Alright, so I just want to bring up a point that I've seen over and over and over again and it annoys the ever-living crap out of me.
So when people talk about Christianity, they talk about Protestantism, ROMAN Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Alright, all fair... Technically you're leaving the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East out in the cold, but since like every other language in the world has just one word for East and the Assyrian Church of the East is waaayyyyy past its heyday where it went from Persia all the way to China, I'm willing to overlook those two things. But I DO have one major problem. The Roman Church is not the entirety of the Catholic Church. You still have about 22 other Catholic Churches to go before you have the entirety of the Catholic Church.
"Wait, what?" I hear you say. Don't worry, confused reader, allow me to explain.
You see, like with the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church isn't just one church. It's a whole bunch of them, all in communion with one another and adhering to the same dogmas, though some of these dogmas are read just a little bit differently by the different Churches. Unlike the Orthodox Church, all the Catholic Churches recognize the Pope of Rome as the head of the universal Catholic Church and of the Roman Church in particular.
While the Roman Church is the largest of the Catholic Churches (thank you Spanish and Portuguese Empires), there exist 22 other Catholic Churches, a list of which you can find here
. They have their own parallel church hierarchies, with their own deacons, priests and bishops, with Patriarchs sitting at the top of that particular Eastern Catholic Church's hierarchy. Most of these Churches used to be Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox or Assyrian Church of the East, but for one reason or another, they split off from their not-Catholic counterparts and came into communion with the Pope of Rome and the Roman Church, while keeping all of their own spiritual, liturgical, theological and customary traditions. And that gets SUPER awkward at Catholic family get-togethers when you have the Oriental Catholics and Chaldean Catholics commemorating Saints on opposite sides of theological and political arguments who repeatedly went at it harder than the opponents in the good episodes of Epic Rap Battles of History, but everyone involved ignores that small tidbit for sanity's sake.
However, you DO have two Eastern Catholic Churches who, as far as anyone can tell, never went out of communion with the Roman Church: The Italo-Byzantines (take a guess as to why) and the Maronites, who basically got screwed over by their new Abbasid mobile service providers and thus lost touch with Rome for like 400 years. That is, until the Crusaders with Raymond of Toulouse came by and the Maronites were all like "Sup fam" and the Crusaders were like "New phone who dis" and the Maronites were like "We're the Maronites, who's the Pope rn" and then Raymond was like "Pope Urban II" and the Maronites were like "Sweet kthx" and later on the Pope was like "O hai guyz welcome back"
Fun fact: One of the Papal titles used to be "Patriarch of the West", as the Church of Rome was historically the only Western church to have its own Patriarch.
As a fun side note: You'll see the heads of some Eastern Catholic Churches being called "Major Archbishop". How you should read that is "Guy who is basically a Patriarch but isn't getting called that, probably due to political shenanigans that nobody really cares about".
Now, what makes the Eastern Catholic Churches not-Roman? Tl;dr answer: Basically everything. Yes, you read that right. Even the hats are different (and I have proof). Eastern Catholics have different theologies, different Saints, different church buildings, different worship services, different liturgical calendars, different prayers, different customs... And the list just keeps going on. For example, Romans make the sign of the cross with an open hand going up-down-left-right. Eastern Catholics put their thumb, pointer finger and middle finger together (three Persons of the Trinity) and fold their pinky and ring finger down against the palm (two natures of Christ, divine and human when He came down and became man), and go up-down-right-left. This makes a lot of sense, as it follows the direction that the priest blesses you. The Romans used to do it like this too, but things changed around the 1200's for some odd reason. In the areas of theology, list of Saints, church buildings, worship services, calendars, prayers, customs and all that stuff, the Eastern Catholics are basically identical with their Eastern Orthodox, Oriental and Assyrian Church of the East counterparts. If you walk into an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy/Holy Qurbana, the only time you'd actually be able to tell it was Catholic is when the time came to pray for the church's bishops.
But for the differences that you probably actually care about: Eastern Catholics don't have a concept of Original Sin in which we all bear the guilt of the sin of Adam and Eve. We believe that humanity inherited only the consequences of Adam and Eve's sin, namely mortality, susceptibility to disease, a tendency to sin and, most importantly, a separation from God. And the Catholic Church as a whole only names these latter things as being dogmatically binding. To quote the Catechism:
By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.
Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin".
As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").
And another thing: Purgatory is ONLY a Roman idea. It never existed in any other Church. Eastern Catholics believe that we all receive a foretaste of the Judgement in between the time that we die and the time of the Last Judgement. But the idea of indulgences, or the treasury of merits, or any of this stuff has zero place in Byzantine, Oriental or Assyrian theology.
Oh, and Limbo? It was never, ever doctrine within the Catholic Church, not ever. It was a popular idea among the Roman Catholics, but it was never doctrine. Why, you ask? Because it's a solution to a problem that only the Romans had. To us Easterners, it's cut and dry: Babies have committed no sin, and they're innocent. Of course God will have mercy on them and admit them into Heaven. And luckily the Romans have finally caught up, but for a few centuries there was some silliness where they had to make up a place to satisfy both the cold, hard logic of Scholastic thought which stated (erroneously) that original sin is actual sin that we are personally guilty of on the one hand, and the compassionate, common-sense idea that they're just babies.
Scholastic solution? Let's invent Limbo, which isn't Heaven, but it isn't Hell, either! Perfect!
This is probably Part 1 of the installment. There is oh so much more to cover. But if you want to ask any follow-up questions, fire off a gotcha-question/comment about the Catholic Church or tell me that I'm bad and I should feel bad, then leave a comment below.