Dialogue With Tom - Part I

Following is a letter from James Likoudis, president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, answering "Tom" who left the Church to become a Protestant minister and who had expressed surprise at the presence of dissenters in the Catholic Church.

 

Dear Tom,

I'm pleased you wrote [to] your mother as it gives me a clearer idea of where you stand regarding Christ and His blessed teachings.

First, as to the dissenters in the Catholic Church, I'm surprised somewhat that you would be surprised at the presence of dissenters either still in the Church or who have lapsed from it. Such always disfigure the face of the Church before the world, and oppose the will of Our Lord that they "may all be one".

The Catholic Church has always been beset with dissenters, heretics, schismatics and apostates. The New Testament speaks frankly of:

  • "false brethren" (2 Cor. 11:26) who would dare preach "another gospel" or,
  • seek to "pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:7). Moreover,
  • "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:9).

Church history reveals amply that at times there are dissenters who cleverly stay within the fold of the Church, disguising their disbelief in Church teachings, and who lack the courage to openly display their negations of Christian dogma. They lack the audacity of a Luther or Calvin. Other dissenters who find themselves in disagreement with official Church teachings and openly contradict Catholic dogma (i.e., defined truths of Revelation) break with the visible communion of the Church to become formal heretics and schismatics and start their own sects and denominations.

It often takes time for the Church's authorities (Pope and Bishops) to expel dissenters from its visible communion. It took 3 years to excommunicate Luther for his various heresies. The disciplining of Hans Küng, Charles Curran and the excommunications of Archbishops Lefebvre and Thuc, and the Sri Lanka theologian Tissa Balasuriya show that the Church is always concerned to safeguard the purity of the "deposit of faith" confided to Her.

Many other examples could be given of suspensions and removal from office of clergy who betray the Church's trust.

"For they are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ... Their end will be according to their works."  (2 Cor. 11:13-15)

No, Tom, the Church is not confused. The Church and Her teachings are before the whole world now as in the first, second, seventh, 13th and 19th century. The Church is always the same doctrinally, and is there in every age as the Teacher of Truth echoing Her Divine Master's teachings for our salvation. The Church of Christ is not confused because She is more than a human institution mixing up pagan ideas with gospel truths – the falsehood spread by the pseudo-Reformers of the 16th century whose human traditions you follow (whether you are aware or not).

The authentic teachings of the Church can be read in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" or in the official documents issued by the Pope as the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. They rule the Church by the will of Christ, and they are the only official teachers in the Church. It is astonishing that you do not grasp the truth (suggested throughout the New Testament) that the Church is a divine institution which is what is utterly unique about it!

That there are Catholics who are confused is true, but that is a truth evident in every age because of poor religious education, the circulation of anti-Catholic ideas, and simple human defects.

But the Catholic Church itself remains One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic in every age, and exists as the Ark of Salvation to all who are open to God's grace. Indeed, by Her seven Sacraments She communicates God's grace, and in the Holy Eucharist She communicates the very Author of grace to the sons of God (made "sons of God" by Baptism).

How many converts to the Catholic Church have remarked on the identity of the Church's teachings with the earliest Christian centuries, and how every form of Protestantism is a horrendous deviation from the Faith passed down from the Apostles to their successors – the College of Bishops with and under Peter. And how often they have commented on how the Catholic Church has withstood all opposition either from within or from without — a magnificent tribute to the Church's indestructibility. For Christ built His one Church on the Rock of Peter against which the gates of hell can never prevail (cf. Matt. 16:18 ff.).

What is so remarkable to anyone examining Catholic doctrine is how it all hangs together in an organic harmony that defies all human explanation. No, there are no inconsistencies in the Church's official teachings. There may be [inconsistencies] in the various theologies that circulate in the Church, but they all stand under the judgment of the Church's Magisterium, i.e., its teaching authority (Pope and Bishops). There is really much freedom in the Church for its theologians, but they must speculate within the parameters of "one Faith, one Lord, one Baptism".


Sincerely yours in Christ,
—  James Likoudis
President Emeritus
Catholics United for the Faith (CUF)

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage