Friday, July 6, 2007

Sungenis Smears Bishop, Continues to Mislead and Distort the Record

Recently, in an attempt to explain extremely misleading information he and his associates have given about the Catholic Apologetics Study Bible (CASB1 and CASB2), Robert Sungenis made a plethora of additional false or misleading statements and chose to smear his own bishop in the process. Some of these statements will be addressed below.

The careful reader should note a pattern throughout this unfortunate saga. Sungenis continues to make extremely misleading and occasionally outright false statements with the absolute confidence and assertiveness of the well-seasoned professional debater that he is. At this point, it should be plain that important assertions made by Robert Sungenis should not be accepted without first carefully examining the evidence and hearing all sides.

1) The Smearing of Sungenis’ Bishop

In reaction to the fact that Sungenis’ bishop refused to grant an imprimatur for CASB2, Sungenis chose to smear him:

"With all due respect to Bishop Rhoades, I believe I know what his theological viewpoint is, since he is a protégé of William Cardinal Keeler and very close to him personally and theologically, Keeler having come from the Harrisburg diocese and the ordinary who ordained Rhoades. If you remember, Cardinal Keeler was a co-author with several Jewish rabbis of the Reflections on Covenant and Missions document in 2003. I think you get the picture. I won't say anymore out of respect for Bishop Rhoades."
(Jacob Michael, the Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign, p. 11)

Yes, unfortunately, one does readily “get the picture.” Sungenis opted to smear his own bishop with innuendo and guilt by association and then had the nerve to claim he was showing “respect” for him by so doing. The reader will notice that Sungenis provided no substantive documentation for his implied charges. He simply associated Bishop Rhoades with Jews, Cardinal Keeler and the RCM document and that was enough for him to conclude that the Bishop must subscribe to the dual covenant position, or perhaps must be one of those bishops he previously described thusly:

"As long as [my critics]…refuse to condemn the USCCB and other hierarchy for their capitulation to the Jews, then they will never be my friends, they will be my enemies. God will be the judge of who of us has been right."
(Article, page 23)

This attack on Bishop Rhoades is particularly outrageous and hypocritical as Sungenis and his associates have bitterly complained that Sungenis is a victim of guilt by association in regard to Jewish issues. They have argued that he is being called an anti-Semite simply because some of his sources are anti-Semitic. However, in Sungenis’ case, it is most certainly not a matter of guilt by association. It is not guilt by association when one actively and purposely promotes, uses and otherwise directly associates oneself with the “Jewish research” of anti-Semites.

In stark contrast, Sungenis provided no documentation at all that bishop Rhoades holds to or promotes the “two separate, salvific covenants” concept suggested by the RCM document. His mistreatment of Bishop Rhoades is therefore a classic example of guilt by association.

This is made all the more ugly by the fact that Bishop Rhoades has a good, conservative reputation and is highly regarded by orthodox Catholics. He is certainly not considered liberal and has also exhibited a favorable disposition toward the Traditional Latin Mass.

Apparently, relatively soon after Sungenis’ attempted defense was posted in multiple venues, he received complaints on the outrageousness of this smear against the bishop and removed it. However, characteristically, no public retraction or apology has been made by him at CAI.

As a side note, one also wonders why Sungenis felt the need to only present selected parts of the letter from his diocese regarding CASB2 rather than reproducing the entire text, as he did in the case of the letter from the USCCB on the rejection of CASB1. A natural question arises as to what exactly is in the rest of the letter that led Sungenis to exclude it.

2) Sungenis Promises of an Imprimatur for the CASB

“Now, some people might ask why we didn’t reveal that we had been denied an imprimatur from the Harrisburg diocese. The reasons are many. First, to be quite blunt, it is really nobody’s business but ours. For example, if one is declined an imprimatur, he is not required to put a notice on the inside cover of the book that it has been denied. Books are denied imprimaturs all the time. Have you ever seen someone advertise that they have been denied?”
(JMISC, p. 9)

One has to agree with Sungenis on his last point. One would be hard-pressed to find an individual who advertised that they had been denied an imprimatur. However, one would be equally hard-pressed to find an individual who advertised that he would have an imprimatur on books that had yet to be reviewed by his bishop or even written, for that matter. By so doing, Sungenis presumptuously attempted to prematurely appropriate official Catholic clout in an effort to prime the well for the sale of his books. And therefore it was he, not anyone else, who initially made a public issue of this matter. One cannot reasonably trumpet the expectation of an imprimatur in public in order to facilitate sales and then cry foul when a denial of the same is also brought out in public.

