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Ancient Faith/Roman Catholic differences

Ancient faith/ Orthodox churches and Roman Catholic Churches are generally in agreement on the following tenets of faith:

Both churches accept the decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church.

These are:

1. The First Council of Nicaea

2. The First Council of Constantinople

3. The First Council of Ephesus

4. The Council of Chalcedon

5. The Second Council of Constantinople

6. The Third Council of Constantinople and

7. The Second Council of Nicaea.

There is also doctrinal agreement on:

* The divine and human natures of Jesus

* Apostolic succession

* The threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons

* The broad structure of the visible church

*The sinless life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the honour due to her as Theotokos

* Invocation of the saints

* Acceptance of the seven sacraments

* Confession to a priest

* Use of icons in worship

* Solemn celebration of the Eucharist and affirmation of its sacrificial nature as identical with the sacrifice of Christ

* The Eucharistic bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Jesus Christ

* Both churches reject many novel Protestant doctrines, some important examples of which are the teachings of salvation through faith alone and sola scriptura.

Orthodox/ Roman Catholic differences:

The “immaculate conception” of Mary(IC)

The ICis a Roman Catholic dogma that says the Theotokos was conceived without the stain of original sin (per St. Augustine). This is what made it possible for her to assent to Christ’s Incarnation. While the Orthodox agree Mary’s womb was sanctified to prepare for the coming of the Lord, we believe this purification instead took place at the Annunciation.


Catholicism claims that the essence of God (who He is in Himself) is identical to the attributes of God (what can be said about Him). Absolute divine simplicity classifies God philosophically as a “substance,” and it insists that God’s oneness is an undifferentiated singularity, with no facets, aspects, or distinctions. This makes the Catholic version of God far less approachable or near to us, because He is only Himself. We cannot experience Him in any tangible, realistic way.

The Ancient Orthodox faith teaches that God is both unknowable essence and knowable energies, following the teachings of Gregory Palamas and the ancient Church Fathers (i.e. St. Basil the Great). While being both unknowable essence and knowable energies, God is still Himself, One God in Three Persons, undivided. Imagine the sun. The sun is unknowable in its essence (its primary substance), because any human being who attempts to get close enough would be destroyed. Yet as human beings, we can interact with the sun through its energies (the heat it radiates, the light it provides, and the energy it gives off to feed plants, which in turn provide oxygen for us to breathe). The same is true of God. We will never know Him in His essence, but we can know Him through His energies, most particularly Grace.

Papal Primacy and Papal infallibility.

We find that there is no ancient church evidence that supports these modern Roman innovations.

This dogma did not exist prior to the First Vatican Council (1870), which defines it as follows: “This see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples” (Pastor aeternus; emphasis added). It goes on to say that when the Roman pontiff speaks ex cathedra, “he possesses […] that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy.” This “divine promise” refers to Luke 22:32, in which Christ tells Simon Peter that his faith would not fail. In other words, the Holy Spirit protects the pope from teaching heresy. While Catholicism uses Luke 22:32 as justification for papal infallibility, the Orthodox (and the Church Fathers) do not.

Curiously enough, there is no single, agreed-upon list of infallible statements made by the pope, or a list of criteria for what constitutes a statement made ex cathedra. The most obvious concern here is this: what do you do if the pope is a heretic? Can he be deposed? If so, who has the authority to do that? The Orthodox hierarchy need not trouble itself with these sorts of questions, since Orthodox clergymen (including ecumenical patriarchs) can and have been deposed on a number of occasions, without presupposing the collapse of the entire Christian Church.


Priestly celibacy and married priests.

Since the very beginning of the Church age there has always been a married priesthood.

The filioque clause.

This topic revolves around the Niceness Creed, specifically the clause which describes the (Roman Catholic version)”I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.” The original version did include that phrase.


Rites/liturgical Order of service.

Each church has its own liturgical rite or order of service.


Created Grace

In Orthodox doctrine, divine grace is uncreated and therefore represents God Himself – His energies. The believer is sanctified through synergy with God and His energies. If the grace the believer experiences is simply an “effect,” then he remains separate from God. Naturally, true communion with God is impossible if we remain separate from Him.



The final difference between the Orthodox and Catholic churches we’ll discuss here is about what happens when we die. According to Catholicism, the “saved” go to purgatory when they depart this life. In the most basic terms, purgatory is a place of temporal punishment, which allows those who “die in God’s grace and friendship” to “achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC, 1030). In other words, even after you are saved and God has forgiven your sins, you must still make satisfaction for them after death.

The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory. While we agree with the idea that we experience a “waiting time” between now and the Final Judgment, we object to the Catholic satisfaction model, which states that God requires payment even after He forgives our sins. Within the Orthodox theological paradigm, there is either forgiveness or punishment, not both.

Some Church Fathers believed in purification after death. However, the character of this purification is never clarified, and it seems there is no true distinction between heaven, hell and “purgatory”. In other words, all souls partake in the same eternity, but experience it differently depending on their spiritual state: bliss for those who are in communion with Him; purification for those in the process of being deified; and remorse/agony for those who hated God during their earthly lives.


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