A Manual for Catholics on How to Dialogue with Orthodox Christians

I thought I would write a fun article that, while it contains some pearls of truth, is largely meant to tease Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. Enjoy!

Many a Catholic has gone through their entire lives without knowing what the Orthodox Christian is. For some, the word “Orthodox” often should be followed with the category of “Jew!” For other Catholics, Orthodox Christians are that weird combination of far east mysticism and Christianity, complete with bearded priests in smoke filled rooms (straight from Woodstock I suspect). For still other Catholics, Orthodox Christians were just fun people to go on Crusades with until we sacked their city 800 years ago (Ope!). 

In this Manual for Catholics on How to Dialogue with Orthodox, I wish to dispel some misunderstandings, affirm others, and generate the most thorough work on the topic.

  1. Orthodoxy is really, really weird. When I first went to an Orthodox liturgy, I remember walking into this smoke filled room with poor lighting. While I knew Orthodoxy in America was small, I didn’t realize it even affected their electric bills! You will also find that all Orthodox people have a code name known only to their priest. This name is used in the communion line when each member goes up to the priest and he says their code name before giving out a spoon of Eucharistic soup. There is also much chanting, deep care for those with dementia (much repetition), and great beards; but this only scratches the surface of how weird Orthodox folk can be.
  2. My dear Catholic reader, you will find that because of such a high degree of repetition, Orthodox memory is old with deep roots. Sometimes this is beautiful and comes out in the plethora of Orthodox traditions. Yet it has also caused Orthodox Christians to know how to hold a grudge! Some of you may be awestruck by current political demands of reparation money to former slaves, yet Orthodoxy remembers when we sacked their city nearly a millennium ago. In fact in (some) Orthodox Bible studies they even count their pages with reference to this infamous date of 1204. Unlike Protestants, whom we can burn at the stake while they treat us decently, the Orthodox Church sits in the shadows silently glaring and always judging our every misstep.
  3. Orthodoxy is Catholicism without the Pope. Seriously. If you dig into Orthodox theology you will find an enormous amount of agreement. Filioque? We Catholics disagree on that between East and West! Purgatory? Switch the word to “Final Purification” and we have more agreement. Liturgy? Well… they have us beat there… [1]
  4. Speaking of Liturgy, Orthodox Christians will NOT let anything mess with their liturgy. Truly nothing is scarier than a Greek Grandmother watching an outsider talking about changing her Church–even if the conversation is just interior decoration. Beyond grandmothers, I should also point out to you Catholics that the word “Change” essentially can be replaced with “Implement Western Degeneracy.” So when you say, “The Orthodox Church should change to having priests not get married” they will hear “The Orthodox Church should Implement the Western Degeneracy of Priests not being married”. If you seek to have a conversation on theology, know you can only reference Church Fathers – not the Bible – just the Church Fathers.
  5. Orthodoxy appreciates a good mystery. Orthodox Christians really appreciate the mystery; in fact, they appreciate it so much that they hate when the mystery is answered. Orthodox Christians hate solutions to theological questions. “It’s a Mystery!” Prepare yourself for that answer whenever you get too deep into theology. Instead, they prefer to fill the room with more smoke and increase chanting. While in the West we like to look at questions like “Whether any created intellect by its natural powers can see the Divine essence?” (Summa Theologica Q.12, Article 4), Orthodoxy prefers to watch us suffer while arguing about the finer points of theology. Orthodox Christians also like to create mystery, like Rowan who will destroy you while playing Mafia, even when he is not the Mafia.
  6. Orthodox Christians really aren’t worth making Catholic. On the Catholic side, do we really want a bunch of unchanging stubborn pig headed muffins? We have enough problems to deal with for now! Also for the Orthodox, is the Pope really the best selling point? I mean we could talk about systematic theology and the practice of Adoration, but with valid sacraments the case is far weaker than for bringing in a Protestant!

I hope you enjoyed my manual. Use it with care and remember if you ever feel trapped in a discussion with an Orthodox; declare it a mystery and come to the West for a real answer!


[1] But we westerners do have Adoration, something no Orthodox Church has dared to endeavor! Also… Eastern Catholicism.


This Article is part of a series of articles where I look to expand on my research concerning Catholic-Orthodox relations. In this series I write on both what I have learned from reading Orthodox priests and theologians and what I think Catholicism can offer in return.

The Dangers of Systematic Theology

The Call to Evangelize

What Real Ecumenism Looks Like

About The Author

Holding degrees in Theology and Political Science from Loyola University Chicago, Daniel is the Executive Director of the Morning Walk Website (SAC of Morning Walk). As Executive Director, Daniel is tasked with maintaining a regular blogging schedule, marketing the website to the general public, and containing the excesses of an over-scrupulous Chief Editor. He also helps coordinate between Morning Walk branches, organizing Morning Walk’s organization-wide events.

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