HOW I BECAME A CATHOLIC
HOW A GREEK ORTHODOX BECAME CATHOLIC
Note: The following is from a question and answer interview given by Mr. James Likoudis to Mark Gross, the Editor of the Dominican laity' newsletter "Truth Be Told", published in issue #17 of Jul-Aug 2011, pp. 7-9 of said newsletter.
As we try to be lights in the darkness, we look to brighter lights who have gone before us; from Jesus and the apostles, the saints and martyrs, down to those who have trod the way before us. So it is that in this issue I am pleased to bring you a short interview with James Likoudis, a well known Catholic author whom many of you will be familiar with. He has had a long association with Catholics United for the Faith, and has written extensively on Catechetics, Sex Education, Liturgy, and Eastern Orthodox Reunion. Mr Likoudis has consented to do an interview for our readers, and has also written a serialized set of articles under the title "Dominican Defenders of the Papacy and Catholic Doctrine" which Truth Be Told will bring to you over the next several issues.
Editor: Jim, many of our readers of course will be aware of your work on behalf of the faith, but I doubt that they would be aware of your long relationship and affinity for the Dominican Order and her great saints. Would you mind telling us a little about what saints Dominic, Aquinas, and the Order of Preachers have been to you?
Jim: When I was at the University of Buffalo, the currents of Secularism were already in evidence and it was clear that attacks on theism and Christianity and basic morality were mounting. I found intellectual refuge in the works of St.Thomas Aquinas and various books on the Angelic Doctor which, in effect, refuted the false ideologies that had prepared the way for the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century: Nazism, Fascism. Marxist Communism, Nietzschean Nihilism, and the secular educationalist humanism of John Dewey - all of which were leading students away from Reality.
I had already been attracted to the Catholic Church by the beauty of the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of Victories near my home, and I became acquainted with the, Buffalo, NY, Dominican monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary and its beautiful paintings of St. Dominic and Dominican Saints. The Order of Preachers was known for its intellectual apostolate, its charism of preaching and teaching truth. It was Truth that was being suffocated by the Liberalism and Relativism spreading in society.
I eagerly read books by Dominicans Ft. Vincent McNabb, Fr. Gerald Vann, and R. Garrigou-Lagrange. Later in the 1970's, I attended meetings of the Dominican laity in Buffalo, where the Monastery Chaplain, Fr.Albert Drexilius. a holy priest, gave talks on the "Summa Theologiae" of St.Thomas.
Editor: Jim, I am a convert from secularism who entered the church in 1996, so my perspective is regrettably foreshortened. On the other hand, you have the perspective of a long life in the faith, spanning the pre- to post-conciliar periods, and thus you have first hand experience in the changes which have occurred. "New Church" or "Devastated Vineyard"?
Jim: I became a Catholic in 1952 when the Catholic Church appeared to be a strong moral force in American society. It was not long before serious weaknesses began to reveal themselves as powerful forces and tendencies sought to strip away from the public order and life of the Republic any vestige of Christian influence. The religious and political hostility of traditional Protestantism gave way to the cunning anti-Catholicism of Liberal-Leftists active in the Media and the activities of such Liberal groups as the ACLU. Prof. Arthur Schlesinger would observe that Anti-Catholicism served as the Anti-Semitism of American liberal intellectuals who had no sympathy for a Catholic Church considered irrelevant to modern man and an anti-democratic opponent of "Progress".
The late 1950's saw certain moral theologians already sanctioning contraception and some priests engaging in collaborating with such key movers of the Sexual Revolution as SIECUS (the Sexual Information and Educational Council of the United States) and Planned Parenthood – both of which were heavily engaged in promoting the innovation of Classroom Sex Education in the schools of the nation. The Sexual Revolution embodying a massive assault on the sexual morality of the Church became full blown in 1968 with the rejection of Pope Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae" by all too many Bishops, priests, religious, moral theologians, professors in Catholic Universities and colleges, journalists in the Catholic Press, and many lay people in the pews. Influenced by the Liberalism dominating American culture and mores, too many Catholics succumbed to the "spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil" resulting in the present sorry situation of American Catholicism, i.e., widespread Dissent and Disobedience impeding the mission of Evangelization.
