Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sungenis and Co. Evasive on Simple Questions about Catholic Apologetics Study Bible (CASB) and Canon Law

Robert Sungenis's CAI associates Mark Wyatt and Laurence Gonzaga have been out promoting Sungenis' new Catholic Apologetics Study Bible: here.

However, important questions have arisen about both his first volume on the Gospel of Matthew and his second volume on the Apocalypse.

An RSATJ reader has recently pointed out that Robert Sungenis' Catholic Apologetics Study Bible (CASB) has neither an imprimatur nor a nihil obstat, although Sungenis has actively sought and received both approbations in the past (Not By Scripture Alone, Not By Faith Alone and How Can I Get to Heaven). While it is not strictly necessary for a Catholic to have either an imprimatur or nihil obstat in order to publish an apologetics book (although it is recommended by canon law), Sungenis has clearly exhibited a desire to receive such important Catholic approbations in the past. In fact, in the case of Not By Bread Alone, when Sungenis did not receive the imprimatur, he made sure to give a thorough explanation of the extenuating circumstances surrounding his inability to procure it (although it is perhaps odd that no mention has been made by either Sungenis or his associates about attempts to procure the missing imprimatur for Not By Bread Alone now that the purportedly extenuating circumstance no longer exists).

However, perhaps even more importantly, it has been pointed out that Sungenis, in addition to publishing apologetics material, has also taken it upon himself - in this case of CASB 1, The Gospel According to St. Matthew- to create and publish his own translation of the Sacred Scriptures, apparently without the requisite approval of the Catholic Church. Unlike the publication of apologetics material without an imprimatur, this is a more serious matter. The Church is extremely protective of the Sacred Scriptures.

Canon law clearly states:

"Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations." Canon 825 §1.

Sungenis went on at considerable length about the depth of the research involved in his new translation, touting the level of the scholarship involved in completing it (pages i-iii, Volume 1, Matthew). While "the CASB has remained as close as possible to the Vulgate and Douay-Rheims translations," Bob insists he "has also made many necessary improvements." The reader is assured that "great care has been taken in producing the CASB translation," and "scholar and layman" alike "can trust that what is presented in the CASB is a faithful representation of what appears in the original languages." Bob maintains that he has even gone beyond the Vulgate where necessary: "The CASB endeavors to bring out even more accurately the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew text underlying the Latin Vulgate."

Sungenis and his associates now claim that he was told by the USCCB that he is free to publish his translation of the Gospel of Matthew, even though he has not received canonical approval, because his translation of the Scriptures is a "translation of a translation" and that such translations technically cannot be approved under this canon law.

This certainly sounds odd. Because Sungenis' translation isn't a completely new translation, the bishops have essentially given Sungenis a free pass of sorts to print it? Also odd is that, unlike the case of Not By Bread Alone, Sungenis failed to detail this extenuating circumstance and the concomitant "free pass" of sorts purportedly given by the USCCB in the introduction CASB 1 (Matthew) itself.

Sungenis associate Laurence Gonzaga has claimed that Sungenis told him he switched to an approved translation of Scripture (the RSV) precisely in order to facilitate the reception the coveted imprimatur for CASB 2 on the Apocalypse. Sungenis associates Mark Wyatt and Laurence Gonzaga have claimed that it's no "big deal" to get an imprimatur and that even "garbage" books can get one. Yet, oddly, there is still no imprimatur anywhere to be found in the pages of CASB 2, even though Bob has had 4 or 5 years to obtain one, after being made aware of the problem with his translation on CASB 1.

Sungenis himself has written an article as a supposed answer to these significant issues. Unfortunately, he failed to answer the basic questions and only raised the level of doubt by playing what appears to be evasive word games.

There are four simple questions Sungenis should answer for the sake of his patrons and everyone who plunks down the large sum of money required to buy his CASB:

1) Did the USCCB explicitly give Bob Sungenis permission to publish CASB 1, or did they only refuse his request for an imprimatur based on a technicality, and Bob inferred the rest?

2) Where is this supposed letter from the USCCB granting Bob permission to publish his new translation because of this technicality? If it were so completely favorable to Bob's case as his associates claim, wouldn't he have published it long before now?

3) When, exactly, did Bob apply for the imprimatur on CASB 2, using the RSV translation?

4) Is Bob asking us to believe that he has never received any kind of refusal, or any other kind of indication one way or the other from his bishop concerning the imprimatur on CASB 2?

While we're at it, what of Galileo Was Wrong? Why does Bob not have the imprimatur for that book either? Was it submitted to his bishop for approval? Was he refused? If not, then what exactly did Bob's bishop indicate?

How about some straight and non-evasive answers, for a change?