Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics

A Second Response to by James Likoudis

Joseph Suaiden

Apparently Mr. James Likoudis, the President-Emeritus of CUF, is annoyed with me.

In a hefty missive designed primarily to negate the arguments in my first response to him without using facts, Mr. Likoudis expands on his bizzare comparison of Eastern Orthodoxy to Protestantism with no real historical basis, referring to me as a "lapsed Catholic".  Let me begin by saying that the Orthodox Church is the Catholic Church in all Her glory. I will retain the numbering Mr Likoudis presents in his polemic for his convenience.

1) Mr Likoudis states "that both Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy have their origin in rank disobedience and dissent from the teaching concerning the Petrine Primacy (the Papacy) which was freely acknowledged in the Church by those who would be orthodox Christians during the First Millennium (and before the patriarchate of Constantinople decided to separate itself from the visible unity of the Catholic Church)". 

This is a distortion, and a rather popular one, particularly among Roman Catholic Traditionalists.

As I am sure Mr Likoudis well aware, the reunion Council of Florence spent the vast majority of its discussion on the filioque clause. In it, the Orthodox participants found themselves cut off from communication with events in their Church, and the promises to them were reneged upon, including-- at certain points-- the promise of consistent food.  St Mark of Ephesus led the Orthodox party in anti-Roman argument, and was eventually silenced by the Emperor because of the potential loss of military help against the Turks were the union to fail. The Patriarch of Constantinople died before signing, and on the strength of a forged Will and Testament of Joseph of Constantinople, most of the Council participants felt pressured to sign, and repented after returning to Constantinople.  For details on these, I refer the reader to the memoirs of Syropolous in Ostromoff, The History of the Council of Florence, Holy Transfiguration Monastery.  St Mark was doing nothing but defending the tradition he had received and the Bishops followed suit later.

By contrast, Martin Luther's revolt was a categorical rejection of many of even the most basic tenets of Christian faith, and those who followed Luther did not content themselves with rejecting the Papacy but even those elements of the Papal teaching which were actually Orthodox in origin.  The revolt of 1524 was more than a revolt against the papacy but devolved into a revolt against the very notion of Tradition itself.  One need only see the "Three Answers" of Patriarch Jeremias of Jerusalem to the Tubingen Lutherans, whom the latter attempted to convert to Protestantism.  I do not refer to the Protestants as wayward children of Rome because of their defection but because of the scholastic method used to come to their conclusions.

Why Mr Likoudis chose some of the Fathers in question to defend his position is beyond me.

He writes that St Ignatius noted that Rome was "presiding in love" over the entire Church.  I won't deny that-- it was a greeting to the Romans, who were not only one of the most generous communities at the time but also one of the most well-known.  But what does "presiding in love" mean?  Does it mean Rome was granted the right by Christ to lead the Church?  I don't think there is sufficient justification for the claim. Enough essays have been written concerning St Ignatius' ecclesiology and it does not include Rome in the equation.  St Ignatius held to a position of local eucharistic communities surrounding their Bishops, a position still held by Orthodox Christians today.

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Do ye therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.
As therefore the Lord does nothing without the Father, for says He, "I can of mine own self do nothing," so do ye, neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop. Nor let anything appear commendable to you which is destitute of his approval. For every such thing is sinful, and God-opposed. Do ye all come together into the same place for prayer. Let there be one common supplication, one mind, one hope, with faith unblameable in Christ Jesus, than which nothing is more excellent. Do ye all, as one man, run together into the temple of God, as unto one altar, to one Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the unbegotten God.
(Magnesians 8)

Mr Likoudis then quotes St Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome. In a similar fashion to his misuse of Saint Ignatius, Saint Gregory's quote seems to indicate that it is quite right that Rome uphold a straight course, since Rome is the eldest-ranking in the Petrine See of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.  I refer the reader to a series of letters of St Gregory, which are collected on this site, which indicate precisely the opposite of Mr Likoudis' claims-- that the Papacy was consolidated and Roman under St Gregory Dialogos.

2) Mr Likoudis, in his further attempts to liken Orthodoxy to Protestantism, points to a book by Archimandrite Cyril which I have not read, but produces nothing of substance, pointing only to some of the invective thrown against the Papal teachings, and comparing them to the words of Luther.  However, the problem of this argument is that Orthodoxy could well be called "Roman Catholic" (and has been) due to their mutual rejection of sola scriptura.  Broken clocks are right twice a day.  His quote from Count De Maistre proves worthless in the face of the discussions between Orthodox and Protestants in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Mr Likoudis continues to argue based on the influence of Protestantism on Orthodoxy throughout the years, but neglects to mention the other extreme: Latinized teaching in Ukraine and other areas to counteract the influence of Protestantism, such as the catechism of the Holy Hierarch Peter Mogila.  Sadly, neither side can really claim Orthodoxy as her partisan.  Mr Likoudis is correct on the sorry matter of Patriarch Cyril Lukaris, whose confession of faith was basically Calvinist.  But his actual influence on Orthodoxy is overstated. Cyril Lukaris was, as Mr Likoudis notes, condemned as a heretic by synods at Kyiv, Jassy, and Jerusalem, was removed from his post, and sadly, hung and drowned before he had a chance to repent.  In the end, his influence was minimal at best.  The theologians Mr Likoudis mentions are not within the mainstream of Orthodox thought, nor does Mr Likoudis demonstarate that Lukaris' disciples had any real effect on Orthodoxy worldwide.

