Question from an Orthodox Reader: Why Am I Catholic?

Question from an Orthodox Reader: Why Am I Catholic? November 25, 2014

He writes:

Hi Mark –

I’ve read your blog (+ articles) for many years now, and actually sent you a donation a few years back … I’ve especially appreciated what you’ve written on creation/evolution, as this has cleared up some misunderstandings for me.


One query; I’m an Orthodox Christian, to which I converted from a vague college student-ish paganism (back in 2004); my love of philosophy/theology then led me to recently finish my Ph.D in philosophy at the Catholic University of America.  The historical arguments of the Orthodox Church seemed much stronger to me (and still do, for the most part, though I’m working through a lot of the literature on Orthodox/Catholic relations and debates, particularly the material that came out after Ut Unum Sint); for example, it seems beyond debate to me that the Catholic Church changed the Nicene Creed (filioque), that the understanding of the papacy in Vatican I goes against (at least in some of the rhetorical language used) the traditional understanding of the papal office, etc etc.

Given that you’re a very smart guy and a very good writer, and also had a conversion experience (to Catholicism), I was wondering if you had any insights on why you chose Catholicism over Orthodoxy?  Or was Orthodoxy not a living option (or familiar option) at the time of your conversion?

Hmmm… Deep waters.  And ones I’m reluctant to wade into because the main thing I have to say to my Orthodox friends is “We are friends” (something they typically acknowledge, though Orthodoxy, like Catholicism, has its crazy Reactionaries who live to exclude as many people as possible from the reach of grace, especially us papists.)  But since you sound like a reasonable man, here goes:

I basically never had any big issues with the papal claims.  It seems to me self-evident that papal primacy saturates the NT.  Peter is obviously seen, in all four gospels, as the head of the apostolic college.  He is clearly the spokesman for the group, asking all the dumb questions, singled out for all the big honors, chewed out for all the big sins.  Yes, the apostles are all given thrones and all given the power to bind and loose.  But Peter is the one on whom the Church is built, to whom the keys are given, who gets called Satan when he screws up, who alone in prayed for to strengthen the brethren, who alone is focused on as denying Christ, and who alone receives the threefold commission, “Feed my sheep”.  Likewise, it is through him that the epoch-making revelation comes that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works of the law (opening the gospel to the whole world).  And the early Church certainly seems to talk about the Petrine office at Rome in ways that reflect the belief that Peter’s charism has been given to it.  Irenaeus, though he is living in France, is fundamentally an Eastern Father, but for him, the succession worth focusing on is the succession from Peter.  Likewise, the key factor in so many conciliar moments in the early Church is the Petrine office (“Peter is speaking through Leo!” is the cry at the Council of Chalcedon.)

As to the Filioque: sure, it’s a development that happened without the Eastern Church (and so is understandably irritating to the East).  But I don’t think it’s an insuperable problem.  Neither did the eastern Churches from what I can see, since it was part of the Creed in the West for about two centuries and only retroactively seems to have become a rationale for remaining apart after the Schism.  Theologically, I can see nothing particularly problematic with it.  Ecclesially, Rome has shown itself willing to omit it and say the older form of the Creed in prayer with the Eastern Churches.  And the Eastern Churches, of course, have shown (in their agreement with Rome to modify the Nicene Creed to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) that, at least in the fourth century, they had no problem with the development of doctrine per se.  So I don’t buy that the Filioque is a deal breaker on the papacy.

Likewise, with Vatican I, I basically agree with Newman (who opposed formulating the dogma of papal infallibility till the Council overrode him) that it was a legitimate development of doctrine.  Newman didn’t think it false, so much as imprudent to compel assent to it.  But the Spirit, he concluded, thought otherwise.  I think the same.

Ultimately, it seems to me to come down to the question of the development of doctrine.  And I think a very strong case can be made that the Eastern Churches, in jettisoning the papacy, have found it impossible to do that since the Schism.  I think Fr. Barron lays out Newman’s case very well when he discusses Newman’s three criteria for a legitimate development of doctrine:

The first is what he calls preservation of type. A valid development preserves the essential form and structure of what came before. If that type is undermined, we are dealing with a corruption. Mind you, type can be maintained even through enormous superficial changes, as, to use Newman’s own example, “a butterfly is a development of the caterpillar but not in any sense its image.” And by the same token, superficialities can remain largely unchanged even as the type utterly morphs, as happened, say, in the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.

A second criterion is what Newman refers to as “conservative action upon its past.” An evolution that simply reverses or contradicts what came before it is necessarily a corruption and not a development. In Newman’s own words, an authentic development “is an addition that illustrates, not obscures; corroborates, not corrects the body of thought from which it proceeds.” In accord with this idea, Christianity could be seen as the development of Judaism, since it preserves the essential teachings and practices of that faith, even as it moves beyond them. Cardinal George Pell alluded to this principle when he said, during the recent Synod debates, “the Church does not do back-flips on doctrine.” So, for example, if a proposal were put forth at the Extraordinary Synod that simply contradicted the teaching of John Paul II in Familiaris consortio or Paul VI in Humanae vitae, it would certainly reflect a corruption.

A third criterion that Newman puts forward is what he calls “the power of assimilation.” Just as a healthy organism can take in what it can from its environment, even as it resists what it must, so a sane and lively idea can take to itself what is best in the intellectual atmosphere, even as it throws off what is noxious. Both total accommodation to the culture and total resistance to it are usually signs of intellectual sickness.

If the problem facing some sectors of the Catholic Church is “total accommodation to the culture” (and this has always been the struggle for all of Christianity, beginning with the Christians who wanted to totally accommodate the Judaizers and continuing to those who wanted to accommodate the gnostics, the Christological heretics, and on down through history–including both liberalism in the West and Caesaropapism in the East even when Stalin was the Caesar being accommodated), then it seems to me the challenge the East faces is “total resistance to the culture” here in the West and a certain brittleness in dealing with bearing witness to post-modernity.  It has resulted in a heavily ethnicized Church that often appears not to know what to do with the gung ho (and sometimes overbearingly triumphalist) converts who come from American Evangelicalism or from angry Reactionary Catholicism. That’s not saying, of course, the most converts are like that (we have dear friends who are Orthodox converts).  But it is to say that people like Frank Schaeffer (and he is not alone) often enter Orthodoxy, not as a positive step, but walking in with their backs to the iconostasis as they lift up  their middle fingers unto the rest of the Church, whence cometh their rage.  Such “conversions” are, of course, also a huge problem for the Catholic communion, since many Reactionaries are people who became Catholic as a way of expressing their fury at whatever they left.

Beyond this, Orthodoxy appears to me to not know how to “test everything and hold fast to what is good” as history marches on since the Schism. Its attempt to engage with the West at Florence was crushed from within.  Likewise, its hostility to the West since V2 seems to me to leave it powerless to oppose the onslaught of postmodernity. It seems to me, in short, to lack the “power of assimilation” Newman speaks of.  So the overtures for reconciliation and the legitimate theological creativity seem to me to come almost entirely from Catholic communion and are often treated with suspicion.  As the son of a Canadian mother, it reminds me of the way Americans cheerily say to Canadians, “Hey!  We have so much in common!  Let’s be friends!” only to meet with (to them) inexplicable hostility from our neighbors to the North.

Obviously, there is a lot of history behind this and the Catholic Church is not without blame.  But it’s weird to extend the hand of friendship to an Orthodox convert (as I once did) only to receive an angry diatribe about the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.  There’s Tradition, and then there is clinging to old grievances. 🙂  I don’t even hold a grudge against the Japanese for Pearl Harbor.  It’s hard to be held responsible for the lions at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.

