Has the Orthodox changed any teaching in a significant way?
I received an email that said:
But in all of history, in all the schisms that have taken place, have you noticed one thing? The Orthodox Church has remained the same faith, maintaining the Holy Tradition and teachings of the Church. It has preserved that ancient faith of the first Christians through all time(even though it has been martyred since it's beginning and is being martyred this very minute). Proving it is the one true Church of Christ, of which He said "On this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."... As Christ is the Bridegroom, so the Church is the Bride. Thus, if Christ does not change (but is instead, the same yesterday, today and forever), why should the bride of Christ change? ...Why would she have to reform, to bend to the wills of man, and break? It is not so. Thus there can be but one Church, one that stays the same. One that holds all that Christ taught and is truly united to Him. Following this same concept- if Christ is the head of the Church and the Church is the body, why should the body change?
The last 40 years in the Orthodox Church
In the last 40 years secular society has been changing at a rate that is unprecedented in history. Perhaps the two biggest changes have been society's acceptance of contraception and divorce. It may even be that these two concepts are inseparably linked. When a couple is divided sexually, it leads to physical separation. The statistics demonstrate that couples that don't use contraception don't get divorced nearly as often.
Churches have been buffeted by these social changes and have been under incredible pressure to yield. The Catholic Church culturally has been hit very hard by the widespread use of contraception even though the official teaching has stayed consistent with the Fathers of the Church. In North America we have also been hit by an unprecedented number of annulments. However, the liberal bubble that happened after Vatican II is finally dying out and there is a strong reaffirmation by most bishops of Humane Vitae (against contraception) and a call for the reduction in annulments. We think that it is important that the official teaching on the Church never wavered on these matters. It sustained an atmosphere that allowed lay Catholics to return to the faith of their fathers after some dangerous flirting with moral liberalism.
Staying true to the Early Church Fathers
Currently, the vast majority modern Eastern Orthodox bishops directly teach that contraception is acceptable in marriage, when until 1930, ALL Christians (even Protestant Christians) taught that ALL forms of contraception were morally sinful; and the ancient fathers of the Church are VERY clear about this. And, in this case (and there are many others) it is only the Catholic Church that has remained faithful to Apostolic teaching. The Orthodox have yielded to the voice of the secular world and changed.
With no final magisterium -- no final authority to determine what is true and binding Orthodox teaching and what is not, it is difficult to stay true to the fathers. When it parted ways with Rome, it was held together partially by it's imperial authority (in Greece and then in Russia), and then by the external pressures of Islam and the Soviets. But now the Orthodox Church has freedom and too many choices before it. The Orthodox have abandoned Roman primacy. Many of Eastern priests assume ... wrongly ...that the East never recognized Roman primacy.
Moral teachings stable in the Catholic Church
Although the Catholic Church has changed in certain external and cultural aspects over the centuries, it has not changed in any essential or substantial way. We have never surrendered one dogma or one official Apostolic teaching. On the contrary, we have preserved them and led others (like the ENTIRE Eastern Church, on many occasions) back to Apostolic Truth. Easterners embraced Arianism between 340 and 381AD, when 86% of all Eastern bishops became Arians. Romans generally held fast, and defended men like St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and brought the East back to the Truth. Likewise, Easterners (including ALL FOUR Eastern patriarchs) denied Chalcedon in A.D. 482 and advocated the "orthodoxy" of Monophysism, while Romans held fast to REAL orthodoxy and had to excommunicate some heretical patriarchs. This was the famous Acacian schism which lasted until A.D. 519, and which was only healed when Emperor Justin I (an orthodox Christian) came to the throne and basically forced all of the Eastern bishops to condemn Monophysism, to embrace the dogmas of Chalcedon, and to sign the Libellus Hormisdae, which reads as follows:
"Because the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will found my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, etc,' cannot be set aside; this, which is said, is ***proved by the results****; for in the Apostolic See (Rome) religion has always been preserved without spot ....In which (See) is set the perfect and true solidity of the Christian religion." ... "In the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept undefiled and her holy doctrine proclaimed. Desiring, therefore, not to be in the least degree separated from the faith and doctrine of that See, we hope that we may deserve to be in the one communion with you which the Apostolic See preaches, in which is the entire and true solidity of the Christian religion: promising also that the names of those who are cut off from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, not consentient with the Apostolic See (Rome), shall not be recited during the Sacred Mysteries (i.e., the Liturgy). This is my profession, I have subscribed with my own hand, and delivered to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable Pope of the city of Rome."
(Formula Hormisdae Episc. Orient. Praescript Denzinger's Enchird. p. 42, ed. 1874) in Charles F.B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri --Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, London: Burns & Oates, 1879, 92
The Libellus was signed by 2,500 Eastern bishops in A.D. 519. It was also re-affirmed and signed by all the bishops who deposed Photius at the Constantinople Council in 869. This illustrates very clearly that the Orthodox Church has changed considerably. Most Easterners have never even heard about this stuff.
Examples of Orthodox changes
Sadly, the Orthodox Church has changed on contraception, divorce, Primacy of Peter, Mary's perpetual virginity, and Mary's sinlessless. We need to follow Christ's teaching in Matt 7:4-5. Christ did not approve of contraception or divorce? The Orthodox have changed in terms of substantial doctrines in these areas. Catholics never have. In fact, we offer a challenge to demonstrate one example in which the Catholic Church has changed in terms of its substantial doctrines. We have not, nor can we, since we are preserved from doing so (by Christ's promise) by the Holy Spirit. Our Orthodox friend continues:
Is the Orthodox Church the fullness of the Churches
The Orthodox Church is truly the fullness of the Churches.
If this were so, then all of the ancient rites of the Church would be represented in Eastern Orthodoxy. But this is not the case. It lacks the Roman rite, as well as various Eastern rites, which were taken away from the Orthodox via the Monophysite and Nestorian schisms. Catholics, however, have all of the rites represented in our communion --both the Western Rites, as well as the Byzantine, Antiochian, and Slavonic rites of your communion (i.e., Eastern Orthodox who have returned to communion with us), and also members from all of the other Eastern rites (Syrian, Coptic, Malabar, Armenian, Ethiopian, etc.) who have abandoned the errors of Monophysism and Nestorianism and have likewise returned to communion with us. This is why the Church founded in Rome is truly the Catholic (universal) Church, and the "fullness of the Churches." It is only the Christ-given ministry of Peter that can unify all the Churches.
Charis kai eirene (Grace and Peace)