October 23, 2017

Robert Sungenis Responds to “Catholic Questions Part 2”

robert-sungenis-debate.jpgUPDATE I: From the original posts’s comment thread, here is an apology to Dr. Sungenis and a reply to one of the original questions.

Robert Sungenis has written a detailed reply to the questions in the “Catholic Questions Part 2” post, and has also replied to many of the comments in that comment thread, especially those dealing with his orthodoxy.

Here’s the original post: Catholic Questions Part 2.

I want to thank Mr. Sungenis for taking the time to answer the questions in detail, and his answers are VERY helpful to me. If, as Amy Welborn has said on here, my understanding of Catholicism has some glaring holes in it from time to time, Robert has answered many of my questions with answers I can understand.

Now…what you Catholic folks think of him is another story 🙂

Some of you that have clicked the link have already figured out that it’s a .doc, and no, I’m not going to convert it. Sorry.

Comments

  1. Memphis Aggie says:

    Odd story. I know very little about Sungenis. Perhaps Sungenis is an innocent victim of slander, or perhaps the stories are valid. I have to admit I find the sun revolves around the Earth notion to be very off putting and that he does confirm. It’s enough for me to question his opinion generally so that even he were perfectly correct on justification in every detail (and he does sound somewhat reasonable) I would not take his word for it. I’d have to read it/hear it from someone else.

  2. He fails to mention that, praise for his first two books notwithstanding, his subsequent writings have not been published with imprimaturs. I’d be curious to hear his explanation as to why.

    In fairness, my quick skim of his responses on the question of “separated brethren” in particular didn’t raise any major alarm bells. What this means, I can’t really say. *shrugs* I can say that anyone who talks about “the Jews” as a monolithic group who can be criticized with blanket statements is and will always remain a nut in my book.

  3. Steve Rowe says:

    The whole issue of Sungenis and Heliocentric raised an interesting question. I recently heard a talk but a prominent evangelical appoligist that is affiliated with a ministry that readers of this site will be very familiar with. In this talk he suggested that the main stream evangelical community had given up to soon on young earth creationism and that in doing so we had undermined biblical authority, Paul and a correct understanding of the fall and original sin. Frankly since hearing this talk I have found it impossible to take any thing he says seriously and fear that he will damage the cause of Christianity on his chosen mission field (Canadian University campuses). On the other hand I completely sympothise with him. Here I a godly man firmly committed to a “high” view of scripture who is literally submitting his every thought to the word of god (and in the process reaching what I feel is a ridiculous concussion). On a more controversial note I have found that John Piper recent position on remarriage after divorce has made me much more skeptical of his theology in other areas as well (full disclosure I am a divorced man engaged to be married to a wonderful Christen woman who is also divorced). The question is what to do with intellectuals who seem to be following there Theological and/or Philosophical systems down rabbit holes. Do we forgive them there foibles or reevaluate there entire systems of thought (a real problem for those of us who are not properly trained theologians). A related secular example might be the embarrassing number of politically conservative federalists who defended the southern states right to discriminate against blacks in the 60’s.

    Regards

    Steve in Toronto

  4. “Who is SusanF”?, asks Mr. Sungenis.
    SusanF is a woman who knows better than to publish her full name over the Internet.
    SusanF is a woman who can provide links refuting Mr. Sungenis’ representations of his own previously-published words (and James White’s, for that matter), if no one else cares to do so.
    But, right now, SusanF is a woman who is about to cook macaroni and cheese.

  5. I don’t have an opinion one way or another on Mr. Sungenis. I know that he’s more on the conservative side of the spectrum and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    I have read his response and nothing he has written (in regards to his reply) conflicts with Catholic Church teaching.

    Let me just say that this should not be an attack on what Mr. Sungenis believes. In what he wrote, I agree with him.

    I don’t care what his opinion is on Young Earth or Evolution or really anything else. That’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it.

    If a Muslim or Jew were to say, “There is one God.” I would agree with them too and not argue or make them clarify their statement.

    If a Baptist proclaims, “Jesus is Lord!” I would say, “Amen!” and not feel the need to have him clarify his statement about Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide.

    Why would we want to do this with Mr. Sungenis?

  6. I don’t have a dog in this hunt either but I am going to keep this document as a defense the next time I get the “you Protestants and your 30,000 denominations” slam. Thanks!

  7. Posted for FR. AL KIMEL

    Mr. Sungenis’s answers may be understandable, but that doesn’t mean that his views represent mainline Catholic reflection, as revealed in his attempt to marginalize the Lutheran-Catholic Agreement on Justification. The JDDJ is much more than “an effort by Catholic and Protestant scholars (most of them liberal) to find some common ground,” nor is it accurate to intimate that the document lacked the support of both John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger. Once again I quote the words of Cardinal Cassidy:

    “On the Catholic side, the Official Common Statement and the Annex have been approved by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. His Holiness Pope John Paul II has been informed accordingly and has given his blessing for the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, together with the Official Common Statement with its attached Annex on the date and in the place to be decided by the two partners.”

    The signing of the JDDJ was expressly approved by Pope John Paul II and the document was publicly affirmed by the Holy Father:

    “This ‘common understanding’ which I had hoped for eight years ago, today, thank God, has become an encouraging reality. On 31 October last, in the city of Augsburg, a Joint Declaration was solemnly signed in which Lutherans and Catholics expressed a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification. This achievement of the ecumenical dialogue, a milestone on the way to full and visible unity, is the result of an intense work of research, meetings, and prayer.” (13 November 1999)

    Sungenis’s comments also ignore the critical role played by Cardinal Ratzinger in salvaging the agreement after the CDF released its criticisms of the document. Ratzinger explained his intervention in these words:

    “We had a very important meeting in my brother’s house, in Germany, as it seemed that the consensus on the Doctrine of Justification had failed. In this way, in the course of a debate that lasted a whole day, we found the formulas that have clarified the points that still present difficulties. …

    “With the formula elaborated in those days, both by the Lutheran Federation as well as the Catholic magisterium, they have been able to acknowledge that a consensus has been reached on some fundamental points of the Doctrine of Justification. It is not a global agreement, but with this formula it is possible to proceed to the signing of a document of consensus in the basic contents.”

    As far back as 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger recognized that a reexamination of the dogmatic formulations of Trent was in order, given his recognition that “new realities have come into being, and that the old massive dissensus to all intents and purposes no longer exists.”

    The JDDJ is not above theological criticism. Sungenis is free to offer his criticisms of the document, just as Cardinal Dulles and others have done. But the fact remains that the JDDJ does enjoy some level of magisterial authority. As the Official Common Statement makes clear, the Catholic Church approved the Joint Declaration in its entirety. The Catholic Church did not cross her fingers when she signed it!

    At the very least the JDDF represents a construal of the Catholic position on justification that is acknowledged by the Magisterium as legitimate and acceptable. The Catholic Church would not have signed the document if she believed that it contradicted the dogmas of the Council of Trent. When Cardinal Cassidy was asked if there was anything in the JD contrary to the Council of Trent, he replied: “Absolutely not, otherwise how could we do it? We cannot do something contrary to an ecumenical council. There’s nothing there that the Council of Trent condemns.” Clearly both the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger agreed.

    I am unclear to me why so much weight is being given to Sungenis’s opinions. His is but one Catholic voice–and sometimes an embarrassing and extreme voice at that. I have read his book Not By Faith Alone and have found it helpful, but his treatment of the Tridentine dogmas on justification is wooden, narrow, inflexible, and certainly unrepresentative of mainstream Catholic theology. The overwhelming majority of Catholic theologians have acknowledged both the strengths and limitations of the scholasticism that underlies the dogmatic formulations of Trent. Many, I think, would agree with these words of Newman:

    “When the Roman schools are treating of one point of theology, they are not treating of other points. When the Council of Trent is treating of man, it is not treating of God. Its enunciations are isolated and defective, taken one by one, of course. If we desire a warmer exhibition of Christian truth than a treatise on justification admits, we may go to mystical writers such as Schram, whose doctrine on the Holy Eucharist … is the supplement to an account of formal causes. All theological definitions come short of concrete life. Science is not devotion or literature. If the Fathers are not cold, and the Schoolmen are, this is because the former write in their own persons, and the latter as logicians or disputants. St. Athanasius or St. Augustine has a life, which a system of theology has not. Yet dogmatic theology has its use and its importance notwithstanding.”