I want to emphasize again that this is not the *main* thing I think about Orthodoxy.  The main thing I think is that it is the vitally needed “other lung” of the Church and that the Catholic communion is wounded (as is Orthodoxy) until the Schism is healed. The Orthodox have a way of seeing that Catholics badly need to recover, just as the Catholic tradition at its best has gifts the Orthodox need.  So my main response to Orthodoxy is gratitude, not the difficulties I list above.  But in the end, I think the office of Peter remains what it is clearly portrayed as in the NT: the Rock upon which the Church is founded.

Hope this helps!

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  • Ignatius

    This is an excellent restatement. This is why I keep on coming to this blog year after year. Many thanks.

  • Dave G.

    Actually the more I read, the more I come to appreciate the Orthodox viewpoint. Nor do I imagine that all problems through the last thousand plus years were delivered on a one way street. That said, there are certainly issues there. But there are many commendable things there, and some of if might be the difference in the positions held by the Orthodox in the world vs. those held by the Catholic Church over the years. Big subject to be sure. And, of course, like always, many of the different takes are probably a matter of opinion based upon our own perspectives.

  • Sherri Paris

    That was a brilliant read–one full of grace! Thank you!

  • Matthew

    Something that is crucial is the question of ecclesiology in the area of Church unity. After Rome was abandoned for Constantinople as a political capital back in the 4th-5th century, Eastern ecclesiology began to look to the emperor as the guarantor of Church unity. This has lead to a certain subservience to the State in Orthodox theology (the emperor as vicar of Christ). While the Catholic Church has not been free of this tendency, it always, in principle, had the papacy to turn to as a remedy. We see this problem today in the Russian Orthodox Church’s defense not only of Russian ethnic customs but also of Russian STATE interests.
    I think it really boils down to one question: In founding His Church, did Jesus supply her with everything she needs for her journey through history, including an internal point of unity and governance OR did He leave out a necessary point (that is the practical focus of unity) and leave it to the Church to look OUTSIDE HERSELF, that is to the STATE for a the focal point of unity?

    • Rob B.

      Samuel P. Huntington regards the idea that Caesar is “God’s junior partner” as one of the hallmarks of what he calls Orthodox civilization.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Besides the problem of Caesaropapism, there’s the historical dimension. Rome, Italy, was the center of the Roman Empire that (through its Roman Gov. Pilate & his Roman guards) approved the Crucifixion of our Lord Christ Jesus (a Jewish non-citizen foreigner, therefore, death penalty by crucifixion). Rome was also the city where Saints Peter (a Jewish foreigner, therefore, crucifixion) & Paul (Jewish Roman citizen, therefore, beheading) were Martyred & buried (along with other early Christians). As Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the Church.” This awful, powerful Anti-Christian city (center of the Empire) was radically transformed & converted by the victorious hand of the Holy Spirit to become the center of the Church. Today, the Church still stands victoriously in Rome, proclaiming the Risen Christ to the world. There is where the Ecumenical Patriarch of Rome (Pope Francis) resides; the city is also home to the most church buildings in the world.
      But, the Eastern Orthodox decided to follow the lead of a Patriarch based on a city founded by an Emperor on Byzantium, which was later named Constantinople. Sts. Peter & Paul were not martyred there. Their blood nor that of countless Christian martyrs did not sanctify that city. Even though one of the most prominent titles that its founders gave to Constantinople was “New Rome”, it was not. Now, Russians think Moscow will be the “Third Rome”. Sorry but no. What happened to Constantinople? It’s now Islamic Istanbul.

  • Rob B.

    “But it’s weird to extend the hand of friendship to an Orthodox convert (as I once did) only to receive an angry diatribe about the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.”

    Especially since the Crusaders were invited there by a would-be emperor who then decided not to pay up…

    • Rachel

      Not only that, some Crusaders backed out because they didn’t want to sack a fellow Christian city. They thought they were signing up for the Levant. In addition, much blame must be placed on those crazy Venetians.

      • Rob B.

        Yeah, there was plenty of blame to go around in that mess, as Pope Innocent III readily admitted. 🙂

  • quisutDeusmpc

    As a former evangelical Protestant of varying stripes [Baptist (Independent, Southern), Presbyterian (OPC, PCA), Episcopalian (Reformed), and Dutch Reformed (CRCNA)], I was not unaware of Orthodoxy, especially, as Mr. Shea referred, to Francis Schaeffer’s son, Franky, who converted to Greek Orthodoxy, but I had exactly the opposite reaction to the interlocutor whose e-mail prompted Mr. Shea’s response, if I understand his statement properly. He stated he found the ‘historical arguments of the Orthodox Church seemed much stronger to me’. If this person is referring to the ‘historical arguments’ regarding Andrew vs. Peter regarding primacy, I found this to be a rather weak argument. If he or she is referring to the historical centers beginning in Jerusalem, and quickly growing in Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome, I also found these arguments rather lacking.

    Although it seems clear from St. John 1, that both Andrew and likely St. John were early disciples of St. John the Baptist (cf. John 1: 35-40), who immediately left off the forerunner when he referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. And, it also seems clear that it was St. Andrew that evangelized St. Peter so that chronologically, both St. John and St. Andrew were disciples prior to St. Peter (cf. John 1: 41, 42). However, and this is very important, with regards to election, in the biblical narrative, it is not necessarily the first, chronologically, but God’s electing call that is normative. For example, the patriarch Isaac had two sons. Esau was born first, and Jacob second. However, regarding God’s electing, covenant choice, Esau trades his secular birthright for ‘a mess of pottage’. King David had a number of brothers who were older, perhaps more handsome, more intelligent, etc., but as each brother is brought before the prophet Nathan, each in turn is rejected until David, the youngest and apparently in that culture, with less gravitas or outward ‘comeliness’, is brought before him, and God tells him, ‘Him, he is the one’. We are given textual evidence that this is so with regards to Andrew and Peter as well, because, again, although Andrew is first chronologically, and evangelizes his brother by bringing him to Jesus, it is Simon bar Jonah (Simon son of John) who receives the name change from Jesus, not Andrew.

    This may seem insignificant to us as 20th / 21st century westerners, but naming, or name changing held high significance to a 1st century AD Israelite. When God created Adam and Eve, he named them. They are his creation, his children and so he gives them names. Made in God’s image and likeness, God brings them to his other creation and grants them the authority / privilege / dominion to name the rest of creation. The greater names the lesser, the Father names his children. After the fall from grace, God covenants with Abram and Sarai, and when they consent, He renames them, Abraham and Sarah. They have their natural names from their parents, and their covenant names as God’s chosen, from God. Now naming is associated with not only creation, but covenant making, or recreation, if you will. When Jacob wrestles with God’s messenger, the angel, and prevails, he receives a name change, Israel. Now naming is associated with covenant extension as well. Let’s fast forward to Simon bar Jonah, Andrew’s brother. Immediately upon meeting him, Jesus does what? Renames him, with an Aramaic (the dialect of Hebrew that Jesus spoke from Nazareth) name, ‘Kepha’, which translated into Greek is ‘Peter’ (cf. John 1: 42).

