Will the last guy to leave Rome please lock the Coliseum?
The Orthodox Christian faith has enjoyed a steady stream of conversions from all other Christian confessions. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, is facing serious crises from many directions. To take the heat off the multitude of problems besetting their faith, some Roman Catholics are working to create an image that converts are flocking in from every direction. One direction – the East – poses a particular problem for Rome in terms of finding converts. Seventy years or so ago, this would have not been much of a problem. There were too few Orthodox Christians in the US to matter. Orthodoxy in the US was primarily an ethnic institution made up of immigrants and their recent offspring. Leaving the “old religion” was seen to some as part of the Americanization process. This was partly because too few Orthodox Christians born in the Americas were adequately catechized in their own faith. Of course, even fifty years ago, there was very little written in the English language about the Orthodox faith. What little material existed was either poorly written, anti-Orthodox, or both.
So, the present-day Roman Church seems to have focused on creating the image that people are flocking in to her ranks. The number, and the level of doctrinal knowledge, of converts from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism is unimpressive. The two faiths differ so greatly that it would be hard for to make the case for conversion so that any aspect of Roman Catholicism would appeal to Orthodox Christians.
Enter James Likoudis.
Some people will do anything to sell a book or two
James Likoudis is your typical shameless, self-promoting author. He has been writing books to sell to Roman Catholics since the 1970s. Of course, there are so many more Roman Catholics than Orthodox Christians who read English, so he has a great market. It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war; unfortunately, truth often is one of the first casualties of book selling as well.
A Roman Cathoic propaganda television station ran an extensive interview with James Likoudis. It was uploaded to a YouTube series in January, 2010. Likoudis claims to be a former Orthodox Christian, but his knowledge of the Orthodox Church seems to be sketchy at best. One YouTube commenter pointed out that Likoudis could not even pronounce a commonly used Greek liturgical word. (Don’t look at me; I am not Greek.)
We love our good Roman Catholic friends
Again, our standard disclaimer. We do have many Roman Catholic friends. Please don’t take this personally. We are only pointing out that some people, in the name of Rome, are doing some nasty things. We still love you. But lies are lies and truths are truths.
The Papal barrier
The first thing that every Roman Catholic must know about Orthodoxy is how distasteful we find the Papacy. Saying that the Pope could possibly be “infallible,” even under the most unusual circumstances, verges on making the Pope into a “god.” Any hope of ever merging the two faiths would require Rome to renounce its current concept of the Papacy. Yet, Likoudis leads with this concept. It seems impossible that anyone who had ever been in the Eastern Orthodox faith could make such a major error.
Who is this guy, anyway?
Likoudis is a slippery character. While he claims to have converted to Roman Catholicism in 1952, we could not find any reference to his age. How old was he when he became Roman Catholic? Perhaps he was five years old when he “converted.” That would explain his very shallow understanding of the Eastern Orthodox faith. On the other hand, perhaps he was already twenty-five years old when he converted, old enough to envision a potential career as a Roman Catholic apologist in the offing. Of course, the whole thing could have been made up; perhaps he never was Orthodox, which would explain why he would expect Orthodox Christians to believe his nonsensical babbling.
Of course, we are not the first Orthodox Christians to accuse Likoudis of being disingenuous. Joseph Suaiden simply takes Likoudis apart in a 2002 article. Suaiden’s second refutation of Likoudis is equally impressive.
You got that one backwards, Jim
Early in the interview, Likoudis makes one of the most ridiculous assertions about the Great Schism that we have ever heard. While the official date for the Schism is 1054 AD, most Orthodox sources see it as something that had been brewing much earlier. (We will let our Roman Catholic friends fill in any details they may have). Yet, Likoudis claims it came later!? He even speaks of Council of Florence as pre-Schism. A major feature of Florence was to try to woo us back with promises of protection from a certain Muslim invasion. The Schism was set so far in stone at that point that we gladly faced martyrdom and slavery to Muslims, rather than to return to communion with what we view as a heretical faith. How anyone who had been Orthodox for fifteen minutes or so could have missed that is beyond us.
