Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Pope's "Blunder" or Sungenis' Prejudice?


Pope Benedict XVI recently gave a talk in which he commented on the dispute that arose between Sts. Peter and Paul at Antioch over table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity. The Holy Father’s commentary was straightforward and, as we would expect, hewed closely to the mainstream of traditional Catholic thought on this passage.

Robert Sungenis has responded negatively to the Pope’s address, asserting that “he is quite incorrect”, he “is simply shortsighted”, he has advanced a “non-traditional exegesis” which “falls right in line with the liberal hermeneutic” and which contains more than one “exegetical blunder” (see here).

What has prompted Sungenis to castigate the Pope in such a public way? The answer will not be surprising to anyone who has followed the controversies over the past few years. It’s the Jews.

Although Sungenis advances his critique with characteristic self-assurance and even bravado, we believe that it is demonstrable that Sungenis has erred in numerous ways, while having the pluck to publicly upbraid the Pope. In this essay, we will establish the following points:

1. Contrary to Sungenis’ assertion that Benedict XVI has advanced a “non-traditional exegesis” which “falls right in line with the liberal hermeneutic”, in fact the Holy Father’s views on Galatians 2:11ff. fall well within the venerable Catholic exegetical tradition.

2. Sungenis casts St. Peter’s behavior in as severe a light as possible, whereas historical Catholic exegesis has taken it as a venial fault at most. This sort of severe treatment of St. Peter’s behavior is typically a feature of polemical Protestant works and finds no place in traditional Catholic exegesis.

3. Sungenis implies strongly that there is really only one exegesis of the passage throughout history: “Previous exegesis has taken the thesis-antithesis approach…” and “The only correct interpretation of the passage is what we see in the tradition”. He has made similar unsupported assertions on other passages, when the evidence is clearly against it.

4. Sungenis seems to claim that Pope Benedict was stating that St. Peter was faultless. This misrepresents the Pope’s address. In so doing, Sungenis omits important qualifiers in the Pope’s original address. In fact, he seems to have only critiqued a news report, without consulting the full address. Indeed, one of his points is based on a mistranslation in this news report, which is corrected in the official Vatican translation. This sort of sloppy research has, unfortunately, become habitual with Sungenis.

5. Sungenis calls the Pope’s exegesis “non-traditional” and claims that “I don’t know anyone in the history of the church [sic] who has taken his side on this passage”. The fact is that the Pope’s exposition of the text falls well in line with a perennial Catholic understanding. Sungenis, on the other hand, has taken contradictory views of the passage over the years and it is these that are actually non-traditional.

6. Sungenis claims that “opposite Pope Benedict’s claim, the Jews in Galatians 2:12-15 are not understood as ‘believers from Judaism.’ The text does not say whether they were believers. . . . the pope assumes the Jews had already accepted the Gospel, but there is no indication in the text that they had. Hence, the whole basis for the pope’s interpretation of the passage is built on an unproven foundation.” But in fact, both Catholic and Protestant exegetes are virtually unanimous that these individuals were in fact converts from Judaism and cite evidence within the text to support that view. Sungenis offers a bare, unsupported assertion.

7. Sungenis claims that the Pope makes a “blunder” when comparing the context of Gal 2:11ff and Rom 14:1ff. But the Pope’s comparison is backed up by well-respected Catholic (and even non-Catholic) exegetes. Ironically, it is Sungenis himself who has in the past made an elementary blunder with respect to the context of the Epistle to the Romans--he has told his readers on more than one occasion that the context of Romans 11 includes an event that took place more than twelve years after Romans 11 was written and more than three years after St. Paul was dead.

8. What has really prompted Sungenis to write at such length and with such vigor against the Pope (and in doing, to contradict himself and commit so many of his own blunders)? Jews. This recent attack on the Holy Father serves only to reinforce our view that Robert Sungenis is simply incapable of handling Jewish issues in a responsible and fair manner.

Below, each of these points will be expanded upon:

1. Contrary to Sungenis’ assertion that Benedict XVI has advanced a “non-traditional exegesis” which “falls right in line with the liberal hermeneutic”, in fact the Holy Father’s views on Galatians 2:11ff. demonstrably fall well within the venerable Catholic exegetical tradition.

Pope Benedict's recent talk is perfectly well in line with the mainstream of prior Catholic exegesis:

At the outset Cephas, Peter, shared meals with both; but with the arrival of certain Christians associated with James, "the Lord's brother" (Gal 1: 19), Peter began to avoid contact with Gentiles at table in order not to shock those who were continuing to observe the laws governing the cleanliness of food and his decision was shared by Barnabas (link).

But, as the Holy Father pointed out, this behavior by St. Peter had unintended, yet significant, negative consequences for the Church:

This decision profoundly divided the Christians who had come from circumcision and the Christians who came from paganism. This behaviour, that was a real threat to the unity and freedom of the Church, provoked a passionate reaction in Paul who even accused Peter and the others of hypocrisy (Ibid.; emphasis added).

The Pope noted, however, that the motives for this behavior on the part of St. Peter were good and that he and St. Paul were approaching the matter of dispute from very different perspectives:

In fact, the thought of Paul on the one hand, and of Peter and Barnabas on the other, were different: for the latter the separation from the Gentiles was a way to safeguard and not to shock believers who came from Judaism; on the contrary, for Paul it constituted the danger of a misunderstanding of the universal salvation in Christ, offered both to Gentiles and Jews. If justification is only achieved by virtue of faith in Christ, of conformity with him, regardless of any effect of the Law, what is the point of continuing to observe the cleanliness of foods at shared meals? In all likelihood the approaches of Peter and Paul were different: the former did not want to lose the Jews who had adhered to the Gospel, and the latter did not want to diminish the saving value of Christ's death for all believers (Ibid.).

And he points out that St. Paul himself had to wrestle with very similar issues of conscience vis-à-vis Christian converts who struggled with scruples concerning matters of clean and unclean foods:

It is strange to say but in writing to the Christians of Rome a few years later (in about the middle of the 50s a.D.), Paul was to find himself facing a similar situation and asked the strong not to eat unclean foods in order not to lose or scandalize the weak: "it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble" (Rm 14: 21) (Ibid.).

Now, the passage from Galatians 2 upon which the Pope comments has received quite number of interpretations over the centuries. Some Fathers actually argued that the “Cephas” mentioned by St. Paul was not the Apostle, but a different Cephas. Other Fathers, including very prominent ones such as Sts. Jerome and Chrysostom, argued that Sts. Peter and Paul had only simulated the dispute, so that they might give a lesson to their congregation:

Many, on a superficial reading of this part of the Epistle, suppose that Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy. But this is not so, indeed it is not, far from it; we shall discover great wisdom, both of Paul and Peter, concealed herein for the benefit of their hearers. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies On Galatians 2)

Both of these interpretations have been ultimately set aside; the latter was the focus of a long correspondence between Sts. Augustine and Jerome at the end of which Augustine succeeded in changing Jerome’s mind. Tertullian, in the second century, put forth the view that has substantially been upheld by Catholic exegetes throughout history. Tertullian points out that St. Peter’s fault was certainly not one of doctrine—he and St. Paul held the same faith—but disagreed over a pastoral application of that faith:

Forasmuch, then, as Peter was rebuked because, after he had lived with the Gentiles, he proceeded to separate himself from their company out of respect for persons, the fault surely was one of conversation, not of preaching. (Praesc. Adv. Haer. 23)

Tertullian points out that St. Paul himself eventually adopted a pastoral approach that was more or less the same as St. Peter’s. He writes:

And yet as Paul himself became all things to all men, 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he might gain all, it was possible that Peter also might have betaken himself to the same plan of practising somewhat different from what he taught. (Ad. Marc. 4.3)

The views put forth by Tertullian have been echoed throughout Church history by numerous Catholic exegetes. Fr. G. L. Haydock continues the commentary of Tertullian and cites other examples in which St. Paul’s behavior was similar to that of St. Peter:

Tertullian and most interpreters take notice, that St. Peter's fault was only a lesser or venial sin in his conduct and conversation. Did not St. Paul on several occasions do the like, as what is here laid to St. Peter's charge? that is, practise the Jewish ceremonies: did not he circumcise Timothy after this, an. 52 [in the year A.D. 52]? did he not shave his head in Cenchrea, an. 54? did he not by the advice of St. James (an. 58.) purify himself with the Jews in the temple, not to offend them? . . . the opinion of St. Augustine is commonly followed, that St. Peter was guilty of a venial fault of imprudence. . . . Baronius held that St. Peter did not sin at all, which may be true, if we look upon his intention only, which was to give no offence to the Jewish converts; but if we examine the fact, he can scarce be excused from a venial indiscretion (link; emphasis added.)

The great Jesuit exegete and biblical theologian Fr. Fernand Prat writes:

What was the precise object of the conflict? On the question of principle the two apostles were fully agreed. . . . The spirit of conciliation led him [St. Peter] too far. . . . Paul knew the loyalty, humility and grandeur of soul which characterized the chief of the apostles. He did not, therefore, fear to reproach him publicly, not with a fault, but with a dangerous example; not with an error, but with an inconsistency. Peter certainly yielded to the arguments of Paul. (The Theology of Saint Paul. Westminster: The Newman Bookshop. 1952, vol. 1, pp. 51‑2).

The great exegete Fr. Cornelius a Lapide states:

It may be urged that in this act of Peter’s there was at least something sinful, if not actually erroneous in faith, as some have rashly asserted. . . . Although Peter, however, did not so regard it, yet his action was so imprudent as to give the Gentiles good reason for thinking that he did. . . . To what has been said I add this: This sin of Peter’s was venial, or material only, arising from want of thought, or from want of light and prudence. He seems to have thought that, being the Apostle of the Jews especially, that he ought rather to avoid scandalising them than the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles would readily recognise the rightfulness of this line of action. . . . Again, observe the following rule: When there is a just cause of concealing the truth, no falsehood is involved. Peter, in the act under discussion, had partly a just cause, viz., the fear of offending the Jews. His withdrawal from the Gentiles was not a formal declaration that he was a Judaiser, but only tantamount to saying that he preferred to serve the Jews rather than the Gentiles, the just cause of this preference being that he was more an Apostle of the former than of the latter. I say partly, for he was not wholly justified in so acting, inasmuch as he was bound, as universal pastor, to care for the Jews without neglecting the Gentiles. Hence it follows also that in one respect he sinned through want of due consideration. The infirmity of man’s mind, however, is such that he cannot always hit the exact mean, and under complex circumstances benefit one without harming another (link; emphasis mine.)

In more modern times, Fr. Bernard Orchard, OSB again hearkens back to Tertullian’s commentary and notes that: “Paul reproached Peter not with a doctrinal error, but with not holding firm in the principle which he recognizes, ‘conversationis vitium non praedicationis’ (Tert. De praescript. 23)” (A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. New York: Nelson, 1953. p. 1116).

The exegesis of Galatians 2:11ff. which is sensitive to the real dilemma facing St. Peter is supported even by non-Catholic scholars, such as the prominent evangelical Protestant scholar F. F. Bruce. Bruce noted that St. Peter’s actions stemmed from precisely the same motivations that prompted St. Paul’s writing in Romans 14, in particular, the need to take care of a brother Christian’s weaker conscience in regard to dietary laws:

But in fact it is not difficult to imagine how Cephas would have defended his action. He would have claimed that he acted out of consideration for weaker brethren—the weaker brethren on this occasion being those back home in Jerusalem. Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 1.20) read his motives thus, and put Paul’s critical reaction down to his immaturity: later on he points out, Paul ‘was to become in practice all things to all men—to those under the law, as under law’ (1 Cor. 9:20). The trouble was, however, that Cephas’s concern for the weaker brethren in Jerusalem conflicted with Paul’s concern for the Gentile brethren in Antioch, who were being made to feel like second-class citizens.

Again, Tertullian suggests that, ‘since Paul himself became “all things to all men in order to win them all”, Peter too may well have had this policy in mind in acting differently from what he was accustomed to teach’ (Adv. Marc. 4.3). That Cephas had some reason on his side was acknowledged by Barnabas, who followed his example (The Epistle to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982. p. 133).

And Catholic commentators see the same dynamic. The Navarre Bible commentary states:

In his dealings with Jews, St Paul sometimes gave way in secondary matters, provided this did not take from the essence of the Gospel: he had Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, circumcised “because of the Jews that were in those places” (Acts 16:3), and he himself kept to Jewish practices in order to allay suspicion and jealousy (cf. Acts 21:22-26). Similarly, he recommended patience and understanding towards those “weak” in the faith, that is, Christians of Jewish origin who held on to some Jewish observances connected with fast days, clean and unclean food and abstinence from the flesh of animals sacrificed to idols (cf. Rom 14:2-6; 1 Cor 10:23-30). But on the key issue of Christians’ freedom from the Mosaic Law, the Apostle was always firm and unambiguous, relying on the decisions of the Council of Jerusalem.

Paul’s correction of Peter did not go against the latter’s authority. On the contrary, if it had been just anyone, the Teacher of the Gentiles might have let the matter pass; but because it was Cephas, that is, the “rock” of the Church, he had to take action in order to avoid the impression being given that Christians of Gentile origin were obliged to adopt a Jewish lifestyle. (Romans and Galatians. Four Courts Press, 1998. pp. 179-80.)

It is not that St. Peter was without fault; he certainly made a pastoral decision that created significant, negative consequences, as the Apostle Paul states. It seems that the heart of the matter is that St. Peter was free to follow the Jewish dietary laws if that would avoid scandalizing converts from Judaism. St. Paul on occasion followed these and other distinctively Jewish customs, for the same reason. It was St. Peter's separation from the converts from paganism that was the real problem. For that he had only partial and ultimately insufficient justification, because it involved not merely separating from food, which can't get confused and can't be scandalized, but separating from people, who can be both confused and scandalized. This was the fault and it was real. As Pope Benedict said, “This decision profoundly divided the Christians who had come from circumcision and the Christians who came from paganism. This behaviour, that was a real threat to the unity and freedom of the Church, provoked a passionate reaction in Paul who even accused Peter and the others of hypocrisy” (link; emphasis added).

But as upheld throughout the history of Catholic exegesis, his fault was at most venial, being very much tempered by the difficult and sometimes confusing circumstances in which he found himself. St. Augustine noted that Sts. Peter and Paul evangelized during the middle of three phases of the observance of distinctively Jewish precepts. The Navarre Bible commentary lays out Augustine’s thought, as summarized by St. Thomas:

We might say that there are three periods in observance of the prescriptions of the Law. In the first period, prior to Christ’s passion, the precepts of the Law were “alive”, that is, it was obligatory to keep them. A second period was between the Passion and the spread of the apostolic preaching: the Law’s precepts were already “dead”, no longer obligatory, but they were not “lethal”: Jewish converts could keep them provided that they did not rely on them, for Christ was already the basis of their hope. In the third stage, in which we find ourselves, observance of Jewish precepts as a means of salvation amounts to denying the redemptive power of Christ and therefore they could be termed “lethal” (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Gal, ad loc.) (Romans and Galatians, p. 181.)

Pope Benedict’s exposition of Galatians 2 is well in line with historical Catholic exegesis and, indeed, even with scholarly Protestant commentaries. In the ancient Church it was non-Catholic sects which sought to play up the division between Sts. Peter and Paul to the greatest extent possible. And in more recent times the strong anti-Catholic polemic put forth by certain Protestant apologists carries the same force and intent. So, for example, John Calvin stated:

But Peter Judaized in such a manner as to “compel the Gentiles” to suffer bondage, and at the same time to create a prejudice against Paul’s doctrine. He did not, therefore, observe the proper limit; for he was more desirous to please than to edify, and more solicitous to inquire what would gratify the Jews than what would be expedient for the whole body. . . . For the sake of the Jews, Peter had withdrawn himself from the Gentiles, in order to drive them from the communion of the Church, unless they would relinquish the liberty of the Gospel, and submit to the yoke of the Law (link).

And from the assertion of this stark contrast between Sts. Peter and Paul he claims the actual overthrow of the Catholic view of the papacy:

This is another thunderbolt which strikes the Papacy of Rome. It exposes the impudent pretensions of the Roman Antichrist, who boasts that he is not bound to assign a reason, and sets at defiance the judgment of the whole Church. Without rashness, without undue boldness, but in the exercise of the power granted him by God, this single individual chastises Peter, in the presence of the whole Church; and Peter submissively bows to the chastisement. Nay, the whole debate on those two points was nothing less than a manifest overthrow of that tyrannical primacy. . . (ibid.)

This exposition by the Pope is now the target of a commentary by Bob Sungenis which, on his web site, is entitled, “Pope's Exegetical Blunder on Peter/Paul Conflict in Galatians 2”. Sungenis is highly critical of the Pope’s treatment of Galatians 2:11ff. stating that “he is quite incorrect”, he “is simply shortsighted”, he has advanced a “non-traditional exegesis” which “falls right in line with the liberal hermeneutic” and which contains more than one “exegetical blunder”. The extent to which Pope Benedict XVI’s view of Gal 2:11ff. is in line with prior Catholic exegesis has already been demonstrated. And, ironically, there are numerous points on which Sungenis’ interpretation of the passage is quite out of line with historical Catholic exegesis, as well as being full of errors.

2. Sungenis casts St. Peter’s behavior in as severe a light as possible, whereas historical Catholic exegesis has taken it as a venial fault at most:

Although I admire Pope Benedict XVI, to be very honest, I believe he is quite incorrect in his analysis of the conflict between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2:11-16. I don’t know anyone in the history of the church who has taken his side on this passage. Previous exegesis has taken the thesis-antithesis approach wherein Paul presents a thesis, and Peter’s antithesis is not only wrong but it is akin to perverting the Gospel. Note the factual evidence the passage gives us: (1) Peter is to be condemned for leaving the Gentiles with whom he was eating when the Jews came to Antioch. (2) Paul adds that Peter engaged in this dissimulation because he “feared the Jews,” and that other Jews joined Peter in what Paul calls “hypocrisy.” (3) Paul adds that when Peter and fellow Jews did this deed, “they were not being straightforward about the truth of the Gospel.” These are serious indictments.

Although Catholic exegetes (and even non-Catholic exegetes like F. F. Bruce; see above) point out many mitigating factors which explain and/or partially excuse St. Peter’s behavior, Robert Sungenis can find no such mitigating factors at all:

Peter stands condemned for his hypocrisy and the passage offers him no defense.

There is no indication in the text that Peter was justified in his actions, or that he had the right to depart from the Gentiles to avoid a so-called “scandal” with the Jews.

If there was even the slightest hint in the passage that Peter was in the right, the pope would have at least some basis for making his non-traditional exegesis, but there is none. Everything in the Galatian epistle speaks loudly against Peter’s actions. I’m afraid to say that the pope’s understanding of this passage falls right in line with the liberal hermeneutic that we have seen so often in the last forty years.

Ironically, although Sungenis labels the Pope’s exegesis as “non-traditional”, it is clear even from the limited survey cited above that it is his own exegesis that departs from a traditional Catholic understanding of the passage and hews much more closely to the antagonism typically displayed by polemical anti-Catholic writers.

3. Sungenis implies strongly that there is really only one exegesis of the passage throughout history: “Previous exegesis has taken the thesis-antithesis approach…” and “The only correct interpretation of the passage is what we see in the tradition”. He has made similar assertions on other passages, when the evidence is clearly against it.

Sungenis is incorrect to imply that there has been one, homogeneous approach to this text of Scripture. We have seen above that, in fact, there have been quite a number of different approaches taken throughout the history of the Church. We have seen, too, that Catholic exegetes have typically not taken a strict “thesis-antithesis approach” in which St. Peter’s actions are “akin to perverting the Gospel”. Rather, St. Peter’s actions, while imprudent, have been seen in the context of a complex situation in which the scruples of Jewish converts to Christianity were indeed important to consider (as even St. Paul states and behaves) but only to the extent to which the principles of the Gospel are not possibly compromised. Sungenis sets aside the whole history of Catholic exegesis and imports the “thesis-antithesis approach” which, it seems most likely to us, he has simply brought forward from his days as a Protestant polemicist.

4. Sungenis seems to claim that Pope Benedict was stating that St. Peter was faultless. This misrepresents the Pope’s address. In so doing, Sungenis omits important qualifiers in the Pope’s original address. In fact, he seems to have only critiqued a news report, without consulting the full address. Indeed, one of his points is based on a mistranslation in this news report, which is corrected in the official Vatican translation. This sort of sloppy research has, unfortunately, become habitual with Sungenis.

Nowhere in Sungenis’ critique of the Pope’s address are these words quoted (drawing here on the translation Sungenis used):

This behavior, which truly threatened the unity and liberty of the Church, brought a fiery reaction from Paul, who arrived to the point of accusing Peter and the rest of hypocrisy." ("Paul's Dealings With Peter")

Another passage from the Holy Father’s address is helpful in clarifying exactly what he is saying (and puts him squarely in line with the venerable Catholic exegetical tradition on this passage):

Very probably the perspectives of Peter and Paul were different: for the first, not losing the Jews who had embraced the Gospel, for the second, not diminishing the salvific value of the death of Christ for all believers (Ibid.).

Neither of these passages is cited by Sungenis in his analysis of the Holy Father’s address. It would appear that the reason is that Sungenis relied exclusively on the news report from, which contained only excerpts from the Pope’s address and not the complete text (see news article here.) And so once again, we are faced with a sloppy and incomplete presentation of evidence based on secondary sources rather than primary ones. As we have documented in numerous cases, on certain topics Sungenis simply refuses to do adequate research or adhere to ordinary scholarly standards (for many documented instances of this, see link1, link2, link3, and link4)

Additionally, Sungenis states that:

Pope Benedict claims: “For [Peter], the separation of the pagans represented a way to teach and avoid scandalizing the believers coming from Judaism.” This is a stretch. There is no indication in the text that Peter was justified in his actions, or that he had the right to depart from the Gentiles to avoid a so-called “scandal” with the Jews.

For one to be so bold as to call the Holy Father’s view a “stretch”, it would at least have been appropriate to check if the translation is accurate. In this case, it appears that has slightly distorted this passage. The original Italian says: “per questi ultimi la separazione dai pagani rappresentava una modalità per tutelare e per non scandalizzare i credenti provenienti dal giudaismo” (link). translates per tutelare as “to teach”, while the Vatican’s official translation has “for the latter the separation from the Gentiles was a way to safeguard and not to shock believers who came from Judaism”. The Vatican’s translation is correct, since tutelare means “to protect, ward, defend” and not “to teach” (link). And as numerous Catholic exegetes have pointed out, that is precisely what St. Peter was doing and what St. Paul himself continued to do; seeking to safeguard the tender consciences of Jewish converts to the Faith with regard to dietary issues. The Holy Father, therefore, did not “stretch” in his teaching. Sungenis blundered in his accusation.

5. Sungenis calls the Pope’s exegesis “non-traditional” and claims that “I don’t know anyone in the history of the church [sic] who has taken his side on this passage”.

In fact, the Pope’s exegesis falls well within the boundaries of prior Catholic exegesis. If Sungenis doesn’t “know anyone in the history of the church [sic] who has taken his side of this passage” then it is clear that he has failed to adequately research the topic. Obviously, this is not any fault of the Pope’s. Unfortunately, Sungenis has become somewhat notorious for proclaiming that he just couldn’t find something, or that all writers are on his side, whereas the facts are quite different. For example, he once claimed with respect to Romans 11:25-27 that he could not find “one Catholic exegete in all of Church history” who had done a detailed exegesis of that passage. We were able to cite no less than sixteen full-length commentaries and numerous shorter studies by Catholic scholars doing precisely that (see here).

There are other instances in which Sungenis has claimed that all of the evidence is on his side, when the reality is quite different. For example, he claims in his CASB2 that the identification of Jesus Christ with the olive tree of Romans 11:17-24 is “the constant teaching of the Fathers”. But, in fact, there are any number of Fathers who see the passage quite differently (see here). Sungenis completely misrepresented the teaching of both St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom, who said the opposite of what he claimed for them. Michael Forrest made Bob aware of St. John Chrysostom's real position in September 2006. Bob refused to change his book which quotes St. John Chrysostom as representative of the "consensus" of the Fathers regarding the identity of the olive tree. What is more, Ben Douglass provided Sungenis with the information about St. Augustine in an e-mail dated January 14, 2007—while he was still Sungenis' vice-president, by the way—and reminded him of it again on January 20, stating:

St. Augustine read the root of Romans 11 as Israel, and he says so in the immediate vicinity of the passages you quoted to argue that the root is Christ and not Israel. Again, you're lobbing softballs at your critics, and it's a good thing I caught this before they did. There could hardly be a clearer illustration of Forrest's thesis that your use of the Fathers is highly tendentious when the subject is Jews and Israel. (link)

This was a few months before the CASB2 was released. Yet Sungenis allowed the book to go to print without correcting this obvious error.

Perhaps the most troubling fact is that while Sungenis now claims that he does not know of anyone who has taken the Pope’s side on Galatians 2:11 ff., we have indisputable proof that he most certainly used to know. Notice what Sungenis himself had to say about this very passage in a debate held in 1995:

In Galatians 2, as Mr. Zins pointed out, he says that Peter was upbraided by Paul for what Peter had done in perverting the Gospel, supposedly. Let me just give you some background on this issue.

Paul’s major concern in Acts 15:1 is that the Jews are commanding that the gentiles be circumcised before they come into the Church. That is his concern. That is also his concern in Galatians, chapter 2. We read that he didn’t want to circumcise Titus to give the Jews any space to say that, yes, we were falling back into the circumcision that we were denied.

That is the issue. Is that what Peter is doing in Galatians chapter 2? No, not at all. Paul accuses Peter of disfellowshiping with the Gentiles – a very minor infraction. Peter is not doing what Paul had accused him of. He is not perverting the Gospel. He is not circumcising anyone. Paul is over-reacting to Peter.
It is actually the very Paul who had decided to circumcise Timothy because he had an understanding of the Jews . He wanted to placate them. He circumcises Timothy so that it would be much smoother to approach the Jews.

