"Right. In other words, the faithful have some say in what is and isn't absolute truth. I like the Roman position much better, thank you."
Well, you demonstrate one of the differences between the One Church of the 7 Ecumenical Councils and what developed in the West. The Orthodox system is one of "syndeesmos" or a sort of partnership among the hierarchs, clergy and the laity, each having its own function and proper role and together making up The Church. The Roman Church is a top down system. In Orthodoxy, infallibilty rests with The Church while in the Roman system it dogmatically rests with the Pope; two different systems which, having lasted a very long time, have formed the essential, and different, phronema or worldview of each particular church and its members. As Orthodox, we believe that the Roman system has lead to error and innovation but we also recognize the historical fact that the proper exercise of the Petrine Office also, on numerous occasions in the Pre Schism Church, assured the survival of Orthodoxy against the assaults of heretical groups.
And that is a very important point to remember! Orthodoxy, as well as Roman Catholicism, by and of themselves did not stop heresy. Obviously, the Church is stronger when it is united. A divided Church in not immune from corruption and fallout, and history proves it.
Were it not for the Orthodox Popes, the East would most probaly have slipped into Monothelism or Arianism, or Monophysitism, as what happened with the so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the same time, it is obvious that had the Latin Church not fallen victim to its own innovations, the Protestant tragedy would most probably have been averted. But by that time the whole concept of the Petrine Office was redefined and the Orthodoxy was not there to counter-balance their errors.
It is therefore obvious that only an undivided Church can resist the gates of hell. As the saying says -- united, we stand; divided, we fall. The hierarchs of both sides of the divide now more than ever recognize it and are bent on overcoming that which divides us.
That hardly describes the situation on the ground. A cursory view of the Church's life in the US will shatter the illusion that the Church is top-down here! Consider the many bishops who openly flaunt correction from Rome. If Rome was such an autocratic monarchy that you portray, we'd see bishops removed from office (perhaps many would desire this). As to Councils and Dogma, the Pope has rarely executed the Extraordinary charism that was defined at Vatican 1. I count two occasions in the past 150 years. Not the definition of a top-down organization. The individuals bishops have are relatively autonomous. Sure, occasionaly they must answer to Rome, such as on the priest's sexual abuse issues. But really, Rome is not a force at the local level.
Brother in Christ