Friday, August 26, 2005

More Fine Roman Catholic Unity

In a post titled More Cafeteria Catholicism, I detailed the very interesting Gerry Matatics, who, to put it briefly, would contend that there is something rotten about the modern Roman Catholic Church. Matatics, as it was noted, is not only Roman Catholic, but a well-known Roman Catholic apologist.

Let's now turn to another interesting and fascinating Roman Catholic apologist by the name of Robert Sungenis.

Some selected background on Mr Sungenis:

(1) Mr Sungenis is the president of Catholic Apologetics International, which is, among other things a Roman Catholic apologetics site.

(2) Mr Sungenis took a Masters degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1982.

(3) Has authored a nice number of books and such relating to Catholic issues on justification, salvation, and sola scriptura, among other things. [See the biographic link above for a more complete listing.]

Mr Sungenis would be quite the interesting dinner partner, to say the least.

I haven't investigated Mr Sungenis' reasons for converting to Roman Catholicism, so I can't offer anything remotely definitive on whether the purported great Roman Catholic unity [as compared to scattered and divided Protestantism with its (insert large number here) denominations, "all factious and quarreling," as some Roman apologists are wont to say] had anything to do with things.

But regardless of Mr Sungenis' own reasons for going Roman Catholic, he doesn't think too highly of John Paul II. I'll pull some snippets from this page of his CAI site, where he dialogues with a reader named Kathy. Readers are encouraged to read the link to see the context for the snippets given below.

(a) First response to Kathy:

In fact, if we take the three problem areas that Vatican II emphasized: (1) conduct, (2) discipline, and (3) formulation of doctrine, and apply them to John Paul II, he becomes one of the worst offenders in the history of the papacy.

As regards “conduct,” here we have a Church riddled with homosexual bishops and priests, a catastrophe unprecedented in the history of the Church, all under the watch of John Paul II for the past 26 years, and he has done virtually nothing about it, except elevate some of its worst perpetrators to high level Vatican positions (e.g. Cardinal Law).

As regards “discipline,” it is a consensus even among supporters of John Paul II that he has been very lax in disciplining his wayward prelates. He has a virtual schism going on between himself and the bishops in the US, and he does nothing about it.

(b) Again in the first response to Kathy:

Moreover, if we applied Vatican II’s “deficiencies” principle to Vatican II, everyone knows that it is loaded with ambiguous statements, most of which are hurtful to pious ears. And it is precisely these ambiguous statements that liberals have interpreted in their own devious ways, making a virtual wasteland of the Church. One of my favorites is the Vatican II statement in Dei Verbum 11, “for the sake of our salvation,” which, because it is ambiguous, has led the majority of Catholic seminaries, universities and other such institutions to teach that Scripture is only inerrant when it teaches about salvation, an idea never before taught in the Church. Would we say that Vatican II, in this instance, is guilty of “deficiencies in formulation of doctrine”? You betcha. And there are many other such “deficiencies.”

(c) BTW --- the summary of the entire dialogue includes the snippet

We will see that far from supporting the modern Catholic Church and its unprecedented innovations, Vatican II opened up the door to judge the modern Church as “deficient” in almost every respect.

PP Commentary:

(1) I thought that, according to the more starry-eyed lovers of Rome, Rome was supposed to give that "something extra" --- that "bedrock of assurance" or "certainty" that benighted Protestants such as myself and others are asserted to lack. Yet, Mr Sungenis here has some pretty major complaints against the modern RCC as well as John Paul II.

(2) At the same time, Mr Sungenis is no authority-bucking fellow, at least in a formal sense. At this page he seems to be stating [see point 2 there] that he will show due respect and submission to the appropriate authorities in the RCC.

(3) So despite his seeming great dissatisfaction with the modern RCC as well as John Paul II, he still submits to the RCC.

(a) To a Protestant such as myself, this is silly. If a church body is lax on discipline or has become infected with liberalism, the right thing to do is to cease being associated with that church body where it can claim you as a supporter. But that would be schismatic for a Romanist, so, to this fellow, somebody like a Mr Sungenis is stuck in Rome [for lack of a better term] hoping that things improve relative to his standards. Maybe they will, maybe they won't.

(b) How can there be true "unity" --- whatever that means --- when you have major disagreements on things? To the best of my knowledge, Mr Sungenis is still presumably listed in whatever official RC registry exists, but he still finds something rather unpleasant about the modern RCC. He's not, deep in his heart, a real believer in the direction Rome has taken, and he certainly seems to find many faults with John Paul II, as evidenced by his comments above.

(4) In a 3 August post at Mr Armstrong's outfit, Mr Armstrong has an entry titled Karl Keating Is Motivated More By Money Than By Truth, and Is a Coward, So Sez Robert Sungenis.

At the end of this post, Mr Armstrong states that Mr Sungenis' "controversial views are what they are." If I take what seems to be the natural reading, it appears that Armstrong has some pretty strong disagreements with Sungenis. Is this again the vaunted Roman unity that I so desperately lack?

