There are two very different narratives about what happened to cause Bishop Kevin Rhoades to officially direct Robert Sungenis to cease writing about Jews and Judaism and to take down the materials he had posted, or be forced to remove the word “Catholic” from his apostolate.
The first narrative, created by Bob Sungenis himself, casts Sungenis as a fearless heresy hunter who became a brave and public opponent of a problematic sentence on page 131 of the USCCA. For this reason and this reason alone, he became the target of a “smear campaign”, which ultimately culminated in his heterodox bishop demanding that he cease writing about Jewish issues. But Sungenis, the sole advocate for orthodoxy, heroically refused to back down and single-handedly influenced the USCCB to change the wording of the USCCA. He was thus completely “vindicated” (to read a thorough fisking of Sungenis's story about the role he played in regard to the change on page 131 of the USCCA, click here).
The second narrative, which, unlike the first narrative, is actually supported by the written, public record, is very different. In the true narrative, Bob Sungenis had spent five years posting hundreds of articles, news alerts, book reviews critical of Jews, blaming them as a people, in broad brush strokes, for conspiracies and evil deeds ranging from the silly (the Jews sent in Monica Lewinsky to take Bill Clinton down because they didn’t like his foreign policy toward Israel) to the ugly (the number of Jews alive after the Holocaust was “virtually the same” after the war as before it). Sungenis often wove allegedly “Catholic” theology into this mix and falsely presented it to his patrons as Catholic teaching.
Eventually, a wide array of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, sent complaints to Bishop Rhoades about Sungenis’s offensive writings about Jews. And the key thing to note here is what they were and were not complaining about. Were they complaining that Sungenis rejected the dual covenant error? No. Were they complaining about his criticism of one sentence on page 131 of the US Catechism for Adults? No. As the SPLC (which I cite here, but do not intend to give a blanket endorsement of) put it: “The Report later sent a letter to Sungenis’s bishop in Harrisburg, Pa., detailing Sungenis’s anti-Semitic activities. Many other concerned Catholics and organizations have done likewise” (see: here). And what kinds of things did even this organization explicitly cite regarding Bob as being objectionable? “Conspiracy mongering”, articles by “Ted Pike” and “Michael Collins Piper who has worked for years for Willis Carto, a leading anti-Semite and Holocaust denier” (see: here). Even from this organization, there was not one word about Bob's objection to the sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA or his opposition to the dual covenant error.
Bishop Rhoades then examined the evidence and subsequently ordered Sungenis to cease writing about Jewish issues or he would direct Sungenis to remove the name “Catholic” from his apostolate. Sungenis responded by publicly slandering Bishop Rhoades and continuing to post anti-Jewish materials over the next few weeks. He was then called into the chancery office for a meeting with the vicar general and a representative from the USCCB, at which point he declared his agreement that the “tone and content” of his writings had “crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations” and had “caused confusion regarding what is and is not the authentic position of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish people.”
Based on his agreement with the Diocese of Harrisburg and his expressed willingness to cease such behavior, the diocese subsequently agreed to allow Sungenis to resume writing on strictly theological issues involving the Jewish people, provided that he “take an approach quite different in tone and content from the one presented in the past.” Then, without any consultation with the Diocese of Harrisburg, Sungenis posted “Catholic Apologetics International and Its Teaching on the Jews” (henceforth CAITJ), which contained a series of new theologically based criticisms of the Jewish people and which made it appear as though Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg had approved it (although they had not). When the diocese reviewed CAITJ, they judged it to be “not fully satisfactory because of the tone and content of some passages” and even Sungenis’s lone clerical defender called it “unnecessarily combative and polemical in tone, and/or open to misinterpretation”. At this point, the bishop decided that Sungenis simply could not be trusted to handle Jewish issues charitably and responsibly and told him to remove all of the material at his site or cease calling the apostolate Catholic. As Michael Forrest put it so well some time ago:
Unsurprisingly (except to Bob and his most devout followers), after reading CAITJ, Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg apparently decided that if this was really the best Bob could do so soon after having been reprimanded for his handling of Jewish issues then he just needed to stop writing about Jews altogether. But Bob – who has spent most of his adult life setting himself up as the supreme judge of theological truth (see here and here) – couldn’t accept the fact that his ultimate doctrinal pronouncement on Jews that was supposed to be a “permanent fixture” was actually defective in both tone and content. And he couldn’t accept the new public embarrassment of having to remove it at the direction of Bishop Rhoades and just humbly remain quiet for a change.
and Fr. Harrison tried to cast doubt on this narrative by asking essentially
the same question. In Sungenis’s words,
“If Mr. Forrest’s assessment is correct, why didn’t
[the Diocese of Harrisburg] suggest that I reword [CAITJ]?”
[Note: to see the rest of Sungenis's supposed "proofs" of what happened with Bishop Rhoades debunked, you can read Forrest's article, Answering Sungenis's Latest "Response" on the "Bishop Rhoades Affair"]
The public record, as conveyed by Sungenis himself and his lone clerical defender, demonstrates that his inability to accept the truth about CAITJ is the genesis of the mythical narrative that he created. He could not bring himself to accept that CAITJ was flawed in tone and content. And so, instead of admitting his folly and humbly accepting Bishop Rhoades judgment, Sungenis conveniently reinterpreted events in such a way that he was transformed from a rash, disobedient son who was spreading material that Bishop Rhoades characterized as "hostile, uncharitable and un-Christian", into a righteous warrior for Catholic orthodoxy who was being persecuting merely for daring to stand against "Jewish interests". According to his new conspiracy theory, the “real reason” for Bishop Rhoades' intervention against him was that His Excellency is a "protégé of Cardinal Keeler" who advocates the heresy that the Jewish people have their own path to salvation and therefore have no need of Christ and His Church – that Bishop Rhoades is an "anti-supersessionist" fanatic who was intent on "silencing" any opposition to the dual covenant error. You can see all of Sungenis's supposed "evidence" against Bishop Rhoades debunked here, here, here and here.
