Sungenis' Own Standards of Heresy: Why Don't They Apply to Bishop Rhoades?

[This essay was prompted by a discussion on the National Catholic Register blog, in which Bob Sungenis once again publicly accused Bishop Kevin Rhoades of holding to a heretical view.  Although we have already demonstrated conclusively that Bob's charges are slanderous and erroneous (see here and especially here), I thought it would be helpful to see Bob's renewed charges in light of his own stated standards.  It is also helpful to examine Bob's credibility, especially in light of the demonstrably bogus and false charges that he has made against numerous other people. --  David Palm]

I want to be on record in support of Bishop Rhoades.  His Excellency has said nothing unorthodox.  On the contrary, he has stated the Church’s teaching with regard to the Covenants and salvation with a clarity that surpasses statements from other prelates which Bob has praised.  See this documented here.

In fact, Bishop Rhoades’ statement concerning the Covenants and salvation was posted on the notoriously contentious angelqueen forum and was greeted with amazement and respect due to its force and clarity: “That is the first time in my life that I have heard a bishop speak like that.”

We have already demonstrated that “supersessionism” is not a magisterial word, that it admits of a variety of interpretations and as distinguished a theologian as Cardinal Dulles speaks of a “crude supersessionism” which is not compatible with the Catholic Faith, but which Bob has every appearance of holding himself.  We have established that Bishop Rhoades rejects the dual covenant view, believes in the evangelization of the Jews and their need for Christ, and has heartily affirmed our article which explicitly states that the Mosaic Covenant was superseded by the New Covenant.  Therefore, obviously, what is being rejected by Bishop Rhoades is “crude supersessionism”.  His position is perfectly orthodox and correct.

But Bob’s handling of this situation with Bishop Rhoades doesn’t even line up with Bob’s own standards when addressing, interestingly enough, the statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states that “the Old Covenant has never been revoked":


“It's ambiguous, but it's not heresy. . . . I'll grant you that your reasoning COULD be a possible interpretation, but the point is that you don't know it IS the interpretation, at least not well enough to levy the charge of heresy. Heresy does not deal with ambiguities. It sanctions direct and provable statements of error. . . . I really don't have to prove anything. George is the one who has to prove something, since he is the one charging the CCC with heresy. . . . Heresy is a deliberate, calculated and unequivocal statement to circumvent established dogma. . . . I simply would not use the word "heresy" at all, . . . "Proximate to heresy" is a juridical term, and when you get into canonical jurisprudence, then you're required to give substantial evidence for the accusation and conviction. If you can't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, you don't have a case.” ("Does the Catechism Contain a Heresy?")

So according to Bob:

     If there is an ambiguity that admits an orthodox interpretation, then it's not heresy.

     Heresy consists only in "direct and provable statements of error."

     The burden of proof is entirely on the accuser.

     Heresy is "deliberate, calculated and unequivocal statement to circumvent established dogma."

     The accuser is "required to give substantial evidence for the accusation and conviction."

     And finally, unless he can prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, the accuser has no case.

And which of Bob’s own standards has he applied to this situation with his bishop?  None of them.   Bob continues to claim that Bishop Rhoades is purposely peddling heresy.

And Bob went into great detail in another place on what constitutes heresy and how it should be handled:

“When we are dealing with prelates of the Church, the best place to go to define heresy is canon law, and the previous decisions made by the Church upon its formal heretics. As such, the Church has always weighed all the evidence before it makes a judgment on whether something is heretical, or whether a person is a heretic. In canonical terminology, "heresy" requires two things: (1) that the doctrine being denied has been defined by the Church at the highest levels of her authority (e.g., de fide, de fide Catholica, de fide devina [sic] et Catholica, or de fide ecclesiastica definita, or de fide divina). (2) The person would have to recognize the teaching at this level, and would have to give a specific denial of it for it to be canonically called "heresy" and for him to be classed as a "heretic." Even then, the Church gives room for the suspected heretic to recant or modify his views when probed by the Church, which is also a canonical process. If he persists, then he is treated accordingly.


In addition, when the person who is being accused is the pope, even much more caution has to be added to the procedure. If someone doesn't like something that the pope said, he can raise his objections in the spirit of humility and he has a right to be heard. But he does not have the right to call the pope's statement a "heresy," since that is a term reserved to canonical courts who alone have the right and authority to judge the issue.


Moreover, in my own personal experience, at least in half the cases I've seen concerning complaints about either Ratzinger or Pope Benedict XVI, it is the accuser whose theology is a bit askew or extreme, and it is the accuser in many of the other cases who is much too quick to set himself up as the judge and jury, and with little room for giving his victim the benefit of the doubt.” (here)

Applying Bob's Standards to Bishop Rhoades:

1) Where has the Church ever defined (or even USED) the term “supersessionism” at all– let alone “at the highest levels of her authority”?