Then he changes his mind in Galatians 2 and says that I didn’t circumcise Titus because I didn’t want to give any place to the Jews. Well, which is it, Paul? One or the other.

He does this both because Timothy is a Greek and Titus is a Greek. That’s the criterion that Paul uses.

Yes, Paul is over-reacting.

What is Paul’s address to? The Galatians, the Judaizers. These were the ones who were trying to circumcise Christians and say that they had to be circumcised – had to obey this law to become Christians.

When you read the rest of the Galatian epistle, that is his concern. As a matter of fact, he says “I wish they would circumcise their whole body…and leave me alone.”

His concern is not with Peter. Augustine says yes, Peter did have a moment of imprudence. But it wasn’t the destruction of the Gospel that we’re told that it is. (see link and link; emphasis added.)

Has Sungenis just innocently forgotten this information? Or is he simply suppressing evidence that does not suit his anti-Jewish agenda, as has too often been the case in the past?

Interestingly, his treatment here is actually far more exculpatory with respect to St. Peter’s actions than was even Pope Benedict XVI. Notice, too, that he knew perfectly well that St. Augustine, at least, called St. Peter’s action only a “moment of imprudence” and that it “wasn’t the destruction of the Gospel”. Now, however,he has completely reversed himself on the passage. In 1995 he understood that both Sts. Peter and Paul were in a difficult situation and that there were circumstances in which it was appropriate to “placate the Jews”. He stated that for St. Peter to disfellowship with the Gentiles was “a very minor infraction” and that ultimately “[St. Paul’s] concern is not with Peter” but only with Judaizers who insisted on circumcision. Now he insists that “Peter stands condemned for his hypocrisy and the passage offers him no defense” and that “Peter’s antithesis is not only wrong but it is akin to perverting the Gospel”.

To be fair, Sungenis is, of course, free to change his mind. But as another Catholic apologist has pointed out, the “non-traditional” interpretations of this passage are both his: one in 1995 in which he says that St. Paul’s “concern is not with Peter” and the other in 2008 in which he claims that “Peter stands condemned for his hypocrisy and the passage offers him no defense.” And he certainly is not free to condemn a Pope by recklessly and baselessly charging him with “exegetical blunders” - especially when his own approach to the passage has been both inconsistent and untraditional.

6. Sungenis claims that “opposite Pope Benedict’s claim, the Jews in Galatians 2:12-15 are not understood as ‘believers from Judaism.’ The text does not say whether they were believers. . . . the pope assumes the Jews had already accepted the Gospel, but there is no indication in the text that they had. Hence, the whole basis for the pope’s interpretation of the passage is built on an unproven foundation.”

This is a strange assertion from one who claims to be well versed in biblical exegesis. In fact every commentary we consulted (and it was a couple of dozen, from both Catholic and Protestant scholars) expressly saw the Jews at issue as “believers from Judaism”. St. Paul says that they were “from James” and they were pressing St. Peter on the behavior of Jewish Christians vis-à-vis the Law, which would indeed indicate that they were Jewish converts and not unconverted Jews.

Our survey is hardly complete, but it would be interesting to see just what prominent Catholic scholar Sungenis could bring to the table in support of his bare assertion that “the Jews in Galatians 2:12-15 are not understood as ‘believers from Judaism’”. If Sungenis is going to pit his assertion against the Holy Father’s well-supported view then he should back it up with some argumentation and some explanation as to why he is taking a view opposed to the sweep of Catholic and non-Catholic exegesis throughout history.

7. Sungenis claims that the Pope makes a “blunder” when comparing the context of Gal 2:11ff and Rom 14:1ff.

But not only do both Catholic and Protestant exegetes see exactly the same parallels as the Holy Father (see the quotes from the Navarre Bible commentary and F. F. Bruce above), Sungenis himself is hardly the one to be pointing out failures to consider context given his own whopping, elementary blunder with regard to the context of Romans 11:

R. Sungenis4: . . . After God abolished the Old Covenant in 33 AD and destroyed the Jews in 70 AD for their unbelief, a curious observer might ask: “Well, does that mean the Jews can no longer be saved?” The answer comes back, “No, God has not forsaken the Jews, for I Paul, a Jew from Benjamin, have been saved; and even in the OT God had a remnant of Jewish believers that he saved, even though most of the nation was in apostasy.” That is the context of Romans 11:1-8. ("CAI Answers Its Critics", emphasis added.)

Here we see that, according to Sungenis, an integral part of “the context of Romans 11:1-8” includes an event which took place at least twelve years after the chapter was written, indeed three years after St. Paul was dead! (Sungenis has repeated this error at least three times: in the Q&A cited above, in an article written for The Latin Mass Magazine, and in the CASB2 volume which was denied an imprimatur by Bishop Rhoades; see Endnote 1 for more details). As such, we believe that the Holy Father is safe in ignoring Sungenis’ analysis of the context of Romans 14 vis-à-vis Galatians 2.

8. What has really prompted Sungenis to write at such length and with such vigor against the Pope (and in doing, to contradict his previous position and to commit so many blunders himself)?

Anyone who has been following Sungenis’ work lately will readily guess the answer: Jews.

But even if the Jews in Galatians 2 were believers, shouldn’t they, all the more, be required to set aside their racial pride and accept Gentiles as neighbors, especially since Peter had befriended these Gentiles so as to win them over to the Gospel? Why does the pope give no consideration as to how the Gentiles will feel when they see Peter depart from them for no more than the Jews who think of themselves superior to Gentiles? Why is it, also, that Pope Benedict seems to have no qualms about scandalizing faithful Catholics by having an unconverted Jewish rabbi speak to the hundreds of bishops at the current Synod on Scripture, yet he allows for Peter to claim that the Jews would be scandalized by seeing Peter eat with Gentiles? I submit there is a double standard working here. It seems that the pope’s criterion in both cases is how the scene affects the Jews, not how it affects Gentiles.

Finally, Sungenis gets to the heart of his complaint. He is convinced that Pope Benedict is playing favorites - exonerating Jews and scandalizing Gentiles. This seems to be a common theme in Bob’s writing – sibling jealousy. He gratuitously asserts that the episode in Galatians 2:11ff. concerned Jewish “racial pride” and “Jews who think of themselves superior to Gentiles” (another common theme in Bob’s writings, of late.) But this is not correct. As Sungenis himself recognized back in 1995, there were two groups addressed by St. Paul in this epistle. There was an extreme “circumcision party” with whom St. Paul is occupied for the balance of the Epistle to the Galatians. But most Catholic exegetes do not equate this extreme group with those Jewish converts who “came from James” and convinced St. Peter to return to Jewish dietary practices.

Thus the specific issue between Sts. Peter and Paul wasn't truly a Jews/Gentiles matter in a "racial" sense. It was centered on religious practice, not racial identity. The issue facing the two Apostles was truly about differing views on tradition, about what was still binding and what was not. Some believed that more tradition was to be held onto, others thought less, at least for converts from Judaism. And in this specific dispute, no one—not even the most radical “circumcision party”—was arguing that Gentiles could not be admitted to the faith or that they were inferior once admitted.

The Holy Father’s address was not per se about Jews and Gentiles either. It was about freedom in Christ and charity toward weaker brethren. But just as he has any number of times (such as when he falsely accused Robin Williams of being a Jew after Williams unfairly attacked the priesthood- click here), it’s Bob who plays the race card. It’s Bob who sees the belief that the Jews are still “chosen” as a racist proposition (click here). It’s Bob who, in this latest writing, introduces the complete non sequitur of a Jewish rabbi addressing the conference of bishops (as if that had some connection to Gal 2:11ff.) We submit that it’s really Bob Sungenis who is behaving in a racist manner.

We believe that the evidence presented above confirms the claim made for the past two years at this blog, namely, that when discussing Jewish issues Robert Sungenis is demonstrably reckless and prejudiced. He is not the expert that he claims to be. And even in the area in which he claims greatest acumen, biblical exegesis, he sacrifices scholarly standards and commits elementary blunders in his zeal to thwart “the Jews” (see The Theology of Prejudice). This becomes especially egregious when he publicly and disrespectfully upbraids the Pope for alleged “blunders”, when in fact it is his own position that is incorrect on point after point.

The evidence remains clear that, on all matters Jewish, Bob’s work is little more than propaganda masquerading under the guise of authentic Catholic scholarship. And thus, Bishop Rhoades continues to be vindicated in directing him to refrain from using the name “Catholic” and from addressing Jewish issues entirely.


