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Difference Between Orthodox and Catholic

jesus_christOrthodox vs Catholic

The doctrines of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have been separated for over a thousand years. In an attempt to differentiate between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, many, especially from the Orthodoxy doctrine, have used the terms Pope, filloque or even Purgatory, to show the diversion between the two. However, there are many differences, and most are significant.

To explain the concept of Faith in Orthodoxy, science and philosophy are used. The Catholic Church puts a lot of value on human reason, as if to make it consistent with human reason and science. The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, does not seek to make human reason and faith reconcile, but will support the findings of science or philosophy if they shed light, or lend support, to Christ’s teachings.

Catholic doctrine believes in the theory of doctrinal development, where the belief is that Christ’s teachings changes with the times. The church believes that Christ only ‘planted’ an original seed of faith, that then grew and matured with the centuries. As the church encountered new situations, the Christian faith was made stronger by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, more needs were acquired. Although Orthodoxy acknowledges changes, it will not add or subtract from its Faith to accommodate ‘acquired needs’ that come with change.

With regards to proving the existence of God and His divine being, Orthodoxy teaches that God’s knowledge is planted in human nature, and that is how humans know that He exists. Human reason can never tell more than that, unless God speaks to the human. This hugely contrasts with the catholic teachings of God, which state that the eternal existence of the Almighty can be proved by human reason. Roman Catholics believe that God is the ‘most real being’, and that humans have a likeness to Him, except that we are imperfect.

Regarding mysteries, both doctrines recognize at least seven sacraments, including Chrismation, Penance, Ordination, Marriage, Baptism, the Eucharist and the Holy oil for healing. Although, in general, Orthodoxy teaches that the material becomes filled with grace by calling the Holy Spirit. For the Catholics, they believe that the efficacy of the sacraments lies with the priest, that acts ‘in the person of Christ’. In addition, the catholic’s interpretation of the sacraments is legal and philosophical.

Concerning marriage, Orthodoxy’s holy matrimony is not a binding contract like in Catholicism. The Orthodox take holy matrimony as some imitation of the bond between the church and Christ, witnessed by all ‘God’s people’ through the presbyter. Although divorce is not allowed, it is permissible in adulterous cases. The Catholics do not permit divorce under any circumstance, as the holy matrimonial contract ostensibly binds the man and woman to the church. Only if some canonical defect is found therein, may it be rendered null and void, as if it never happened.

Summary
1. Catholicism employs human reason in explaining the concept of faith, while Orthodoxy doesn’t reconcile human reason with faith.
2. The Catholic doctrine evolves with change in time, and needs to fit in with prevailing circumstances, while Orthodoxy does not change it’s doctrine to fit with situational needs.
3. In holy matrimony, for Catholics, divorce is not permitted under any circumstances, while for Orthodox, it may be permitted when adultery is committed.
4. Catholics believe that human reason can prove the existence of God, while the Orthodox believe that God’s knowledge is planted in human nature.


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22 Comments

  1. I am Catholic, and I respectfully must say that I have never heard the principle of Christ’s “teachings” changing over time. While it is true that the Church grew like a mustard seed into a great tree, the Roman Church, as far as I know, believes and teaches that the Apostolic Deposit is essentially unchanged and unchangeable. The popes and councils can not add or take away, but they can clarify. I don’t think even Cardinal Newman would disagree on that point. Sometimes I think that good folks actually believe that all doctrine emerged fully formed at Pentecost.
    The “efficacy” of the sacraments also does not depend on the priest alone; if this were so a bad priest might not be able to confect a valid mass. I admit that Aquinas and so forth taught much about reason being important in Catholic tradition, but this entry fails to recognize other streams of thinking. This entry sounds to me like it was written by an ex-Catholic or a convert to Orthodoxy, perhaps even a former evangelical Protestant, who has attempted to crystallize in his mind certain distinctions in order to reject Catholic jurisdictional claims, while attributing to Orthodoxy, on the one hand, the unchangeable truth that it does teach but also, on the other hand, an attitude, which, though I admit is more palatable to the mindset created by our culture, is not necessarily solely Orthodox.

    • The immaculate conception is a novel doctrine invented by Rome for its own reasons. The historical record is clear that the RC church changes, while Orthodoxy stays the same. Any outside observer can tell you that. If you prefer a church that changes things, be catholic.

  2. I definitely agree with you Peter, follow the Catholic Church, the ONLY True Church of God. Do not judge the faith that you know nothing about. Take the time, do some real research using Catholic resources, you will find that Catholic teachings does NOT contradict the bible in any way and is perfect in “every” way.