Liberal Catholics' alienation from authority, dogma, and tradition made them accept all too easily the illusion of a "New Church" allegedly given us by the Second Vatican Council and blinded them to the revival of Modernist theology in the Church's own Seminaries and educational institutions. A systematic sturdy of the Catholic Faith and its moral teachings were especially adversely affected as millions of Catholics were exposed to an experiential catechesis hostile to the teaching and learning of doctrine and the articles of faith. Confusion and ignorance of the Catholic Faith and its moral demands now afflicts another generation of American Catholics who live in the "Devastated Vineyard" of a battered Church.
There were many voices who analyzed the great harm being done by dissenters who promoted a radical doctrinal revolution in the Church, seeking to liberate souls from irrelevant dogma and an oppressive hierarchical system. The great philosopher Dr. Dietrich von Hilldebrand even wrote a book with that exact title "The Devastated Vineyard" detailing the consequences of the philosophical and theological assault on the Church in progress. Earlier, he had written another major work "Trojan Horse in the City of God" wherein he identified key agents causing liturgical and doctrinal chaos in the Church. I vividly recall the scene in a New Rochelle parish where the aged philosopher was denied Holy Communion by a "New Breed" priest for seeking to kneel in receiving his God.
Editor: I have heard modern Catholic education described as "an inoculation against the Faith". Was the faith always as hard to catch as it seems to be today in our secularized society? Did we go astray, or was it inevitable in the corrosive culture?
Jim: In the days before Vatican II (1962-65), Catholic education produced some of the finest Catholics I have known. They were those who profited from a sound teaching of the Faith in parochial schools and Catholic colleges. However, there were others whose head and heart were not really affected by the truth and beauty of the Catholic Faith and had no zeal for the Faith. These would soon capitulate to the demands of secularism and "alternative life-styles". When poorly formed teachers or outright dissenters from Catholic doctrine and morals took over the religious teaching in our schools, the situation worsened with the result that many Catholics would lapse from the practice of the Faith.
As has been noted by the secular press, the largest religious denomination in the U.S. is that of lapsed Catholics. The failure to deal with the collapse of Catechetics in our schools and parishes would prompt such lay organizations as Catholics United from the Faith (CUF) to focus on providing sound materials for parents and children such as its "Faith and Life" elementary school series and to counter the erosion of Catholic family life resulting from secularist pressures. It was easier to be a Catholic when there were strong Catholic families and who, in addition, were socially supported by parishes giving sound doctrine from the pulpit and fearlessly confronting attacks on the Faith, and having reverent liturgies and devotional services. The spectacle of dysfunctional families torn by divorce and separation, silent pulpits, and widespread liturgical abuses cannot withstand the politically-correct corrosive influences marking a decadent society.
Editor: Where I live there is only a miniscule presence of the Orthodox, but for a few years we had a Byzantine Catholic priest come for monthly Divine Liturgy with the hope of establishing a mission. I fell in love with the Divine Liturgy, and it gave me a keen interest in reconciliation between East and West. Your books on the Petrine Primacy and reconciliation greatly aided my understanding, which had been the simplistic notions which are so current. I canít help but wonder if Newmanís dictum, "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant" doesnít have a corollary in the context of the East-West division? That to understand the long history underlying the schism is important, and also to make room for one another, as the relationship between Benedict XVI and Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev demonstrates, rather than clinging to the old shibboleths?
