Answering Sungenis's Latest "Response" on the "Bishop Rhoades Affair"

About a year ago, I wrote “A Defense of Bishop Rhoades from More False Accusations by Robert Sungenisbecause Bob Sungenis was again trying to excuse his offensive behavior against the Jewish people and Bishop Rhoades (see here, here and here) by publicly repeating some old falsehoods he had previously told about His Excellency. I tried to write it in such a way as to give Bob another chance to step back, take a breath and consider a more reasonable, less nefarious and conspiratorial interpretation of what happened to him and why – based on the public record.  Unfortunately, in yet another attempt to prove that he’s right about everything, Bob decided to write a 34-page tome that’s riddled with additional errors.  I don’t have the time or inclination to document and refute all of his numerous factual errors, memory failures, misunderstandings, illogical conclusions and overly suspicious imaginings again, but I thought it worth addressing a few of them and making one or two last observations. 

A Matter of Credibility:

Nothing Bob wrote in his “response” demonstrates that the overall interpretation of events I’ve laid out is false – nor for that matter has he even proven that any of the details I laid out were false.  And the reason for his failure is simple:  the events I laid out come from the public record and the interpretation of those events that I provided is consistent with that record (including Bob’s own previous statements) and consistent with Bob’s troubling pattern of behavior with others, while the interpretation of events that Bob wants people to believe is not. The fact is, there’s a perfectly reasonable way to interpret events between Bob and the Diocese of Harrisburg without resorting to the nefarious conspiracy theories and duplicity with which Bob has felt free to “fill in the factual gaps” for his audience.

Bob’s responses to some of my points require one to believe that his memory of 5 year old events has somehow suddenly become better now than it was immediately after they happened and also that, out of discretion, he refrained from divulging certain information that would have been very advantageous to him at the time.  Anyone who knows Bob well at all is no doubt enjoying a good chuckle at either idea right now.  It’s ridiculous on its face.

Near the beginning of Bob's latest "response" to me, he complained that my account of what happened between him and the Diocese of Harrisburg at their "meetings" couldn't be more accurate than his (latest) account because he was an actual "eyewitness" and I was not.  I had to smile at the irony of Bob's complaint because he can no longer even seem to recall that he didn't have "meetings" (plural) with the diocese, he had one meeting (singular) – on July 27, 2007.  More importantly, Bob ignored the fact that the documentation I brought forward came almost exclusively from the extremely detailed and lengthy public accounts previously given by two eyewitnesses:  Bob himself and his friend, Tom Herron.  As such, he only continues to prove one of my central points:  His story has so completely mutated over time that he's now directly contradicting his own original account.  

I believe the evidence proves conclusively that Bob was the most truthful and accurate in his original account – an account which was written before he became angry as a result of being told by the diocese that he could no longer use the name "Catholic" to market his work.  His subsequent stories have been completely distorted by his notorious temper and pride, coupled with his tendency to believe conspiracy theories.

Release the Whole Correspondence, Bob:

Of course, if Bob really wanted to prove that his new story is true, there’s one simple thing he could do that would go a long way toward proving it.  Instead of leaking whatever selective snippets of all the correspondence from Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg that he thinks will bolster his story (as he has done up until this point), he should just publish it entirely – everything from the letter rejecting CASB 2 for an imprimatur forward. As a result of the accidental candor of two of his friends, we’ve already discovered some information that proves Bob wasn’t being honest about this correspondence (see here and here).  So, I join David Palm (see here) in publicly challenging Bob to let Bishop Rhoades’, Fr. King’s and Dr. Carol Houghton’s words speak for themselves – in their entirety.  Bob has already admitted that he didn’t promise to keep his correspondence with them confidential, and it’s obvious that he’s not concerned about divulging anything that might harm their reputations.  As such, his continual refusal to release these documents in full speaks volumes.

While there were numerous examples of Bob’s faulty/selective memory and his inability or unwillingness to think fairly and critically on this topic any longer, the following examples from his latest “response” will suffice.  Bob’s notoriously faulty/selective memory was on full display in several of his responses.  But in some cases the proof becomes a bit complicated because Bob has told multiple, conflicting versions of certain events and new “important facts” just conveniently pop up into his recollection whenever he needs them.  However, the following falsehoods can be easily demonstrated.

Bob vs. Bob:  Slandering Fr. King

Bob has been falsely claiming that Fr. King never criticized the “content” of his writing on Jewish issues during their meeting at the Diocese of Harrisburg, solely his “tone”.  According to Bob, Fr. King underhandedly later “slipped in” the word “content” in his subsequent criticisms of Bob’s work on Jewish issues.  Bob considers this a crucial piece of evidence for his claim that the "real" reason Bishop Rhoades and Diocese of Harrisburg chastised him was because they disagreed with his doctrinal views in regard to Jewish issues, not because of his tone and objectionable non-theological postings.  Bob has claimed that Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg used his other criticisms of Jews (please take a moment to view them:  here, here and here) as merely a convenient excuse to silence him on Catholic doctrinal issues related to Jews. (Click here to read a very enlightening exchange between David Palm and one of Bob's closest friends and most vociferous advocates about this false narrative). 

When I pointed out in my most recent defense of Bishop Rhoades that Bob’s article, Catholic Apologetics International and Its Teaching on the Jews (CAITJ ) – which Bob wrote and published a mere four days after this same diocesan meeting – clearly states that Fr. King did, in fact, criticize Bob’s tone and content at this July 27 meeting, Bob then tried to resolve the problem by claiming that it was “probably” only Fr. Massa who mentioned Bob’s tone.  The problem that remains for Bob is that the public record – which was compiled and published by him almost immediately after the meeting in question – expressly states that both Fr. King and Fr. Massa criticized Bob’s tone and his content

In a further attempt to resolve this glaring contradiction, Bob also appealed to a private letter he allegedly sent to Bishop Rhoades a full week after he wrote and published CAITJ.  But this letter only states that the problems with Bob’s tone were “stressed”.  Nothing in the letter states that Fr. King never mentioned Bob’s “content” at all.

If one is to accept Bob’s most recently attempted explanation, his memory failed on the public account he wrote and published almost immediately after the meeting in question on a key point.  Then his memory of that same meeting suddenly improved in a later, private account he wrote – the existence of which no one can verify aside from him.  Assuming that Bob did in fact send this alleged letter to Bishop Rhoades, the fact is that his strained explanation is highly improbable and entirely unnecessary.  It seems extremely odd that I should have to be the one to point this out, but Bob's two accounts aren’t actually contradictory, they’re complementary.  They can easily be harmonized by accepting that Fr. King and Fr. Massa both criticized Bob’s tone and his content at their July 27 meeting, but the problem with Bob’s “tone” was most heavily stressed.  

Again, here are Bob’s own words, written almost immediately after his meeting with Fr. King and Fr. Massa:

“In a personal letter he wrote to me, and in a follow up meeting I recently had with his vicar general, the Very Reverend William J. King, JCD, along with the executive director for ecumenical and inter-religious affairs of the USCCB, the Reverend James Massa, 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 examples in which I have crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations, and I communicated to them my agreement with their overall assessment...” (R. Sungenis, CAITJ.  Emphasis added. Click here to view the full document.)

As such, it's completely clear from the public record that Fr. King noted problems with Bob’s “content” on Jewish issues all along, beginning at their July 27 meeting.  Therefore, Bob is slandering Fr. King, just as I previously stated.  Bob's claim that Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg used the "tone" of his postings on other Jewish issues as an excuse to silence him on the alleged "real issue" about which they were supposedly concerned all along  his doctrinal teaching involving Jews  is nonsense.

