Orthodox vs Catholic
The difference between orthodox and catholic is in a number of aspects such as the belief of Mary and the acceptance of the pope. Christianity seems to be divided into the Eastern and Western churches that are referred to as Orthodox and Catholics respectively. Actually, when we say Catholic here, we are referring to the Roman Catholic church. To a casual observer or someone from any other religion, Orthodox and Catholics might appear the same, but there are differences in doctrine and authority that will be highlighted in this article. The basic beliefs and practices remain the same. It is some minor differences that crept in slowly starting from 5th century AD that led to a great schism in 1054 AD. These differences continue till date even after a thousand of years. Let us take a closer look.
What is Catholic?
Catholic here refers to the Roman Catholic. That is because nowadays Catholic and Roman Catholic has become synonyms. Roman Catholic Church is the church that is headed by a pope. Pope in Rome is the highest authority and Vatican is the seat of Christianity (for the Catholics). However, papal authority is on the wane as though he is still the figurative head in the west. He cannot advise for a change of leadership in any country even if he feels that the government in a country is moving in a direction not desired by the Church.
Further, Latin remained the language of the Catholic Church for long. It is only after the second Ecumenical Council that Catholic Church has started to use native language for mass services. Also, the priests are not allowed to marry in Catholic Church. It was in 1054 AD that celibacy was forced upon all priests in Western Church. When you consider some of the beliefs of Catholics, the Catholics believe Mary to be one without original sin and hence appropriate to be the mother of the son of god.
What is Orthodox?
Orthodox more specifically refers to the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is a branch of the Catholic Church. Pope is not recognized as supreme by the Orthodox. Eastern Orthodox recognizes bishops with archbishop as the highest authority though he is not infallible like the Pope for the Catholics.
Also, the Orthodox Church did not accept the Roman language of Latin and preferred using native languages from the start. Coming to the belief on Mary, the Orthodox Church feels that Mary was ordinary but was chosen to be the mother of Jesus as she had led a virtuous life.
You may be surprised that even the most important events in the calendar such as Christmas and Easter are calculated in a different manner by the Orthodox and Catholics. This is because Eastern Orthodox does not recognize the Gregorian calendar formulated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
What is the difference between Orthodox and Catholic?
• The Place of the Pope:
• For the Catholics, the Pope in Rome is the highest authority and Vatican is the seat of Christianity.
• Pope is not recognized as supreme by the Orthodox.
• Use of Latin:
• Latin remained the language of the Catholic Church for long. It is only after the second Ecumenical Council that Catholic Church has started to use native language for mass services.
• Orthodox Church did not accept the Roman language Latin and preferred using native languages from the start.
• Seat of Christianity:
• Western Church or the Catholics believe Vatican in Rome to be the seat of Christianity.
• Constantinople or Istanbul is considered to be the seat of Christianity by Orthodox.
• Views about Mary:
• Catholics believe Mary to be one without original sin and hence appropriate to be the mother of the son of god.
• Orthodox Church feels that Mary was ordinary but was chosen to be the mother of Jesus as she had led a virtuous life.
• Catholics prefer statues.
• Orthodox believes in icons instead of statues.
• Catholics accept the Georgian calendar.
• Orthodox accepts the Julian calendar.
• Celibacy of Priests:
• Priests are not allowed to marry in Catholic Church.
• In Orthodox, marriage before ordination is allowed.
• Ideas about each other:
• Catholics consider Orthodox to be mystical in nature relying far too often on spiritual practices.
• The Orthodox Church believes Catholic Church to be legalistic and one that relies too much on speculation.
- Interior of St. Albertus Catholic Church by Scott Calleja (CC BY 2.0)
- The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the world’s tallest Orthodox church by Elijah.B (CC BY-SA 2.5)