    Catholic reflection on justification and grace did not stop at the Council of Trent. During the past 150 years in particular, Catholic theologians have sought to articulate the doctrine of grace in its biblical and patristic wholeness in a way that is faithful to Trent yet which transcends its limitations and polemical one-sidedness. Sungenis demonstrates little awareness of this work. He is content simply to reiterate the Tridentine anathemas, dismissing contrary Catholic opinion as “liberal.” Reading Sungenis one gets the impression that the Catholic Church remains frozen in the 16th century. How very Protestant!

    POSTED FOR FR Al KIMEL

  8. Why Dr. Horton sought out Sungenis isn’t mine to say. I am posting this document because Dr. Sungenis was discussed at some length in it and his responses are in the spirit of fairness.

    Whether his answers reflect accurately the position of the RCC toward Protestants via the anathemas of Trent isn’t mine to say either. All I can say is that his answers are understandable, which is a major step forward for me. To hear that he may be muddling up what is already a muddle in my experience is unfortunate.

  9. Kimel, a brand new convert, finds Sungenis “wooden, narrow, inflexible, and certainly unrepresentative of mainstream Catholic theology.” So then he is the RC Sproul of Catholic theology, I take it? That may not be such a bad thing. He at least comes off like a gentleman here, which is more than I can say for his opponents.

    It is the ongoing tragedy of the Roman Catholic Church that barn-burner liberals are given love taps as rebukes, while those passionately defending the orthodox understandings are routinely treated as embarrassments.

  10. It’s a misrepresentation to dismiss Fr. Kimel as a ‘brand new convert.’ He’s been reading Catholic theology for years.

  11. One further comment in defense of my assertion that the JDDJ represents an authentic Catholic interpretation of the Catholic doctrine of justification. Compare the document to the unofficial 1998 evangelical-Catholic document “The Gift of Salvation.” We see in GS a similar convergence that we see in JDDF. Now look at the Catholic signatories. None of them can be labeled “liberal.” One of them, Cardinal Dulles, would eventually become a Cardinal of the Church. Another, Fr J. A. DiNoia, would become an Undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Francis Martin is a respected New Testament Scholar. Robert Wilken, a Lutheran convert to Catholicism, is an outstanding patristic scholar. Peter Kreeft and George Weigel are also well-known critics of “liberalism.” All of them, in other words, stand within the mainstream of the Catholic Church, and all of them believe that the statement they signed is perfectly compatible with the dogmas of Trent.

    The Catholic Church is a big tent and theological debates rage within her on many topics, including especially the doctrines of grace, justification, and election. But GS and JDDJ are reliable indicators of what mainstream theologically-informed Catholics believe on some of these issues. Important differences between Catholics and Protestants still remain, of course; and these differences are worth identifying and discussing. But we cannot ignore or deny the significant ecumenical progress that has occurred over the past fifty years.

  12. Kimel read Catholic theology as an Anglican, had rather ahistorical views on the nature and character of Anglicanism owing more to the imaginative reconstructions of the Oxford movement rather than to its theological foundations in the 16th through late 17th centuries, and overall buys into Newman’s narrative defense of Catholicism and reworking of the doctrine of Tradition. As such, he is heavily predisposed to answer the question of whether Vatican II Catholicism is faithful to the nature and character of Tridentine Catholicism and Vatican I Catholicism strongly in the affirmative.

    What we have in Sungenis and Kimel is simply the real-world manifestation of the inconsistencies of Catholic tradition. Sungenis might not have the imprimatur of B16, but he would have been given the title of Defender of the Faith by Leo X. Popes of the past were no less popes than the current one. Thus Unam Sanctam and the Syllabus of Errors were promulgated with as much authority as Dignitatis Humanae, yet say nearly opposite things. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that Catholicism’s own dogmatic structures render it incapable of self-critique.

