Dialogue With Tom - Part II

Following is a letter from James Likoudis, President Emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, answering a previous response from "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,

In your last letter you wrote:

"The fundamental reason I left the Catholic Church is that Catholics do not believe Jesus or St. Peter or St. Paul. Jesus said 'Go into all the world and make disciples.' This is what I was called to as a minister of the Gospel."

But Tom, Jesus did not give the mission of preaching His Gospel to you. He did not say the words quoted above to you. He said them to the Twelve Apostles and by implication (since His Church was to last to the end of time) to their successors, the Bishops of the Catholic Church united to their head, the Bishop of Rome who is the Successor of Peter.

From its very beginnings the Church was organized as a visible and hierarchical body whose rulers were the Bishops of the Catholic Church united to their head and center of unity, the Bishop of Rome. The history of the Church before the 16th century bears overwhelming evidence of the Apostolic Succession of Catholic Bishops graced with the charism of indefectibility, i.e., the prerogative of keeping in all its purity the "deposit of faith" committed to the Church by Jesus Christ. That was the burden of my last letter to you.

Let us now examine who it is who truly believes the words of Holy Writ concerning the matters you have contested in an effort to justify your abandoning the Church which Christ established.

You claim (with Luther) that "faith alone" makes us infallibly saved. All that is necessary is to have "faith" in the sense of taking Christ as one's personal Savior. Unfortunately for your position, it is quite foreign to the written Word of God as well as the Tradition of the Church for the first 16 centuries. Please note, Our Blessed Lord said:

Not everyone that says to me, 'Lord, Lord', shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven." (Matt, 7:21)

Clearly, there are those who have faith enough to acknowledge their Lord (they made a personal decision to believe in Him as Lord), but such "faith alone" does not infallibly guarantee them final salvation. Nor did St. Paul believe that salvation is simply a matter of: "taking Christ as your personal Savior" – "Hallelujah, I have made a decision for Christ, I am infallibly saved!"

No!, such absurdity is directly contradicted by St. Paul who insists on the necessity of good works done in the state of grace:

"He will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury... For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the DOERS of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:6-13).

Similarly, to the Galatians who had faith in Christ (they were converts to the Gospel) but falsely thought they were free from the law of God (the Moral Law of God known by reason and Divine Revelation), and actually began to believe they could sin greatly as long as they had great faith, St. Paul replied:

"The works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. I warn you that those who DO SUCH THINGS shall NOT inherit the Kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-21).

St. John noted:

"This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1 Jn. 5:3).

Clearly, faith without such expression of love is not salvific. Salvation by "faith alone" IS NOT Gospel teaching. Whereas you, Tom, say: "We are saved by faith alone", St. James says the opposite:

"What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works? Can the faith save him?... The devils also believe, and tremble...You see that by works a man is justified and not by faith only... Faith without works is dead" (James, 2:14-26).

Let us note other flagrant contradictions between Gospel teaching and yourself:

  • Christ declared: "thou are Peter (Cephas=Rock) and upon this Rock I will build My Church. And I will give to thee the Keys of the Kingdom, and whatsoever you bind... and loose..."
  • But Tom says: Peter is not the Rock of the Church to last till the end of time. There is no visible Church today built on Peter. No one wields his Keys today because I will not accept the Pope as the Successor of Peter who has the chief authority to bind and loose (i.e., make laws for Christians). There is no visible authority who can tell me what to believe regarding Christian faith and morals. I am my own Pope and I prefer my own interpretation of Bible texts to that of the very Church Christ established to "Teach all nations". I prefer to teach myself.
  • Christ declared: "Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, you shall not have life in you. He who eats My flesh and drinks My Blood has life everlasting, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed." (Jn. 6:48-59)
  • But Tom says: No!, the Eucharist is NOT Your Flesh and Blood, Lord. I know better than the 2,000 year Eucharistic Tradition of the Catholic Church.
  • St. Paul declared: "Whoever shall eat this Bread or drink the Chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord." (1 Cor. XI, 27-29)
  • But Tom says: No!, St. Paul, I know you are exaggerating. The Eucharist cannot be His Body and Blood.
  • Christ declared: "As the Father sent Me, I also send you. When He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.'" (Jn. 20:21-23)
  • But Tom says: No!, Lord, you did not give power to men to forgive sins. There is no sacrament of Penance wherein the Bishops and priests of the Catholic Church can forgive or retain sins, as has been believed and practiced in its 2,000 year history.
  • St. Paul referred to "The Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth." (1 Tim. 3:15)
  • But Tom says: No!, St. Paul, the Bible is the Pillar and Ground of the truth, NOT the Church that Christ established. I prefer to ignore the fact that I would not even know the contents of the Bible I profess to believe in were it not for the historical authority of the Catholic Church guaranteeing their divine inspiration. I also admit that I have 7 less books in my Bible than Catholics have.

Dear Tom, it is the teaching of the New Testament writings that Christ and His Church are inseparable. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "Saying 'Yes' to Christ also means saying 'Yes' to the Church He founded" – for the salvation of souls.

You remain in your dear Mother's prayers, as in mine.

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