HIS INTELLECTUAL SEARCH
LED TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
HOW A GREEK ORTHODOX BECAME CATHOLIC
Editor's Note: The following is from a question and answer interview
given by Mr. James Likoudis to Brendan O'Reilly, a reporter for "The
Catholic Weekly", a Catholic magazine of Sydney, Australia and published
on March 25, 1992.
JAMES LIKOUDIS came to the Catholic faith from a Greek Orthodox route. As a
young student of history and later as a teacher, Mr Likoudis was intrigued by
the historical circumstances surrounding the schism which led to the rise of
Greek Orthodoxy. But as he tells The Weekly's BRENDAN O'REILLY, his research
led him not only to develop a new perspective on his childhood religion but to
convert to Catholicism.
Q. Did you have a great interest in religion when you were growing up?
A. Yes. I was a university student in New York State and attending a
private secular university at the time, and the Catholics on campus were being
rather viciously attacked in the student newspaper. I was not a Catholic at
that time, but I was a sort of crypto-Catholic. I was sympathetic.
I was studying history and philosophy at university and began to read G.K.
Chesterton, Cardinal Newman, Cardinal Manning, Thomas William Allies and many
of the converts of the Oxford movement in England. That interested me in
Church history. I've always been a kind of big fan of Church history.
My own background was Greek Orthodox and I was soon confronted with this
problem of both the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church claiming to
be the true Church of Jesus Christ. So this was the dilemma that I had to
solve, so I delved very deeply into Church history and the study of the
papacy. I soon realised that before the Byzantine-Greek schism, the papacy as
we understand it today was long in evidence, centuries before the schism, and
the Byzantine schism was essentially something quite irrational in nature.
I was also attracted to Catholicism at a number of other levels: sacred art,
sacred music, the strength of the Church in giving rise to western
civilisation, which increasingly was coming under secular attacks.
So I became a Catholic in 1952. My wife is also a convert. She was an
Episcopalian. We both were attracted to the Catholic Church as basically the
great defender of the human person. I think this has become increasingly clear
in the years since the year that I became a convert. The Catholic Church
stands alone amidst the rubble of modern society, the moral collapse that is
so evident in so many ways, that is especially affecting the family.
Q. Is Catholicism important to your marriage?
A. Well, it's quite obvious that the Catholic Church has been the great
safeguard of marriage in contemporary society. Of course, marriage is under
attack in many different ways. We have tremendous love and respect for what
Our Lord had to say about marriage. And the Church's teaching on marriage is
exactly what society desperately needs today.
Many people simply do not have the Christian understanding of marriage any
longer. I think we Catholics have got to face that in our societies. But it is
the Christian understanding of marriage that gives meaning to life and to
love, and people looking for meaning in their lives will find that meaning
expressed most beautifully in Catholic teaching.
So we have a great mission, we Catholic lay people, to reach out to others who
are looking for moral roots and a kind of moral grounding in society and to
say, what you're looking for is to be found in the Catholic Church. And those
Catholics who live in accordance with the Church's teaching on marriage are
the happy ones. People looking for happiness will find happiness in Christ's
teaching, as embodied in the Catholic Church.
So as young people in our 20s, my wife and I were married. We now have six
children, 23 grandchildren and two more on the way. And society needs the
example of Catholics who live their faith and live truly Christian marriages.
Q. You believe the Church has a lot to offer people who are looking for
something in their lives. Do you think happiness is what people are looking
A. I think union with God is what we're living for, and happiness is to
be found in union with God, not certainly in any sense of self-fulfillment.
That is not the Christian Gospel. Our Lord said, "He who would attempt to save
his life will lose it. And he who loses his life, especially for my sake, will
The secular concept of self-fulfillment is absolutely a disastrous one. The
false ideas of liberation of the human person as we find in, say radical
feminism, are not the solution to the human problems we're faced with.
Christ's Gospel gives us a plan of living, if you will, which will give us
true self-fulfillment, true self-actualization, true self-realization and
all the buzzwords that the therapists of today like to talk about. But real
happiness is to be found in loving God, loving our neighbor and fulfilling the
commands that Christ has given us. We've got to get back to that.
There are all kinds of gurus running about contemporary society with all kinds
of false utopian hopes and expectations. But realism is to be found in the
teaching of the Gospel. And that is why being a Catholic today in the modern
world is so terribly important, because that's the kind of witness we can give
a modern world that has become a spiritual wasteland and desolate and ...
Q. The organization you lead, Catholics United for the Faith, is a lay
organization, isn't it? How did it all begin?
A. Catholics United for the Faith was founded in 1968, when a number of
lay people came together and thought it was time to do something practical
about putting flesh and blood, or, put it this way, putting the 16 decrees and
declarations of Vatican II into action, putting flesh and blood on these
decrees, getting the lay people actually involved in carrying out the great
mission that the Second Vatican Council had ascribed to the laity. After all,
they're 98.6 percent of the Catholic population of God.
Many of our Catholic people have been passive, they've been apathetic, they
have not been well formed doctrinally and spiritually. And so Catholics United
for the Faith was founded to do something about these problems and to do what
the Second Vatican Council wanted the laity to do as it began to move towards
the third Millennium.
Also, there's a great need for catechesis, because religious illiteracy has
just exploded in the nations of the West. We've gone through a very difficult
period in the last two and a half decades and we find that many of our own
Catholic people don't know the faith: They have to be re-catechized. And so,
Catholics United for the Faith really has established a certain competence and
expertise in the whole area of catechesis. We're very concerned with this
problem of religious illiteracy. We're very concerned with the doctrinal and
spiritual and intellectual formation of our lay people so that you'll have lay
people who'll be the kind of informed, cultivated laymen that Cardinal Newman
praised in his works.
We have a lot of concerns about education and schools, because that's where
the laity really should be involved very heavily. What are schools doing, not
for children, but to children in our society? That's something we ought to
think very seriously about. There's a tremendous amount of criticism of
schools, brainwashing youngsters in a purely secular ethic. That is a
confrontation really with the message of the Gospel because we cannot be
content with a purely secular ethic. You can't divorce morality from religion.
You can't reduce morality to opinion. But all these things are happening not
only in terms of the media impact, but also in what schools are teaching.
Q. What are schools teaching that you think is harming people?
A. [In the United States] they have death education, they have suicide
education, they have self-esteem education. Isn't it ridiculous? You have to
have a program at school to teach you how to cope with suicide where there is
no moral judgment even made concerning suicide?
What about death education? In the United States we have children being taken
to funeral parlors to touch corpses. Does that make sense? Is there any
foolishness they can have within a school curriculum that warrants defense
because schools are doing it?
What about schools imposing contraceptive and AIDS education upon children? Is
that a good idea? Do you think schools should bring in different contraceptive
devices and show the Catholic kids how they fit?
Q. What should happen when parents are afraid to discuss these kinds of
issues, or if they do know not much about them?
A. Do schools know any more than Catholic parents who know the
Christian Faith? I've seen the AIDS curricula which are an abomination before
God and man.
Q. Do you believe children need to learn about these issues?
A. I think the youngsters need to have instruction concerning sexual
ethics, yes. The function of the Catholic school is to give careful
instruction on rights and wrongs and on sexual morality. It's not the function
of the school to teach "sexology".
There's a difference between teaching sexual morality and giving youngsters
all this sexual information about sexual organs and sexual plumbing and sexual
acts and sexual perversions.
Parents don't argue with biology classes. Sex education is something else.
That's not just biology. It is an indoctrination that is supposed to be
holistic, i.e., forming the whole man, but is actually very narrow and ignores
the needs of the soul.
Often times, certainly in the government schools, this holistic education is
immoral. There's no morality involved. There's no moral framework offered in
the government schools. What is the Church doing about the corruption of
Catholic children in your government schools? The moral corruption of Catholic
children in Catholic schools? Do you know of any recent statement by diocesan
authorities about the immoral sex education, the pro-contraceptive,
pro-abortion education going on in so many of the schools of your nation?
There is a substantial amount of criticism of religious education that has
been offered in the Catholic school sector in Australian dioceses. I've been
in Australia now seven times. There's been a constant expression of concern by
Catholic parents all over Australia with regard to what is occurring in
schools. Sadly, serious abuses in catechesis and sex education have gone