The theology, liturgical practices and  doctrines of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) are often compared to those of the Roman Catholic Church.   This should not be surprising since the PNCC split off from the latter in the late nineteenth century.  Comparisons  between the PNCC and Eastern Orthodoxy are far less frequent.   This is somewhat surprising. The PNCC shares a common patrimony of Christianity with both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It also has Slavic roots as does much of Eastern European Christianity.  It would seem this is a fertile field for comparison. This article will look at some of the  similarities and differences between the Orthodox Churches and the PNCC. It does not purport to be a comprehensive survey of all of these issues but covers some of the more interesting ones:

  1. MARRIED PRIESTHOOD–It is  well known the Roman Cathoic Church does not allow priests to marry.  However,  exceptions are made for clergy of certain Protestant denominations and Eastern Catholic clergy.  Celibacy remains the norm for Roman Catholic priests. Eastern Orthodox denominations allow priests to marry if they are part of the diocesan clergy.  Monastics may not marry.  The PNCC allows its priests to be married but there are distinct differences in discipline. First, the PNCC allows priests to marry after ordination.  This is the general rule for all clergy as there is no monasticism in the PNCC to speak of. Orthodox clergy may not marry after they are ordained.  Ordination in Orthodoxy is deemed to be a spiritual perfection, so there is no going back to the married state. The PNCC goes a step further though and allows its bishops to be married.  The Eastern Church has not allowed this since the early time of Christianity. None of these groups allows female priests. The diaconate though, may be a different story. 
  2. WOMEN IN THE DIACONATE–The PNCC and the Roman Church do not allow women deacons. The diaconate is considered a major order and is reserved for men.  There has been a reexamination of this issue as women deacons (deaconesses) participated  in early baptisms of adult females. The question is whether these female deacons were deacons in the same sense as they are regarded today. Perhaps they were a minor order rather than a major order.   Pope Francis has a commission studying this issue. but so far there seems to be no movement or momentum towards ordaining women deacons in the Roman Church.  The Pope recently promulgated a motu proprio allowing women to be installed as lectors and acolytes, however. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has taken steps to “reinvigorate” the office of deaconess.  How that will be received in the rest of Orthodoxy and how it will be implemented are key questions yet to be answered. Suffice it to say, this is a complex question scholars and hierarchs will debate for years to come. 
  3. REJECTION OF PAPAL AUTHORITY–Like the Orthodox Churches, the PNCC is willing to accord the Pope of Rome a primacy of honor but not of jurisdiction. The PNCC and  Orthodoxy also do not accept Roman Catholicism as the sole path to Christian salvation. 
  4. NICENE CREED–The PNCC, like the Eastern Churches, omits the “filioque” clause when reciting the Nicene Creed. The Eastern Church faced many challenges to the doctrine  of the Trinity in its formative years and therefore spent much time refining and defining the  relationships between the three Persons of the Trinity.  The filioque was inserted in the local liturgy in some places in the West to buttress the claim of divinity for Jesus against the attacks of  Arian barbarian invaders. The Roman Church has universally used the “filioque” in its liturgy since the turn of the First Millennium A.D. and it is still  a bone of contention between the Roman Church and Eastern Orthodoxy. In addition to the doctrinal dispute, the Orthodox (and eventually the PNCC) objected to the change in the Creed without the approval of an Ecumenicl Council. The Western Church (essentially the Papacy) made this change by itself.  In recent times the filioque has become less of an issue for the Roman Church, as its sister Eastern Catholic Churches also omit the filioque. Western theologians seem willing to allow that the filioque is not essential to Catholic belief.  
  5. ECUMENICAL COUNCILS–The PNCC  accepts the “unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church in the first thousand years.” This would include the pronouncements and decisions of the first seven ecumenical councils. The Orthodox Churches also subscribe to this belief. Accordingly, the PNCC and the Orthodox Churches reject papal infallibility, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the dogmatic definition of the Assumption of Mary. Father John Hardon S.J. claims the PNCC formally accepts the first four ecumenical councils, but considers the next three to be admitted but nonessential. These councils dealt with some refinements in Christian doctrine, none of which were major issues in Western Christianity.
  6. OWNERSHIP OF PARISH ASSETS–The Constitution of the PNCC calls for the ownership of  parish assets by the parishioners. This is very common in the Orthodox Church, but is quite different than in the Roman Church.  All assets of a Roman Catholic  parish belong to the diocese and the bishop.
  7. THE NUMBER OF SACRAMENTS–The PNCC enumerates seven sacraments like the Roman Church.  However, the PNCC in reality has eight sacraments.  The PNCC considers Baptism and Confirmation to be one sacrament. The second sacrament in its enumeration is the Preaching of the Word of God.  The fact the PNCC considers Baptism and Confirmation to be one sacrament does not imply they are administered together as in the Orthodox Church, where chrismation (confirmation) follows immediately after baptism. They are  administered in the same manner and at roughly the same time as the Roman Church does.  Considering the Word of God as a sacrament would be something many Protestant denominations would agree with and feel comfortable with based on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The Orthodox Church would also be comfortable with this  as it  does not limit the number of sacraments to seven. For instance, see the writings of Nicholas Cabasias, who wrote the consecration of a church or the anointing of a king would also be considered sacraments. Another example is many Orthodox consider the Great Blessing of Water at the Theophany to be a sacrament as well. 
  8. THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE–The PNCC administers the sacrament of Penance in two forms:  private and general.  The Roman Church rejects the idea of general absolution. General absolution is  not unknown in the Orthodox Church. 
  9. HOLY COMMUNION–The PNCC administers Holy Communion by intinction, just as many of the Eastern Churches do. The difference is the PNCC uses a host (unleavened bread) while the Orthodox use leavened bread for Communion.  Intinction is one of four permitted methods of receiving Holy Communion in Roman Catholicism, but is not the norm in most parishes. 
  10. BIRTH CONTROL–The Roman Catholic Church takes a very dim view of birth control. The PNCC believes birth control is a personal choice between the married couple and their physician. The Eastern Church has not definitively opined on this matter.  However, the Greek Orthodox Church believes birth control is an acceptable practice provided it is not done out of selfishness and in conjunction with the advice of the couple’s spiritual advisor. Abortion is not acceptable in any of these branches of Christianity.