Fr. Peter Mary Felhner, FI
A former President of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF), James Likoudis, is well known for his many publications, at once learned and practical, especially in the fields of apologetics and catechetics. A convert from the Greek Orthodox Church and well-read both in the Greek and Latin theologians, he is particularly qualified to explain the central issue disputed by separated Christians in the Byzantine world: the "divine primacy of the Bishop of Rome" and the true nature of that mysterious unity at the heart of the Church.
In an earlier work, "Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism" (1992), Likoudis treated the theological and historical issues raised by Eastern Orthodox objections to the primacy of the Popes. In this volume he covers some of the same ground, but apologetically, striving to help those inclined to accept Orthodox objections to this article of faith to grasp the reasonableness of the Catholic position as the authentic continuation of the common belief of all the pre-schismatic Fathers of the Church, eastern as well as western, Greek as well as Latin.
Set out in 52 chapters, each in the form of a letter to a fictional Greek Orthodox named Euthymios (but reflecting exchanges with real persons over the years), Likoudis deals with all the major objections to the divine institution of the primacy of the Pope raised today by a number of vocal and polemical defenders of the current Orthodox position. Curiously, this resurgent polemic has occurred in an ecumenical climate, and even more unexpectedly, as Likoudis details in his careful analysis, it is marred by a considerable number of theological and historical misrepresentations.
Although addressed to "a Greek Orthodox" this book is of equal interest and importance to Roman Catholics, who often are quite ignorant of what is involved in the schism of Eastern Orthodoxy, particularly among the Greeks, and what is its bearing on questions of theology at the very heart of the mystery of the Church. For it is a fact of history that everywhere the differences and divisions of the baptized affecting, not only their unity, but their very notion of Church unity, in one way or another are anticipated in the Orthodox rationalization of the formal schism which began, not with the 9th century Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius or his 11th century successor, Michael Caerularius (1054), but with the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by Frankish crusaders - a tragic event, condemned by Pope Innocent III, but not a justification for rejecting the divine constitution of the Church.
The fact is that the ecclesiology of the first Protestant reformers, particularly the English, was deeply indebted to the earlier rationalization of formal repudiation of the primacy of the Pope on the part of Orthodox theologians writing after 1204. In the east that repudiation was justified theologically by accusing the Latins of adopting a heretical view of the procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son (a position, as Likoudis notes, never once condemned by any Ecumenical Council), and later by accusing the Latins of having arbitrarily defined as articles of faith mere theological hypotheses concerning the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. As Likoudis rightly notes, these last, together with the polemics over Purgatory, despite the present fanfare, are not sources of division between Latin and Byzantine Christians, as they are in the west between Catholics and Protestants, but are subject of argument only in support of repudiation of the primacy of the Pope.
In the west, however, obstinate insistence on such theological errors touching the Holy Spirit, grace, freedom and good works and justification, the mediation of Mary, devotion to Her and Her invocation, necessarily led to a repudiation of the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, substituting for this some form of conciliarism (the great western schism in the middle ages 1379-1415 which reflected the earlier eastern precedent in Constantinople and anticipated the congregationalism so typical of the major Protestant ecclesiologies). With this we can appreciate why the medieval ecumenical efforts at the Second Council of Lyons (1274, in which the influence of Sts. Bonaventure and Thomas was paramount) and at the Council of Florence (15th century) to heal the Byzantine schism were considered so important by the Popes and leading theologians of the time, and why the ending of this schism still enjoys high priority in the long term planning of the Popes.
In the light of this, the attentive reader will find the two appendices most instructive. The first is a partial translation of the views of Cardinal Matthew of Aquasparta, O. Min. (a disciple and younger contemporary of St. Bonaventure, very likely ghost writer of the famous bull of Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam) on the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son; and the second a good English translation (by R. Ederer) of Bishop W. E. von Ketteler's defense of the definition of papal infallibility by Vatican I (against certain German Catholic theologians who repudiated the definition for essentially the same reasons as the Orthodox).
Though Likoudis does not treat the point at length, the linking of Petrine primacy, procession of the Holy Spirit and the mystery of the Immaculate Conception is no mere accident, whatever the immediate occasion for taking note of this association of mysteries. The Petrine, Marian and spiritual aspects of the unity of the Church are so inseparably linked by the Founder of the Church that any error or rejection of one inevitably leads to error about or rejection of the others. In practice it is the intervention and mediation of the Mother of the Church, the Mother of Unity, which provides the key to a happy resolution of the ecumenical question.
This book will do honor to any theological library, but it may be recommended especially to those with pastoral, missionary and catechetical responsibilities. Careful study of it will help to dispel illusions and exaggerations concerning ecumenism: those which fail to recognize its importance and need, and those which fail to distinguish between genuine and false ecumenism.
It is available directly from the author:
Reprinted from "Christ To The World" issue of Sept./Oct. 2002,
English Edition Vol. XLVII Number 5
Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage