Some Traditionalists like Kenneth Wolfe of the Remnant view the new Good Friday prayer just approved by the Pope as "having their cage rattled." The change is also perceived as making a reconciliation with SSPX more difficult. To his credit, Sungenis has at least defended the Pope's changes, saying:
"Pope Benedict XVI has once again acted as a faithful Pontiff of the Catholic Church…All the previous descriptions contained in the old Latin Mass prayer of Pope John XXIII that have been eliminated by Pope Benedict XVI (e.g., reference to the “blindness” of the Jews or their living in “darkness”) can be considered superfluous…"
However, he has also again illustrated why his bishop has directed him to stop addressing Jewish issues. Once again, Bob has chosen to exaggerate and make use of counterproductive, contentious language when dealing with the Jewish people. He writes:
"The most important dimension of the traditional Latin Mass prayer was the demand for the Jews to recognize Jesus Christ and become saved by Him. This demand was preserved by Pope Benedict XVI." (emphasis added)
The word "demand" appears twice in this short span and is oddly out of place. Unfortunately, while this is not as bad as some of what we have seen and heard, it is still representative of the kind of unnecessarily provocative, contentious rhetoric that Bob continues to employ when addressing Jewish issues (including those of a theological nature). Recall, this is after he has again assured everyone that he will go to extra lengths to restrain himself and be as charitable as possible, “as if the bishop were present with us” (Catholic Apologetics International and its Teaching on the Jews, p. 2, July 31, 2007).
The fact is, there is no place in the new prayer (or even the old) where the Pope "demands" that Jews recognize Jesus Christ. There is, however, a sincere appeal to God that He may illuminate the hearts of Jewish people so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ as the "savior of all men”:
Let us pray also for the Jews. May our God and Lord illuminate their hearts, so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, savior of all men. Let us pray. Let us kneel. Arise.
Of course, the Holy Father affirmed Church teaching in this prayer. No one is saved apart from Jesus Christ. But notice the contrast between the gentle, yet clear language chosen by the Holy Father and the provocative, contentious language chosen by Sungenis.
In the balance of his article about the new Good Friday prayer, Sungenis chose to focus on the issue of the "conversion of the Jews." He has gone on something of a crusade over the past several years to belittle and discount the belief that Jews as a people will one day have their relationship with God fully restored, having been grafted back on to the tree alongside the gentiles.
Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4, Article 5, Article 6, Article 7, Article 8, Article 9, Article 10
It should be noted however, that there is nothing in the new prayer that actually supports his personal position. It simply does not conclusively contradict it, and, if anything, is more easily seen as supporting the common Catholic view of a future, unusual Jewish conversion to Christ:
Almighty and everlasting God, who desires that all men be saved
and come to the knowledge of truth, mercifully grant that, as the fullness of the Gentiles enters into your church, all Israel may be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
It is worth noting that even Sungenis' friend and colleague, Christopher Ferrara, who has previously teamed up with Sungenis over Jewish issues and who has previously offered his own dubious criticisms of Jews, also wrote an article about the new Good Friday prayer, but sans any claim that it "demands" Jews convert. And Ferrara makes clear that he holds to the common Catholic understanding of the ultimate conversion of the Jewish people to Christ:
(Ferrara): Foxman understands exactly what has happened. His press release for the ADL barely conceals his rage over the new prayer’s call for the enlightenment of the Jewish people, their acknowledgment of Christ, and the newly added element of the ultimate conversion of the entire nation of Israel in keeping with the prophecy of Saint Paul, the most renowned Jewish convert in salvation history.
(Ferrara): His Holiness responded with a revised Good Friday prayer that not only retains the Church’s call for Jewish conversion, but adds to that call the Pauline element of the final conversion of the entire Jewish nation.
Ferrara is undoubtedly aware of Sungenis' unique arguments. Yet even he remains unpersuaded by him.
At least Sungenis did not choose to misinform the public again about the weight of the patristic and other Catholic witness on this issue that is contrary to his view. And he has not made additional erroneous statements about the supposed complete dearth of Catholic exegetes who have dealt in detail with this issue as it pertains to Romans 11. (See Article)
To be clear, RSATJ has never claimed that Sungenis cannot hold a personal opinion contrary to the vast majority of the Catholic witness. Rather, we have always objected to the erroneous, judgmental stances he has taken (based almost exclusively on his own personal exegesis of Romans 11) that portray those who are actually in a strong majority position as being almost entirely without support when he has provided little or no support for his own position aside from his unique, personal exegesis of Romans 11. And we have objected to the double standards he employs: reflexively accepting, defending and propagating negative theological views of Jews while reflexively rejecting and attacking positive theological views about Jews.
