Why be Catholic and not Orthodox?


Why be Catholic and not Orthodox? I am trying to learn about the Papacy, but don’t know much. I have read about the scriptures and Peter and how the Apostles and Paul went to Peter a lot of times.

I know the Orthodox Church never had an ecumenical council with the Catholic church of Rome to use the same scriptures. I am still learning this and how there was never a universal canon of scripture in the early church.

Rome, Constantinople, Antioch (Syria), Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Where do the last four fit and why did Rome have the authority to be head of the Church? What are the main arguments from both the Orthodox and Catholic Church?

Thanks You and God Bless You!

Hard to say. Both churches have valid sacraments and apostolic secession.

JPII said we are “two lungs of the same body.”

I’ve thought about that myself.

A big question. Too big for one or a million threads on an internet message board. Others can give their reasoning.

I am trying to learn about the Papacy, but don’t know much. I have read about the scriptures and Peter and how the Apostles and Paul went to Peter a lot of times.


I know the Orthodox Church never had an ecumenical council with the Catholic church of Rome to use the same scriptures. I am still learning this and how there was never a universal canon of scripture in the early church.

The canons that were in use in early Christianity were adopted by consent of bishops in the churches concerned. This came up recently in another thread. History shows us that the first canon that was proposed for the NT was actually proposed by a heretic, Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament as incompatible with the New, and hence set about making a canon that would reflect his ideas. This was in the 140s or so. Our canon developed in response to these kinds of challenges, but wasn’t codified until sometime later (the exact date varies depending on which church looking at). Earlier canons came out of places like Alexandria and were adopted elsewhere, and still today there is no one unified canon found across all Christianity, as Protestant Bibles are missing certain books found in Catholic Bibles, which are in turn missing some material that is found in Orthodox Bibles. Even within an established communion, there may be differences, as in the Oriental communion that I belong to, where the “broad” Ethiopian canon includes many books unique to that church that are not found in the canons of the Copts, Armenians, or others. Given the history of the canonization of the Bible, this is really not a problem from our perspective, though other churches have other views that have led them to a more formalized understanding of the canon.

Rome, Constantinople, Antioch (Syria), Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Where do the last four fit and why did Rome have the authority to be head of the Church? What are the main arguments from both the Orthodox and Catholic Church?

What do you mean when you ask where they fit? The ancient Pentarchy outlined above refers to the traditional territories of the Sees concerned, such that when we talk about the Church (or when the early Church itself talked about the Church), it is specified as being at a specific place: “the Church of (or at) Rome”, “the Church of Antioch”, “the Church of Alexandria”, etc. These were not separate churches in the sense that most Western academics or Christians think of them today, but one imperial church governed by the heads of the five recognized ancient Sees, acting within their traditional boundaries (e.g., Alexandria over all of Egypt, and in connection to historic missions launched from there Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, etc). You can even see this thinking reflected in the now-abandoned title that was held by the Roman Bishop until recently, that of “Patriarch of the West” (Rome being the only unquestionably recognized Apostolic See of the West, and of course in deference to its place within the Empire and its long-held Orthodoxy it also garnered many other titles, in addition to those it would later apply to itself in its post-Orthodox period).

So, it follows that Rome fits in the West, Constantinople over relevant parts of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire), Antioch over other relevant parts of Byzantium, Jerusalem over Jerusalem and surrounding territory of the Holy Land, and Alexandria over Egypt and by extension greater Africa. This gets muddled when subsequent claims are made to worldwide governance of the entire church (which are not without precedence in Rome’s long history, as it always rightfully sensed that it was special, but there is also a lot to learned from responses to what I will politely term Roman overreaching as recorded in Orthodox histories), but that is at least the ideal, and we do still see it in practice in the non-Rome affiliated Apostolic churches of the East and the Orient (e.g., the recent unacceptable deposition of Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios in 2007 was not solved by appeal to HH Pope Shenouda III, though this would have made sense from a historical/geographical perspective; this is because each church is autocephalous in so far as its autonomy is recognized by the other churches of the communion, so there is no “universal bishop” for the Orthodox as there is for the Catholics).

Thanks You and God Bless You!