And this conspiratorial myth has given rise to a passel of additional, demonstrable falsehoods. Some of these falsehoods have been taken up and regurgitated by Sungenis’s close collaborator and marketing director, Rick DeLano. On occasion, DeLano has even taken it upon himself to exaggerate Sungenis's original falsehoods.
When I stated that DeLano had been helping to propagate Sungenis’s falsehoods, DeLano insisted that, “David Palm has a moral obligation to identify the lies he publicly ascribes to me concerning Bishop Rhoades.”
As requested, here’s a partial list of the falsehoods Sungenis and DeLano have propagated relating to Bishop Rhoades. I’ve provided a summary list first, with the falsehood followed by the truth. Below that, you’ll find more detailed evidence.
Of course, don’t be surprised if Sungenis employs the stock objection and diversionary tactic he typically returns to when anyone provides solid, documented proof that he is telling falsehoods: “Look at how obsessed these people are with me!”
Summary of 15 Falsehoods
(Detailed supporting evidence follows this summary)
Falsehood #1: The reason that Bishop Rhoades took action against Bob Sungenis is because Bishop Rhoades is a protégé of Cardinal Keeler and hence a supporter of the dual covenant error and its concrete expression in the problematic document from the USCCB, Reflections on Covenant and Mission.
Truth: Bishop Rhoades is perfectly orthodox. He does not hold or teach the dual covenant error. He voted for the revision of the one problematic sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA. He supported the USCCB’s repudiation of the RCM document that suggested the Jewish people have their own path to salvation and therefore do not need Christ and His Church. He called Sungenis’s accusations against him, “slanderous and erroneous”. His Excellency publicly endorsed an article Michael Forrest and I wrote in Lay Witness magazine that unequivocally repudiates the dual covenant error and he characterized that repudiation as being “right on the mark”. But most incredibly, Sungenis himself has privately admitted that he no longer believes that Bishop Rhoades adheres to the dual covenant error.
Falsehood #2: The real reason Sungenis was corrected by his bishop was because Sungenis publicly opposed the problematic sentence on p. 131 of the USCCA.
Truth: Bishop Rhoades corrected Sungenis because, over a span of five years, Sungenis had committed himself to propagating a panoply of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and other offensive views about Jews, views that Sungenis often tied to the Catholic faith. Sungenis’s first article about pg. 131 of the USCCA was published after his bishop had issued his cease and desist order.
Bishop Rhoades cited and quoted a
specific paragraph on p. 131 of the USCCA as the reason for denying an
imprimatur to Sungenis. His Excellency
even singled out the one problematic sentence on p. 131.
Truth: Neither Bishop Rhoades nor any other official of the Diocese of Harrisburg ever specifically cited or quoted this paragraph on p. 131 of the USCCA, let alone the single problematic sentence on it in connection with denying an imprimatur to Bob Sungenis or disciplining him. The Diocese of Harrisburg provided nine separate citations from six distinct sources in the denial. What’s more, the denial was not merely over Jewish issues but was also over Sungenis’s handling of “no salvation outside the Church.” Sungenis hid all of this from the public. Thus, there was never any good justification to reduce the entire matter down to one, single sentence, as Sungenis has done.
Falsehood #4: Sungenis received the “reward” of Bishop Rhoades’s cease and desist order precisely because he was “visibly and influentially” involved in criticizing pg. 131 of the USCCA.
Truth: As noted above, the cease and desist order came before Sungenis began publishing articles about pg. 131 of the USCCA. In fact, Bishop Rhoades did not have any problem with respectful criticism of the wording of pg. 131 of the USCCA, nor of the dual covenant error in general.
Falsehood #5: Complaints against Sungenis’s treatment of Jewish issues were grossly exaggerated and unfair. Sungenis had done nothing that would warrant Bishop Rhoades’s actions against him.
Truth: Just four days after being confronted by the
Diocese of Harrisburg with concrete examples of his writings, Sungenis himself
publicly agreed that he had “crossed the line into inappropriate language and
accusations” in both “tone and
content” to such an extent that he had “caused confusion regarding what is and
is not the authentic position of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish
Falsehood #6: Sungenis immediately and assiduously complied with all of Bishop Rhoades’s directives after he received His Excellency’s letter dated June 29, 2007.
Truth: After receiving a directive from Bishop Rhoades to immediately cease writing about Jewish issues and to remove the problematic material that was currently at his web site by July 20th, Sungenis publicly slandered Bishop Rhoades by implying that he held to a heresy. He then added additional anti-Jewish postings, including a cartoon of a Jewish soldier sticking a machine gun in a child’s face, and failed to remove the rest of his Jewish material by the deadline given by Bishop Rhoades.
Falsehood #7: Sungenis would never be silent in the face of a heresy.
Truth: A mere four days after his July 2007 meeting with the Diocese of Harrisburg, Sungenis gushed about Bishop Rhoades’ “wisdom and counsel” as though it was from “God Himself” and pledged his filial obedience to His Excellency. He also assured his readers that Bishop Rhoades was trustworthy on Jewish issues. The problem? After Bishop Rhoades decided that Sungenis needed to stop addressing Jewish issues altogether or remove the name “Catholic” from his apostolate, Sungenis got angry and completely changed his story about that July 2007 meeting with the Diocese of Harrisburg and insisted that he knew “upon leaving the building” that the representatives and even the bishop himself held to the dual covenant “heresy”.
Falsehood #8: Sungenis was attacked for opposing the dual covenant error and because of his push for a change to the wording of a sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA.