    With infallible scripture, there must be an infallible interpreter. That infallible interpreter is the Catholic Church through the power of the holy Spirit (The Spirit of Truth).

    • Umm… while it may be hard for some to accept… Nothing on this earth is perfect in every way. Only God knows what church, if one exists, is the True Church Of God. All Biblical teachings contradict the Bible, because the Bible contradicts the Bible. I’m a very religious person, and strong in my faith, but nothing that comes from human mind or tongue is perfect or infallible. Only God Himself is perfect. Only God infallible. Period. “Only a fool would claim to know any god’s will.” it’s a good quote to memorize, reminds us of our fallibility. Reminds us that no matter what our interpretation of a scripture may be, we have to understand that we may be wrong, and that all we can do is accept that, and hope He shows us what is right. And if still we don’t see it, then one day, when we meet Him, He will show us then. :)

      Great blog, not sure how accurate, I’ll have to do some other research on it, it did seem a bit biased towards Orthodoxy, but still a good article. :)

      • If i may correct you. Catholicism is the True Church of God. It is in the bible, when Jesus said to Peter “upon this rock i shall build my church… what ever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” Meaning that anything Peter and his successors* say and do becomes LAW not only here on earth but in Heaven. Through this ALL canonically elected** Popes are given “Papal Infallibility” by God, meaning that they are so full of the Holy Spirit that they will not make a mistake, and that we MUST follow them and the Church. Though i do agree with you that the rest of us are perfectly fallible and WILL make mistakes. Also your quote “Only a fool would claim to know any god’s will,” very nice.

        Foot notes:
        *the successors being the Popes.
        ** Canonically elected refers to Popes elected by the clergy, through history some monarchs took it unto themselves to bestow Papacy to unworthy people. Example: Pope Alexander XI, a member of the Borgia Family. However, Papal infallibility still stand and anything he and others enacted is official. This is also how we get Antipopes: Popes not considered real Popes because they were put into reign, by a monarch, at the same time of a Canonical Election.

        • Now since the Catholic church split itself from the original church (that is the Orthodox church as known today) it can only mean that the Catholic church cannot be the True Church and cannot claim to be the True Church.
          I am not a religious person but I believe that if there is a God there is not a single way or a religion or a church to glorify God. As the human have many races and faces (God himself has many faces – at least according to the Bible), there cannot be a single true religion and church.

          Such claims are anti-God.

          • The Orthodox church rejected the Catholic Church, especially as the Catholic Church was formally defining its stance on Papal authority, which had existed in tradition back through the entire history of the Church.

          • Regarding no “True Church”… Christian doctrine disagrees… “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life.” There are certainly right and wrong philosophies.

            Regarding orthodoxy and the original church….

            The Catholic Church did not split from the Orthodox Church. It was the other way around. The Orthodox Church rejected long established Papal authority in determining matters of faith, especially in supporting a 4 century old doctrine (documented at the Third Council of Toledo) regarding the Holy Spirit and Christ (filioque) that had also been espoused by Church Fathers centuries before (Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome).

          • Umm, actually it’s the other way around. Orthodox church was the one who separated from the original church, the Roman Catholic.

        • Orthodox is the true and closest religion to God. Even the word Orthodox = the right way.

      • I love your respond, so agree .

      • There IS a true church of God. The Roman Catholic church is the only church that can trace its history all the way back to Jesus Christ, when Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock, I shall build my church and not even death can destroy it.” Saint Peter was the first pope. And death in the verse actually talks about the sinful ways of some priests nowadays. It talks about spiritual death, not death literally. All the other Christian religions nowadays just sprang up way after Jesus Christ.

    • While you believe in the Catholic Cult, I have been robbed by catholics and lied to ,and they still owe me money. So its back to the same storey do not trust who preaches they are better at relgion . WE ARE ALL CHRISTIANS ?

    • Actually there are many ways the Catholic church contradicts the bible. For one the original and only way to make true communion is through the use of specially made holy bread called prosforo. It is flat out wrong to use a wafer for communion and in addition the catholics worry about hygeine when recieving holy communion. Are you kidding me? It is the body and blood of our lord and savior Jesus Christ! How can your “faultless” leader the pope accuse the body and blood of christ to have any contamination in it.
      Im not saying that i hate the catholic church, honestly any way to get people to believe in christ is beautiful, but by changing what was originally set up by the very same people who knew christ just because “gods bffl” said to makes many of the teachings of catholics invalid and just flat out wrong. And i hope that one day the churchs will merge and become one once again.

  3. You wrote, “Catholic doctrine believes in the theory of doctrinal development, where the belief is that Christ’s teachings changes with the times.” This statement is false. In the interest of truth I humbly request that you either provide proof of your assertion from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (or other source of similar authority) or that you remove this false statement.

    What the (Roman) Catholic Church does believe is that Christ’s teachings, though “once and for all,” need to be applied to an ever-changing and evolving world. This does not mean that Christ’s teachings change, but that it requires intelligence and reflection to adapt them to new situations that did not exist at the time of Christ and the apostles.

    Further, it includes the (correct) recognition that we come to understand things more deeply over time, both individually and collectively as the Body of Christ. In this way, the Church or individuals may have insights or see meaning in a teaching from Christ or the apostles that might not have been readily-evident at the time and in the context of its original presentation.

    However, these new applications and insights may never contradict the plain truth of the doctrine, itself.

    You wrote, “Roman Catholics believe that God is the ‘most real being’, and that humans have a likeness to Him, except that we are imperfect.” You seem to believe that this is a distinction from Orthodox belief. Catholics (and most Christians) believe that we are created “in the image of God,” as we are taught from the Scriptures, but that we also all have sinned and so “fall short of the glory of God.” If Orthodox Christians do not believe the same, then I don’t think that the error is on the Catholic side here.

    There is more, but it is probably best that I leave it at this. In any event, it is fine to point out differences, but better to do so in a way that does not misrepresent the other’s point of view.

    If you have further questions about what the Catholic Church actually teaches and why, please feel free to contact me.

    • You are correct. The Catholic Church has an old mantra which it has always used in defining its theology. “Truth cannot contradict truth.” While truth can develop in depth and expand in understanding, what was before an absolute truth, remains today and forever an absolute truth.

    • Actually the bit about Catholics believing that God is a “most real being” is misleading. Catholics believe that God is a pure and spiritual being (without any body) existing in three “persons” (Father, Son, Spirit), exists outside of time and space as we understand it but is in all places and times, and that it is the human soul which is made in his image. Christ, being the second person of the trinity was born to a human body that we might understand the nature of God more fully and show us the path and help us to return to our intended nature to the glory of God.

  4. Ok, wow. I’m just going to take these one at a time.
    1. Catholicism employs human reason in explaining the concept of faith, while Orthodoxy doesn’t reconcile human reason with faith.
    -This is like a half truth. We (Catholics) believe that faith and reason illuminate one another. They are like your left and right legs. Although you can hop around on just one if you like, utilizing both tends to work best. We hold that true faith and true reason do not need to be reconciled because they cannot contradict each other.

    2. The Catholic doctrine evolves with change in time, and needs to fit in with prevailing circumstances, while Orthodoxy does not change it’s doctrine to fit with situational needs.
    -This is just wrong, on both counts. Catholic doctrine grows with time as our understanding of Christ’s initial teachings improves. Examples of this can be seen as early as the First Council of Nicea (AD 325) when the term Homoousian was introduced to explain the relation of Christ to the father. Catholic doctrines may be further defined, but can never contradict that which came before. Since the Orthodox also accept the First Council of Nicea as authoritative, they are just as guilty of “changing” doctrine as we are.

    3. In holy matrimony, for Catholics, divorce is not permitted under any circumstances, while for Orthodox, it may be permitted when adultery is committed.
    -As far as i know this is true. But the explication given in the actual article is down right offensive. We refer to the sacrament of marriage as the ecclesial sacrament because we hold that it perfectly mirrors the union of Christ to His Church. In addition, a contract is what you have with a prostitute. What a married Catholic couple has is a covenant. A sacred, family bond. We don’t permit divorce because we do not have the authority to do so. The efficacy of the sacraments lies not with the priest, but rather in the Holy Spirit acting through the priest, thus only the Holy Spirit can dissolve the union which ensues.

    4. Catholics believe that human reason can prove the existence of God, while the Orthodox believe that God’s knowledge is planted in human nature.
    -Again, half truth. This is a both/and. We do believe that human reason can prove the existence of God, but we also believe a knowledge of God is planted in the human soul. These are not in contradiction.

    So, if i were to apply what i know about my own faith and accept what this article says on Orthodoxy, i would have to conclude the difference is this;
    Catholics uphold faith and reason as means to the truth.
    Orthodox uphold only faith and reject reason.

    As i know this is not the case, i would recommend the author of this piece learn about his own faith before he tries to critic mine!

  5. If you look at the history of Christianity, you will see that the Orthodox church is affiliated with the Middle East, and was the original church. The biblical text stating that Peter was the man that began the church does not expressly stipulate that he was catholic as a result. If you visit the area where Jesus lived and died, you will find out that the Orthodox church is the one that is in charge of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Israel, where Jesus was said to be buried. The schism between the two churches occurred as a result of disagreement on both sides, so it was a matter of who left who. For many years, the papacy has attempted to reconcile the schism and try to reunite the two factions. Of all the sects of Christianity that have sprung up, these two are the most conservative in their dogma and teachings, so even though they may diagree, they are the most similar. I grew up in a house where one parent was one and the other was the other. Isn’t it odd that Christians cannot even agree on what they believe so how can we expect other religions to tolerate each other? I once had a Protestant ask me if I was Catholic or Christian?! If we can set aside the attitudes such as this, we might be able to agree to believe based on faith and unity of theology rather than divisive details. In the end, “God” has no denomination, and what we think we know is NOTHING. We are as insects, tiny and ignorant, we cannot begin to know or comprehend what God is or isn’t based on our meager intelligence and creating versions of what we think we know is foolish. Can we just agree that we believe in God and choose whatever way we instinctively feel is the right way for each of us? Orthodox means the right teaching and catholic means universal, so maybe one day someone can reunite the two and we can have the Orthodox Catholic Church or the Catholic Orthodox Church, otherwise we still have a myriad of cafeteria Christian sects to choose from, e.g., Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalion, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical, Presbyterian, etc. We cannot even agree one which Christian we want to be! Isn’t it a pity?

    • 1. Orthodox Church’s is affiliated with the region doesn’t give its claims any more validity than another because the center of Church power shifted to Rome because that was where the center of corporal power was as well. Then the Orthodox Church broke off and occupied the area. Islam is also affiliated with that area, but you don’t mention their claims to validity at all. Geography means nothing after 2000 some years.

      2. Of course the Papacy has tried to reconcile the ‘schism.’ That is the calling of all people: to spread the Good News of Christ to those who do not know or believe in Christ. Of course the Holy Father wants to bring the lost sheep back into the fold…

      3. No it is not odd that imperfect humans have disagreements. Ignorance of the truth can lead to all sorts of problems because someone, somewhere didn’t know some basic religious principle and all their other resoning was based on that ignorance. The Protestant that asks if you’re Catholic or Christian doesn’t know that one incorporates the other.

      4. Why did Jesus Christ come to Earth then, if he didn’t come to teach us? Why did God send Him if we’re too stupid to understand? By saying that we are too stupid to understand what Jesus taught us, you are saying that Jesus’ three years on Earth were wasted on us because His teachings were beyond our comprehension. Jesus didn’t need to experience humanity because it was new to Him but we needed him to become human so that we could understand Him. He is all-knowing; He wouldn’t have wasted that time if there was absolutely no point. You’re insulting God’s eternal wisdom by saying that He wasted 33 years for us.

      5. Quite frankly, and I don’t mean to insult you, Milka, but your idea that we can all just live peacefully without religious conflict as long, as we worship in some way, sounds very Protestant to me. Many Protestants, especially Lutherans, are notorious for being difficult to convert because they believe that it doesn’t matter how we worship, as long as we believe, we are saved.

      6. A pity, it is, that we can’t remember what the True Faith is even with all that the Roman Catholic Church does to remind the world. Peter’s current successor, Pope Francis, is working hard to keep all his children following the path of Christ, but some people simply won’t listen. If people would only use the logical processes that God gave every human as He intended, perhaps there would only be one Church. The main difference between humans and animals is the soul, free will, and deep logical processes. God created animals with all they need to survive, but created us with all we needed to survive and worship Him. Obviously a combination of His gifts, logic and faith, is required to live for Him the way he wants us to.

  6. I’m a Catholic & I’m certain that both the Catholic & Orthodox
    are the One true church founded by Christ. They are both apostolic, one, holy and universal. Pope John Paul II has essentially said so and that their is NO theological impediments to reunification. The Filioque problem is due to translation of Greek vs Latin and both creeds are correct. Divorce, married clergy, faiths &
    reason, ecumenical councils, Bishop of Rome & Antioch being the greater of equals, The Assumption & Immaculate Conception are not beliefs that both don’t already have similar views on & are comparable with the Bible and dogma. I believe the schism between catholic and orthodox will end soon. JF

    • Wouldn’t that be great James? If these two Churches would finally settle their few differences and reunite, it would be the first step, a huge step, toward global reunification of the people to Christ. I pray that you are correct and that human stubbornness does not hinder such a union as it would save many souls in the future.

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