Saturday, January 28, 2012

Concerning the "Harrisburg Affair" Pt 2: The Timeline

On August 5, 2008, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the results of a vote taken to revise the heretical text- "(t)herefore, the covenant God made with the Jews through Moses, remains eternally valid for them"- which had been approved and published in the 2006 first edition of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA).
This vote was a great victory for our bishops, and for the faithful.
"With very good reason, indeed, those who sought to justify or explain away the "eternally valid" formulation, saw in this apostolate a clear, persistent, and uncompromising voice raised in unambiguous opposition to the entire fiasco. Thanks in part to the support and unquenchable Catholic optimism of the supporters of this apostolate, no amount of error, distortion, intimidation, or theological "bomfoggery" (to borrow Chris Ferrara’s incisive term) could stand in the way of the overwhelming weight of Scriptural, Patristic, and Magisterial witness: the covenant God made with the Jews through Moses most certainly does not remain "eternally valid," but is instead fulfilled, brought to completion, and perfected in the new and everlasting covenant in the blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
How did it happen, and what price did Dr. Robert Sungenis pay for his “unambiguous opposition to the entire fiasco”?
Here follows, for the record, the timeline of what I have come to refer to as the “Harrisburg Affair”.
Dec. 6, 2006: Dr. Sungenis receives a letter from the Diocese of Harrisburg regarding his submission of The Apocalypse of St. John for an imprimatur, in which the diocesan representative states: “Bishop Rhoades has decided not to grant an imprimatur for your book....The principle reasons why this book was not granted an imprimatur include the following: 1) lack of adherence to, or neglect of, authoritative Church teaching on Judaism and on the Church’s relationship with Judaism, as presented in: Lumen Gentium 16; Nostra Aetate 4; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 839‐840 and 597‐598 and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, pp. 130‐ 131; Addresses/Speeches of Pope John Paul II (e.g., Address to Jewish Representatives, Mainz, Germany, November 17, 1980; Documents of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews which promote and issue directives relative to conciliar and papal teaching; 2) Lack of adherence to, or neglect of, the Church’s authoritative interpretation of the meaning of “Outside the Church there is no salvation” as contained in Lumen Gentium 14‐16 and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846‐848.” 
NOTE: The reference to the “Address to Jewish Representatives, Mainz, Germany, November 17, 1980” refers to precisely the address of Blessed Pope John Paul II, which is dealt with in Dr. Sungenis’ January 2008 “Culture Wars” essay:
The simple fact is, John Paul II has never said that his statement, “the Old Covenant, never revoked by God” referred to the Mosaic covenant, and neither did any of his post-Vatican II predecessors. He has clearly stated that his use of the phrase “Old Covenant” was in reference to the Abrahamic covenant and no other. This fact was made clear in the pope’s Sydney speech of November 26, 1986, in which he said: “It will continue to be an explicit and very important part of my mission to repeat and emphasize that our attitude to the Jewish religion should be one of the greatest respect, since the Catholic faith is rooted in the eternal truths contained in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the irrevocable covenant made with Abraham…for it is the teaching of both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that the Jews are beloved of God,who has called them with an irrevocable calling.
So as far back as 2006, Bishop Rhoades was explicitly invoking, among other things, the very same speech of Blessed John Paul II that had been employed as justification for the inclusion of an heretical sentence in the USCCB Catechism, in order to deny the most visible public opponent of that sentence an imprimatur.
At no time was Dr. Sungenis ever provided with any specific examples of his book contradicting the referenced teachings, and he was informed that "Bishop Rhoades is not open to further consideration of this work for an imprimatur".
Jan. 18, 2007: Dr. Sungenis receives a letter from Monsignor David J. Malloy, General Secretary of the USCCB, responding to a letter in which Sungenis complained of the erroneous teaching of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Msgr. Malloy replies that “after the completion and approval by the bishops in their General Meeting, it was submitted to the Holy See for review and recognition. I am pleased that the Holy See has granted that recognition, as noted in each edition of the Catechism.” 
NOTE: It is often alleged by the wolf pack (which has apparently shrunk now to a wolf pair) bent on savaging Dr. Sungenis that he never attempted a private resolution of these difficulties before taking the matter into the public forum. To the contrary, Dr. Sungenis sent detailed letters concerning these matters not only to Msgr. Malloy but also to Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. In both instances, he was assured that there was no problem at all with the sentence.

UPDATE 2/1/12: Correction: the response from the CDF was in the form of an acknowledgement of receipt only.
June 29, 2007: Dr. Sungenis receives a certified letter from Bishop Rhoades stating: “I hereby direct that you immediately 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 of 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. If you have any questions about this letter and its directives or if you wish to discuss this matter further, I have asked my Vicar General, Father William King, and a representative of the USCCB [Fr. James Massa, Secretary of Interreligious Affairs] to be available to meet with you at your request.”

NOTE: This remarkable directive of His Excellency Bishop Rhoades- a directive specifically depriving the most visible public opponent of the USCCB's highly problematic teaching of any right to address the matter in any way at all!- is the subject of an essay by Father Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D. Professor Emeritus of Theology, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, written in April of  2008, entitled "Dr. Robert Sungenis Has Disobeyed No Binding Precept of His Bishop".
Fr. Harrison makes the following points with regard to the directive quoted above:
The above precept, however, actually involves a violation of church law and constitutes an act of injustice on the part of the bishop. Why? Because the bishop manifestly failed to comply adequately with c. 50 before he issued it. This canon states: “Before issuing a singular decree [a term which here includes singular precepts, cf. the wording of c. 49], an authority is to seek out the necessary information and proofs, and, insofar as possible, to hear those whose rights can be injured” (emphasis added). 
Bishop Rhoades letter indicates he had indeed looked at material critical of Jewish positions and activity on Dr. Sungenis’ website, and received complaints about it. But the italicized
words above indicate that canonically – and indeed, this is also a plain matter of natural justice – that is by no means enough. It is illicit for a church authority to impose a penalty or restriction without first listening to those persons whose rights are at stake, wherever possible. Now, the first of such persons, obviously, is the one for whom the penalty or restriction is being contemplated. But in this case, even though it would have been not only possible, but quite easy, to hear Dr. Sungenis’ point of view prior to formally commanding him to be silent on Jewish issues, the bishop made no attempt to do so, whether in writing or by summoning him to the chancery for a discussion of the problem. The command therefore fell upon Dr. Sungenis like the proverbial ‘bolt from the blue’. He has assured me in writing of the total lack of prior consultation, and indeed, this omission is virtually evident from the wording of Bishop Rhoades’ letter itself: it treats the whole matter ‘from the ground up’ and does not mention any previous admonitions or discussions as background to the new prohibition – as it surely would have if such had ever taken place. 
Fr. Harrison also brings up a very, very cogent observation:
It seems these complaints had come mainly from the same small group of lay Catholic apologists
who have for years ostensibly been trying to “correct” Dr. Sungenis as an “erring brother” by means of a website dedicated to nothing other than exposing his errors (real and imagined) concerning Judaism and Jewish issues. In my opinion – and I am not alone – this initiative has developed de facto into a pitiless personal campaign of vilification against Dr. Sungenis
N. B. You most certainly are not alone, Father Harrison!
 – harassing him, one-sidedly ransacking his writings to ‘cherry-pick’ and string together whatever can possibly be lifted out and turned against him, trying to isolate him as a pariah, to get him banned from speaking on any Catholic platform, and to totally destroy his apologetics apostolate, by portraying him as an anti-semitic bigot. Just recently I was sent a list, composed by one of these anti-Sungenis crusaders (a widely respected Catholic lay leader), of about ten unacceptably anti-Jewish positions which, he assured readers, were espoused by this alleged bigot. On submitting the list to the “accused” himself, I discovered from him that the list was a shocking distortion of his views. All the positions or expressions attributed to him were either distortions of what he had really said or (in a couple of cases) errors which – as the accuser should have known – he had long since retracted and withdrawn from his website. I myself have received thinly-veiled threats from members of this group, resorting to the same tactics of intimidation, censorship and “guilt by association” that are used so effectively by militant leftist and Jewish groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti- Defamation League. I have been darkly warned that my own reputation – and even the credibility of theological positions I share with Dr. Sungenis, such as the classical doctrine of biblical inerrancy! – will suffer serious seriously if I dare to speak at any conference or gathering to which he is also invited.
Father Harrison continues:
Perhaps most importantly of all, the main specific point which the bishop and his censor seemed to have in mind in claiming that the book exhibited a “lack of adherence to authoritative Church teaching on Judaism” was a doctrinal position of Dr. Sungenis which is in fact perfectly orthodox. And the contrary position, gravely unorthodox, was one seemingly endorsed by the bishop himself! This unorthodox doctrine, which Bishop Rhoades cited and apparently considered “authoritative”, has never been taught by any Pope or Council, only by the United States Catechism, published recently with the authority of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Apparently with a view to exposing Dr. Sungenis’ “lack of adherence” to Church teaching on Judaism, Bishop Rhoades appealed to a paragraph on p. 131 of the said catechism in which the only doctrinal statement incompatible with the doctrine of Dr. Sungenis’ book is the following: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them” (my emphasis). But Dr. Sungenis was absolutely right to teach the doctrine contrary to this proposition, because it is unquestionably the latter which is a doctrinal error – and a truly scandalous one!  
It should be kept in mind that Father Harrison's words above were written before the August 2008, triumphant victory of orthodoxy achieved by our Catholic bishops, in their overwhelming 231-14 repudiation of the "remains eternally valid" fiasco.
It seems that Bob Sungenis has some very loyal, courageous, and excellent friends, and they- and he- were right on this one.
The wolf pack- or wolf pair- can go howl at the moon.
I close- for now; who knows, maybe the wolf pair will require that the timeline be extended?- with a friendly suggestion to another fine, brave, loyal and important Catholic apologist, Michael Voris.
Michael, I wish you well in your canonical pursuit of justice.
I have no doubt that you too have many loyal friends, who will stand by you even should you find in the end that you must follow the example of Dr. Robert Sungenis, who submitted to a grotesquely unjust edict of his bishop, because.........
sometimes that is what it takes, to please God.
And what we need more than anything now- more than any other single thing- is to find ways in which we might please God, so that He may be pleased to deliver us from the incredible devastations now descending upon our beloved Holy Mother the Church.
Christus vincit!
Non praevalebunt!
Rick DeLano
Member of the Board
Bellarmine Theological Forum
January 27, 2012


  1. An informative and illuminating article! I had heard of this fiasco before, but not the details. Lord willing, I will too have the courage to teach my children the Truth and protect them from error.

  2. I found a pretty good response to Father Harrisons defense of Robert Sungenis at this site,

    I think that they were very respectful and made a lot of good points. And I see that you didn't provide a link to Fathers article. It seems to be off-line. Are you sure he still stands behind it?

  3. Kurt: I find a useful correlation between your post and the kind of "argumentation" advanced in your link.

    Insinuation is the order of the day:

    "I see that you didn't provide a link to Fathers article. It seems to be off-line."

    Now, Kurt, let me ask you. If the article were to be on-line, would this have anything at all to do with whether it were true?

    If it were to have been online and then taken off-line, would this have anything at all to do with whether it were false?

    Of course not.

    The only utility such an observation would have, would be to afford the opportunity to advance an insinuation, designed to implant into the mind of the reader that, maybe, just maybe, the author didn't, or doesn't, or might, or might not, really mean what he said?

    The logical fallacy is clear, but then some folks aren;t very logical.

    You are one of them.

    We know this from your next statement:

    "Are you sure he still stands behind it?"

    Kurt. On what possible basis would you advance such a ridiculous question?

    Do you have any evidence that he does not stand behind it?


    That's because there isn't any.

    But if you don't have evidence, perhaps you can employ insinuation to suggest that perhaps, just maybe, a logical connection exists between internet availability and truth content.

    Now let us situate this discussion on the basis of logic, and not insinuation.

    Fr. Harrison's words are posted above.

    You wish to suggest he no longer stands behind them.

    Post your evidence.

    I will save you the time.

    There isn't any.

    That is because, of course, he still stands behind them.

    Thank you for providing us yet another insight into the techniques of character assassination which have been developed so elaborately on the Get Sungenis blog.

    If you wish to take a shower after reading the Get Sungenis blog, and then return here and post whatever "good points" you insinuate but do not bother to demonstrate exist in its content, I will be happy to examine them.