Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Orthodox And Catholics: Similarities And Differences

The differences between the Catholic and Orthodox churches are both doctrinal and non-doctrinal, the latter including traditions that, of themselves, constitute no barrier to unity. The fundamental doctrinal difference is that the Orthodox Church — which includes geographically distinct churches such as the Greek and the Russian — does not acknowledge the pope as the head of the church. While the Orthodox Church is hierarchical in nature, it has no one bishop with authority over the other bishops, as in the case of the pope.

The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople is regarded as first among equals. Nearly as significant is how the Orthodox and Catholic churches understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. While this difference may not strike us today as particularly important, historically it carries considerable weight. The Orthodox declare that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father, while Catholicism insists that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The only other Catholic doctrine that Eastern Orthodoxy does not accept is belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Catholics believe that Mary was full of grace, or without sin, from the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb, while the Orthodox believe that she became so only after she accepted God’s invitation to become the mother of his Son. Both churches believe in the real presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist.

While this may not be as rigidly interpreted as it once was, Catholicism tends to believe that the real presence occurs when the priest recites the prayer of consecration. The Orthodox, on the other hand, say that the eucharistic prayer in its entirety brings this about, and we can only be certain of the real presence when the people sing the “Great Amen.” Of the non-doctrinal differences between Catholics and Orthodox, the most evident one is that Orthodox priests are allowed to marry.

Catholic priests, with few exceptions — such as the ordination of a married former Protestant minister as a Catholic priest — must embrace the discipline of celibacy. This non-doctrinal tradition is accentuated by the fact that priests in Eastern Catholic churches, such as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which are in union with Rome, also may marry. Another non-doctrinal difference between the Orthodox and Catholicism is in the two churches’ approaches to liturgy.

Any Catholic who has ever attended an Orthodox liturgy knows how different the eucharistic liturgies are in the two churches, the Orthodox liturgy being far more elaborate. Some other non-doctrinal differences: — Orthodox churches are basically independent of one another by country, while Catholic unity transcends national boundaries. — The Orthodox allow laity more decisionmaking power when it comes to choosing pastors and bishops. — An Orthodox bishop leads a diocese in conjunction with a synod, which includes laity, while a Catholic bishop has a council of priests, which has an advisory role only.

Theologically, the Orthodox reject what Catholic theologians sometimes refer to as the development of doctrine. This means that for Catholicism, the church’s understanding of revealed truth can deepen, develop or “unfold” with history, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary being one example.

Orthodox theologians maintain that Catholicism has distorted the original Christian faith by adding to it. One of the most important similarities is that both churches have a valid claim on apostolic succession. Both churches have the same seven sacraments, although terminology may vary. — By Mitch Finley

Source: Herald Malaysia

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TDJ said...

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Kerath25 said...

It is a misnomer to say that priests are allowed to marry. Married men are allowed to become priests in the Catholic church, albeit only under special circumstances in the Latin rite. If I understand correctly, the same distinction exists in the Orthodox church.

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