Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sowing Confusion, Distrust and Conspiracy Theories

Updated May 23, 2009

When Bishop Rhoades issued a clear statement concerning his position on the covenant and the Jewish people, no one seemed confused by what he wrote. In fact, even many Sungenis supporters seemed quite pleased and satisfied -- at least until Bob published his “response” to Bishop Rhoades. Where even his own supporters saw a welcome clarification, Bob saw something very different – something dark and suspicious. Why? (Detailed evidence of Bob's’ double-standards and bad faith with Bishop Rhoades on this issue may be found here: article).

Is Sungenis alone so insightful?

There is perhaps a more logical explanation for the confusion that a few people experienced after reading Bob's “response” to Bishop Rhoades: Bob is singularly motivated and forceful in his presentations - in large part because of his extensive, professional background in debate. And yet, even with such well-honed skill and remarkable, single-minded determination, it appears clear that few people are persuaded by him on this issue and even fewer are in complete agreement with him.

Unfortunately, Bob is well-practiced in a particularly antagonistic, adversarial approach to debate and still struggles to comprehend the limits of his knowledge and authority, as documented in some detail here:
article. He is also singularly motivated on this particular issue to vindicate himself as well as being susceptible to an inordinately distrustful, conspiratorial interpretation of events.

This is not a matter of mere opinion or conjecture. When Michael Forrest was volunteering for him and serving as his vice-president, Bob tried to convince him that the U.S. lunar landing was a hoax perpetrated by NASA. Bob put up a posting at CAI about it and went so far as to send Forrest a video "documentary" that "proved" it was a hoax (to see Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin's reaction to such conspiracy theories, click here). In May, 2009,
Bob proposed that crop circles and UFOs are part of a conspiracy perpetrated by NASA, designed to "control people", to get "billions of dollars" from the government, and also to "[get] our minds off the Bible and Christ." According to Bob, NASA may well be using "lasers or plasma projectors" from space to make the crop circles. While taking part in the Kolbe Symposium on creationism at the Vatican, Bob told Jacob Michael that he believed people were out to poison him. He was afraid to eat. Below the reader will find a listing of some of the conspiracy theories he has affirmed:

Bob publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that FDR purposely allowed the Japanese to bomb Pearl harbor – because FDR wanted to help Jews gain the land of Palestine.

He publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that Jews were behind the assassination of JFK.

He publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that Jews sent Monica Lewinsky in to take Bill Clinton down because they didn’t like his foreign policy toward Israel.

He publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that Israel has control of the phone system in the United States and listens in on our phone calls.

He publicly advanced the idea that wealthy Jews behind the scenes are involved in a conspiracy to rule the world and the Catholic Church.

He advanced the conspiracy theory that the Jews helped Hitler in the hopes of gaining the land of Palestine.

He affirmed a BTF questioner who posited the conspiracy theory that Jews are establishing “5th columns” in all the world’s great religions.

He publicly accepted without question a fraudulent “quote” from Benjamin Franklin about Jews supposedly conspiring to rule the nascent United States of America.

He publicly gave credence to the discredited Jewish conspiracy theory known as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

He publicly advances the conspiracy theory that the United States and Israel were behind September 11th.

He publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that John Paul I was murdered.

He believes now-pope Benedict XVI is involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth about the Fatima secrets from the Catholic faithful.

He publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that Pope John Paul II paid $250 million of Vatican money to cover over the fraud and money laundering of Paul Marcinkus, the director of the Vatican Bank, and also shielded Marcinkus from criminal charges.

He publicly advanced the conspiracy theory that Japan had been trying to surrender for 6 months prior to the dropping of the atomic bombs, but Truman refused to allow them to surrender so that he could nuke the Catholic cities.

He publicly recommended the anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist, Texe Marrs, as a source on Jewish issues. Even Protestant apologist
James White has described Marrs thusly: "Texe Marrs fills his publications with the latest theory as to how the world is going to be taken over. Both Ruckman and Marrs are true "anti-Catholics," defining the term for most folks."

