Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Slandering the Bishop, Again

Robert Sungenis has once again slandered his bishop, publicly charging him with holding a heresy. He has done this even in the face of explicit testimony from Bishop Rhoades which, had it been uttered by anybody else, would have been more than enough to clear him from suspicion in Sungenis' mind (see By Sungenis Alone: Double Standards).

Then, in a move exactly paralleling Bob's first public slander against his bishop (which occurred in early July, 2007, just five days after Bishop Rhoades had told Sungenis to cease and desist in writing about Jewish issues; see the story here), Sungenis has quietly revised the original accusations, with no forthcoming apologies or retractions. His original charge against Bishop Rhoades read as follows:

What about the war Rhoades [sic] is having with Catholic doctrine, Mr. Shea? Oh, I'm sorry. Mr. Shea doesn't regard it as a departure from Catholic doctrine because he believes the same heresy that Bishop Rhoades believes – that the Jewish Old Covenant isn't revoked. How silly of me to forget. (As of 14 May 2008 this original version was cached by Google and is available for viewing here.)

In the face of this renewed charge of heresy against a bishop of the Catholic Church, let's review the facts once again. First, Bishop Rhoades is not on trial here. And certainly he is not answerable to a demonstrably sloppy, bigoted researcher with an illegitimate doctorate (see here and here).

Second, after reading what Sungenis wrote in The Old Covenant, Revoked or Not Revoked, His Excellency called Sungenis' statements about him "slanderous and erroneous." Therefore, he expressly denied believing what Sungenis ascribed to him in that article about the dual covenant error. As such, in order to believe Sungenis now, one is forced to believe that Bishop Rhoades was intentionally lying in that express denial. And if Bishop Rhoades was willing to intentionally lie simply in order to avoid being "outted" by Sungenis as a dual-covenant adherent, then what would stop him from continuing to lie about it in order to satisfy and shut Sungenis up in regard to his new demands? As such, Sungenis' demand for additional answers is completely disingenuous. He has already implicitly accused Bishop Rhoades of being a liar. Of course, the very idea that Bishop Rhoades would be willing to lie simply out of fear of being outted by Sungenis is totally preposterous. Only someone with an ego the size of Sungenis' would believe such a thing.

Third and most importantly, Sungenis simply does not have evidence of any heresy. He does not base his charge of heresy against his bishop on any public writings or statements from Bishop Rhoades. The closest we come to an actual quote is Bob's claim that, "the bishop of my diocese, Kevin C. Rhoades, denied an imprimatur to my book The Apocalypse of St. John and cited page 131 as one of his proofs that my book, amazingly enough, because it called for the conversion of the Jews and held them responsible for their historic disbelief in Christ, had a ‘lack of adherence to authoritative Church teaching on Judaism.’" Rather than base his "case" on anything that Bishop Rhoades has actually said or written on this subject, Sungenis chooses rather to publicly charge a bishop with heresy for the following reasons:

1. Bishop Rhoades denied an imprimatur for Sungenis’s CASB2 volume and didn’t want to discuss it any further with him. This apparently makes His Excellency eminently suspect of heresy now in Sungenis' eyes. (Conversely, we think it makes him suspect of possessing wisdom and discernment.) Although, in typical Sungenis fashion, when he thought perhaps that Bishop Rhoades might still be of some use to him, he wrote the following more reasonable response in reaction to His Excellency’s unwillingness to discuss the imprimatur any further:

Since Bishop Rhoades didn’t give us that opportunity (and that is his prerogative as a bishop according to Canon Law), we could easily go elsewhere as he himself instructed us to do. (from Sungenis, Jacob Michael, the Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign, p. 1, no longer on-line; emphasis added)

Of course, at the end of July, 2007, roughly eight months after having been denied this imprimatur by Bishop Rhoades, Sungenis also made the following glowing comments about Bishop Rhoades and his Vicar General:

"I take their wisdom and counsel with the utmost seriousness and consider their direction as if it was from God himself. I consider it an honor not only to be a member of the Catholic Church but also to be under the vigilance of such wise and caring pastors. In short, I consider it a privilege to obey them."

"If in the future we write any new material on the Jews, it will always be with the required due diligence, as if the bishop were present with us. Since he acts in God’s stead, we will do our utmost to please him so as to preserve the peace and tranquility he so desires to maintain in the body of Christ."

"With the deepest appreciation to my bishop, the Very Reverend Kevin Rhoades, his vicar general, the Very Reverend William King, the Reverend James Massa and the USCCB…”

CAI and Its Teaching on the Jews

Fortunately, as the result of a letter Sungenis wrote to a friend and patron, we know why he suddenly changed his tune:

The Real Reason Sungenis Turned on Bishop Rhoades

Sungenis’ more recent self-serving spin on the denial of the imprimatur is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that we have pointed to many details of the text of CASB2 that make the denial of an imprimatur for that work not only plausible, but the entirely proper thing for Bishop Rhoades to do, especially when these details are all taken together: See CASB2's Missing Imprimatur: The Real Reason the Bishop Said "No"? and The Theology of Prejudice (our examination was far from exhaustive.)

(It is interesting to note that, totally independent of our analysis and before the actual denial of the imprimatur on CASB2 broke into the public, Dr. Art Sippo commented on the Envoy discussion forum that from what he had read in CASB2, he didn't think it would receive an imprimatur. He proved to be prescient on the matter.)

