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Monday, January 23, 2012

In Defense of the Catholic Church Against the Polemics of James Likoudis

In this post I shall defend the teaching of the Eastern Catholic Church against the criticism levied by the Roman polemicist James Likoudis, a "convert" from Greek Orthodoxy.  This article was published in an arch-traditionalist journal based in St. Paul, The Wanderer, the radicalism of which I have come to dislike despite its old opposition to the Americanist heresy perpetrated by Archbishop John Ireland (who was also destroyer of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America and real founder of the Orthodox Church of America).  As usual, my comments are in blue.  The original article can be found online here:



Recently, The Wanderer carried a superb article by Frank Morriss on the "Revelation of Glorious Truth... The Church’s Teaching on the Procession of the Holy Spirit." It justified traditional Catholic teaching defending the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (Filioque) as recited in the Latin text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Discussions concerning that "Glorious Truth" have resulted not only in the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in North America issuing a "Common Declaration" regarding the Filioque (cf. my analysis in The Wanderer 2/3/05) but in a spate of articles by both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians as noted in the French ecumenical periodical Irenikon (Tome LXXVII, 2004). It is unfortunate that despite recent attempts to clarify Catholic teaching on the Procession of the Holy Spirit (including The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching #245-248), doctrinal confusion continues to be evident even on the part of some Byzantine rite Catholics.  [It is the unfortunate habit of the Latins to refer to the theological patrimony of the Eastern and Oriental churches as "doctrinal confusion", when the confusion on what we teach is always on their part.] Thus, a pamphlet "The Creed and the Holy Trinity" compiled by Very Reverend Archpriest Daniel L. Gurovich (copyright 2004, with an Imprimatur of Most Reverend Stefan Soroka, Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia for the Ukranians) has continued to circulate in that Archdiocese, and deserves a close examination.

In this 30 page brochure Fr. Gurovich wishes to explain the decision of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadephia for the Ukranians to return to the authentic liturgical tradition of the Eastern Byzantine Church by no longer reciting the Creed with the famous "Filioque" clause [and from the Son] and to "recite the Creed [with respect to the procession of the Holy Spirit] at all public divine services in its original form" — (as set forth at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople – 381 A.D.: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father").

[Not everyone is having to "return" to the authentic liturgical tradition of the Eastern Byzantine Church.  The Italo-Greeks, under the direct authority of the Pope as their local primate, never added it.  It was added by the Ukrainians against the wishes of the Pope by posses of Polish troops that barged into Ukrainian Catholic churches and forced them to say the filioque at gunpoint.]

Since the 2nd Vatican Council’s encouraging the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome to return to their authentic theological, spiritual and liturgical traditions (thereby facilitating the reunion of the separated Eastern Orthodox churches with the Catholic Church), a number of Eastern Catholic prelates have acted to no longer include the "Filioque" in the public recitation or singing of the Creed at the Divine Liturgy. It is the inclusion of the "Filioque" in the Creed which has served as a "cause celebre" among the Eastern Orthodox to charge Eastern Catholics with the "Latin heresy" and to impede efforts for the Reunion of the Churches.

As the author notes, Rome has not insisted on the Ukrainians or other Eastern rite Catholics to include the Latin formulation of the "Filioque" in the Creed and the Pope himself on ecumenical occasions has "publicly recited the Creed without the ‘Filioque’."

[Not just on ecumenical occasions.  In 810 A.D. during the height of the controversy, Pope Leo III had the Constantinopolitan Creed (without the "Deum de Deo" or the "filioque") engraved in silver tablets without the filioque and hung in the old St. Peter's Basilica together with the words "I, Leo, have placed these for love and protection of the Orthodox Faith."  Cf. Vita Leonis, Liber Pontificalis (ed. DuchĂȘne, t. II, p. 26)

The filioque is omitted - or rather, not added - by the Pope whenever Liturgy is said with a Greek deacon.  It is also not said by Roman Catholics in Greece.]

 The Catholic Church has always distinguished clearly adherence to the dogma of the eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son – which all Catholics must believe – and the question of whether the ‘Filioque’ clause (sanctioned by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014 A.D. for the Latin Liturgy) has to be included and recited in the Creed by Eastern Catholics. The Apostolic See of Peter, "Head of all the Churches of God", has made clear that as long as the Catholic dogma concerning the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son is firmly professed as an article of faith, Eastern rite Catholics need not (in keeping with their liturgical tradition) include the Latin formulation of the "Filioque" in the Creed. As the author rightly notes, "the inclusion or exclusion of the phrase ‘And the Son’, is no longer considered a matter of faith by most theologians today" and this return to the authentic Byzantine liturgical tradition by the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia is "without prejudice to the Catholic faith and is appropriate to do so at this time".

[Was never a matter of faith, as Likoudis points later down.]

Unfortunately, despite his quotations from the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (pages 25-29) which fully justify the dogma of the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son as expressed in the "Filioque" formulation, Fr. Gurovich betrays a measure of confusion in attempting to explain to his readers the Catholic doctrine of the processions in the Holy Trinity (i.e., that of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit). As previously remarked, it is not accurate to have implied that the verbal inclusion of the "Filioque" in the Creed by Eastern rite Catholics (or even by Eastern Orthodox returning to Catholic communion) has been a "matter of faith" insisted upon by the Apostolic See of Rome. He commits some further serious errors:

1) In speaking of "the eternal begetting (or procession) of the Word of God", Fr. Gurovich states that the Eternal Word "was born... as a truly human person". This mistaken phraseology smacks of the ancient heresy of Nestorius who held that Christ was a human person whereas the Catholic Church affirms that Christ was not a human person. The Catholic Faith holds that Christ was a Divine Person.

[No, Likoudis is committing the error here.  To deny that Christ was a human person is to deny His human nature.  "Natures" in the abstract don't exist.  Persons do.  Christ was a human person.  Christ was a divine person.  Christ was only one person.  He was not a divine person with some traits called "humanity" superadded - He was in every respect a man.]

2) He correctly notes that regardless of whether the "Filioque" is included in the Creed during the Divine Liturgy (or Mass) "both the Eastern and Western Churches believe the same thing concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. The theology of the Trinity is one in both Churches". This is true, but it is only true of the Eastern and Western Churches making up the Catholic communion. It is not true of the separated autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches who have traditionally rejected as "heretical" both the doctrine represented by the "Filioque" as well as its liturgical addition to the Creed.

[We believe all that the Orthodox Church holds and teaches concerning the Trinity.  We did not change our doctrine when the West added the filioque to the Creed.  We did not change our doctrine when Humbert of the Romans excommunicated us.  We did not change our doctrine when we were admitted back into communion with Rome.  And I will argue that the Western Church did not change Her doctrine either.  With all due respect to those who seem to relish in the idea of the other lung of the Church being in heresy, the theology of the Trinity, properly understood by those educated in theology, is one throughout Christendom.]

3) It is troubling to see Fr. Gulovich justifying the "appropriateness of returning to the original form of the Creed" by recourse to erroneous Eastern Orthodox objections which, in fact, question the dogmatic truth embodied in the "Filioque" doctrine. Thus, he argues:

a) The "Filioque" was not placed in the Creed by an Ecumenical Council. Yes, but the Successor of Peter as the visible head of the Church had the supreme authority to add to the Latin text of the Creed the inclusion of a phrase which for centuries had the sanction of the Latin Fathers of the Church and many local Western Councils. Moreover, the Ecumenical Council of Florence (1439) which saw the reunion of separated Eastern Churches with Rome specifically declared: "We further define that it was for the purpose of declaring the truth and under necessity at the time that these words ‘and the Son’ [Filioque] were added to the Creed by way of explanation, both lawfully and with good reason." As to Fr. Gurovich’s assertion on page 3 that the Councils of Ephesus (431 A.D.) and Chalecedon (451 A.D.) "formally forbade any other Creeds" (an objection stressed by Eastern Orthodox theologians), this has obvious reference to any addition that would falsify a truth of faith, not one that would clarify and explain it further.