1: Sungenis has repeated this whopping error on at least three occasions. As documented above, he first wrote about it in a written dialogue with Art Sippo. He repeated the error in an article for The Latin Mass magazine in which he "reviewed" Roy Schoeman's book Salvation is From the Jews (see below). And he has included this same fundamental blunder in his CASB2 volume. There he writes:

Romans 11:25 must be interpreted within these specific parameters, but this is an easy task once one understands the context St. Paul has set up in Romans 11:1-4. As we noted earlier, the logical question one would ask after the Temple curtain was miraculously torn in two at the exact moment of Christ's death on the cross (Mt. 27:51), followed by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans, is: Do the Jews have any future with God at all? Can any of them be saved any longer? We saw above that the answer is 'yes', but it is a qualified 'yes,', since only a remnant will be saved...St. Paul obviously has no delusions of grandeur regarding Jewish conversions. He anticipates saving only a portion of the Jews (CASB2, p. 138; emphasis added).

The obvious question is how an event which would not take place until after St. Paul is dead could possible have factored into the writing of Romans 11. In our article "The Theology of Prejudice" we further document this elementary blunder on Bob's part. Here is the excerpt from that article dealing with this specific issue:

Bob’s personal Scriptural exegesis is the engine that drives his conclusions. And he sets out his own view of Romans 11 by giving the “context” of St. Paul’s remarks. This is very important because he falls into an elementary error and shows that his whole understanding of the chapter is characterized by a completely erroneous idea of what St. Paul is saying.

In his review of Roy Schoeman’s book Salvation is From the Jews in the Fall 2005 issue of The Latin Mass, Sungenis says,

The very reason Romans 11 was written is that, after God rejected and decimated the Jews in the first century, the question of whether any Jew could still be saved came to the fore, which is the very reason St. Paul opens the chapter with: “Has God foresaken the Jew?” (p. 54; emphasis added.)

The reader should be rubbing his eyes and reading that again. Does Bob actually mean what he says here? First, God “rejected . . . the Jews in the first century”? This is a plainly erroneous statement. Bob would not have had to go any further than verse 1 of Romans 11 to get the answer to that question: “God has not rejected His people, has He? By no means!” (Rom 11:1). St. Paul’s poses his question using the Greek particle , which means that it expects the answer No. And this answer he supplies himself in the very next sentence—the emphatically negative answer, mē genoito can be rendered in English as, “Absolutely not!”, “By no means!”, etc. So according to St. Paul, God had not rejected his people the Jews in the first century, whereas Sungenis said that He had. This is Bob’s first error. But the second is far worse.

Bob also asserts that God had “decimated” the Jews in the first century. Now it’s true that there was a great destruction of the Jewish nation in the first century. But when did this take place? In A.D. 70. And when was St. Paul executed? Around A.D. 66. And when was the Epistle to the Romans written? Scholars typically date it c. A.D. 56-58.

Incredibly, Bob would have his readers believe that St. Paul wrote Romans 11 in reaction to an event which would not occur for another 14 years. It may be worth rereading that last sentence.

This is, of course, a monumental error. Surely he can’t have made the elementary error of asserting that Romans 11 was written to answer a question that could only be raised by the destruction of the Jews in A.D. 70, right? Surely he would try to recast it by claiming that’s not what he meant by “decimated”, right? Wrong. He asserted this elsewhere, in an argument with Dr. Art Sippo, and made his monumental error explicit and undeniable:

R. Sungenis4: I personally don’t see what the difficulty is. The “gifts and call of God” that are “irrevocable” refers to the fact that God will never take away the possibility of salvation for the Jews, since he made an irrevocable promise to Abraham about their salvation.

Why would the salvation of the Jew be an issue that needed to be reiterated? Because Paul opens up the chapter by asking: “Has God forsaken the Jews?”

After God abolished the Old Covenant in 33 AD and destroyed the Jews in 70 AD for their unbelief, a curious observer might ask: “Well, does that mean the Jews can no longer be saved?” The answer comes back, “No, God has not forsaken the Jews, for I Paul, a Jew from Benjamin, have been saved; and even in the OT God had a remnant of Jewish believers that he saved, even though most of the nation was in apostasy.” That is the context of Romans 11:1-8. ("CAI Answers Its Critics", emphasis added.)

There it is in black and white. According to Sungenis, an integral part of “the context of Romans 11:1-8” includes an event which took place at least twelve years after the chapter was written, indeed three years after St. Paul was dead! It is hard to express the magnitude of this error without lapsing into ridicule. And this from a man who is constantly reminding everyone about his accomplishments and academic credentials:

I have spent the last 32 years in intensive study and writing about theology and religion. Additionally, my books have received the Catholic Church’s imprimatur; my articles have been published by over a dozen reputable journals and periodicals; I have written and hosted television programs for EWTN; I have been a guest commentator on CNN and the BBC; I have debated the best and brightest of opposing religions before live audiences, and I continue to be a sought after speaker. ("My Ph.D.", pp. 5-6).

This fundamental error clearly demonstrates what so many have been saying all along. Bob Sungenis is not competent to engage Jewish issues because his deep bias and—to say it plainly—bigotry clouds his judgment and renders his writings on the topic full of serious errors.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sungenis and E. Michael Jones Attracting White Supremacists

In past years, Bob Sungenis has been caught propagating material taken from the white supremacists at National Vanguard:

Sungenis Source Shut Down By Commonwealth of Virginia

Sungenis Dishonesty and Hypocrisy Over Racist National Vanguard Continues

Eventually, after sustained public pressure, Bob quietly removed the material he had copy-pasted from these white supremacists – albeit without retraction or apology. To this day, the most he has managed to say against them is that they are “believed to be extremist.” Believed to be? (Article)

And now, white supremacist groups (including one that Bob copy-pasted material from) are repaying the compliment by using and recommending material obtained from Bob and his mentor, E. Michael Jones (please note that if you have Internet filtering software you may need to disable it, since these sites are usually blocked as hate groups):

Stormfront Forum

Vanguard News Network Forum

Stormfront is “a white supremacist Internet forum that has been described as one of the earliest and longest continually published websites of any kind and the Internet's first major hate site. Stormfront was founded by former Ku Klux Klan member and white nationalist activist Don Black with the intention of creating a community around the white power movement…The board began to become popular with the exponential growth of the Internet in 1994 and 1995, according to owner Don Black, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and a member of the American Nazi Party in the 1970s. Black founded the website in April 1995 with the intention of providing a central meeting place for the white power movement.” (Wikipedia)

Vanguard News Network is “an antisemitic, white supremacist website launched in 2000. VNN is one of the most active white supremacist sites on the Internet…Its motto is "No Jews. Just Right." [Alex] Linder (the founder) echoes numerous Nazi sentiments, among them that "the thing to be done about [the Jews] is to kill them, exterminate them, get rid of them. You don't argue or reason with a cockroach; you step on it." (Wikipedia)

Recall, again, that Vanguard is the group that Bob contends is merely “believed to be extremist” with regard to the Jewish people. Now, interestingly, these white supremacists are finding Bob’s material at BTF useful for their own purposes. For example, they recently regurgitated the false quote of David Brooks that Bob posted at his Bellarmine Theological Forum (in his review of E. Michael Jones' latest book):

“In the wake of the new consensus, a new movement was born – Neo-conservatism, or as David Brooks candidly put it in the Wall Street Journal: ‘Neo means new and con means Jew’”

One can readily see why such a quote would be highly interesting to white supremacist groups. But click here for documentation that this “quote” is bogus.

In 2006, we wrote:

"[Sungenis] continues to evidence a propensity to uncritically seek out and accept unsavory, dubious and/or negatively biased information in regard to Jews and has drawn others with similar proclivities to his website." (Article)

In 2005, we wrote:

"We should reject either automatic, unequivocal approval or knee-jerk hostility and animosity toward the Jews and/or Israel. Unfortunately, I have seen both dressed up to appear as honest opinions formed by independent, objective scholarship and/or investigation when in reality it's just a matter of someone with a predisposition regurgitating back the work and opinion of a few others because those others are saying what that person already believes. In doing so, such individuals try to pass themselves off as authorities and experts. Then others pick up the same pseudo-research and scholarship and use it as well. Before long, a whole network of self-anointed "experts" and followers may find each other, really believing they have independently happened to reach the same conclusions." (Article)

Certainly, Bob has never advocated something so utterly revolting and evil as the murder of Jews. Nor has he called Jews “cockroaches.” However, he has referred to Jews as having "infected our Catholic Church" and has stated that they have been “excised” wherever they have gone because they “try to take over” and eventually “people get wise to it.” Recently he issued the ominous, provocative warning that "it's time for people to wake up and stop being corralled by the Jewish slave masters." (Article 1, Article 2)

As such, it is entirely unsurprising that white supremacists and other hate groups would find his anti-Jewish work (and the work of his mentor, E. Michael Jones) so attractive and useful. Does this anti-Jewish polemic, which has become the very core of Bob’s organization BTF, really advance the work of the Catholic Church to bring all men, both Jew and Gentile, to salvation in Christ? Hardly. One hopes and prays that Bob will genuinely and forthrightly retract and apologize for his anti-Jewish bigotry and submit to the wise and prudent direction of his bishop.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Open Invitation to Bob Sungenis

A few months ago, Bob Sungenis stated that he had “publically
disavowed" and "apologized for” his problematic statements about the Jewish people. And Fr. Brian Harrison has just recently claimed that Bob has truly apologized for and retracted at least a good many of his statements about Jews. However, as has been documented
here and here (see “disavow”), these claims are not accurate. Additionally, Bob has previously made statements that initially appear to be authentic apologies and retractions only to then reverse himself. In the past, he has stated that his apologies have been “misunderstood.” He has stated that he “stands by” all of the material he posted. He has also blamed his critics for "forcing" him to go back on his partial-apologies and promises.