2. Sungenis claims, without providing any evidence, that Bishop Rhoades is a protégé of his "mentor" William Cardinal Keeler and asserts—again, without citing any evidence—that, "It appears that he and Keeler are on the same wavelength when it comes to reinterpreting Catholic doctrine to accommodate the Jews." He has also erroneously claimed that Cardinal Keeler actually ordained Bishop Rhoades (a small detail, perhaps, but we think that if you are going to accuse a Catholic bishop of heresy, you had better have your facts straight.)

This illegitimate attempt at guilt by association has been thoroughly rebutted in our articles, Bishop Rhoades Sets The Record Straight and By Sungenis Alone: Bishop Rhoades and the Cardinal Keeler/RCM (non)Connection.

3. Sungenis is emphatic now that Fr. King, the vicar general of the Diocese of Harrisburg, stated that "We don't believe in supersessionism any longer."

Once again, this is an illegitimate attempt at guilt by association as the "statement" was allegedly made by Fr. King and not Bishop Rhoades. But perhaps just as importantly, the first time that Sungenis cited this "quotation" from Fr. King, he qualified it by saying that it was perhaps only “to the effect that”, "as Catholics, 'we don't believe in supersessionism any longer.'" Since Sungenis has before admitted the weakness of his own memory when it comes to remembering such details and has struggled to use quotation marks appropriately, it is highly significant that even he would qualify his assertion about Fr. King's alleged statement in this manner. Now, however, he is dishonestly citing this statement as though he is absolutely certain that these were the exact words of Fr. King.

And as we have already pointed out, even if Fr. King did indeed say exactly what Sungenis claims, we still would need to know what he means by "supersessionism". It is not as if the term "supersessionism" has a fixed, Catholic definition. In fact, we have seen no evidence of this term appearing in any Catholic dictionary, encyclopedia, catechism or any other authoritative source. If he was addressing this term in the way that Sungenis appears define it—namely that there is no special place whatsoever for ethnic Israel in salvation history after the coming of Jesus Christ—then it is perfectly acceptable to say that we, as Catholics, do not believe that. This supposedly damning, alleged quote is completely useless in supporting Sungenis' charge of heresy against Bishop Rhoades. See the linked section in Bishop Rhoades Sets the Record Straight for additional evidence that Sungenis is not being honest.

4. Even though Bishop Rhoades explicitly stated that, "It is not correct to speak of two independent covenants in effect today, one for Jews and one for Gentiles, since Jesus is the only Savior who continues His saving work in the Church and by means of the Church, His Body. There is only one salvific economy" and "I believe that the Church is called to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples, including the Jewish people", according to Sungenis this "proves nothing." Furthermore, according to Sungenis' standards, His Excellency is not only to be suspected of holding to a heretical dual covenant position, he may be explicitly, unequivocally and publicly charged with holding this heresy by the likes of Robert Sungenis.

5. In this latest piece, Sungenis moves from the outrageous to the completely offensive and absurd. Now he wonders whether perhaps the key to Bishop Rhoades' supposed defection from the faith is, "because [the Jews] own the mortgages on the Catholic buildings erected in his and other dioceses?" (Mark Shea Attacks Review of Jones' Book: Our Response to Shea, p. 9 as of 05/13/2008.)

The bottom line, according to Sungenis (who insists that he's not obsessed with Jews) is that, "It's time for people to wake up and stop being corralled by the Jewish slave masters" (ibid. p. 10).

Now, apparently somebody associated with CAI-BTF is willing to wink at this sort of disturbed behavior and, operating as Bob's severely impaired conscience, has convinced him at least to tone down the public charge of heresy against a successor of the Apostles. As of 05/13/2008 the revised text now reads:

What about the war Rhoades [sic] is apparently still having with Catholic doctrine, Mr. Shea? Oh, I'm sorry. Mr. Shea doesn't regard it as a departure from Catholic doctrine because he believes the same heresy that Bishop Rhoades has not clearly renounced and so presumably still believes, even after the Holy Father promulgated the new Good Friday prayer - namely, that the Old (Mosaic) Covenant isn't superseded and remains ‘eternally valid’ for the Jews. How silly of me to forget (ibid., p. 9.)

This clumsily revised passage is, of course, still unjust and calumnious. Bishop Rhoades has no need to "clearly renounce" anything, because he has never said or done anything that would require renunciation. And he cannot be said to "presumably still believe" anything contrary to the Catholic faith, since Sungenis has never brought forth any actual evidence that would create even the hint of presumption.

And if this revision was meant somehow to be more deferential and accurate, where is the retraction and apology for the original version? Why is Sungenis once again trying to slip this revision in under the radar, pretending that he never wrote the original? This is precisely the tactic he took the first time he publicly slandered Bishop Rhoades, posting no mention that he's made a revision of the article (see the story on the first time this happened here.)

Here is a simple challenge to Sungenis: If he really thinks that he has been so wronged by his bishop and that Bishop Rhoades really holds to a heresy, then let him do the Catholic thing and bring the whole matter to the Vatican. But then, of course, if such a charge would even be taken half seriously, his whole corpus of anti-Semitic writings (which he claims simultaneously to "disavow” and “hold and believe in my personal thoughts because I believe the material to be factual"—see More Definition Difficulties: Disavow) would be brought to the attention of the Vatican as well.

It is our view at Sungenis and the Jews that such a quixotic heresy "case" against his bishop, juxtaposed against his panoply of anti-Semitic writings, would at least provide the officials at the Vatican with some welcome comic relief over a plate of good pasta and a glass of red wine. Sadly, there are still at least a few Sungenis devotees remaining who continue to encourage and enable this pathologically scandalous behavior. Clearly, they are doing neither the Church nor Sungenis himself any favors.