    Notice in all three accounts from the synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 10: 1-4; Mark 3: 13-19; Luke 6: 12-16), whenever the Twelve Apostles are listed, Simon Peter’s name comes first in all three lists, and this in spite of the fact, as we saw from the Johannine account, that Simon Peter is not the first apostle chronologically. In addition, notice two other things. Simon’s natural name and the name that Jesus gives him are listed, and, NONE of the other apostles are given a name change, the way St. Peter is. Jesus Christ, is self consciously reconstituting His twelve tribes of Israel, what St. Paul calls the “Israel of God” (cf. Gal. 6: 16), and He names Simon as the chief of the apostles. It would have occurred, I believe, to a 1st century AD Israelite, that it was God who had named Adam, God who had renamed Abraham, God who had named Israel, and now God, in Jesus Christ who names Simon, ‘Kepha’, which is translated Peter.

    While Andrew and Simon seem privy to this initial naming, Jesus goes on to re-emphasize it in the presence of the other eleven, after He chooses them out from among the disciples at Matt. 16: 13-20, and in doing so delegates to him the authority to ‘bind and loose’ in Jesus’s name, and gives to him ‘the keys of the kingdom’. This comes particularly into focus when you compare this Matthean pericope to Isaiah 22: 15-25.

  • B.E. Ward

    With some scattered thoughts, I’ll chime in as someone who looked towards both the east and the west, but ultimately became Orthodox.

    First, I’m not sure how the tens (hundreds? we’ll never know) of thousands of clergy that were martyred in the 1930s in Russia would feel about the notion that they were “accommodating” Stalin. Obviously there was a state-sponsored “official” church, but both sides of that story need to be considered.

    Lest this sounds like a “Sack of Constantinople”, I acknowledge I don’t have a horse in that race (other than profound sadness), but I just say that in the interest of making sure we’re all considering the same things.

    As for my own personal reasons for ‘choosing’ Orthodoxy, they go something like this:

    1) I find the Eastern “aesthetics” more conducive to my spiritual development. Singing the liturgy as ‘just’ a parishioner.. kissing icons.. making prostrations to the enormity of our God. Even the act of receiving the body and blood directly by the hand of a priest, with a spoon shared by the community, helps to give me the perspective of just. how. huge. it all is.

    2) I want my church to be my rock against the river of societal trendiness. To say that this is a huge problem in the RCC would be a massive understatement. I can think of no other voluntary organization on earth where most the faithful live and believe in complete contradiction to that organization’s teachings and demands. Then it gets even worse when leaders of that organization teach in direct opposition to those teachings and demands. I’m not saying anything that everyone here doesn’t already know. Folks like Fr. Z pretty make much a living on this conflict.

    To be clear, Orthodoxy has its own ‘progressives’.. but to see how well that normally goes, check out the kerfuffle about Fr. Robert Arida’s recent article on the OCA’s “Wonder” blog. And, ultimately, this sort of acting with “social consciousness” is really just that, dissent, and not an overwhelming current of support.

    3) Those first two reasons are really just personal preferences that point to this.. Ultimately, I seek theosis. I need humility. I need ascesis. I want to give God ortho-doxy.. “right glory” or “right worship”. That’s found in the Orthodox Church. I’ll let the ecclesial specialists duke it out on primacy and the filioque.

    There’s more, but this is a long enough comment already. If I have spoken uncharitably, please forgive me.

    • Rachel

      Nah, you’re fine. Some of what you describe (the aesthetics, etc) are also found in the Eastern Catholic rites (I’ve been to a few). That said, I think we need each other 🙂

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Ward, Why do the Eastern Orthodox support the heresy & heteropraxy of “divorce & remarriage” (which goes completely against Christ’s holy Gospel & His clear teachings on the holy Sacrament of Matrimony)? Also, why are Eastern Orthodox teaching authorities silent (or even approving) of the evil of artificial contraception (which not only goes against Christ’s holy teaching of the Sacrament of Matrimony- “joined together to become one flesh” which results in a baby- but also the commands from God in Genesis to Adam/Eve to be “fruitful & multiply”)?
      B.E. Ward, Why did they build a new city on Byzantium & give “New Rome” as one of its most prominent titles to Constantinople? Was Constantinople the city where Sts. Peter (Jewish foreigner, therefore, crucifixion) & Paul (Jewish Roman citizen, therefore, beheading) martyred & eventually converted (by the Holy Spirit) to become the city with the most church buildings in the world? Or did that happen in actual Rome, Italy? Why are Russians trying to make Moscow the “Third Rome”?
      .Lastly, why don’t you just become an Eastern Catholic & cease your schism? Listen to the Holy Spirit & your conscience.

      • B.E. Ward

        Wow.. ok, let me look at these one-by-one. And to be clear, the answers that follow are gleanings I’ve taken in my journey, not precise expositions of Orthodox theology.

        “Why do the Eastern Orthodox support the heresy & heteropraxy of ‘divorce & remarriage'”?

        I think your use of the word ‘support’ is wrong. They generally don’t support divorce and remarriage, they see it as a least-worst option sometimes. A second (or third) marriage is considered a penitential service, not a joyous celebration.

        “Why are Eastern Orthodox teaching authorities silent (or even approving) of the evil of artificial contraception?”

        This is difficult to answer because there is no one answer. Some Orthodox clergy speak out against artificial contraception. Many don’t. But that doesn’t mean they believe it’s appropriate for use in any and every circumstance. My understanding is that, generally, many priests are taught to teach that contraception is wrong if it’s used to perpetually prevent a couple from ever having a family. However, if a couple has already “been fruitful and multiplied”, it may be appropriate. Again, your mileage may vary depending on the church, jurisdiction, bishop, and priest you talk to.

        Here’s the bigger picture: On many of these ‘touchy’ matters, it’s simply considered a matter of Nonya Beeswax to get involved if we’re not directly affected. Yes, the church has its teaching and no, priests generally won’t tell you a sin is okay, but the goal is to bring the person to healing, wholeness, and theosis.. not to satisfy some sort of legal requirement. Take fasting for instance. The prescribed Orthodox fasts (especially for Lent) are *hard*. They’re supposed to be. But they’re not hard just because.. they’re hard as they allow us to free our time and energy for prayer, for practicing the presence of the Lord and learning to depend on Him. That’s the ideal.. but many fall short of that ideal in their fasting, and that’s something for confession, but the priest confessor will generally not respond with condemnation or a required penance, but with, again, the medicine appropriate for the situation. What that is depends on the individual, their spiritual progress, the priest, and other factors.

        But, here’s the point. If, on my way to church, I see a fellow parishioner wolfing down a Big Mac then see him later in the communion line, my job is to say “Not. my. business.” and turn towards my own shortcomings. As we say before communion.. “Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am first.” I don’t tell on that parishioner later.. I don’t call a radio station asking when “they” are going to do the right thing and start enforcing our fasting.. I turn my attention towards myself, and perhaps even confess later of feeling resentful towards that guy.

        “Why did they build a new city on Byzantium & give “New Rome” as one of its most prominent titles to Constantinople?”

        I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

        “…Or did that happen in actual Rome, Italy?”

        Triumphalism doesn’t make one right.

        “Why are Russians trying to make Moscow the ‘Third Rome’?”

        See my previous answer. It goes both ways. But one can argue the Russians aren’t being triumphalist.. they’re just seeing the reality on the ground. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is less than a shell of it’s former self. The Russian Church is (by quite some measure) the largest in the Orthodox world. Say what you will about the government’s involvement in its growth (some say relations between the government and the church aren’t as rosy as we like to think), their trajectory is probably something we’d all like to be a part of.

        There has also been a lot of recent back-and-forth between Moscow and the EP on the matter of primacy. If you want a pretty thorough synopsis of the Russian side (as well as some Russian thoughts on Rome’s claims to primacy), check out Met. Hilarion’s recent address at St. Vladimir’s Seminary:

        The actual speech starts about 8-10 minutes in. As an aside, it’s hard to go wrong with pretty much any of Met. Hilarion’s work.

