Tonight I had an interesting discussion with one of my Roman Catholic friends. She asked me the reasons why I became Orthodox. We talked for about an hour. During the course of this discussion, she basically told me about her views of the Pope: about how there needs to be a visible head of the Church universal, how there needs to be someone who holds everything together, how there needs to be someone who confirms what a Council teaches is true. In response to all this, I told her that for the Orthodox the local bishop is the visible manifestation of Christ in the Church, and that the Roman Catholic view of the Pope tends to depreciate the work of the Holy Spirit in the operation and confirmation of an Ecumenical Council as true and holy.
She really stressed the need for the Pope to clear up misconceptions and to be the voice of the Church on disputed matters--and to keep bishops together and in line with one another. My response to this was that the Orthodox Churches, while certainly not free of their problems, have nonetheless maintained a unity of faith for the past two thousand years--and for the past thousand years even without communion with a bishop claiming to be the head of the Church universal .
I told her that rather than clarify teaching, the Pope often begins that which results in more confusion...and that Catholics still need to interpret/reconcile the very different language of previous Popes with the Popes of recent years. I politely referred to the Roman Catholic Church as suffering from a kind of schizophrenia, based on its drastic change of magisterial language.
To be honest, I'm still a little confused. Many Roman Catholic positions seem to be reasonable to a great degree, but there is something inside of me that tells me that, however logical and true sounding Roman Catholic arguments may be, there is something wrong. At times, I can acknowledge with my head that certain Roman Catholic arguments seem logical enough, but deep down, in my heart, I know that what Roman Catholicism teaches is not quite the teaching of the Apostles and the early Church.
Can some people here perhaps help me better understand how an Orthodox Christian might respond to a Roman Catholic on some of these issues? I have many Roman Catholic friends, but not all know of my conversion.