Robert A. Sungenis (born 1955) is an American Catholic author of apologetic and polemical works critiquing the Protestant doctrines of Faith Alone and Scripture Alone. He is the founder and director of Catholic Apologetics International Publishing and executive producer of the film The Principle. Sungenis is known for his advocacy of geocentrism and his controversial beliefs about Jews, Judaism and the Holocaust.
Robert Sungenis was raised in a Catholic family, but became a Protestant at age 19. He obtained his B.A. in religion from George Washington University in 1979, an M.A. in theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1982 and a Ph.D. in religious studies from the Calamus International University (CIU), a private, unaccredited distance-learning institution located in the Republic of Vanuatu that has been characterized as a diploma mill. His dissertation was on the subject of geocentrism and was then edited and self-published as the two-volume set, Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right.
After spending roughly 18 years in several different Protestant denominations, Sungenis returned to Catholicism in 1992 at the age of 37. Having previously worked for and studied under Harold Camping during his time as a Protestant, Sungenis authored a book critiquing Camping's eschatology. The story of his conversion to Catholicism is chronicled in the first of the Surprised By Truth books edited by Catholic apologist and author Patrick Madrid.
Sungenis is known for his apologetic works critiquing the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. He believes that Saint Paul used the word "alone" more than any other New Testament writer, but he never used it in conjunction with "faith"; works done under the auspices of God’s grace, that is, works done that do not demand payment from God but are rewarded only due to the kindness and mercy of God, are the works that Paul requires for salvation; Paul states that all people will eventually receive eternal life or eternal damnation based on their works; and the only time faith alone is mentioned in Scripture is when it is repudiated by James. In 1997, he published Not By Faith Alone which has received praise from S. M. Hutchens (Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazines) and an endorsement from Fabian Bruskewitz (Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska), but criticism from Robert N. Wilkin (Editor of Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society). Sungenis has been interviewed by Michael Horton on the Catholic Church's doctrine of justification and has debated James White on whether or not sinners are justified by grace through faith alone apart from human works of merit.
Jews and Judaism
Sungenis's controversial views of the Jewish people and Judaism have been sharply criticized by fellow Catholics and by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being antisemitic. In 2002, he claimed it was a fact that no one had ever proven that 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust and that demographic statistics show no real difference in the number of Jews living before and after World War II. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he also "repeated a series of ancient anti-Semitic canards" and later wrote about the involvement of Jews and Israel in a Zionist Satanic conspiracy aimed at Satan ruling the world. Sungenis has also claimed that Israel orchestrated the JFK assassination in retaliation for the president's opposition to Israeli nuclear weapons.
In June 2007, Sungenis's bishop, Kevin C. Rhoades, directed Sungenis to stop writing about the Jewish people and Judaism. He also threatened to remove the name "Catholic" from Sungenis's organization, if he did not comply. However, after a meeting with the Diocese of Harrisburg in July 2007, Sungenis was allowed to continue publishing and speaking about Jewish issues pertaining to Catholic doctrine provided he take an approach quite different in tone and content. But when he published an article entitled "Catholic Apologetics International and Its Teachings on the Jews" soon after that meeting, Rhoades responded to Sungenis and indicated that the views expressed in it did "not adhere to explicit Church teaching and are not imbued with the living voice of the Magisterium, which includes charity and respect for the Jewish people and for Judaism itself." Rhoades then returned to asking Sungenis to refrain from publishing on all topics directly or tangentially related to Judaism or the Jewish people. He further indirectly warned that if Sungenis did not comply with this request, he would remove the name "Catholic" from Sungenis' organization. In April 2008, Father Brian Harrison defended Sungenis, claiming that Sungenis was still a Catholic in good standing with the Church and had disobeyed no binding precept from his bishop. According to Harrison, Sungenis voluntarily removed the name "Catholic" from his organization in response to the dispute with Bishop Rhoades. Harrison further claimed that the bishop's command to silence Sungenis was revoked on July 2007 and the bishop's request that Sungenis remain silent did not constitute a singular precept (a legally binding order). Harrison acknowledged that a few of Sungenis' statements in "Catholic Apologetics International and Its Teachings on the Jews" were "unnecessarily combative and polemical in tone, and/or open to misinterpretation", however, he considered the bishop's statement regarding Sungenis' article not adhering to explicit Church teaching to be an exaggeration. In September 2008, Rhoades denounced Sungenis' views of the Jewish people and Judaism as "hostile, uncharitable, and unchristian". According to a September 2008 report in The Washington Post, Rhoades made Sungenis remove the word "Catholic" from the name of his organization.
In May 2014, Michael Voris interviewed Sungenis in order to help Sungenis promote his new movie, The Principle. During the interview, Voris defended Sungenis in regard to his views on the Jewish people and then asked him, "Are you a Holocaust denier?" and "Do you hate Jews?" Sungenis answered "no" to both questions. On October 2014, in response to accusations of Holocaust-denial and anti-Semitism from Lawrence Krauss and others, Sungenis said that his past statements about Jews and Judaism have been blown out of proportion and that he believes in the Holocaust, loves the Jewish people, and is not an anti-Semite. Sungenis' supporters say that he is the victim of made-up stories and half truths.
Sungenis believes that the Catholic Church condemned heliocentrism as a formal heresy in the 17th century and that the observable universe would fit a geocentric model, with the Earth immobile at the barycenter and everything else revolving around it. He claims that observational evidence from the 2001 Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe showed the Earth's central position and experiments performed from Dominique Arago in 1818 to Michelson-Morely in 1887 showed that the Earth was not moving. His views are often confused with the Ptolemaic system, where Earth is at the center of the solar system, with the sun and all planets revolving around it. Instead, they more closely resemble the Tychonic system. Catholic writer David Palm has criticized Sungenis' work, particularly as it relates to the teaching of the Catholic Church, stating that Sungenis is misrepresenting it so as to falsely give the impression that geocentrism is "an official church teaching that had been covered up for centuries.".
In 2014, Sungenis funded the production of a film called The Principle, which features interviews with Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku, Max Tegmark, Julian Barbour, and George F. R. Ellis. Krauss has since stated that he was featured in the film without permission and agrees with the scientific community that geocentrism has been thoroughly debunked. Krauss said of the film that if people ignore it, “Maybe then it will quickly disappear into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.” Kate Mulgrew, who narrated the trailer, released a public statement on her Facebook page disavowing the film, saying that she does not subscribe to Sungenis' views on history or science and would not have gotten involved in the documentary had she known of his involvement in it. She stated that she was "a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that." Several other scientists featured in the film came forward to say that they had been misled about its true agenda, and that they would never have taken part in it had they known its aim. Co-producer Rick DeLano responded to these allegations, insisting that the documentary is an examination of the Copernican Principle and does not explicitly promote the geocentric point of view, adding that he is in possession of signed releases from Krauss and Mulgrew, neither being misled about the content of the documentary or its intention to "explore controversial aspects of cosmology, even highly controversial ideas and theories." Sungenis and DeLano suspect that the criticisms and complaints against their movie are part of a conspiracy to keep people from concentrating on the evidence presented in it.
In May 2015, Sungenis initiated the heliocentric challenge claiming that $100,000 would be awarded to anyone who could provide qualified experimental proof that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
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