As such, we would like to give Bob an opportunity to make the record clear. He stated the following to Michael Forrest:

“I am not coming to you asking you to remove your website [RSATJ] as if I have relinquished these beliefs about the Jewish people…I am coming to you saying that I am no longer advertising them, and you should reciprocate by taking down your website that rebuts them. If you don't take it down, then you will force me to take the appropriate counter-action. For instance, I will resume putting up Jewish articles on my site and I will revise and expand each one of them . . . As to the retraction in 2002, yes, I did it for "peace," because I still believed most of the things I wrote…Neither you nor anyone else is going to get me to change my mind about the Jews, Israel, Judaism and even Roy Schoeman. “ (e-mail of 6 Aug 2007).

And in 2008 at his Bellarmine Forum, Bob confirmed that he still holds to some of the views expressed below. He has also made new problematic statements since his January 2008 promise to stop attacking Jews (

As Bob has made the following statements publicly, we believe it is likewise incumbent upon him to indicate clearly and publicly which statements he retracts and apologizes for and which ones he does not. Certainly, some of the following sentiments and statements are considerably more problematic than others. However, taken as a whole, these statements and sentiments convey something significant as well.

Again, as there has been some confusion regarding previous “apologies” and “retractions”, two clarifications are in order:

A) In the past, Sungenis has apologized only for “upsetting” people or for the sake of “peace.” We are asking Sungenis specifically if he apologizes for each statement below because he acknowledges that it was inappropriate, dubious and/or erroneous and therefore should not have been made.

B) Sungenis has also inaccurately used the words “retract” and “disavow” in the past (scroll down to “
disavow” ). As such, for the purposes of this open invitation, we will be following the standard definition of “retract.”

Retract: to revoke a statement or opinion as inaccurate or unjustified.

For each quote below, all Bob need do is state whether he retracts it or not and whether he apologizes for it or not. If Bob retracts and apologizes for
all of the statements he made below, he may simply state that, rather than responding to each individual quote.

We sincerely hope Bob decides to make clear where he stands. Additionally, we will gladly remove the material presently at this blog and at the SATJ website if Bob forthrightly retracts and apologizes for the statements made below (click
here to view new, problematic material posted at BTF).

Sungenis’ Statements:

1) “It’s time for people to wake up and stop being corralled by the Jewish slave masters.” (May 2008)

2) “How is it that the Jews have garnered such a market on suffering that Bishop Rhoades finds it necessary to pay homage to them? Is it because they own the mortgages on the Catholic buildings erected in his and other dioceses?” (May 2008)

3) "the Jewish element has so infected our Catholic Church today that they have turned Catholics into Jewish apologists. The infection of Judaism and Zionism has become the number one enemy for us."

4) "it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that six million Jews were killed in Nazi internment camps." (Oct. 2009)

5) “I suggest you read the unsanitized accounts of what really happened [in the Holocaust]. When the Jews and Jewish sympathizers start showing proof that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews by gassing them, instead of jailing people for even bringing up the question, then you can talk about the Nazis and I’ll listen.” (Sept. 2009)

6) “The Red Cross documents in verifiable records at anyone’s disposal that there were only a few hundred thousand Jews who lost their lives in the German camps, and most of those were due to disease.” (Sept. 2009) (Click here to see a refutation of this claim often made by Holocaust deniers and "revisionists".)

7) "One example of this evidence is the fact that the worldwide Jewish population from 1940 to 1948 did not decrease by even a half million, much less six million....But the international population records show that the numbers of Jews after World War II were virtually the same as before the war." (Oct. 2009) (Click here to see a refutation of this claim often made by Holocaust deniers and "revisionists".)

8) "The documented records of the International Red Cross show that there were less than a few hundred thousand Jews who died in Nazi camps, and that most of those were from disease." (Oct. 2009) (Click here to see a refutation of this claim often made by Holocaust deniers and "revisionists". According to the International Committee of the Red Cross itself, this is not what these records "show.")

9) “The charge of 'anti-Semitism' is nothing but a clever ploy…
Albert Einstein finally recognized after dealing with his own people: 

 'Anti-Semitism is nothing but the antagonistic attitude produced in the non-Jew by the Jewish group. The Jewish group has thrived on oppression and on the antagonism it has forever met in the world…the root cause is their use of enemies they create to keep solidarity.'” (Click
here for the facts about this fraudulent quote that Bob attributed to Einstein).

10) “it is no secret to the well-informed that it is the goal of world politics and finance, 
which is run in large part by wealthy Jews behind the scenes, to secure the Middle East for Israel.”

11) “Other Catholic organizations are also becoming fronts for Zionism. Catholic Answers in San Diego and the Eternal World Television Network seem to be the two mainstays.”

12) “I have my doubts that it was 6 million [Jews killed in the Holocaust], but even if it was 1 million, still, the point remains that they were a marked race by the Nazis. 
Hitler hated the Jews, not only for what he saw as a youth, but because the Jews had a stranglehold on European finance and banking for many years. 
 There are some stories, however, that suggest these Jewish banking familes actually helped Hitler in his quest, since their objective was to ellicit world-
wide sympathy so as to migrate European and Russian Jews to Palestine, their long-sought goal which they have, indeed, accomplished.”

13) "the figure of six million Jews dying under Hitler's regime is even admitted by informed Jews to be mere propaganda."

14) “A telltale sign in the movie industry of the shift in mores was demonstrated no better than in the Walt Disney Corporation. Founder Walter Disney was well-known in the 50s and 60s 
for wholesome family entertainment. Interestingly enough, Walt had a policy of not hiring Jewish people.”

15) “We also know through the exhaustive effort of Michael Collins Piper’s new 738- page book, Final Judgment, how Bronfman (note: a Jew) is implicated in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The story begins when Kennedy refused to capitulate to Israel’s demand for nuclear weapons, and you can probably guess the rest of the story.”

16) “President Roosevelt had a part in (the Zionist conspiracy) himself. Being of Jewish ancestry, he was sympathetic to their cause...Roosevelt brought America into World War II by allowing Pearl Harbor to take place, for he had known way in advance that the Japanese were planning to attack.”

17) “Christianity is certainly not inherently violent, but unfortunately, 
Judaism tends to be, because real Judaism considers all non-Jews goyim that are less than animals, and this precipitates a loathing and violence against non-Jews.”

18) "The intend to rule the world. And now the problem is that they want to rule the Catholic Church, too."

19) "Are the Protocols (of the Elders of Zion) forged? I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a lot of reason to believe that there are certain people, yes, the Jews, who would like us all to believe that they are forged."

20) "as long as [my critics] hold to the Jewish racist heresies of Roy Schoeman and 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."

21) "You know, the thing about Bill Clinton was, you know, he tried to secure this peace accord between Israel and the Arabs and wasn't successful with that, and he did some other things that the Jews didn't like, because he got some power under him and he thought he could, you know, do whatever he wanted and then they, you know, they sent Monica Lewinski in there after him, you know, and brought him down."

22) "The Jews are godless and getting more ungodly with each passing day."

23) “I am merely doing the same thing Jesus did when he confronted the sins of the Jews…Unfortunately, the Jews haven’t 
changed in our day. They are still the same godless racists they were in Jesus’ day. Few of them have repented of their sins.”

24) “The nation of Israel has control of AMDOCS, the central telephone operation in the United States. It's one way the Mossad spies on American citizens, including you and those you talk to."

25) “Do I need to say more? I have the whole history of Catholicism behind me, and these Fathers, Doctors, Saints and the God-Man himself said much worse things about the Jews than I ever have. What is really happening today folks is that we have been taken over by Jewish propaganda, and there are a few Catholic/Jewish
 ideologues…Many of them are paid handsomely by Zionist groups to say whatever they can to silence people like me. They are bent on promoting the godless state of Israel for some pie-in-the-sky dream they have, even against their own Catholic religion (at least that’s the religion they claim to have), and they will smear anyone who gets in their way. 
 The Jews have done this for centuries against good people, and it continues today.”

26) "95% of the Jews today still despise Jesus Christ.”

