Robert Sungenis

Robert Sungenis

Robert A. Sungenis (born 1955), is the controversial founder of the Bellarmine Theological Forum. Sungenis is known for his works in apologetics critiquing the Protestant doctrines of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. He has also become known for his public advocacy of geocentrism and his controversial views of the Jewish people.


Robert Sungenis was raised in a Catholic family, but became a Protestant in 1975, aged nineteenCitation | url = | accessdate = 2007-07-17 | title = Biography | publisher = Catholic Apologetics International ] . He held various posts (e.g., elder, preacher, adult Sunday school director) in several Protestant Churches including a two-year employment under Harold Camping of Family Radio [Citation | first = R. | last = Sungenis | title = Rebuttal ... Concerning the Doctrine of Purgatory (page3) | url = | accessdate = 2007-07-17 | publisher = Catholic Apologetics International ] He obtained his B.A. in Religion from George Washington University in 1979, and an M.A. in theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1982. He obtained a Ph.D. in Religious Studies in April 2006 from Calamus International University, although CIU is not recognized by any educational accrediting body in the United States or elsewhere.

Sungenis reverted to Catholicism in 1992 at the age of thirty-seven.. In 1994 he was the principle author of a book critiquing the eschatological views of both Harold Camping and a number of prominent Protestant preachers. [Citation | title = Shockwave Two Thousand! The Harold Camping 1994 Debacle | publisher = New Leaf Press | year = 1994 | first = R. | last = Sungenis | first2 = S. | last2 = Temple | first3 = D.A. | last3 = Lewis | url = ] . His conversion story to Catholicism is chronicled in the first of the "Surprised By Truth" books [Citation | title = Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic | first = P. | last = Madrid | isbd = 978-0964261082 | url = | publisher = Basilica Press | year = 1994] edited by Catholic apologist and author Patrick Madrid. He has debated many Protestant apologists, including James R. White, Dave Hunt, Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey and Robert Zins on doctrinal, theological, and historical issues such as Sola Scriptura, the Papacy and papal infallibility, Salvation and Justification.

Theological works and views

Three of Sungenis' best-known works are "Not by Faith Alone" (1997) on the subject of justification and salvation, "Not by Scripture Alone" (1997) refuting the Protestant doctrine of "sola scriptura", and "Not by Bread Alone" (2000) on the Eucharist. In 2004 Sungenis published the first volume of his "Catholic Apologetics Study Bible" ("Matthew") which included Sungenis' unauthorized revision of the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible. The second volume, the "Apocalypse of St. John", was released by Queenship Publishing in April 2007. This volume was refused an imprimatur by his bishop. In early to mid 2007, Sungenis indicated that he was seeking an imprimatur for his book on the Apocalypse from another bishop. However, no imprimatur has been received.His third study volume, "The Epistles of Romans and James", has also been published. This volume was submitted for an imprimatur from another bishop, although no imprimatur has been received to date. His fourth study volume, Genesis: Chapters 1-11, has been completed. Sungenis’ new translation of Genesis 1-11 has been submitted to the USCCB for approval, and its commentary will be submitted for an imprimatur.

In June 2006, Sungenis' book ["Galileo Was Wrong"] was released. In it Sungenis describes his reasons for adopting geocentric cosmology. According to Sungenis, the book did not qualify to be examined for an imprimatur by Sungenis’ Harrisburg bishop because it was said to be “primarily one of philosophy and science and not one that is primarily theological in nature”. [Citation | title = purportedly from an unpublished letter from the Judicial Vicar, July 19, 2006] However, Sungenis has not published this letter from his Vicar. A second volume outlining the biblical and theological evidence for geocentrism hypotheses was has published in August 2007 under the new title, "Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right".

In addition to his own works, Sungenis has also contributed essays to various Catholic apologetics collections (e.g., Surprised by Truth, Basilica Press, 1995; Jesus, Peter and the Keys, Queenship Publishing, 1997; The Catholic Answer Book of Mary, Our Sunday Visitor, 2000), in addition to writing and hosting two EWTN series on television (on Justification, and another with Patrick Madrid on the authority of Scripture and Tradition). However, due to his harsh public criticism of John Paul II and his controversial treatment of Jewish issues, EWTN terminated its association with Sungenis (see [ Question 7] ). [Citation | title = Sungenis: Michael Forrest and the Jews, p.1. No longer available online.] Sungenis has also engaged many Protestants and others in moderated debate. He is a member of the Young Earth creationism group and the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation.

