to this question. I’ve been Catholic, Protestant, and am currently Orthodox. For me, Catholicism and Protestantism both have their merits and their weaknesses. Whichever one is “better” is something I find difficult to gauge. If I had to point out any general tendency of either one it would be that I find serious Catholics too deferential to what their church institution says without giving it much of their own critical thought. Meanwhile, Protestants seem to me to be too gun-ho without any willingness to at least listen to past traditions and practices within Christianity.

4.) I do think Catholics tend to under-emphasize the differences actually. I’m not sure where to begin with the differences, but in general Orthodoxy tends to be much more live and let live imo. This shouldn’t be confused as moral ambiguity though, and Orthodoxy does very much focus on moral integrity too.

I wouldn’t call Orthodoxy’s attitude towards Catholicism as “Little Brother Syndrome.” The grievances go back a long time, as the communal memory of Orthodoxy is a very long one. Probably the biggest contention right now is Catholic missionary activity in predominantly Orthodox countries. I personally do not mind it, but others very much dislike it. They either perceive Western culture in any form as bad, or it seems reminiscent of the beginnings of subjugation, which Catholic rulers have done in the past. Being in “second place” in terms of world wide membership is something Orthodox care very little about. The Orthodox have a very poor impression from the Crusades.

And technically speaking, Orthodox and Catholics do view each other as heretics. We have different dogmatic beliefs. It’s just that we generally don’t call each other that out of respect.

Too late to add to my original post, but if I might ask, what book did your friend give to you?

I find this very interesting and intriguing.

2.) The belief in toll houses is something I am not too familiar with. Apparently it isn’t universally believed in Orthodoxy, which is probably why I have not heard of it until now. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_toll_house

Does Orthodoxy promote the concept of a “between state” or a “purification” upon death?

3.) I really don’t have an answer to this question. I’ve been Catholic, Protestant, and am currently Orthodox. For me, Catholicism and Protestantism both have their merits and their weaknesses. Whichever one is “better” is something I find difficult to gauge. If I had to point out any general tendency of either one it would be that I find serious Catholics too deferential to what their church institution says without giving it much of their own critical thought. Meanwhile, Protestants seem to me to be too gun-ho without any willingness to at least listen to past traditions and practices within Christianity.

So, in your opinion, though, does Orthodoxy hold both Catholicism and Protestantism to be equally heretical? I know that Catholics definitely hold a more higher view of Orthodoxy than of Protestantism but I didn’t know if the feeling was mutual.

As for Catholics being too deferential, what is the Orthodox stance on that? Are Orthodox free to disagree with the doctrine and dogma of Orthodoxy or do they have to agree to it all to convert?

Forgive my ignorance, here, but do the Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, etc., each have their own defined dogma and doctrine? Where do you go for disputes or clarification?

4.) I do think Catholics tend to under-emphasize the differences actually. I’m not sure where to begin with the differences, but in general Orthodoxy tends to be much more live and let live imo. This shouldn’t be confused as moral ambiguity though, and Orthodoxy does very much focus on moral integrity too.

So does Orthodoxy have a defined position on moral issues or is that relative to each person and their circumstance? For instance, where does one go to find its beliefs on things such as birth control, family planning, IVF, etc.? I ask with legitimate curiosity.

I wouldn’t call Orthodoxy’s attitude towards Catholicism as “Little Brother Syndrome.” The grievances go back a long time, as the communal memory of Orthodoxy is a very long one. Probably the biggest contention right now is Catholic missionary activity in predominantly Orthodox countries. I personally do not mind it, but others very much dislike it. They either perceive Western culture in any form as bad, or it seems reminiscent of the beginnings of subjugation, which Catholic rulers have done in the past. Being in “second place” in terms of world wide membership is something Orthodox care very little about. The Orthodox have a very poor impression from the Crusades.

I think Catholics have the same contention with Protestant missionaries in Catholic countries as well.

And technically speaking, Orthodox and Catholics do view each other as heretics. We have different dogmatic beliefs. It’s just that we generally don’t call each other that out of respect.