27) "The whole tenor of the New Testament is that God is finally rejecting the Jews (except for a remnant)...God is giving up on the Jews. In the language of John 6:44, God is no longer going to draw them to Jesus.
 In fact, God will become active in keeping them in unbelief by blinding 
them to the truth (Romans 11:8). That is the kind of God we have; a 
very dynamic God...and the Jews will die in their unbelief."

28) “when (Jews) come into power…they can be some of the 
most ruthless people on the face of the earth."

29) " Jones,...makes an indelible impression upon our minds as he adds two millennia of documented facts and figures onto St. Paul's final and sobering assessment of the Jews: 'the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us; they do not please God, and are opposed to everyone, trying to prevent us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved, thus constantly filling up the measure of their sins' (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16)....All his facts and figures are for the purpose of showing us that St. John's label of godless Jews as the 'synagogue of Satan,' the spirit of Antichrist, is not only alive and well today but has almost completely overwhelmed our modern society, thus serving as a public omen to the world that the Apocalypse has, indeed, come upon us, in full and furious force"

30) "...I tell you, with the rest of the voice from the tradition of the Church, that the Jews will seek to take over and/or thoroughly weaken the Catholic religion, and perhaps someday be strong enough to place one of their own as its leader."

31) "every place that [the Jews] have been throughout history, they have been excised. Because they do the same thing every time they go in there, they try to take over places that they go to! And every time they do, people get wise to it, just like we're doing now, and they get themselves into trouble. And then they wonder why they're so persecuted, and vagabonds across the face of the earth for the last 2,000 years -- well, this is why!"

32) “I suggest you stop blaming it on the nation who excised [the Jews] and start looking at what the Jewish people do to get themselves excised…go read the Old Testament and find out who you are dealing with.” (Sept. 2009)

33) “As for Germany’s relationship with the Jews, well, the Germans treated the Jews very nicely when the Jews were excised out of Russia and migrated to Germany. Then the Jews turned on the Germans because they got a better deal from someone else.” (Sept. 2009)

34) “Whether [David Palm, Michael Forrest and Jacob Michael] have ethnic ties to the Jews, I don’t know, but I suspect that one or more of them do but they are not admitting it.”

35) “Go read the newspapers. There’s enough damning information about the Jewish influence and incursion into the Catholic Church just in the last two years to show I’m on the right track. The real problem is that there isn’t one courageous Catholic apologist in America that is willing to take on the Jews. They are all too worried about their careers and making friends rather than the truth of what is really occurring in our land…They are just upset that Robert Sungenis won’t play their game. Wonderful. I’m glad they are upset. That shows me I’m doing the right thing.” (Sept. 2009)

36) "And, once and for all, I suggest my critics start listening to what I am saying about the
anti-Christ, anti-Catholic and anti-Christian influence that various Jewish organizations are having on us, including but not limited to.. the Association of Hebrew Catholics (e.g., David Moss, Roy Schoeman, etc.), and any other such organization that puts Jewish political, religious and social interests above those of the Catholic faith and the rest of the world."

37) "In fact, Schoeman holds that those who say that the state of Israel is merely a man-made political movement that has nothing to do with Old Testament prophecy is 'of the antichrist.'"

38) About a year and a half ago, Sungenis publicly claimed that Roy Schoeman wrote the following statement:

“Unfortunately, I would say tragically, the Jews who are converting are not by and large finding their way to the Catholic Church- the conversion is largely coming from Protestant circles, notably those associated with Messianic Judaism. I believe this is due in large part to the Catholic Church having dropped the ball by eliminating all the Jewish festivals from Pesach to Sukkhot. As a result, when through the workings of Grace Jews are opened up to the truth of Jesus, rather than finding their way to the one true Church, they get scooped up by our separated brethren, who have generally adopted a more open and receptive attitude toward celebrating Jewish festivals.”

here for the facts about this fraudulent quote.)

39) In regard to Bishop Rhoades:

a) Sungenis has publicly accused Bishop Rhoades of holding to a false doctrine (which Sungenis also called a “heresy”). This false doctrine is commonly referred to as the “Dual Covenant” error, which posits that the Jewish people possess their own, salvific covenant with God.

b) Sungenis publicly claimed that Bishop Rhoades is “attempting to propagate” this error to “unsuspecting Catholics”.

c) Sungenis publicly claimed that Bishop Rhoades possesses greater “allegiances” to Jewish interests than to the Catholic faith.

d) Sungenis publicly claimed that Bishop Rhoades is attempting to stop him from exposing and refuting this doctrinal error.

40) "The bishop and the vicar general of my diocese are teaching heretical doctrines to the priests under their care...and refusing to do anything to remedy the situation....[Bishop Rhoades] and his vicar general tried to force me to adopt their heresy and I refused." (Sept. 2009)

(View the following articles that refute Bob's false accusations about Bishop Rhoades: Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Theory, By Sungenis Alone, Bishop Rhoades Sets the Record Straight.)

All of the above statements attributed to Sungenis have been verified. Links to each statement may be found at and

U.S. Catechism for Adults Revised

The positive change on page 131 of the USCCA affirms the efforts of many good, knowledgeable, orthodox Catholics who have been in touch with their bishops for some time about this particular issue. We're especially appreciative of those who did so without opting to make a public spectacle of themselves or positioning themselves as judges, juries, and enemies of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Such people deserve credit for following the letter and spirit of canon law:

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Unfortunately, a few Catholics grossly distort the plain meaning of this passage by exaggerating the references to “rights” while simultaneously glossing over the references to “responsibilities.” It seems that such individuals can conceive of only one manner in which to express concern or disagreement: public condemnation and outrage. And for such individuals, anything short of condemnation and outrage apparently makes others guilty of “complicity,” “heresy,” or whatever other charge seems most provocative. (Click here for a related discussion.) For instance, some months ago (Feb 2008), in a fury over this sentence in the USCCA, Robert Sungenis wrote:

…Catholic universities may be following the lead of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who recently published these provocative words in its United States Catholic Catechism for Adults: ‘Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.’… This is an unprecedented move, but it is not surprising. More and more the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has shown itself to be a predominately liberal institution…Where there should be absolute outrage from the USCCB…there is little more than complacency…the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is fast becoming a mouthpiece for modern dissidence and liberalism in American Catholicism. (The Old Covenant, pp. 6-7)


“I later found out that Rhoades was in league with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on this issue…I knew…the erroneous theology…Rhoades and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops were attempting to propagate to unsuspecting Catholics” (ibid, p. 11).

Interestingly, this supposed “mouthpiece” that Sungenis “knew” was so determined to spread “judaizing” errors to “unsuspecting Catholics” moved - by a nearly unanimous vote - to make this positive, helpful change in the service of orthodoxy.

One wonders if Sungenis still considers Bishop Rhoades to be “in league with the USCCB”, now that the U.S. bishops have taken this positive step (and we have reliable information confirming that Bishop Rhoades voted for the change as well). Sadly, in his newest article, Sungenis has chosen to continue propagating falsehoods about Bishop Rhoades. For example, Sungenis is still peddling the baseless, defamatory accusation that he was denied an imprimatur on CASB2 because Bishop Rhoades believes the dual covenant error. He continues to base his case in part on the fact that Bishop Rhoades referred to page 131 of U.S. Catechism for Adults in the denial. We have already documented in detail why Sungenis’ claims are baseless: here and here.

We hope and pray that individuals who have been particularly condemnatory of the U.S. bishops as a whole (and even their own bishop) on this specific issue - such as publicly accusing them of intentionally spreading error to their “unsuspecting” flock - will apologize for and retract the calumny and perhaps even send along a note of appreciation. Sadly, while Sungenis has at least expressed appreciation for the change, he has refused to apologize for and retract his calumnies, opting instead to float another baseless (and erroneous) theory about the bishops’ possible fear of voting openly for it (More Confusion on Page 131, p. 5).

Last, it bears repeating that the reasons Sungenis has been criticized by his bishop and so many others in regard to “Jewish issues” have been laid out in detail many times. These reasons have nothing to do with the need to address this one sentence in the USCCA. It is erroneous to claim otherwise. Rather, the controversy is about Sungenis’ numerous prejudiced and inflammatory statements against the Jewish people, extending over a period of more than six years:

Deo gratias, the U.S. bishops have resolved this issue. Let’s all pray for them as they continue to grapple with so many other serious issues that demand their attention.

Fr. Harrison and RSATJ

Recently, Fr. Brian Harrison wrote a 16 page paper in defense of Bob Sungenis. In it, he refrained from substantively addressing the core issues involved. Instead, he chose to make a narrowly crafted, technical canonical argument in support of Bob while leveling blanket condemnations and attempting to divine the motives of Sungenis’ critics – singling out the principals of this blog for his most vehement denunciations.