Robert Sungenis maintains that the Second Vatican Council, when interpreted correctly, is fully orthodox. [] Likewise, he accepts the validity of the present pope, Benedict XVI, and accepts the Mass of Paul VI as valid and on par with the Tridentine Mass. []

tatus of Imprimatur on books

Unlike "Not by Faith Alone" and "Not by Scripture Alone", "Not by Bread Alone" (NBBA) does not possess the Catholic Church's imprimatur. Sungenis has stated that this was due to jurisdictional issues at the time of publication but that "NBBA" was approved for a Nihil Obstat. [Citation | title = Sungenis: Not By Bread Alone, p. iv] However, in May 2008, Catholic apologist David Armstrong wrote an article stating that Sungenis contradicts several Catholic teachings in "Not By Bread Alone". [] Armstrong writes:

Sungenis (rather dramatically and amazingly) denies God's immutability (inability to change), transcendence of time (knowing all things that to us are past, present, and future), the nature of eternity (he seems to think it as somehow a "super-time," rather than transcending time altogether), and asserts that clearly anthropomorphic qualities assigned to God in Holy Scripture such as jealousy and "repenting" are to be taken quite literally.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did not issue an imprimatur for Sungenis' "Catholic Apologetics Study Bible" ("Matthew") because it was regarded as a "translation of a translation" and therefore not truly a new translation and also because of what they described as his advocacy of "dynamic equivalence", a method of translation that is not viewed favorably. [Citation | title = Sungenis: Jacob Michael, The Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign, p. 13. No longer online] According to Sungenis, however, his translation does not make use of dynamic equivalence. He has stated in other works that he does not espouse the dynamic equivalence theory of translation.Fact|date=September 2008 Rather, Sungenis claims that the discrepancy between the USCCB and him centered on the USCCB’s misunderstanding of his use of italic words in his translation.Fact|date=September 2008

Sungenis’ bishop denied an imprimatur to the second volume, the "Apocalypse of St. John". According to Sungenis, this denial was due mainly to “lack of adherence to, or neglect of, authoritative teaching on Judaism and on the Church’s relationship with Judaism” [Citation | title = from an unpublished letter from Harrisburg chancellery, Dec. 6, 2006] . Sungenis indicated that he had submitted this volume to another bishop for review in early 2007 [Citation | title = The Imprimatur and the Smear Campaign, p. 1; no longer available on-line] . No imprimatur has been received to date. No imprimatur has been received for Sungenis' third volume on "Romans" and "James".

Conflict with His Bishop and Archbishop Raymond Burke

Robert Sungenis has been in the midst of a [ dispute] with his bishop, The Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, in relation to Sungenis' Jewish writings and postings. In May, 2008, Sungenis' conflict extended to Archbishop Raymond Burke, who was recently elevated from archbishop of the Diocese of St. Louis, MO, to prefect of the Vatican's [ top canonical court] .

The dispute began with a denial of an imprimatur for the "Apocalypse of St. John". Sungenis has contested his bishop’s decision, accusing the bishop himself, as well as various representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, of "attempting to propagate" erroneous theology to "unsuspecting Catholics" ( [ page 10] ). Sungenis further claimed that his bishop’s mentor was William Cardinal Keeler, who had a part in releasing the controversial 2002 document, "Reflections on Covenant and Missions" (RCM). This document received criticism from a number of Catholic organizations such as the [ Association of Hebrew Catholics] , and [ Catholic Answers] . Sungenis believes his bishop likely subscribes to Cardinal Keeler's views on the "dual covenant." He states:

Rhoades’ allegiances are not difficult to discern. His lifelong mentor is William Cardinal Keeler who was the previous bishop of Harrisburg and who ordained Rhoades to that position in 2004. It appears that he and Keeler are on the same wavelength when it comes to reinterpreting Catholic doctrine to accommodate the Jews. ( [ page 10] )

Sungenis' bishop has responded to these charges in a letter to Mr. Michael Forrest, former vice-president of Sungenis' organization and current owner of a website created in response to Robert Sungenis' treatment of various Jewish issues. Bishop Rhoades stated that Sungenis' charges were "slanderous and erroneous". (see [ letter] and [ Catholics United for the Faith] ). Forrest also documented that the guilt-by-association linkage that Sungenis attempted to make between Bishop Rhoades, Cardinal Keeler and the RCM document is false. [] [] Sungenis responded to Bishop Rhoades and Forrest. [] In turn, "Catholics United for the Faith" and ten individuals posted a comprehensive reply to Sungenis. []

In a more recent article written in response to author Mark Shea (May 2008), Sungenis became more explicit in his accusations of heresy against his bishop:

Mr. Shea doesn’t regard it as a departure from Catholic doctrine because he believes the same heresy that Bishop Rhoades believes. []

In a subsequent revision of this article, Sungenis has equivocated on the heresy charge he leveled against Bishop Rhoades:

Mr. Shea doesn't regard it as a departure from Catholic doctrine because he believes the same heresy that Bishop Rhoades has not clearly renounced and so presumably still believes. []

In this article, Sungenis also suggested that his bishop may be deferential to Jews "because they own the mortgages on the Catholic buildings erected in his and other dioceses" and that ""it's time for people to wake up and stop being corralled by the Jewish slave masters" (p. 10).

Another issue Sungenis and many other concerned Catholics have raised relates to the USCCB’s new United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA), which states on page 131 that “the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” Sungenis maintains that the official Catholic position is that the Mosaic covenant is revoked. In a recent article, Sungenis acknowledged the possibility that he may be misunderstanding this passage of the USCCA. In a more recent article, however, Sungenis intensified his criticisms, claiming that this passage has "intentionally" been written by the U.S. Catholic bishops so as to teach something erroneous to "unsuspecting Catholics." ( [ page 3 of article 1] , [ pages 6,7,11 and 17 of article 2] ) Sungenis' bishop also [ expressed reservations] about this sentence, indicating that "I can see how the one statement [in the USCCA] might be misunderstood...I would interpret it to mean that the Jewish people retain a special relationship to God because of the Old Covenant, but I would not interpret it to mean that the Jewish people can be saved through the Old Covenant apart from Christ." In August, 2008, by a vote of 231 to 14, the U. S. bishops replaced this sentence on page 131 of the USCCA and indicated that it was "not flat-out wrong" but "was ambiguous and needed to be qualified." []

In May, 2008, Archbishop Raymond Burke intervened to halt a presentation that Sungenis was scheduled to make in the Diocese of St. Louis. [Citation | title = Sungenis, Washington Post Carries Article on USCCB Catechism Change, page 10] Sungenis complained that the archbishop refused to listen to his side of the story and that in so doing the archbishop had "skirt [ed] canon law and common decency." [Citation | title = ibid, p. 13]

Geocentrism controversy

In early 2002, Robert Sungenis came under much criticism for publicly reviving the geocentric worldview. [] This view is similar to the historic Tychonic worldview, which holds that the universe was created with earth at its center and stationary in space. In addition to claiming scientific viability for geocentrism, Sungenis bases his argument on the testimony of the early Church Fathers and medieval theologians; the traditional interpretation of Scripture supported by the Church, and the authoritative declarations of three popes of the seventeenth century, namely Paul V, Urban VIII, Alexander VII. Sungenis does not claim these decrees met the level defined in Vatican I required for papal infallibility, nor does he consider Catholics who reject geocentrism as dissidents, but nevertheless he maintains that the theological case for geocentrism is very strong.

PhD in Geocentrism

According to Sungenis, when he became interested in geocentrism, he was already enrolled in a doctoral program at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham England. He requested permission to change the topic of his dissertation to geocentrism, but as this was not permitted, he chose to drop their program and seek another institution. After the topic of geocentrism was also rejected by other accredited institutions, he enrolled in Calamus International University [] , which is not recognized by any educational accrediting body in the United States or elsewhere. His academic supervisor was the then academic dean, Morris Berg. However, as Berg’s degree is in hypnotherapy and since the university specializes in "holisitic, therapeutic, spiritual, New Age" fields of study [] , Sungenis was permitted another academic supervisor with a scientific background, although his doctorate was to be in theology.

Sungenis' friend and colleague from the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, Robert Bennett, who has an accredited PhD in physics, was allowed to serve as academic supervisor for Sungenis' theological dissertation.Citation | first = R. | last = Sungenis | title = My Ph.D. from Calamus International University | url = | format = pdf | year = 2007 | month = Jan | accessdate = 2007-07-17] . Additionally, according to Sungenis, the book which resulted from his doctoral dissertation in theology did not qualify to be examined for an imprimatur by his bishop because it was said to be “primarily one of philosophy and science and not one that is primarily theological in nature” [Citation | title = purportedly from an unpublished letter from the Judicial Vicar, July 19, 2006] .

Sungenis has offered several explanations for choosing an unaccredited institution. He has indicated that he wanted everyone to be able to see "in a glance" that he had the same credentials as respected scholars, that no one would allow him to pursue this topic at accredited institutions, and that he desired to show his disapproval of the American university system ( [ see page 6] ). Sungenis' dissertation is entitled "The Heliocentric Model of Cosmology Introduced by Nicolaus Copernicus and Advanced by Galileo Galilei, is an Unproven Scientific Hypothesis; a Faulty Interpretation of the Bible; and in Conflict with official Magisterial Decrees of the Catholic Church.", served as the foundation for the book "Galileo Was Wrong" which was ultimately co-written with Sungenis' academic supervisor, Robert Bennett (author of chapter 12).

Jewish Controversies

Beginning with an [ article published in 2002] , Robert Sungenis has made many controversial public statements on various Jewish issues that have resulted in persistent charges of anti-Semitism (e.g., [ Catholics United for the Faith] , [ Robert Sungenis and the Jews] , [ Catholic Culture] , [ Southern Poverty Law Center] , [ Dr. William Cork] ).

On June 29, 2007, after an extended period of controversy and public argument with former supporters and volunteers about these derogatory views, Sungenis was given two weeks by [ his bishop] to "desist from commenting on the Jewish people and Judaism both online and in all other publications" or his bishop would denounce him publicly. [Citation | title = Culture Wars, October 2007, p. 9] Sungenis claims that after a subsequent meeting with representatives from his diocese and the USCCB on July 27, 2008, 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.” [Citation | title = purportedly from an unpublished letter from vicar general dated Aug. 23, 2007]

Four days after this meeting, Sungenis [ published a letter] at his website acknowledging that his bishop and the executive director for ecumenical and inter-religious affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 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 has 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.” [Citation | title = "Catholic Apologetics and Its Teaching on the Jews", pp 2-3] In January, 2008, Sungenis subsequently published another article claiming that while his "tone" was proper, the bishop did not agree with his theological viewpoints related to the Jewish people and Judaism; therefore, the bishop 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.” Subsequently, Fr. Brian Harrison has indicated that the bishop objected to both Sungenis' "tone and content" ( [ page 12] ). The letter ("Catholic Apologetics and Its Teaching on the Jews") was eventually removed from his website. However, in regard to any further cessation of writing about Jews and Judaism, Sungenis claims to have written 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 he 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. [Citation | title = Culture Wars, October 2007, pp 12-39] ( [ see pp 9-10] )

On February 7, 2008, Sungenis' bishop replied in writing to a letter from Sungenis' former vice president, Michael Forrest, who has become a strong critic of Sungenis' writings on Jewish issues. In the letter, the bishop confirmed that he had been in contact with Sungenis about ceasing his Jewish writings and that he had "hoped for a more positive outcome." However, the primary thrust of the bishop's 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" ( [ letter] and see [ "Bishop Rhoades Sets the Record Straight"] and [ Catholics United for the Faith] ). 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 personally composed by Sungenis in order to establish his orthodoxy (ibid, p. 12).

In turn, "Catholics United for the Faith" and ten Catholic apologists published a detailed rebuttal entitled [ "By Sungenis Alone."] The authors of the rebuttal state 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 but are instead related to the "extremely contentious, condemnatory, and antagonistic tone Sungenis is either unwilling or unable to contain when writing about anything Jewish" and "the false, bigoted and offensive content Sungenis often employs in making his arguments on Jewish issues, including even those of a theological nature."

Sungenis’ bishop also threatened to “deprive him of his right to use the word ‘Catholic’ on his website and written material" in the summer of 2007. [Citation | title = Culture Wars, October 2007, p. 8] In early fall, 2007 the "Catholic" moniker was removed from the title of Sungenis' organization, which now operates under the name "Bellarmine Theological Forum".

On January 25, 2008, Sungenis also indicated that he still personally holds to some of the views and statements about Jews that have caused the controversy and believes them to be factual, but he has chosen to withdraw some of them and apologize for conveying them "publicly" in order to "calm some of the storm" ( [ p. 11] ), adding, “I will not be expressing those opinions in my speeches, articles, website or any other public venue.” ( [ Response to P. Catan] ).

However, as of May, 2008, Sungenis has resumed expressing controversial and inflammatory views about Jews. His most recent views were published in [ two] [ reviews] of a book by author E. Michael Jones in which Sungenis describes Jews as "godless", a [ response] to author Mark Shea in which Sungenis states that “"it's time for people to wake up and stop being corralled by the Jewish slave masters", [ "Q-A" #76] in which Sungenis supports the work of controversial conspiracy theorist [ Texe Marrs] on "Jewish world domination", [ "Q-A" #44] in which Sungenis affirms a BTF patron who classifies Jews as "Christ crucifiers" and an [ article at the Bellarmine News Forum] which warns of "top Jews in control of the media, sometimes in conjunction with the behind the scenes Judeo-Masonic shadow government" and recommends the highly controversial work of [ Elizabeth Dilling] , [ Michael A. Hoffman II] and [ Justinas Pranaitis] on Jewish issues.

Sungenis' friend and associate, Fr. Brian Harrison, has responded in detail to a specific aspect of these controversies: Sungenis' [ canonical standing] in the Church. He also stated that Sungenis' controversial views about Jews are "at worst, merely exaggerated or immoderate" and characterized Sungenis' critics as "persecutors" and "cyber-vigilantes" ( [ p. 3 and p. 6] ). Sungenis' critics have responded, stating that Fr. Harrison's article is "misguided and ill-informed." [] and []

Notes and References

External links

* [ Bellarmine Theological Forum] , Robert Sungenis' apologetics site.
* [ Galileo Was Wrong] , Promoting Sungenis' new book on geocentrism.
* [ Calamus International University]
* [ Robert Sungenis and the Jews] , A web site discussing Sungenis' opinions about Jews and Judaism

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