        • Catholic pilgrim

          It’s not “triumphalism”. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the Church.” Saints Peter & Paul the Apostles were martyred & buried in Rome. As were COUNTLESS early Christians. Their blood has sanctified the City of Rome. Their holy Blood (in fact, as partakers of holy Communion, Christ’s own blood) sanctified Rome. It’s historical reality that neither Istanbul/Constantinople nor Moscow were sanctified by the holy blood. This awful, powerful Anti-Christian city (center of the Empire, where through Roman Gov. Pilate & his Roman guards, Christ’s crucifixion was approved by the Empire) was radically transformed & converted by the victorious hand of the Holy Spirit to become the center of the Church. Today, the Church still stands victoriously in Rome, proclaiming the Risen Christ to the world. There is where the Ecumenical Patriarch of Rome (our Pope Francis) resides; the city is also the city with the most church buildings in the world, honoring the Christ the Saviour, the Theotokos, & His Saints.
          Mr. Ward, Also, all Catholics who live in Christ’s grace, have partaken of the Eucharist, make us of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, & are filled with the life of the Holy Spirit are well underway in the process of Theosis. If an Eastern liturgy gives you comfort, there’s something called the Eastern Catholic Churches. I frequently attend an Eastern Catholic parish although I usually go to my Latin home parish. Why don’t you consider joining one of them? The Russian patriarchate is the most antagonistic, isolationist Christian body. The Greek Orthodox are more willing & humble to make Christ’s desire of unity a fulfilled reality; Russians, not so much. “Abba/Father, that they all might be one!” our Lord prays, but Russians object. Peace of Christ (which the world cannot give) be upon you, Mr. Ward.

    • Joseph

      Spoken like a Protestant convert to Protestantism with a tradition. Your points:
      1) You *prefer* eastern aesthetics like one would prefer pepperoni rather than vegetables on their pizza. This isn’t seeking *truth*, it’s seeking what makes you feel good.
      2) You state that the CC isn’t a rock against contemporary cultural pressures, making the implication that the EO is. Then in the next breath state that in some cases the EO blows with the wind, but only those EO churches that you don’t agree with (i.e. OCA). Sound familiar?
      3) You state that you *chose* Orthodoxy because you seek humility (despite the tone of your comment: “I chose the EO over Catholicism because I think it’s better and appeals to me”). So, at what point did Catholicism teach anything but humility? When has the Catholic Church not given God “right glory”? This is once again a residual from your Protestant days. You get to determine which place of worship gives God the *right glory* based on your senses.
      None of these three reasons above show that you made the choice based on an objective pursuit of truth, objectively speaking. It just shows that you wanted Protestantism with bells, books, candles, icons, rich traditions and fancy garments.
      I’m a convert myself… to Catholicism. The last thing I wanted to be was a Catholic because of my anti-Catholic upbringing. I almost went EO, but I found the evidence in Scripture, the Fathers, and Church teaching through the ages on the role of the St. Peter and his successors more compelling from a Catholic perspective and I simply could not, with any intellectual honesty, become anything else at that point. At first the Filioque was a hang up, but it isn’t like the Catholic Church *disapproves* the Creed in the East. After all, Eastern Catholic share the same creed. All of the other *apparent* inconsistencies in doctrines/dogmas are only because some of them weren’t made dogmas in Orthodoxy since they don’t recognise any of the post-Schism councils… but that doesn’t mean that EO in unison deny any of the Catholic doctrines/dogmas.
      Ultimately, the *only* real barrier I could see was the role of St. Peter and his successors. And, like I said, I think Christian Tradition, the deposit of faith, and the Scriptures lend more credence to the Catholic understanding… I didn’t make my decision based off of feelings or sensations. It would have been *easier* for me to become Orthodox as I could have still maintained my anti-Catholic bias while inheriting a rich tradition that Protestant religions just don’t have.

      • B.E. Ward

        Wow.. such charity.

        • Joseph

          Is it uncharitable to point out that the reasons you gave for *choosing* EO over CC are purely subjective and no different than *choosing* First Baptist Church over Second Baptist Church?

          • Joseph

            I forgot to mention that some of your reasons offer implications that are patently false (e.g. The Catholic Church bends its will to the ever changing winds of popular culture, jeopardising its teachings while the Orthodox Church avoids this to perfection; The Catholic Church does not teach that humility is the building block of all virtue). The others are purely subjective “because I like it more and think it’s better” reasons.
            Basically, you’re still a Protestant.

            • B.E. Ward

              I’m sorry.. I’d prefer to be the man on the right, and that’s pretty much the bottom line. Don’t read too far into it.. but any further attempt to offer you an apologia for my decision would hinder that effort.

              • ivan_the_mad

                Hooray, my Greek finally came in handy! But don’t you silly Easterners know that Latin is God’s language? 😉

              • Idler

                Which is why in the Latin Rite, the congregation kneels, especially to receive communion, while in the Greek Rite, the congregation stands.

              • Joseph

                You’re so humble. How do you do it?

  • While I don’t agree with all your conclusions, I appreciate your irenic approach. Thank you, from an Orthodox brother.

  • pavel chichikov

    Both Churches, both “lungs” so to speak, are true Churches. Both have true sacraments and true apostolic succession. Orthodox Christians who do not have the Eucharist available to them at an Orthodox church can partake at a Catholic Mass with the permission of the ordinary bishop.

    That the Churches do not join is a severe sign of the fallen nature of humanity.

    I appreciate the observation below about the numerous Orthodox martyrs of the 20th century in the Soviet Union. There were also, I believe, Catholics who were martyrs..

  • Catholic Tech Geek

    Originally, even the East accepted the pope as first among equals. I thought that Byzantine theologians tried to discredit this concept because they wanted to raise the position of the church in Constantinople to that above the church of Rome since it was the “Emperor’s church”, but it was never “officially” acknowledged as part of Byzantine teaching until a bit later.

    • pavel chichikov

      It’s over. Let’s try to move on.

    • Elmwood

      the EO still accept that the pope is “1st among equals”, it’s the catholic church which says he is the center of unity and head of the church, granting the pope authority over the entire universal church.

      • MillerJM

        Except that the Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals, which is comprised overwhelmingly by the brother Bishops. So his authority, to some extent, is granted to him by the Bishops. Furthermore, the Pope is subject to the rule of law – God’s laws.

        • Elmwood

          the pope is first and foremost the bishop of rome, how exactly that is decided is of secondary importance and subject to change.

  • Elmwood

    an interesting distinction between the legalistic and hierarchical roman church and the more decentralized and rigid orthodox churches is they (orthodox churches) don’t have an orthodox western church counterpart (not counting the western rite orthodox which are few and more akin to anglican converts) and therefore accept all protestant converts as “eastern” whereas the catholic church would consider them “roman rite” based on their church of origin.

    officially then, a protestant convert to eastern catholicism would have to be moved to the eastern church according to catholic cannon law. the EO don’t seem able to accommodate what a catholic would see as a legitimate diversity and development of doctrine. even their “western styled” liturgies use leavened bread!

    if the EO can’t accept the use of unleavened bread in the roman rite, think how much more difficult it must be for them to accept the immaculate conception, fillioque and papal primacy.

  • Jack

    When you’re not going to change anything, nobody has to be infallible.

    • Elmwood

      yes, the apostles explicitly had taught the distinction between divine energies-essences. it is all plain to see that the Nicene Creed was said during the liturgy before the council that defined it.

