James Swan noted a fascinating discussion on Robert Sungenis’ website. He was asked about a series of lectures, and Sungenis’ reply was:
R. Sungenis: John, if they advertise in America, NCR, Commonweal, First Things, etc., then it’s the same old liberal, progressive approach to theology that has basically sucked the faith out of the Catholic Church today. It is the same liberal, modernistic theology (if you can call it theology) that is taught at Catholic University of America or Notre Dame University. Although I’m sure there are some good aspects to these lectures, knowing what I know of the lecturers, their alma maters (Georgetown University, The Jesuit School of Theology, Union Theological Seminary, Catholic Theological Union, Boston College, Franciscan School of Theology, St. Patrick’s Seminary) and their allegiance to the liberal institutions for which they write and work (The Catholic Biblical Association, Catholic Theological Society, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, The Collegeville Bible Commentary) I could not recommend any of them to you. To a man (and woman) these teachers believe the Bible is riddled with historical and “religious” errors. Many of them wrote sections of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary edited by Fr. Raymond Brown and Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, two of the most liberal Catholics in academia. For them, the Bible is mainly the work of man, and only a few parts were actually inspired by the Holy Spirit. They do not believe most of the historical narratives in Scripture ever took place (e.g., Adam and Eve, Noah) and they believe much of the Gospels were made up by either the evangelists or the generations that came after them. They question the resurrection of Christ, the immaculate conception of Mary, the infallibility of the pope, the existence of the devil or hell, and many other cardinal doctrines of the historic Catholic faith. In brief, these lectures are indicative of the sad state of affairs in Catholic academia and scholarship today. Today’s Catholic scholars took over where the Protestant liberals left off at the turn of the 20th century, and they are much worse than the Protestant liberals ever were. They simply do not have the traditional faith of our Fathers and medievals any longer.
Now, in general, I think Sungenis has truth on his side when it comes to his complaint that the majority of modern Roman Catholic scholarship has been deeply, deeply infected with theological liberalism. I can’t tell you how often I hear Shabir Ally or other Islamic apologists trotting out Brown or Fitzmyer to prove that this or that biblical teaching is “mythological” or the like. And when you join the likes of Bart Ehrman as the favorite go-to-source for those denying the essential aspects of the Christian faith itself, well, that doesn’t speak too well as to your orthodoxy. I have often expressed the fact that modern Roman Catholic apologists live in a context of contradiction: by definition they defend Rome’s dogmas, while at the same time, Rome’s theologians have long ago abandoned any meaningful commitment to Rome’s theology, and even when they give lip-service to the “sacred truths” of the Magisterium, everyone knows it is with a wink and a nod, fingers crossed under the folds of all those robes. Just like in many allegedly conservative evangelical seminaries, where inerrancy is “believed” but…not really, Rome’s theologians find a way to talk about Papal Infallibility or the Bodily Assumption in such a way as to keep their jobs while using code-speak to let all the “enlightened” know they really don’t believe such medieval silliness. Roman Catholic apologists know their own theologians are not their friends. In fact, most of their writings are a gold mine of quotes for our side! But the real problem they face is that their own leaders in Rome not only put up with the situation, they promulgate it and support it.
Now at the top of this blog entry is a picture from the 1995 debate in California that featured, on the Roman Catholic side of things, Patrick Madrid along with Robert Sungenis (seated next to each other on the left side of the image). I don’t see Madrid and Sungenis doing a lot together these days. Sungenis has gone off into his own unique view of things, doing battle with Hahn and…just about everyone else on a whole host of issues. Thus far he has withstood the seemingly siren call of sedevacantism, but his unique brand of Roman Catholicism is surely more like that of the medieval period than modern Rome.
One who did not resist that call, but ran headlong toward it, is Gerry Matatics, who, despite their wishing everyone would forget it, was once the darling of Catholic Answers. I visited their offices years ago and found Gerry’s desk right next to Patrick’s. They did seminars together and traveled the country proclaiming the errors of sola scriptura and assuring everyone that it is a “blueprint for anarchy,” to use Patrick’s trademarked phrase. Notice how in these pictures both Gerry and Patrick are not holding up the Catholic Catechism or the Code of Canon Law of the Documents of Vatican II. No, they are holding up that dangerous book, which no one can really understand outside of Rome’s guidance, the Bible! Of course, one wonders what version it is, since Rome still promotes one of the single worst, most atrocious English translations ever produced, the NAB. In any case, we all know Gerry is off lecturing on the soon coming World Order and how the Pope is not really a Catholic and how his small band is part of the last remnant, saved out of the great apostasy. For some reason, all that tradition, and all that “extra” help from the Pope and the “living Magisterium” didn’t keep Sungenis, Madrid, and Matatics together. Will that stop them from preaching against the sufficiency of Scripture on the basis of that allegedly leading to disunity? No, it won’t, but it will keep any rationally thinking and truth loving listener from believing them.