Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Former Catholic Apologist Robert Sungenis vs. Pope Benedict XVI: Take Your Pick

We've already seen Pope Bob-o-Link I go after Pope St. John Paul II (the Great), as I have documented now three times (including some previous shots at the present Holy Father).

I don't deny that Bob is a Catholic, but I deny that he is functioning as a Catholic apologist anymore -- by any reasonable definition of that word (a thing I know a little bit about myself, since I have been doing it for over twenty years: almost ten of those professionally). Once in a blue moon he'll defend Catholic doctrine, but mostly now he pope-bashes and Church-bashes and blasts true Catholic apologists. 

He is presently thinking and expressing himself, in many respects (like all radical Catholic reactionaries [or, RadCathRs]), more like a classical Protestant such as Martin Luther himself (someone else who could find very little good to say about current popes), with strong influences of fundamentalist Protestantism and also liberal Protestantism and dissident "Catholicism" in his pitiable thoughts as of late.

What he is doing now is a disgrace to Catholic apologetics: not to mention previous errors that he has promulgated, such as the notion that supposedly all Catholics are required by Tradition to believe that the earth is the literal center of the universe and doesn't rotate (a notion roundly refuted by my friend David Palm several times now), or that an omniscient God can change His mind (a very serious error that has appeared in two of his books), or his remarkable inability to grasp biblical anthropomorphism and anthropopathism, or his endless bigoted rantings against the Jews: sometimes even using neo-Nazi sources to "bolster" his calumnies.

Bob and I have had generally cordial relations personally, and will continue to, if he likes. But the time to be publicly silent about his polemical monstrosities against the latest two popes has passed. I must speak out now when he rants and raves like this. But mostly I merely document his rantings, because they usually aren't worthy of any reply or valuable time spent. 

The following words are all from his jeremiad, A Review of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth (May 2011), with the exception of some bracketed comments of mine in blue, when something he wrote was so particularly outlandish that I couldn't resist a response.

* * * * *

. . . what cannot be said officially because of ecclesiastical constraints is said unofficially in order to achieve a desired result.

Perhaps this same temptation also hampered our first pope. It was Pope Peter in Galatians 2:11-21 who, when he decided to engage in some private and unofficial commentary on the Gospel under the name Cephas, eventually shunned his Gentile converts and instead bent over backwards to placate the hostile and unbelieving Jews, upon which he was severely upbraided by Paul for “perverting the Gospel.” . . . it may be no coincidence that the Jews who made the Cephas-side of Pope Peter stumble in proclaiming the Gospel are eerily similar to the Jews today who are making the Joseph Ratzinger side of Pope Benedict XVI stumble as well. It’s uncanny to see such a resemblance between the first century and the twenty-first century.

[this is absolutely asinine. Bob makes out that St. Peter was duplicitously using the name Cephas as some kind of cover. Cephas or Kepha is simply the Greek, Peter (Petros) in Aramaic. It is what Christ actually would have spoken in Matthew 16 when He renamed Peter (originally Simon or Symeon). Hence, the similar passage, John 1:42 (RSV): "He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)." There is no attempt of St. Peter to somehow use a different name in order to be two-faced, as Bob clearly implies ("under the name Cephas" / "the Cephas-side of Pope Peter"). Moreover, it is doubly absurd for Bob to "argue" like this, given the fact that in all nine instances of Cephas in the New Testament, Peter never calls himself the name. John uses it once in recording Jesus' words (above), and the other eight are from Paul. So where does Bob get off insinuating that Peter somehow used the name to be two-faced with the Jews? There is no NT evidence for this whatever. It's a non-starter (one of many in Bob's relentless anti-papal reasoning). Peter was a hypocrite there, sure, but so was (arguably) Paul elsewhere, when he had Timothy circumcised for fear of the Jews (Acts 16:3) while at the same time preaching strongly that it was completely unnecessary to do so. Paul and Peter had no doctrinal disagreement. Peter was simply playing the hypocrite in that instance]

The job of each Catholic is to protect the papacy and Joseph Ratzinger is no exception to that mandate. He cannot put the papacy in precarious positions and exploit it for future book sales.

. . . Jesus of Nazareth, although very uplifting and insightful in several places, contains a disturbing amount of dubious theological propositions; lack of scholarly exegesis; misuse of biblical criticism; and a general ignoring of Catholic tradition.

JON puts nothing less than 20 centuries of Catholic tradition on the chopping block, but that is not unusual for post-Vatican II popes. John Paul II did it constantly. It seems they have a need to silence the haunting voices of the past in order to give credence to their continuing novelties.

In short, JON’s compassion is misplaced. Catering to the pressure of the Jewish lobby today by postponing their salvation until tomorrow is not being sympathetic to them at all. The mess of political pottage JON will receive from the Jews in return for handing over our Gospel birthright can only come back to haunt him, if not destroy him.