[Yes, and I will defend to the death the right of the Patriarch of the West to clarify the Creed against heresies prevalent in his local Church, for the good of the Faith and clarity of doctrine.  But he is not the primate over the Eastern Churches.  Notwithstanding his "universal jurisdiction" - which Vatican I clarified does NOT impinge on the rights and duties of the Eastern Patriarchs - the Eastern Churches are sui juris and self-governing.  Nobody ever added the filioque to our Creed, setting Polish thugs with rifles aside.]

b) John 15:26 states: "The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father." "In other words", Fr. Gurovich states, "the inspired Scriptures formulate that the Spirit proceeds from the Father AND NEVER FROM THE SON" (emphasis added). Here, he actually gives credence to the error of the 9th century patriarch of Constantinople Photius who originally taught "The Spirit proceeds from the Father alone". But John 15:26 does not teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, any more than Romans 3:28 ("man is justified by faith") proved Luther’s claim that man is saved by "faith alone". That the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father does not exclude the participation of the Son in that procession.

[Yes, it most certainly does, if the Son is given the same role as the Father.  That's like saying that the dogma of the Trinity does not exclude there being a Quaternity of divine persons, and that my new doctrine of the Quaternity is "implied" by your orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  Fact is, in reality the FULLNESS of God subsists the Trinity (the Trinity is not a numerical three) - and in the same way, the FULLNESS of the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (since they are not finite supposita).  Though in reality there is no Quaternity, this doesn't exclude the fact that we as Christians participate in the divine nature through the Uncreated Energies, and in the same way the fact that the Spirit proceeds from the Father doesn't exclude the fact that He receives His divinity from the Son in an eternal manifestation, energetically.] 
Photius’ distortion of the meaning of John 15: 26 led to his denial (as well as that of the Eastern Orthodox theologians who slavishly followed him) that the Eternal Son is joined to the Father in breathing forth the Holy Spirit from all eternity. Fr. Gurovich fails to grasp that Photius (concerning whom he writes approvingly) refused to acknowledge that the Son had any part whatever in the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.

[Yes, but Eastern dogma - in dialogue with the West - has developed since the time of St. Photios, whom one might note is called "St. Photios the Great" in Eastern CATHOLIC synodika.  I quote from the venerable Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, The Orthodox Church, pp. 212-213:  "An eternal procession from Father and Son:  such is the western position.  An eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father alone, a temporal mission from the Son:  such was the position upheld by St. Photius against the west.  But Byzantine writers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries - most notably Gregory of Cyprus, Patriarch of Constantinople from 1283 to 1289, and Gregory Palamas - went somewhat further than Photius, in an attempt to bridge the gulf between east and west.  They were willing to allow not only a temporal mission but an eternal manifestation of the Holy Spirit by the Son.  While Photius had spoken only of a temporal relation between Son and Spirit, they admitted an eternal relation.  Yet on the essential point the two Gregories agreed with Photius:  the Spirit is manifested by the Son, but does not proceed from the Son.  The Spirit derives His eternal being, His personal identity, not from the Son but from the Father alone.  The Father is the unique origin, source and cause of the Godhead."]

 The 9th century teaching of the Byzantine patriarch Photius represented a sharp deviation from the doctrine of both the Latin and Greek Fathers of the Church.  [The only "sharp deviation" was how much of a big deal St. Photios made over it.] Photius was indeed correct in stating that the Father in the Trinity is the supreme and ultimate source of the Holy Spirit (and this ‘monarchia' of the Father must be safeguarded) but he neglected to acknowledge the truth reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that "As Father of the only Son, He is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds" (#248), and "Since the Father has through generation given to the Only-Begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom He is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son" (#246).  [Last I checked St. Photios was living about 1200 years before the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written - and he isn't a Latin-rite Catholic anyway, which is the theological perspective from which the entire Catechism is written and organized, and written for the audience of Latin-rite Catholics.  You can't use the CCC to argue against Byzantine Catholic doctrine - it's comparing apples and oranges, since the East and the West both express the same truths using different language, different perspectives, from a different phronema.] As St. Augustine stressed, the Holy Spirit proceeds principally from the Father as the one source in the Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church further asserts in echoing St. Augustine’s teaching, "He is not called the Spirit of the Father alone... but is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son" (CCC, #245), for Father and Son "are one" in breathing forth the Spirit from all eternity.  [This is absolutely uncontroversial from either an Eastern Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox viewpoint, except for the clarification that we do not confuse the hypostatic properties of the Father and the Son.  They do not fuse into one being in order to jointly spirate the Spirit - the Father and the Son remain distinct from each other.  Though this is a common Orthodox complaint - made by Protopresbyter John Romanides for example, and easily derived from the scholastic formulation - it is in fact a caricature of the Latin teaching.]