Best of luck, Brian. :slight_smile:

Jimmy Akin has an article you may be interested in reading:

Why I Am Not Eastern Orthodox


I will be following this thread very closely.

That article make the double mistake of being polemical and full of errors, and I think that may be one reason why so many people come into CAF threads misinformed.

Can you state the errors and why they are?

Now where have I seen this same thread recently :smiley:

                              Hesychios, I spoke to Father Loya yesterday at the Rally For Religious Freedom.

This one for example:

When I began looking at the issues separating Catholics and Orthodox, it turned out that a lot of them were more semantic than substantive. If I became Orthodox, I would have to accept more Catholic things than I at first thought: purgatory, for example. Orthodox don’t traditionally use the word purgatory for the purification that happens after death, but they acknowledge that such a purification happens. They pray for the souls of the departed, which makes sense only if those prayers can help the departed in some way.

Toll houses aren’t EO dogma and you are not obliged to hold to it.

The claim that the Creed was inviolable and can never validly be revised seemed implausible on its face. The Nicene Creed was created to fight heresies, and heretics didn’t stop inventing new ones after it was penned. Even if the Nicene Creed was sufficient to meet the theological challenges of its own day, changing circumstances might call for the creation of new creeds or even a revision of the Nicene Creed itself—for example, if heretics found an insidious way of misinterpreting some of its clauses.

Indeed, that’s how we got the Nicene Creed: It is a revision done in 381 by one ecumenical council (Constantinople I) of a previous creed written in 325 by another ecumenical council (Nicaea I). Heretics were misinterpreting the former creed’s clause concerning the Holy Spirit, so the fathers of Constantinople I revised it to prevent them from doing so.

Ecumenical creeds can only be changed by an Ecumenical council. This wasn’t done with the addition of the filioque but it was done with the 381 additions. He’s comparing apples with oranges.

The absence of a pope from Eastern Orthodoxy clearly had negative effects

But they DO have a pope. Pope Theodore II of Alexandria :stuck_out_tongue:

As you can see, this tract didn’t convince me.

Here’s Father Brian Harrison’s reasoning:


I was running up against the rather obvious fact that Orthodoxy is, well, not exactly catholic. It lacks the cultural universality and openness, the capacity to provide a true and welcoming home for all the world’s tribes and nations, that is in fact one of the four marks of the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Every word of the liturgies I attended in Sydney—including the Scripture readings and preaching—was in Greek, of which I understood absolutely nothing. The thesis that Eastern Orthodoxy is the true religion was turning out to bear the practical corollary that, to share fully and fruitfully in the life of the Body of Christ, one would almost have to become a Greek. (Well, O.K., maybe a Russian, a Serb, a Syrian—but in any case the ethnic options would be very limited.) And this sort of very burdensome de facto addition to the Gospel was plainly foreign to the New Testament. On the contrary, its message stresses that in Christ there is no longer Jew, Gentile, Greek.

There were/are of course no ethnic Polish/Hispanic Catholic parishes who speak little english in the US :o.

I am Catholic because I believe in the role of the Papacy as defined by the Catholic Church and supported by Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

Since what was once the “Eastern Christianity” forum was renamed “Eastern Catholicism” precisely to exclude these kinds of discussions, I suspect that the moderators will want us to move this to “non-Catholic religions.” But until they do. . . .

If I become one or the other–and deep down I’ve thought, at least two-thirds of the time for the past 15 years or so, that I ought to–I will probably become Catholic. This in spite of the fact that I think Orthodox theological and liturgical traditions are far purer and richer as developments of the original deposit of the faith, and in spite of the fact that I think the Filioque should not have been added to the Creed, and in spite of the fact that I find most of the things said by Mr. Akin and Fr. Harrison and others along the same lines to be unconvincing.

Why then? Here are my top three reasons, in order of increasing importance:

  1. Catholicism does, after all, include Eastern churches. Yes, I know everything the Orthodox say about the flawed ways in which these “uniate” churches came into existence, and about the way they have been often treated as “second-class citizens.” These are valid points. But this is a flawed, broken, sinful world. At least the Roman Communion is committed in principle to including Eastern as well as Western perspectives. It is quite possible to prefer Eastern theology and liturgy and be in communion with Rome (and not necessarily as a member of an Eastern Catholic church, either). Much of the “ressourcement” of the 20th century consisted of taking the Eastern Fathers more seriously. Vatican II and the Catechism draw on Eastern sources continuously. And so on.