    • sez

      Good point…. except: deciding not to decide is still a decision.

      I’m no expert, but isn’t it the case that the EO has actually made some decisions, like accepting the use of contraceptives (under certain circumstances), and accepting the divorced-and-remarried (again, under certain circumstances)? These may not be across the board, or they may be, but not acknowledged as such…

      I dunno, but it seems like people actually need a source of infallible teaching.

      • Dave G.

        When we were looking at Catholicism, we also looked at Orthodoxy. To that end, I did pick up a few things, and not from a ‘they have to be wrong’ POV. That they will make exceptions in rare cases is, to them, an avoidance of legalism that says ‘it is too the Sabbath, the donkey has to go’ approach to such things. Let’s face it, the Church says that if the innocent be to die, then that’s as it is. The Orthodox see themselves as avoiding that, if I understood them correctly.

  • Chris

    Mark, while I generally appreciate your article here, I think it is dangerous to refer to our Eastern Orthodox friends as another lung in the Church. That is branch theory, a position on ecclesiology which stands in opposition to the teaching that the Church is one. What is more, we are not missing out on what the East has to Offer the Church because we are already in communion with Byzantine Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, etc.

    • sez

      The Body of Christ can only have one lung??
      We are missing our brethren.

    • TerryC

      I don’t see it as branch theory. An organism has two lungs, but it is still only one organism. Eastern Catholics have not always been well treated by the Church. Note the recently restored traditional norm of allowing married men to enter the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Rites, something prevented for no good reason for far to long. (No rabbit hole here please. Celibacy is the norm for the priesthood in the West.)

      • John Fisher

        The rule concerning married clergy pertained to nations in which the Latin Rite was the majority. In countries like Australia for example the Eparchy has had married clergy for about 20 years. The wife must give permission for the husband’s Ordination. They may not marry after Ordination. They may not remarry if their wife dies. They stay single if their wife leaves them, which does happen. It places financial pressures on the parish and many of the priests need to have day jobs because the Eparchy cannot afford to support them. They are not allowed to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on days they have sexual relations with their wives. It is not unknown for the bishop to ask priests to refrain from such relations. As the bishop must be a celibate not a married their are problems with episcopal succession. The Eparchy in Australia has only 1 celibate priest left.

  • B.E. Ward

    To add to this discussion a bit, if anyone has the time and interest, this is a fairly complete and ‘concise’ exposition of the Orthodox concerns about Catholicism:

    Part II is on the AFR site, as well.

    It may be a bit polemical, but we’re all big boys and girls here.

  • Well said! You articulated my feelings on the issue. Perhaps one day we can be one church again.

  • The blog “Eclectic Orthodoxy” did a series on Vincent of Lerins which dealt with the development of doctrine. At least one entry in the series dealt with Cardinal Newman. I thought it was interesting and that it might be of interest to others as well. The series may be found at

  • Catholic pilgrim

    Mark Shea (chezami), Filioque “controversy”? “I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father THROUGH the Son…”
    There, fixed. A holy compromise that does not compromise truth. Any Eastern Orthodox who opposes this (“from the Father *THROUGH* the Son”) is a heretic. Any Catholic who opposes this is a stubborn one. Why is there divisiveness amongst Christians on the subject of the Most Holy Trinity/Tri-Unity (where there is only pure unity & no ugly divisiveness) of all subjects?

    • Dave G.

      If I understand Orthodox I’ve spoken with, the substance of the statement was only one part of the debate. The other was the Western Church’s emerging tendency to see itself as the engine of the train, and everyone else just the cars. Something that was, not surprisingly, met with some resistance in other parts of the Christian world.

      • Catholic pilgrim

        Then, the Eastern Orthodox would be implicitly admitting that their beef with the Filioque (which is indeed theological sound & orthodox) is not with theology (which should be most important in such debates), but rather with pure politics. Christ desires & prays to His Father/Abba that His Church be One. Having pure politics stand in the way of the fulfillment of His desire is sad (if that indeed turns out to be the case with the Eastern Orthodox).

        • Dave G.

          Note I didn’t say the only beef they had. In fact I made it clear just the opposite. I said in addition to the substance, they had an issue with the Western Church’s approach to the issue in terms of how it saw its own authority. Not necessarily a political issue either. And yes, Christ desires all to be one. Catholics hope that the Orthodox come to full communion, and surprisingly, many Orthodox are waiting for the Catholic Church to return. Sometimes a matter of perspective.

        • Joel A. Christian

          Catholic pilgrim? Your logic, though you speak as though it is sound, is quite confusing. Because you make a statement of “‘THROUGH’ the Son” it still doesn’t change that that is not what the Creed has been adapted to be. I think you may be a bit impetuous to think someone a heretic because they may see equal proceeding of the Son and the Spirit FROM the Father, period. Proceeding from could mean (as some I have heard argue) “being sent from” “from the work of” but in the Filioque it gives equality in the proceeding of the Spirit, meaning the Spirit Proceeds or draws his authority and position from Both, the Father and the Son. I myself have a hard time with that theology. I think you can also find in the Scriptures where the Son’s authority and power is given from the Father but through the Spirit. The whole “Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” really throws an awkward twist on things. I think there may more thought due (and probably has been done by much greater than me.)

          The Filioque is very theological for EO, not just “pure politics”. But it is like this… (if I may illustrate) If I said that you “stabbed me in the back” and in my best (Et tu, Brute? moment) said, “But I trusted you!” You won’t then deduce that the issue here was that I just had “trust issues” but also that the stab was a very real part of the wounding. However the loss of trust is also an issue. These things can truly be (and usually are) both/and.

          Real Unity will not come (probably, but I am too simple to know) through assuming the other side is just political savvy pawns trying to make their way into the Petrine Office, and maybe, as in most families there is a lot too work out. I pray your Peace, Brother. May Christ give your heart unity first.

    • John Fisher

      The Orthodox criticism is simply that a symbolum or creed voted on by bishops at an Ecuminical Church Council should not be altered or have additions made with the authority of an Ecumenical Council. They don’t accept various Councils that have done that including the Union Council of Florence.

  • magdaleni

    Yes, Mark Shea! That’s the RIGHT Filoque.
    Didn’t JP II use the term two lungs in Orientale Lumen?
    The Western Church is missing some things by not taking proper note of some of the mysteries. JP II SAID SO. Barlaam v hesychasm. Too much intellectualism in the Western church, especially the “Schoolmen,” disliked by Orthodox. There is a need to be more open to some of the mystical dimensions. No compromise of truth. BOTH AND, not EITHER OR.

    • Hematite

      It could be that what the Eastern Orthodox theologians really don’t like so much about the Schoolman is their preference for Aristotle over Plato. Another possible, and perhaps related cause of the Great Schism may be the utter disdain that the proud Eastern churchman, carriers of great Greek intellectual tradition, appear to have had for the “barbaric” Western Church: it was one thing to submit somewhat to a pope that was a cultured Roman, but to do so to some semi barbarous bishop who couldn’t even speak Greek…!

      • Dave G.

        I doubt it. It was, from what I’ve read and been told, a rejection of the assumption that the place of the pope meant submission rather than just a notable position. There’s a difference there.

        • Hematite

          Earlier on it seems that the Pope had the final say in matters of faith and morals. If that’s not submission, then I don’t know what is.

          • Dave G.

            When? When did the Pope step up and accept a change to the Creed without the rest of the Church coming together, whereby the rest of the Church was OK with it?

