Professor Emeritus of Theology
THE DIVINE PRIMACY OF THE BISHOP OF ROME AND MODERN EASTERN ORTHODOXY: LETTERS TO A GREEK ORTHODOX ON THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH by James Likoudis. Also containing: "The Infallible Teaching Authority of the Pope According to the Definition of the Vatican Council" by Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (New Hope, Kentucky: St. Martin de Porres Lay Dominican Community, 2002) xvi + 312 pp., $27.95.
In the field of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, James Likoudis figures as one of the most prominent Catholic apologists. Born in a Greek Orthodox family, he was converted to Catholicism at the early age of 24 - inspired by the Baroque magnificence of a Catholic church, and by his reading of Catholic books and periodicals. He was persuaded that the doctrine of the primacy of Peter and the pope (the Petrine office) was an essential characteristic of the Church in the first Millennium, and that the Byzantine schism resulted from the rejection of the previously acknowledged papal authority. In consequence, Likoudis felt that he could no longer continue to adhere to an irrational, incoherent and tragic schism from Peter's See.
This conviction is expressed with deep passion in two books, each in two editions. The first was "Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism" (1st ed. 1983, 2nd ed. 1992); and the second, "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome.." 1st ed. 1999. Subtitle: "Reply to a Former Catholic" [Michael Welton: "Two Paths: Papal Monarchy - Collegial Tradition", 1998]. The present volume is the second edition of this book.
"The Divine Primacy.." written in the form of 52 letters to a number of Eastern Orthodox correspondents subsumed under the name of "Euthymios," is divisible into three parts. The first part deals with the theme Schism and Reunion (letters 1-5), which discusses how the Schism came about, what its main causes were, and how there was an effort to heal it in the Council of Florence (1437-1439).
The second part treats of the Filioque (letters 6-12), the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father "and the Son." The original Nicene Creed did not have that phrase, which was added later in the West, and declared to be legitimate by the Council of Florence. This addition is alleged to be the dogmatic ground for the separation of the churches. Likoudis contends that the common Creed of the Church is not corrupted by the addition. Modem Orthodoxy, on the other hand, takes the view that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father alone," a view first articulated by the 9th century theologian Photius. Some modern Orthodox theologians hold that the Filioque doctrine is a heresy; others do not.
The third, the longest part of the book, discusses Papal Primacy (letters 13-52). Among the topics examined are the following:
One of Likoudis's polemical strategies is to point out the contradictions in the modern Orthodox position. One such clear contradiction consists, on the one hand, of the claim that only the first seven ecumenical councils accepted by the Orthodox churches can authoritatively pronounce on orthodox doctrines; and on the other, the fact that none of these councils appears to support positions emphatically favored by the Orthodox in opposition to those held by Catholics. For instance, none of the seven ecumenical councils declares the following Catholic doctrines to be heresies, while many modern Orthodox do:
In addition none of the seven ecumenical councils teaches the following doctrines, asserted by many modern Orthodox:
More positively, Likoudis's thought seems to be based on a triple dialectic (which echoes the triple division of the book), though it is not presented in that precise form.
This triple dialectic is supported by clear reasoning and ample documentation, making the book a welcome addition to the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.
It is available directly from the author:
Reprinted from "Social Justice Review" May/June 2003
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