Truth: There is no recorded criticism of Sungenis that emanated merely from his opposition to the dual covenant error or his push for a change in the wording of the sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA. The criticism he received was because of his anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and other uncharitable statements and posting about Jews that either stood alone or in the context of his “theological” views.
Falsehood #9: Rick DeLano insisted at Dave Armstrong’s blog that I must have in my possession the letter Sungenis received from the Diocese of Harrisburg denying the imprimatur to CASB2. This, of course, also logically implies that Bishop Rhoades or someone else at the Diocese of Harrisburg gave me the letter.
Truth: I neither had nor ever read the letter, but had only asserted what could be known of its contents from the public record, ironically, provided entirely by Sungenis and his supporter, Thomas Herron.
Falsehood #10: Sungenis’s article “Old Covenant Revoked or Not Revoked? (OCRNR)” was published directly in response to a statement Bishop Rhoades made clarifying his doctrinal positions on salvation in light of the Old and New Covenants.
Truth: Sungenis’s article was published before the clarifying statements by Bishop Rhoades and hence could not have been written in response to them.
Falsehood #11: The “reward” that Sungenis received for writing OCRNR was the order to remove the word “Catholic” from his apostolate.
Truth: The order to remove the word “Catholic” from Sungenis’s apostolate came before the writing of OCRNR and thus obviously could not be based on the writing of that article.
Falsehood #12: Sungenis’s publication of “Old Covenant: Revoked or Not Revoked?” came after a canonical consultation he received in regard to how to respond to Bishop Rhoades’ directive that he cease writing on Jewish issues.
Truth: According to Sungenis’s lone clerical defender (who wrote a narrow, technical defense of Sungenis’s canonical standing in the Church), no such canonical consultation took place until after the publication of OCRNR.
Falsehood #13: The public record points to Bishop Rhoades as being responsible for RealCatholicTV changing its name in order to remove the "Catholic" moniker.
Truth: There is no evidence in the public record that Bishop Rhoades had anything to do with this. But there is evidence to the contrary.
Falsehood #14: Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg ceased all communications with Sungenis after August 5, 2007.
According to one of Sungenis’s own articles, the Diocese of Harrisburg
contacted him in January 2009 in response to his thinly veiled threat to sue
them for “slander” over an email sent by the vicar general to the priests of
the diocese. Ironically, the vicar
general was warning the priests of the diocese not to respond to one of Sungenis’s
patrons who had sent all of them an email that regurgitated Sungenis’s false
and slanderous accusations of “heresy” against Bishop Rhoades because it was
evident the email was intended to gin up controversy and publicity.
Falsehood #15: Bishop Rhoades was “shipped off” in shame by the Vatican to Fort Wayne/South Bend because of Sungenis’s supposedly brilliant treatment of Jewish issues.
Truth: There were several reasons why Bishop Rhoades was likely elevated to the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend, including the fact that he was among the first bishops who defended Bishop Darcy, speaking out publicly about the Obama scandal at Notre Dame in 2009. Sungenis’s claim is a self-aggrandizing delusion that directly contradicts another self-aggrandizing delusion concocted by his mentor on Jewish issues, E. Michael Jones.
Detailed Supporting Evidence
himself has called all these charges “slanderous and erroneous”. That Sungenis
has continued to press these charges in the face of Bishop Rhoades’s express
denial is tantamount to calling His Excellency a liar. What compounds the gravity of this situation
is that Sungenis wrote to Michael Forrest and me and privately admitted that he
no longer even believes that Bishop Rhoades is a dual covenant adherent. Instead, in the spirit of a dyed in the wool
conspiracy theorist, he is convinced that there is another “evil man” behind
the scenes at the Diocese of Harrisburg who is the cause of all his troubles.
Incredibly, in spite of his admission about Bishop Rhoades, when he began to later receive criticism in certain quarters about his behavior relating to Jewish issues, Sungenis returned to publicly slandering His Excellency again, with these same false allegations, without ever discussing the matter with Bishop Rhoades.
The proof that Bishop Rhoades does not agree with RCM and does not hold to the dual covenant error can be found in these articles: Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Error, By Sungenis Alone, and Sungenis’s Own Standards of Heresy.
on our Lay Witness article, “All in the Family”, Sungenis himself agreed that
we rejected RCM and the dual covenant
error, even commending us for it:
R. Sungenis: "Well, at least Forrest and Palm are not teaching the...heresy that Jews don't need Jesus Christ to be saved, as was Cardinal Keeler in the 2002 Reflections on Covenant and Missions document and the 2006 Catholic Catechism for Adults...for that Forrest and Palm are to be commended." (See here).
The problem for Sungenis is that Bishop Rhoades wrote a letter to Lay Witness (Sept/Oct 2009) in which he explicitly and unequivocally endorsed our criticism of the dual covenant error - stating that it was "right on the mark." (Click here).
Thus, as Sungenis admits that we do not agree with RCM and do not hold the dual covenant error, this means that Bishop Rhoades does not either. Therefore, Sungenis’s charges against His Excellency are false. In that same endorsement, Bishop Rhoades also stated that he fully supported the U.S. bishops’ “note” criticizing and correcting RCM. As such, Sungenis’s accusation that Bishop Rhoades is a “protégé” of Cardinal Keeler and therefore holds the same views as RCM is also false. Additionally, of course, Bishop Rhoades voted to change the one problematic sentence on page 131 of the USCCA, although Sungenis tried to portray His Excellency as a supporter of that problematic sentence.
Rick DeLano states that on June 29, 2007, Sungenis received a letter from Bishop Rhoades, ordering him to stop commenting on Jews and Judaism and to remove his existing commentary. DeLano’s specific charge is that, “This remarkable directive of His Excellency Bishop Rhoades- a directive specifically depriving the most visible public opponent of the USCCB's highly problematic teaching of any right to address the matter in any way at all!”