            • Hematite

              Oh, that’s what you mean. My thinking is that the “Peter has spoken…” role was a bit more than first among equals. But the modern papacy is certainly stronger than in the 4th cent. Of course, the Orthodox can’t even hold a council with no pope and no emperor.

  • Gargano

    The question was “Why be Catholic rather than orthodox?” As a partial answer to the questions, here are two aspects of Orthodoxy that are unattractive to me. Neither of them is about doctrine or theology. What I am about to say, I say as brother to brother, without animosity.

    1. The first problem with Orthodoxy is divisiveness and disunity. From the outside, the Orthodox Churches appear like a series of ethnic ghettos. It was a mistake when Constantinople, back in the 9th century, granted the Bulgarians the right to a patriarch, because it meant that from now on every ethnicity would have its own autonomous Church and patriarch.

    Ethnicity and politics lead to disunity. There always seem to be some Orthodox Churches not in communion with others. At one time, I think there were 3 different Russian Orthodox Churches.

    If Catholics have laid too great a stress on centralization, the Orthodox have laid too great a stress on decentralization. Catholics are moving toward more decentralization and synodality, and therefore a better balance between centre and periphery. But the Orthodox show no sign of developing some form of central authority, and therefore of moving toward such a necessary balance. The example of the Russian Orthodox Church trying to undermine the position of the Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople is a dispiriting sign of (a) disunity and (b) the lack of regard for the need of a balance between centre and periphery.

    The fact that the Orthodox have been discussing for close to a century whether to hold a pan-Orthodox council speaks for itself.

    2. The second problem is Orthodoxy’s focus on the past and its unwillingness to engage with the modern world.

    The Orthodox pride themselves on being the Church that never changes. Just as there has to be a balance between centre and decentralization, so there has to be a balance between fidelity to the past and adaptation to new circumstances. And the Orthodox Churches seem to lack this balance and to live in the past.

    I’m always astounded when a spokesman for Orthodoxy quotes a disciplinary canon of, say, the Council of Chalcedon, as the basis for Church organization in the 21st century, as if the disciplinary canons of the 5th century are supposed to be valid for all time. And I’m saddened when the Orthodox reject the Gregorian calendar, as if the Julian calendar is supposed to be valid for all time. Or when the Orthodox nurture old grievances (like the sack of Constantinople 8 centuries ago), when the French and Germans fought 3 wars in less than a century (1870-1945) and within a few years of the last and most terrible of these wars had put their grievances behind them and were discussing economic and political union.

    The great commission of Jesus is to preach the Gospel to all peoples, and yet I don’t see the Orthodox evangelizing outside their home territories. (Receiving disgruntled conservative Protestants and Catholics does not count as evangelizing.) The focus of the Orthodox always seems to be on carefully preserving their way of doing things rather than bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

    The Orthodox do not seem to be interested in engaging with the modern world. In the past 200 years, there has been a remarkable renewal of Biblical scholarship thanks to the use of historical methods, and yet the Orthodox have not contributed to this renewal in any way. Again, the focus seems to be on preserving the traditional way of doing things rather than developing anything new.

    In summary then, the two features I have just discussed are what make Orthodoxy unattractive to me. It has nothing to do with doctrine or liturgy. We have different (though complementary) theological and liturgical traditions. These are not the problem.

    I’ve tried to state my position respectfully. I hope I have not caricatured the Orthodox position.

    • B.E. Ward

      Forgive me as I attempt to respond to your concerns..

      “1. The first problem with Orthodoxy is divisiveness and disunity.”

      The Orthodox churches are united in faith and morals. That there are open disagreements between the individual churches on other issues, I think, is a sign of health and vitality. Is there no disagreement within the curia or among bishops? As we all plainly saw recently, of course there is. But it generally doesn’t take investigative reporting, exclusive interviews, or a priest-blogger with connections to hear a clear understanding of the conflicts between Orthodox churches. Does this mean there is no “hush hush” conflict within the churches? Of course not, but those conflicts generally revolve around pastoral issues and not polity or policies.

      “2. The second problem is Orthodoxy’s focus on the past and its unwillingness to engage with the modern world.”

      There’s a lot to unpack in this one.. but just a few thoughts:

      Check out Ancient Faith Radio. It’s been instrumental in many conversions, including my own.

      There have been a lot of conversions to Orthodoxy in Guatemala, thanks to missionary activity (though this obviously may rub Catholics the wrong way).
      Orthodoxy has an amazing tendency to adapt to cultures it moves into without compromising the truth. See its history in Alaska (particularly St. Herman) and Japan. On a much smaller scale are more recent efforts in Africa, especially Tanzania.

      It’s also important to keep history in mind here. A good number of Orthodox churches were essentially in captivity for centuries.. either by the Turks or the Soviets.. and weren’t exactly in shape to send out missionaries. These days, there’s a long history to overcome and most of the people in traditionally Orthodox countries need to be re-evangelized. So, one can hardly blame them for maintaining mostly an inward focus.

      This is hardly a facet of Orthodoxy, though. IIRC, it’s something that Benedict XVI called for – re-evangelizing Europe.

      • Stephen

        “United on faith and morals”? It seems that there are many approaches to contraception. As it pertains to this issue, there seems to be far from unity.

        • Stephen

          This, of course, is not the only issue.

        • B.E. Ward

          I spoke about artificial contraception earlier, but what you’re seeing is nearly a distinction without a difference.

          The western church: “We are called to be fruitful and multiply. You can’t be fruitful and multiply using artificial contraception, so it’s bad.”

          The eastern church: “We are called to be fruitful and multiply. Purposely deciding to avoid this calling could be contrary to the humility you should be seeking to acquire. With any questions, see your priest or spiritual father.”

          See the difference? There isn’t much of one, it’s just about how the subject is framed.

          • Catholic pilgrim

            Um, I’ve heard Western/Eastern Catholics speak the way you described Eastern Orthodox, so I don’t know what you’re getting at. Semantics? Mr. Ward, maybe you have not had enough exposure to faithful Latin/Eastern Catholics (who frequently speak about humility & vocation/calling & the Holy Spirit’s role in Holy Matrimony in regards to the evil of Artificial Contraception)? So, do you oppose Catholics for seeing Artificial Contraception for the evil that it is & promoting faithfulness to Genesis (God’s creational design), Christ’s model of Matrimony (with the Catholic Church as His Bride), & His Gospel teachings? We Catholics also speak about Trusting in God (faith) & a life full of the Holy Spirit (& free from the evil of Artificial Contraception).

          • Stephen

            I am not entirely certain, but I think that there are some communions that permit the use of artificial contraception.

          • John Fisher

            The Early Church both West and East never accepted any taking of potions or poisons with the aim of stopping conception or inducing abortion. This is apostolic and is born out by the Fathers. The modern contraceptive pill and other devises are variations or an old pre Christian behavious never accepted by Christianity.

      • Stephen

        “A good number of Orthodox churches were essentially in captivity for centuries.. either by the Turks or the Soviets.. and weren’t exactly in shape to send out missionaries.”

        The same could be said for the first three centuries of the early Church in the Roman empire, and that didn’t not stop them from evangelizing the world.

    • Elmwood

      my observations as well, and that many EO converts were disgruntled “conservative” WASPs and even some catholics whose conversion was more about closing themselves off in a conservative fortress instead of conversion via love of eastern christian spirituality.

  • Dave G.

    Ultimately shouldn’t the reason be “because it’s True”? A lot of the discussion I’m seeing is heavy on non essential things and topics that are, quite frankly, often a matter of perspective.