Two Factual Errors in One Sentence: 

In trying to help Bob understand why it was completely understandable that the Diocese of Harrisburg eventually ceased communicating with him entirely, I wrote:

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.  Let’s take the latter claim first as it can be proven false more quickly.

Error #1:  When did Bob Take the Name “Catholic” off his website?

Bob insists in his correction of my alleged error that he removed the name “Catholic” from his website on or before August 5, 2007.  Fortunately, we were paying close attention to his website at this time because it was during this time that Bob was trying to pressure us to take down the RSATJ website and blog by falsely claiming that Bishop Rhoades was completely satisfied with CAITJ and the changes he made at his website (as well as a few other falsehoods).  We documented the day he changed the name of his website to the “Bellarmine Theological Forum” 
 it was August 28, 2007 – over three weeks after the date now insisted upon by Bob:

 

28 August 2007:  Sungenis removes the word “Catholic” from the name of his apostolate (at least on the home page), changes the title of his website from “Catholic Apologetics International” to “Bellarmine Theological Forum”.  Shortly thereafter, he moves the Q&A section of the CAI site to a separate site, the “xanga.com” blog site. (See here).

But one need not take our word for it, here's the Internet Archive from August 23, 2007.  Note that the name of his website was still "Catholic Apologetics International" as of that date:

Internet Archive of Bob's Website on August 23, 2007

And here's the Internet Archive from September 12, 2007 -- showing the name change to "Bellarmine Theological Forum":


Internet Archive of Bob's Website on September 12, 2007

The record proves that Bob's new account of when he removed the name "Catholic" from his website is flatly false.

Error #2:  The Date and Cause of Bob’s Last Communication from the Diocese of Harrisburg

Bob’s new claim about the last communication he received from the Diocese of Harrisburg is another, straight-out falsehood that can be demonstrated with a little more effort.  Here is Bob’s claim, again:

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.

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.) 1 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… 

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.

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 far 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.

Now, please look at Bob’s newest statement about the “facts” again.  And please pay particular attention not only to the absolute certainty with which Bob stated his falsehood, but to the impressive, detailed supporting arguments he marshaled in order to “prove” that his falsehood was true.

           

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. There was no reason for them to communicate with me any longer since they had no more canonical recourse with me. Under canon law, the only further recourse would be if the diocese could prove that I was in heresy, but that certainly wasn’t the case, since it was me who was defending the tradition of the Church against their novelties. The diocese would have had to put me on trial and have me convicted of heresy before it could require that I stop writing about the Jews.

All very forceful and convincing…except for the fact that Bob was completely wrong about the timing and cause of his last communications with the Diocese of Harrisburg.2 Again, after reading all of this – including the asinine email sent by Bob’s patron and Bob’s subsequent, ridiculous legal threat against the diocese – isn't it completely understandable why Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg decided that they wanted nothing further to do with him? 


Bob’s Falsehood About Posting New Material Regarding Jews on His Website After Bishop Rhoades Told Him to Stop

According to Bob's lone clerical defender (who, by the way, had no response after we answered his misinformed and misguided defense of Bob, click here and here), the following is what Bishop Rhoades wrote to Bob on June 29, 2007:


I hereby direct you immediately to desist from commenting on the Jewish people and Judaism both online and in all other publications. I ask that you further remove all commentary presently contained on the website Catholic Apologetics International pertaining to Judaism and the Jewish people by July 20, 2007. If you do not comply with these directives I will publicly advise the faithful of my directives and further declare that Catholic Apologetics International lacks the appropriate ecclesiastical consent for the use of the name Catholic and I will direct that the name 'Catholic' should not be used due to the above-mentioned concerns about your writings.