And “Bishop Rhoades was explicitly invoking, among other things, the very same speech of Blessed John Paul II that had been employed as justification for the inclusion of an heretical sentence in the USCCB Catechism, in order to deny the most visible public opponent of that sentence an imprimatur.”
The falsehood in these sentences can be most easily seen in DeLano’s description of Sungenis as “the most visible public opponent” of the sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA. The problem is that Sungenis’s first article criticizing page 131 of the USCCA was on 5 Sept 2007. This article was essentially just the reproduction of the letter he had just written to Cardinal Levada (head of the CDF at that time) and it was published well after the definitive letter from the Diocese of Harrisburg containing the cease and desist order and the order to remove the word “Catholic” from the apostolate. Hence, it is false to portray matters as though Bishop Rhoades’s directive had anything to do with Sungenis’s public opposition to page 131 of the USCCA because Sungenis had yet to even write and publish articles about it.
And should DeLano try to shift gears and come around for a second try, there is no evidence that the bishop’s directive was based on Sungenis’s private opposition to that page of the USCCA, either. The bishop’s directive was given for very different reasons, as Sungenis himself admitted at the time (see below). In fact, Sungenis’s lone, public clerical supporter at the time – who read the correspondence from the Diocese of Harrisburg, even made the following admission about Bishop Rhoades’s June 29, 2007 letter to Sungenis: “Bishop Rhoades [sic] letter indicates he had indeed looked at material critical of Jewish positions and activity on Dr. Sungenis’ website, and received complaints about it.”
Of course, one can anticipate what Sungenis will likely reply. He will likely claim that he wrote about the dual covenant issue prior to this. This is true, but in relation to the unfortunate Reflections on Covenant and Mission document that was eventually withdrawn and corrected by the U.S. Bishops themselves. Many people objected to this document at roughly the same time that Sungenis did – including Karl Keating, David Moss, Roy Schoeman, Rosalind Moss and others, by the way (although they did so without plagiarizing Nazi conspiracy theories, as Sungenis did).
Also, DeLano's first statement contains an additional falsehood, namely, that Bishop Rhoades gave "a directive specifically depriving [Sungenis] of any right to address the matter in any way at all!" Sungenis himself provided the proof that this claim was false, when he wrote, "Since Bishop Rhoades didn't give us that opportunity [to revise and resubmit CASB2 to Carol Houghton] (and that is his prerogative as bishop according to Canon Law), we could easily go elsewhere as he himself instructed us to do." (Jacob Michael, the Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign, p. 1)
As a side note,
in a recent article, Sungenis also falsely claimed ,“what
did Karl Keating…do about the problem of Jewish influence on Catholic doctrine?
Absolutely nothing. The only thing Keating did prior to the US Catechism
controversy was assign Rosalind Moss to write a critique of the 2002 document,
‘Reflections on Covenant and Missions’… Keating himself never said a word
publically about either the RCM document or the US Adult Catechism. He just
stuck his finger up in the air to determine which way the theological winds
were blowing and wouldn’t dare venture into registering a public critique
against either the RCM or an official USCCB catechism.”
But the fact is that his Sept 5 2007 article was the first article in which he focused specifically on the one sentence on page 131 of the USCCA.
DeLano cites Fr. Harrison thus:
And the contrary position, gravely unorthodox, was one seemingly endorsed by the bishop himself! This unorthodox doctrine, which Bishop Rhoades cited and apparently considered "authoritative"..
Apparently with a view to exposing Dr. Sungenis’ “lack of adherence” to Church teaching on Judaism, Bishop Rhoades appealed to a paragraph on p. 131 of the said catechism in which the only doctrinal statement incompatible with the doctrine of Dr. Sungenis’ book is the following: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them” (my emphasis).
Bob Sungenis went even further and falsely
claimed that Bishop Rhoades personally “quoted” a paragraph from page 131 of
the US Catechism:
R. Sungenis: As we all remember, the US bishops voted in 2008 to take the heretical statement out of page 131 of the US Catechism, but this was the very paragraph Rhoades quoted when he denied me an imprimatur to my book on the Apocalypse. (Link)
And in the greatest exaggeration of the original falsehood, Rick DeLano personally claimed that Bishop Rhoades actually singled out the one, problematic sentence on page 131 of the USCCA, in the imprimatur rejection letter. DeLano states:
It apparently has not yet sunk in, for Mr. Palm, that Dr. Sungenis was denied an imprimatur by----Bishop Rhoades----who denied it precisely by reference to the heretical quote Mr. Palm insists was never believed by the Bishop in the first place!
These claims are false for two reasons. First, Dr. Carol Houghton reviewed Sungenis’s book and wrote the rejection letter, not
Bishop Rhoades. Bishop Rhoades simply
signed off on her recommendation that Sungenis’s book be rejected, which is
quite a different matter. Second,
neither Carol Houghton nor Bishop Rhoades ever singled out that paragraph on p.