    • Joseph


  • Stephen

    It should also be noted that Maximus the Confessor, one of the greatest (if not the greatest of the) Eastern theologians, affirmed the Filioque. In other words, the Filioque is not simply a Western invention, but has roots in both Eastern and Western Trinitarian theology.

    In addition, John Zizoulas, one of the top Orthodox theologians living today, argues that the understandings of the procession of the Holy Spirit in both East and West are not in conflict with each other. Augustine himself, in his De Trinitate, uses the word principaliter to convey that, while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, He proceeds principally from the Father. In other words, the monarchy of the Father is preserved in both Eastern and Western traditions and the Father, who is without origin, is understood as the origin of the Son and the Spirit. Zizoulas, in fact, considers the Filioque matter to be settled and no longer considers the Filioque to be a barrier for the reunion of East and West.

    • Stephen

      I must apologize. I originally spelled “Zizioulas” incorrectly. It is “Zizioulas”, not “Zizoulas”.

  • Brian Van Hove SJ

    This may disedify some, but on the “micro level” certain parts of the world where the Orthodox and the Catholics intersect, the clergy and people just do not observe the Schism. The Russians may generally be more strict, but the Greeks and Arabs and some others in Eastern Europe just say “that is for the hierarchs to fight about — we are not theologians.” Cases abound where concelebration occurs routinely in a rather innocent and common sense way. I am not suggesting I approve of this, but I have had enough reports through the years to know it is more common than one would imagine. It can be argued that these are simple clergy and people who would probably not know “filioque” from Bozo, but they think they are partaking together in True Worship and they have been doing this for a very long time. Just a comment.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Brian, you’re absolutely, positively CORRECT. The place where we most strongly see this “intersection” between Latin/Eastern Catholics & the Eastern Orthodox (excluding the isolationist, antagonistic Russians) is in places where the mystical Body of Christ is being persecuted (aka Middle East). Persecuted Middle Eastern Christians (Catholics & Eastern Orthodox alike) are worshipping our Lord together, without divisions. These are courageous families, priests, & individuals. We Christians (living in safer lands, like the West or Russia) could learn so much of persecuted Christians in the Middle East (Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank, Egypt, etc.).

      • Brian Van Hove SJ

        Yet, even the Russians may show a softer side. I remember a Canadian Latin Rite priest telling me of his visit to Leningrad in the Seventies. It was known that any priest could show up at a certain door at a certain time at the Orthodox seminary and just say “swaschenik”. A deacon would hustle the priest, Orthodox or Catholic, to the place of vesting and then to concelebration with Metropolitan Nikodim. Even a foreign priest who knew no Slavonic was admitted and just assured he could remain silent. After the Liturgy, the priest was helped back to the door where he went out into the dark and cold of a new morning in Leningrad. I guess the Bolsheviks made some of these things necessary, and I assume this is not current practice. On the other hand, I have never visited St. Petersburg.

  • B.E. Ward

    So, pardon the audacity of creating a new comment just for this, but I was asked this question numerous times in this thread and I want to make sure I answer it, as I’m not trying to be coy.

    Why not an Eastern Catholic church?

    It boils down to the fact that I cannot accept papal infallibility, the dogmatized Immaculate Conception, the dogmatized Purgatory, or indulgences. Apparently, many Eastern Catholics feel they don’t need to accept or believe these things in order to be in communion with Rome. For evidence of this, listen to this interview:

    But if that’s the case, then there are only two possibilities: either Rome doesn’t *really* feel those things are important either, or the Eastern Catholics are in error. I could appreciate the former, though not insofar as one side of the church is bound to believe them while another isn’t. The latter leads to a situation where, canonically, the Eastern Catholic churches lack “communion” with anyone outside of name only.

    No thanks.. I certainly hope for a full reunification some day, but I’ll do my part for that from this end, rather than being “stuck in the middle”.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Mr. Ward, The Holy Spirit will lead you to accept & receive the truths of the Papal Infallibility, Purgatory (purgation/cleansing of soul), & the Theotokos’s Immaculate Conception. I understand that Eastern Orthodox go against the Doctrine of Original Sin (developed by Western/Latin Church Father St. Augustine of Hippo) & the Church’s definition of Original Sin (which is necessary to explain the Theotokos’s Immaculate Conception), so let the Holy Spirit breath life upon you & you shall be enlightened of these truths of the Christian Revelation. Let the Holy Spirit come first & then He will be able to move your Intellect (not the other way around).

    • Joseph

      You may not be able to *accept* these things, but the Fathers could. At the moment, you’d be hard pressed to find an EO who doesn’t tacitly accept the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, and indulgences even without dogma requiring it. Really, the only *true* dividing point left is the role of St. Peter and his successors. Of course, you’d know that if you paid any attention to Catholic-Orthodox dialogue amongst the Church leaders. But, what you’re doing is holding on to anti-Catholic Protestantism while exposing yourself to a richer tradition, a real liturgy, icons, and cool vestments.
      I have *real* EO friends; Russian Orthodox from Russia. We’ve engaged in many theological discussions. They have no problem with the post-Schism Catholic dogmas aside from the perception of papal infallibility. The only EO people I know who reject the other dogmas are Protestant converts who chose EO because it’s a Catholicism-lite to them. They can retain their anti-Catholic prejudices against teachings such as the Immaculate Conception (requiring the difficult task of ignoring a large part of pre-Schism Tradition and Early Fathers writings from both East and West) because they aren’t *bound* by the faith to believe it. They’ve failed to make the connection with a Holy Ark to be the Child-Bearer and Theotokos simply because they want Protestantism with bells and whistles.

      • Joseph

        And… by the way… Orthodox and Catholics can share communion with each other (with permission from the local ordinaries). We both see each other as having valid sacraments and ordinations. You, in your Protestant world, are putting a barrier between the two that doesn’t really exist… and you are deluding yourself to reality.

        • Dave G.

          It seems he’s Orthodox. And from the Orthodox I talked to and read back in the day, they don’t seem to prefer the open communion. That’s often news to them. Not that some don’t do it. But then some Catholics take communion wherever. Officially, I understood, communion was not supposed to be shared.

          • Joseph

            I don’t doubt he’s Orthodox, just like I don’t doubt that Pelosi is Catholic. But his approach is a Protestant one, just as it is with Pelosi. Officially, communion is not supposed to be shared, but it can under extraordinary circumstances and with permission of the local ordinaries.

            • Dave G.

              I don’t think it’s Protestant at all. As I said below, we considered Orthodoxy for quite a while on our way into the Church. My wife was especially fond of it. There were issues of course. Naturally. And there are times when I can see the dirty laundry of Catholicism just the same. Many of the above ‘Orthodox tend to…’ arguments are just as easily turned back on ‘Catholics tend to…’ Again, it comes down to Truth. But Orthodox generally don’t accept communion from Catholics, or at least aren’t supposed to. I’m sure some do. Just like I’m sure there are Catholics – religious included – who skirt the rules. But from what he’s said, I think a very Orthodox position.

              FWIW, when I talked to and read Orthodox, I was shocked at how many seemed to see Catholicism as the first Reformation break from the Church, and the Protestant Reformation simply the next logical step in the latest ‘only True Church’ rebellion against the rest of the Global Faith. An interesting take to be sure.