  2. On a more theoretical level, the Catholic Church (particularly in Lumen Gentium) has a nuanced, persuasive account of how other churches are related to the Roman Communion. I find this account plausible–which doesn’t mean that I have no problems with it, just that it’s definitely a “live option.” The Orthodox don’t seem to have anything of the kind. On the one hand, you have the traditional, dogmatic, Cyprianic view that there are no grace-filled sacraments outside the Orthodox Church. On the other, you have the generous statements of folks like George Florovsky to the effect that “we know where the Church is–we don’t know where it isn’t.” Orthodoxy being the relatively chaotic affair that it is (something I do not, in contrast to the typical pro-RC polemicist, see as entirely a bad thing!), it really isn’t clear which of these perspectives speaks for the Orthodox Church as a whole ( in contrast to Catholicism, where Lumen Gentium is very clearly the official position). Given the immense respect that monks, especially of Mount Athos, have within Orthodoxy as the maintainers of the Tradition, it’s a bit rasher to enter Orthodoxy because you like Florovsky and Schmemann than it is to enter Catholicism because you like De Lubac and Congar (since De Lubac’s and Congar’s perspectives have been largely written into official Catholicism at Vatican II).

  3. The big consideration, though, is unity vs. purity. Is the Church first a communion of folks who hold to the same doctrine, or is it first a communion of folks united in fellowship with Jesus through union with other human beings (with all their human, sinful flaws). Orthodox and conservative Protestants believe the former. Catholics and liberal Protestants believe the latter. The difference is that the Orthodox have a sound basis for their claims to hold to the true doctrine, and Catholics (through their understanding of ecclesial authority and infallibility) have a way of highlighting unity that does not sideline doctrine as the liberal Protestant approach does. So if you think conservative Protestants (like J. Gresham Machen) are right in their basic approach but wrong in the specifics of their doctrine, you should become Orthodox. But if you agree with the Episcopal bishop of Washington (and, as far as I can see, the Church Fathers) that schism is worse than heresy, but disagree with him (and agree with the Church Fathers) that it is ever necessary to “choose heresy over schism,” then you should become Catholic.

Oh, and if you want a good Catholic statement of problems with Orthodoxy, I’d recommend this article by Fr. Aidan Nichols (most of it is actually highly complimentary to Orthodoxy–only at the end does he get to the critique). Even this is a bit questionable in places–he mentions the Serbian nationalistic philosophy that claims that Serbia is a uniquely Christian nation with a “suffering servant” role that somehow reflects that of Christ, but he doesn’t acknowledge that Polish Catholicism developed a very similar idea. But I think he’s right that there is something wrong with the way nationality and Orthodoxy often interact, and that this is key to the continuation of the schism, and his comments on this point much more nuanced and reasonable than those of most Catholics (not to mention the often absurd Orthodox polemic against Catholicism. . . . . )


Defined by the Church in the Second Millennium or in the First? I believe in the Papacy too, but I have to admit that there seems to be inconsistencies between the First and Second Millennium.

Are Catholics allowed to pick and choose?

Not really.

Traditionalists can, why can’t I. :wink:

I can’t think of any outright inconsistencies, but definitely differences. I think those differences are a product of our deeper understanding of the nature of the Papacy. For me a great first millenium document on the Papacy would be the Formula of Hormisdas.

A definition of the terms:

~primacy of honor
~chief among equals
~Petrine primacy of jurisdiction
~papal infallibility

from the Orthodox and Catholic point of view would be helpful.

Indeed. Posting this question here, and in vaguely framed manner IMHO, implies that the question is directed at Eastern Catholics. If not, the thread should be moved as to generate appropriate discussion.

The title strongly implies that ECs should simply become EO. The OP adds no further clarity.

Personally, I would not want to engage in a dialogue about why I continue to remain a faithful EC as opposed to becoming Orthodox. It serves no purpose other than to perpetuate further division.

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