The tale of two creeds
Likoudis tried to underplay the role of the Filioque in the Schism. Simply put: The Pope included the Filioque in the Creed one time and that was enough for the Orthodox to remove the Pope from our prayer list. The Pope was so irate that he sent a half-baked Cardinal to serve a “Bull of Excommunication” against the Patriarch of Constantinople. Sounds to us like it was pretty important. However, Likoudis tries to soft pedal this major reason as no longer being so important to us today.
Likoudis tried create the false image that the Orthodox rejection of Papacy is something of recent vintage. The East has always considered it a heresy to put one bishop over all others. Even when we have a bishop with a special honor or administrative duty, we refer to that bishop as being “first amongst equals.” Besides, the role of the Pope in the West clearly developed post-Schism. The final step did not occur until 1870, when the Pope officially claimed to be “infallible.” And Roman Catholics fall all over themselves trying to explain that one. Sometimes, they say the Pope was always infallible. Sometimes, it is only after 1870 and only when the Pope says so. Of course, many Roman Catholics feel that the Pope is only infallible when he happens to agree with them on a particular issue. Anything anywhere between those three views works for some Roman Catholics, at least some of the time.
Church and state
Likoudis lies when he says that the civil governments have always controlled the Eastern Church. Sometimes they have tried. We have a number of our Saints who are bishops who resisted. We have had bishops who yielded too much to Orthodox secular leaders. We are not defending it, but it has happened. However, the norm in Orthodoxy is our own version of a separation between civil and ecclesiastic leaders, which existed even before it was cool in Western thinking.
Neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic
Orthodoxy needs neither an “infallible” leader or an “inerrant” book. While the former is clearly Roman Catholic and latter Reformation Protestant, to our way of thinking they both sound more like Islam than Christianity. In Orthodoxy, the only perfection that we seek is found in God. Likoudis’ claim that our problem is the lack of such a Naziesque leader is very insulting.
Contrary to Likoudis’ lies, Orthodoxy has dealt well with heresies. That is the reason we had the Seven Ecumenical Councils. (Unless Likoudis is admitting that Roman Catholicism, the so-called “Latin Heresy,” is the one we have not been able to deal with thus far?).
We do take marriage seriously in the East
Eastern Orthodoxy take marriage much more seriously than the Western Church do. Perhaps, this is best demonstrated by the actor Tony Shalhoub in his fiction role as television detective Monk. Adrian Monk is completely devoted to late wife and acts as though she were still alive. Funny in the show, but to an ideal Orthodox standard. While certainly not a requirement of the Church, often Orthodox widows and widowers await their mates in the next world, sometimes joining monasteries during the Earthly wait. Orthodoxy, however, recognizes human failings, which includes divorce. Orthodox clergy, of course, can never remarry, not even if the wife dies. The priest must either leave the priesthood or become a monk. Orthodox laity must receive permission for any second marriage. A Roman Catholic with the misfortune to have a serious of spouses die can continue to remarry with no set limit or guidelines. Of course, Likoudis’ spin on our practices is totally disingenuous.
Likoudis lies to his Roman Catholic audience claiming that East-West unification is close at hand because the Pope now speaks freely to the Patriarchs. Unless the Pope is considering ending the Papacy, nothing could be further from the truth. No Patriarch has the power to change the faith. No Patriarch has the power to take any church that does not confess the same faith into communion with his see.
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend there is a Patriarch or Metropolitan or Archbishop who is willing to “reunite” his see with Rome. He would certainly be removed from office, perhaps defrocked, and perhaps even excommunicated. The other Bishops in that see simply would not stand for it. We don’t have Earthly heads in the East.
Let’s go one step further out on a limb. Suppose that particular hierarch were able to convince enough of his fellow bishops to come along with him. Perhaps the Vatican offered enough money to help that see with its expenses. Perhaps there has been a scandal and Rome will help cover it up for them. We can almost guarantee a schism within that see. Local schisms have occurred for less important reasons than that.
What would happen to the faithful, if something like this were to occur? Well, it is extremely unlikely that many would remain in the faction that went with Rome. Perhaps a very popular hierarch might be able to attract five percent or so, and that would be only because they kept their Eastern Rite practices. Back in the day when Rome could apply considerable political pressure, it was able to lure or push people into “Eastern Rite Roman Catholic” a/k/a “Uniate” parishes and dioceses as an alternative to war. However, Roman has no more Christian armies at her disposal. Anyone who wants to be Roman Catholic today need only find one of their churches. Those who do not are unlikely to follow a schismatic bishop to Rome. That fact is sadly lost on Likoudis.
