Speaker row cancels Catholic conference

By Jennifer Lipman, June 16, 2011
Robert Sungenis

Robert Sungenis

A conference featuring two controversial Catholic speakers, including one who publicly questioned the facts of the Holocaust, has been cancelled at the last minute.

Up to 300 people were expected to attend Saturday's semi-regular Faith of our Fathers event, organised by the orthodox Catholic group Pro Ecclesia at Westminster Central Hall.

After the original speakers pulled out, the Pro Ecclesia chairman invited American Robert Sungenis and London-based Father Paul Kramer.

In a 2002 article Mr Sungenis, the founder of a controversial group called Catholic Apologetics International, said of the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust: "The fact remains that no one has ever given proof of the six million figure." He went on to write: "The statistics show us that there was no large difference between the number of Jews living in 1939 as there were living in 1948, so how could six million Jews have died between those two periods?"

Mr Sungenis has been described by a US hate-monitor as "one of the most rabid and open antisemites in the entire radical traditionalist movement". The Southern Poverty Law Centre included him in its "Dirty Dozen" list after he published an article which repeated "a series of ancient antisemitic canards" on the subject of Catholic conversion of Jews. They also noted a piece in which he discussed a Zionist Satanic conspiracy.

Father Kramer, while less well known, also sits outside the Catholic mainstream. In a recent speech in Rome, during which he discussed the influence of the Freemasons on world power and the fact that "every terrorist mastermind of the most dastardly terrorist crimes" was recruited by the CIA or MI6, he also referred to a man named Adam Gadahn as the nefarious "American Jewish Islamic terrorist".

Gadahn, born Adam Pearlman, is a Muslim convert who acts as a spokesman for al-Qaida. Father Kramer noted that his grandfather was one of the founders of the "Bnai Brith Masonic association of the Anti-Defamation League" and said: "As it turns out, the great Islamic al-Qaida terrorist is a man by the name of Cohen."

After Robert Williams, a concerned member of Pro Ecclesia, alerted Westminster Central Hall to the speakers' records, its executive chairman, Reverend Tim Swindell, cancelled the event.

Daphne McLeod, the Pro Ecclesia chairman, said she was seeking legal advice about the expense incurred. But she also denied that there was a problem with speakers and complained of "made-up stories". She said Mr Sungenis' talk would have been "perfectly innocuous" and would not have included mention of his previous controversial claims.

"In 2002 he made an unwise remark about the Holocaust. He doesn't do it now," she said. "He has been put right and he's perfectly OK."

But Mr Williams said he had felt he had to speak out about the conference. He said that hosting such speakers at a Catholic event "would be the equivalent of saying Rabbi Meir Kahane was representative of mainstream Judaism".

Last updated: 1:16pm, June 16 2011