Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics
A Response to Apologetics, The Papacy and Eastern Orthodoxy by James Likoudis

Converts to Roman Catholicism from Eastern Orthodoxy always surprise me. Besides the fact that I travelled, by the Grace of God, in the other direction, the level of erudition that seems to belie such carefully crafted arguments simply astounds me. It is very difficult to determine whether these well studied writers are serious in some of the well-written, but false claims that are made in defense of the Roman Catholic Church against Eastern Orthodoxy. But most perplexing to me is the constant charge of Protestant tendencies in Orthodox thought due to a refusal to accept the various Papal dogmas that drive the Roman Church today. Perhaps one of the best examples of this thinking besides Scott Butler, the well-known author of Jesus, Peter and the Keys infamous for challenging Orthodox converts to answer his book (this author has endeavored to do so several times, and Butler’s work is referenced by my opponent in our debate on the Papacy) is James Likoudis, a Greek Orthodox convert to Catholicism and a member of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) a Papal apologetics organization.

Mr. Likoudis has written a great deal on Eastern Orthodoxy. His former Church seems to his primary focus in his quest for "ecumenical dialogue" and he has spent a great deal of his resources attempting to prove Papal claims in an Orthodox framework. His failure to do so comes from the fact that the Fathers, in their own, and not a Papal context, do not speak for the Roman Catholic Church. No matter how carefully spun the tale (and from what I have seen of Mr. Likoudis’ work, it is not always carefully spun) it never matches the reality of the consensus Patrum.

I was actually planning on writing an expose of the work available online by Mr. Likoudis, when, likely in response to my debate with a Papal apologist, an entry appeared in the online guestbook for Let Us Attend (the previous form of the site on Geocities--JS) . Besides the debt of thanks I owe to Mr. Likoudis for being one of the few people to actually sign my guestbook (hint, loyal readers! Sign, please!) I am glad that communication concerning his work is no longer in a vacuum, something I had never considered when I started. I am not a faceless accuser of his work. Mr. Likoudis, if he disagrees with the foregoing, knows where to find me.

Are Protestants and Orthodox Thinking Along the Same Lines?

Mr. Likoudis spends a great deal of time (about 1500 of about 3500 words) discussing relations between Protestants and Roman Catholicism. To most Orthodox Christians, this seems pointless. Protestantism is not some sort of non-Papal "cousin" of Orthodoxy, but a direct continuation of the Augustinian-Scholastic mode of thought of the Post-Schism Papacy. We have less in common with Protestantism than we do with Roman Catholicism and we have little in common anymore with the latter, except formal adherence to ritual. Yet Mr. Likoudis focuses over a third of his polemic against "anti-Catholic fanaticism" in Orthodoxy on Protestantism. Why?

A clue may be found in his treatment of both Clark Carlton and Michael Whelton, increasingly popular writers in Orthodox Churches today. Mr. Likoudis seems to imply that Messrs. Carlton and Whelton are "anti-Catholic" writers in his argument, infected by Protestantism. Certainly Mr. Likoudis could have found much more stringent writers against Roman Catholicism in Orthodoxy. It is bitterly ironic, for example, that Mr. Likoudis quotes part of a review by Fr Alexey Young of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, whose most memorable work in Orthodox circles is the book The Rush to Embrace, an appeal to Orthodox Christians to avoid communion with Rome. He would do well to quote the late Father John Romanides, whose work on the Frankish takeover of the West leading to the schism is famous among the Orthodox, or perhaps Dr Vladimir Moss, whose work on the fall of Orthodox England contains a much more realistic rendering of the fall of the Western Church from a Western perspective. I could go on forever, because the "polemic" against the Papacy is nothing more than objective history.

Enough has been written on the Orthodox side (and even to a degree on the Roman Catholic side) to demonstrate that the schism of the Papacy bears no resemblance to the Protestant revolt. Comparing the heads of the autocephalous Churches (regardless of how we view their standing in Orthodoxy today) to the "28,000 Protestant sects" is insulting. The silencing of Mr. Likoudis’ pen is long overdue when it comes to Orthodoxy. I have no issue with him dealing with Protestantism; they are wayward children of Rome. But a former Orthodox Christian like Mr. Likoudis shamefully compares Orthodox to those with whom he has unwittingly aligned.

Mr. Likoudis writes that

The Eastern Orthodox continue to profess the ancient belief of the "undivided Church" that the Episcopacy continues the apostolic mission of the original Apostolic College. They fail to acknowledge, however, the illogicality of rejecting the communion of the one Bishop, who is the heir of the one Apostle chosen by Christ to be the Rock-foundation, Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom, Confirmer of the brethren, and Chief Pastor of the entire flock (cf. Matt. 16:18ff; Lk. 22:31; Jn. 21:15-17), and thereby given the awesome responsibility to safeguard the visible unity of the one Church Christ had founded for the salvation of all men.

