The claims of my Greek Orthodox friend?

Greetings everybody!

I have a friend who is Greek Orthodox and he has made the claim that the Catholic Church has changed it’s doctrine throughout the centuries, especially at the second Vatican Council. I have defended the faith, but he makes the claim that the “traditional Catholicism” I support is just the remnant of Pre Vatican 2 Catholicism that was not even believed before the First Vatican council!

I’m confused. He also made the claim that we as Roman Catholics believe in many Frankish innovations such as the immaculate heart of Mary, Latin being the Holy Language of the Church, and even stated that I do not belong to the early Church since the Sacred Heart and stations of the cross and many other traditional devotions cannot be found in the early church. Regardless the quotes I give him from the Early Church fathers, he says us “Latins” and even the Saints he accepts such as Ambrose had the faith wrong in the West.

I even gave reference to the Patriarch of the East, Michael Celuarius, denied the Pope and many other teachings, but he says it is Roman Catholic propaganda. He even states that we are not the true Church due to liberalism found in some “novus ordo” parishes, which keeps him from converting and made him come to the conclusion that Eastern Orthodoxy is the true ancient faith.

How do I respond to this? :S

Pax,
Christian

While I trust that another Catholic will answer more completely, a few things jump out at me, even as a non-RC (I leave the other stuff alone, since it’s not my place to defend things I don’t believe in like the Sacred Heart, et al).

Latin being the Holy Language of the Church

I suppose you could argue over whether or not it (or any other language) is ‘holy’ and what that means, but either way it is certainly not some kind of post-Great Schism invention that the West uses Latin in its liturgy. If memory serves, Latin was first introduced into Roman liturgical services at the time of Pope Victor I (d. 199), and although it took a few centuries for it to become normative throughout the Western empire, it certainly was so for centuries before Rome and Constantinople parted ways.

even the Saints he accepts such as Ambrose had the faith wrong in the West.

This is likewise very silly. St. Ambrose is venerated in both your communion and his (and mine, for that matter), and while that does not necessarily mean that he was free of error, it is ludicrous to suggest that he had the wrong faith by virtue of his being western. Forgive me, but it seems that you friend is looking so hard for heresies to condemn the West over, he’s finding them where they don’t exist.

How do I respond to this? :S

Patiently and with love, as in all things. :slight_smile: You might not change his mind, but maybe you will plant a seed that at least helps change his attitude.

then ask him why all the different orthodox churches are not in communion with each other over some doctrinal difference?

also, explain what doctrinal dvelopment is. of course, we don’t expect everything to be fully blown and understood in the early church. it took a while to work out something basic like thr trinity for example.

and the traditions he mentioned are just that, traditions. they are not dogma or doctrine. it’s not necessarily bad if it’s not 2000 years old. and i highly doubt that the mass was as organized as today in the first few centuries because they were sitll working it out and hiding from their persecutors. as long as the essentials are there and the eucharist…

The examples of changes that you mention in this thread are additional devotions, not changed doctrines. I hope your friend isn’t saying that we can’t introduce new pictures and devotional practices – heck, new icons have emerged all the time in Church history whenever a new saint was made. He seems to be saying that the Sacred Heart image is “bad” because it wasn’t used by the earliest Christians, but does he apply that standard to icons of Eastern saints like Saints Cyril and Methodius who only died in the ninth century? Their icons couldn’t have been honored in the fourth century any more than the image of the Sacred Heart was, because neither picture existed yet; but they are both part of our tradition because honoring the Saints and honoring the humanity of Christ do go back to the beginning.

Since I’m on the topic, some of the examples he cites are not really new. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an example of being devoted to His Sacred Humanity, which goes way back – the Council of Ephesus defined the dogma of the Hypostatic Union by which Christ’s humanity, including His heart, was united to His divine person and can be honored with the adoration of latria. If early Christians honored His humanity, and they did, then they honored His heart, because that is part of His humanity.

I have defended the faith, but he makes the claim that the “traditional Catholicism” I support is just the remnant of Pre Vatican 2 Catholicism that was not even believed before the First Vatican council!