I stated that Bob had disobeyed this directive given by Bishop Rhoades by publishing several new items involving Jewish issues during the month of July (he also failed to remove all of the pre-existing Jewish material until well after July 20th, but that's a separate issue).  To this, Bob responded:

   

No, Mr. Forrest has his facts wrong…On Sept. 5, I wrote a letter to Bishop Rhoades saying that the matter was now confusing to me since I had understood from the July 27 meeting that if I had corrected the tone (e.g., abusive or judgmental language is what I understood him to mean) of my articles, this would satisfy the situation...After that, there was no more communication from the Rhoades, King or Massa, to this very day. It was then that articles on the Jews, in addition to my summary points, began to appear, but that was many weeks later. 


So, according to Bob, he didn’t post anything new involving Jewish issues between June 29 (the date of Bishop Rhoades' cease and desist letter) and September 5th.  This is a demonstrable falsehood.  In fact, just as I originally stated, he posted several new items about Jewish issues throughout the month of July - possibly the most blatant of which was a cartoon of a Jewish soldier sticking a machine gun in the face of a young Palestinian child. This event was also documented by Bob's former vice president, Ben Douglass (click here). And incredibly, just four days after receiving Bishop Rhoades’ letter of June 29 directing him "immediately to desist from commenting on the Jewish people and Judaism both online and in all other publications", Bob even posted an article in which he falsely accused Bishop Rhoades of being a proponent of a heretical view on Jewish issues.  Bob came under heavy criticism for that article from multiple sources. One can read documentation about it here and here.  The name of the article was "Jacob Michael, the Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign".  [Note: by comparing the web archive of Bob's website on June 29 and July 6, one can also independently verify that this article was posted between those dates.  Simply scroll down to "Book, Article and Website Reviews" on June 29th, here and July 6th, here.  On June 29th, the the link and title of the article are missing.  On July 6 they are present.]

 

On July 6th, Bob also had his promotions director quietly copy six of his anti-Jewish articles to a separate blog (sungenisandhiscritics.blogspot.com) where they remained for several months until his former VP, Ben Douglass, finally confronted him about it (click here).  In early-mid July, Bob also posted a Q & A in which he endeavored to downplay the relationship between God and the Jewish people.  One can see it on the web archive of his own website by clicking here (scroll down to question #1). Bob also posted a review of a book by James Petras (“The Power of Israel in the United States”) in which he made the following statements, including his own personal prophecy of “judgment” and “punishment” for Israel:

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

“There was such unbridled destruction of people and property that, like Jacob saw in his day, we have all the signs that the nation of Israel has made itself 'stink' among the nations. As Jacob predicted, it may not be too long before their neighbors 'shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.' St. John may have predicted the same when he stated that the 'Whore of Babylon' would one day be hated and burned by the Beast and the Ten Horns (the nations)."

"Peace in the Middle East can only come if Israel learns her place...”

"Israel is as ungodly today as they were in St. Paul’s day, and the world, especially the United States, must stop condoning and encouraging its sin...If the United States does not stop, it will also soon come under God’s judgment and it will be severely punished.”


We saved off a copy of the dated article because Bob has a habit of "disappearing" inconvenient articles and statements he has posted, but one can still view this article on a website run by one of Bob's supporters, and the article is dated by Bob as "July 2007" (click here).  

It was right after all this that he was called in on July 27th to meet with Fr. King and Fr. Massa at the Diocese of Harrisburg.  As such, Bob's claim that he obediently stopped posting material about Jewish issues until after September 5th is blatantly false and what I stated is exactly true.  Bob's self-portrait of himself as promptly obedient to and respectful of Bishop Rhoades is risible in the extreme. One can examine a more complete timeline of events by clicking here.

Michael Forrest…Zionist?

In one section of my defense of Bishop Rhoades, I pointed out how ridiculous it was for Bob – a simple layman with no degrees in Catholic theology or canon law – to effectively appoint himself as Grand Inquisitor of a canonical kangaroo court by personally concocting three doctrinal statements about Jews and demanding that Bishop Rhoades publicly sign off on them before he would stop accusing His Excellency of heresy (read here for more on that).  And what was Bob’s response?  Somehow, this led him to conclude that, “Mr. Forrest is really no different than Christian Zionists such as John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer and the rest of them.”  

The most obvious problem with Bob’s diversionary tactic is that I’ve never written anything advocating Zionism or Israeli political interests at all.  In fact, I don’t believe that Israel has some sort of divine blessing on all of its political and military endeavors simply because they are Jewish and have said so openly (scroll down to the last comment under this article written by David Palm and me).  I have no idea how Bob comes up with this bunk, but it doesn’t stop him from stating it as though it’s an established fact  (an important tendency to keep in mind when reading Bob’s characterizations of his interactions with Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg).   In Bob’s mind, apparently there’s no difference between believing that the Jewish people retain a special relationship with God because of the fathers of Israel (something taught by St. Paul, the Church and reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI) and being a “Zionist” extremist like John Hagee.

Supersessionism, Redux

I wrote a section on “supersessionism” (click here to read it) in which I demonstrated that the term isn’t of Catholic origin, has a decidedly pejorative nuance, has never been used in a single magisterial document and has various meanings and nuances depending upon the person/group using it – some of which do not comport with Catholic teaching. As such, I pointed out that Bob was completely out of line to use this term alone as a public litmus test of anyone’s orthodoxy – let alone a Catholic bishop (a bishop who never even used the term himself, by the way).

And what was Bob’s response?  He made the accusation that “Mr. Forrest’s ploy here is to dilute the traditional meaning of supersessionism”.

The whole point, of course, is that there is no settled, traditional Catholic theological definition of the term “supersessionism” at all.  So how could one try to “dilute” something that doesn’t even exist?  If I were wrong, if such a definition does in fact exist and the term “superspessionism” has in fact been used by the Magisterium, then all Bob had to do was bring forth the proof and provide the magisterial definition.  The problem, of course, is that the proof doesn’t exist and he knows it.   So, instead of forthrightly admitting that fact, he used one of his stock debater’s tricks and tried to divert the reader’s attention by going on a rant about Jewish convert Roy Schoeman instead. 

The facts remain exactly as I said.  Bob Sungenis has essentially rested his entire, ridiculous heresy “case” against Bishop Rhoades on the accusation that His Excellency’s vicar general – not even Bishop Rhoades himself – made a negative comment about “supersessionism”.  That’s it.  According to Bob’s own account, there was no discussion with Fr. King (the vicar general) to determine exactly what he understands “supersessionism” to mean (click here and here to read about the various meanings of this term).  But for Bob, the mere fact that Fr. King made a negative, passing comment about “supersessionism” in the context of a very long meeting was enough to justify publicly accusing Bishop Rhoades of “attempting to propagate” “heresy” to “unsuspecting Catholics”, of being at “war with Catholic doctrine”, and of having greater “allegiances” to Jewish causes than to the Catholic faith. (Click here for the disturbing proof that Bob is completely ignoring his own publicly stated standards in the process – another fact that he continues to studiously ignore).

Of course, what makes this all the more disturbing and bizarre is the fact that he wrote this latest public response to me after he had privately admitted to David Palm that he changed his mind and no longer believes that Bishop Rhoades is an “anti-supersessionist”.  But in keeping with his increasingly paranoid and conspiratorial mindset, Bob is now convinced that there was another “evil man” who was actually “the mastermind behind this whole thing” at the Diocese of Harrisburg – click here for more detail.   He also wrote another article that included these same lies about Bishop Rhoades (see here) – again, after privately admitting he no longer believed them to be true.   

What kind of man does such things?

Back to the Crux of the Matter:  CAITJ 

But most importantly, it’s clear from the record – including Bob’s own statements and those made by his lone clerical supporter – that I was correct about the pivotal event that led to the ultimate disintegration of his relationship with Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg:  Bob’s fateful decision to publish “Catholic Apologetics and Its Teachings on the Jews”, his supposed “last word” on Jewish issues after his meeting at the chancellery (CAITJ:  July 31, 2007). 

In January 2008, Bob wrote:

R. Sungenis: “when I subsequently wrote a new article whose “tone” was proper but insisted that: (a) the Jews are responsible for their disbelief in Christ, (b) the Jews are no longer the people of God but can become such by believing in Jesus Christ, (c) that there exist no other unfulfilled promises to the Jews except the promise to save them if they turn to Christ, I was then told by the bishop that my opinions showed a lack of “charity and respect for the Jewish people and for Judaism itself.” He then took back his previous offer to allow me to change the “tone” of my articles and forthwith ordered me to stop writing about the Jews and Judaism altogether. (Old Covenant: Revoked or Not Revoked, p. 11)

The article to which Bob refers here is CAITJ.   And Bob’s lone clerical supporter proved that Bob’s decision to publish CAITJ was the pivotal event that sent Bob into his final tailspin with Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg.  He wrote:

“After the July 27 meeting at the chancery, Dr. Sungenis left on his website a letter to his readers that included a 7-point statement of the “qualified opinion” of Catholic Apologetics International on theological and biblical aspects of the relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism [CAITJ] . . . When Dr. Sungenis communicated to the Diocese the information just mentioned, sending a copy of the aforesaid letter [CAITJ] to his website readers, 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 was not fully satisfactory because of the tone and content of some passages.  Fr. King’s letter passed on the following message to Dr. Sungenis from Bishop Rhoades: 

"He asks that you remove the recently posted letter, and that you refrain from publishing on all topics directly or tangentially related to Judaism or the Jewish people. The Bishop issues this directive because some of your views do not adhere to explicit Church teaching and are not imbued with the living voice of the Magisterium, which includes charity and respect for the Jewish people and for Judaism itself. . .. It is Bishop Rhoades’ hope and prayer that you . . . refrain from further commenting on matters related to Judaism or the Jewish people." 

(Quoted from an article written by Sungenis's lone clerical supporter in June 2008)

Bob’s notorious tone deafness and pride led to this entirely predictable reaction from Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg.  In CAITJ, Bob felt the need to have the last word on the matter, to rationalize his errors and to make additional dubious, unnecessarily inflammatory criticisms of Jews under the guise of “Catholic theology”.  Worse yet, he did this while giving the false (and very public) impression that Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg had signed off on it (for an examination of some of the problems with CAITJ, please read here and here).

The Last Straw

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 so Bob did what he has done to pretty much everyone who has ever decided that they’ve had enough of his shtick:  he soothed his ego by concocting a brand new narrative in which he could imagine himself as an innocent and even heroic victim while portraying and attacking Bishop Rhoades and his vicar general as “evil”. (Click here to see the stark difference between Bob’s initial glowing account of his interactions with Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg and his subsequent condemnatory account of the very same interactions.  Click here to read an eye-opening admission from Bob himself on this matter).  Thanks to the fact that Bob and his friend Tom Herron wrote so much about it, one can easily discover how and when his story mutated so completely over time and why his new story is nonsense (read here for more information on Bishop Rhoades and the dual covenant error).  

Bob’s Lone Clerical Supporter Agrees With Bishop Rhoades and Us

Most ironically, Bob’s lone clerical supporter agrees with Bishop Rhoades and us that CAITJ was indeed problematic in regard to both tone and content. (This priest also made some erroneous arguments in support of  Bob, and a refutation of those arguments can be read here and here.  He hasn't written a word in Bob's defense since then).  As I mentioned earlier, Bob recently posted an alternate version of the four-year-old article written by this priest that had been taken down some time ago (it appears to be an earlier version of the article Bob posted on his website in June 2008).  In this alternate version, this priest – who was a close personal friend of Bob's at the time – wrote the following about CAITJ:

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)

So, again, even Bob’s lone clerical supporter disagreed with him and recognized that there were indeed significant problems with CAITJ’s tone and content.  As such, the question as to why Bishop Rhoades changed his mind after reading CAITJ and decided that Bob just needed stop writing about Jewish issues altogether has been answered very simply and plainly. CAITJ was significantly flawed in terms of both tone and content. There’s no need to resort to the nefarious conspiracy theories, secret heresy and “duplicity” that Bob imagines.  

However, Bob’s priest-friend then went on to make the following argument:

I have no doubt that Dr. Sungenis would have agreed to some reasonable amendments to overcome this problem, if he had been given the appropriate suggestions and opportunity by the diocesan authorities.

As one who has previously worked with Bob to edit his writing, I had to smile at the phrase “reasonable amendments”.  What Bob considers “reasonable” and what most other people consider “reasonable” in regard to his writings on Jewish issues are frequently two very different things. 

Not surprisingly, Bob himself offered a similar line of argument/excuse in his “response” to me:

R. SungenisIf I had offended anyone with caustic language, I was willing to restructure my words so as not to offend…If Mr. Forrest’s assessment is correct, why didn’t Fr. King suggest that I reword the seven points?

First, the problem was more than mere "caustic language" or tone.  As even Bob's lone clerical supporter acknowledged, there were also problems with Bob's content.  His "doctrinal" formulations were dubious, at best.  But, regardless, is it really so hard to figure out the answer to this question?  Unfortunately, Bob and his most devout followers operate under the misconception that it’s “all about Bob, all the time.”  Why aren’t people more accommodating to Bob? Why aren’t people doing what Bob thinks best and most advantageous for Bob?  Why don’t people give Bob endless chances to behave better?  Why don’t people try harder to understand Bob?  Bob, Bob, Bob.  Somehow, they remain completely indifferent or oblivious to the rights of all the people Bob attacks and slanders.

Bishop Rhoades as Bob’s New Volunteer “Fact Checker and Source Exonerator”?

Somehow, it escapes both Bob and his priest friend that Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg clearly decided they didn’t want to effectively become Bob’s latest “fact checker and source exonerator” on Jewish issues (a job description coined by Bob himself after one of his many scandalous and embarrassing errors:  see here).  “Fact checker and source exonerator” is the black-hole-of-a-job that his ex-volunteers refer more accurately to as “CAI damage control”.  That unenviable role has been tried and abandoned by several well-intentioned people over the years and it has always ended very badly (click here to read about one of the more recent cases). To put it mildly, Bob is a loose cannon who will not accept much restraint for long, regardless of his solemn-sounding promises to the contrary (read here for much more on that).  Clearly, the last thing Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg wanted was to become more closely tied to and responsible for monitoring Bob’s offensive and irrational anti-Jewish extremism in order to keep it under control.  A quick look at Bob’s website now proves that to have been a wise and prudent decision. 

Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity

Here’s the bottom line.  Bob had blatantly disregarded Bishop Rhoades’s directive to cease and desist from writing about Jewish issues and had even publicly slandered His Excellency (see details here for all the disrespectful things Bob did after receiving Bishop Rhoades’s initial correspondence). But Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg gave Bob yet another chance to prove that he was both willing and able to behave maturely, responsibly and charitably in regard to the Jewish people after he was reprimanded.  And what did Bob do with that opportunity?  He decided to post CAITJ, replete with what even his lone clerical defender characterized as unnecessarily inflammatory and combative language in the context of a supposed “apology” for his offenses against the Jewish people.  He decided to portray the vast majority of the Jewish people as being in hell by his dubious “doctrinal” formulations.  He decided to advance other dubious and controversial positions about Jews.  And he did all of this while giving the false impression that Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg had signed off on it.  All of these terrible choices were Bob’s responsibility and no one else’s. 

It's plain that CAITJ was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back with Bishop Rhoades and the Diocese of Harrisburg.  It’s very easy to understand why the diocese obviously concluded that if this was the best Bob could do so shortly after being reprimanded about his handling of Jewish issues, he was going to do much worse when he felt he wasn’t being watched so closely any longer. (Click here to read a sampling of what Bob has done in the past once he felt the coast was clear).  

And if the door remained open at all after CAITJ, it was certainly slammed shut after Bob’s patron Lionel Andrades sent that asinine email to all the priests of the Diocese of Harrisburg on his behalf, spreading the false accusations of heresy that Bob had been publicly leveling against His Excellency.  Recall, in typical Sungenis fashion, instead of rebuking his patron for his outrageous behavior and apologizing to Fr. King and Bishop Rhoades, Bob’s response was to make more accusations, demand an apology from them and even imply that he might sue them! (See here.  Note: you may need to paste this link in your browser in order to view it properly).  In view of all this, it should be completely obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense why the Diocese of Harrisburg understandably decided that they’d had enough of Bob.

Proverbs 26:11

Bob had a chance to move away from the outer fringe and back toward respectability and relevance by simply exercising some maturity, restraint and responsibility on Jewish issues. And he blew it.  He was unable and/or unwilling to control his pride, overly suspicious imaginings and his animus against Jews.  Understandably, Bishop Rhoades and his vicar general obviously decided that they had seen more than enough at this point (see “Timeline” for more of the outrageous things Bob had already done in defiance of Bishop Rhoades, shortly before publishing CAITJ).

Now, instead of actually doing the right thing and finally making amends for his offenses, Bob remains hard at work trying to convince whoever still listens to him that he has been ostracized for simply being a noble warrior fighting for Catholic “truth”.  The clearest proof that Bishop Rhoades was right to tell Bob to stop writing about Jewish issues can currently be found on Bob’s own website, which has degenerated into Bob’s version of the anti-Semitic website “Jew Watch”.   At last check, Bob’s site was littered with 40 or so articles and features attacking Jews and propagating anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and “revisionist history” on the Holocaust from people like Mark Weber (former editor for the neo-Nazi, white supremacist National Alliance) and David Duke (yes, that David Duke, the notorious anti-Semite and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan).  Mind you, this is after Bob’s repeated, solemn promises to never do such things again (click here and here to read Bob’s promises).  

Unfortunately, part of the fantasy Bob's publicly peddling also regularly includes serious slanders of a faithful successor to the Apostles – Bishop Rhoades.  Were it not for that last fact, I would have ignored him long ago.  His interpretation of what happened between him and Bishop Rhoades and why it happened is, at best, delusional nonsense.  Bob has a history of setting himself up for a fall as a direct result of his own errors and atrocious behavior and then portraying himself as an innocent victim (see here, for example). 

The conspiracy theories, white supremacist rants, anti-Semitic propaganda pieces and brazen falsehoods about Bishop Rhoades and anybody else who has criticized his handling of Jewish issues continue to pile up at Bob’s website.  And the more this garbage multiplies, the more any hope that he will return to contributing anything of real value to Catholic apologetics continues to fade.  It’s a shame.

 

Michael Forrest

 

Suggested Reading:   

Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Theory

Rick DeLano Crafts a Conspiracy Theory

Fr. Harrison and RSATJ

Fr. Harrison and the Diocese of Harrisburg

 

__________________________

1 The article “Robert Sungenis Responds to his Biography on Wikipedia” (RSRBW, section 5a) has subsequently been removed from Bob’s website.  Fortunately, I saved a copy of it because such articles have a suspicious habit of suddenly “disappearing” from Bob’s website at certain “coincidental” junctures. 

2 To make matters worse, it’s also a matter of public record that Bob received another letter from the Diocese of Harrisburg about these matters on August 23, 2007 - about three weeks after he’s now insisting that they had ceased all communication with him.  In June 2008, Bob’s lone clerical supporter wrote:

 

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 was not fully satisfactory because of the tone and content of some passages.  (Dr. Robert Sungenis Has Disobeyed No Binding Precept of His Bishop, p. 11)