              • Joseph

                Dave G., with all due respect, the man stated in a comment below that he was a Protestant convert to EO, and if you read his comments in their entirety, it’s not hard to come to quickly come to the conclusion that the man is still a Protestant (in mind). The only exception is now he’s got the bells and whistles without the Catholicism (which he retains a particular bias towards).
                I have nothing but respect and love for Orthodox Christians, but the Protestant converts to it who only did so because they wanted Catholicism without Catholicism are annoying as hell. They just got tired of throwing pebbles at the Catholic Church from the gutter in their myriad of interchangeable and historically irrelevant Protestant sects and perceived that from the platform of Orthodoxy they’d be able to toss boulders from a truly Apostolic Church… occasionally making sure to hit some of their Protestant colleagues on the way with the *my church is better than yours* argument. And to think that this guy actually made the implication that Catholicism doesn’t teach humility while Orthodoxy does is just astonishing.

                • Dave G.

                  I don’t know Joseph. I have to admit, I had to become Catholic to see this tendency of questioning the conversion of others. I was Protestant for many years, and I can’t recall anyone ever speaking about the ‘reasons’ for someone’s conversion. If someone said they converted for a lame reason we might say something. But there wasn’t this ‘the “Real” reason they converted is…” That seems to be a Catholic distinction. For my part, I don’t question it, because it would be as if to say I am the standard by which other converts are measured. I wonder if Orthodox say the same things about converts.

        • jaybird1951

          It is my understanding that Catholics are permitted by their Church to receive communion at an Orthodox church if no Catholic one is available. However, the Orthodox Churches do not permit their members to receive at Catholic churches under the same conditions. In the Middle East in particular, this rule is often ignored or so my understanding.

      • B.E. Ward

        You sunk my battleship!

      • John Fisher

        Well said. I know for ex Anglicans it is often a more ancient forms of High Anglicanism. “We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth” often the soul aspires to heaven but the body stays in the muck. For many coverts they don’t really get or ignore Orthodox monastic requirements of physical asceticism and sexual morality. Yet within orthodoxy their is a contradictory accommodation for adultery caused by Imperial pressure. Many Westerners don’t get Buddhism on these issues either but in the latters case Buddhism is about stoic nihilism rather than holiness.

    • John Fisher

      It would be more helpful to look back at the time of the schism and see what the beliefs of East and West were on papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, the Purgatory, or indulgences (penances imposed by the Church and remission of sin).

      The divide between Latin and Byzantine did not happen as a rupture but their was unity in places such as Eastern Europe Cyprus, the Holy land etc.There are Churches such as the Copts who broke Communion with the Byzantine Church, Nestorians etc and these divisions fights were exploited by Islam.
      The Early Church set 2 lists amongst the apostolic churches in order of jurisdiction. Byzantium has no apostolic foundation. Then a list of honour which placed Byzantium after Rome but before Antioch.
      The central focus of unity is Rome. Then the Patriarchal sees Rome Antioch Alexandria, Jerusalem etc with each other, the metropolitan with suffragan bishops, then local bishops with clergy and laity. It is hierarchical and Rome is at the top as focal point of unity. That is why I am a Catholic and expect my local bishop and his archbishop to be in union with Rome.

      The dispute about the authority of Roman bishops reached a climax in the year 1054, when the legate of Pope Leo IX excommunicated Patriarch of Constantinople Michael I Cerularius. The pope had, however, died before the legate issued this excommunication, depriving the legate of its authority and thereby rendering the excommunication technically invalid. Similarly, a ceremony of excommunication of the pope then performed by Michael I was equally invalid, as one cannot be posthumously excommunicated. This event led to the schism of the Greek-rite and Latin-rite Churches.[58] In itself, it did not have the effect of excommunicating the adherents of the respective Churches, as the tit-for-tat excommunications, even had they been valid, would have applied to the named persons only.

      Second Council of Lyon
      Pope Gregory X convoked the Second Council of Lyon (1274) to act on a pledge by Byzantine emperor Michael VIII to reunite the Eastern church with the West.[59] Wishing to end the Great Schism that divided Rome and Constantinople, Gregory X had sent an embassy to Michael VIII Palaeologus, who had reconquered Constantinople, putting an end to the remnants of the Latin Empire in the East.

      On 29 June (the Feast of Peter & Paul, the patronal feast of popes), Gregory X celebrated a Mass in St John’s Church, where both sides took part. The council declared that the Roman church possessed “the supreme and full primacy and authority over the universal Catholic Church.”

      The council was seemingly a success, but did not provide a lasting solution to the schism; the Emperor was anxious to heal the schism, but the Eastern clergy proved to be obstinate. Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople abdicated, and was replaced by John Bekkos, a convert to the cause of union. In spite of a sustained campaign by Bekkos to defend the union intellectually, and vigorous and brutal repression of opponents by Michael, the vast majority of Byzantine Christians remained implacably opposed to union with the Latin “heretics”. Michael’s death in December 1282 put an end to the union of Lyon. His son and successor Andronicus II repudiated the union, and Bekkos was forced to abdicate, being eventually exiled and imprisoned until his death in 1297. He is to this day reviled by many in the Eastern Church as a traitor to Orthodoxy. Thus the primacy of the Pope remains an issue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

  • John Fisher

    The filioque clause was an addition added because of a particular set of circumstances. It was introduced so as to prevent Arian Christian or other from denying the divinity of Christ say the Holy Spirit is only sent by the Father. Of course Christ sends the Holy Spirit.

    The filioque clause was an addition added because of a particular set of
    circumstances. It was introduced so as to prevent Arian Christians or others
    from denying the divinity of Christ say the Holy Spirit is only sent by the
    Father. Of course Christ sends the Holy Spirit. Greek Catholics and Ruthenian omit
    the filioque clause in the liturgy.

    So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the

    Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And

    when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the

    Holy Spirit. 23″If you forgive the

    sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any,

    they have been retained.” John 20:22

    Belief in Purgatory etc. were shared at one time as was so much more. The situation we see today is the result of centuries or reaction and a certain contrariness. The Orthodox Churches are fantastic but as they know Rome has primacy of jurisdiction and honour. They are truly apostolic and preserve the truth.

    are not what Christ wants and the split is really detestable. I love the
    Ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople and it is absolutely necessary we stop squabbling
    if we are to face and defeat Islam.

    divisions and pride on all sides has weakened us. Certainly Catholicism
    needs to embrace Tradition.

    used to go to A Greek catholic Church rather than face the new Mass… I love Orthodoxy.

  • Phoenix_Lion

    let’s look at it this way. If the Orthadox Churches were the way it was meant to be then Jesus’ mesage would have never left the Mediterranean or Middle East. It was the Roman Catholics with the papacy spreading the Gospel but more importantly welcoming all ethnicities into the Church. I also think a great reason the Orthadox churches did not continue to grow with Rome was the insertion of Islam. Islam seperated the east from the west (almost like it was planned by someone , like Satan). I would bet if Islam never came to be the Orthadox would not be so ethnic centered and they would have been able to grow with Rome freely and together would have stayed on the same path.

  • De Maria

    The question is asked:

    …. I was wondering if you had any insights on why you chose Catholicism over Orthodoxy? Or was Orthodoxy not a living option (or familiar option) at the time of your conversion?

    As for me, before I came back to Catholicism, I had looked at Orthodoxy (and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Lutheranism etc. etc). In fact, I leaned towards Orthodoxy because of my resentment of the Catholic Church.

    But the arguments from Scripture were clear to me. The Orthodox Church can in no way claim to be a universal church. In Scripture, I see the Christian Church called to a universal ministry (Matt 28:20). Whereas, Orthodox Churches are national in character. That, and the filioque argument which is hands down supported by Scripture. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son explicitly in Scripture (John 16:7; 20:22).

    So, to whom it may concern, that is why I chose the Catholic Church over the Orthodox.