He needs to provide examples of things that are believed now that weren’t believed before the first Vatican Council. Right now all we have is his say-so. Where’s the proof?

In reality all of our doctrines can be found in the early Fathers of both east and west – let him cite an example of a teaching introduced by the Vatican Councils and I’ll show you where the Church Fathers taught it.

I’m confused. He also made the claim that we as Roman Catholics believe in many Frankish innovations such as the immaculate heart of Mary, Latin being the Holy Language of the Church, and even stated that I do not belong to the early Church since the Sacred Heart and stations of the cross and many other traditional devotions cannot be found in the early church.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus go back to the Bible.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary: Luke 2:16-19, Luke 2:35 in some translations, and Luke 2:51.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus: Matthew 11:29, Psalms 69:20, Psalms 22:14, Psalms 16:9, Psalms 40:7-8

You can find plenty of Church Fathers who meditated on those passages as an early form of devotion to the hearts of Mary and Jesus.

The use of the Latin language was part of the Eastern empire too, at least in the time of Emperor Justinian the Great who released the Justinian Codes in Latin. The New Testament mentions three languages in Luke 23:38 and John 19:20 – Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were the earliest languages in which the name of Jesus and His title “King of the Jews” were first announced to the nations. I think it is fitting that one of these languages would be used by the Jews and the other two by the two lungs of the Church.

Regarding the Stations of the Cross, early commentaries on the Passion narrative focused on individual elements of His passion in the same way the Stations do, and there are early churches from the 400s that were constructed together with each one being devoted to a different station. From this evidence we can know that the devotion to the individual stations does indeed go back to the early Church, but again, this is a devotion and it wouldn’t matter if it was introduced later – the early Church certainly honored Jesus’ Passion, and the Stations are just one way of doing that.

Regardless the quotes I give him from the Early Church fathers, he says us “Latins” and even the Saints he accepts such as Ambrose had the faith wrong in the West.

Lol, Ambrose was so Eastern it’s not even funny. Not only did he study his theology in the writings of the Greek fathers, but he corresponded with St. Basil of Caesarea and helped introduce St. Athanasius’ form of Eastern monasticism to the West. Besides, if the western Church was preaching a different gospel at this time, why didn’t the eastern Church speak up and say so? Isn’t the defense of the faith against heresy one of the duties of bishops? Their silence about any heresies of the West confirms the West’s orthodoxy and the unity of their common faith. There is nothing you can find in a Western doctor like Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome or Hilary that you can’t find in an Eastern doctor like Basil, Gregory, Athanasius or Chrysostom. These men not only knew about each other, but many of them corresponded with one another and cited each others’ testimony in controversies.

I even gave reference to the Patriarch of the East, Michael Celuarius, denied the Pope and many other teachings, but he says it is Roman Catholic propaganda.

It’s propaganda now that the East rejects the papacy? I think I must be missing something. If he thinks the East accepts the papacy, why are you even arguing?

He even states that we are not the true Church due to liberalism found in some “novus ordo” parishes, which keeps him from converting and made him come to the conclusion that Eastern Orthodoxy is the true ancient faith.

I suppose he thinks liberalism has never affected the Eastern churches too, huh? How about the early innovative movements of Monophysitism, Nestorianism, and Arianism? Not only were these ideas found in some Eastern churches, they were made Eastern dogma in various sees like Constantinople and Alexandria. Only the See of Rome has never held a heretic. Both our churches have had heretics in the local parishes, but only ours has never changed our dogmas.

Such as?

The Coptic Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches are excommunicated from one another over the doctrinal issue of how Christ’s human and divine natures are related to one another.

Why take the bait, friend? :confused:

This argument doesn’t work to disprove the unity of faith among the Eastern Orthodox or the Oriental Orthodox, since they are two entirely different communions of churches that both happen to claim the name Orthodox.