I’d like to research this more for a better understanding…thanks!!

As for the book, it is “Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells” by Matthew Gallatin.

Randy, as much as I share and respect your realist view of ecumenism, this goes way too far. Reference to ‘Little Brother Syndrome’ is exactly the kind of patronising attitude which parallels the anti-Latinism of some Orthodox apologists.

It’s also the case that while all Orthodox see Roman Catholics and Protestants alike as heterodox, only some would apply the term heretic, and only some who re-baptise Western converts. Again, ecumenical realism is all well and good, but we must be careful not to misrepresent our brothers in Christ.

As to your final statement, I know that it is quite simply untrue. I personally know English Orthodox (clergy and lay) who are happily members of very Greek and Russian parishes, and are no more Greek or Russian than you or I.

The love flows both ways, even when there are squabbles and substantial disagreements; here, at least, your siblings analogy is useful!

To add to that, there are plenty of “American” parishes in the USA.

Novo-

We’ve got some history together in a lot of threads over the years, and I appreciate your level-headed comments.

Maybe the posters who participate in this Catholic forum are not representative of the EO as a whole, but as we have seen in the past (and may again in this thread), the sample set of EO here at CAF has a LOT of issues with Catholicism: our baptisms are not full immersion, our creed is corrupted, Mary is not the Immaculate Conception, the pope has no universal jurisdiction, etc, etc. I do appreciate that you think they have a few of those things right. :wink:

As I have pointed out many times, if the Pope makes a statement, it’s flashed around the world in minutes with headlines on every major news outlet. Conversely, outside of a few countries and ethnic conclaves, most folks on the planet couldn’t name one Patriarch…much less two.

The Catholic Church is like the older brother who is the captain of the football team, gets the lead role in the senior class play and escorts the homecoming queen to the prom. That’s a long shadow, and the Orthodox live in it every day. And not just the Orthodox, but Protestants, too. Cardinal Newman reflected on this fact in these words:

And this one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.

“And Protestantism has ever felt it so. I do not mean that every writer on the Protestant side has felt it; for it was the fashion at first, at least as a rhetorical argument against Rome, to appeal to past ages, or to some of them; but Protestantism, as a whole, feels it, and has felt it. This is shown in the determination already referred to of dispensing with historical Christianity altogether, and of forming a Christianity from the Bible alone: men never would have put [history] aside, unless they had despaired of it … To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” (John Henry Newman, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Introduction, 4,5)

I think you could easily substitute “Orthodoxy” for “Protestantism” in that passage, and much of it would ring just as true - except for the “Bible Alone” part, of course.

Really? Stay on this board a while, or go read the comments on Catholic blogs when Orthodoxy is mentioned. (Actually, don’t do that.)

Obviously we’d rather see you be Orthodox than Catholic, but I personally would rather see you find some form of apostolic Christianity than none at all.

I do think Catholics tend to under-emphasize the differences. The general attitude is “just submit to the pope and you won’t have to change anything!” We believe there are real, important differences between us and the RCC in almost every area, and simply brushing them aside doesn’t help anyone.

Thanks for this :slight_smile: But, is that the pervasive feeling among Orthodoxy or are Protestants and Catholics equally heretical/heterodox in the eyes of Orthodoxy?

I do think Catholics tend to under-emphasize the differences. The general attitude is “just submit to the pope and you won’t have to change anything!” We believe there are real, important differences between us and the RCC in almost every area, and simply brushing them aside doesn’t help anyone.

Can you point me to a good resource that breaks down those differences between the two, preferably written in common language? From my limited reading on Orthodoxy, I hadn’t come across any that were substantial enough to make me question pursuing the Catholic faith. For me, authority and the Eucharist were the two biggest things that are drawing me to Catholicism. I know Orthodoxy has the Eucharist, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around the authoritative structure (or possibly, the lack of one)……can you explain that to me, please?

Thanks so much!

