Saturday, October 19, 2002

Hey Folks! There's a Baby in that Bathwater!

Recently Robert Sungenis posted a response to a document from a committee from the USCCB called Reflections on Covenant and Mission (RCM). Well, had his response stopped there we probably wouldn't be visiting this page today. Since you are reading this page now, you might be aware that he also cited some information from the Talmud and other sources that has created quite a stir. My purpose in writing this article is not to "defend" Robert, rather to question some of the other responses to Robert's article (which at the time of me writing this has been pulled entirely from CAI's website). The information Robert posted was rather critical of Jews, their Talmud and others of Jewish ancestry. The biggest problem was due to the fact that some of the information cited came from anti-semitic sources, one even being a piece of 1940's Nazi propaganda. Robert has since apologized for his oversight and has pulled the article to be revised.

Robert and his webmaster, Jacob Michael, have not apologized for the content and have claimed the content was true. Some have stated that this then is no apology at all and are demanding that he apologize for allowing the information to be posted, period. This has degenerated the discussion from "what" he has presented to "why" he presented it and character assassinations.

A tactic in debate is to destroy the credibility of one's opponent, thus (the thought is) you destroy the credibility of their argumentation. Such tactics, though effective in appearance, are truly invalid arguments. Once you go from discussing the points of an argument to discussing the person who raised the points, you've moved into the realm of "ad hominem" (Latin for "against the person"). For those not paying close attention, or for those who are already convinced, the argumentation seems quite good - but to the objective reader/judge - attacks on the person are seen for what they are, invalid argumentation. So, you attack the person and hope no one is watching when suddenly the discussion is not about "the argument" anymore, but it's about "the person." This appears to be exactly the motives behind some of the responses (and blogs) that have been attacking Robert Sungenis. If one looks at these responses objectively, one will see something lacking. Though the responses are rather verbose and emotionally charged, what they lack is substance. What I have seen, thus far, is a lot of attacks on Robert's motives and the slinging of terms like "anti-semitic." What I have not seen is evidence disproving what Robert said.

This brings me to one of the reasons I am writing this response. I do not write this in "support" of Robert Sungenis, but in support of "real debate" on the subject(s) at hand. It's one thing to blast away at someone's motives; it's quite another to actually disprove his arguments. I, for one, would like to see a real debate on the issues here.

We also see some calling for a boycott of CAI, and not only currently produced products and information from CAI, but even all past documents, books, etc. One has to ask, why is this boycott being called for? Based on emotionally driven claims? Again, I would like to see some real evidence introduced into this discussion. Yes, the evidence was real that he quoted anti-semitic material - but was the information false? That is what Robert's detractors should be out to prove.

Another reason for this article is to express my concern over "fellow Catholics" attacking each other, in the name of Catholicism, over issues of personal motives. The motives here are really immaterial, what needs to come out is the truth. Those who yearn to prove Catholic disunity are having a hay-day with the way "Catholics" are bickering at each other over this issue. The sad part is that the strongest voices we have seen, thus far, are those preaching against Robert's motives - and not what was actually said.

In my initial response, I attempted to list several other sites that also pointed out some of the horrendous statements in the Talmud. I take my hat off to John Betts, one of Robert's detractors, for pointing out to me that those sites were largely anti-semitic and/or white supremacist in nature. He speculated that I likely did a quick internet search to find those sites, and truthfully, that is what I did. Upon closer examination of those sites, I have to concur with John and have pulled that response entirely. I also must add, that the inclusion of those sites did more to detract from the main points I was trying to make, which I hope is being made more clear in this article. Those points are:

  • The point that it is not why something was said, but what was said.
  • The point that Robert did indeed apologize for the oversite in posting
    material from questionable sources (see below).
  • That Catholics are divided on the RCM document (see below).
  • Catholics should feel free to challenge what was said, but
    why it was said is immaterial.
  • Arguments regarding the why things were said are speculative,
    at best, and scandalous or libelous at worst.
  • Robert himself encourages people to debate him on what was said.

I'll close with that. Below is the remainder of my initial article:

One of the other things Robert did was take a quote from a document which, unbeknown to him, was Nazi propaganda from the 1940s. He immediately removed that part from his response and has apologized for the oversight. However, it seems that many out there are not satisfied and call for a boycott of CAI and anything to do with Robert Sungenis. In my humble opinion these Catholics are too eager to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Robert has apologized for the oversite, has removed that section from his response - and has, in fact, removed the entire article at the time of me writing this, and he is working on a complete reworking of it.
Here is Robert's apology:

RS5: If you want me to apologize for mistakenly quoting something from a Nazi, I apologize. I have stated over and over again that that quote was an oversight on my part. I have since taken it off, and it will remain off. But my critics still want their pound of flesh, but they are not going to get it. As for the Jews, I don't have any hatred for Jews or anyone else. You are the victim of a well-coordinated campaign to destroy me by people who are misinformed and are green with envy. They will answer to God for their lies. I am against Zionism. If you want to call me an anti-Zionist you can do so, but I am not anti-semitic by any stretch of the imagination.

Catholics are Divided on "Reflections..."

Catholics Divided...

New Controversy

Clarification from a Cardinal stating it "was a working document rather than an authoritative statement of belief.

Catholic opinion that Rome will not prove "Reflections."

Recent Vatican document encouraging love and understanding, but not a thought of denying evangelization.

Now, I am sure I could find many more sites expressing concern and confusion over the "Reflections" opinion posted by the USCCB, but I think I have presented enough for the reader to get the point - Catholics are not united on this "non-binding" opinion. I also understand how many have been upset by Robert Sungenis' stand on this, but I also understand Robert's right and even duty, if he, as a faithful Roman Catholic, sees something he perceives as error being presented by any Catholic authority. It is also the right of fellow Catholics to express their concerns with opinions put out by other Catholics - however, to call for a "boycott" of Catholic Apologetics International and Robert Sungenis is hardly a "Catholic" attitude. Robert has produced many good, no, great works for Catholic apologists for evangelizing all non-Catholics, including Jews. It is my hope and prayer that all Catholics will stop these calls for "boycotts" and writing "hatemail" to message boards and blogs on the internet. Again, I fully support anyone to express an opposing opinion to Robert - and so does Robert! I emphasize the fact that no one should be calling for a boycott of CAI - unless Robert's bishop and/or Rome has declared him excommunicated and/or an heretic, then it is scandalous and even libelous to attack Robert personally and affect his ability to support his family. I reiterate, anyone should feel free to attack his arguments - and let your arguments or his stand or fall on their own merits.

In closing, I ask all reading this to consider what they are saying about Robert Sungenis and who they are saying it to; are your statements said in charity, love and humility - or are they mean-spirited or spiteful? If you feel that Robert needs correction, then present your correction with charity and humility - especially if you want such correction to be effective. Also, lets be willing and open to hearing Robert's side. Robert has shown the ability to be corrected and the humility to apologize for presenting scandalous material has removed such material from CAI.



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