Further on in his reply, Sungenis seems to at least somewhat sense the problem and attempts an answer:

“R. Sungenis: There is nothing wrong or dishonest about this statement [promising an imprimatur], since my books Not By Faith Alone and Not By Scripture Alone do contain imprimaturs. But at the time the above statement was written, we had not even completed the first volume of the Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, and the advertisement that is on our website is from that time period. Notice that Mr. Michael does not show a date for the above statement, since he knows it comes from 2003, but that date wouldn’t add any fuel to his accusation, since it shows we were anticipating getting an imprimatur long before the book was published.” (JMISC, p.4)


“Mr. Michael is trying to give the impression that just because the page exists on our website as of June 27, 2007, then it must apply currently. He knows it doesn’t because he knows that it is an ad from 2003 that was never taken off our website. There are many things on our website that we fail to take off for one reason or another. It’s been that way since we started CAI in 1993.” (JMISC, p. 8)

Aside from the fact that Sungenis doesn't seem to realize that this is a rather odd and embarrassing admission, unfortunately, his statements don’t resolve the actual issues involved. Again, at least as of July 6, 2007, the teaser ad/link for this same advertisement is still prominently displayed on the home page of Sungenis’ website and Sungenis is fully aware of it. Click on the advertisement at the lower right-hand portion of the screen that excitedly exclaims, “3 Down 10 to Go!”:

“And, of course, they contain the Catholic Church's Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, just as the CASB will contain.” (link)

First, again, it is extremely presumptuous to publicly promise an imprimatur for books that have as yet to be reviewed by one’s bishop, as Sungenis has recently discovered. Second, Sungenis seems to be arguing that because he initially posted the advertisement some time ago, this somehow nullifies its current relevance and effect. This is an irrational argument.

Consider an analogy. Driving down the road you see a sign exclaiming “Unleaded Gas, $2.00/gal!” So you pull in and fill up with 20 gallons. When you look at your receipt, the charge is for $60 ($3/gal). Confused, you call over the station owner himself and he tells you that the price is $3 a gallon. You point out that big sign in front of the station promising $2/gallon. And he replies, “Listen, I put that sign up there two years ago. You can’t possibly hold me to that now!” Would you be satisfied with that answer?

The fact is, Sungenis publicly made a presumptuous promise that he had no right to make. And that ill-considered promise is renewed every day it remains on his website. That’s simply common sense.

The final problem for Sungenis’ argument in this case is the fact that it is almost certain he was made aware that this advertisement was still up at CAI for at least the past month and a half. And he has yet to revise it. For anyone who has followed the work of ubiquitous Sungenis defender and promoter Mark Wyatt and CAI “Media Technician” Laurence Gonzaga, there can be no serious doubt that Sungenis was informed about this matter:

On May 24th, 2007, Sungenis associate, Mark Wyatt, wrote:

“Unfortunately the description you are reading about the updated DR is in the ad titled ‘1 down [i.e., Matthew], 12 more to go!! ‘. In fact this was true when he started and finished the Matthew study bible, but is not true now after finishing the Apocalypse and Romans / James (in publication). He needs to update his site.” (link)

And then we have these assurances from CAI “Media Technician” Laurence Gonzaga on May 25th, 2007:

“I think CAI should revise their page on the CASB to avoid any confusion... I will talk to Bob about it later...” (link)

“Okay... I can understand your concern especially with the information on the CASB page... It needs to be REVISED reflecting this issue and future plans...” (link)

Although both Mr. Gonzaga and Mr. Wyatt apparently asked Sungenis to revise this ad, the erroneous material still remains even now, a month and a half later. (link)

The careful observer will notice that Sungenis did recently manage to find the time to update the teaser/link for the advertisement on his home page to reflect the fact that 2 more volumes of the CASB had been completed, however. The initial teaser/link said, “1 down, 12 to go!” Now it says, “3 down, 10 to go”. It seems Sungenis has his own personal priorities.

Additionally, one may also notice some selective presentation of facts at work. Sungenis writes:

R. Sungenis: There is nothing wrong or dishonest about this statement, since my books Not By Faith Alone and Not By Scripture Alone do contain imprimaturs. (JMISC, p. 4)

However, below you will find the full quote to which he referred from his advertisement:

“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, link)

Sungenis failed to mention that his ad also includes Not By Bread Alone in this list of books that have a nihil obstat and imprimatur. Not By Bread Alone does not have an imprimatur or a nihil obstat, as noted in the previous blog post here at RSATJ. So there certainly is something "wrong or dishonest about this statement."

As a final note, Sungenis' views on truthfulness were further illuminated as a result of this latest episode:

Thus, when I said that we were applying and waiting for an imprimatur for the CASB2, I was referring to the SECOND attempt to do so at the diocese of my publisher. Hence, nothing I said was false.” (emphasis in original, JMISC, p. 1)

The fact is that Sungenis and his associates were questioned directly as to whether he had been denied an imprimatur, whether he had heard anything back from his bishop and when he applied for the imprimatur. The answers that he and his associates chose to give were purposely crafted to give the false impression that Bishop Rhoades, to whom the manuscript was first submitted for an imprimatur, was still in the process of reviewing the work and that there was no reason to doubt that it would arrive in good order. The deceptive effect of their answers is illustrated here: link 1, link 2 and link 3

3) The Purported Appeal of the Denied Imprimatur

First, contrary to Sungenis’ implications, it should be pointed out that it has not been claimed that Sungenis must have an imprimatur for the commentary portion of his study bibles simply in order to publish them. However, as acknowledged even by his associate Mark Wyatt, he cannot sell them “in churches or oratories” where he may speak or debate “unless they have been published with the permission of competent ecclesiastical authority” (Can. 827 §4)

Sungenis also makes the following assertion:

“In fact, a little while after I received Bishop Rhoades letter, I wrote to Queenship Publishing and told them I would like to apply for an imprimatur for the CASB2 in Queenship’s diocese. They obliged and the matter is in process.” (JMISC, p. 1)

This statement by Sungenis raises several issues and questions. Sungenis indicated that he appealed “a little while after” he was denied, which occurred at the beginning of December, 2006. In light of Sungenis’ demonstrated willingness to give seriously misleading impressions, it would certainly be helpful to know precisely when he filed his purported appeal. It has been over 7 months since he was denied the imprimatur. And the diocese of Harrisburg has already indicated that they have no record of any appeal in process, which would be expected in such circumstances. Was the purported appeal by any chance filed after questions were being increasingly raised about the missing imprimatur? Did Sungenis inform this other purported bishop that he was denied the imprimatur, as he was directed that he must by the diocese of Harrisburg? These are reasonable and pertinent questions that deserve an answer.

4) The Letter from the USCCB Regarding Sungenis’ New Translation

“Mr. Michael, in another attempt to discredit me a couple of weeks ago, was traveling around the Internet making derogatory comments that the letter from the USCCB that I said I had received stating that the USCCB could not grant an imprimatur for the Matthew translation because it was actually a ‘translation of a translation,’ didn’t exist. Mr. Michael suggested I was fabricating the letter in order to diffuse the issue.” (JMISC, pp. 11-12)

This distortion is significant enough to call it a falsehood. The issue was not whether Sungenis had ever received any letter from the USCCB that denied an imprimatur due to his “translation of a translation” difficulty (although, even here, it turns out that Sungenis and his associates had omitted an additional reason for the rejection, see below). Rather, Jacob Michael focused on the impression being given by Sungenis associates Mark Wyatt and Laurence Gonzaga that Sungenis had a letter from the USCCB explicitly giving him carte blanche permission to go ahead and publish his translation without an imprimatur:

“If he has a letter from the USCCB giving him a free pass, where is it? Why wasn't mention of it made in his CASB 1? Why doesn't he just put it out there, now that he knows (due to your recent contact with him) that the lack of imprimatur has become an issue?....Did Bob get a free pass from the USCCB or didn't he? You've made the claim publicly, so where's the proof?”

In fact, Jacob Michael was correct. Sungenis never received a letter that granted him permission to go ahead and publish his unapproved translation. If one carefully reviews the letter from the USCCB, as reproduced by Sungenis himself, one will notice that there is nothing expressly mentioning any such permission, or a “free pass” as Jacob Michael phrased it. As he has so often in previous situations, Sungenis seems to have jumped to conclusions that were not expressly stated in the letter itself, conclusions that were most beneficial to him.