131 of the USCCA, let alone the one problematic sentence on that page. Rather, as DeLano himself has publicly
revealed by quoting directly from the rejection letter, CASB2 was denied on all
the following grounds:
The principle reasons why this book was not granted an imprimatur include the following: 1) Lack of adherence to, or neglect of, authoritative Church teaching on Judaism and on the Church’s relationship with Judaism, as presented in: Lumen Gentium 16; Nostra Aetate 4; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 839‐840 and 597‐598 and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, pp. 130‐ 131; Addresses/Speeches of Pope John Paul II (e.g., Address to Jewish Representatives, Mainz, Germany, November 17, 1980; Documents of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews which promote and issue directives relative to conciliar and papal teaching; 2) Lack of adherence to, or neglect of, the Church’s authoritative interpretation of the meaning of “Outside the Church there is no salvation” as contained in Lumen Gentium 14‐16 and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846‐848” ~ Dr. Carol Houghton, diocesan censor
So, the claim that Bishop Rhoades personally intended to focus on and "endorse" this one, problematic sentence on page 131 of the USCCA is nonsense. Again, he even voted to remove that sentence. Thus, we see that
the denial of the imprimatur was based on a lack of adherence to Catholic
doctrine in not one but two areas
(“Judaism and on the Church’s relationship with Judaism” and “Outside the
Church there is no salvation”). And the
denial on the first point did not contain any “appeal to a paragraph on p. 131
of said catechism” or any single sentence, but rather, appealed to two
documents of Vatican II, five sections of the CCC, two pages of the USCCA, speeches
of John Paul II, and additional Vatican documents. Quite a different story!
DeLano engages in a false anachronism when he writes:
Bob Sungenis was visibly and influentially involved in the fight to have that sentence removed- which it later was (yay! score one for the good guys!).
His reward was a demand from Bishop Rhodes to cease and desist from identifying his apostolate as “Catholic” Apologetics International.
But this confuses the chronology. Sungenis’s first article focusing on pg. 131 of the USCCA (which public mention would be necessary for his “fight” to be visible, of course) was in Sept of 2007, after he had been told by Bishop Rhoades to cease and desist from identifying his apostolate as Catholic.
There has never been any evidence given that the imprimatur issue had any direct connection to the cease and desist order, which did come directly from Bishop Rhoades himself in June 2007. Conversely, there is concrete evidence that the kind of anti-Jewish propaganda Sungenis was publishing at the time was directly responsible for the bishop’s intervention (as even Sungenis himself admitted; see below).
It should be obvious that Sungenis
would have been shouting it from the rooftops if there were anything in these
letters from Bishop Rhoades or Fr. King criticizing him specifically for his
opposition to the one problematic sentence on page 131 of the USCCA. This in combination with the fact that Bishop
Rhoades has repeatedly made plain that he is not a dual covenant proponent
leads to the conclusion that no such reference exists. If Rick DeLano claims otherwise, then I
invite him to post the proof in its entirety, in the form of Bishop Rhoades’
letter of 29 June 2007 and Fr. King’s letter of 23 August 2007. Then everyone can see exactly what the
diocese said were the grounds for the cease and desist order. Unfortunately, up until this point, Sungenis
has only released small snippets that he thinks will help his case. But even so, many contradictions to his story
have been caught.
Rick DeLano reproduces and agrees with Fr. Harrison’s personal evaluation that at least the examples that he had seen were “a shocking distortion of his views” on Jewish matters. But there are two witnesses whose testimony trumps Fr. Harrison’s personal opinion, namely, Bishop Rhoades and Bob Sungenis himself. Bishop Rhoades had been investigating this matter for quite some time and he saw enough evidence that the views expressed at the CAI website were truly problematic; Fr. Harrison would have been better educated on this score if he had read the documentation at the Sungenis and the Jews website and the Sungenis and the Jews blog or contacted the Diocese of Harrisburg to obtain their side of the story, rather than relying exclusively on Sungenis’s personal testimony.
But we have an even stronger witness, namely, Bob Sungenis himself. In the letter that he posted immediately after he had met with diocesan officials who presented him with concrete examples, Sungenis admitted that both his “tone” and “content” (an important word, since later he claimed that it was only his tone that was problematic) had “crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations”:
the shepherds God has placed as overseers of my life and work have asked me to reconsider the tone and content with which I write about the Jewish people for CAI. They provided me various examples in which I have crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations, and I communicated to them my agreement with their overall assessment. - Robert Sungenis
In fact, he went so far as to admit that his fault had “caused confusion regarding what is and is not the authentic position of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish people.”
Please also notice something extremely important that is missing in this article. Sungenis made no mention at all here or anywhere in this letter about pg. 131 of the USCCA. Rather, according to Sungenis’s own account written just four days after the meeting, the focus of the Diocese of Harrisburg was on concrete examples of his writings that, in their “tone and content” had “crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations.”
The mythical narrative wherein the focus was almost exclusively one problematic sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA was only created after Sungenis published CAITJ. And yet, as Fr. Harrison himself says, even CAITJ was found deficient in its “tone and content” by Bishop Rhoades:
“the Vicar General, Fr. King, replied with a long letter, dated August 23, 2007, stating that in the judgment of Bishop Rhoades, the 7-point statement on Judaism contained in the letter [CAITJ] was not fully satisfactory because of the tone and content of some passages. - Fr. Harrison
And, most tellingly, Fr. Harrison himself admitted that Sungenis’s “7 point letter” (CAITJ) was problematic in both tone and content:
Again, this is not the appropriate forum for a discussion of the merits or demerits of Dr. Sungenis’ 7-point summary of the CAI position [CAITJ]. Briefly, however, I would agree that a few of its statements are unnecessarily combative and polemical in tone, and/or open to misinterpretation. (“Dr. Robert Sungenis Has Disobeyed No Binding Precept of His Bishop”, FN 4, p. 6)
Rick DeLano claimed on Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog that,
“The chancery office [Diocese of Harrisburg] then proceeded to demand that Bob cease writing on Jewish issues entirely – even after Bob had complied with the Bishop’s demand!”
This is connected to Fr. Harrison’s false claim that Bob “promptly complied” with the bishop’s directives.
The completely ignored background here renders this statement false.