In his interpretation of Mt 27:25 (“And the whole people said in reply, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children’”) JON seems to go out of its way to make this passage say the exact opposite of what it says. The passage is very clear.

. . . receiving visits from Abe Foxman at the Vatican to help create Judaized doctrine for Catholics . . .

We can easily see what JON is trying desperately to do. He is willing to put the veracity of Matthew on the chopping block and force John into a defined mold in order to arrive at a position (which will inevitably placate today’s Jews) . . .

. . . the issue here is . . . how JON twists the Scripture to arrive at his [sic] favored position. But this arbitrary treatment of Holy Scripture is only the symptom of an even larger problem in the hermeneutics of JON.

. . . not one time in its 300 pages does JON state that what we have in the Gospels today was inspired by the Holy Spirit. . . . never does JON specify a supreme power that weaves all the strains together into a unified and inerrant whole. . . . Doesn’t JON believe in at least some kind of divine inspiration of the biblical writers? He may, . . .

. . . JON is often tempted to pick the account that is in accord with the ecumenical appeasement he wishes to promote – and we’ve already seen that his ecumenical purpose is to exonerate the Jews to a status where they don’t need to hear the Gospel and still retain an independent “mission from God.” This is not biblical exegesis; it is biblical tyranny.

This is the sad state of biblical hermeneutics in the Catholic scholarly world today and JON unabashedly perpetuates this sorry condition.

Since many of the sources JON cites are Protestant, it may come as no surprise that the theory of the Atonement presented in JON is much closer to Protestant theology than it is Catholic.

JON translates the Greek word hilasterion with the word “expiation.” This is the first indication of a departure from traditional Catholic theology since the common Latin or English translation of hilasterion has always been “propitiationem” or “propitiation,” not expiation.

[much ado about nothing. Bob frequently exhibits an inability to comprehend how language works. The two words are synonyms; hence, Thayer and Smith define it: "relating to an appeasing or expiating, having placating or expiating force, expiatory; a means of appeasing or expiating, a propitiation." Pope Pius XII used the word three times in his encyclical, Mediator Dei (20 November 1947): 1) "expiation, propitiation and reconciliation" (sec. 73), 2) " the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving" (sec. 93), 3) "to carry the cross willingly with Him, to reproduce in our own hearts His spirit of expiation and atonement, and to die together with Him" (sec. 158). Pope Pius XI used it in 1928: "that the offense offered to God by our sins may be expiated". And Pope Benedict XV in 1921, etc. Yet Pope Bob-o-Link I would have us believe that this is somehow an "unCatholic" word and that the Holy Father is off into the heterodox stratosphere in using it.]

Expiation was never used in Catholic theology until the 20th century . . . 

[this is also untrue. Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1888 in his encyclical Quod Anniversarius: ". . . We think we can give them no more useful and desirable pledge of Our love than by everywhere increasing the offering of the pure oblation of the Most Holy Sacrifice of Our Divine Mediator, for the extinction of their pain. We therefore decree, with all the necessary dispensations and indulgences, the last Sunday of next September as a day of ample expiation . . ." Let Bob oppose and nitpick like this if he must, like a good Protestant or Catholic dissenter, but I would hope he would at least be consistent and enlist Leo XIII, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII also in his list of rank liberals, such as supposedly the latest two popes were also. But he won't do that. It's the usual timeworn, boorish RadCathR game, shot through with vicious self-contradiction . . .] 

. . . JON either has no concept of the traditional Catholic teaching or that he has been so influenced by German Protestant thought that he now only thinks in terms of vicarious expiation.

[alas, Bob blesses us with one paragraph of "Things I Liked in JON". How magnanimous and gracious . . . isn't it comforting to know that Bob Sungenis was impressed with the Holy Father's book so much that he mustered up one paragraph of praise and dozens and dozens of excoriating criticisms?] 

* * * * *

One might find it fascinating, as I do, that previously, Bob thought Pope Benedict XVI was just fine and dandy. For example, he wrote (in 2005, I think; my bolding):

Protestant Michael Horton, whom I know personally and have debated on two occasions, has done the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI a great service. Dr. Horton has traced the theological history of Pope Benedict XVI as it was formulated by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In his attempt to show how distant Pope Benedict XVI is from Horton’s Calvinistic-Reformed theology, Horton shows us all the places in Ratzinger’s writings in which the Cardinal was adhering to the traditional beliefs of the Catholic Church, and at no time does Horton show any place where Ratzinger has departed from those beliefs. I, myself, did not realize how faithful the Cardinal has been to Catholic doctrine, and I thank Michael Horton for renewing my faith in the pope once again. 

