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5 Differences Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church

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A lot of people are curious about the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. From the outside, it might look like we are basically the same Church with the same practices and the same theology. While we do have some important things in common with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, there are also a number of important differences between us. In this video, Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick lists 5 of those differences.

Here’s an important comment/disclaimer Fr. Andrew made on his Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy Facebook post about the video:

(These aren’t the only ones! But these are some that are most immediately noticeable in day-to-day life. And of course there’s a lot more one could say about these five differences.)

A few notes:

1. The Orthodox do believe in the primacy (a certain leadership position) of our patriarchs, etc., but not their supremacy. And it’s true that, just as papal supremacy doesn’t always work perfectly for Rome, neither does Orthodox collegiality always work perfectly for the Orthodox. But it’s what each side officially believes in and tries to practice.

2. It used to be that Christians under Rome were once confirmed immediately or shortly after baptism (even if infants), as well as communed. This still holds true for the roughly 1.5% of Catholics who belong to the Eastern Catholic churches.

3. Orthodoxy does believe in a certain purification as the saved pass into the next life and also that prayers for the dead do benefit them (though without defining precisely how), but not in the system of temporal penalty for sin and indulgences that are what define Purgatory.

4. Prior to the liturgical reforms that came after Vatican II, the core of the Roman Catholic mass was among the very oldest and most unchanged liturgical traditions among Christians.

5. Some Roman Catholics (and certainly Eastern Catholics) still do fast in many ways more like the Orthodox, though they are not expected to. Aside from Fridays in Lent and Ash Wednesday, however, fasting and abstinence (which are defined separately for them) are simply not a regular expectation for Roman Catholics.

Theoria Theoria is devoted to producing high quality Orthodox video content in order to inspire new, renewed, and continued inquiries into the depth of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Her ancient Tradition. Theoria was founded in 2015 by an Eastern Orthodox Christian and freelance videographer, animator, and designer, who produces and funds Theoria on his own time.