Contrary to Fr. Harrison’s claim, Bob did not “promptly comply” with Bishop Rhoades’ “letter of June 29 and (sic) taking down from his website all material relating to Jews and Judaism.” (p. 14) In fact, a few days after receiving the aforementioned letter from Bishop Rhoades, Sungenis publicly defamed His Excellency by falsely accusing him of being a proponent of the problematic Reflections on Covenant and Missions document, which gave the impression that Jews have no need of Christ or His Church. Sungenis then not only kept all of his anti-Jewish postings up for a full month, but also proceeded to post several new anti-Jewish items at CAI - including a prominently placed cartoon of a Jew pointing an assault rifle in a child's face, wrote a Q&A in which he went to great lengths to downplay the relationship of the Jewish people to God, and wrote a book review which contained statements such as, “Israel has made itself 'stink' among the nations”, "The Jews are godless and getting more ungodly with each passing day."
Recall, all of this is taking place immediately after being ordered by his bishop to cease and desist writing about the Jewish people and Judaism and to remove all of the material.
It was only after Bob was subsequently summoned in to the diocese to meet with Fr. King and Fr. Massa at the end of July, 2007 that he “promptly” saw the light and indicated his intention to comply.
But then immediately after this meeting he published “Catholic Apologetics International and Its Teaching on the Jews”, which both the diocese and Fr. Harrison himself said was problematic. At this point the bishop clearly decided Bob could not be trusted and told him to stop altogether.
This important background shows that Sungenis was not at all the model of obedience that his supporters make him out to be.
Rick DeLano cited a statement by Bishop Rhoades in which he made clear that he did not hold to the dual covenant error and gave his (orthodox) understanding of the USCCA. This was published on 7 Feb 2008 (see: here). In regard to this statement from Bishop Rhoades, DeLano claims, “Since Bob could not in conscience allow such equivocations [those allegedly found in Bishop Rhoades' communication] to carry the day on a matter which, after all, speaks directly to the heart of the Faith itself, he published the famous essay in ‘Culture Wars’”.
The falsehood here is that Sungenis’s article in Culture Wars (The Old Covenant: Revoked or Not Revoked) was published in the January 2008 issue, before the communication from Bishop Rhoades. It is therefore impossible that the article was written in response to the bishop’s statement.
Rick DeLano writes:
“Bob Sungenis, fully aware of the theological implications of an official promulgation of such an outrage, did not and could not have stood by silently.”
Here DeLano seeks to portray Sungenis as a consistent truth teller and heroic heresy slayer, always vigilant and ready to respond whenever the truth is in jeopardy. The problem is that Sungenis has given lie to this by his statement issued immediately after his meeting at the Diocese of Harrisburg.
In the Culture Wars article published in January of 2008, Bob said of his 27 July 2007 meeting with Frs. King and Massa at the Diocese of Harrisburg that, “I knew upon leaving the building the erroneous theology [Fr. King], Rhoades and the USCCB were attempting to propagate to unsuspecting Catholics.” And more recently (October 2010) he wrote in the comments section of Discover Magazine that, “During the meeting with Fr. King, I discovered that both he and Bishop Rhoades held to the heresy of antisupersessionism – the view that the Jews still retained legal possession of the Mosaic covenant” (see: here).
These are very serious charges, indeed. DeLano contends that Sungenis just isn't the kind of man who could ever allow such damnable evil to continue unabated without immediately exposing the perpetrators for the frauds and subversives that they truly are.
Except he did precisely that, and much more.
If that is the truth, if Sungenis knew right then and there at his 27 July 2007 meeting that Fr. King and Bishop Rhoades held to what he considered to be an extremely dangerous heresy and were attempting to propagate it to “unsuspecting Catholics”, then why did he assure his readers that Bishop Rhoades’ was trustworthy on Jewish issues a mere four days after this same meeting? Why did Sungenis gush about His Excellency’s gifts of “wisdom and counsel”, going so far as to say that he considered his “direction as if it was from God Himself” and pledging your filial obedience because "he acts in God's stead"? Again, Sungenis wrote these things a mere four days after the meeting in question. Here are his own words, written on July 31, 2007:
R. Sungenis: "Neither our obedience to our bishop nor our bishop's directives [about my handling of Jewish issues] should in any way be interpreted as either of us compromising on the truth, but only that the truth be communicated with....a 'human and Christian spirit'...both in its content and in its tone…"
R. Sungenis: "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."
R. Sungenis: "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." (Article)
Two very different stories. Two very different responses from Bob “He Who Cannot Be Silent” Sungenis. In light of the fact that Sungenis wrote the negative story only after he became angry with Bishop Rhoades, I think one can make a solid guess as to which story is false.
Rick DeLano wrote:
“It’s clear some folks didn’t like the fact that he demolished this ‘teaching’ [the sentence on page 131 of the USCCA] so completely, so devastatingly, in his memorable essay in ‘Culture Wars’...”
If DeLano disagrees, he would need to provide names and citations showing all these people who were so upset about this, specifically. Can he show us even one person who attacked Sungenis specifically and solely for rejecting/criticizing the idea that Jews have their own salvation plan or specifically for simply objecting to the one sentence on page 131 of the USCCA? I challenge him to present direct evidence like actual quotes, links, and articles.
On the other hand, it is certainly true that Sungenis was strongly criticized for broad-brushing the entire conference of Catholic bishops as being willing agents of evil in relation to this issue. And he was strongly criticized for floating an erroneous conspiracy theory about the vote to change the one sentence on page 131 of the USCCA. According to his conspiracy theory, the bishops were afraid to vote openly for the change “for fear of the Jews”.