Bob is an avid fan of conspiracy theorist Michael Piper.

And now, after the U.S. Bishops made a welcome improvement to the USCCA, Sungenis is suggesting more conspiracy theories about what he thinks the USCCB may actually be doing in trying to mislead us again – in his latest tome replete with supposed evidence to prove his case. (Note: we have debunked another conspiracy theory Sungenis floated about the bishops and the USCCA

To be clear, this is not to say that conspiracies never happen or that anyone who believes a conspiracy theory is a dolt. In fact, many conspiracy theorists are extremely bright – perhaps too bright for their own good. When pride and distrustfulness are married to great native intelligence, bad things inevitably happen – as we have known from the Garden of Eden onward.

An apt saying comes to mind: “
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.” If one intends to make damning, scandalous claims in public, one bears a tremendous responsibility to exercise extreme diligence and care in firmly establishing the veracity of those claims. But if one actually takes the time to carefully examine the work of conspiracy theorists in general (which is often a particularly arduous and unpleasant task that few have the desire or time to undertake), one will almost always find that the evidence doesn’t meet the standards necessary to actually prove the case. And Sungenis’ conspiracy theories are no exception to that rule. But, nevertheless, a few people completely buy into them as gospel truth. And some others who don’t entirely believe them are still left feeling unsettled, suspicious and distrustful. It’s sad and it’s wrong, but how much more so when it involves the Church?

Ironically enough, Fr. Brian Harrison recently attempted to create a distinction between Robert Sungenis’ brand of anti-Semitism and the “real and dangerous anti-Semitism” found in the Muslim world. And, according to Fr. Harrison, one of the supposed primary differences between Sungenis and “real and dangerous” anti-Semites is that the real and dangerous kind are “where Jewish ‘conspiracies’ are popularly blamed for just about every ill afflicting mankind.” (
article, p.5) The irony of this statement can hardly be lost on anyone with even a reasonable familiarity with what Sungenis has written about the Jews over the years. As is documented on this site, weaving conspiracy theories in which Jews are “blamed for just about every ill afflicting mankind” is what Sungenis has done. Perhaps Fr. Harrison hasn't read enough of Sungenis’ writings (or our documentation of same).

That being said, we certainly agree with Fr. Harrison that Bob Sungenis is not the kind of person who desecrates Jewish graves, massacres Jews and bombs Israel (
article, p. 5). He is, however, the kind of person who often foments paranoia about and hatred against Jews with propaganda that masquerades as actual scholarship.

The world that such conspiracy theorists inhabit is not a happy one. Once one succumbs to this mindset, enemies (or potential enemies) lurk everywhere. And disabusing a conspiracy theorist of his beliefs is an extremely difficult task because it involves challenging his fundamental world-view and his psychological and emotional predispositions. And as we have witnessed in Sungenis’ case, if one dares to oppose a conspiracy theorist, one may well end up being charged with being a part of the conspiracy (Sungenis publicly stated that he believed we may be secretly hiding our Jewish ancestry:
article). The process of opposing a conspiracy theorist can very easily become a black hole of sorts. G.K. Chesterton composed some interesting thoughts on this topic that are well worth reading in Orthodoxy, chapter two: "The Maniac" (read here).

To be clear, our intention is not to ridicule Bob Sungenis by bringing forth this documentation. Our concern is that Sungenis’ reflexively suspicious, distrustful approach –which extends even to the Church - appears to be negatively affecting and influencing at least a few others (such as documented here about this individual:
link). It’s very sad and unfortunate.

In the end, each individual must make a decision as to which presentation of the evidence and which presenter(s) they find to be the most trustworthy, most credible. While it is acknowledged that Sungenis has at times made legitimate points on Jewish issues, the evidence is clear that he has become grossly irresponsible and also dishonest. And as such, it makes little sense to seek him as a source of information about them. We sincerely pray that fewer and fewer people are ensnared by such a destructively dark and conspiratorial view of life and faith.