I agree. But I think there may be a deeper point behind that. The current unity between Orthodox Churches doesn’t have authority to back it up but only majority. If any current Orthodox Church came into mutual excommunication with the others, you could simply say that they are now two mutually separate churches too. If they all broke up into equal parts, though, it would be hard to say who broke away from the “true church” because the whole Orthodox majority would be dissolved. Therefore majority can only go so far – and the orthodox faith has not always been the majority, such as when Arians had more sees than Nicene Christians. True unity of faith therefore seems to require a head who can decide disputes and invalidate excommunications. Only the Catholic Church has that.

**EDIT :: This argument is very poorly worked out and I’m very tired. This Catholic Answers article: catholic.com/magazine/articles/why-i-didn%E2%80%99t-convert-to-eastern-orthodoxy explains what I’m trying to say much better.

Yes the Church has changed some of its rituals but not the bible. We cannot re-write the bible. and we have included some doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception as we get “older and wiser”.

The early Church prayed in houses and hilltops. They did not have church buildings as we have them. So we have changed it for the better. We refined the mass and the doctrine of the Trinity. We officially put together the New Testament in 397.

So yes, the Church has been developing over years.

I’m aware of this (very unfortunate) split. But Angell implied that the divisions are certainly more numerous than the one you mention here.

I can’t allow misleading statements to go unchallenged.

(One reason that I should most probably never join a Muslim forum–I’d go nuttier than baclava.)

Copts receive Holy Communion in Eastern Orthodox churches. At least in places that have E. Orthodox churches and no Coptic churches.

That’s a bit strange, considering they excommunicated each other.

Right but from what I understand Orthodox who have no parishes around them in an emergency can also receive at a Roman Catholic parish. So?

It is a matter of pastoral arrangements. Before we got a Coptic priest to serve in the city where I now live, local Coptic Orthodox people received in the already established Greek Orthodox church, with the blessing of the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox bishops. It’s not meant to be permanent situation, nor a sign of complete doctrinal unity such as we would need to have in order to have restored communion, but it does happen sometimes. Now that the situation no longer requires it, we each go to our own churches (Greeks with Greeks, Copts with Copts) but remain very cordial with one another. This is as it should be. We likewise have good relations with local Catholics, some of whom used to attend our liturgy but of course were never communed (and never asked to be, as they knew better).

I don’t really understand this “they excommunicated each other” idea, though. At the time of Chalcedon and its aftermath, there was no separate “Eastern Orthodox” church as opposed to “Roman Catholic”, as we all understand those terms today. That wouldn’t come about for another 600 years or so. So I don’t think it’s fair to put the Eastern Orthodox on the defensive for something your forefathers likewise did and agreed with. It’s only been very recently that anyone in either of your communions would’ve thought this was anything other than the right, God-ordained state of affairs anyway, and there are plenty in both who still do. So be it I say, but I also don’t try to use this state of affairs as a cudgel against others, as there’s little to be gained by exploring it in the context of showing some alleged fault in a different, completely self-sustaining communion. :shrug:

No more strange than the Catholic Church permitting them to receive, since the CC was involved in these mutual excommunications.

Just ask him, if it is possible he could be wrong about his claims?

pray that the holy spirit will open his heart.

I must admit, you are the first Catholic I have ever heard to declare that the Church of the Council of Chalcedon is the Eastern Orthodox Church and not the Catholic Church. It is not uncommon for Catholics to claim the Eastern Orthodox Church was formed as a result of the 11th Century schism.

I commend you for your historical accuracy :thumbsup:

Thank you for the historical compliment. I would note that all I said was the two communions are excommunicated from each other. I didn’t mention Chalcedon or who existed when. In reality, I think all three of the following statements are correct:

The Eastern Orthodox Churches were in communion with the Catholic Church at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches didn’t exist yet when the Council of Chalcedon happened.
The Churches that became the Eastern Orthodox Churches were Catholic Churches when the Council of Chalcedon happened.

To say the Eastern Orthodox Churches existed but were Catholic, or didn’t exist yet because the schism hadn’t happened yet, seems to me to be a difference only of words.

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