The change to the USCCA itself was important and welcome and the bishops--including Bishop Rhoades--voted overwhelmingly to do so. And I know for a fact that many good Catholics worked with the bishops to effect that change, without opting to make a public spectacle of themselves or positioning themselves as judges, juries, and enemies of the U.S. Catholic bishops. We noted this before and after the change itself was made:
On Dave Armstrong’s blog I wrote, "If you know anything about imprimaturs, you know that bishops themselves aren’t the ones reviewing the books. You don’t even know whether Bishop Rhoades himself ever even read it. In fact, the letter he received was from Carol Houghton, not Bishop Rhoades personally."
To which, Rick replied: "This is a quite remarkable statement. Clearly Dave has the letter. Clearly he has read the letter."
In this case, DeLano’s conspiratorial mindset is showing. I didn't have the letter nor had I read it. But I can and did read the public record. In "Fear of the Jews in Harrisburg", Tom Herron (Sungenis's friend and supporter who Sungenis invited to his meeting with the Diocese of Harrisburg in July 2007) stated that the denial was written by Carol Houghton and not Bishop Rhoades (Culture Wars, Oct. 2007, p. 12). And in Bob's article, "Jacob Michael, the Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign" (1 July 2007), he included a facsimile of the top and bottom of the letter from Dr. Houghton, leaving out all the very important and enlightening facts that you've now graciously provided, of course. I was stating a fact, as supported by the public record. DeLano jumped to the false conclusion that I must have read the letter itself.
Yet another conspiracy theory solved.
But again it highlights the problem: Sungenis never forthrightly
came forth with all the citations that DeLano himself provided from Dr. Houghton
as to why CASB2 was rejected for an imprimatur.
Sungenis only mentioned page 131 of the USCCA. All Sungenis has done to date is to leak
those selective snippets of the imprimatur rejection that he thinks will help
him - almost exactly in the same way that he's released selective snippets of
the correspondence from Bishop Rhoades (29 June 2007) and Fr. King (23 Aug
2007). I think we can see the pattern
At Dave Armstrong’s blog DeLano said to me that, “I am afraid your timeline is a little out of whack here, Mr. Palm.” He then went on to mention a specific communication from Bishop Rhoades. Although he didn't cite a date, this communication took place on 7 Feb 2008 (see: here). DeLano then claimed:
“Since Bob could not in conscience allow such equivocations [those allegedly found in Bishop Rhoades' communication] to carry the day on a matter that, after all, speaks directly to the heart of the Faith itself, he published the famous essay in ‘Culture Wars’”
But Sungenis’s article in Culture Wars was published in the January 2008 issue, before the communication from Bishop Rhoades. Clearly, then, DeLano’s claim about Bishop Rhoades is false.
Bob would, in a better time, have been rewarded by his bishop for his courage and faithfulness in this matter. Instead, he was given the same treatment, by Bishop Rhoades and his Vicar General, which we now see being meted out to Michael Voris at RealCatholicTV.
The action to be rewarded, presumably, would be the publishing of the Sungenis’s supposed masterpiece in Culture Wars, which DeLano had just mentioned in the immediately preceding paragraph. That “same treatment”, presumably, would be the order to remove the word “Catholic” from the organization. The problem is that the two communications from the Diocese of Harrisburg that spoke of removing “Catholic” from Sungenis’s organization were on 29 June 2007 and 23 August 2007. Sungenis's article in Culture Wars was published in January of 2008. Therefore, this claim made by DeLano is also false.
DeLano averred that,
Bob sought canonical advice, and declined the chancery office’s pre-emptive censoring of his right to comment upon issues pertaining to- exactly- the then festering “dual covenant” heresy. http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/12/more-on-the-archd-detroit-v-real-catholc-tv-dust-up/#comment-313893
So, according to DeLano, Sungenis sought canonical advice, which led him to conclude that he could disobey Bishop Rhoades. The problem is that the Diocese of Harrisburg wrote to Bob about removing the name "Catholic" if he wouldn't stop writing about all Jewish issues on 23 August 2007. By the middle of October, 2007, Sungenis had returned to writing about Jewish issues in direct defiance of Bishop Rhoades’ letter (see Timeline). And on November 2, 2007, Sungenis wrote to his former vice president, Ben Douglass and stated, “As for my ‘Jewish articles’, let me set you straight there also. I will put up any ‘Jewish’ article I please, either now or in the future.”
But in April 2008, Fr. Brian Harrison wrote the following in his own defense of Sungenis:
“With hindsight, we can say that it was a pity Robert did not think to seek expert canonical advice before writing his January 2008 Culture Wars article” (Fr. Harrison; April 2008; see here)
As such, Sungenis’s lone public, clerical supporter at the time, contradicts DeLano’s claim.
Comment 1 by Rick DeLano:
In any event, this action is not the first time we have seen this canon applied [the situation with RealCatholic TV]. Bob Sungenis was ordered to remove the word “Catholic” from his website several years ago by....
Bishop Kevin Rhoades.
The plot, most definitely thickens....
Comment 2 by Rick DeLano:
Bob, again, complied. In the meantime, Bishop Rhodes [sic] was transferred to South Bend, where…..
RealCatholicTV is domiciled.
Comment 3 by Rick DeLano:
Bob would, in a better time, have been rewarded by his bishop for his courage and faithfulness in this matter. Instead, he was given the same treatment, by Bishop Rhoades and his Vicar General, which we now see being meted out to...RealCatholicTV.
It’s plain here that DeLano was
implying that Bishop Rhoades was behind the directive to RealCatholicTV. The problem is that there is no evidence in the public record for
his implication regarding Bishop Rhoades.
[The following is borrowed from Michael
Forrest’s last defense of Bishop Rhoades against Sungenis’s attacks, which you
can read in its entirety, here.]
Then, recall your patron Lionel Andrades, who harassed the priests of the Diocese of Harrisburg via email on your behalf by spreading the false accusations you’ve leveled against His Excellency. Instead of rebuking your patron for his outrageous behavior and apologizing to Fr. King and Bishop Rhoades, your response was to make more accusations and to demand an apology from them (see here). In view of all this, it’s clear why the Diocese of Harrisburg ceased communicating with you altogether.
