Contrasts Between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy

The attached PDF is a chart submitted by Father James Bernstein. 

The purpose of the chart is to assist the Orthodox to better understand our Faith, resisting the organized movement of Orthodox leaders into the Uniate/R.C.   

It incorporates the input of many people, over many months, including individual clergy, laity, academics, converts from Roman Catholicism (both clergy and lay), published authors, and others.

We thought it might be of interest to you, our readers.


[Editor Note: Updated 12/28/21]



  1. Superb! Thank you Fr. James.

  2. Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

    That is an outstanding compendium (notwithstanding a typo here and there)!  Thank you, George, for posting it, and thank you, Fr. James, for composing it.

    I intend to forward that document to the students in my current undergraduate course on “Eastern Orthodox Christianity” at George Mason University here in Virginia.

  3. Michael Bauman says

    Good cheat sheet BUT the recommended books list does not include “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius. Big hole.
    Read it first.

    • V. Rev. James Bernstein says

      Michael Bauman
      Thank you. I have added it in my update. Indeed, I have a section in my book Surprised by Christ on “The Language of Salvation in St. Athanasius.” 

      • Michael Bauman says

        Father that makes it much stronger. I love that book and all it reveals of our inter-relationship with our Lord, God and Savior.

  4. Jane Tzilvelis says
    • Can’t wait to see the marching orders Pompeo gives to Patriarch Bartholomew this time..Macedonia? Montenegro? 

  5. Neat! A very useful condensation of the hot button topics. It would be nice to have the protestant views on there two but you would need another hard drive to store it

  6. ‘OCU “priest” blesses parishioners “to receive communion online”.’
    To be fair: ‘the spokesperson for the OCU Yevstratiy Zoria said that Igor Savva, who performs the “online communion”, has nothing to do with his religious structure.’

  7. Christopher McAvoy says

    Dearest brethren, 

    Firstly, I offer my thanksgiving for your latest contribution to defense of our Holy Faith, that is to say, the defense of Holy Mother Church. Defense of the faith is always welcome as a primary good work and fruit of grace. There is not much point in being Orthodox without a proper apology for our faith. Otherwise at the end of our life, which may happen at any moment, we may never be worthy to bear our faith and account for ourselves before the dread judgement seat of our Holy Lord Jesus Christ.

    Secondly, I also offer brief criticism of some of what Rev Fr Bernstein wrote. I shall quote one of the first sentences in Rev Fr’s introductory description.”As such, some issues have been oversimplified. I apologize if any are offended because of this.”
    I fear that this sentence is out of place in any traditional apology of the faith. Perhaps there is a sense in which Rev Fr is speaking too much with the terms and lens of modernity and falling into a bit of the same trap much of the present day western culture finds itself. My other complaint is that describing issues one writes about as being “oversimplified” can be a mask for what is more honestly termed “error”, that which is not true. 

    Speaking of masks, I would make a third point. I will more easily accept a traditional Roman Catholic Church community which does not wear masks when worshipping as being true (say one of the SSPX chapels)  than I would one which wears masks and claims to be Orthodox. Perhaps the danger most prominent for us here is of having an particular worldly academic mindset to defend the faith which is too far removed from what the authentic culture and faith entails, a more consistent patristic lens. We must also embrace to carry our cross to suffer with Christ, so as not live in fear but to rejoice in his triumph over death !

    I think one of the foundational roots of division between the Church of Rome and Churches of the other Patriarchates is ecclesiology. In my own apology I would place great emphasis on this. Yet even here I cannot say that what Fr Bernstein writes is what I know to be true. For example I see no conflict between supremacy and primacy. Neither a conflict between local and universal jurisdiction. None of these are mutually exclusive. All four are complementary and easily observable in patristic sources to be quoted by the likes of St Maximos the Confessor. A pope may ordinarily have local jurisdiction and exceptionally have universal jurisdiction. The heresy would be that present day Romans blur the boundaries between local and universal far beyond propriety to convoke chaotic governance and disorder in their communion of Church(es).

    In the ecclesiology category, I believe the absolute error which the Church of Rome appears to have accepted as being in attempting to make the dogma of papal infallibity, that must be wholeheartedly anathematized. Brian Tierneys book on the subject: “Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages” is one which elucidates much of the position quite well.

    I suspect I sympathize and agree with at least half of what Rev Fr Bernstein wrote, only I find it necessary to criticize the other characteristics of what he wrote that do not quite sit well with my heart. For example, I believe that many of the laity, clergy and monastics within Russia today have a better ability to apologize for the faith than do many here in the USA, where we have other unhelpful influences and excesses which are neither here nor there. Overseas they are not truly competing with RC or Protestantism, they are confident and do not exaggerate. Their culture is Orthodox, it is complete in and of itself (not to say their worship attendance is ideal). Yet we must all have patience for what our limitations on our respective societies, their particular sins and wait for their repentance.

    I would add that I am not an ecumenist and that I believe the greek church as having gone into schism and stand with the Church of Russia leading the flock in Holy Orthodoxy. May God have mercy on me for my own errors and enlighten my heart to humility.

  8. Nancy Forderhase says

    I can’t open the document.

  9. V. Rev. James Bernstein says

    George and Gail, Thank you for posting the Chart. May it be God Blessed. Truly, many Orthodox are ignorant of these significant differences. Hopefully it will serve to educate the uninformed and remind those aware.
    Anathema, to Two Lungs Ecclesiology. 

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Thank you for sending it, Father. I think it’s very helpful.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Father, having grown up in a Catholic neighborhood during a time when a recitation of the Rosary was on the radio and having an RC boss for the last 30 years I can say there are a large number of Catholics who do not know the significance of these things too. It could be a tool for evangelism as well catechesis

  10. As a Roman Catholic convert to Orthodoxy this is really awesome. Fr. James is great 

  11. I’m going to keep this handy when needed for apologetics!

    ELDER EPHRAIM of Arizona Appeared and CALLS US TO REPENTANCE – Without Repentance Terrible Events Await Us

    • Anonymous II says

      I heard something along these lines years ago at the monastery regarding the monks receiving crowns of martyrs while going into the cities to help people. 

  13. Thank you, Fr James, for this contribution!

  14. At least Metropolitan Onuphry is calling out the Patriarchate of Constantinople  for the real reasons behind its non-canonical actions in Ukraine. The root of all of it is the secularization and liberalization of that patriarchate. We should pray to God for the conversion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Patriarch Bartholomew back to Orthodoxy. The patriarchate has fallen into error and heresy before throughout history and has come back, anything is possible with God. 

    • Constantinople is completely in step with the Davos/Great Reset/New World Order/Antichrist plan. If they are going to make a comeback, they better start quick. In my opinion, they are already history. Seriously, is there some super-traditional bishop just waiting in the background to sort the Phanar out? I know there are good priests, but the ‘holy’ Synod would never lay hands on such men. Corrupt to the core.
      I like the PDF, by the way, but I think it is wrong to say that our Church rejects Transubstantiation. If I remember correctly, the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs or the Council of Jerusalem accepts it.

      • I think it is more that the Orthodox Church does not hold with the Aristotelian physics that Rome uses to define transubstantiation. Jesus says: “This is my body” and: “This is my blood”. Very well then, this is what they are. How they become such (apart from the Holy Spirit bringing it about) is a mystery – which is why the process is called a ‘mysterion’.

      • V. Rev. James Bernstein says

        Basil. RE: transubstantiation. Both documents are addressed to Western Christians (RCs and Calvinists), so the Orthodox hierarchs had to explain the Orthodox teaching in the philosophical terminology used among Westerners in order to make themselves understood. The use of Western terminology and concepts was a foreign “importation” among these Orthodox. Many were actually educated in Western/Latin schools. These terms and concepts are not “native” to Orthodox theology. Fr Thomas Hopko of blessed memory said: “The mystery of the holy eucharist defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms. For the eucharist — and Christ himself — is indeed a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which, as Jesus has told us, is “not of this world.” 

    • Amen!

  15. Bartholomew has just declared that he is first without equal…and if everyone does not accept it, then they are like protestants. This heresiarch has finally verbalized what everyone knew about him. I suppose he has been emboldened by his good friend, Sleepy Joe.

  16. Michael Bauman says

    Well, when I see the other Patriarchs break communion with Bartholmew, I will believe someone cares. OCA and Antioch especially.

  17. Jim Spencer says

    Thanks so much, Father James!