However, the public record remains completely clear as it pertains to Robert Sungenis’ views of the Jewish people. As was stated and documented two years ago: 1) Sungenis suffers from a significant, personal prejudice against the Jewish people that extends even into theological matters, 2) he has illegitimately used the title “Catholic” in spreading his personal agenda, 3) he is not the expert he has long pretended to be on Jewish-related issues, 4) he has often made use of (and even plagiarized) extremely problematic, objectionable sources in communicating his views of the Jewish people, 5) he has regularly defamed anyone who publicly criticizes him on Jewish issues and 6) he has been and continues to be committed to spreading his prejudiced, anti-Jewish agenda, even now (article).

Father Harrison complains: “In short, the members of this group now make no serious attempt to be even-handed or ‘dialogical’ in criticizing Dr. Sungenis. Instead – perhaps spurred on by frustration at their inability to silence him after years of merciless and unrelenting effort – they are unabashedly one-sided.” (page 2)

As Fr. Harrison presumably believes his own article to be “even handed” and “dialogical”, it is difficult to take such criticism of our documentation seriously. The most Fr. Harrison could bring himself to say in criticism of Bob is that his publicly professed views of the Jewish people (which may be viewed here and here ) are “at worst, merely exaggerated or immoderate” while simultaneously (and indiscriminately) disparaging Bob’s critics as “persecutors,” “cyber-vigilantes,” “Sungenis baiters” and over a dozen other such strong, unequivocal condemnations. Additionally, we find it unfortunate that Fr. Harrison has chosen to frame matters in terms of “enemies.” We’ve never seen it that way.

A brief comment made by Rosemarie Scott at Mark Shea’s blog in reaction to Fr. Harrison’ article concisely sums up several aspects of the situation:

Never mind the fact that repeated "even-handed" attempts to "dialogue" with him during the past (nearly) six years have all failed.

Funny how Fr. Harrison starts out talking about Internet calumny, then proceeds to basically calumniate those who have tried to counter Sungenis' extremism as "merciless and unrelenting." …

I stand by my statement that saying that those who counter Sungenis' extremism made a "merciless and unrelenting effort" is false.

His critics have "relented" on a number of occasions, such as when they tried to broker a deal with him through Ben Douglass in late 2006. They went for a while without talking about him when it looked like he would make a deal, and only began again when it fell through.
 Then, in August of last year, when Sungenis' bishop told him to cease and desist and it seemed Sungenis would comply, the people at the RSATJ blog refrained from commenting further on the issue for six whole months (that's unrelenting?). Only after Sungenis began attacking his bishop in February of this year did they start commenting again. Even so, the last post on that blog, as of today, is from May 19, 2008 - nearly two months ago.
 Unrelenting??? C'mon.


Sungenis has been given ample opportunity to repent, and the critics went silent whenever it looked like he might repent.

Maybe Fr. Harrison is just not well-informed about this whole, long, drawnout matter. Perhaps that explains his highly negative portrayal of Sungenis' critics which simply does not jibe with the facts…”
 (link to comment)

Below, a few additional, brief comments are offered:

- Contrary to Fr. Harrison’s claim, Bob has not genuinely apologized for and retracted his offensive statements about the Jewish people, nor has he refrained from engaging additional such attacks (evidence 1 , evidence 2 and evidence 3).

- Contrary to Fr. Harrison’s claims, neither Jacob Michael, David Palm nor Michael Forrest (RSATJ) have ever called for Bob to “be completely isolated and brought down to absolute rock-bottom – to nothing!” We don’t know who supposedly expressed this view, but it was not one of us and we disagree with it. Additionally, Fr. Harrison leveled a few other charges while at least giving the false impression that the principals of this blog were involved – the most notable example is the implication that we had something to do with the cancellation of a speaking engagement by E. Michael Jones. For the record, very little communication has occurred between Fr. Harrison and the principals of this blog in regard to Bob. And, in fact, he has never communicated in any way with Michael Forrest at all.

- Contrary to Fr. Harrison’s claim, we do not believe that “any explicit and critical mention of influential Jews or Jewish trends in any sphere of activity is to be immediately exposed, condemned and ruthlessly stamped out with the insinuation that it is a step along the road toward a new Auschwitz” and have stated this openly on multiple occasions (for example: read #3 under “I do not intend to:”, David Palm’s “foreword” and this article). In fact, we have written articles that contained criticisms of Judaism, individual Jews and/or Jewish organizations. But we have written them without demonizing or broad-brushing the Jewish people, using fraudulent quotes or making use of racist sources.

- Contrary to Fr. Harrison’s claim, we did not “[know] full well that neither Bishop Rhoades nor any other church authority had declared any penalty whatsoever against him. Dr. Sungenis was not even under an interdict or any similar lesser penalty…” (p. 7). The fact is, Bob himself explicitly claimed to have been under “interdict”:

Sungenis to Edgar Suter: “The fact is that I was under an interdict from my bishop. I had no choice unless I decided to directly disobey him.” (email of Aug 5, 2007, emphasis added). 1

While Fr. Harrison tried to dismiss Bob's public claim to have been "ordered" as merely "a little word that needlessly handed to his enemies on a platter a seemingly powerful, but in fact phony, piece of ammunition" (p. 9), it is not so easy to slough off Bob's use of such a specific, canonical term as "interdict." Additionally, it seems a particularly strange defense to ridicule Bob's own description of matters with his diocese as "phony" and then blame others for believing him.

Below, the reader will find important statements Bob made to Michael Forrest on the very next day after he made the statement above to Edgar Suter about “having no choice” and being “under an interdict.”

Sungenis to Forrest: “I specifically stated in my recent posting that Bishop Rhoades did not conclude that I had to remove all the Jewish material from my website… As I specified in the above posting, I voluntarily took down the material…Why is it that you went against what my bishop concluded by claiming that the bishop demanded I remove the material, when, in fact, I stated that he did not do so?”

“[The bishop] only asked that I would be more careful in my writing on the Jews…there is nothing more he requested.”
(Email of Aug 6, 2007)

Clearly, it was Bob who “knew full well” that he was not being honest. 2

- We have never criticized Bob for expressing concerns about the sentence on page 131 of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults that the United States bishops recently replaced (see can. 212). We are pleased with the improvement and appreciate his desire to help effect positive change. However, we have strenuously objected to the manner in which he chose to express his concerns. Persistence and assertiveness are one thing, but impugning his bishop and the rest of the U.S. Bishops by accusing them of intentionally teaching error to “unsuspecting Catholics” is quite another (click here).

We maintain that Bob Sungenis has become a grossly irresponsible and dishonest apologist who should be avoided, specifically in matters pertaining to the Jewish people. Furthermore, he has behaved in a defamatory and defiant manner against his bishop. Additionally, Ben Douglass has recently published a rebuttal to Fr. Harrison's claim that, because Bob is not under the formal canonical penalty of excommunication, we were wrong to apply Matthew 18:17 to him (click here).

In closing, we understand that Fr. Harrison is a good friend of Bob’s, having “virtually traveled the world” with him and that they “see eye to eye on almost everything” (article). And we understand the well-intentioned role he has chosen to take up for Bob because we have each played that role for Bob to an extent in the past as well. Additionally, we respect and appreciate the many praiseworthy things Fr. Harrison has done in service of the Church. But his article is misguided and ill-informed.

We pray that Fr. Harrison eventually uses his influence to truly help Bob get back on the right track. Unfortunately, at least as matters stand now, Father Harrison is merely the latest in a long line of devoted, well-meaning friends who - in spite of very different intentions - have ultimately only served as enablers of Bob’s prejudice, distrustfulness, dishonesty, anger and self-centeredness.

It is no charity to enable Bob to believe the delusion that he is the victim of unjust “persecution” by Catholics who are under the control of the “Jewish slave masters” and by a bishop who is paying “homage” to Jews “because they own the mortgages on the Catholic buildings erected in his and other dioceses” – as Bob so recently opined (p. 10) .

We hope and pray that Fr. Harrison manifests the same kind of praiseworthy concern for those whom Bob has harmed, confused and scandalized as he does for Bob himself.



1 Suter inexplicably sent the email that included this quote to a large number of Bob’s critics, including the principals of RSATJ.

2 We have struggled to come up with a good reason why a person would falsely (and explicitly) claim to be under such a specific penalty. We can only offer an educated guess. (And of course, this all assumes that the latest story put out by Bob through Fr. Harrison is finally the truth.) Perhaps in making it appear as though he was forced to comply, Bob was trying to save face with his extremist, anti-Semitic friends and colleagues like Edgar Suter and Michael Hoffman II - the latter who publicly ridiculed Bob for what he deemed to be Bob’s craven acquiescence to his “fag bishop” (click here). Regardless of the exact reason, it is important to note that this is the way Bob was addressing one segment of his constituency, while for the sake of public relations with all those more mainstream Catholics he had alienated with his anti-Jewish extremism, he was portraying himself as a humble son of the Church who felt that it was a “privilege” to be under the “wise and caring” direction of men like Bishop Rhoades, who acts in “God’s stead” (click here).