We may be heartened to know that it took a Protestant polemicist to renew Bob's "faith in the pope": a faith that obviously remains strong and vibrant today (with Bob attacking and lying about the last two popes with a ferocity and frequency far exceeding any anti-Catholic Protestant apologist I know of).  Bob also wrote in his paper, The Election of Pope Benedict XVI (4-19-05):

I think it is safe to say that many faithful Catholics breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope, Benedict XVI. We can tell by the negative reactions of the liberals that they are not too happy with Ratzinger’s ascendancy to the papal throne. . . . Like Pius IX who came into the papacy with a few liberal strains but left a champion of orthodox Catholicism, so I believe the same thing will occur with Pope Benedict XVI. . . . With earnest hope, we await our earthly Joshua to bring us to the land of Canaan. Viva il papa!. . . In contrast to John Paul II, I believe that Benedict XVI will produce much less verbiage and engage in much more action. Although Benedict XVI will certainly try to be conciliatory to those in opposition to the Church, he will tolerate neither liberal theology nor modernist social mores . . . In addition, Pope Benedict XVI will not be as accommodating to the various religions of the world. We won’t see anything close to the Assisi Interreligious Prayer Gatherings, the events which so marred the pontificate of John Paul II. I also don’t think we have to worry about Pope Benedict XVI capitulating to Protestant theology, . . . he will not tolerate dissent from established Catholic dogma . . . In short, I believe that Pope Benedict XVI will address and hopefully rectify much of what went wrong in the pontificate of John Paul II. The world loved John Paul II because, basically, he accepted everyone, no matter what faith or persuasion. Pope Benedict XVI will, I believe, be more apt to draw a line in the sand and bring the Church back, at least somewhat, to her previous distinction from the world. Conversely, some say that Pope Benedict XVI was chosen so quickly because he is seen as someone who will continue the policies of John Paul II.. . . Cardinal Ratzinger was often at odds with John Paul II, . . . In short, I believe Pope Benedict will bring back, at least to a noticeable degree, the doctrinal integrity of the Church. . . . 

This is the cherished (now damaged or dying) myth among many RadCathRs and some mainstream "traditionalists": that Benedict XVI was vastly in contrast (in a favorable way) to his supposedly troublesome predecessor. He was "their guy" (largely, it seems, because he liked the Old Mass and more liturgical rigor). But it is hogwash. They are two different men, but not essentially different. Bob and other RadCathRs foolishly thought they were, but once the present Holy Father also engaged in ecumenical relations with new Assisi-like conferences and talked about (and *GASP!* with) Bob's dreaded, despised Jews and promoted the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and did other things that pushed the RadCathR hot-buttons, this changed and now he is increasingly in the doghouse also. Oh, the misery of dashed illusory hopes and dreams: that come from seriously mistaken and deluded presuppositional falsehoods!

Bob thought that the two popes were very different in 2005; he now increasingly he places Benedict XVI in the same unsavory, quasi-liberal, heretical  boat where he puts Blessed John Paul the Great (if not in it, then at least sitting on the edge). He thinks they are both quite questionable; I think they are both marvelous and wonderful. I noted in 2005 that there was no essential difference between the two men and that Benedict XVI would continue ecumenical endeavors just as his predecessor had done. And so it has come to pass. But the RadCathRs were silly enough to think that he would be fundamentally different, in the ironically opposite but parallel fashion of liberals who always think the next pope will be a "progressive" liberal, and always have their foolish fancies and hopes dashed.

Now Bob has come full circle and has adopted the liberal analysis lock, stock, and barrel: not only has one liberal pope supposedly been elected, but two in a row, according to Pope Bob-o-Link I!


Jordanes551 said...

". . . bent over backwards to placate the hostile and unbelieving Jews . . ."

Sungenis has misrepresented the incident at Antioch related by St. Paul in Galatians. The incident happened at a gathering of Jewish and Gentile Christians. "For before that some came from James, [Peter] did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision. And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented, so that Barnabas also was led by them into that dissimulation."

There were no "hostile and unbelieving Jews" involved in this episode, only Jewish Christians in the company of St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem. St. Peter was eating a meal with his Gentile brethren in Antioch, but when his Jewish brethren from Jerusalem arrived, he decided to get up and move away from the Gentiles out of an ill-founded concern for the feelings and sensibilities of the Jewish Christians (thereby offending the Gentile Christians and making them feel like he thought they weren't as Christian as the Jewish Christians).

St. Paul's circumcision of St. Timothy could be criticised as similarly hypocritical. There was an important difference, however: he and Timothy were going to be working among and evangelising unbelieving Jews, most of whom would refuse to have anything to do with them due to Timothy having a Jewish mother (and thus legally being Jewish) and yet being uncircumcised. This strikes me more along the line of "becoming all things to all people, that I might by any means save some." It removed a potential stumblingblock to conversion of their Jewish hearers -- and Timothy obviously consented to the act, knowing it to be voluntary and not necessary for salvation, and it also conveyed the message that St. Paul was not, contrary to rumor, teaching that circumcision was sinful or had to abolished, that being circumcised was incompatible with being a Christian. St. Paul's action had to do with evangelising unbelieving Jews, but St. Peter's action involved putting Gentile Christians a step lower than Jewish Christians, implying that you had to be Jewish to be truly a full-fledged Christian. Of course that isn't the message St. Peter meant to send, but it's what his action essentially said.

