Answers to Bob from the Catholic Answers Forum

Here are some extended answers to questions raised by Bob Sungenis and his friend "Yanni" over at the Catholic Answers Forum.  See the entire thread here:

Was Jesus also the Messiah for the Jews?

Rather than post all of this material in the forum itself, we have put the material here and linked to it from the forum. For the full context that led up to these answers, by all means read the whole exchange.

Have We Changed Our Minds?

Bob and Yanni,

A couple of times now you've each suggested that I've changed my views during this discussion. I haven't. What's actually happening is that you're finally starting to read and understand more of what we've written, although you both still have a bit further to go in that department. See below:

R. Sungenis:  Your transition from the Jews having a “special relationship with God” to a “unique” relationship is more welcome since it seems to be a step down from your more lofty designation in previous posts.

We’ve repeatedly used both "special" and "unique"—long before this thread, Bob. We haven't changed anything. No "step down." 

See the long series of comments by Michael and me under the article and also

And we laid out exactly what we meant by "special relationship" in "All in the Family". The problem is that you're reading too much into what we've written, probably because of your animus against the Jewish people, Bob. Again, we've illustrated that in some detail here: Sibling Jealousy and Racism?

Then “Yanni” writes,  “It is a better approach to these issues to acknowledge, as you did, that what you are proposing is ‘still being sifted and considered.’ Thank you for that.”

No need to thank me, “Yanni”. I haven't changed anything. What happened is that you cropped my statement and then inserted your own words to give a false impression of what I wrote. I didn't say or imply that everything I'm proposing here about this issue is "still being sifted and considered." I said that I was only referring to "some of these finer points." I repeated that in the next paragraph as well.

In regard to whether or not the Jewish people, as a group, remain dear to God because of the fathers of Israel and whether there is still a special/unique place for the Jewish people in salvation history (including the "conversion of the Jews", etc.), we believe the Church has been clear. But there are nuances within this broader discussion that are "still being sifted and considered" and they definitely deserve open discussion. In fact, we've been saying that all along. And there's no excuse for you not to know this, because it's right in the very Lay Witness article you insisted here that you've read. In All in the Family , we wrote:

While the Church continues to grapple with certain nuances in the relationship among Jews, Christians, and God, she has never taught the dual covenant theory or extreme supersessionism.

I’m not sure how you missed that.

In fact, the very section from which you cropped my quote gave a link to the following words in a section of "By Sungenis Alone" called "The humility and courage of the Pope in Regard to Jewish Issues vs. Robert Sungenis."

Now, please pay very close attention to the following. First, we quoted what your friend Bob has been saying. Please also read his following boasts in light of fact that the Church has never once used the words "revoked" in relation to the status of the Mosaic Covenant and has never used the term "supersessionism" at all:

R. Sungenis: Instead of applauding my Culture Wars essay for finally and definitively showing Catholics worldwide that the Old Covenant has been revoked and superseded by the New Testament and therefore no longer remains valid for the Jews;...instead of applauding the fact that I documented numerous Jewish individuals, Jewish groups, and their ideological sympathizers in their attempts to undermine Catholic doctrine on the Old and New Covenants by their outright rejection of supersessionism; …instead of applauding the reams of magisterial, scriptural and patristic evidence I uncovered showing that the Old Covenant has been revoked, what is the reaction from my “Catholic” opponents? The bottom line is this: if anyone teaches that the Old Covenant remains valid for the Jews; that the Old Covenant is not revoked and is not superseded by the New Covenant, it is vehemently suspect of heresy, plain and simple. I will not stop saying so unless the pope himself, in an ex cathedra statement, tells me that the Old Covenant is not revoked. (From "My Response to Bishop Rhoades" p. 1)

To this, we responded:

The contrast is stark. Where Sungenis would presume to play the part of pope and close the door, the head of the CDF (now pope) invites thoughtful reflection and sober exploration. Where Sungenis self-aggrandizes and attempts to intimidate into silence, our Holy Father is humble and meek.

We've never attempted to shut the door on this important conversation or shout anyone down, Yanni. We've invited conversation, as has the Holy Father. It's your friend, Bob, who has attacked anyone who disagrees with him as being a purveyor of nefarious heresies and has pronounced his personal opinions as Catholic dogma. It's Bob Sungenis who has poisoned the well with his extremism. And, unfortunately, that's precisely why so many Catholics have stopped discussing these issues with him—including his own bishop. 


Supersede and Supersessionism...yet again:

Bob writes,

Mr. Palm, are you telling us the Mosaic covenant isn’t superseded because you can’t find the word “supersessionism” in a Catholic document??

No, Bob. And you already know that. You've read "All in the Family," in which we stated, "the New Covenant in Christ has superseded the Mosaic (or "Old") covenant". And if you missed it there, we quoted it again three times in this very thread See post #22, post #25 and post #32.