Perhaps by God’s grace, you have identified the crux of the matter. Here is one perspective of the matter of authority:

Peter – The Royal Steward

Here are two questions that need to be answered:

1. Is Jesus a king?
2. Did He re-establish the office of the Royal Steward?

You probably said “Yes” quickly to the first question, but you may have hesitated or even answered “No” to the second. Let’s take a look at what scripture and history tell us about the office of the Royal Steward.

In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward or prime minister) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

Isaiah 22:20-22
"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

In the passage above, God is speaking to Shebnah, an unfaithful steward serving King Hezekiah. God is telling Shebnah that he is about to be replaced by Eliakim, and this confirms the existence of the office, the key worn as a symbol of the office, and the continuation of the office in perpetuity – despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else. God Himself passes the key from one steward to the next.

In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

Luke 1:31–33
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

We also read the following:

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The passage quoted above from Matthew tells us that Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Peter died as a martyr as Jesus foretold, but the successors of Peter have taken his place in the perpetual office that Jesus established in His royal court.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus specifically referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter to the office of Royal Steward granting him the authority to speak universally in His name. To do so faithfully, Peter could not teach error. God’s protection of His own flock by preventing the formal teaching of error in His name is referred to as “infallibility”.

**Therefore, if Jesus, our eternal king, established Peter as His first Royal Steward in a perpetual office, then despite the existence of other, lesser stewards (who have their own legitimate areas of authority), don’t Peter’s successors, the Bishops of Rome, continue to serve in that office today? **

Theoretically, I suppose Catholicism gets more things right than Protestantism. In practice, we don’t spend much time comparing non-Orthodox church bodies against ourselves or each other :shrug:

I’ll have to find something, but in the meantime, I will say it depends on how you define authority. Orthodoxy definitely has bishops with real authority over their dioceses, and the bishops of a given area are organized into local synods or governing bodies for administrative reasons, but there’s no one man at the top of the pyramid with a divine mandate to control everything.

That is not our role though to play the Captain, perhaps we inherited it by default. It is also not the Orthodox role to play ‘little brother’. I don’t like courting the media they turn on the Church and christians in general like a pack of wolves when it suits them.

I know Patriarch Bartholemew 1 by sight and saw a couple of the others at the Papal inauguration of Pope Francis but not sure who was who. My Greek Orthodox friends are confident in their faith and don’t feel the need to compete with or attack Catholicism. Maybe you have come up against the passionate ones who are knowledgeable about the faith and history and intent on proving themselves but they don’t represent 500 million Orthodox. There are only a handful who seem to be on here regularly. Have you met any Orthodox people in person?

Maybe not in practice, but surely, there is some comparison :wink: Otherwise, what would be your “sales pitch” to draw in converts? There inevitably has to be a comparison.

How do you evangelize without comparisons?

I’ll have to find something, but in the meantime, I will say it depends on how you define authority. Orthodoxy definitely has bishops with real authority over their dioceses, and the bishops of a given area are organized into local synods or governing bodies for administrative reasons, but there’s no one man at the top of the pyramid with a divine mandate to control everything.

Thanks for explaining that. However, I wonder what happens if a bishop/synod in one geographic area differs in opinion from a bishop/synod in another geographic area :shrug: Does this happen and if so, how is that handled? Surely, there has to be some way to resolve theological differences or differences on moral practice.

Thank you Ryan for as ever refuting these kind of sweeping generalisations and this constant ‘bowing before bigger numbers’ that is bizarrely advanced again when the subject of Orthodoxy comes up on CAF.

I’m not Randy, but the one Orthodox I know in person is utterly shocked that we are veering toward the Catholic Church over Orthodoxy. Hence, the book in the mailbox in an effort to “inform” us more about Orthodoxy and how it is the correct church over the Catholic Church.

I guess, in my opinion, I was just shocked. I, for one, would encourage anyone to be Orthodox over Protestant so they at least have access to the sacraments, but it doesn’t appear that Orthodox necessarily have the same opinion :shrug:

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