Father Sergei Bulgakov, a Russian Orthodox priest, wrote in his 1935 work The Orthodox Church that "integral unity" for the Church "may be realized only in two ways: by Orthodox conciliarity, 'sobornost,' or by the authoritarian monarchy of Catholicism."
Next to the issue of papal primacy, an obstacle to reunion between the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox is the filioque – "and the Son", which was added to the text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in the west to describe the procession of the Holy Spirit.
The text of the creed was agreed upon at the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople in 325 and 381 respectively, saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. But the Catholic Church in Spain added to the creed in the sixth century, to say that that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as a way to combat latent Arianism.
The addition of the filioque was slowly adopted throughout the west, but was seen in the east as an innovation that was unnecessary at best, and heretical at worst. According to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, some Eastern Orthodox believe that the filioque is not heretical in itself, provided it is properly explained and understood, but that it is nonetheless an unauthorized addition to the creed.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has stated that the doctrine of the filioque "cannot appear to contradict the Monarchy of the Father" nor the Father's role as the sole origin of the Spirit.
And the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation in 2003 was able to sign an agreement stating that the filioque need not be a Church-dividing issue. Moreover, Catholics do not always say the filioque in the creed: whenever it is recited in the Greek language, the original text is used, and Eastern Catholic Churches do not now recite it, seeing its use as a latinization.
Indissolubility of Marriage
Of particular importance recently, the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics also disagree about the indissolubility of marriage. The Catholic Church believes that a sacramental marriage that has been consummated can be dissolved only by death, whereas while the Eastern Orthodox recognize indissolubility as a characteristic of marriage and an ideal at which to aim, they generally accept that divorce-and-remarriage can occur.
Eastern Orthodox acceptance of divorce is linked to the historical subordination of the Church to the emperor in the Byzantine Empire, according to Archbishop Cyril Vasil', secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. It was the emperor Justinian II who reintroduced divorce to the Byzantine Empire around the year 700, and because of the close links between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the empire, this novelty was slowly permitted in the east.
Nevertheless, it is hard to find a common answer for the Eastern Orthodox on the doctrine of marriage, and there are certainly many opponents of divorce among them.
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Purgatory, the Immaculate Conception, and other disagreements
Purgatory is another topic of disagreement. While the Eastern Orthodox pray for the faithful departed and thus have some notion of their being in a situation requiring our intercession, the notion of purgatory has not been as clearly developed in the east as it has in the west.
In addition, most Eastern Orthodox reject the Immaculate Conception. While highly venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary, they see her as the goal and fulfillment of salvation history. According to Father Alexander Schmemann of the Orthodox Church in America, the Eastern Orthodox reject her Immaculate Conception "precisely because it make Mary a miraculous 'break' in this long and patient growth of love and expectation, of this 'hunger for the living God' which fills the Old Testament."
According to Father Andrew Louth, a Russian Orthodox priest, the Eastern Orthodox do not believe in "original sin" as it was conceived by St. Augustine of Hippo and received by the Church in the west. Rather, they have a notion of "ancestral sin." Because the belief in inherited original sin is rejected, this means that the Eastern Orthodox also are not bound to believe in Adam and Eve. But Venerable Pius XII, in his 1950 encyclical Humani generis, taught that after Adam no men could not take their origin through natural generation from him, nor could Adam represent "a certain number of first parents."
Since the seven ecumenical councils that are recognized by both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church has held 14 more councils which it regards as ecumenical. The Eastern Orthodox have held several councils since the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, but none of these are (universally) recognized as having been ecumenical.
Rather, there have been local councils, and letters from individual bishops. The most recent is the pan-Orthodox Council held last week – though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches declined to participate.