Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sungenis, the CASB (The Apocalypse of St. John) and the Imprimatur

A few days ago, an individual wrote to RSATJ claiming to have contacted the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA in order to determine whether or not Sungenis’s CASB2 (The Apocalypse of St. John) was expected to receive an imprimatur, before using it as a catechetical text. The individual claimed to have been informed by the diocese that Sungenis had already been denied the imprimatur. To establish the veracity of this claim, an inquiry was just made to the chancery office of the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA. The chancery has now confirmed that Sungenis had been denied the imprimatur on the CASB2, late in 2006.

Following are the relevant statements made by Sungenis over time in regard to this issue:

“And, of course, [Sungenis’s books] contain the Catholic Church's Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, just as the CASB will contain.” (emphasis added) (CAI Link)

August 2006: Sungenis announced that his "CASB Vol 2, The Apocalypse of St. John, is now with Queenship and is being printed. It should be out in their next catalogue, and the book should be available in a month or so." (Q&A 18, August 2006)

September 2006: Sungenis informed an inquirer that CASB 2 is "presently at the Bishop's office in Harrisburg PA in the process of obtaining an imprimatur." (Q&A 38, September 2006)

November 2006: Sungenis indicated that "the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition" was used for "the text for CASB, vol 2, The Apocalypse of St. John," and announced that this volume "should be out before the end of the year." (Q&A 56, November, 2006)

February 2007: CASB 2 was still not yet published, and Sungenis explained that "there has been a delay in Queenship's publishing of The Apocalypse of St. John. They had trouble with the formatting and had to start from scratch." (Q&A 4, February, 2007)

March 2007: Sungenis indicates to a reader that CASB 2 "will be available this Spring." (Q&A 19, March, 2007)

May 2007: When challenged on the fact that his newly-published CASB 2 lacked an imprimatur from his Bishop, Sungenis claimed, "I had already decided to submit the manuscript for an Imprimatur after the book was published, which is in the works…Mr. Michael would know none of this because he doesn’t communicate with me. The only thing he does is gossip about me on Internet forums with fallacious imaginings of his own hateful and jealous mind.” (emphasis added)
("Jacob Michael: Incompetence and Immaturity", pp. 9-10)

The reader will note that Sungenis himself indicated back in September 2006 that the CASB 2 was "at the Bishop's office" being considered for an imprimatur – long before it was published. However, in May 2007, Sungenis indicated that he had "already decided to submit the manuscript for an Imprimatur after the book was published." Clearly, barring a tortured interpretation of these statements, they do not reconcile with one another.

Additionally, questions were raised about this issue at the Catholic Answers Forums:

“it doesn't make sense to me to be going for an imprimatur now after you publish and not before you publish a book and I still stick to it. I haven't heard any answer on that. Do you ask him about that one, too?” CAF

“Did Bob apply for an imprimatur for CASB 2 or didn't he? More importantly, when did he apply for it, if he applied at all? Was he rejected? Did the bishop's office just ignore the request? Was it approved pending further investigation?” CAF

Based on what they were told by Sungenis, Sungenis associates Mark Wyatt and Laurence Gonzaga posted the following answers to these concerns at the Envoy and Catholic Answers Forums:

Mark Wyatt:

“My understanding is that he is in the process of getting one. In the mean time he has a schedule, so he released the volume." CAF

“My understanding is that Robert did apply for both Vol. I and vol. II. He is still in the process of obtaining imprimatur for Vol. II…" CAF

“ understanding is that he is trying to get the imprimatur.” (Envoy Forum)

CAI "media technician" Laurence Gonzaga:

“Well, it does have one [an Imprimatur], for the translation... The commentary itself is being sought..." CAF

“no it doesn’t seem wierd (sic) to seek it [an Imprimatur on CASB2] after it is published because the book can be published again." CAF

Clearly, Sungenis has always understood the value and importance of having an imprimatur on his books and has sought it for all of them. Indeed, whether a work has received the Church’s official acknowledgment of freedom from errors of faith and morals or has been denied the same is a legitimate issue of Catholic concern and inquiry. And from the beginning of the CASB project, Sungenis has certainly used the (anticipated) presence of a Catholic imprimatur as a marketing tool:

If you are familiar with my books (Not By Faith Alone; Not By Scripture Alone; Not By Bread Alone, et al) you know what kind of material to expect in the CASB. And, of course, they contain the Catholic Church's Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, just as the CASB will contain (emphasis added) (CAI Donations Page; page contents as of 27 June 2007)

As a side note, Not By Bread Alone (NBBA) does not have an imprimatur. Sungenis explained in considerable detail the purported reasons for the missing imprimatur in the pages of NBBA itself. In contrast, no such explanation was given for the missing imprimatur in the pages of either CASB1 or CASB2.

Aside from aiding internet and book-store sales, there are other reasons why this approbation would be important to have. The Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law states:

Can. 827 §4. Books or other writings dealing with questions of religion or morals cannot be exhibited, sold, or distributed in churches or oratories unless they have been published with the permission of competent ecclesiastical authority or approved by it subsequently.

This means that, for example, CAI would not be able to sell volumes which lack the approval of his bishop in a parish church in which talks on apologetics or other topics were given.

For all the assurances that each of the CASB volumes will bear ecclesiastical approbation, the promised imprimaturs for the CASB have failed to materialize. The first volume of the CASB, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (CASB1), was published without an imprimatur (the reasons for this lie beyond the scope of this entry.)

In regard to CASB2, the phrases used by Sungenis and his associates like "in the process of getting one", "is still in the process of obtaining", "being sought", "in the works", clearly assure the reader in May of 2007 that the reception of the Imprimatur was simply a matter of time, practically a foregone conclusion. Again, it has been confirmed that Sungenis was informed in late 2006—at least five months before CASB2 came out and almost six months before these misleading statements were made by Sungenis (both directly and by proxy)—that the imprimatur for The Apocalypse of St. John had been denied. Although an appeal of such a ruling either to the CDF or to the bishop of the diocese in which the volume is to be published is technically possible, the party making the appeal is to communicate to the CDF or the other bishop that the work has already been denied the imprimatur. To date, the diocese of Harrisburg has no record of any pending appeal. In any event, this would not explain the answers Sungenis and his associates have given to direct inquiries on this matter.

In contrast to the granting or denial of an imprimatur, the reasons for any rejection are not properly a matter of public conjecture and discourse. That is a matter most properly handled between an author and his bishop. Largely for this reason, the comment box has been turned off. Whether here or elsewhere, everyone is encouraged to avoid unnecessary and unhelpful speculation in that regard.


NOTE: Important follow-up articles that shed a great deal of additional light on this situation may be found here, here, here, here and here.