Dave Armstrong said...

I agree all down the line. This thought had crossed my mind while responding. I have written about how the Judaizers were actually Christians, not Jews who rejected the Messiah. But Bob is not noted for recognition of important distinctions.

Jae said...

@ James said, " he (Sungenis) has or ever will become a sedevacantist. I would submit that to state or even suggest otherwise is not the responsible work of a fellow Catholic"

Mr. Bob Sungenis and the ultra rad-Trads were the ones whose work were irresponsible of fellow Catholics.

They have chosen to attack relentlessly and undermine JPII, B16, Second Vatican II and the very Authority of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The same Authority that ratified past Councils from Jerusalem (Book of Acts), Nicea, Chalcedon, Ephesus to Trent and now to Vat2.

They are like protestants who employed the "pick and choose" tactic of which Councils are considered orthodox that fit their false assumptions.

These people (rad-trads) who think they are more catholic than the Pope with Bishops in communion are on their way to funnyfarm.

Ruben said...

Sad Robert feel this way, have his books on Not by Faith, scripture and bread alone!

Adomnan said...

Wouldn't it be great if those two towering Christian intellects, Robert Sungenis and Harold Camping, could get together, compare notes and then explain it all to the rest of us before this geocentric world ends on October 21?

Dave Armstrong said...

Bob used to work for Camping when he was a Protestant (I kid you not!). It's in Surprised by Truth.

Maybe the world will become flat and then square and start rotating for the first time before it ends, huh? LOL

thepalmhq said...

Re: your and Jordanes551's observations, Dave, you may be interested in my article from back in October 2008:

The Pope's "Blunder" or Sungenis' Prejudice?

thepalmhq said...

You might also find this piece about Sungenis and Camping interesting:

Harold Camping vs. Bob Sungenis: A Trivia Quiz

Jordanes551 said...

Thanks for this, Mr. Palm. Anyone familiar with Sungenis' expression of anti-Semitic statements and attitudes will not be surprised that he would try to interpret the incident at Antioch as a clash between Christianity and "the hostile and unbelieving Jews" rather than an internal conflict involving Jewish Christians.

Dave Armstrong said...

It was a dead giveaway, wasn't it? Then he comes up with the amazing claptrap that Peter was using "Cephas" as a second cover name in the incident in Galatians . . . he tried to weasel out of that in passed-on remarks in the other current Sungenis combox.

James said...

The smearing, mockery, and calumny of Dr. Sungenis, a God fearing and loving family man with at least 10 children and a wife to support and a man who has devoted his life to the defense of the Catholic Faith and Holy Mother Church goes on unabated. Most ironically, these blatant and most virulent judgments (of the person himself) and condemnations of Dr. Sungenis make many of his attackers sound like they themselves have taken on the role of the Office of the Holy Inquisition, the Magisterium, AND Dr. Sungenis' spiritual director and confessor all in one. Quite a feat!

James Phillips

Dave Armstrong said...

Nice try. Your folly is manifest as well, and requires no reply.

Paul said...

James is a big proponent of the work of the anti-Semitic Michael Hoffman:

Michael Hoffman:

He’s into Holocaust “revisionism” and seems to be in with the 9-11 “truther” movement, too.

James said...


May I ask you what your motivation was in spending your time digging up material on me? Are you satisfied with what you found? Perhaps, you would like to dig some more. Perhaps, you would like to share your full name with us so people can waste their time looking up things about you.

For your information Michael Hoffman is not anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, because he questions certain things about the official Judaic version of what is commonly referred to as the Holocaust and because he criticizes, and rightfully so, racist, terrorist, and even genocidal policies of the modern state of Israel he is smeared with the anti-Semite label. It is unfortunate that you perpetuate this calumny on a Christian blogsite with what you state in your post.

For the record, I like Mr. Hoffman, do not accept the "official" 6 million gas chamber myth nor a lot of other things which are presented to us (i.e, forced upon us) as official history. Most people, on the other hand, for various reasons accept what they are told in terms of official history, but the truth unfortunately is not a simple minded numbers game.

Likewise, I do not accept the government's official 9-11 story. That does not make me anti-government anymore than my refusal to accept the official Holocaust version makes me anti-Semite.

In Jesus our King and Mary our Queen,

James B. Phillips

Dave Armstrong said...

It makes you a kook and fringe conspiracy theorist. Great PR for Bob!