To this, Bob responded:
No, Mr. Forrest is wrong again. The Diocese of Harrisburg ceased communicating with me after I told them in my August 5, 2007 letter that I took the name Catholic off my website.
But Bob’s confident claim about the date of the last communication he received from the Diocese of Harrisburg is wrong as is his claim about when he removed the name “Catholic” from his website…
According to Bob, my account of the events involving his patron (Lionel Andrades) was not only false but also impossible because the Diocese of Harrisburg ceased all communication with Bob after they received his August 5, 2007 letter. That’s very specific and clear.
The proof that Bob’s adamant claim is false can be found in Bob’s own public statements. In 2009, Bob wrote an article entitled "Robert Sungenis Responds to His Biography on Wikipedia" (RSRBW) in which he stated that “late last year (2008)” he was “made privy to an email that Bishop Rhoades’ vicar general, Fr. William King, wrote to all the priests and deacons of the Harrisburg diocese.” (Click here to view the article. Note: you may need to paste the link into your browser in order to view it.) Here, Bob was referring to a very brief, confidential email Fr. King wrote to all the priests of the Diocese of Harrisburg in response to the slanderous, harassing email that Bob’s patron (Lionel Andrades) had first sent to them on Bob’s behalf (the “subject line” of Fr. King’s email was “E-mail from Lionel Andrades”).
To be clear, the slanderous, harassing email sent by Bob's patron (Lionel Andrades) is the very email to which I referred above and which Bob now insists came long after the Diocese of Harrisburg completely ceased all communication with him. In the subsequent email mentioned above by Bob, Fr. King defended Bishop Rhoades from the slanderous accusations Bob’s patron made against His Excellency and warned the priests of Harrisburg not to engage Bob or his patron because it was evident that they were just trying to gin up controversy and gain publicity.
In RSRBW, Bob then continued on to say:
I gave Bishop Rhoades and Fr. King a chance to rectify this slanderous email, but they chose not to do so. I brought my knowledge of the above email to both Fr. King and Bishop Rhoades’ attention in a January 2009 letter addressed to Fr. King, with a copy to Bishop Rhoades… - Robert Sungenis
So here, we can see that Bob wrote to Fr. King and Bishop Rhoades in January 2009, after Bob’s patron (Lionel Andrades) improperly forwarded Fr. King’s private, confidential email to Bob. Bob was furious about Fr. King’s confidential email (calling it “slanderous”) because it criticized his “opinions” on Jewish issues as being “apart from (and in discord with) authentic Catholic teaching” (Bob has difficulty distinguishing his personal opinions from defined, Catholic dogma), so he went on to make a thinly-veiled threat to Fr. King and Bishop Rhoades that Fr. King’s email might get them into “legal trouble.” And then, please note carefully what Bob stated:
I received a reply from Fr. King about a week or so later stating that he was not going to discuss the issue for fear that I would sue him. - Robert Sungenis
So, according to Bob’s own public account, in January 2009 he received a communication from the Diocese of Harrisburg – almost a year and a half after the date he now claims they ended all communications with him (August 5, 2007). And that response was to the very email that I singled out – the one Bob’s patron sent out to harass the priests of the diocese by spreading the false and slanderous accusations that Bob had been making against Bishop Rhoades.
As such, what I
stated was factually correct and my conclusion was completely logical regarding
why and when the Diocese of Harrisburg ultimately ceased all communications
with Bob. The only thing I left out in regard to this particular case
only makes matters look even worse for Bob. Not only did Bob fail
to apologize to the Diocese of Harrisburg for his own patron’s outrageous
behavior and instead demand an apology from them, he even went so far as
to make a thinly veiled threat to sue the diocese over it! It would be hard to
exaggerate how arrogant and idiotic this was. And according to Bob
himself, Fr. King explicitly stated that the Diocese of Harrisburg was cutting
off all communication with him because of this thinly veiled threat.
The historical record clearly shows that Robert Sungenis was corrected by Bishop Rhoades because of Sungenis’s anti-Jewish writings and postings that, by Sungenis’s own admission, had “crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations” in both “tone and content” to such an extent that they “caused confusion regarding what is and is not the authentic position of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish people.”
There is no real evidence to support the mythical narrative created by the Sungenis camp that Sungenis’s opposition to the dual covenant error or his opposition to the wording of a sentence on pg. 131 of the USCCA that was the “real” reason he was disciplined.
It’s also a myth
that Bob single-handedly forced the U.S. Bishops to change the problematic
sentence on page 131 of the USCCA. He
wasn’t even the first person to bring this sentence to the attention of the
USCCB. Others, like Leon Suprenant,
addressed this sentence before him. Sungenis wasn’t the last, either. Numerous others over time expressed their
concerns to the USCCB about this sentence, including Michael Forrest and Jacob
Michael. But, unlike Sungenis, they all did
so respectfully, without making a public spectacle of themselves, and without floating
a false conspiracy theory about the U.S. Bishops, who supposedly waited to vote
in private for the change for “fear of the Jews” (click here to see Sungenis’s false conspiracy
theory debunked). This myth of Bob
Sungenis as the supposed lone heresy hunter who single-handedly forced the U.S. Bishops to change the
USCCA is debunked in Robert Sungenis and the U.S. Catechism for Catholic Adults.
Rick DeLano has actively helped Sungenis propagate this myth and has tacitly participated in the public defamation of an orthodox Catholic bishop.
It is time for both men to publicly, unambiguously, offer an unqualified apology to His Excellency Bishop Kevin Rhoades for their rash judgment and slander.