As a final note, it is also clear that the USCCB did not definitively reject Sungenis’ translation in CASB1, leaving him without an avenue for appeal. In fact, they invited him to consider pursuing this avenue. Yet, oddly in this case, he seems to have considered his work definitively “denied”, unlike the case of CASB2. Additionally, the USCCB did not reject the translation in CASB1 solely for a “technical” difficulty as Sungenis and his associates have led everyone to believe since November of 2006. The USCCB also rejected Sungenis’ application for an imprimatur because of his stated advocacy of an approach that tended toward “dynamic equivalency.” (JMSIC, p. 13) This reason for the rejection was previously concealed by Sungenis, as illustrated below:

“R. Sungenis: When I applied for the Imprimatur for the Matthew volume, the USCCB determined that my modifications to the DR were a ‘translation of a translation’ and not a true translation, and therefore, I could not get the specific Imprimatur for a ‘translation.’” (Q and A 73, November 2006)

In light of these newly discovered facts, perhaps it becomes much clearer why Sungenis has long been so reticent to make this letter from the USCCB public.

5) Copyrights for the RSV-CE

Sungenis writes:

“They tried to claim I was being unethical regarding the CASB 2, The Apocalypse of St. John. They claimed that I did not get approval from the copyright holder of the bible portion of the book. Result? The responsibility of the copyrights and other such issues are Queenship’s. As they have in the past, they secure rights and pay the fees whenever it is required, as they have done for me the last 11 years.” (JMISC, p. 2)

This is false. No one “claimed” that he had been unethical or had not gotten approval. Sungenis was asked, privately, with his closest associates as witnesses, whether he had been given permission. And he was given an opportunity to provide proof to dispel any doubt, privately, precisely in the manner which he has repeatedly complained has been refused to him in the past (e.g., "Mr. Michael could have easily come to me and asked about the situation, but since he has been incommunicado with me for almost a year, that kind of polite Christian gesture wasn’t on his agenda. Instead, he prefers to gossip on the Internet with juicy insinuations in order to further his campaign against me.", pp. 1-2). Despite his protestations that his critics can always "easily come to me and ask" questions of this nature, Sungenis refused to answer any questions in private, and insisted it was no one's "flipping business." (email of 6/28/2007)

In light of Sungenis’ well-established history of plagiarism (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4 and link 5), it was not unreasonable to ask Sungenis if he had obtained permission to use the RSV-CE.

Sungenis avoided answering the question. The reader will note that he never indicated whether permission was granted or not and chose instead to deflect any possible blame to his publisher. Regardless of who should have obtained the permission, if it was not obtained, then this is yet another mark against Sungenis’ CASB.

The holder of the copyright (the NCCC) has indicated that they have no record of granting permission to either Sungenis or Queenship. And they have very specific verbiage that must appear on an author’s book when permission is granted (see here) - in particular, the notice "Used by permission" must appear on the copyright page, a notice which does not appear on the copyright page of CASB 2. Perhaps Sungenis does have permission, in which case it would be a simple task to provide the proof and end the doubt. For some reason, however, Sungenis has resisted providing proof and - let the reader make note - has decided to make a public issue of this, rather than taking the opportunity offered him to deal with it in private. Similar gross distortions of personal correspondence with Sungenis were also made in his latest defense.

6) The Unexplained Contradiction:

In Sungenis, the CASB (The Apocalypse of St. John) and the Imprimatur, the following issue was brought to light:

“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.” (link)

Sungenis’ answer (JMISC, p. 5) was essentially an admixture of bluster and insult with no substance. He never got around to actually explaining how to reconcile these two conflicting statements about CASB2.

To recap, first, he acknowledged that he had sent CASB2 to his bishop in September 2006, before it was published. Then after he came under scrutiny he claimed that he had “already decided to submit the manuscript for an Imprimatur after the book was published.” Note, Sungenis’ new claim to have submitted another request for an imprimatur to a different bishop does not provide an obvious means to readily reconcile these two statements. The original discrepancy remains: How could Sungenis “already” have decided to submit the manuscript “after” it was published, when in his own words, he actually submitted the manuscript long before it was published? Perhaps Sungenis can finally elaborate on a sound, logical way to fully reconcile these two conflicting statements.

In closing, even aside from the fact that Sungenis’most recent defense/complaint is far more full of deflection, rationalization, distortion and falsehood than substance, his demands for apologies ring quite hollow in light of the repeated gross injustices he has inflicted on so many without a word of apology, from non-Catholic Jews, to Jewish converts, to his own friends and volunteers, and now even to his own bishop. Sadly, it appears that Sungenis’ many years of debating have led this bright man to the point where he reflexively seeks to win an argument at all cost rather than seeking and promoting the truth. It’s apparently all about Bob, even for certain ubiquitous Sungenis promoters. One standard for me, another for thee. Whether or not he has actually convinced himself and his associates of his own gross distortions, rationalizations and falsehoods is an open question.