What Divides Orthodox and Catholics?

Today, I received a copy of an article by the above title, and I would like to offer a considered reply to the subject.

There is a bigger chasm between Orthodox faithful and the Roman faithful than the article contemplates. The article is authored by Hieromonk Maximos Davies, who identifies himself as an Eastern Catholic. The first problem is a root problem. Romans, whether of the Eastern or Western variety, owe an allegiance to the Pope of Rome for all affairs of Church faith, dogma, and life. While this allegiance at first glance appears to be one of superficiality, any attempt by Eastern Catholic subject(s) to actually establish a foothold against papal authority would find the penalty of excommunication coming their way.

The problem stems from the Roman's view of church rule. In the mind of a Roman, the church is populated with ombudsmen of the Centrality of Papal Rule. In turn, these ombudsmen have assistants who carry out their orders within the framework of the ombudsmen. None of the ombudsmen dare step out of line with the Pope of Rome, because all power of the church is vested in the Office of the Pope. The Roman concept of church seeks its perfection from the office of the Pope of Rome and finds no other source for that perfection. Thereby, over the vigorous objections of several leading Catholic Theologians of the day, the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was made a Roman dogma in the 1800's.

The Papal Infallibility doctrine, of course, depends upon having a infallible Pope, an impossible feat never ever accomplished in all the history of the Papacy. Perhaps the Romans are not familiar with the principles of Orthodox theology concerning humankind's fallen nature and proclivity to sin. It is best summed up by a few select prayers found in Orthodox Christian funeral and memorial services:

O God of all spirits and flesh, Who has trodden down death, destroying the power of the devil, bestowing life on Your world. to the soul of Your servant (Name) departed this life, do You Yourself, O Lord, give rest in a place of light, in a place of green pasture, in a place of refreshment, from where pain and sorrow and mourning are fled away. Every sin by him (her) committed in thought, word, or deed, do You as our good and loving God forgive, seeing that there is no man that shall live and sin not, for You alone are without sin: Your righteousness, and Your law is truth.

If the Funeral Service is presided over by a Bishop, he then says the following Prayer of Absolution.

O Lord our God, Who by Your unutterable wisdom have fashioned man out of the dust and transformed him into comeliness and beauty; and have adorned him, as a precious and heavenly creature, for doxology and magnificence of Your glory and Kingdom, in that You brought him into existence as a being fashioned according to Your image and likeness; and Who, when he had transgressed the commandment of Your ordinance, and kept it not, although he participated in Your image, gave command for this reason, as God of our fathers, to prevent evil from becoming immortal, decreeing that his composite and mixture, this bond which You made for joining body and soul unbreakably, should be sundered by Your divine Will, and be dissolved; so that the soul would withdraw where it had required existence, and there abide until the general Resurrection; whereas the body would break up into the elements out of which it had first been compounded; for this reason we pray You, the beginningless Father, and Your Only;Begotten Son, and Your All;Holy, Consubstantial and Life;creating Spirit, that endured not to see the work of Your fashioning swallowed up by destruction, but rather let the body indeed be dissolved into the elements, and let the soul be appointed a place in the Choir of the Just: Yea, O Lord our God, let Your Immeasurable mercy prevail, and Your manbefriending love which is beyond compare; and if this servant has incurred the curse of father or mother, or a ban invoked upon himself (herself); or if he (she) has provoked any priest to bitter severity, and from him has incurred a ban unbreakable; or if he (she) has incurred a Bishop's very grievous interdict, but through thoughtlessness and needlessness has failed to obtain forgiveness; do You forgive him (her) through me, Your sinful and unworthy servant; and let his (her) body indeed dissolve into its elements, but his (her) soul do You appoint to dwell in the tentings of the Saints. Yea, O Lord our God, Who to Your holy Disciples and Apostles gave this authority for granting remission of sins, and did say that whatsoever things they would bind and loose, those things would be bound and would be loosed; and Who through them in Your manbefriending love has caused to be transmitted to us also, unworthy though we be, the same gift in equal measure; loose this Your servant (Name), now fallen asleep from sin of soul and body, and make him (her) to be now forgiven in this present world and in the world to come; through the intercessions of Your all-pure and Ever Virgin Mother, and of all the Saints. Amen.

So wherewith can we say that the Pope of Rome is called infallible, who is also called the "Bishop of Rome", since he is like every other bishop and man who has lived and committed sin, save for Christ Jesus, Who is perfect man, and Who sinned not? The Roman puts forth an undefendable argument that states that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and as such carries special attributes not accorded to other bishops. History tells us that this argument is not only untrue, but it is manifestly untrue to say that a Pope is perfect and sins not. Indeed, it is statements like this that have caused certain protestant theologians to say that the Pope of Rome is the personage of the Antichrist, and they attempt to support this argument by Holy Scripture. And who am I to say whether the protestant theologian is wrong or right?

Also, the concept of the term, "vicar of Christ", tells us that the Roman does not even accept that God is with us, present among us, but, even more alarming, that Christ is in absentia! What kind of theological drivel is it to think that Christ is not Head of His Church, but the Pope of Rome is? Is not the Roman position a heresy of big proportion? Would not the Holy Fathers say anathema to such a one as would espouse that the Pope is perfect and head of the Ecclesia of Christ? Did not blessed Photius, Patriarch of Constantimople, preach against this false dogma and say that the Pope, although first among equals, is not the jurisdictional head of the affairs of the entire Church?

Has not the Pope of Rome instituted changes since the Great Schism of 1054 that would invoke the anathemas of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils? I will leave the reader to search this out for himself or herself. So with all this said, is it any wonder that the Serbian said on a placard, "Master: Do not turn us into Roman Catholics!"

It is the obligation of Orthodox Christians to preach the truth of the Headship of Christ to the Roman Catholics and Protestant "Christian" who swallows the instruction of their leaders without question as if they are perfect in every way. The truth of an idea from Bishop Timothy Ware comes to mind: Protestantism is but a different shade of Roman Catholicism, for instead of espousing the work of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Ecumenical Councils, they espouse the teaching of imperfect leaders/founders of their denominations; thus, in effect, they do not follow the Headship of Christ. Please read my other writings on the topic of Unity of the Faith and The Meaning of Giving Holy Orthodoxy.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen."

Back to main menu
Back to Christian Issues, Doctrine, and Liturgies

All contents of this web site are Copyright © 2005, by the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel, San Ignacio, Belize and Petros Presbeftes. All Rights Reserved.