Mr Likoudis seems to believe (and I have only myself to blame for this) that there is a united anti-Roman sentiment between Orthodox and Protestants, when in reality Orthodox in general have just as many-- if not more-- difficulties with the teachings of Protestantism.

I should also note that Mr Likoudis' assessment of Orthodoxy is not realistic.  The very fact that the Pope recently visited Greece amidst popular riots; that Russia has never had a Pope of Rome visit Her Church, indicates not that my view is in the minority at all.  Nor are the Orthodox Church leaders involved in the ecumenical dialogue interested in making the same mistakes made at Florence.  Orthodox Christians desire "the union of all", but it must be a union based on truth.  Nor do I think I would have any problem explaining my position to my hierarchs because most refer to the positions I condemn as pseudo-ecumenism, and the terminology I am using is not my own.  But name it what you will.  It's still something the Church does not accept. 

Mr Likoudis then questions my own affiliation in Orthodoxy, due to my sharply negative views on the ecumenical movement.  As for my views toward the Church, I will be honest.  I spent quite a bit of time in zealot "True Orthodoxy".  And I realized my error and came back.  I am currently under a parish directly under the Ecumenical Patriarch.  I don't believe the Old Calendarists to be heretics for the most part-- I believe a real tendency toward schism, and that the Old Calendar Bishops were uncanonically formed, and therefore heads of unlawful assemblies. I believe their people, although extreme and in need of reconciliation with the Body of the Church, as Orthodox--and this is more than I can say for Mr Likoudis and the Pope of Rome.

3) Mr Likoudis is apparently pleased with the fact that I caught onto his attempt to use the Fathers in their original form to prove the Papal claims.  I am glad have made him happy.  However, I don't believe I noted that Mr Likoudis was particularly successful. As for his notion that I will not believe his claim concerning Papal primacy in the undivided and early Church, I will gladly state that I do not believe it, and after reading such authors as Dom John Chapman, I am even less inclined to believe it.  If this information proves so much, I would be so much obliged to receive a taste of the great "golden proofs".

I am thankful that Mr Likoudis is likely the first Roman Catholic apologist to note that the faith of Peter must be preserved.  But by who?  He argues that it must be the Pope of Rome, and that it always has been.  But what of the case of St Liberius, who repented of banishing St Athanasius because of pressure from the Arian heretics? What of Pope Honorius the monothelite of sorry memory?  What about the teachings of the so-called "Eighth" council of the Roman Church of 869, annulled by the power of the First-Second Synod ten years later?  Mr Likoudis makes mention of St Cyprian's teaching on the Church-- but what of St Cyprian's rejection of Pope St Stephen's position on reception of heretics?

Mr Likoudis asks me to quote a Father of the Church who declares that breaking union with the See of Rome was ever needed for preserving the fullness of Orthodoxy-- a strange question.  The first difficulty of the question is from when?  The Patristic age in Orthodoxy has never ended-- the age of the Fathers goes on to the present day.  The second problem is in the nature of the Church.  Orthodoxy is united primarily in faith, not through particular union with a particular see.  There are many examples in Church history where people remained out of communion with others-- even other Orthodox-- until the days of a heresy ended.  Looking for such a quote would be an exercise in futility for too many reasons.

Mr Likoudis then asks me to "resolve" a Roman council's teaching on the triune Petrine See, a theory that it would appear gets more support almost daily from Roman apologists.  While many have noted it before me, I have seen evidence from St Leo, St Gregory, St Innocent, and now the earliest so far, from the Pontificate of St Damasus-- all Popes of Rome-- and the Arabic recensions of Canon 6 of Nicea that indicate that the structure of the early Church had a headship in a triple Patriarchal structure: a Triune Patriarchate, likely modeled in the Sobornost of the Holy Trinity.

4) I should first note that Asterius of Pontus is not, to my knowledge, a Father of the Church of any merit.  As for St Epiphanios and St John Chrysostom, neither refer to St Peter as a Pope or universal pastor, so neither actually prove Mr Likoudis' point.  The reference to St Peter as chosen by Christ to lead is neither something I deny nor a clear affirmation about the Papal succession or authority claims.

5) Mr Likoudis refers to the position I stated as "no more "objective" than the worthless polemic of such writers as the Archimandrite Cyril Kostopoulos who declares that the primacy of Peter is a "myth", the "theology of the papacy is demonology", and that Catholic sacraments are "invalid" as "devoid of divine grace". (See his book "The Papacy is Heresy", pages 2, 40, 80, etc.)"..."If he is comfortable with such assertions, he clearly does not share the same faith as those Orthodox who would vehemently deny such extreme conclusions."  Yet in Paragraph #1 he notes that one of my "co-religionists" is no less than the ARCHBISHOP OF ATHENS, CHRISTODOULOS. I'm comfortable with such an association.  And I can add a few more hierarchs too!

