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Matt L. wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question regarding the Orthodox Church and whether or not they will be saved.

I have read one of your answers to the question of whether or not the Catholic Church is the one, true church and that:

"non-Catholics have the responsibility to seek and be open to the truth. They should be open and prepared to go wherever God's leads them."

I agree that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, but Orthodox Christians generally also make the same claim, regardless of whether or not it is true, plus they also have a valid apostolic succession and all valid seven sacraments like we do.

  • So can they be saved, since they possess mostly the same beliefs and structure we do?

Thanks,

Matt L.

  { Can Orthodox believers be saved, since they have most of the same beliefs and structure we do? }

Mike replied:

Dear Matt,

Thanks for the question, and thanks for reading the questions in that section before asking your question. I wish others did that.

You're correct in that Roman Catholics and Orthodox have the same seven sacraments and same Apostolic Succession. Even our theology is almost identical.

Anyone can be saved who follows the dictates of their own conscience to the best that they can, but no one on earth can dare to play the roll of Jesus in judging other peoples salvation. Plus we have to remember, it's Jesus Church, not the Pope's. The Pope is just there to safeguard, protect and clarify Our Master's divine teachings.

What I would say is that if an Orthodox knows the Catholic Church was established by Christ for the salvation of all souls and he knowing refuses to join, he gravely risks his salvation. (CCC 846)

If any Orthodox can accept the Primacy of St. Peter and his successors, they should probably consider becoming a Catholic.

Based on the current state of Catholic-Orthodox dialogues though, I think you are asking the wrong question. The better, more realistic question is:

  • When do you think the reunification of Catholics and Orthodox will happen under one Church?

My answer: In the very near future.

To my mind, the only two reasons that would stop the reunification of the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox is:

  1. pride, and
  2. cultural habits, disciples and environments.

The Catholic Church can deal with the second, but can't do anything about individual people's pride whether they are lay worshippers or Orthodox priests.

This article from our colleagues at Catholic Answer may be of interest to you as well:

Eastern Orthodoxy

Hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Matt,

Mike stated everything very well.

I'd just add one thing that keeps the Orthodox and Catholics apart:

  • Stupidity on both sides by men who let politics triumph over substance.

The Schism happened because of politics and stupidity. I believe there is still a lot of it at play today.

People are worried about turf. That is who gets to do "what and where". The result: we lose track of the mission of the Church to bring the Gospel to all men, because we worry about whether or not it's going to be a Roman or an Eastern diocese or parish.

Give me break! Last time I checked, we were supposed be worried about saving souls.

The good news is that men, on both sides, are smartening up. We'll see more of that as persecution increases.

John

Matt replied:

Mike,

Thanks for the e-mail back. It has helped a lot.

One of the things that Orthodox Christians have against the primacy of Peter is their interpretation of Matthew 16:21-23, where Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!" after Peter tries to convince Jesus to not go through the passion and death.

  • Does that argument even stand well?

I read in the article that you posted that stated the Primacy of Peter is linked, not just to Matthew 16:18, but also to John chapters 21-22, where Jesus told Peter, and not the other disciples,
"Feed my sheep", meaning be the Shepherd of the Church.

Also, Orthodox Christians have problems with the Immaculate Conception as being a dogma, saying that Mary could have been sanctified at the moment of the Annunciation.

Thanks again.

Matt L.

Mike replied:

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the reply.

The argument you cite in Matthew 16 when Jesus said to Peter: "Get behind me Satan", only shows Peter's human frailty.

  • Why would Peter want Someone who he loved to go to the Cross?

Orthodox who have trouble accepting the Primacy of Peter have to explain to Catholics why Jesus, the God-Man, consubstantial with the Father, would divinely say, in Matthew 16:17, paraphrasing:

"that no mere man has told you what you just said, but my Father in Heaven has."

Hmmmm. If Jesus didn't tell Peter and no one on earth told Peter, I think that's a pretty strong case for Divine intervention. : )

Mike

John replied:

Matt —

Orthodox Christians have a problem with the definition of the Immaculate Conception, not the substance. They agree that Mary was sinless. A few individuals might deviate from this, but that's the exception.

The problem comes from different understandings of original sin which are both valid. It actually is an issue with Eastern Catholics as well.

In the West, our understanding is based on a juridical understanding of Justification based on
St. Augustine and then further developed by other theologians.

In the East, the Cappadocian Fathers, understood original sin as being original death. Meaning that when we are born, we are spiritually dead because of the fall of Adam so our Western definition of the Immaculate Conception doesn't fit in that paradigm. We say that Mary was preserved from original sin by the future merits of Christ.

In their paradigm, we don't inherit original sin. We are simply born spiritually dead.

  • Do you see the problem?

Also, in the West, we are rational thinkers. We are always looking to define things based on the rational questions we ask. We want to know how this work, how does that work. In the East, they just accept the paradoxes and enter in to the Mysteries.

We must understand, that these are all paradigms seeking to explain a mystery. At times they seem to be incompatible, but in substance they are not. We just think differently than one another and we need to remember that the theology we develop is based on the questions we ask.

John

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