Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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).