It may be added here, by the way, that modern exegetes confirm (contrary to Photius and Fr. Gurovich and others) that John 15:26 does not have explicit reference to the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit but rather to his temporal mission from the Father and the Son (this last a matter on which both Catholics and Orthodox remain in agreement).

It should be further noted that Photius also erred badly in interpreting the expression of the Greek Fathers that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son by restricting this procession merely to His temporal mission. In teaching the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son, the Greek Fathers were affirming without equivocation that the Holy Spirit received His divinity and His very existence from the Son. In the writings of the Greek Fathers the preposition "through the Son" had in view the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from both the Father and the Son in one eternal spiration of Love.

To state, as Fr. Gurovich does, that "The Eastern Churches express this mystery [of the Spirit’s procession] by saying that while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, He is ‘manifested’ by the Son" (page 23), is to reproduce an ambiguous formulation of the doctrine of the Spirit’s procession that has found favor with some Eastern Orthodox theologians.  [Okay, here Likoudis is giving an unacceptable and profound ignorance of Orthodoxy.  There is absolutely nothing ambiguous about this.  The energetic manifestation of the Spirit through the Son is far more precise than the Latin formulation, which does not even have vocabulary to make the essence/energies distinction.  To sum it up briefly:  Taking a definition from Christos Yannaras, Elements of Faith, "energies" are "those potentials of nature or essence to make known the hypostasis and its existence, and to make it known and participable."  Divinity is an energy of God, because through the mystery of theosis we are divinized by grace - we "partake in the divine nature" to quote the first Pope.  If it were the "essence" of God, then we would be essentially God and not God by grace, which would be pantheism.  It would eradicate our personal identity.  The Holy Spirit is not deified by grace but by nature, but He still receives His divinity in an energetic "eternal manifestation" - in other words, He receives His being and divinity from the Father through and only through the Son, and does so eternally and by nature.  But the Spirit participates in nothing from the Son that is not the Being or Ousia of the Father.  For the Greeks, within their technical vocabulary, to say that the Son is the "cause" of the Spirit or that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Son (where the Greek ekphoreausthai has a MUCH stronger meaning than the Latin "procedit" or English "proceeds", as St. Maximos the Confessor explained) would be linguistically equivalent to denying that the Father is the "fount and source of the whole Godhead", as the Council of Florence reaffirmed in following St. Maximos the Confessor.

Secondly, the "eternal manifestation" of the Spirit from the Son is NOT just something which has "found favor with some Eastern Orthodox theologians".  It is Orthodox dogma, proclaimed as such at the Council of Constantinople-Blachernae in 1351.]

The ambiguity lies in obscuring the meaning of "manifestation" for the term does not necessarily equate with an eternal procession of the Spirit from the Son and could be taken to refer to the manifestation of some "uncreated energy" distinct from the Person of the Holy Spirit (as taught by Byzantine dissidents following the novel teaching of the 14th century Archbishop of Thessalonika, Gregory Palamas).