Yet besides these Scriptural texts Mr. Likoudis does not give further explanation before his assault on the writers mentioned above. He certainly—and one would think this is necessary—gives no Fathers to verify his claims. He does not discuss the fact that no Father of the Church clearly teaches that St Peter was the "chief Pastor of the entire flock", much less the Pope of Rome. He ignores the fact that the idea of the "One Bishop" is clearly condemned by the Fathers, including St Cyprian of Carthage, and St Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, which I will devote some time to in another response to Mr. Likoudis’ invective. No Father clearly gives the Popes of Rome the "Keys of the Kingdom" without adherence to the Orthodox Faith, and without that sacred Faith, how can the Pope, the alleged "Confirmer of the Brethren", confirm what he lacks?

Mr. Likoudis continues his misalignment of Orthodox with Protestantism:

The inability of Eastern Orthodox theologians and hierarchs to understand the proper relationship between Primacy and Collegiality (or Conciliarity) lies at the heart of their doctrinal resistance to the Papacy's Petrine Ministry. As some of them have said- in tune, interestingly enough, with some Protestants- the only Vicar of Christ is the Holy Spirit.

Besides the fact that this is a theologically correct, since the Spirit acts in the Church until the end of time according to Christ’s promise (against the Protestant understanding that the Holy Spirit continues to guide new interpretation of Scripture), it is not an accurate assessment of Orthodox teaching on the Vicariate of Christ. Orthodoxy does not take away the Vicariate of Christ from one Bishop, but assigns it to all Bishops:

The more, therefore, you see the bishop silent, the more do you reverence him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would look upon the Lord Himself, standing, as he does, before the Lord. For "it behoves the man who looks carefully about him, and is active in his business, to stand before kings, and not to stand before Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that ye all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you. (St Ignatius of Antioch, To the Ephesians)

Certainly I will not waste the reader’s time by answering the quotes from Lumen Gentium. It serves no one’s best interest to do so, since they have little value to anyone who does not already believe in the authority that wrote it. Suffice it to say that the comparison of Eastern Orthodoxy to Protestantism has little weight, and I believe Mr. Likoudis knows this well.

The Attack on Clark Carlton: an attack on a man or on the Orthodox Church?

Mr. Likoudis begins to label some of the "errors" of Mr. Carlton’s work (again, without adequately explaining why these are "errors" at all) and discounts Mr. Carlton’s assessment on history without really referencing it. He bemoans Mr. Carlton for his attack on Catholic writer Scott Hahn because of Mr. Hahn’s apparent "ignorance of history". I refer Mr. Likoudis to Rome Sweet Home by Mr. Hahn where his main reason for rejecting Orthodoxy is because Orthodoxy did not accept something Mr. Hahn believed as a Protestant: the modalist filioque clause.

Without getting into any real detail, Mr. Likoudis does not explain why the charge against Orthodoxy of caesaropapism is justified, again never answering Mr. Carlton’s claim directly. What he does do, however, is dismiss doctrinal statements of the Orthodox Church as "violent invective", notably:

    * the 1285 Tome against the "Filioque" of the Council of Blachernae;
    * the 1848 Encyclical Reply by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to Pius IX's invitation to them to attend Vatican I

To these I will gladly add for Mr. Likoudis’ convenience:

    * The Synodicon of the Holy Spirit
    * The Pan-Orthodox Anathemas against the Papal Calendar

I will not get into the actions of the Monks of Mt Athos: indeed, in terms of current events, far more can be said now than before. He attacks Mr. Carlton for considering Ecumenism to be a heresy. Mr. Carlton is not alone: Metropolitan Philaret, of blessed memory, first Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, delivered Ecumenism to anathema in 1983. Since then hundreds of Orthodox Churches have fought against Ecumenism.

He neglects to mention that Mr. Carlton’s position on Roman Catholicism is mirrored by dozens of saints of the Orthodox Church, even the last concerning the dogma of the "Immaculate Conception" Mother of God, recently condemned by St John Maximovitch (+1966).

Mr. Likoudis then breaks into full stride in his arguments against Mr. Carlton:

Whereas Carlton insists that each of his "national churches" professes "one and the same Orthodox faith", he fails to see the flagrant contradictions into which he falls. The Church's ecclesiology, he declares, is "not subject to change". Yet he admits that Rome's claims to a primacy of universal jurisdiction is already found in the 5th century when the orthodox Eastern churches were in full communion with Rome.

Yet Mr. Likoudis, unsurprisingly, fails to admit that these "claims" were never brought to fruition, indeed that they were contested, and loudly. The Council of Carthage, as early as 258 and accepted by the Orthodox Church, condemns even the beginning of such foolishness: For no one of us has set himself up to be bishop of bishops, or attempted with tyrannical dread to force his colleagues to obedience to him, since every bishop has, for the license of liberty and power, his own will, and as he cannot be judged by another, so neither can he judge another. But we await the judgment of our universal Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, who one and alone hath the power, both of advancing us in the governance of his Church, and of judging of our actions. (Council of Carthage, Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. I., col. 786.)

But this does not stop Mr. Likoudis:

The 'Filioque", he charges 'ad nauseam' is "heretical", but he admits the doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from (or through) the Son was already widespread in the Western Church since the 5th century (and when the orthodox Eastern churches were in full communion with it).

Mr. Likoudis again fails to mention that muddling the delicate distinction between "from the Son" and "through the Son" was rejected by the Council of Florence. He neglects also to mention the varieties of interpretation of the word filioque-- including the Orthodox interpretation of Pope St Martin and the heretical interpretation of Charlemagne. Certainly this is an unrealistic assessment.

Mr. Likoudis breaks into a crescendo:

In claiming that the Eastern Orthodox profess "one and the same Orthodox faith", he ignores the brute fact that theologians (both past and present) are found who believe that the 'Filioque' is not heretical; who have expressed belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God so venerated among them; who believe in a "purification or cleansing of the soul "in the after-life (with its pains and torments)- a teaching practically indistinguishable from our Catholic doctrine of purgatory ; and who believe that Papal supremacy has deep historical roots in the early Church being clearly admitted in the East long before the 11th century estrangement between Rome and Constantinople.

The worst of it is that save his false opinion (comparing Purgatory to, say, the Toll-Houses is simply stretching for ecumenistic purposes) Mr. Likoudis is technically correct in every point, because he does not present the reality of what the Fathers universally taught, but only presents disputed (and in many cases rejected) opinions as "ancient teaching". Mr. Likoudis, in the end, writes a nice-sounding, almost "Patristic" sounding, argument—by applying Protestant hermeneutic to the Fathers of the Church!

The Quotes of Late Bishops

Mr. Likoudis then finished by quoting the above-mentioned Fr Alexey of the above-mentioned Russian Church Abroad to attempt to make it appear that the two are at odds, and follows up with a pro-papal statement from the late Bp Panteleimon of Chios. Since this seems to unjustifiably make it appear that all Orthodox Bishops agree with the late prelate, I thought I’d hand back something in response from another late bishop:

And lest my silence give occasion to those who do not know my views well and fully to suspect some kind of conciliation, I hereby state and testify before the many worthy men here present that I do not desire, in any manner and absolutely, and do not accept communion with him or with those who are with him, not in this life nor after my death, just as (I accept) neither the Union nor Latin (i.e., Papal—JS) dogmas, which he and his adherents have accepted, and for the enforcement of which he has occupied this presiding place, with the aim of overturning the true dogmas of the Church. I am absolutely convinced that the farther I stand from him and those like him, the nearer I am to God and all the saints, and to the degree that I separate myself from them am in union with the Truth and with the Holy Fathers, the Theologians of the Church; and I am likewise convinced that those who count themselves with them stand far away from the Truth and from the blessed Teachers of the Church.

That comes from the late Mark (Evgenikos), Metropolitan of Ephesus, known to Orthodox Christians as St Mark of Ephesus. While Mr. Likoudis may be able to successfully convince readers—and falsely—that Mr. Carlton is holding "centuries old Protestant prejudices", it would take a far more adept verbal magician to do so with St Mark: the Bishop’s "anti-Roman animus" predates Martin Luther’s writing of the 95 theses by almost a century.

James Likoudis, Come Home!

Why is Mr. Likoudis a Roman Catholic? He seems to know a great deal about the current events in Orthodoxy and seems to even have some knowledge of the Fathers of the Church! Why would one toss away the moral totality of the teaching of the Fathers for some strange interpretation, pressed out like so much wax by Papal apologists! If these attacks on Mr. Carlton are unwarranted because they are unfair assessments, they are also unfair because they are so wrong from a historical standpoint. Yet Mr. Likoudis continues, an endless war against the Orthodox as a whole, as we will see as time passes. Yet Mr. Likoudis has abandoned the fullness of the faith for what he perceives to be the fullness of communion—a behavior considered abhorrent by the Church Fathers. It is my hope that Mr. Likoudis, maybe not today, and likely not because of this or other writings, but through the prayers of the Church of all ages, returns to True, saving Orthodox Faith in Christ our God.

--Joseph Suaiden

St Prochoros, 2002
Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics