Robert Sungenis vs. Peter Dimond on NA and Islam

I can’t help but to comment on the recent debate between Robert Sungenis and Peter Dimond on whether Nostra Aetate 3’s teaching on islam is heretical. The comment won’t be long though, for the general impression of the debate was simply that of a “foolish controversy” (Tit. 3:9).

The debate can be listened to here. The debate was not a formal, public, well-organized debate like most of the ones Sungenis has done with James White. It was rather a privately organized, rather poor-quality (probably via Skype or something) debate, where both parties kept repeating more or less the same arguments for about an hour, changing turns every 2 minutes.

Robert Sungenis

Sungenis’ arguments can be summed up in his post-debate summary here. He did a good job in showing how esteeming other religions is in line with Paul’s approach in Acts 17 (as well as Romans 1-2, perhaps). Sungenis also pointed out that NA 3’s “esteem” is linked with monotheism (as well as other elements common between us, perhaps), not all of islam.

Sungenis did a poorer job in answering Dimond’s quotes from earlier Popes as well as St. Thomas. Sometimes he didn’t answer at all, he didn’t seem to be familiar with the particular texts or prepared to deal with them in this context. Sungenis also lost a lot of credibility in trying to explain away consistent papal teaching on Vatican II (labeling them mere “private opinions”).

Sungenis’ intention to keep all Church doctrine together is laudable, but he ends up not “thinking with the Church”. In my view his problem is in the hierarchy of truths: for him, infallibility, authority and inerrancy are in the center (if there’s one error, there can be all kinds of errors and the whole thing goes), rather than at the periphery where they should be (the Gospel, Christ and the Church communion are in the center, inerrancy and infallibility were late developments from, not the foundation of the faith).

Peter Dimond

Peter Dimond did a good job in showing the contrast between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar approaches to Islam. They truly are very different, although some aspects might be explained by different emphases. Dimond did a good debating job as well, sometimes making the debate a bit awkward for Sungenis (eg. the Thomas Aquinas quote as well as the post-conciliar papal teaching argument).

Dimond’s problem is his obsession with heresy. He sees heresy everywhere, when he is in no position to judge. Dimond is also obsessed with ex cathedra dogmas and infallibilities. The fact that a Pope has stated in an encyclical that something is a dogma does not make it a dogma, for encyclicals are not dogmatic definitions. He should point to the dogmatic definition rather than non-infallible papal documents to prove his point.

Dimond suffers from the same problem as Sungenis: a failure to recognize the development of dogma and a fixation in the, say, 13th-19th centuries. The fact is that 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th century Christianity looked very different than medieval Catholicism should make a Catholic open to further developments as well.

Jesus Christ does not change, but he lives and works miracles in His Church, one of which is Her new attitude toward Islam, which can facilitate world peace, fruitful religious dialogue and hopefully true and informed conversions.

Explore posts in the same categories: Robert Sungenis, The Dimond brothers

2 Comments on “Robert Sungenis vs. Peter Dimond on NA and Islam”

  1. JP Says:

    I listened to the debate and in my opinion Sungenis was the clear winner. The style and substance of the debate was reflective of the differences seen in the websites of Sungenis and Dimond. I have studied both and it appears to me that Dimond is way over the top, way too rash in his views and judgments. Sungenis’ site, on the other hand, is solid Catholic right down the line.

  2. dachsielady Says:

    I appreciate this review and summary. I have learned a lot from listening to Peter Dimond on YouTube but I just do not accept it all and this article sort of confirms my concerns. The Dimond brothers call so many people heretics and so many things heretical, but there must a solid definition to be adhered to.

    I personally wonder if the Dimond brothers have an agenda, something they are working to accomplish. I also wonder if they do, is it something to further destroy the church,

    All of the wonderful articles on Dr. Sungenis old website were suddenly all removed and now his site is only a store. He seems to devote all his current writings and debtes to the subject of the movie, The Prinicple, and only that subject. What a pity. We should pray for him because he has a large family to support and his professor position did not materialize because the college went under financially.

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