Fortunately, Sungenis did not find reason in the new Good Friday prayer to renew his previous, heterodox and oxymoronic claim that the Catholic Church has "unofficially declared" that the Antichrist will be a Jew.
This latest attempt by Sungenis to address Jewish issues is yet more evidence of bishop Rhoades' wisdom in directing him to refrain from writing about Judaism or the Jewish people. Sadly, Sungenis is a like the proverbial bull in a china shop. And this bull sees red everywhere he wanders. The most charitable explanation is that he doesn’t understand the kind of damage he causes. Whether the matter is political, cultural or theological, he has regularly proven that he is not able to maintain balance, objectivity and charity when Jews are involved. Yet he seems to truly believe he is an indispensable prophet of some sort in regard to Jewish matters.
Unfortunately, Sungenis attracts extremists who have helped to confirm his anti-Jewish animus. Most recently there has been a marked increase in collaboration and commiseration between Sungenis, Thomas Herron, E. Michael Jones and one or two others. When such like-minded individuals get together, there is a strong tendency to confirm one another’s suspicions and beliefs about Jews and form a bond in the process. It’s a self-selecting, vicious cycle.
One of the most virulent examples is a man by the name of Edgar Suter. An extended screed that is representative of Suter's writing can be found in the January issue of Culture Wars (pp 2-4). Ben Douglass has also confirmed that Suter was a source of anti-Semitic material posted CAI/BTF, such as that from the white-supremacist National Vanguard. Suter can also be seen on BTF’s current Q and A board (here and here) referencing the “pedagogy of deceit of the Rabbis” and putting scare quotes around the word “Jews.” This is one way anti-Semites convey their belief in a thoroughly debunked extremist theory that the Jewish people of today are not actually Jewish at all, they are ethnic pretenders. Thankfully, at least Sungenis has not indicated his agreement with that particular Jewish conspiracy theory. (See article)
More to the case at hand, Suter just recently wrote the following in reaction to the Holy Father’s alteration of the Good Friday prayer:
Thank you for the sad news.
Certainly the synagogue of Satan is quite experienced in the combined arts of shadow play and managed opposition. Of course Foxman will not be truly happy unless the Noachide Laws can be enforced so that we "idolators" who worship "that man" will be liable for execution. I find no satisfaction that Foxman is not yet in a position to ensure that "the best of the Gentiles should all be killed."...
As for those impostors "who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie," Jesus was quite clear about their parentage at John 8:44, was He not? Abraham and Moses, but not the sons of the devil, are my elder brothers.
(email of February 7, 2008)
The virulent hatred of Jews that Suter expresses should make any Catholic recoil. Yet, he is a well-respected friend and patron of Robert Sungenis and CAI/BTF, even a source of “Jewish information” for Sungenis.
The fact is that many good people and organizations have brought and continue to bring their concerns about the Jewish “covenant issue” to the Church, such as Karl Keating, The Association of Hebrew Catholics, Scott Hahn and Roy Schoeman, but they have done so in a less accusatory, more filial manner. While this more humble approach may not attract as much attention, it is a truly Catholic approach. The Church is aware of these matters and is fully capable of preserving the faith without the kind of contributions Sungenis, Herron, Jones and Suter too often offer. Certainly, the faithful could do without such poor example, as well.
Sungenis has made much of the response he received from the CDF about the covenant issue, apparently in an effort to prove that he is accomplishing something important. However, as even Wikipedia has noted, the response he received appears to be a simple "postcard-sized form letter" acknowledging receipt of his letter with two brief sentences and a "stamped signature." The reader will note that Sungenis is not even addressed by name and the topic of the letter is not mentioned either, in this “reply from the Vatican.”
Of course, it is also true that there has been a certain amount of illegitimate complaint in the Jewish community. Such people believe the changes made by the Pope to the Good Friday prayer have not gone far enough. Perhaps due to the liberal excesses of some in the Church, their hopes for what "dialogue" could accomplish has led them to believe the Church might actually change Her teaching. Such people will likely never be satisfied. There is little one can do about that. But some people do understand and appreciate the changes made by the Holy Father. Others may in time. And anything that lowers unnecessary obstacles is obviously a good thing.
The reassuring fact is that the Church will never contradict Her teachings, even in the pursuit of dialogue, ecumenism and peace. Sungenis' bishop is well aware of that reality as is the successor to St. Peter. Thankfully, God has given us such good men with genuine authority who know how to speak the truth in charity.