6) It is not myself, but Mr Likoudis who misinterprets both St Cyprian and St Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome.  I have found a number of the latter's epistles which demonstrate that St Gregory taught that the See of Peter is triune: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, and that each is capable of acting alone, but that it is best when they act in unison.  I refer Mr Likoudis to those texts. But for Mr Likoudis' ease of mind, I will include one of these:

Charity, the mother and guardian of all that is good, which binds together in union the hearts of many, regards not as absent him whom it has present in the mind's eye. Since then, dearest brother, we are held together by the root of charity, neither will bodily absence nor distance of places have power to assert any claim over us, inasmuch as we who are One are surely not far from each other. Now we wish to have always this common charity with the rest of our brethren. Yet there is something that binds us in a certain peculiar way to the Church of Alexandria, and compels us, as it were by a special law, to be the more prone to love it. For, as it is known to all that the blessed evangelist Mark was sent by Saint Peter the apostle, his master, to Alexandria, so we are bound together in the unity of this master and his disciple, so that I seem to preside over the see of the disciple because of the master, and you over the see of the master because of the disciple. (lib.vi,ep.ix).

 I am not sure why St Cyprian refers the deposition of a  Bishop to Pope Cornelius; however, that could simply have been a formality.  There needs to be an explanation as to why such occurred; we cannot simply assume a Papal position on St Cyprian's part; in the face of the Council of Carthage, where St Cyprian clearly denotes that each Bishop's individual liberty is accountable only to Christ For no one has set himself up [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).

7) Mr. Likoudis notes my position well: "Orthodoxy does not take away the Vicariate of Christ from one Bishop, but assigns it to all Bishops."  He then argues it would be impossible to know then who is telling the true teaching in case of heresy.  How do the Orthodox Bishops themselves know?  By maintaining what they were taught and not innovating.  Did St Justin Martyr, St Irenaeus, teach Arianism? Of course not.  But the heresy came to be regardless.  And indeed, the Orthodox stood firm.  Mr Likoudis' belief  that there "must be a supreme authority in the Church" has not been a neccessary part of Orthodox thinking for two millenia.  There is little purpose to Orthodoxy starting one now.  And I defy Mr Likoudis locate a father explaining the need for a supreme earthly authority in the Church-- and further, one that points to the Pope of Rome as that authority.

8) Quick answers to Mr Likoudis' quick assertions.

a) Mr Likoudis' belief that the council of Florence did not muddle the propositions "from" and "through" shows a misreading of history.  In fact, when Patriarch Joseph finally consented that "from" and "through" meant the essentially the same thing, the Orthodox party was disgusted precisely because he had simply muddled his prepositions.  (One writer noted "all he had left to do was die.")

b) My assertion that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have little to do with each other comes from the fact that the primary indicator of Orthodoxy is right teaching combined with right living.  In Roman Catholicism, another factor is added-- being in communion with Rome.  It is, as they say, an 'unneccesary yoke'.

c) There is so much made out of so little on both sides concerning the charge of caesaropapism I am not going to dignify the argument on that matter any further.  Even if all the charges Roman Catholic apologists made against us about caeseropapism were true-- and many are not-- it still would have little to do with the nature of the Church.  Such attacks are little more than dignified name-calling.

d) Mr Likoudis, in typical Roman apologetical fashion, attempts to confuse the sinlessness of the Theotokos (referring to her whole life on earth) with the "Immaculate Conception" (the idea that Mary was concieved without"the stain of original sin").  The quotes presented are all fully agreeable to me but do not defend Mr Likoudis' position of the Mother of God being conceived "without the stain of original sin", concepts developed well after the schism of the West from Orthodoxy. Mr Likoudis simply states that she cannot be 'all-Holy' without being immaculately concieved.  But he gives no proof from the Fathers as to why.

e) The teaching on the toll-houses, often confused with purgatory are treated with varying degrees of respect.  I tend to view them as pious myths, and I believe I am in fairly good company.  As to the teaching of Fr Michael Azkoul: I don't know when a soul goes to heaven or hell.  I simply do not want to end up in the latter.

I reiterate that Mr Likoudis has not actually defended one of the teachings he presented with the Fathers of the Church.  He has provided Fathers that demonstrate only the Orthodoxy of the Roman Church in the first five centuries, a charge no Orthodox Christian denies.  He has not demonstrated-- indeed, no Roman Catholic apologist has demonstrated-- the need for Orthodox Chrsitians to be under the Pope of Rome.  We, the Orthodox, have retained the Apostolic Faith, something Mr Likoudis admits, and it is that Orthodox Faith, the Rock of the Church, that saves us.  May Mr Likoudis return to that Holy and saving Orthodox and Apostolic Faith before the end.

Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics