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Is Catholicism considered orthodox Christianity? Things like praying to saints, the pope, praying to Mary, etc could be considered heretical... no?

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closed as not constructive by zefciu, warren, TRiG, Andrew, Affable Geek Sep 19 '12 at 18:52

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Doesn't the selling of sacraments reduce to: "if you give the pope money; your loved ones in purgatory goes to heaven quicker?" – unregistered-matthew7.7 Sep 16 '12 at 8:19
Yes. Period. :) – Affable Geek Sep 16 '12 at 11:55
+1 for making me think about the meaning of orthodox. I think we must distinguish between 'true' and 'orthodox'. Being orthodox is not necessarily being right, and being right is not necessarily being orthodox. These are two different things. True Christianity simply means relying on the death of Christ for one's own forgiveness of sins. We can't necessarily know who does this. Orthodox Christianity is simply the historical majority of those who profess true Christianity. – Mike Sep 16 '12 at 13:19
@unregistered-matthew7.7, according to a me that I respect, your pastor is not orthodox. :P Ha ha. Couldn't resist. Sorry! – Ryan Haber Sep 17 '12 at 4:51
@unregistered-matthew7.7 Yes, which is why it is an excommunicable offense and has always been an excommunicable offense. – Ignatius Theophorus Sep 17 '12 at 13:26
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Seeing as Catholics adhere to the first seven ecumenical councils, I think it would be very difficult to make a case that they aren't. Even their Orthodox brethren never doubted they were Christians- they just got annoyed at how uppity the Pope would get.

On the other side, it is true that Cromwell and many of the English theologians really thought the Pope was the AntiChrist. Again, however, it tended to be more for their behavior then for their theology. This is not to say that there were no differences in theology- but in the essentials (the Creeds would summarize this well), there was never any doubt that Catholics were closer to the truth than, say, the "Hindoos" or the "Mohammedans".

Additional note: My definition of orthodoxy has a pretty long pedigree. According to the entry in Liddell & Scott, orthodoxos first occurs in the Codex Justinian I.5.21; Code of Justinian: "We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed." The State Church of the Roman Empire (meaning that Christianity which was first recognized by Constantine the Great after Milvan Bridge in 312AD, then codified and formalized by these Councils tends to be the most commonly accepted definition of 'orthodoxy' amongst secular scholars.) I've historically used Chalcedon instead of Nicea (I wish I had stuck with Nicea, incidentally) mostly because I was trying to be more generous in my definition of "mainstream" Christianity.

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You answer came in while I was writing mine. Take a look, funny, you have posted two answers without realizing it. – Mike Sep 16 '12 at 12:19
:) ... Thanks :) – Affable Geek Sep 16 '12 at 17:23
@AffableGeek If we cannot define orthodoxy and "mainstream" Christianity - it sure makes it hard to judge questions which maybe "outside" of either of them. – user1054 Sep 19 '12 at 12:31
@DanAndrews I thought I just did define it, or rather, I gave the historic definition thereof... – Affable Geek Sep 19 '12 at 14:56
@AffableGeek You allude to your definition - which isn't the universal definition. I should have been more clear with "we" meaning the general population. – user1054 Sep 19 '12 at 16:34

Yes, Catholicism is the only form of Christianity, or any religion for that matter, that contains the fullness of truth, but others certainly have a share in it.

"Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements." Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity" CCC 819

But no, Catholics don't pray to the Pope, they do often pray for him. They don't pray just to Mary, but beg that she prays for us and the same goes for the saints.

Not sure why this answer generated any hubbub since "fullness of truth" is a very common Catholic explanation for the differences between us and everyone else. But, for the sake of orthodoxy, I will quote the heck out of Chesterton's eponymous epic and redeem myself.

On things you don't believe, yet the Catholic church teaches that are in fact true:

It takes all sorts to make a church; she does not ask me to be celibate. But the fact that I have no appreciation of the celibates, I accept like the fact that I have no ear for music. The best human experience is against me, as it is on the subject of Bach. Celibacy is one flower in my father's garden, of which I have not been told the sweet or terrible name. But I may be told it any day.

On the hidden meaning and reason for orthodoxy (right teaching):

Men of science offer us health, an obvious benefit; it is only afterwards that we discover that by health, they mean bodily slavery and spiritual tedium. Orthodoxy makes us jump by the sudden brink of hell; it is only afterwards that we realise that jumping was an athletic exercise highly beneficial to our health.

And, a defense of the symbolism, mystery and tradition taught through Catholicism:

that the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one. It not only certainly taught me yesterday, but will almost certainly teach me to-morrow. Once I saw suddenly the meaning of the shape of the cross; some day I may see suddenly the meaning of the shape of the mitre. One fine morning I saw why windows were pointed; some fine morning I may see why priests were shaven.

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+1 The fullnes of truth. :) – Affable Geek Sep 16 '12 at 12:01
While I admire your fervor for the Roman Catholic church, statin that no other branches of Christianity have the "fullness of truth" seems a bit haughty to me – warren Sep 16 '12 at 19:37
Christianity, by definition, is the belief that Jesus is the son of God. This means that Catholics, Orthodoxes, Protestants, and others are all Christian. – tkbx Sep 16 '12 at 22:03
I should be clear that, as a Protestant who, while he may really like the Pope, doesnt really think the Pope has a corner on Biblical truth. I admire the answer because I think it well reflects Catholic dogma- not bc I think it's necessarily "accurate". – Affable Geek Sep 16 '12 at 23:24
Chesterton was a genius. – Ignatius Theophorus Sep 17 '12 at 21:03

It's an intersting philosophical problem to try to classify Catholiics as "heretical". By far the majority of Christians in the world are Catholic. To classify them as 'unorthodox' means you first have to establish a standard of orthodoxy. If you are starting from an evangelical protestant perspective then you might manage to do that — but first you have to establish that evangelical protestantism is the correct form of Christianity.

Frankly even then the vewpoint that Catholics are heretics is a minority one.

Secondly you have to decide how much someone disagrees with you before the become "a heretic". Are they a heretic if they disagree about the timing of the rapture? Infant baptism? The right colour robe to wear during Easter? Christians disagree about many things, and 'heretic' is a strong word to use without a really good cause.

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Yeah, last night I was toying with clarifying the difference between heresy and unorthodox. Cromwell would have thought Catholics to be heretics but "Hindoos" and "Mohammedans" infidels aka not even remote orthodox. – Affable Geek Sep 17 '12 at 10:58

Most non-Catholics would consider those things as heresies but even then they are established, widely accepted heresies within Christian history, so they are a form of orthodoxy. Orthodoxy does not mean true, just standard norms of historical acceptance.The basic idea of 'orthodox' is adhering to traditional and established faith. Well that simply means being part of a historical majority. Therefore, Catholic faith (I say this from someone very much opposed to its doctrines as I am a Protestant) -- is very orthodox.

I will quote one of our own members as providing a very clear definition of who is mainstream Christian (i.e. 'orthodox' or 'widely recognized historical types' of Christianity as the world understands it):

That said, the most widely recognized types of Christianity, are Chalcedonian:

  • Orthodox (e.g. Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc...)
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant (Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc...) (Affable Geek)

This member also adds other 'Christian' groups that are not orthodox from the standpoint of history as they are more or less recent sects, so can't by definition be orthodox but non-orthodox with non traditional views found in the orthodox historical bodies:

Less widely known but still equally as on-topic are Non-Chalcedonian and "other" Christians. When answering from these perspectives, it is helpful to identify the denominational perspective, in order that less educated readers would understand that Christianity is perhaps broader than originally assumed:

Historic Non-Chalcedonian Churches (Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian, Nestorian, etc..)

  • Jehovah's Witness
  • The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
  • Seventh-Day Adventists (Affable Geek)
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I think it goes without saying that I gave this a +1 :) – Affable Geek Sep 16 '12 at 17:49
I thought it would be: "Mormons (The Church of Latter Day Saints)" :) Nice answer – user1054 Sep 18 '12 at 20:37
I should be clear, Affable Geek is not a Seventh-Day Adventist :) – Affable Geek Sep 19 '12 at 14:56

As I have it from Catholic encyclopaedia this practice of asking fellow Christians, Saints etc to pray for us, dates to earliest days of Christianity and is shared by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, other Eastern Christians and some Anglicans. It does originate from Bible.

John in Rev 5:8, depicts the saints in heaven offering prayers to God under the form of golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints. Meaning that saints offer our prayers to God, meaning they hear our petitions and present them to God by interceding for us.

The intercessory requests to Virgin Mary and Saints are akin to everyday life instances. When we need to pray to God for any of our intensions, we would ask our friends and well wishers also to pray for us. So those in heaven have even greater confidence and devotion to God than anyone on earth. Also God hear the prayers of righteous.

It is similar to saying of a son humbly at his mother’s grave, “Mom, please pray to Jesus for me. I am having a real problem right now.” We in our daily prayers, pray for our children as they being young, would not exactly know how to pray and that does not mean we are taking Christ place for our children while directing our prayers to God for them.

Something similar is said by Paul in four verses immediately preceding 1Timothy 2:5.

1Timothy 2:1-5
First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2:2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 2:5 For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human.

Elsewhere Paul directly asks others to pray for him: Rom. 15:30-32; Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:3; 1Thess. 5:25 and 2 Thess. 1:11

And finally Jesus himself required us to pray for others, and not only for those who asked us to do so:

Matt. 5:44
5:44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.

Also Jesus regularly supplied for one person, based on another person’s faith.

Matt. 8:13
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour.

See also Matt. 15:28; Matt. 17:15-18; Mark 9:17-29; Luke 8:49-55

Having said that and as I know of it, this practice of asking saints for intercessory prayers was extensive with Catholics earlier. It now exists, but Catholic Church, over the last several decades has weaned its flock away from it and more towards Jesus and that I find is a right step. Even when it was so, Christ was always a unique mediator for Catholic Church incomparable with human mediator ship as He is both God and Man and is the only bridge between God and us. However, to say this practice is heretic is an extreme view.

Let’s not waver in our cause, the cause to give Jesus to the whole world. The fact that we have different traditions indicates that we are having some differences of opinions among us. But these are nothing compared to that which unites us together. The blood of Christ unites us, because we acknowledge that we have been saved by same Jesus dying on the cross and who has risen from dead to give us life everlasting. We (all traditions) are not to forget about our strong, unwavering and steadfast belief in Jesus as the Christ and that He is God incarnate. Let’s not be judgemental in who is heretic and who is not because then each tradition will come up with their own issues they have with each other.

What better verse to quote here than what Paul said in 1Corinth. 1:12.

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