Orthodoxy: The Essentials

Source: District of Asia

The 10 points of doctrine that distinguish Orthodox and Catholics.

The separated Christians of the Byzantine Rite (Greeks, Slavs i.e. Russians, Romanians, Georgians, Albanians) proclaim themselves to be the owners of the true faith, and that is why they have long given themselves the title of “Orthodox.” There is no unity among them, except for the same doctrine that they adopt. None of the Orthodox Churches has an official doctrine. On the many questions not settled by the seven ecumenical councils, theologians can freely profess the opinions they hold, even the most advanced ones.

Here is the essence of the common teaching of the Greeks and Russians, by which they distinguish themselves and depart from Catholic doctrine, and even from the Faith itself:

  1. The Church is not a monarchy but an agglomeration of national churches without a visible head. Saint Peter has received only an honorary pre-eminence. The Pope, patriarch of the West, is not the head of the universal Church. Despite the claims of Constantinople, the Orthodox “churches” are not subject to a particular church. Moreover, the Church is infallible. This infallibility does not reside in the Pope, but in the episcopal body as a whole, whether or not it meets in council. There are only seven ecumenical councils, the first seven.
  2. The so-called “deuterocanonical” books (Book of Wisdom, Epistle to the Hebrews, etc.) are not accepted as canonical, although they are used in the liturgy.
  3. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, but does not proceed from the Father “and the Son.”
  4. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a doctrinal innovation of Rome.
  5. Purgatory is a “papal invention.” Some claim that souls who have repented at the moment of death, but who have to atone, undergo a temporary punishment in Hell; others, who have adopted the Protestant theory, admit only two categories of deceased, the elect and the damned.
  6. The Russians claim that the vision of God is granted to all the elect; the Greeks claim that it will be granted to them only after the Last Judgment (in the meantime, they enjoy a natural happiness, similar to that of the patriarchs in Limbo).
  7. Eucharist: for the Greek Church, Transubstantiation occurs not at the moment the priest pronounces the words of institution, but while he recites the invocation to the Holy Spirit, or êpidesis, which follows these words in the Byzantine liturgy.
  8. Since the 15th century, Russians and Greeks have not stopped attacking Indulgences.
  9. Since the Nineteenth Century, the Russian Church has claimed that the Sacrament of Orders does not imprint an ineffable character. This theory is gradually gaining ground among Greek theologians.
  10. The Russian Church admits the legitimacy of divorce in three cases: adultery, prolonged absence of a spouse, loss of all civil rights. But it tends to follow the Greek discipline, which allows for several other reasons for divorce.


By Abbé Philippe Toulza