2)  As the answer to #1 is “nowhere”, then how could Bishop Rhoades (or even Fr. King, for that matter) “recognize the teaching”?

3) Where has Bishop Rhoades ever given a “specific denial of it”?

4) Did Bob raise his objections “in the spirit of humility?

5) Does Bob have the right to call Fr. King’s statement a heresy?  Or is that reserved to canonical courts “who alone have the right and authority to judge the issue”?

6) Has Bob set himself up as judge and jury?  Has he given his “victim” the benefit of the doubt?

Part 2: A Pattern of Behavior

I think that the answers to the questions above are pretty clear to anybody who has paid any attention to this situation.  As such, they render somewhat vacuous Bob’s contention that “I’m in this for the truth, and only the truth”.  Rather, the evidence shows that when Bob has a personal grudge he develops a new narrative at variance with the facts to justify his anger and then deploys a series of rationalizations to prop up the narrative.

Given the seriousness of the charge and the office of the one against whom it is leveled, I think it’s very fair to ask, is this the sort of man to bring a charge against a successor of the Apostles?  Has he been fair and just in his dealings with others?  Has he comported himself well with those who are outside our Faith?  Has he been responsible and accurate in his handling of his sources?  Does he have the marks of a “prophet”, as he self-styles himself?

Does Bob have the credibility to support such serious accusations?  The record indicates not.  Although this incident with Bishop Rhoades is the most egregious example, unfortunately there is a long-standing pattern of this sort of behavior from Bob.  I would be accused of piling-on if I introduced a comprehensive list, but let me at least document this pattern with a few of the most salient examples.

In 2003, Bob publicly accused Protestant apologist William Webster of duplicity based on some unverified hearsay.  When it was proven that his source was bogus, he was eventually forced to publicly retract and apologize.  At the time he stated, “Without sufficient corroboration, any information, especially in these kinds of sensitive areas, is as good as false. We have all learned our lesson, . . .”  Would that Bob had lived by those words.

But he did not.  When Michael Forrest left CAI in March 2005 and then posted in September 2006 in response to Bob’s increasing aggression against the Jewish people, Bob responded in anger and spun out a narrative that contained numerous demonstrable falsehoods and spurious accusations.  But we have fully documented that: Michael was not “fired” but quit, there never was any music “gig”, no concert promoter, no pursuit of a music career, no underhanded rearranging of the CAI web site, Michael certainly had expressed his concerns to Bob about the anti-Jewish material at CAI, Bob had completely circumvented Michael’s position as editor numerous times, Bob’s wife was not an “eye witness” to his private conversation with Michael as Bob claimed, and so on.  See here and here.

Although some of these examples can, out of charity, conceivably be chalked up to sloppiness or a very defective memory, in certain instances it is not so easy.  For example, while he has leveled many false accusations against Roy Schoeman over the years (fully documented here, here, and here) the most egregious is a fraudulent quotation that he attributed to Roy. He stubbornly stood by the quote in public, even after he privately told the source of the quote that he believed it was bogus.  As Ben Douglass documents (and here we see an unmistakable echo of his demand that Bishop Rhoades prove his innocence to Bob’s satisfaction):

“we have documentation proving that already, by March 6, Sungenis thought that the quote was fraudulent. In spite of this, he proceeded to publish, on March 7, . . . that he ‘must assume’ that the quote is genuine, and that if anyone wishes to dispute this, he ought to get an affidavit from Schoeman!”

To this day, Bob has yet to unequivocally apologize to Roy and to retract this slanderous accusation. This sordid situation is fully documented here:

Another example is the fraudulent quote he attributed to Albert Einstein, which he has still not forthrightly admitted is bogus:

A partial list of additional individuals to whom Bob has attributed inaccurate or fraudulent quotes include: Pope John Paul II, Gen. Tommy Franks, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Congressman John Rarick, mathematician Clifford Truesdell, Benjamin Ginzberg, Ariel Sharon, Carl Sagan, David Brooks, Jerry Falwell, Bill Cork, Leon Suprenant and Mike Sullivan of CUF, Mark Shea, Christopher Blosser, Michael Lopez, and David Palm.  These are documented here:

Whether the individual examples stem from sloppiness, a defective memory, or malice is not for us to say.  But obviously, when an individual is loudly denouncing a Catholic bishop as “attempting to propagate” heresy to “unsuspecting Catholics,” and having greater “allegiances” to Jewish causes than the Catholic faith, it’s important to scrutinize his credibility.  And the record proves conclusively that Bob has a well-established pattern of gross inaccuracy in such matters and that he is stubbornly unwilling to truly and forthrightly retract and apologize for his slanders and errors.

David Palm

Note:  for more, read A Defense of Bishop Rhoades from More Accusations by Robert Sungenis.