Jim: An objective study of Church History testifies to the truth of the Catholic Church as the true Church of Jesus Christ. This was the testimony of John Henry Newman whose study led to his reconciliation with the Catholic Church. I was influenced greatly by his "The Development of Christian Doctrine" which revealed both the elements of continuity and doctrinal progress indispensable to a Living Church built on the Rock of Peter. His dictum "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant" was found to be profoundly true, and had an application to our separated Eastern brethren in view of the overwhelming evidence for the Papacy in the history of the Church of the First Millennium.
It was an intrinsic element in the apostolic hierarchy of the Church. The conviction, certainly for me, was inescapable: "To be deep in history is to cease to be an Eastern Orthodox". It was the study of Church History by the greatest of Russian philosophers, Vladimir Soloviev, the "Russian Newman", that brought him, like the Anglican Newman, to profess the Catholic Faith. His remarkable book, "Russia and the Universal Church" with its trenchant apologetic for the Petrine Office of the Pope, also had a great influence on me.
I have devoted many years to the study of the origins and history of the Byzantine Greco-Slav Schism with three books devoted to an evaluation of Eastern Orthodoxy and its objections to Catholic doctrines. There is no question that the lack of charity was at the core of the open schism between Rome and Constantinople that developed at the end of the 12th century and with the rejection of the Reunion Council of Lyons (1274). Friendships between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox hierarchs together with the "purification of memories" of past grievances and hatreds are assuredly the first step to a needed re-examination of those doctrinal differences impeding the restoration of full communion between the Churches. It is gratifying that an International Catholic/Orthodox Theological Commission (no longer willing to be victimized by "old shibboleths") is examining with great objectivity the chief dogmatic issue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, namely, the role of the Petrine Primacy in the first thousand years. Catholics should pray for the success of this Study enlightening souls.
Editor: One of our Chapter members, while on assignment with the US Army in Serbia, witnessed ancient Orthodox churches burned by mobs of Moslems while the UN "peacekeeping" forces watched. What do you see as the challenges to the faith coming from that other "great religion"?
Jim: Militant Radical Islam represents a great threat to the entire "infidel and idolatrous" West and, frankly to the Catholic Church in particular. The history of Islam with its subjugation of Christian peoples in North Africa and the Middle East from the 7th century to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and remaining a threat to Europe even afterwards, is not an edifying one. Though some prefer to hide their heads in the sand regarding Islam as a "religion of peace", the fact remains that the roots of a modern inhuman Militant Radical Islam envisaging plans for a worldwide Theocratic Political State are found in the texts of the Koran itself. These texts promote murderous jihadism.
Though the terrorism, violence, and religious intolerance preached and justified by radical imams are not approved by "moderate Muslims", the fact remains that the latter are few in prestige and not credible to most in the Muslim world who regard the United States as the "Great Satan" and have no scruples to justify the persecution and murder of Christians in many countries, and to put to death those who apostasize from Islam. It is not accidental that Islamic regimes are historically repressive and oppressive and anti-democratic with non-Muslims reduced to dhimitude, i.e., second class status.
For the extremist Muslims who control public opinion in the Islamic world, "No other religion has a right to exist". There is not the same regard for the respect of human rights and the rights of religious minorities as Catholics have declared in Vatican II's "Declaration on Religious Freedom". It is also ignored that Islam is essentially racist with is hatred of Jews considered an actual divine command.
With respect to the destruction of Serbian churches and monasteries resulting from the ill-considered NATO intervention in Serbia, it is an ominous fact that the fanatical Muslims who engaged in such wanton destruction now occupy an Islamic State, Bosnia, in the very heart of Europe. Al Quada supported the war against the Serbs. Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Aghanistan all gathered in Bosnia and Kosovo to wage jihad against the Orthodox Serbs. Their acts of violence are reminiscent of those in the capture of Constantinople when icons were defaced with the eyes always scratched out and the beautiful mosaics of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and Saints plastered over.
Editor: Thank you, Jim, for all your work on behalf of the Church, and your support of this newsletter. May the Lord bless you and may our Lady ever keep you under her mantle.
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