Almost from the very beginning the Church identifies itself as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The word "Catholic" means universal or open to all people regardless of race, color, sex and culture. In the beginning there was only the Roman Catholic Church. In 1054 AD, the Eastern or Orthodox churches separated from Rome over theological disputes, "Prominent among these were the issues of the source of the Holy Spirit, whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, the Bishop of Rome's claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of the See of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy."

Now the Orthodox churches used the Synod as their governing body. In the early Church, the synod was its very nature a gathering of bishops which met more of less regularly. Beginning in the fourth century there came into being the permanent synod which could easily be called on the local level , (e.g. convened by Patriarch of Constantinople who could easily summon the Bishops of that city). In time, the synod at different levels of Church life became a permanent feature of the Orthodox Church. The Synod is an act of communion between a metropolitan and other bishops in his province, between a bishop and his presbytery, between a presbyter and the laity who comprise the parish, and finally among the members of the laity themselves. A patriarch is considered as the First Among Equals. (goarch.org/The Synodal Structure of the Orthodox Church --Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) So, after the break with Rome, no single Patriarch had final authority in the Eastern Churches.

This does not square with the way Christ set up his Church giving Peter a singular authority as is written, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18)

The division between Catholics and Orthodox came due to doctrinal differences which are reconcilable but was also instigated by the political considerations at that time. For the most, part the Orthodox have maintained the Traditional Faith along with Apostolic continuity.

On the question of Original Sin (Catholics) or Ancestral Sin (Orthodox) is largely a matter of viewpoint and emphasis rather then opposition. In the Baltimore Catechism printed n 1964 I read: Question, "What has happened to us on account of the sin of Adam?" Answer, "On account of the sin of Adam we come into the world without grace, and we inherit its punishment." Rev. Anthony Hughes, an Orthodox, priest makes the observation that while ancestral sin leads the mind to consider human death and divine compassion, the doctrine of original sin shifts the center of attention to human guilt and divine wrath. (stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/Ancestral Versus Original Sin/St. Mary Orthodox Church)

The catechism of the Catholic clearly states it thus:

"Original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act. Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle." (#404-405)

 

If an Orthodox is asked "What is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve", the answer would be Death. "Man is born with parasitic power of death within him." (Fr. Romanides) It is not guilt which is passed but a condition which separates us from God of which physical death is a sign. To the Orthodox, the most significant consequences of the Fall is death as seen in the light of Christ resurrection. So, to them Christ's conquest of death in his resurrection is central rather than sin. (Patheos.com/Sin and Death in Eastern Orthodox Theology by Joel Willitts) In Orthodox icons, Christ's resurrection is depicted as the trampling down of death by death meaning that humanity has been set free from the curse of death. This death is a deprivation of God's life within us which is passed on from Adam to us, not his personal sin. In both the Catholic and the Orthodox view we do not inherit the personal sin of Adam and Eve but Adam's loss of original holiness and justice.

Another impediment toward unity is their denial of the Immaculate Conception defined by that Pope Pius IX in 1854.

The Orthodox maintain that Mary could not have been conceived without "Original Sin" or "Ancestral Sin" since St. Paul tells us that "all are deprived of the glory of God". The dogmatic definition states: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." Mary, therefore, was also saved by Christ in view of his death and resurrection. We must remember that for God there is no past or future, everything is present to Him.

 

The Orthodox give profound veneration to Mary as in this prayer: "It is right, in truth, to call you Blessed, Birthgiver of God, Ever-Blessed, Most Pure and the Mother of our God. More honourable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, in virginity you gave birth to God the Word. True Birthgiver-of-God, we magnify you. Amen." However, they do not accept the Immaculate Conception because St. Paul states that "all are deprived of the glory of God" believing that Mary was sanctified sometimes after her conception either in St. Ann's womb, or as most believe, at the Annunciation.

On this question, the majority of Orthodox theologians deny the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. They do admit, however, that Mary was purified before the birth of God's Son. There were also a number of theologians of the past who do admit that Mary was wholly sanctified at the very first moment of conception when the body was formed and the soul was united to the body (e.g. George Scholarios (+1456), Gerasimo, Patriarch of Alexandria (+1636). It was only after the declaration of the Immaculate Conception that the greater part of the Greek Church turned against the belief. And it was not till 1896 that we find an official text declaring the difference between Rome and the Orthodox East. This document is not infallible nor does it impose the Orthodox belief as a matter of conscience. The Russian Church as a whole believed in the the Immaculate Conception from the Middle Ages to the 17th Century. It was in 1881 that the first important writing appeared in opposition to the Dogma and since 1884 Russian Orthodoxy has opposed the Immaculate Conception.

In view of the past history of Orthodox belief, the dogma does not constitute an obstacle preventing agreement between the Eastern and Western Church. The Orthodox could move toward a greater understanding of dogma of the Immaculate Conception. They could move toward belief because theirs is only a theological opinion which is not infallible nor are their bound in conscience to believe their theological opinion.

6. Traditions in Conflict