Prof. ROBERT FASTIGGI
A GIFT GIVEN BY CHRIST FOR UNITY
James Likoudis, President Emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, is a well-known Catholic speaker, author and scholar. Many recognize him as the author of many articles in The Wanderer, and co-author (with Kenneth Whitehead) of the seminal book, The Pope, The Council and the Mass (first published in 1981 and to be soon republished in an updated version). He is equally esteemed for his timely critiques of flawed approaches to catechesis and sex education.
This most recent book stands as the third major volume of Professor Likoudis on Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism. His Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism: the 14th c. Apologia of Demetrios Kydones for Unity with Rome drew upon the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Trinity to establish the truth of the Roman Primacy in the Church. The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church provides the most comprehensive examination in English of the major objections made by Eastern dissidents to Catholic doctrines. In many respects, Eastern Orthodoxy and the See of Peter: A Journey towards Full Communion is the most interesting and significant for the average reader. The first three chapters are autobiographical, and they tell the story of his spiritual and intellectual journey towards the fullness of orthodoxy and Catholicity that can only be found in communion with the See of St. Peter.
As the son of Greek immigrant parents in upstate New York, Likoudis had been taught that, "to be Greek is to be Greek Orthodox." During his student days at the University of Buffalo, however, he embarked upon a courageous and honest search into the claim of the Catholic Church to be the true Church of Christ. The story of his entrance into full communion with the Catholic Church makes for fascinating reading. It was not only the influence of Ruth, his future bride, who had also embraced Catholicism. Rather, it was the discovery of the truth that "to be fully Orthodox is to be in communion with Peter’s See."
Students of history and theology will be interested in which authors exerted the greatest influence on Likoudis. Catholics scholars like M.J. Scheeben, J.H. Newman and Orestes Brownson are mentioned, as well as the Russian philosopher and defender of the papacy, Vladimir Soloviev. But works by non-Catholic historians also played a role, such as Eastern Churches and the Papacy, by S.H. Scott and The See of Peter by Shotwell and Loomis. The Patristic supports for papal authority supplied by these texts proved difficult to reconcile with the anti-papal assertions of polemical Orthodox writers, such as the lapsed Catholic, Abbé Guette. Moreover, the claim that only Orthodox sacraments were valid – made by some Orthodox authors, including one professor of Likoudis – contradicted not only the doctrine of the early Church but also the views of various modern Orthodox theologians.
Eastern Orthodoxy and the See of Peter: A Journey towards Full Communion contains 13 chapters and two appendices that help the reader further appreciate the papacy as a gift given by Christ for the preservation of unity within His Church. Making use of many Eastern Christian sources, Likoudis provides overwhelming historical support for the Catholic understanding of papal primacy and authority. In addition to Byzantine Fathers like St. Maximos the Confessor, later Eastern witnesses to papal papacy, such as Peter Mohila (17th century), are also presented.
The book brings into focus other areas of Catholic-Orthodox disagreement, for example, the doctrines of original sin and the Immaculate Conception. Of particular value is the chapter on "Contraception and Eastern Orthodoxy." Here the author shows how the Catholic Church, under Paul VI and John Paul II, upheld the traditional Christian moral teaching, while Eastern Orthodox bishops and theologians were willing to compromise this moral tradition.
There are some added features to this book. One chapter exposes the flaws of a recent anti-Catholic polemic written by the former Southern Baptist minister turned Orthodox, Clark Carlton. Another chapter examines the numerous misconceptions of Catholic doctrine found in the popular book, Introducing the Orthodox Church, by the Greek Orthodox priest, Fr. Anthony Coniaris. Still another chapter tells the story of the Capuchin friar, Saint Leopoldo of Castelnovo (1866-1942) who dedicated his life to the reconciliation of separated Eastern Christians with the Catholic Church. An added bonus is an appendix that provides the first complete English translation of Blessed Pius IX’s 1848 letter, In Suprema Petri. This letter, beautifully rendered into English by Fr. Patrick Brannan, S.J., praises the special contributions of the Christian Orient while calling upon the separated Eastern Churches to restore full communion with the Holy Roman Church.
There is probably no other writer in English who has so thoroughly explored Catholic-Orthodox issues as James Likoudis. This book is the fruit over 50 years of study and prayer. It is a profound testimony to how the Holy Spirit has guided and continues to guide the Church founded on the rock of St. Peter.
Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology,
Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan