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November 2004 - QA

Q & A November 2004

Question 42 - Is Vatican 2 Infallible?

Question 41 - Does Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et spec contradict Quanta Cura?

Question 40 - Do not judge that you may not be judged

Question 39 - Why do some old "Jesus films" do not show Our Lord's Face?

Question 38 - St John of the Cross

Question 37 - Works in Justification

Question 36 - CAI's Apologetics Shift

Question 35 - Questions Regarding Credibility [Removed]

Question 34 - Baptismal Rite

Question 33 - Works of Law and Psalm 143:2

Question 32 - General Christian Apologetics

Question 31 - Is it ok to pray at a Mosque or visit a Hindu temple?

Question 30 - Apolonio Latar Defends Scott Hahn

Question 29 - Irish Concert in Chapel

Question 28 - Who is St. Robert Bellarmine?

Question 27 - The "evil" of Christianity

Question 26 - The Pontifical Biblical Commission during Pope St. Pius X's Reign

Question 25 - Can Priests Choose to Substitute Attendance at a Holy Day
of Obligation?

Question 24 - Did Paul VI and John Paul II take the Papal Oath?

Question 23 - Why is there so much Faithlessness in the Catholic Church?

Question 22 - Question about La Salette

Question 21 - Leonid and Perseid Meteor showers and Geocentrism

Question 20 - Women Priests

Question 19 - What Laws of the OT must we obey?

Question 18 - A defense of the PERSON of Scott Hahn

Question 17 - How do you know John Paul II is a valid pope?

Question 16 - Anaphora of Addai and Mari

Question 15 - SSPX and Pope Zosimus

Question 14 - Not By Bread Alone

Question 13 - Confessing Sins to One Another - James 5:16

Question 12 - St. Catherine Question

Question 11 - Was Adam Deceived?

Question 10 - The "Evil" of Christianity

Question 9 - Jokes at Mass

Question 8 - Lefebvre, the SSPX and the "Necessity" Argument

Question 7 - Ecumenism, The True Church, and Baptism

Question 6 - Anaphora of Addai and Mari

Question 5 - Do Mother Teresa's Theological Problems Bar Her from Sainthood?

Question 4 - Letter from Jewish Man Abused as a Young Boy by a Catholic Priest

Question 3 - EWTN, Catholic Answers and Evolution

Question 2 - Bush and Abortion

Question 1 - Apocalypse Study

Question 42- Is Vatican 2 Infallible?

Hello Mr. Sungenis. I have appreciated your work on defending the faith. Especially from those who can do the most danger: Catholics!! Your arguments are well thought out and to the point. I have a question for you.

I recently attended a conference where the speaker said that the vatican 2 documents were not dogmatic. And he further added that they are to be viewed in light of the previous teachings of the church. And that anything that is not in line with this must be rejected. I would like to know what your position is on the vatican 2 documents. Are they dogmatic? Binding on us? Infallible? What are we to think of the documents of V2 on Religious Unity that say we should strive for the unity Jesus desired in saying "...that they all be one." John 17. This is interpretation of scripture is clearly condemned by Pius XI in Mortalium Animos.

Thanks for your time,

PS I hope that one day I may have the honor of meeting you in person.

R. Sungenis: Jaime, Vatican II was a legitimate and authoritative council, and though it did not contain any defined statements that we would consider infallible (per Paul VI's words on Vatican II), still there is no explicit or dogmatic error in Vatican II's documents. If there is, then we don't have the Catholic Church any longer. On the other hand, Vatican II chose to speak in essay format, and this often leads to ambiguities and misinterpretations, which is precisely the problem we see today. The liberals have exploited these ambiguities and turned them into heresies. The bottom line is this: anyone who interprets a Vatican II statement must do so in line with our dogmatic tradition. Anyone who interprets Vatican II in such a way as to be at odds with our dogmatic tradition, is, ipso facto, misinterpreting Vatican II. As for Dignitas Humanae and Gaudium et spes, they, in themselves, do not contradict our previous teaching on religious liberty. See one of our QA entries for November which answered this question more directly.


Question 41- Does Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et spec contradict Quanta Cura?


Would you please give a brief comment on:
The Vatican II Concept of The Natural Rights of Man
The Vatican II Council's declaration "Dignitatis Humanae" affirms a false natural human right "in matters of religion" contrary to prior papal teachings, which formally deny such a blasphemy.
Pius IX in his Encyclical "Quanta Cura", Leo XIII in his Encyclicals "Libertas Praestantissimum" and "Immortale Dei", Pius XII in his allocution "Le Riesce", addressed to Italian Catholic jurists, deny that such a right has any basis in reason or revelation.
These doctrines are based on a false concept of human dignity, stemming from the agnostic and materialist pseudo-philosophers of the French Revolution, already condemned by St. Pius X in his pontifical letter "Our Apostolic Mandate."
The Vatican II document "Gaudium et Spes" expresses a false principle when it regards human and Christian dignity as being a consequence of the Incarnation, which restored this dignity for all men. This same error is repeated in John Paul II's Encyclical "Redemptor Hominis."

R. Sungenis: Gary, these are false accusations. Dignitatis Humanae is concerned about one thing: that no one is forced, in the civil sphere, to go against their conscience, within due limits, regarding matters of religion. This does not mean man has the moral right to worship another god, but only the civil freedom not to be coerced by any entity against his freedom of conscience. DH mentions this "civil" sphere about 10 times, and makes a clear distinction between the civil and the moral. DH also makes it clear that men are required to seek the true religion, which it specifically states, in its first paragraph, is held in the Catholic Church. Quanta Cura is concerned not about conscience but about those who insist on having no restraints placed on them either by government or the Church, and thus it is referring to something very different than DH.

There is no error in Guadium et spes, since, it is a fact that, because God so highly esteemed mankind, He did, in fact, send His Son to redeem them. This potentiality raises man to a level far above what he deserves, which is condemnation in Hell without exception. Unfortunately, where the liberals have gone overboard is their erroneous conclusion that man's elevation means that all men will be saved and that all religions are paths that lead us there, without having to convert to Christianity. That is a heresy of the first order.


Question 40- Do not judge that you may not be judged

This question regards the issue of judgment.

In your CASB, you mention how judgment is demanded from the Christian in passages such as Mt. 7:6, 20; Jn 7:24, Mt. 18:17; Lk 12:57; 1 Cor 5:12; 11:13; 1 John 4:1. Mt. 18:17 comes off very strong: "and if he does not listen to you, let him be to thee as a heathen and publican." Also, in your study on the Apocalypse, you make it clear that the saints will judge the wicked Apoc 6:10; 20:4. But Jesus says, "judge not, that you may not be judged." We are pulled in 2 directions, for on the one hand judgment is REQUIRED of us, yet, on the other hand we are advised to steer clear of judging.

In your CASB, you say that when Jesus says judge not, He is really condemning "the kind of judgments common among the pharisees." The pharisees judged falsely. So Jesus would be meaning, "judge not FALSELY (as the pharisees) that you may not be judged." Jesus will judge us then, for making false judgments. Yet, how are we to know whether we are judging someone falsely or not? Could we not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are all so righteous and that our judgments are spot on, whereas in fact we are just as crooked as the pharisees underneath it all?

In the Psalms, king David comes across as the perfect OLD Testament example of how we should judge others. He clearly judges the state of other peoples' souls. For example, Psalm 5:11: 'for there is no truth in their mouth, their heart is vain.' David is speaking about his 'enemies' not evil spirits. So, obviously, he is judging them as worthy of damnation. He even affirms his own judgment by saying that the Lord Himself: "hates all the workers of iniquity." If the Lord hates them, then why should not we? Yet in order to judge people like king David, we have to be skilled enough, and holy enough, to recognize and despise real iniquity when we see it.

Yet, even though there is this obvious COMMAND for Christians to judge, we tend to focus on Jesus words in Mt. 7: "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with what measurement you measure, it will be measured unto you." It is as though we are being pulled in 2 directions. Jesus' words would scare anyone away from making judgments on the state of another persons soul, yet the likes of David have no difficulty in pouncing on the wicked. I recently saw a movie about Joan of Arc, where in a battle she called on her enemy saying, "come out that I may send you to hell." It made me think about how timid we have become.

It would be great if you could comment on the above dilemma. Is there any way to reconcile the 2? Thanking you,


R. Sungenis: Damien, I think the way to reconcile it is this: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt 7:12).


Question 39- Why do some old "Jesus films" do not show Our Lord's Face?

Dear Mr. Sungenis,

Aside from Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ, I also love old films on Our Lord Jesus Christ like Ben-Hur, The Robe, The Life of Christ in the Mysteries of the Rosary. And I always notice that Our Lord is always shown with His back to the film camera. Why is it that such old "Jesus films" do not show Our Lord's Holy Face? Was it the right thing to do?

Respectfully yours in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,


R. Sungenis: John, movies like Ben Hur and The Robe were not centered on Christ, and thus He was not portrayed as a main character. Christ was in the shadows, as it were. Other movies like King of Kings (starring Jeffrey Hunter) were, indeed, centered on Christ, and thus the actor's face was almost always in view.


Question 38- St John of the Cross

Dear Robert,

Have you read much of the writings of St John of the Cross? If so, where would you point to a good beginning place for someone who wants to reading his writings but doesn’t know where to start?

God Bless,

Greg Hessel

R. Sungenis: Greg, I would start with the "Dark Night of the Soul." It not only gives you an insight into St. John of the Cross, but a window into the mysticism of the 12-14th centuries that was unprecedented in Catholic history. I believe the reason God spoke to these saints in that manner was due to the tumultuous times the Church was going through at that time. As such, it is a great help in our day. Also, read St. Theresa of Avila, a contemporary of St. John.


Question 37- Works in Justification

Mr. Sungenis,

How is it that works are involved in our justification? Let’s say for example, that I am an adult convert to Catholicism and first received sanctifying grace at my Baptism. The only time I would have to be justified again (or receive sanctifying grace again) would be when I committed a mortal sin, which would be forgiven me through confession. So is confession the only real good work or how are good works, like Abraham’s offering his son, involved in our justification?

Also, if someone who is already justified does a good work, how does this affect his justification, does he receive more sanctifying grace, and how would receiving more sanctifying grace affect his condition (justified or not justified) before God?

Thanks for you help!

R. Sungenis: Harold, the Council of Trent spoke of the fact that we can "increase" our justification before God. That is, the more work we do, the more just we are before God, and thus, the greater reward He will give us in heaven. Ontologically, the Church has understood this "increase" as the increase in sanctifying grace, which is a quality of the soul. That is, one soul can become more holy before God than another. That is why we have saints and non-saints in the Catholic Church.


Question 36- CAI's Apologetics Shift

Bob as you know I own a good deal of your books and tapes. A few years back I sent you an e-mail asking you which Catholic apologists were orthodox in your opinion. At the time you wrote back stating that people like Hahn, Staples, Keating, Akin, Sippo, Madrid,etc. were good solid apologists but that Matatics may be too condemnatory. Obviously there has been a change in this thought pattern. Can you share why you did a reversal on this? Thanks! Peace! John

R. Sungenis: Yes and no. I still hold that most of what the aforementioned apologists believe is orthodox. It is their unbridled support for post-conciliar modernism and their unmitigated denial of addressing the grave problems in the Church which bothers me to no end. These apologists, though orthodox on most things, are living in a dreamland, trying to prop up the Church when in fact there is apostasy all around us like never before. As for Matatics, although he and I see eye-to-eye on many things, I still think he is a little too far to the right. He, for example, won't attend a Novus Ordo mass because he doesn't think it is valid. I disagree with that, although I do acknowledge the many abuses and watered-down theology present in the Novus Ordo.


Question 35- Questions Regarding Credibility [Removed]

Question 34- Baptismal Rite

Dear Mr. Sungenis,

Thank you for your apostolate, I visited your website daily. These words may ring hollow, but I wanted to express my appreciation for the stand that you have taken. I commend you, and those in your organization, for standing up to the modernist hybrid posing as authentic Catholic apologists. I wanted to ask you a question concerning the new Roman rite of baptism. We recently went to a novus ordo baptism at the local Roman Parish (we attend a Byzantine parish), and I got the sense that the rite has been watered down. For instance, the Byzantine rite includes minor exorcisms, and I believe that is true of the traditional Roman rite as well. Two questions: Why do the traditional rites include exorcisms, and why does the new rite exclude them?

Thank you,


R. Sungenis: Bob, the Baptismal rites includes exorcisms because before we are baptized, according to the Council of Trent, we are children of the devil. That's putting it rather bluntly, but it is the truth, since you can only be on one or the other kingdom. Thus, an exorcism is required to rid the power of the devil from our life, the same as we would rid the devil from a person, a house or anthing over which he has control. The Novus Ordo rite did not totally eliminate the exorcism, but it certainly did weaken it quite a bit. To get the full effect of the exorcism, I would have my child baptized under the old rite.


Question 33- Works of Law and Psalm 143:2

Mr. Sungenis
I'm reading a really good book right now on the theology of St. Paul by Fernand Prat, S.J. He brings up a good point regarding works of the law which you don't address in Not by faith alone. I was wondering if you knew of this argument, and if you think it is a valid one for the belief that works of the law has to do with your disposition in carrying out a work.

he says in a footnote on page 169

" Gal 2:16 oti ex ergwn nomou ou dikaiwqhsetai pasa sarx. It is a slightly changed citation from psalm 143:1-2: oti ou dikaiwqhsetai enwpion sou pas zwn. The Apostle here and in Rom 3:20 replaces enwpion sou by ex ergwn nomou. But he has a right to do so, since the psalmist, affirming that no man will be justified before God (by his own efforts), Paul only applies the universal proposition to a particular case. Note that in the vulgate propter Quod out to be understood as propterea quod (oti).

This just struck me as being a good argument for the fact that Paul has in mind the intent of the person when he says works of the law, and not the actuall works themselves. I was wondering if this was valid or if you saw some holes in it.

thanks for any help

R. Sungenis: Yes, I think Prat's analysis is a good one, although I would not say that Prat is stressing the "intent" but merely the universal principle that no man, of his own effort, can be justified before God. It makes little difference what the "intent" of the person is, since the only "intent" God will accept is that man's works cannot justify him if the man has not first established a relationship of faith with God first. This is why Paul stresses "faith" in opposition to "work of the law" in Galatians 2:16-20.


Question 32- General Christian Apologetics

Dear Mr. Sungenis,

I find it sad that, generally, Catholic apologetic websites rarely deal with material attempting to debunk Christianity. The only Catholic website that I've found that deals with anti-Christian material is Dave Armstrong's. Why doesn't yours, and the majority of Catholic apologetic websites deal with general anti-Christian material being produced by atheists and agnostics?

-- Edgar

R. Sungenis: We simply don't have the staff to do so. I am already stretched to the limit. I wish I could deal with it all, but I simply don't have the time. As for now, I can only deal with it as it comes up on our QA board. If you have a specific question about atheism of agnosticism, feel free to ask us.


Question 31- Is it ok to pray at a Mosque or visit a Hindu temple?

Dear Robert,

When you answered this question before you seemed to imply to me that it was pagan to pray with muslims or visit a Hindu temple, however Fr.Gary Jacobson said it was OK (see below).

Why exactly is it pagan?


R. Sungenis: Tim, the very fact that we even have to address questions of this nature shows how far afield the modernists have taken the Church. For the 1900+ years before modernism showed its ugly head, it was a sin to pray with or even visit a non-Catholic, let alone, pagan, religion. Pius XI condemned it just 70 years ago. Vatican II never mentioned it, nor gave any allowance for it. The only time Vatican II said we could pray with a non-Catholic was when we prayed with a Protestant in order to bring him back to the Church! (Unitatis Redintegratio).

We don't pray with pagans because they have a different god. Prayer is only to be given to the true God. When St. Paul came to the pagan Athenians in Acts 17, did he tell them to pray to their false gods? No, he told them to put away their idols and stated that God no requires that they repent of their idol worship and turn themselves to the true God, who will judge them on the last day (Acts 17:24-31). I suggest you read that passage very carefully. Our tradition, our official magisterium, and Scripture specifically condemn praying with pagans. Whoever does so is breaking the First Commandment.


Question 30- Apolonio Latar Defends Scott Hahn

Mr. Sungenis, can you refute these charges against your piece critiquing Hahn, from the Apolonio Latar's of Lidless Eye:

R. Sungenis:Paul, send this to Mr. Latar and whoever else is interested:

A. Latar: Sungenis/Ferrara and Double Standards

I guess everyone has read the "Sungenis/Ferrara Triple Feature" at CAI. Sungenis and Ferrara has critiqued Dr. Hahn's speculation on the Holy Spirit. What struck me are these words from Ferrara::

"In order to remedy the confusion his "bridal-maternal" Holy Ghost is no doubt causing among the faithful, Hahn should retract this novelty just as publicly as he has promoted it. Better yet, he should make good on his promise in Chapter 10 of FCL, as NOR urges: Burn it, Scott, burn it. Meanwhile, I would address this additional request to Dr. Hahn: Please stop messing with our religion." (

He also speaks of it as "useless speculation." These words struck me because it simply shows the double standards of rad-trads these days. First, it is apparent that Sungenis does not interact with the fact that saints have made the same claim as Hahn did. He simply said that Hahn was appealing to "popular Catholics." I did not know that saints were simply "popular Catholics." For those who do not have the book, Hahn cited the following:

"In this womanhood devoted to the service of love, is there really a divine image? Indeed, yes…Such love is properly the attribute of the Holy Spirit. Thus we can see the prototype of the feminine being in the Spirit of God poured over all creatures. It finds its perfect image in the purest Virgin who is the bride of God and mother of all mankind." (Edith Stein, Essays on Woman (Washington, DC.: ICS, 1987), vol. 2 of Collected Works, p. 191)

"They share a single motherhood: the divine Maternity of love." (Maximilian Kolbe, The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of Father Kolbe. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988, pg. 68)

Nowhere in Sungenis or Ferrara's writings did they attack St. Kolbe or Stein for this "novelty." Nowhere did I read Ferrara saying that these martyrs were "messing with our religion." As for Sungenis, again, all he did was say that Hahn was "appealing to popular Catholics."[1] Nowhere did he say anything about these quotes and nowhere did he attack them for making these statements.

R. Sungenis: First of all, I don't "attack" anyone, I simply challenge Catholic apologists when they make false statements. They can do the same to me, if they wish. That is how we all grow in the faith. Hahn can do with my critique as he wills. We both have to answer to God for our motives and actions.

As for Sts. Kolbe and Stein, for Mr. Latar's information, I did indeed critique the use of the phrase "prototype of the feminine being in the Spirit of God" used by Edith Stein, and the idea that "Mary is the incarnation of the Holy Spirit" by Kolbe. Perhaps Mr. Latar needs to go back and read what I wrote. Fortunately, Kolbe and Stein did not write pages and pages of material in several books about the identity of the Holy Spirit. And neither of them claimed to be theologians, nor did they teach at universities and sell thousands of books with novel ideas about Adam, covenants, the millennium, prima scriptura, and many other problems in Hahn's theology. Nor did they persist in error when it was pointed out to them. Unlike Hahn is displaying, I'm sure that Sts. Kolbe and Stein would welcome correction on their views when showed the Church's teaching on the identity of the Holy Spirit.

A. Latar: Then, we have St. Catherine of Siena saying: "The Holy Spirit becomes for the people who abandon themselves to Providence a mother who feeds them from the breast of divine charity" (Dialogues 141).

R. Sungenis: Obviously, since the Holy Spirit does not have breasts, St. Catherine was merely speaking in metaphors about His action – something Hahn should learn to do, rather than identifying the Holy Spirit with the feminine gender.

A. Latar: We also have theologian Matthias Scheeben: "As the mother is the bond of love between father and child, so in God the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son; and as she brings forth the child in unity of nature with the father by transmitting the nature from the father to the child, so the Holy Spirit manifests the unity of nature between the Father and Son, not only by transmitting the divine nature to the Son, but because He Himself is the fruit of their mutual unity and love." (The Mysteries of Christianity, St. Loius B. Herder Book, Co., 1046, pg. 183)

R. Sungenis: The Holy Spirit does not "transmit the divine nature to the Son." The Son is God from all eternity. Neither does the Church teach that the Holy Spirit is the "fruit of their mutual unity and love." The Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity, and is not "produced" by the Father and the Son. The closest the Church has come is to say that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son, just as she has taught that the Son is "begotten" by the Father, but the Church has not explained, dogmatically, what "procession" and "begotten" means in respect of the fact that the three persons of the Trinity have always existed together.

A. Latar: How will Ferrara interact with that quote? What also caught my eye was what Sungenis said: "Unfortunately, Hahn cannot tell his reader that these patristic quotes are mere analogies, precisely because Hahn wants to make more of them than analogies" ( Even if they are analogies, this just shows that Hahn might have something here. An analogy by its nature, though imperfect, has ontological significance. For example, God loves us. Now, I love my parents. Since God loves us and I love my parents, then there is some kind of relationship between God loving us and me loving my parents. When I love my parents, it is in some way a "God-like" act since God loves us perfectly and God is love Himself. Whenever I love, there is something which makes me become like God. At the same time, we can say that God is like Apolonio in the sense that He loves.[2] The difference is to what extent the love is. When God loves, He loves us perfectly, but when I love, I love imperfectly.

R. Sungenis: I find Mr. Latar's explanation very confusing and not germane to the point. The issue is: there is no ontological identity of the Holy Spirit with the feminine gender, zip, nada, zilch. Anyone who asserts that there is an ontology of femininity in the Holy Spirit and thus distinguishes the Spirit from the Father and Son in that regard, is preaching heresy.

A. Latar: Finally, what struck me is how Ferrara speaks of how this is a "novelty" of Dr. Hahn. I would suggest that people read Sungenis' "Not By Bread Alone" Appendix 6 and tell me that is traditional. Sungenis believes that God has emotions like anger. In "Not By Faith Alone" pg. 16, Sungenis says that God is not unemotional. What support does Sungenis have from the Fathers? In Not By Bread Alone, he cited Lanctantius and disagreed with scholastics and Augustine. St. Augustine said:

Moreover, the anger and jealousy of God are not emotions of God; as some do charge upon the Scriptures which they do not understand: but under the name anger is to be understood the avenging iniquity; under the name of jealousy, the exaction of chastity." (On the Psalms, 79, 8)

Thomas Aquinas also says:

"Passion is not in the intellectual appetite, but only in the sensitive. But in God there is no sensitive appetite, as there is no sensible knowledge. Every passion involves some bodily alteration, a thing impossible in the incorporeal Deity. In every passion the subject is more or less drawn out of his essential condition or connatural disposition: which is not possible in the unchangeable God." (Summa Contra Gentiles, 1.89)

R. Sungenis: Apparently, Mr. Latar has not read all of the Fathers on this issue. For anyone interested, there will be a full explanation on our website under the title "Mr. Field Goes Far Afield Defending Scott Hahn" in the next few days.

A Latar: Clearly, two of the greatest thinkers of the Church contradicts Sungenis' "novelty," but we do not hear Ferrara telling Sungenis to "burn it" or to "stop messing with our religion." Sungenis said:

"Pioneering in this line of argumentation is the philosophical school of Phenomenology, whose proponents (eg., Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Josef Seifert, William Marra, et all see inadequacies in the limited categories afforded by Thomistic philosophy to explain emotions (e.g. love, joy, appreciation of beauty, etc.), which forces Thomism to relegate them to biological sensations rather than inherent faculties of the human soul." (Not By Bread Alone, pg. 364)

Wait a minute, did you just catch that? Sungenis is putting phenomenology over Thomism? Oh no! Whatever happened to Aeterni Patris?! Whatever happened to sticking to Thomas Aquinas? And of all philosophies, Sungenis is using phenomenology?!? Wow! What novelty! Burn it Sungenis! Burn it! Stop messing with our religion!!!

R. Sungenis: Unfortunately, Mr. Latar is too much of a reactionary to stop and think what I really said and meant. Although I am a Thomist, there is one area of Thomas' philosophy that I feel is inadequate and of which Phenomenology has a better answer. That is all. Thomas sure didn't claim to be perfect, and I'm sure if someone were to show him the weakness of this particular area of his philosophy, he would lend a grateful ear. He would also condemn Mr. Latar's pride.


Question 29- Irish Concert in Chapel

Mr. Sungenis,

I have been asked to play in a concert and I agreed. But later I found out that it was in a chapel. I hesitated and then told the person that I couldn't do it because of religious reasons. He called back and told me that it is not unusual for Irish music to be played in chapels. For instance, on St. Patrick's day, and it is not altogether unusual to hear of benefit concerts taking place in chapels. So, I asked him to give me some time while I called my priest. Msgr. told me that it was okay to go ahead and do the concert. He says the traditional latin Mass. So, I called back and said that I would in fact do the concert.

But I still feel that there is something wrong here. Is it okay to do this concert? I play accordion and my friends will be playing fiddle, banjo, guitar. There will also be many ballads. Since I am in the music business, I feel that I ought to have a solid yes or no for future occasions. But since the bible says that a multitude of councilors is good, I thought I'd also ask you.

Another thing that keeps coming up is music on Sundays. I know that I asked you this one before. You answered that you didn't think that playing a music gig on a Sunday was a bad thing (ie. a mortal sin), but I was wondering if you had thought any more about it since. Thank you for you time,


R. Sungenis: Canon Law would be our guide on this one, and as far as I know, it doesn't prohibit the playing of music in a chapel. Still, I would only do it when there is no other place available, but, since it is your livelihood, I wouldn't advise you to turn down an opportunity if you had to play in a chapel. I think before the concert you should pray a rosary and explain to God that you intend no offense.


Question 28- Who is Robert Bellarmine?

Hello Mr. Sungenis!

To be honest, before I started attending the traditional Mass, I'd never heard of St. Robert Bellarmine, but it seems that traditionalists have an affinity for him. Do you know of any good books or sources on his life, or his own writings? Also, where can an HONEST assessment of the with the whole Galileo situation be found? Any information that you can provide on the sainted Jesuit is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much and God bless you!


R. Sungenis: There are many books written by and about Robert Bellarmine. I suggest you go to the library or do a search on the Internet to get started. Unfortunately, much of his material is still in Latin and not translated into English, so you won't find many works by him available to read (unless, of course, you know Latin).

As for an "honest" assessment of the Galileo affair, I don't think one is available. Everyone I have come across assume heliocentrism is true, and thus, they form their Catholic apologetic on that basis. Most end up twisting the truth beyond recognition; sympathizing with Galileo, and making the popes who condemned him into the ignorant and preoccupied. I haven't found one yet that even mentions the 1664 papal bull written by Pope Alexander VII condemning Copernicanism.


Question 27- The "evil" of Christianity

Dear Robert,

I know I have simple answers to questions such as

1. How do we know the earth is the center of creation...because of the Eucharist.
2. What happened to the dinosaurs...God killed them so man could survive after the fall.
3. Why did / does God kill people / allow people to die...

My answer to 3. which I have given is almost always greeted by silence though I never take this for agreement.

It goes something like this.

"In human terms, what do we call it when a person, a subject, makes war on or otherwise betrays his king to the enemy with a view to taking that kings throne? Treason, high treason in fact when the issue is the throne itself. What is the penalty for treason? Death. How much more so with God who is King, and humans who are his created subject and children. One single mortal sin (an attack upon the throne, as opposed to a venial sin, which is more a matter of disrespect for the throne worthy of scourging) is an act of high treason and worthy of death, but given that man has only one life, yet is guilty of innumerable mortal sins, acts of high treason (without even going in to the issue of "original high treason"), how may man thus pay the balance...? Enter Christ. In any case, there is no such thing as a "right to life" except on God's terms, if man ever had any "rights" over against God they came by his hand in the first place, and, second, they were forfeited at the fall. If man has a "right to life" it is between man and man, as between man and God he has no "rights" except the "right" to be put to death. Finally, every person dies when they have at least reached the apex of possibilities for their own salvation (or lack thereof) and can do no more for others or give further glory to God. For many, death is merciful because hardened in will they will not be saved, but if they continue to live they will continue to sin making their hell much worse. Thus God shows his mercy by taking those who if they continued in life would make their final state much worse. Also, God will use the punishment and death of some /many to bring many to conversion. Whatever the case, the argument that God is cruel because he wipes out nations is based on a false premise, that man has any rights whatsoever: he does not, he has no rights as between himself as God, none. If God destroys whole peoples it is because he is just & merciful If he allows them to live, it is because he is merciful and just.

Nothing original here of course! Probably lots of holes to.

Simon McDonaugh.

R. Sungenis: Thank you, Simon. I think your analogies are very helpful. Keep up the good work.


Question 26- The Pontifical Biblical Commission during Pope St. Pius X's  Reign

Mr. Sungenis, I argued with this one Catholic concerning the literal reading of Genesis (who believes it is not literal). Here is what he said when I mentioned the Pontifical Biblical Commission's rulings in 1909:

The timeless teaching of the Church is there is no conflict between faith and reason. Their is a vast gulf between the level of scientific knowledge in 1911[sic] or even during the pontificate of Pius XII. Another angle to be considered is how the doctrines of natural selection affected society as a whole (social darwinism), certainly those effects should be resolutely condemned. When science oversteps itself and attacks theological questions it is justly condemned - as in the case of Galileo - however the reverse is just as true. I would happily "set the clock back" in a thousand different ways to undo the destruction "the enlightenment" has wrought on society, however denying the progress we have made in our understanding of the world in which we live is not one of them. So if we are to read the scriptures literally how would you handle the Apocalypse of John or the book of Daniel (or pretty much any of the prophetic books for that matter)? They are all written in highly symbolic language. I can do no more, I have quoted the Fathers of the Church, encyclical letters and the Catholic encyclopedia on the matter, if you want to believe in Creationism then so be it, it is certainly permitted but I maintain it is not required.

This is what I quoted from the 1909 PBC:

Question VII: Whether, since in writing the first chapter of Genesis it was not the mind of the sacred author to teach in a scientific manner the detailed constitution of visible things and the complete order of creation, but rather to give to his people a popular notion, accommodated to the understanding and capacity of men, the propriety of scientific language is to be investigated exactly and always in the interpretation of these?--Reply: In the negative. (dz 2127)

Is this ruling infallible as well, since previously I read somewhere that the 1911 PBC's rulings were infallible, since Pope St. Pius X had it as a teaching organ of the Church?


R. Sungenis: No, it is not infallible, but it is authoritative (that is, is is true unless otherwise retracted by the pope). It has not been retracted, therefore it is a matter of faith for us to believe it.

As for your interlocutor, he is enamored with science, but science, as has been shown in recent years, is falling under the pressure of its own weight. The more they discover the more they find out how much they don't know. From quantum mechanics to genetics to cosmology, men are more in the dark today than they were centuries ago. As scientist Lewis Thomas (d. 1993) recently confided:

"Science is founded on uncertainty. …We are always, as it turns out, fundamentally wrong…The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature. ...It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect."

Conversely, true science has found overwhelming support for Creationism by showing the impossibility for evolution. My guess is that your interlocutor has not read hardly any of this material, and that is because he has made up his mind that he will not be convinced by its evidence. THAT is what you are fighting against - the stubbornness of man.


Question 25- Can Priests Choose to Substitute Attendance at a Holy Day

Robert, can priests choose to substitute attendance at a Holy Day of obligation mass with Sunday church attendance? For example, All Saints Day was on a Monday. Could a parish tell its parishioners that going to mass on Sunday fulfills their holy day obligation? I have been trying to research this but can't find a direct answer. Perhaps you can help shed some light. God bless, Joe

R. Sungenis:No, no priest has such authority. Only the bishop could give such a dispensation, but even then, he must have reasonable justification for it, and he could easily be trumped by the Vatican if the matter was presented before them.


Question 24- Did Paul VI and John Paul II take the Papal Oath?

God bless and thanks in advance for the answer!

Did John Paul II, John Paul I, and Paul VI take the Papal Oath?

In Christ,
Allahu Akbar,

R. Sungenis: I assume so, but I don't know for sure. The only way to know is to write to the Vatican and ask them. I suggest you do so. Give us a report when you find out.


Question 23- Why is there so much faithlessness in the Catholic Church?

Dear Robert,
It seems to me that most Catholics have no appreciation for scripture at all, half of the Bible Study time is spent trying to prove that Scripture really is 50% inspired by God and 50% inspired of men; man is fallible, so you can never be sure if you are really reading God's infallible, inerrant, impeccable, inspired word of Truth or not. Oh, ya and having faith in Christ is not about that you'll go to hell if you don't, we only come to church cause "it provides happiness."

R. Sungenis: This type of thinking comes from the mouths of many deacons and priests, which breaks my heart, literally.

Is it true that you are going to be writing a book on how to answer many of these liberal historical and inter-textual critics? If so, when will I be able to get one?
Also does your Study Bible answer many of these questions? Furthermore, I heard of Paul Barnett's new edition of "Is the New Testament History?", do you suggest I get this one or is there a better one similar to it? I heard from a priest that the Bishops are meeting in México next year for "a council to make the Eucharistic theology less distasteful for Protestants." Is this true? If it is true then my gut says they will try to twist the wording of past documents to say that the Mass is not really a sacrifice and switch to a consubstantiation theology rather than transubstantiation. This is horrific.
Yours in Christ,

R. Sungenis: Michael, you are experiencing what has been prophesied in Scripture "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.." This will all lead to the "Great Apostasy" that St. Paul speaks about in 2 Thess 2:3-4: "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

Yes, we will be publishing a book exposing the errors of Biblical Criticism in the near future. I would say by mid-2005 it will be published.


Question 22- Question about La Salette

Mr. Sungenis,
When I began to convert a couple of years ago, your books, Not By Scripture Alone and Not By Faith Alone, were of tremendous help to me. I frequently visit your website for an Orthodox and logical viewpoint on Catholic issues and theology. Thank you and your colleagues for the time and effort that you put into the materials on the website and into your books. Now that I've buttered you up (I was being honest though) , I was hoping that you could help me with the following question. Many traditional Catholics who insist on being independent from Rome, whether it be formal or not, quote the secrets that Our Lady communicated to the children at La Salette. A favorite quote is "Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist. " I've been doing some reading on La Salette, and I've read that this quote is taken from a pamphlet that one of the seers, Melanie, published in 1879, which was 33 years after the visions. In that time, Melanie had several conflicts with members of the clergy and the Catholic hierarchy, which could have made her very bitter and lead her to embellish the 1879 version of the secret. The other child seer, Maximin, only revealed his secret to the Pope in writing. So, how much validity should be given to this quote, "Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist."? Is it questionable to attribute that quote to Our Lady?

Thank you again for your time,

R. Sungenis: Will, the fact is, we don't know how much validity should be given to it. It is an approved apparition, but the Church also holds that not everything communicated about an apparition is necessarily true (since the seer may add or subtract things), and thus the Church also holds that apparitions are not required of us as a matter of faith. I think it is significant, however (in favor of Melanie's veracity) that she says "Rome will become the seat of the Antichrist," not "The Vatican will become the seat of the Antichrist" or "The chair of Peter will be the seat of the Antichrist." The word "Rome" can refer to a lot of things. It could refer to all the prelates within Rome who have, or will have, apostatized from the faith, which will allow the Antichrist to work through them. This, of course, will require a weak pope, an indifferent pope, or a pope who has lost all control over the Church. For certain, there will be a remnant of the Church left even when Antichrist ascends to power, for Jesus promised the the gates of hell would not prevail against her; although most of the Church will have apostatized.


Question 21- Leonid and Perseid meteor showers and Geocentrism

Dear Robert,

In the Copernican system, the annual nature of the Leonid and Perseid meteor showers would suggest that the earth is passing through something every year (commentary residue, etc.) in its orbit around the sun. But in Geocentrism, the sun and everything else go around the earth every day. I am finding it difficult to picture why, in Geocentrism, there would be an annual event like these meteor showers, with measurable peaks on certain dates, e.g., August 12th. If we aren't passing through a commentary tail, what is happening?


R. Sungenis: Michael, if the meteor shower is caused by a comet's tail, then it will be kinematically the same in both the heliocentric and geocentric systems. Remember, except for the center, there is no difference in the Tychonic geocentric system and the heliocentric. Both will experience the same events each year.


Question 20- Women Priests


At one of our parish bible studies I was confronted with the notion of women in the priesthood. While I think I have a decent knowledge of the issue to rebut it, I certainly do not think I am sufficiently prepared as I would like to be. Could you recommend a book or an article which deals with this issue in depth?


R. Sungenis: Craig, I hope you don't mind me saying this, but you don't need a book or article on this topic. Pius XI in Casti Connubii, Paul VI in the 1975 letter Inter Insignores, and John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, have made it crystal clear that women are NEVER going to be priests in the Catholic Church. Anyone who continues to discuss this issue with the hopes that the Church will change her mind are simply living in a dreamland of their own making, not to mention, stirring dissent among the faithful.


Question 19- What Laws of the OT must we obey?

Do you have any suggestions for responding to the email below? I might have used the "moral" vs "ceremonial" aspects of the law argument to this in the past but I know better now - thanks to you.
Any ideas?


Email from a friend of my brothers....

1. It's Leviticus 18:22 that says that homosexuality
is an 'abomination.' OK; but what about--

2. Exodus 21:7, allows me to sell my daughter into

3. Exodus 35:2 clearly states a person who works on
the sabbath should be put to death;

4. Leviticus 11:10--eating shellfish is an

5. Leviticus 21:20 states that one may not approach
the alter of God if one has a defect in their sight!?

There's more but you get the idea. These citations, if
accurate, relate to my comments that the 10
commandments were drafted for another age, are
simplistic, and clearly must be 'interpreted' for our
modern times.

R. Sungenis: Ed, the New Testament assures us that the 10 commandments were not drafted simply for "another age." Romans 13:1-10 assures us that the Church has adopted them for our time as well. However, since the whole Old Covenant (the Mosaic Law, as specified in 2 Cor 3:7-14) has been set aside (Hebrews 7:18; 8:13; 10:9), then the Church can pick the religious and moral practices from the Old Testament as she sees fit to use in the New Testament. Therefore, she can decide to use the 10 commandments but reject the civil and ceremonial laws that were tied to the theocracy of Israel (e.g., eating shellfish). Even in the 10 commandments the Church can be discriminatory, since she changed the 3rd commandment from the seventh day to the first day. She can do so because she is not bound by the Old Covenant, since it has been set aside, in toto. Christ is the ruler of the New Covenant and He determines what obligations will be required. He does this through His vicar, the pope.


Question 18- A defense of the PERSON of Scott Hahn

Dear Robert,

I am writing to make a defense, not of the Theology of Scott Hahn, but of his person. I am a former student of Hahn's, and I too am troubled by his novel interpretations, particularly on the subject of feminizing the Holy Ghost. Just to throw in my two cents on the subject, Hahn bases a lot of his interpretation on the gender of the Hebrew noun Rhue being feminine. This however is an irrelevant point, since in Greek pneuma is neuter, and in Latin spiritus is Masculine. All ancient and many modern languages assign genders to nouns, that are not necessarily connected with their attributes.
Much of the time this is true in Latin and Greek, and from the Hebrew grammars I have consulted (Gesenius et al.) this would appear to be the case in Hebrew. If the Church understood the Holy Spirit to have a feminine person, it would have neen appropriate when translating rue to Latin and Greek to modify the declensions to make them feminine. This however was not done, and Jesus, when he identifies Peter as the rock, uses a feminine noun, even though Peter is by no means masculine. Sparing further comment, we'll say there are numerous theories of his I do not agree with.

Be that as it may, I was concerned, when reading Ferrera's critique which you have placed on your website, which would appear to suggest that Hahn is more interested in selling books and being a celebrity than being a good Catholic. Being a former student of his at Franciscan University of Steubenville, who had the benefit of his spiritual wisdom, and his guidance as a teacher, I have to say this is categorically false. Dr. Hahn is one of the most humble men I have met, and having met Deal Hudson and conversed with him, I can tell you that Hahn is nothing like Hudson. He knows God has given him a great intellect, and suffers very much to keep it in check. Being very smart is a cross for any man who wishes to live the Gospel. He is also one of the most generous. I was experiencing emotional, family and financial problems all at once, and he agreed to give me an incomplete when my work to that point was poor, and aided me in producing better work and making up the grade in the next term.

Dr. Hahn is very prayerful, and does not write anything that he doesn't think is true. That doesn't mean it is mind you, but he is an extremely sincere man, and much of his work helped to liberate me from the pangs of modern liberal thinking in scripture, to realize that every word of the Bible is absolutely true.

So while he may have opinions in certain areas that appear heterodox (Genesis, Holy Spirit's gender, over reliance on protestants, etc), he is most definitely a man who is striving for the truth, and he tries to live the Catholic faith to the fullest.

God bless, I will be praying for all your work at CAI,

Johnathon Stone

R. Sungenis: Johnathon, I understand your position, balanced as it is, regarding Scott Hahn. I also agree with a large part of it. I'm sure Scott lives his life admirably, and his help with you in regards to your family situation is quite credible, knowing Scott as I do. I wouldn't expect anything less of him. If you felt that Mr. Ferrara's critique of Hahn upset that impression, then you will have to take that up with Mr. Ferrara. My take is that Mr. Ferrara was not interested in critiquing the finer points of Scott's personal life, but only the stance that Scott is taking against Traditionalism, which is marked, in one way, by his theological speculations, among other ways.

Scott knows of the abuses going on in the Church, but he refuses to speak about them in public, as is the case with others (Keating, Madrid, Benkovic, EWTN, Pinto, Staples, CUF, etc). Since that is the case, Ferrara is suspecting that their reticence to speak up in public is based on impure motives (e.g., protecting their apostolates; building empires based on popularity; etc), which then translates into dishonesty.

Having spoken to many of the aforementioned apostolate leaders, I agree whole heartedly with Ferrara. Then, when we see them making outlandish theological speculations (such as you have seen in Hahn's work), it helps confirm our suspicion that this "movement" may not be sponsored by the Holy Spirit as much as it is from the desire for recognition and popularity, not to mention the huge amount of money being racked in by these apostolates. (Personally, I'm sick to death of hearing about these "Apologetic Cruises," which are sponsored for the primary purpose of bringing in Catholics who are financially endowed. I know this because the sponsors have admitted as much to me).

Thus, helping you with your school work is one thing; teaching unbridled theological speculations and refusing to help Catholics understand the real truth about the poor condition of the Church is quite another. "Apologetic Cruises" are the antithesis of what is really going on in the Church, since they give the impression that all is well, when, to borrow the analogy, we have a sinking ship. It is our (mine and Ferrara's) opinion that Scott Hahn has built his own "Hahnian Cruise Ship" and is basking in the limelight of popularity, but all the while, he is countermanding those like myself and Ferrara who are the real workers in the trenches. If this cruise ship is set on sand (as is evident in the problems we see cropping up in Hahn's theology) then it is in store for a fall. The only way for the Church to be restored is for these apostolates to return to our Traditional faith and by ceasing to adopt the trappings of modernism. That, of course, will demand a huge price, and unfortunately, I don't think many of them are willing to pay it, including Hahn.

Hahn can cure all this by renouncing his theological speculations and taking up the mantel of the late Michael Davies, of whom Hahn wrote to The Remnant: "I join with you in mourning the loss of Michael Davies, a very effective writer and thought-provoking critic of post-conciliar abuses."

If Hahn wants to congratulate the efforts of Michael Davies, then isn't it incumbent on Hahn to pick up the mantel of Michael Davies, continuing the crusade of pointing out, in public speeches and books, the very same post-conciliar abuses that Michael Davies so tirelessly brought to our attention? Until he does so, Ferrara and I will be fighting against the "abuses" that Hahn himself is perpetuating.

I am sending a copy of this to Mr. Ferrara for his perusal.

God be with you.

Robert Sungenis


Question 17- How do you know John Paul II is a valid pope?

What I would like to understand is this: What is the thought process by which you decided that John Paul II is a valid pope? Was it simply based on determining that he was validly elected? In other words, is it your view that a pope could be validly elected and then cease to be a valid pope for any reason other than his death or his voluntary resignation? And, if so, what would be the grounds for determining whether a pope had ceased to be a valid pope?

R. Sungenis: Herber, there is something you need to know about me and CAI. For all the criticism we give John Paul II, we are just as hard against those who would demean or disrespect the papacy. Recently I have had a fight with SSPX people regarding our conclusion that Archbishop Lefebvre was dead wrong in opposing John Paul II, since, we have told them, Vatican I and Canon Law are clear that the pope cannot be contravened in a disciplinary decision.

We have also held that Vatican II is a legitimate council, and that any interpretation of it that says it has errors or that it goes against tradition is dead wrong.

We also uphold the validity of the Novus Ordo mass against all the SSPXers and other traditionalists who either suspect or hold that it is invalid. We only state that the Novus Ordo has, unfortunately, eliminated many of the beautiful prayers in the traditional Latin mass, and fosters abuses that seem to go unchecked by the Vatican.

As regards your specific questions, our position is (and which we have indicated to the sedevacantists we fight) is that no one has the right or authority to say that John Paul II is not the pope, since only an authority equal to or greater than the papacy can make that kind of decision. Hence, only this pope or another pope could declare this pope a non-pope.

The only other way I could see this happening is that if enough evidence is brought before the college of cardinals, they would be forced to confront the pope. After having a trial to determine his guilt or innocence, if he is guilty, they then ask (or insist) that he resign. If he says no, they wait for God to move against him. If they have incontrovertible evidence that he was not validly elected but he refuses to step down voluntarily, then they simply ignore him and elect another pope.

As for heresy, it is not our position that a heretical statement from the pope will deprive him of his office. Although Canon 188 of the 1917 code addresses this issue, it only does so in a general fashion, and thus sedevacantists cannot use it for support. Other canons make it clear that the pope must be formally charged and convicted of heresy by the appropriate authorities in order for any canonical process to be complete. Such was the case in the matter of Honorius, a canonical process that occurred forty years after his death.

If a pope utters a heresy in, for example, his Wednesday audience address, we can know it is heresy because, according to Canon 212, we have the "competence" to judge such things (for example, when the pope, in his Wednesday audience of August 1999, said: "Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it" -- L'Osservatore Romano, August 4, 1999). We then bring our concerns to the pope (or magisterium) and then let them decide what they will do about it, which is our only prerogative. (Apparently, someone DID bring this issue to the pope, since in the Insengamenti the words "of whether" are deleted, proving that they knew the phrase was erroneous). However, the heresy uttered in the Wednesday address in no way means that the pope loses his office. Even if an error could be found in an encyclical, it does not mean the pope loses his office. This is precisely why Vatican I made the distinction regarding the venues from which the pope teaches us. That is, only an ex cathedra statement can be completely without error (although this does not imply that lesser authoritative venues will necessarily contain error).

As for why I believe John Paul II is a valid pope, it is because I have no authority to judge the process by which he was elected. Unless the magisterium itself provides clear evidence that John Paul II was not validly elected (upon which, as I stated above, they alone make the determination how to handle such evidence), then neither I nor anyone has the right to say that John Paul II is not a valid pope.

Upon being a valid pope, then John Paul II, according to Canon 212, 2-3, can be the subject of our concerns, and we, according to the same canon, must tell our concerns not only to the "pastors" but "to all the Christian faithful." This is precisely what we do on our website, with all due respect to the pope who wrote the canon in question.


Question 16- Anaphora of Addai and Mari

In the response to a recent question about the Vatican's approval of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, I regret to inform you that Catholic Apologetics International has made an erroneous statement. If you look up the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity's document approving this anaphora on the Vatican website, and read it through, you will discover that it states that Pope John Paul II has approved its decision, which contradicts CAI's statement that the decision was only Ratzinger and Kasper's and that Ratzinger and Kasper were "way out of line" in making this decision. A decision reviewed and approved by the Holy Father is a decision that he has made his own.

R. Sungenis: Don't believe everything you read on the Vatican website. The only "approval" that is official and binding from John Paul II is a written one with his papal signature, and I can assure you he gave no such written approval of the adiaphora. John Paul II's verbal, personal opinion of the adiaphora is just as valid as yours or mine.


Question 15- SSPX and Pope Zosimus

Dear Mr. Sungenis,

Once again you strike that right balance between the errors of the SSPX and the horrible problems we have in the Church today. I don’t know if you read the entire MMS of KEYS OVER THE CHRISTIAN WORLD, but if you didn’t you may have missed a couple of quotes from it that you may find useful. (You can find it in "final2" on the CD) It shows that excommunication was the discipline given even in the early church for ordaining bishops without papal mandate.

St. Zosimus I [417-418]

In September, the pope disciplined two bishops ordained without the approval of Patroclus. Writing to bishops throughout Africa, Gaul and Spain, Zosimus, citing numerous irregularities, announced that the bishops, Ursus and Tuentius, were illicitly ordained and could not be admitted to communion. [PL 20: 661-5]

When Hilary, bishop of Narbonne, wrote asserting his rights to ordain bishops in First Narbonnaise, the pope replied on September 26, 417. Citing the mission of St. Trophimus, Zosimus declared that the right to ordain bishops in Viennoise and First and Second Narbonnaise belonged to the bishop of Arles. Invoking the authority of the Apostolic See and his own recent "most evident definition," Pope Zosimus, under pain of excommunication, deprived Hilary of the right of ordaining bishops in First Narbonnaise. [PL 20: 667-8]

R. Sungenis: Donna, thanks for the great reference! I'm sure all our CAI patrons will be comforted by your research. God bless you for it.


Question 14- Not By Bread Alone

Thanks for answering my question, I want to be able to defend my faith and
you really help. By the way, I am reading Not By Bread alone and am
learning so much. The book is incredible. Thank you for your books!

R. Sungenis: Thank you for the commendation, Amy! I'm glad you are learning so much about your faith. Please spread the word to others. God be with you.


Question 13- Confessing Sins to One Another - James 5:16

In the book of James it says to confess your sins to each other. In some protestant study bibles, regarding this passage, it says that we are not suppose to confess to a priest. What does that passage mean?

R. Sungenis: Amy, since the passage must be interpreted within its context, the first application to it refers to the confession of sins to the priests of verse 14 who then can forgive sins. If the recipient is not conscious, the priests can forgive his sins due to his Catholic faith (Denz 1680). Otherwise, the verse refers to confessing sins to those whom we have sinned against, as Matthew 5:24 and 18:15 teaches.


Question 12- St. Catherine Question

Mr. Sungenis,

Thank you again for your apostolate, as I have learned such a great deal from it. May God continue to bless you. My question is regarding St. Catherine; you previously alluded to her doctrinal errors. What were they? Thanks!


R. Sungenis: Marc, it is known that St. Catherine had a problem with accepting the traditional teaching of Assumption of Mary (although, of course, it was not defined until 1950).


Question 11- Was Adam Deceived?


I was wondering if you've read Fr. MacDonald's critique of your article on Scott Hahn's errors in the October 31st issue of The Remnant. What do you make of his explanation of Adam's sin? Thanks for your work.


R. Sungenis: Andrew, I have written a letter to the Editor of the Remnant that will address Fr. MacDonald's letter. Below is a preview of my letter that should appear in the next Remnant.

Letter to the Editor

RE: Fr. MacDonald’s Letter to the Editor

In response to Fr. MacDonald’s assertion that it is an “error” to say that Adam was deceived by the devil, I think the error is actually on Fr. MacDonald’s part for not reading Thomas’ explanation thoroughly enough, and for failing to investigate what else Augustine and the other Fathers said on this subject.

Since, as Fr. MacDonald surmises from Thomas, that “man in the state of innocence could not be deceived...Falsehood is an evil of the intellect, but there was no evil in paradise,” then this principle would apply to Eve as well as Adam, and thus, in the sense Thomas is speaking about deception, one would have to conclude that Eve was not “deceived” in that particular sense as well. Unfortunately, Fr. MacDonald’s relegated to a footnote Thomas’ answer to this problem. Thomas says that Eve, also, was not deceived by the devil “till she had already sinned by interior pride.” Obviously, then, what Fr. MacDonald applies to Adam is also applied to Eve (e.g., “Adam knew he could not be greater than God”), and thus he undercuts his own objection. As a result, Fr. MacDonald does not really address the issue at hand, that is, why does St. Paul say in 1 Tim 2:14: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived.”

Regarding that specific issue, although it is true that Augustine reduces Adam’s sin to one of choosing to “offend God rather than make an enemy of his friend,” it is not an “error” to disfavor that interpretation, since it is merely one of Augustine’s pious opinions, not Catholic dogma. Even at that, Augustine adds that Adam was still deceived: “But having as yet no experience of the divine severity, he was possibly deceived in so far as he thought his sin venial. And consequently he was not deceived as the woman was deceived, but he was deceived as to the judgment which would be passed on his apology: ‘The woman whom thou gave to be with me, she gave me, and I did eat.’ What need of saying more? Although they were not both deceived by credulity, yet both were entangled in the snares of the devil, and taken by sin” (City of God, Bk 14, Ch 11, 11).

We also need to take into account that Augustine, as was his frequent habit, had multiple interpretations of the same verse, depending on when and to whom he was writing. For example, he takes quite a different view in the Tractates, and one that agrees with my assertion that “Adam was duped into thinking that he could be as great as or greater than God.” Augustine writes: “For Adam had seized on sin as a prey, when, deceived, he presumptuously stretched forth his hand to the tree, and attempted to invade the incommunicable name of that Godhead which was disallowed him, and with which the Son of God was endowed by nature, and not by robbery” (Tractates on John, LXXIX, 14, 29-31).

Moreover, it is the consensus of the Fathers, including Augustine, that the meaning of 1 Tim 2:14 is that Eve was the first of the human couple to be deceived, and the one who was directly deceived by the devil, whereas Adam was deceived by his wife (albeit after they both sinned by pride). For example, Augustine states: “Merciful do ye deem the devil, that he left him a wife? He knew through whom he had deceived Adam” (Homilies on the Psalms, XLV, 18).

We see this same interpretation in the earliest Fathers. Ignatius writes: “...and who by means of the woman deceived Adam, the father of our race” (To the Trallians, Ch 10); Justin Martyr writes: “For as he had deceived Adam, so he hoped that he might contrive some mischief against Christ also” (Dialogue with Trypho, CIII). Tertullian says: “Accordingly he deceived him, because he had envied him” (On Patience, Ch V). Gregory Thaumaturgos says: “But the man being deceived by the devil, and having become a transgressor of the divine commandment, was made subject to the doom of death” (Four Homilies, Discourse Second).

The later century Fathers agree: Gregory Nanzianzus writes: “The woman sinned, and so did Adam. The serpent deceived them both; and one was not found to be the stronger and the other the weaker” (Orations, 37, 7). Pope Gregory the Great agrees: “So he deceived Adam through the woman who was associated with him” (Epistles, To John, Epistle 18). Athanasius writes: “When of old he deceived the first man Adam, thinking that through him he should have all men subject unto him” (Ad Episcopos, 2). Ambrose says: “ is certain then that Adam, being deceived by the desire of pleasure, fell away from the commandment of God and from the enjoyment of grace” (Letter XIII). Methodius says: “For it was fitting that the Evil One should be overcome by no other, but by him whom he had deceived” (Discourse III, Ch 6). Jerome adds: “He set before me many examples from the Scriptures, and told me that even Adam and Eve in the beginning had been overthrown by him through the hope of becoming gods” (Life of Malchus, 3). The Syriac Father, Ephraim, agrees: “This praise Adam desired, to steal privily - The serpent which made him fall, saw to what height he was raised - he crushed it because it deceived him; the feet of Eve trod it down - which had sent venom into her ears” (Nativity of Christ, 14, 16).

Finally, there are two Fathers who offer more detailed explanations, both seeing the “pride” which led to the sin of Adam prior to his deception, but they also call his fall as his being “deceived.”

For example, on the one hand, Cassian says: “...through those passions, through which Adam also was tempted while he still retained the image of God unbroken, that is, through gluttony, vainglory, pride; and not through those in which he was by his own fault entangled and involved after the transgression of the commandment, when the image and likeness of God was marred. For it was gluttony through which he took the fruit of the forbidden tree, vainglory through which it was said ‘Your eyes shall be opened,’ and pride through which it was said ‘Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil’” (Conference of Abbot Serapion, 6)

But Cassian is clear in the same section that Adam was “deceived.” He writes: “...with which even the first Adam would not have been destroyed unless before its birth he had been deceived by the wiles of the devil and fallen a victim to passion”(Ibid); “Lastly the devil only tempted Him to those sins, by which he had deceived the first Adam, inferring that He as man would similarly be deceived in other matters if he found that He was overcome by those temptations by which he had overthrown His predecessor”(Ibid); “...when in his spiteful subtlety he deceived Adam and Eve”(Second Conference of Abbot Serenus, 8, 9); “For Adam who was deceived, or rather (to use the Apostle’s words) ‘was not deceived’ but, acquiescing in the wishes of her who was deceived, seems to have come to yield a consent that was deadly” (Ibid, 8, 11).

Chrysostom uses the same dual approach to the issue: On the one hand, he explains the distinction St. Paul makes in 1 Tim 2:14, but on the other hand he is clear that Adam was indeed deceived. He writes: “But how was Adam not deceived? If he was not deceived, he did not then transgress? Attend carefully. The woman said, ‘The serpent beguiled me.’ But the man did not say, The woman deceived me, but, ‘she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.’ Now it is not the same thing to be deceived by a fellow-creature, one of the same kind, as by an inferior and subordinate animal. This is truly to be deceived” (Homilies on First Timothy, IX). Again, in his commentary on Romans, he writes: “Now consider; Adam sinned, and Eve sinned, and both transgressed, yet they were not equally sinful. And therefore neither were they equally punished. For the difference was so great that Paul said, ‘Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.’ And yet the deceit was one. But still God's searching examination pointed out a difference so great, as that Paul should make this assertion” (Homilies on Romans, 31)

Like Cassian, Chrysostom points to the pride of Adam that initiated the sin, but calls the process as one in which the devil deceived him. He writes in his commentary on John: “‘Pride is the beginning of sin’ (Ecclus. 10:13). That is, its root, its source, its mother. By this the first created was banished from that happy abode: by this the devil who deceived him had fallen from that height of dignity; from which that accursed one, knowing that the nature of the sin was sufficient to cast down even from heaven itself, came this way when he labored to bring down Adam from such high honor” (Homilies on John, 1, Preface). Lastly, he writes: “For if Job got the better of him, yet Adam was deceived and overthrown” (Three Homilies on Demons, 2, 1).

I think that should clear up the issue.

Robert Sungenis


Question 10- The "Evil" of Christianity

Dear Robert,

Since converting to Catholicism around 18 months ago, I have been a firm
believer in the loving nature of God, as well as scriptural inerrancy.
However, I was a little taken aback when I visited a pro-atheism website recently (

The website includes a page containing Emails from Christians of various denominations with responses from the creator of the site, Martin J. Burn. One of the Emails was from someone criticizing Mr. Burn's opinions that the Christian God is cruel, unforgiving and vicious, which he believes has been the cause of several atrocities at the hands of self-professed Christians.

Part of Mr. Burn's reply to the Christian was as follows:

How about if your god commanded genocide for example? Is genocide not the ultimate intolerance? Take a look at these:

Numbers 21:34 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon." 21:35 "So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land." Joshua 10:40 "So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded."

1 Samuel 15:13 "And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD." 15:14 "And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" 15:15 "And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." 15:16 "Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on" 15:17 "And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?" 15:18 "And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed."

Jeremiah 50:21 "Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee."


Or perhaps a spot of killing. Your god has commanded it:

Exodus: 22:18 "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (God speaking.)

Tell me, what is your preferred method of killing a witch?

In the Bible, your God orders: the butchering of babies, the murder of women, children and the elderly several times. God sent two she-bears to massacre 42 children, who were just making a mockery of a holy man's bald head. God also sanctioned the buying, selling and ill treatment of slaves. God ordered that it was perfectly okay to abduct young girls and 'take them as wives', after their families were murdered in one of his sanctioned wars. Not to mention the good old, great flood - God killed just about every living thing on the face of the planet, thus making himself the biggest mass murderer in history. The sick thing is that children are taught cute little songs about the animals coming in two by two. It's like Nazi children singing about gas chambers.

...and so on. There is an awful lot of it - many, many pages - if you need more I can oblige. Why has the church done so little good and so much harm in 2000 years, while science has demonstrated remarkable progress in only 500 years? Why is the period when the church dominated western history universally referred to as the Dark Ages, while the period of breaking away from church dogma is called the Enlightenment? That to me, is intolerance against progress, because of what is written in the Bible.

Intolerant enough for you? Do you think that there is any reason why your church has not taught you about this stuff? Did they forget, or are there other reasons?

Apart from the rubbish about religion holding back science and the "Dark Ages", which I can easily refute, how can a Catholic possibly reply to such assertions? I am a theist not because I was "brainwashed" or "indoctrinated" as a child, but because I carefully studied the scientific and philosophical arguments for both theism and atheism, and came to the conclusion that theism ultimately made more sense. I am a Roman Catholic because (to cut a long story short) Catholicism is the only religion consistent with all the philosophical, logical, historical and scriptural data I have seen.

Despite all this, though, I am still extremely perplexed. Mr. Burn does
indeed seem to have a point about God seeming cruel and uncaring. I can understand incidents such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for consistent, serious sinning, but what about the punishment for finite misdemeanors (such as the children laughing at the holy man's bald head)? What is the best way for a Christian to answer these points?

Yours in Jesus and Mary
Andrew Johnstone

R. Sungenis: Andrew, there are two ways to respond to it, each related to the other. The first way is to explain that anytime God ordered the killing of any group of people it was due to the sin of the people. It was not an arbitrary decision to kill people (which is what your opponent is trying to pin on God). For example, when God is telling Abraham that his descendants will inherit the land of the Amorites, He says "Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:16). In other words, the Israelites would be sent in to destroy the Amorites only when the evil of the Amorites reached such a point that it required God's absolute judgment upon them. (Since God knows the future, he can easily determine such things ahead of time). Anytime God orders a killing, it is due to the irreversible evil the person or persons have reached. The same was true with Sodom and Gomorrah, the Great Flood, Jericho, etc. We must understand the nature of evil. A person can reach such a point of doing evil that the evil is irreversible and repentance is not a possibility. It is then that God's judgment comes.

The second way to answer him is to warn him that, just as the children were killed for mocking the man of God, Elisha, so he will be judged, even more severely, for seeking to make God into an evil being who merely kills people on a whim.


Question 9- Jokes at Mass

Good Afternoon, Robert! well, we have a new priest
and he is a joke teller! I have never been in a Mass
where a joke must be told; nor do I recall ever
attending a protestant service where such jokes are
told......but that may be more ME than anything.
The first 2 Sundays were mild jokes and seemed to sort
of go along with the homily, but the last two Sundays
have been off the wall, esp. todays.

okay here the joke he told on Oct. 24th,......

three guys were set to go before firing squad.
first one was taken up before the squad and as he
stood there, he prayed for help to save him.....and
just as the squad raised their rifles, he yelled:
they all scrambled around and this gave him time to
jump over the wall to freedom.

second guy was brought forward...and he had the right
idea. soon as they lifted their rifles, he yelled;
TORNADO......and while they were scrambling around,
jumped over the wall to his freedom.

third guy is brought forward and he knew that all he
had to do was yell out name of disaster and he would
be over the wall to freedom.......the squad raised
their rifles and he yelled: FIRE!!

this sunday, Oct. 31st here is the joke he told. Now
I may not have gotten all the adjectives, but you will
get enough to get the idea. Now we have young people
and children in our congregation on Sunday and the
Good Lord knows they have immorality thrown in their
face, day after school, on TV, in some
homes......the joke Fr. told sees immorality as
something funny....or at least something to laugh
about. Am I overreacting? I see no need for his
jokes and he never shares one during weekly
mass...only Sunday.
here's the joke./..........and I am sure it was longer
than this but I was trying hard NOT to listen......but
I heard enough.

" there was this court case down in the South. The
prosecuting atty. called this elderly woman to the
stand because it was known that she knew just about
everything going on and she would make a good witness
against the defendant.
So, to make sure that people knew she knew everything
in the community and to show he was not biased, he
said to her: 'you know me, right?"

she replied: "oh yes, I do and I must say you started
out great but you have been such a disappointment to cheat, you lie, you commit adultery and
don't play fair."

the prosecutor was appalled and tried to get attn. off
of himself and ask: you know the defense lawyer,

"YOu bet......and he is as bad as you if not worse!
He commits fraud, lies, cheats, steals and has cheated
on his wife with three different women one of which
was your wife. I am very disappointed in him, too."

both lawyers were shocked and dismayed as the
courtroom broke into laughter....

the judge called both lawyers to the bench and
uttered: If either of you ask her if she knows me,
I'll put you in jail for contempt."

okay, is this a joke to tell right before you give the
I know principals would be called on the carpet if
they said such with the young people in attendance.;
Such has no place in our Mass.....but from what I am
told, he has been doing it for 17 1/2 years and am
certain the bishop must know or I am the only one who
finds jokes offensive at Mass.

Now, the only other Mass that I could attend is about
45 min. drive west of here...but what else can one do?
I intend to send the priest an email about my
concern.......won't let it slide by. Talked with one
other person and they thought the joke cute and
figured we would just have to put up with it. why is
it that laity think they have to put up with stuff

Robert, do you have any suggestions?

anne ward

R. Sungenis: Anne, you don't have many options. Either you bite your tongue and listen to the "jokes" with a suffering silence, or you somehow find a way to drive 45 minutes to the other Mass. If you choose option A, then I would suggest you pray a rosary every day for the priest, with the intention of having him come to his senses about not telling jokes before the homily. I would also suggest you send him a little "joke" of your own. "There was once a priest who used to recite a joke every Sunday before he gave the homily....Then someone in the fifth pew stood up and said, 'I have a joke even better than that' (and proceeded to tell his joke)....And then the person behind him said, 'Wait till you here this one'....(and proceeded to tell his joke)... You can add in the details as you see fit, but this might help to get the point across. Sign your letter "Anonymous," by the way.


Question 8- Lefebvre, the SSPX and the "Necessity" Argument

Dear Mr. Sungenis,

I want to thank you first, for your incisive work. Also, I thank God for your level-headedness.

My questions concern canon law. There is posted on your web-site an anonymous canon lawyer's response to objections against the SSPX excommunications. The crux of his argument is that the Pope is the ultimate arbiter in canon law, which I fully adhere to. But he also says that the Society cannot fall back on the "state of necessity" argument for exoneration because it had not been "verified objectively". Verified objectively by whom? The lawgiver, the Pope? And verified when? Could it be verified in hindsight?

To offer my two cents, which is admittedly worth little, in certain cases having "objective verification" immediately available would be impossible. Furthermore, that a catastrophe occurred after the Second Vatican Council is verifiable quite objectively in hindsight. Thirdly, that there was no state of necessity present when Lefevbre was excommunicated seems to me a very weak argument. To put it bluntly for brevity's sake, Hans Urs von Balthazar was to be created a cardinal two days before Lefevbre's ordinations! Finally, on a canonical note, that there never could exist a state of necessity in which Bishops should be ordained contrary to the will of the Pope seems to be conjecture.

Critique of my position is most welcome.

Sincerely yours in Christ and in obedience to Our Holy Father,

Anonymous (sorry, I had to keep it anonymous)

p.s. I am not associated with the SSPX.

R. Sungenis: Although the argument from "necessity" certainly has its place, as well as the fact that "necessity" is inherently somewhat subjective and cannot always be trumped by "objective verification," this exemption would only be true when the argument of necessity was first put forth by Lefebvre.

Once the pope has had time to analyze the situation and the appeal to the argument from necessity, then the subjectivity associated with the necessity argument begins to wane and is soon overtaken by the objective verification.

As such, it didn't take the pope long to make an objective verification of the "necessity" argument, since he forthwith issued Ecclesia Dei to answer it. Moreover, he has not changed his mind on what he wrote in Ecclesia Dei for over 15 years. This tells us that the objective verification has replaced any subjectivity left in the "necessity" argument.

Still, God is the final judge of these things, insofar as they would reflect on Lefebvre's and the SSPX's eternal destiny. Although the pope was, understandably, protecting papal authority from being undermined, the more serious matter of just what kind of Church he was promoting with Assisi 1986 (and subsequently 2002) was a valid concern of Lefebvre's, as well as the SSPX's today.

In the end, Lefebvre may be judged by God for disobeying the direct disciplinary order of a pope, but the pope himself will be judged by God for bringing about the situation in which Lefebvre was tested to his limits.

As Jesus said, "For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes" (Matt 18:7).


Question 7- Ecumenism, The True Church, and Baptism

Dear Mr. Sungenis,
For the past couple of months, I have been engaged in a e-mail discussion with my fallen away Catholic brother who is now a protestant pastor in an effort to help him return to the Church. In my last e-mail I asked him if the Catholic Church is not the Church of Christ then which of the 20,000 or so protestant denominations is?
Here is his response:

"Based on what you said in your first sentence, it seems that you are assuming the term "denomination" is the same as the New Testament word for "church". That's not the official teaching of the Catholic Church, which recognizes many denominations as also being authentically Christian and genuinely part of the Body of Christ.
The Catholic "Decree on Ecumenism" states it this way, referring to
"separated Churches and communities", in section 3: "... it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church." "

Do you have any suggestions on how to respond? I am afraid if I quote older Church documents that are less ambiguous about those outside the Church, he might consider this a change in Church teaching. He is of the mistaken opinion that the Catholic Church has changed Her teachings over the years.

Thank you for your help.

God Bless,
Diane Falter

R. Sungenis:Diane, the best way to deal with this is to agree with him on one count, but then hold his hands to the fire based on his agreement.

The Church certainly does teach that baptism makes one a Christian, and we, as Catholics, will accept anyone who is baptized as a new Christian. In fact, we accept them as a Catholic, for once one receives the grace that flows through the Catholic Church by means of baptism, he becomes Catholic.

But now that he has trapped himself by using the Catholic Church as his authority, then it is now your responsibility to show him that the Catholic Church, as his authority, now commands him, once he has been baptized, to submit himself entirely to the Catholic Church's authority in all other matters concerning his faith and moral.

If he decides not to do so, then the same Catholic Church says that he has repudiated his baptism and now he is in mortal sin.

In essence, you tell him he can't have his cake and eat it, too. If he is going to use the authority of the Catholic Church in once instance, then he cannot deny it in another instance, for the Catholic Church says her authority is absolute.


Question 6- Anaphora of Addai and Mari

Dear Mr. Sungenis!

I have a question concerning validity of West-Sirian mass with famous anaphora of Addai and Mari. Vatican approved it as valid, but this anaphora doesn't contain Words of Consecration, and there is no Words of Institution at all. Doesn't it contradict entire Catholic teaching about necessity of Word of Christ to confection of the Eucharist? Is this mass valid or not?

God bless you and your work!

R. Sungenis: The Vatican did not approve it. Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Kasper accepted it, but there is no word from John Paul II that this has been officially and dogmatically accepted as an alternate formula of consecration. Ratzinger and Karper, in other words, are way out of their bounds.


Question 5- Do Mother Teresa's Theological Problems Bar Her from Sainthood?

Dear Mr. Sungenis,

A friend of mine sent me the article below. I would be curious to get your thoughts on the subject.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

Rick Orr

Forwarded message begins:

What about the Orthodoxy of Mother Teresa?

Marian T. Horvat
The care the Catholic Church traditionally has taken in proclaiming
our Blesseds and Saints is well-known and admirable. Painstaking
inquiries are made to prove the complete orthodoxy of the servant of
God's writings and sayings, practice of heroic virtue, and exemplary
life to be offered as a model for the whole Church. In addition, a
miracle is needed for beatification, and another to be named a

Thorough inquiries are made to examine the writings and words
attributed to the candidate to be sure that everything adhered
strictly to the Magisterium and Tradition of the Holy Church. Even a
slight doubt about the orthodoxy of a statement recorded by the
person under examination has been enough to stop the process of
beatification from going forward. I cite the well known case of Anne
Catherine Emmerich, whose process of beatification was halted on the
order of Pope Clement XIV because of questionable interpretations of
her visions made by her secretary Clemens Bretano. It is uncertain
whether she approved such theses. But because of this doubt, she
cannot be beatified and as such presented as an official model for

The orthodoxy of Mother Teresa in matters of faith
raises serious concerns about her beatification.

Knowing this great vigilance of Holy Mother Church in ascertaining
the orthodoxy of those she raises to the honor of the altar, one can
understand the doubts and confusion the recent beatification of
Mother Teresa of Calcutta has caused in some Catholics.

No one questions that she rendered care and assistance to the poor
of Calcutta and championed the rights of the unborn. The problem
lies in the matter of faith, the first and most important of the
heroic virtues necessary to be proclaimed a blessed. It would seem
that there would certainly be cause for examination of some
statements of Mother Teresa that imply that salvation is possible in
all different creeds and beliefs. I will rephrase the problem: Can
someone who affirms or implies that the Catholic Church is not the
only true Church ­ as she did ­ be beatified?

Let me offer some examples taken from a recently-released book,
Everything Starts From Prayer, Mother Teresa's Meditations on
Spiritual Life for People of all Faiths. In the foreword, Anthony
Stern points out the ecumenical spirit of Mother Teresa's work by
praising her oft-quoted statement: "I've always said we should help
a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a
Catholic become a better Catholic."

Her meditations present unorthodox notions of God and love.

She is lauded as a great ecumenical teacher of prayer. Those who
praise her spiritual meditations read like a line-up from an Assisi
Prayer Encounter: a Jewish Rabbi, a Zen teacher, a Tibetan Buddhist
master, a Protestant minister, and the President of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others. The latter, Bishop
Anthony Pilla, calls the meditations "kernels of truth … deep in
wisdom and spiritual insight":

Here is one of those "kernels." Mother Teresa stated:
"Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we
have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to
love and be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love
without prayer, and so whatever religion we are, we must pray
This is not an isolated statement taken out of context. It is one of
many such testimonials indicating Mother Teresa's general attitude
of indifference to what creed a man professed.(1) In this
meditation, she shows an unorthodox notion of God, as well as a
distorted notion of love.
(1) Stern recounts the following incident as another example of her
ecumenical spirit in action: Once, when Mother Teresa was
ministering to a dying Buddhist man, a visitor overheard her
whisper, "You say a prayer in your religion, and I will say a prayer
as I know it. Together we will say this prayer and it will be
something beautiful for God." (Foreword, Everything Starts From

An Unorthodox Notion of God

It is one thing to say that God has different names in different
languages. For example, one says God in English, Dieu in French,
Dios in Spanish, Gott in German, and so on. But it is obvious that
the Spanish Catholics, French Catholics, German Catholics and
American Catholics all understand the same reality by the word God.

Shiva, one of many representations of the Buddhist divinity, does
not coincide at all with the one true God Catholics adore.

Now, it's another story to apply this to different creeds and
beliefs, which claim quite varied notions about the First Cause that
created the world and man. It is absolutely incorrect to say that
Ishwar, Allah and the true God are all just different names for the
same reality.
The Muslims deny the Trinity of the true God and divinity of Jesus
Christ. Therefore, their Allah is far from being the same reality
adored by Catholics. The god of Buddhists is not a person as is the
true God. It is a kind of immanentist force essentially present in
all creatures. Some Buddhist sects worship innumerable deities. The
Hindus, following a different doctrine, also worship a whole world
of deities, including spirits such as Ishwar, and men and animals
like cows and snakes.

So, Mother Teresa presented a false supposition ­ that these "gods"
are all the one true God Whom the Catholic Church adores. This
assertion is completely wrong. It stands in opposition to simple
natural reason and directly contradicts Catholic dogma.

It is hard to believe that Mother Teresa was beatified after making
this kind of statement, which objectively reflects her typical
thinking. It is likewise difficult to understand how Catholic
authorities can praise such an assertion as a "kernel of truth."

A false notion of Love

Next, the idea she presents that every kind of love is good is, at
best, very superficial. "What matters is that we love," she said
above. She repeats this notion often: e.g. "Love is a fruit in
season at all times and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may
gather it and no limit is set. Everyone can reach this love through
meditation, the spirit of prayer and sacrifice. … If we learn to
love, we learn to be holy."

Mother Teresa and John Paul II,
both partisans of the same false ecumenism.

30 Giorni, July 1990

What is love? Love is the adhesion of the will to a person, object
or ideal. This relation per se is not good or bad, it depends on the
purpose of the love. If someone loves with a bad purpose, this love
is unworthy. If he loves something for the right cause, it is good.
This is the reason why St. Augustine stated quite simply: Only the
good can be loved. (2)

Therefore, when someone loves the true God, Who is all-good, this is
a good thing. But if someone has affection toward something evil,
toward something that he calls god but is really a devil, this is
not a good thing. It is an evil passion, not a good love, and the
person needs correction, not empathy. There are, in fact, limits set
in love. St. Thomas Aquinas taught this clearly: Passions "are evil
if the love is evil, and good if it is good" (3)
(2) De trinitae, 8,3,4: PL 42: 949-50.
(3) Summa Theologica, I-II, 24, 3.
This teaching is missing, however, in the meditation of Mother
Teresa on God.

• First, she assumed the false supposition that God is the same
for Muslims, pagans and Catholics.

• Second, she simplified the notion of love, and implied that one
can love both the good and the evil, that the object of one's love
is an indifferent subject. All that matters is love. This
contradicts the teaching of basic Catholic Catechism that instructs
us to love the true God above all things.

A nun, even a very popular one, who would state these two errors
would normally not be a blessed or a saint, since to achieve this
honor her teachings on matters of Faith could not contain error,
even a slight error. This is crucial not only because it involves
the honor and integrity of the Church, but also because a blessed
must be model of salvation for the Catholic faithful.

It is obvious that the love Mother Teresa was preaching in such
meditations was not a model of Catholic love, nor is the "god" she
points to the Most Holy Trinity of the Catholic Church.

Clearly the doctrinal concerns of some Catholics at this rapid
beatification of Mother Teresa are fully justified. But disturbing
doubts also lurk around the legitimacy of the miracle presented as
proof of her sanctity.

An Uncertain Miracle

Normally the process of beatification can only begin after the
candidate is deceased for five years, and after proof of one miracle
is given. Miracles are something the Church does not take lightly.
In cases of physical cures, it must be clear, without a shadow of a
doubt, that the cure cannot have a natural cause.

Monica Besra, who claims a miracle,
and her husband Seiku, who thinks his wife was cured by the doctors.

Time, , October 21, 2002
Now, in the case of Mother Teresa, John Paul II waived the five-year
waiting period. Then, in 2002 the Vatican recognized one miracle,
the cure of Monica Besra, a 35-year-old villager from northern India
cured of an ovarian tumor. Besra and the Missionaries of Charity
claim that the tumor vanished in September 1998 when a medallion
with an image of the late Albanian nun was applied to the site of
her pain.

However, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, chief gynecologist who treated the
woman at Balurghat District Hospital in West Bengal, says that it
was quite possible that his patient was cured by four anti-TB drugs
she was taking at the time, which could have dissolved the tumor. He
said he admires Mother Teresa greatly and thinks she should be
beatified for her work among the poor. But not for this case. "She
[Besra] had a medical disease which was cured by medical science,
not by any miracle," he says.(4)

His hospital superiors back him up, saying that records show she
responded to the treatment steadily. Five doctors in Rome consulted
by the Vatican on the case disregarded this scientific probability
and hastily agreed there was no medical explanation for the cure.
Mustafi said he was never contacted by the Vatican. (5)
(4) "Too Swift to Sainthood," Newsday, October 15, 2003.
(5) Beth Duff-Brown, "To believers, proof of miracle not needed,"
National AP Courier and Press internet site, October 18, 2003.
Monica Besra, of course, believes in the miracle, but admits that
she was receiving medical treatments from the doctors at the state-
run Balurghat Hospital at that time. "Those who love Mother will
believe," she says simply. That she loves Mother Teresa there is no
doubt. But it is not sentiment that determines the value of a
miracle in the normal processes of the Catholic Church…

Analogous questions rise over the beatification of John XXIII.
30 Giorni, May 1998


So what do we have? Faulty notions of God and love. A miracle
shrouded in doubt. A process put on fast-track by a Pope who has
himself championed the wrong notion of theological pluralism. This
concept implies admittance that there is not just one Revelation and
one uniform interpretation of it, as the Catholic Church has always
taught, but that the "revelations" and false interpretations of
other religions would also be correct.

It certainly leads one to seriously suspect that the intention of
John Paul II was not just to beatify a person, in this case, Mother
Teresa, but to "canonize" the post-Conciliar progressivist thinking
on ecumenism and universal salvation that she adhered to.

This beatification also raises suspicions about others, such as that
of John XXIII, whose "incorrupt" body was demonstrated to be
preserved by scientific means, and who always supported the
Modernist errors. One can't help but wonder what has happened: Has
the Catholic Faith changed, or does a person no longer need to
profess it to be beatified?

R. Sungenis: Richard, obviously Marian Horvat has done her homework. She is one of the most thorough researchers in our day. There is no question that there are "problems" with Mother Theresa's theology, and it has become common knowledge.

As for now, all agree that a beatification is not an infallible declaration of the Church, even though a beatification is usually the last step before canonization. As of this date, Mother Teresa is only beatified.

I also must say, however, after further study of this issue, especially that offered by the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911, it is not a locked-in-cement certainty that even canonizations are infallible, although they have normally been assumed to be infallible.

The issue of canonization has been so clouded in recent years that I think it is time for the Church to clarify whether canonizations are, indeed, infallible. The 1983 code of Canon Law, 749, states that: "No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident."

The fact is, an infallible papal decree, stating that papal canonizations are infallible, has never been issued.

Although it is true that many theologians have held that papal canonizations are infallible (eg., Cano, Suarez, Bellarmine, Banez, and St. Thomas says: "...we must piously believe that in this matter also the judgment of the Church is not liable to error" (Quodlibet IX, a. 16)), there is no dogmatic decree from any of the 264 popes of Catholic history. Even Thomas says that we must "piously believe," not dogmatically believe, that a canonization is "not liable to error."

Although we give our due respect to those theologians who believe that papal canonizations are infallible, in effect, their opinions do not decide the matter. Only the pope, by an official and infallible decree, can decide the matter definitively.

Certainly, the seemingly inordinate amount of canonizations declared by John Paul II (being that he has canonized more people as saints than all the popes previous to him combined), it does raise the specter to a level in which an investigation into this matter of "sainthood" is highly warranted. How could there be more saints created in the years of one pontificate than all the other pontificates combined? Even an increase in the general population of the world does not provide the appropriate ratios. Moreover, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI didn't see as saints in their generation many of the same people that John Paul II sees as saints today. These issues are certainly puzzling, especially since it is the pontificate of John Paul II which has seen an increase in faithlessness and scandal unprecedented in Catholic history.

The following may help answer some of these anomalies: If the qualification and definition of sainthood is limited to whether the person is in heaven (and not whether the person did heroic deeds or was theologically perfect), I think our concerns about this matter are minimal. The formula for canonization simply states: "In honor of (name) we decree and define that Blessed (name) is a Saint, and we inscribe his/her name in the catalogue of saints, and order that his memory be devoutly and piously celebrated yearly on the (date) day of his feast." The pope stating this declaration affirms that "we decree and define," which is language closely associated with infallibility. But even if we assume this is an infallible statement about the saint, the only thing it affirms is that the person is a saint and is in heaven.

In the case, then, of Mother Teresa, it would seem that even though she had certain suspect and aberrant theological ideas, we must also acknowledge that these were her private opinions. She neither declared them as dogmatic teaching of the Church, nor did the Church ever officially convict her of heresy or even reprimand her for such opinions. Mother Teresa never thought of or declared herself to be a theologian. If she had, then our judgment on her would be much more severe. (Although Anne Catherine Emmerich had the same "theological" problems, I don't think in the end her private opinions will terminate her canonization (although it would naturally increase the intensity of the investigation)).

Although one needs to be cautious in what Mother Teresa taught and be careful not to perpetuate her errors, it is not Church teaching that erroneous opinions based on ignorance will keep one out of heaven. Only persistent denial of established dogma, in the face of ecclesiastical admonition and discipline, could keep someone from having the prerogative of attaining heaven taken away from them.

Above her technical canonical qualifications for heaven, however, are the things about Mother Teresa that are commonly known that tend to elevate her to be one of the first in line as a potential candidate for sainthood. No matter what her personal theological errors, it is a fact that Mother Teresa dedicated her life to the service of others, in the most horrid and difficult conditions. As Scripture says, even though "it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved" (1Pt 4:18), nevertheless, "love covers a multitude of sins" (1Pt 4:8). Mother Teresa was also bold in speaking out against the world's immorality, as she did at the United Nations in condemning abortion, in no uncertain terms, in front of all the world's leaders.

In conclusion, barring a defined dogma on whether papal canonizations are indeed infallible, if we assume with "pious belief" that they are infallible, and we understand this infallibility consists only of stating whether the person is now in heaven, then in that sense, the beatification of Mother Teresa, and even her eventual canonization, should present no problem to us. The rigor with which previous saints were canonized should also present no particular problem, since, in the final analysis, the person is either in heaven or not in heaven, post facto, and thus, the thoroughness of the investigation into the candidate's life cannot, in logical order, change that fact.


Question 4- Letter from Jewish Man Abused as a Young Boy by a Catholic Priest

Mr. Sungenis,

I want to thank you for your response to the Jewish man that wrote to you.
As a 1999 convert to the Catholic Faith (thanks in great part to your work),
I am absolutely disgusted with the state of the Church. Your response
summed up many of the thoughts that I have had and yet could not put into
words. We are indeed the Church Militant and it's high time we began acting
the part. I pray daily that our next pope will recognize that the Bark of
Peter has been utterly shipwrecked and is in desperate need of a captain
that will heal her wounds and once again take her out to sea to be the
beacon of light, in stormy seas, that she is meant to be.

Rick Orr

R. Sungenis: Rick, thank you so much for your affirmation. It is such a great honor to have such good patrons of CAI who appreciate the work we do for them. Let's pray that this will incite others to take up the armament to fight the battle with us and help our Church find its way once again.


Question 3- EWTN, Catholic Answers and Evolution


Hello, Thank you for all your hard efforts in sharing our faith. I have bought & READ most of your books and have enjoyed them very much. I have also supported your bible series in the making, and i hope you are able to continue publishing.
I have 2 questions. one personal and one about our faith.

1) What is all the fuss over you and Catholic Answers and EWTN? Why do i get the impression you are being treated like seperated breatheren over there? Is our faith in schism?

2) Regarding the Catholic faith and evolution. I can understand the vaticans stance of accepting scientific theories for emperical evidence about the worlds origin, creation, sometimes to the point of questioning the validity of the story of genesis. But you strongly believe evolution is a hoax. why? I do not have much faith in the fossil record myself, but what about new evidence in science showing signs of genetic speciation as an actual possibility. What have you to say to evolutionary scientist on this matter and this new wave of evidence of creating new strains of species?

ps. how can I ask questions on your website? Its hard to find.

R. Sungenis: Robert, regarding EWTN and Catholic Answers, we have gone separate ways because both those organizations, in our opinion, are like ostriches with their heads in the sand. As long as they keep pretending that we are living in the springtime of Catholicism and refuse to address the abuses, false teaching and aberrant morals of the present prelature, then we will be in a battle with them. For EWTN and Catholic Answers the present pontificate makes no mistakes, and even if they admit to those mistakes privately, they will not deal with them publicly. If they do deal with them publicly, they cover them over and reinterpret them to make them palatable for the Catholic public, and in effect they are telling falsehoods and giving the people a false sense of security. This is all for the purpose of keeping up their image among the Catholics who support them, for they know once they start really telling the truth, they will lose their constituency.

As for evolution, there is no evidence of genetic speciation. First, unless one follows Stephen Gould's punctuated equilibrium, every evolutionist must admit that he will never be able to see evolution taking place, since it is supposed to take place very slowly over millions or billions of years. So if someone is claiming that genes have made a new species, then it can't be evolution, because evolution doesn't work in such short time periods. Artificial production of a supposed new species doesn't qualify as evolution, even if it did occur.

Second, no evolutionist has ever shown how a species itself can provide the needed genes for upward progression of species. Since it is a fact that genes are not programmed to alter their makeup with a view toward creating a higher species, the question remains as to where the higher species is going to acquire the needed genes. Without the necessary genes there will be no higher species. Mutations certainly don't help, since they only produce sterile hybrids, damaged offspring or useless appendages (e.g., the fruit fly with four wings). So evolution is left without a mechanism to produce upward progression. Of course, the obvious objection to the whole thing is that nature, as we have found over and over again, is stubbornly resistant to change, and it is made that way to counter the laws of deterioration of both organic and inorganic materials. But this will prohibit both evolution and devolution, and God made us that way so that our species will be preserved.

As you stated yourself, if the fossil record shows no evidence of speciation, then by scientific standards evolution has been disproven.

God be with you.


Question 2- Bush and Abortion

Dear Michael,

This relates to the Bush/Kerry question.

You list many laws or orders signed by Pres. Bush to curtail taxpayer funded abortions. Is there an estimate as to how many lives have been saved by these orders, versus the number of innocent lives (I think of children and civilian non-combatants) killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the recent conflict?

Yours, Michael

M. Forrest:To my knowledge, there are no official, trustworthy statistics to establish either number. I have seen estimates ranging from 4,500 to 15,000 civilians killed in the hostilities (depending on what wants to "prove", apparently). Regarding the number of children saved by the president's policies and views against abortion, that would be a guess. I'm not aware of any statistics on that, and frankly, I don't know how they could reasonably be established with any degree of accuracy. But it would seem logical, in my opinion, that the number would be significant. There are anecdotes like the one at to give you an idea of the practical effects of his policies.

I would suggest that we need to remember that the nature of the battle against abortion is not unlike the battle we once waged against slavery. Just as progress against slavery could not always be measured in how many slaves there were at a particular time, I do not believe we can sufficiently measure the progress made against abortion in such a way. While it is good that common-sense things are being enacted or considered (parental notification, partial-birth abortion ban, tax credits for adopting, Mexico City policy, not funding UNFPA, etc) the ultimate battle is one for the hearts and minds of the American people.

I believe that, just as in the case of slavery, a rhetorical war is already being waged and people are being affected, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite overtly. Things need to reach a "tipping point", and the polls show we are moving steadily in that direction. When that happens, things that were previously unlikely or impossible will become possible, and they may then move very rapidly.

Having a president who speaks positively of the pro-life position and makes it clear that it is not a position of anger and hate towards women, a president who is willing to move forward in those areas that he believes are able to be won, is very important. This keeps the argument moving in the right direction, even if Bush isn't nearly perfect. The Cold War is also another analogy to consider. While Reagan quite appropriately received a lot of credit, several previous presidents kept the pressure on the Soviet Union and helped to cause its eventual failure, even though we couldn't always perceive the visible results in the West at the time.

Finally, it is also important to remember that the Church's teaching on abortion and war are difference in their essence. There IS such a thing as a "just war", and it is legitimately within the purview of elected leaders (not Church officials) to decide whether or not to fight. The teaching on "just war" involves a subjective application of many criteria. In war, there will always be civilian casualties. And while not nearly perfect, the U.S. has certainly endeavored to keep innocent casualties to a minimum. Some very well-respected and faithful Catholics believe the war in Iraq was justified. Other just as well-respected Catholics believe it was not.

Conversely, there IS NO SUCH THING as a "just abortion". There is no room for Catholics to legitimately disagree on this, nor is the issue at the discretion of the elected government. The teaching is unequivocal.

God bless,


Question 1- Apocalypse Study

Mr. Sungenis,

I'm having a little trouble with the link below. I was wondering if you could check it to make sure that everything is working properly. I also wanted to tell you how much I've been enjoying your apocalypse study. It always seems that because of the nature of the apocalypse, commentators continue to attempt to come up with new and wild theories regarding it. With your class though, I feel confident that I'm getting an interpretation that is grounded in the tradition of the church. Not to mention the fact that your interpretations are always backed up with quotes from the fathers and councils of the church. It is a breath of fresh air to have someone who is willing to pass along the time tested interpretation of the church, and not selfishly attempt to bring notoriety to himself by some wild new interpretation.

Thanks again for everything


R. Sungenis: Kyle, thank you very much for the commendation! As you said, one of the biggest temptations for an exegete is wondering off into speculative interpretations. It is precisely why I have been on Scott Hahn's case recently. Our practice at CAI is not to teach anything unless we can back it up with Patristic, Medieval, Papal, Conciliar or Catechetical documents. I'm glad you enjoy the style, because we enjoy giving it to you.