What's the point of posting something like this? Answer: some Roman Catholic apologists want to act as if the existence of different denominations in Protestantism is somehow a death-blow to Protestantism, while ignoring the same type of disagreements taking place on their side of the fence. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and the triumphalistic "unity" claims made by the more zealous admirers of Rome against Protestants suffer from the obvious "you too!" retort.


Blogger Steve Jackson said...

Sungenis' views seem somewhat defensible: Things are bad, the pope and Vatican II are partly to blame, but that's no reason for leaving Rome.

This appears better than Dave Armstrongism that says things in the church are pretty bad, but the guy who ran the show for 28 years (JP II) is the greatest man of the twentieth century who isn't to blame for appointing liberals who allowed this mess to happen.

Friday, August 26, 2005 3:22:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

From an anti-schimatic perspective, I agree that Sungenis is taking the honorable course: he stays Roman Catholic, in allegiance to the RCC, despite his very strong misgivings.

But in the end, I don't agree with anti-schismatic perspective. The LCMS parish I attended when in grad school formed as a splinter group from a larger Lutheran body that decided to go in the liberal ELCA direction. Given that the conservatives were now in the minority, they were under no obligation to endure liberalism until things worked themselves out. Instead, they did the scriptural thing and began their own conservative Lutheran church body. There's nothing particularly noble about sticking around a liberal body merely to avoid being considered a factious sort.

Friday, August 26, 2005 3:48:00 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

It still makes me crazy: how can in infallible Pope fail to discipline the clergy? If "discipline" doesn't fall under "faith and morals", what does?

I don't get it.

Friday, August 26, 2005 4:51:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

On a personal aside related to El Franko's comment, the RC university at which I was an asst prof proundly ran [with public support of the priest/prez of the univ] The Vagina Monologues, and had a notoriously liberal religion department. At a meeting to decide upon commencement speakers, the suggestion that the pope [JPII] be invited to speak was meant with a degree of aghastness --- too conservative! --- too Catholic! The pope would've probably gotten a friendlier reception at a KJV-only convention.

I know the lack of discipline in the RCC has driven my real-life RC associates somewhat batty [Hello Diane!]. I don't know why more wasn't done. There is, in my eyes, a great discrepancy between St Paul and St Peter's practice of church discipline and what the modern RCC's practice of it happens to be. Even with the logistical fact of the huge size of the RCC, I still don't know why an institution that provides the infallibility and something extra can't just give the heretics the boot.

BTW to Steve J --- I don't know if you're pulling yourself down be associating with this blog, or if I'm pulled up by your readership, or both!

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:12:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

(I trust readers can see through the myriads upon myriads of typos in my post above.)

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:13:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Jackson said...


I don't know if I'm doing much to increase your page hits . . .

Ratzinger has written about the corruption in the church and culture as well as suggesting a need for a "smaller church." At some point catholics may realize that having dozens of catholic in name only colleges and universities might be counter productive.

Friday, August 26, 2005 7:11:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

I am most sympathetic to conservative RCism relative to its ongoing fights with modernism and liberalism. I'd rather have an RC who anathematizes me on justification than a squishy RC who, by virtue of word games, recognizes me as some sort of lost brother. But that's just me.

I still am perplexed at an authority-heavy institution that can't keep its own house in order, but at the same time I am supposed to find these things in Rome that I supposedly lack.

Why doesn't Rome kick out the liberals? The cynical answer that I've heard is that the liberals help pay the light bill at the Vatican. I'm not sure if this is part of the actual answer, or a bunch of hooey. Would a mass excommunication of the millions and such of dissidents cause Rome to lose some prestige in the sense of not being as large?

If Ratzinger does start giving liberals the boot, I'll be cheering from the Protestant part of the bleachers.

Friday, August 26, 2005 7:37:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Steve J --- can you send an email to pedanticprotestant at yahoo dot com? I have some questions.

Thanks in advance.

Saturday, August 27, 2005 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Jackson said...

Sometimes its hard to take your typical conservative catholic seriously because the last person he will blame for the situation in the church is the pope.

A couple times I've heard conservatives say "yes the situation in the church is a mess, but my bishop is a champion of orthodoxy." Then I ask just what Mr. Orthodox Bishop has done about liberals teaching in seminaries, altar girls, leftist priests, etc. The answer? -- as Ayn Rand used to say: Blank Out.

Sunday, August 28, 2005 5:44:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

The archbishop for the diocese in which my school was located let all of the shenanigans at my RC university go without any meaningful sort of protest or action.

Vagina Monologues encouraged by the university prez/priest as a sign of diversity? No prob.

A religion department that undermines Romanism? No prob.

A university whose general ed curriculum inculcates secular humanism [not to mention leftist ideology!]? No prob.

Public officials who openly support abortion? No prob.

Apart from these minor problems, there isn't much of a problem!

Sunday, August 28, 2005 1:25:00 PM  

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