And, again, in this very thread when "Yanni" stated,

As superseeded [sic] and abrogated, the Mosaic Law and other non-Abrahamic Covenants are not Salvific.

My response was "Agreed."

So that makes four times that the answer was placed right in front of your eyes, Bob. 

I don’t understand why you’re having such a hard time understanding this, but let’s try it one last time. The problem is not and has never been with merely using the word "supersede" or even "supersessionism." These terms can be understood in a perfectly orthodox way that reflects established Catholic teaching. But, unfortunately, they can also be understood in way that goes beyond what the Church teaches. That's what can happen when using terms that have never been used, let alone defined by, the Catholic Church. Cardinal Dulles has termed such usage a "crude supersessionism" (similarly, we’ve called it "extreme supersessionism). In fact, you clearly seem to be an extreme supersessionist yourself: "Is Robert Sungenis an Extreme Supersessionist?”

Again, Bob, the Church has never used, let alone defined the term “supersessionism”. You have been completely unable to prove otherwise. As such, it’s hard to express how absurd and un-Catholic it is for you to employ this term, by itself, as an absolute litmus test of anyone’s orthodoxy, let alone a bishop. But that’s precisely what you’ve done to Bishop Rhoades, Bob. You’ve essentially rested your entire “heresy” case against him on this single word – and it wasn’t even used by Bishop Rhoades himself! That was bad enough. But even worse, there’s copious, direct evidence that you’re flatly wrong, and yet you persist in making your slanderous and erroneous charges in public, regardless. See: Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Theory, A Defense of Bishop Rhoades from More False Accusations by Robert Sungenis and Sungenis’s Own Standards of Heresy: Why Don’t They Apply to Bishop Rhoades?

Revoked....yet again:

Now please don’t forget, Bob, that you are the one who is using terminology that neither sacred Scripture nor the Church has ever used. Again, consider the irony: as the very centerpiece of your case, as one of "the most important legal words related to the topic of the Old Covenant today" (as you put it), you chose a word that has never been used by the Magisterium in regard to the status of the Old (Mosaic) Covenant. Bob, you don’t seem to understand that words don’t become theologically important just because you personally use them. But let’s look a little more at why the Church may have chosen not to use your personal vocabulary.

You wrote:

R. Sungenis:  Who in the world do you have as an authority on the English language to support your novel definition? Revoked does not carry a “rebuke of the holder.” It is a legal term just like “abolished”, “abrogated” or “superseded.”

Regarding the different nuances between "revoke/revocation" vs. words like "abolish" and "supersede", it's really not that hard to understand, Bob. These words are all similar, with significant commonalities, but also with different nuances. Some of them have more than one definition. In fact, your most obvious mistake is to see "supersede" as being the same as "revoke" or "abolish". If something is abolished or revoked, it might not be replaced with anything else. Conversely, if it's superseded it must be, by definition, replaced by something else. That's why these words don't all have precisely the same definitions and synonyms listed. Is that really so hard to understand?

If your license is taken away because you were driving while intoxicated, because you failed to pay your fines, or for malpractice, one would say your license was "revoked." One would not say that your license was "abolished". Why? Because "revoked" conveys a punitive sense that implies something the license-holder did to cause the revocation while "abolished" doesn't give that same force and nuance. If you doubt this, spend some time Googling phrases like "license revocation", "license revoked", "membership revocation" and "membership revoked". You'll see that "revoke" and "revocation" are almost universally associated with some kind of violation by and resultant punishment of the license-holder or membership-holder. Then try Googling "license abolished", "license abolition." You'll notice an important difference in the nuances there.

Again, we already covered this in greater detail in our response to your "critique" of our Lay Witness article here: scroll down to "Revoked?".

But remember, it really doesn't matter whether you understand and agree with this point because we're just offering this as one possible explanation as to why the Church hasn't used "revoked" to describe the status of the Mosaic covenant. More on this below.

This explanation has no bearing or impact on the fact that the Church has not used it in her entire 2,000 year history to describe the status of the Mosaic covenant and the fact that you've made it your own veritable litmus test of orthodoxy, naming your supposed definitive work on the topic “The Old Covenant: Revoked or Not Revoked” and even going so far as to call it one of "the most important legal words related to the topic of the Old Covenant today."

I want you to imagine yourself in an actual canonical proceeding right now. Picture yourself trying to present a heresy case against Bishop Rhoades, using the three statements that you personally made up and demanding that he assent to them. Then imagine yourself employing words that the Church has never used like “supersessionism” and “revoked” in relation to the Mosaic covenant. Can you hear the hysterical laughter all around you in the courtroom, Bob? It’s just so manifestly ludicrous. Yet, to you, this is apparently completely reasonable.


The Conversion of the Jews

Your treatment of the expectation of the “conversion of the Jews”—particularly in regard to CCC 674 and the Fathers—continues to be one of the clearest proofs of your “theology of prejudice” against Jews, Bob. You’ve adopted polar opposite standards when something is negative about Jews versus when something is positive about Jews.