Ecumenical Councils normally don’t start out being called as such. Orthodoxy has had many, many councils during its long history. However, only seven are considered “ecumenical.” A council only becomes “ecumenical” when it is universally recognized within the Church. First, the bishops recognize it. Then the clergy recognize it. Finally, the laity. Calling it an “Ecumenical Council” in advance won’t make it one or even help it become one. Yet, Likoudis seems to think this is one way that Rome might force all the Eastern Orthodox back into the fold. What a joke! We are NOT going. Our priests will not try to take us. Their bishops will not try to take our priests to Rome. This has been tried twice. Once for the sake of Christian unity. Once to try to keep Muslim invaders out of Constantinople. If we wouldn’t do it for those reason, why would we do it to further inflate James Likoudis’ giant ego?
Prayer for the invasion of Russia
Now that Russia is free, Likoudis evidently wants to invade it. In the pre-Vatican II Roman Church, a prayer was often said for “the conversion of Russia.” In a world where even young children expected someday to be in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, this prayer for your moral enemy was quite a statement. Unless we are mistaken, that practice fell by the wayside in the Roman Church at about the time of the Second Vatican Conference. Well, Russia has been converted! It now boasts the more Orthodox Christians than any nation on the planet. This must really grieve the Roman-Catholic-first-and-God-whenever crowd. Likoudis, like so many other whack jobs in the Roman Church, wants to “consecrate Russia” now. Gee, where were y’all when we were fighting to get rid of the Communists? Likoudis, take your schismatic hands off Christian Russia!
So, you need us?
Likoudis admits that they need our “traditions” and liturgical beauty. If you want them, Jimmy boy, they come with a price. Renounce the Roman Church and come to any Eastern Orthodox Church. (Note that I did not say “come back” as you haven’t convinced us that you were ever Eastern Orthodox).
One of the most laughable things about Likoudis’ rant is the way he sees the Orthodox flexibility and economia as “confusion.” For example, some Orthodox priest will receive converts who have already had a Trinitarian Baptism into the Orthodox faith via chrismation, while others re-baptize. Once received into the Orthodox Church it does not matter to any of us. However, only a Fuehrer making all the rules and micromanaging every aspect of our spiritual lives will make Lidoudis happy. Just leave Jimmy unhappy. He only wants trouble anyhow.
Ancient faith, not whatever Rome dreams up next
The Orthodox faith is about the “faith once given” (Jude 3). Any “dogmatic developments” contrary to that faith is anti-Orthodox. Yet, one of Likoudis’ complaints is our lack of “dogmatic developments.” Plainly stated, Likouds is complaining that we have not strayed from the true faith. On this one, Likoudis sounds downright Satanic.
So, who is pushing the Likoudis agenda?
If you want to find some of the rudest and most hateful Roman Catholic supporters of Likoudis’ nonsense, look for a YouTube series The Journey Home: James Likoudis’ Conversion from Eastern Orthodoxy.
However, if you plan to post comments on that YouTube series, be forewarned. You will be banned as a “troll” if you say anything sensible for any length of time. These people are totally incapable of handling a reasonable debate. They view a typical Orthodox Christian as one who must be in complete agreement with Likoudis and his nonsense, and just waiting with bated breath for the Orthodox Church to discard its 2000-year-old beliefs and become Roman Catholic. The head nasty who moderates the YouTube page accused fellow blog admin 1389 of being an “Evangelical.” That is right, they accused a notorious Orthodox apologist of being an Evangelical!
But then, it is good to know who the real enemies of the Orthodox Church are. Come to think of it, Mkvine and his band of nitwits are enemies of the Roman Catholic Church as well. By promoting a fraud like Likoudis, they are actually making the Roman Catholic Church look worse than it actually is. And Rome has enough troubles these days without them causing more.
Again, our apologies to our Roman Catholic friends. Perhaps we never thank you enough for not acting like Mkvine and those clowns who support Likoudis.