Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Robert Sungenis vs. Bishop Rhoades: a Chronology

  • July 2007 After an extended period of controversy and public argument with former supporters and volunteers to his website, "Catholic Apologetics International", about his derogatory views concerning the Jews, Sungenis was given two weeks by his bishop -- Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades -- to "desist from commenting on the Jewish people and Judaism both online and in all other publications" or his bishop would denounce him publicly.

    Sungenis claimed that after a subsequent meeting with representatives from his diocese and the USCCB, he was allowed to “continue publishing and speaking on those matters of Catholic doctrine which pertain to the Jewish covenant and the role of Israel in salvation history, provided that you take an approach quite different in tone and content from the one pursued in the past.”

  • August 2007 Sungenis published a letter on his website acknowledging that his bishop and the executive director for ecumenical and inter-religious affairs of the USCCB indicated that “I have crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations” and Sungenis eventually acceded to their assessment of his work, acknowledging that his writings had "caused confusion regarding what is and is not the authentic position of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish people." He also conveyed a willingness to obey their directives by removing his objectionable articles, at least until such time as they can be rewritten with “a human and Christian spirit,” as per the requirements of Catholic canon law (c. 822, 2-3). However, he expressed doubt as to whether he would ever have sufficient time to accomplish that task. Sungenis further declared that his bishop and vicar are "the shepherds God has placed as overseers of my life and work" and that it is "a privilege to obey them." At the end of this letter, Sungenis opted to list seven “theological positions about the Jews” to serve as a “permanent fixture on the website of CAI [now BTF] so that everyone will know where we stand from here on out.”

  • October 2007 - Sungenis publishes a new article claiming that as the bishop did not agree with his viewpoints, he changed his mind and ordered Sungenis to “remove the recently posted letter and that you refrain from publishing on all topics directly or tangentially related to Judaism or the Jewish people.” The letter was eventually removed from his website. However, Sungenis purportedly wrote to the bishop stating that he is not required to obey him if he issues orders that are in conflict with the faith and morals of the Catholic Church, and that Sungenis would only comply under the aegis of a canonical trial. Additionally, Sungenis indicated that he would be "quite happy to expose" to the Vatican the errors he claimed Bishop Rhoades adheres to. According to Sungenis, the bishop did not respond to his proposal.

  • February 7, 2008 Sungenis' bishop replied in writing to a letter from Sungenis' former vice president, Michael Forrest. In the letter, the bishop confirmed that he had been in contact with Sungenis about his Jewish writings and that he had "hoped for a more positive outcome." However, while Sungenis has indicated that his bishop "ordered me to stop writing about the Jews and Judaism altogether", the bishop himself made no mention of whether or not Sungenis was currently under any formal command.

    The primary thrust of Bishop Rhoades' letter was a clarification of his doctrinal beliefs in regard to certain covenantal issues involving the Jewish people. The bishop also judged the statements Sungenis made about him and his beliefs as "slanderous and erroneous." (See: "Bishop Rhoades, Sungenis, and the Jews", by Leon Suprenant Catholics United for the Faith February 23, 2008).

  • January 2008 Sungenis responded with an article entitled My Reply to Bishop Rhoades, claiming that the questions posed to Bishop Rhoades may have been designed "specifically to side-step the most crucial issue at hand" (ibid, p.3) and that the bishop must affirm three statements composed by Sungenis in order to establish his orthodoxy (ibid, p. 12).

  • April 2008 Catholics United for the Faith and 10 individuals (many former colleagues of Sungenis' Catholic Apologetics International) published a lengthy rebuttal entitled "By Sungenis Alone". The authors of the rebuttal claim that Sungenis has been more than satisfactorily answered by his bishop and that the reasons for the bishop's cease and desist order are unrelated to any covenantal issues involving the Jewish people.

    * * *

    Sungenis’ bishop also purportedly threatened to “deprive him of his right to use the word ‘Catholic’ on his website and written material" in the summer of 2007.

    In early fall, 2007 the "Catholic" moniker was removed from the title of Sungenis' organization, which now operates under the name Bellarmine Theological Forum.

Historical summary provided by Wikipedia; a reading of "By Sungenis Alone" is recommended, as it provides detailed documentation on the conflict with his bishop.