For example, you jumped to publicly proclaimed that the Church had "unofficially declared" that the Antichrist will be a Jew and that “the Fathers have much to say” about this. And what was your support for that bold claim? Exactly two Fathers, no magisterial documents at all, and perhaps most interestingly in light of your “Bible Bob” approach to everything positive involving Jews—exactly zero scriptural exegesis of the relevant passages. You used the alleged “prophecy” of St. Nilus, even though in a context that didn’t involve Jews you admitted that this source was dubious ( And then you produced four pages of quotes from Sts. Anselm, Hildegard, Bridget, Vincent Ferrer, Thomas Aquinas, Bellarmine, Pius X, and the Catechism. But remarkably,[B]only one[/B] of these, St. Anselm, actually mentioned Jews at all, but not in support of your claim that the Antichrist will be of Jewish ancestry. From the rest, there’s not a single mention of anything to do with Jews or Judaism. Remember? (See here).

On the other hand when the issue is something positive for Jews, like their eventual restoration alongside the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, you adopt whatever anti-Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant tactics you can in order to deny it. You’ve been caught completely misrepresenting the scope of the patristic, scriptural and magisterial evidence on this issue, see: here and here. You’ve even been caught cropping out portions of patristic quotes to obscure the very words that show that they believed in this future conversion (see here).

And your attempt to distort CCC 674 has already been dealt with.

The Catechism speaks of the “full inclusion” of the Jews into the Church after (post in Latin) the full number of the Gentiles. In the CCC this information is placed under the section dealing with what will occur leading up to the Second Coming. Everything else listed there is something that a person could perceive—Christ's return itself, the "final trial" of the Church that will "shake the faith" of her members, and the coming of Antichrist. And the recognition of the Messiah by "all Israel" is right square in the middle of that section. According to your unusual interpretation, Romans 11 isn't really that big of a deal. Very odd, then, that the Church found it important enough to include along with the Great Tribulation, the Great Apostasy, and the Antichrist as signs of the Second Coming. See more details here.

Now, if you want to argue that the conversion of the Jews is a hold-over from pre-millennialism in the early Church and that therefore it must be erroneous (as you have), then to be consistent you must also reject the notion of a “young earth” because it also came from pre-millennialism, since the same early Fathers picked up on an idea of Jewish (!!) eschatology which connected the days of creation with spans of 1000 years and posited that the world would only last 6000 years. But somehow I doubt you’ll be doing that.

In regard to “recently” finding more Fathers who allegedly deny the “conversion of the Jews”, you’d better look a little more closely at that “new” list of yours and compare it with your current articles and books. For example, above, you claim St. John Chrysostom and Gregory the Great as Fathers who agree with you. But in your “book”, “The Catholic/Jewish Dialogue” you openly (and correctly) acknowledge that both of these Fathers of the Church expected a future conversion of the Jews–exactly the opposite of what you’re saying here.

On page 567, you wrote: “Only three Fathers hold out for a future and distinct conversion of the Jews: Jerome...Cyril of Alexandria...Chrysostom...” And you even provided a quote from Chrysostom as proof, although there are many other examples from St. Chrysostom that you could have cited (see ). But then, in stark contrast to your treatment of the Antichrist being Jewish, you chided St. Chrysostom for failing to “give a thorough exegesis of the passages in question” and even insulted his command of the Greek language—pretty presumptuous of you considering that St. Chrysostom’s native tongue was Greek!

Next, on page 568 of your book, you write: "As for the popes, the only one of mention that anticipates a future conversion of the Jews is Gregory the Great." (p. 568) In fact, even your CASB3 openly (and correctly) acknowledges that Gregory the Great expected a future conversion of the Jewish people, but you argued with him about it just as you did with St. Chrysostom! (see p. 457 under Romans 11:25-27) Of course, you’re even wrong in saying that Gregory the Great is the "only [pope] of mention" who “anticipates a future conversion of the Jews.” Blessed Pope Pius IX also expected the conversion the Jews (see

And it’s clear that Pope Benedict XVI also expects the Jews, as a people, to be grafted back into their own Olive Tree alongside us Gentiles in the end (see p. 150 of God and the World). We and Ben Douglass have already dealt with your citations of Innocent III and Martin V a long time ago. We’ve demonstrated that their views could, as Ben said, “more naturally be taken as endorsing the mainstream, patristic view in favor of the mass conversion”. You admitted yourself that “at best it is ambiguous.” (“Catholics Falling for Jewish Errors”, p. 39) So, I don’t know why you’re back to citing Martin V and Innocent III as though they deny a future conversion of the Jewish people.

So, again, your treatment of the expectation of the “conversion of the Jews”—particularly in regard to CCC 674 and the Fathers—continues to be one of the clearest proofs of your “theology of prejudice” against Jews, Bob. You adopt whatever anti-Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant tactics you can in order to deny it. And that’s telling.