    Further, the Lutherans who worked on JDDJ really were liberals. The exact same Lutheran theologians and church bodies that Catholics decry as having given up whatever may have been halfway non-Satanic about the Reformation when they publish opinions on homosexuality, women’s ordination, and the sacraments are suddenly held up as the standard-bearers of the Reformation when they co-sign some document with a bunch of Roman Catholics. Well, I guess Catholics are consistently inconsistent.

  13. Mr. Sungenis,

    As SusanF implied, one generally doesn’t go around publishing ones’ full name on the Internet (unless one is a public figure with an Internet presence which I am not), so that’s not really a reasonable criticism in my opinion.

    However, you are correct that it is ignoble to offer criticism without specificity, and for that I apologize. Reading your response does put my comments in a new and uncomfortable light.

  14. As I understand it, Mr. Sungenis was saying that those who know the Catholic understanding is true, and reject it, go to hell. Not that Prodestants who hear the Catholic understanding, but reject it as untrue, go to hell. Big difference.

    Sungenis’s reply to comment 7, (see also Michael’s Update I):

    “And you need to readjust your thinking about Trent’s anathemas. They only condemn you to hell if you know the canons to be the truth yet you deliberately reject them. The Church does not hold that you are judged on what you don’t know, but on what you know and believe in your heart.”

    In an unrelated matter, wouldn’t the sun have to cut in between a few planets go orbit the earth?

  15. Correction: The quote was from Mr. Sungenis’s answer to Comment 7

  16. Comment “6” not “7”.

  17. Kimel read Catholic theology as an Anglican, had rather ahistorical views on the nature and character of Anglicanism owing more to the imaginative reconstructions of the Oxford movement rather than to its theological foundations in the 16th through late 17th centuries, and overall buys into Newman’s narrative defense of Catholicism and reworking of the doctrine of Tradition. As such, he is heavily predisposed to answer the question of whether Vatican II Catholicism is faithful to the nature and character of Tridentine Catholicism and Vatican I Catholicism strongly in the affirmative.

    I cannot let this piece of ad hominem pass without comment. I am of course a former Anglican and this training continues to inform my theological reflection. Whether that puts me at a theological disadvantage or not only my fellow Catholics can say; but certainly Josh is in no position to judge. As a priest of the Catholic Church I of course believe that Vatican II faithfully stated the Catholic faith, just as I believe that the Councils of Trent, Florence, Chalcedon, and Nicaea faithfully stated the Catholic faith; and with Pope Benedict I reject the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture, which sees the Second Vatican Council as a repudiation of the Catholic Church’s historic theological identity. I am confident that Mr. Sungenis would agree with me on this.

  18. “imaginative reconstructions of the Oxford Movement”

    Well, I know somebody who’s not getting an invitation to my Anglo-Catholic pride parade this summer. Harrumph!

  19. Mr. Sungenis, thanks for the reasoned response to the original “Catholic Questions part 2” post.

    Michael, thanks for providing the follow up.

  20. Dear all,

    I was Sungenis’ Vice President for about two years, so I know his theological views fairly well. My comments are in the old thread, but I got in a few days late, so most people probably haven’t seen them.

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/catholic-questions-part-2-horton-interviews-sungenis-on-justification

  21. J, Stanmeyer says:

    Sungenis said, “I’m not an anti-semite, and not even close to being one, although I will criticize Jewish theology”
    and
    “Am I critical of the Jews? You betcha. Do I hate the Jews? Not on your life. I’m critical of Protestants. Does that mean I hate you? Don’t listen to the propaganda. Listen to me. I think it’s a safe bet to get the truth from the horses mouth, don’t you?”

    He just criticizes Jewish theology? He’s just as critical of Protestants?
    Please.
    I supported him at one time but he’s not trustworthy anymore.
    Has Sungenis ever said Protestants are trying to take over the world? They were behind the assassination of JFK? They were behind FDR allowing Pearl Harbor to be bombed because it would help them with their goals? They sent Monica Lewinsky in to trap Bill Clinton because he crossed them? They’re tapping our phone lines to find out what we’re up to?

    Not that I know of.
    Has he ever called Protestants an “infection” (like Nazis did about Jews, too)? Has he ever said that Protestants are “excised” wherever they go because they try to take everything over? Called them “godless racists”? Said that they tend to be “inherently violent”?

    He said all of that about Jews. And he said a lot more. And a lot of people have written about it. Just use google and try “Sungenis” or add Jews or Jewish. It’s all over the place.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCXkLptVCWw
    http://markshea.blogspot.com/search?q=Sungenis
    http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2007/03/sixteen-proofs-of-sungeniss-anti.html
    http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog/2007/01/carl-schmitt-israel-shamir-and-robert.html

    http://wquercus.com/sungenis/

    http://www.sungenisandthejews.com/Section2.html

  22. J. Stanmeyer says:

    Sungenis said, “I’m not an anti-semite, and not even close to being one, although I will criticize Jewish theology”
    and
    “Am I critical of the Jews? You betcha. Do I hate the Jews? Not on your life. I’m critical of Protestants. Does that mean I hate you? Don’t listen to the propaganda. Listen to me. I think it’s a safe bet to get the truth from the horses mouth, don’t you?”

    He just criticizes Jewish theology? He’s just as critical of Protestants?
    Please.
    I supported him at one time but he’s not trustworthy anymore.
    Has Sungenis ever said Protestants are trying to take over the world? They were behind the assassination of JFK? They were behind FDR allowing Pearl Harbor to be bombed because it would help them with their goals? They sent Monica Lewinsky in to trap Bill Clinton because he crossed them? They’re tapping our phone lines to find out what we’re up to?

    Not that I know of.
    Has he ever called Protestants an “infection” (like Nazis did about Jews, too)? Has he ever said that Protestants are “excised” wherever they go because they try to take everything over? Called them “godless racists”? Said that they tend to be “inherently violent”?

    He said all of that about Jews. And he said a lot more. And a lot of people have written about it. Just use google and try “Sungenis” or add Jews or Jewish. It’s all over the place.

    http://markshea.blogspot.com/search?q=Sungenis
    http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2007/03/sixteen-proofs-of-sungeniss-anti.html
    http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog/2007/01/carl-schmitt-israel-shamir-and-robert.html

    http://wquercus.com/sungenis/

    http://www.sungenisandthejews.com/Section2.html

  23. vladimir998 says:

    I have long admired Bob Sungenis. I think he made mistakes in his criticism of Jews and Jewish theology, but honestly the attacks on him – here and elsewhere – are ridiculous.

    I just want to point out a few things:

    1) No matter what you think of Geocentrism, if you actually read Sungenis’ works on it, you’ll be hardpressed to refute it even if you feel compelled to dismiss it out of hand.

    2) I have found Sungenis to be very reliable on theology. Yes, he is “old school”. I fail to see why that is a problem when you’re talking about an old Church – THE Church.

    3) Sungenis is a far more capable apologist and scholar than many of his enemies. I like Mark Shea, and I like his books and articles, but honestly, Sungenis’ works run so much deeper and broader than his. And, remember, I LIKE Shea. I have nothing against the man. I just think Sungenis is a better apologist and scholar.

    4) I also like Fr. Kimel and celebrate the fact that he has come home and become an ordained priest in the Catholic Church. May God bless him in his ministry. And none of that changes the fact that I STILL THINK Sungenis is very reliable on theological matters.

  24. To say that Sungenis made “mistakes” and that “attacks” on him are “ridiculous” is to illustrate the degree to which some people’s admiration of Sungenis clouds their judgment. The man was under interdict from his bishop. And his bishop threatened to denounce him publicly because of his public displays of anti-Semitism. He apparently can’t get an imprimatur and hasn’t gotten one since his second book. In this day and age, all of that speaks volumes for Catholics who are not so susceptible to the cult of the personality.

    I’m sorry, but it’s “ridiculous” to label a mere “mistake” what Sungenis has done. And to call Jews an “infection” as Mr. Sungenis has is disgusting.

    He used to do good work. But over the past several years he’s been caught in plagiarism, citing false and inaccurate quotes and sources, bigotry and more. It’s not just about Jews. It’s a serious mistake to ignore or gloss over this.

    http://wquercus.com/sungenis/

    http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2007/03/sixteen-proofs-of-sungeniss-anti.html

    Somewhere he went off the reservation. When he gets back on it, we should all rejoice.

    Pray for the man.