[Likoudis is close to committing heresy by rejecting the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas.  His doctrine - proclaimed at the afore-mentioned Council of Constantinople-Blachernae in 1351 - is dogmatic for Eastern Catholics as well as for Eastern Orthodox, and since all Catholics hold the same Faith, it is consequently dogmatic for Roman Catholics as well.  We Eastern Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Gregory Palamas on the Second Sunday of Great Lent as the completion of the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy, and Rome has insisted that this feast be preserved.  He is called a Pillar of the Orthodox Church, the name Eastern Catholics use to refer to our own Church.  The essence/energies distinction and the fundamental Christian teaching it was formulated to explain - theosis - is dogmatic teaching, not the opinion of some "Byzantine dissidents".  By calling us dissidents for adhering to the teaching of the Church defended by Rome, Likoudis is being misleading and dishonest about the teaching of the Church, being disobedient to the Ordinary Magisterium, and committing a sin of charity against those with whom he is putatively in communion.]


The dogmatic issue of the Procession of the Holy Spirit between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cannot be explained away as "just a matter of linguistics" (page 25). Whatever the welcome view of some modern Eastern Orthodox theologians who urge that the "Filioque" no longer be regarded as "heretical", the fact remains that for centuries there has been an "official" rejection of the truth of Catholic teaching by Eastern Orthodox patriarchs and bishops who have deviated from the authentic Eastern tradition of the Fathers on the Procession of the Holy Spirit in order to justify their separation from the See of Peter. The major problem with Fr. Gurovich’s brochure is the confusion engendered by confounding the authentic doctrinal position of the Eastern Fathers with the misconceptions and errors of later Byzantine dissidents. It was not necessary to establish the quite legitimate case for Ukranian Catholics dropping the bracketed words of the "Filioque" as found in their liturgical books since 1692 by using the shop-worn arguments of Byzantine dissidents who have sought to discredit not only the Catholic doctrine embodied in the famous phrase "Filioque" but also its recitation in the Creed by Roman-rite Catholics.

[You cannot artificially parse the Byzantine tradition into its pre-1054 "Catholic" phase and its later "dissident" phase.  It is a seamless garment, one which we accept the fullness of.  The later natural and organic developments explain and clarify the earlier ones.  There is no rupture or disjunction in the Byzantine tradition.  Likoudis, not Fr. Gurovich, is the one confused here.  And Likoudis is to be blamed for his polemics working in opposition to Christian unity in violation of the truth.  He is disseminating error, driving a wedge of separation where none really exists, and putting himself in opposition to the Eastern Churches including those with whom he is in communion as well as those whose reconciliation the mind of the Church ardently desires.  Schism is not something that we can unilaterally blame on those who ended up in separation from Rome - schism between Churches is not a complete cutting-off from the Body of Christ as it is in St. Jerome's definition (which is rebellion against one's lawful bishop), but rather a shameful and unacceptable wound BETWEEN bishops.  As Kyr Elias Zoghby of thrice-blessed memory pointed out, "we are all schismatics" - not just the Orthodox.  We are in schism from them just as much as they are in schism from us, and woe to those who wallow self-satisfied in their pride because they ended up in communion with the Rock upon which Christ built His Church and with whom communion is necessary for salvation - you are still your brother's keeper, and you are still in schism from those cut off from that Rock, and in schism from fellow Christians to whom the duty of charity obliges communion.  A Roman Catholic can fall into danger of being is just as much guilty of schism as St. Photios or anyone else, for as St. Thomas Aquinas declares, those who relish in division and separation are just as much schismatics as those who engage in it.  On theological questions, matters of the intellect moreso than the will, let us give the benefit of the doubt, but here Likoudis is simply wrong.  And he is wrong on a matter of grave importance, concerning nothing less than the wound splitting the Heart of Christ in two.]

The above article appeared in The Wanderer, April 6, 2006.


  1. Thank you! It always hurts to see someone imposing division in the Church where it does not exist. This man most certainly is a schismatic according to Aquinas' definition.

  2. hi. great commentary. i must say i am quite frustrated by likoudis attempt to denounce everything the orthodox church has developed after 1054. especially his lacking understanding of the essence-energy distinction is just laughable. anyone who has studied palamas and the ancient cappadocian fathers should grasp that the distinction is merely an ontological difference, not in substance, as if the essence is of a different quality or level. it is merely a fact that we cannot grasp God's essence. read Moses encounter with God on the mountain. God revealed His essence there, and Moses saw nothing but darkness. Likoudis should read the commentary of Gregory of Nyssa on Moses.