Recently I received a barrage of emails originating from a frenzied group of Roman Catholic apologists, anguishing over the fact that I had released a new book on the status of Mary in the New Testament (Who Is My Mother?), a book that has received the endorsement of quite a number of scholars from several fields of study, including New Testament, Theology and Patristics. The emails included the usual suspects, including Artie Sippo (the Jack Chick, Sr. of Roman Catholic apologetics) and Robert Sungenis (whom, until now, I had distinguished from most other RC apologists). The first email I was sent contained Artie Sippo's distinguished comments: 

On Eric "the Yellow" Svendsen's "book": 'Who is my Mother?'  Whoop-de-do!  I have heard of some men who were not certain of their true paternity.  Eric the Yellow reaches a new intellectual and moral low by questioning his own maternity!  Anything goes to insult, defame, and dishonor the Mother of God, eh, Eric?  I am sure your infernal lord is proud of you and all of his other servants who endorse your trashy book. MR. Svendsen (who has no higher academic degree from any accredited institution) refused to answer my simple challenge to present ONE single statement by an orthodox Church father denying the perpetual virgintiy [sic] of Mary.  Instead he whined and ran away making personal insults and threats to me.  We can therefore add cowardice to his list of vices (which also includes malice and dishonesty).  This is the same boy who totally ignores the finding of the Council of Ephesus and tries to manufacture an opposition between St. Augustine and the dogma of the Theotokos.  For interested believers (not ememies [sic] of Christ like the our Yellow boy and his sycophants) the question about the SPIRTUAL [sic] maternity of Mary for all Christians is answered in Revelation 12:17.  All I have to say to Eric is: Duh!
Art
Omnes semper -- ad Jesum, PER MARIAM, cum Petro

The level of intelligence and emotional maturity and stability displayed in such statements is truly breathtaking. To gain a better understanding of his vitriolic comments above, one must have some background on Artie. It is important to note that most of what follows was actually written quite some time ago in response to another barrage of emails (originating from Artie and sent to me unsolicited), and I refrained from posting it then because I did not wish to return insult for insult, and because of passages such as Prov 26:4: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself." I am a patient man and wanted to give Artie an opportunity to see the foolishness in his approach. This, however, did not happen. Instead, Artie mistakenly took my silence as concession--which is why the very next proverb goes on to say "answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Prov 26:5). This is is what has happened in Artie's case, and this is why I am now posting what you find below:

I've included here a photo of Artie Sippo to help the reader get a sense of the situation. Artie's physical appearance would be completely irrelevant were it not for his "brave" comments above. Why a man would call someone else a "sissy boy," a "coward and poltroon," and "yellow" over the Internet (yes, believe it or not, Artie made use of all these words freely in his first barrage of emails) begins to make profound sense once we take into consideration his physical appearance. While it pains me to point this out, it's entirely necessary in understanding Artie. Artie is a portly little fellow who somewhat resembles Radar O'Reilly on  the hit TV series M.A.S.H. I have seen this phenomenon quite a bit on the Internet. Those who are the most bombastic, the most threatening, those who engage in the most swaggering and in the most bravado, and those who claim to be the "bravest" on the Internet, usually turn out to look a lot like Artie. My personal theory is that it’s an alter-ego issue. Men who share Artie's physical traits were usually the victims of bullies in childhood. Now that Artie is grown up, he must redeem himself for having allowed bullies to push him around in school the way they did. He feels guilty and angry for not sticking up for himself then; and he has resolved that he will not allow it anymore. To compensate for being bullied, he has now become the bully. The Internet provides Artie with a faceless forum in which to swagger and threaten with impunity; in which to live his dream of being a real "macho-man," completely without fear of the physical retribution he so dreaded as a child. In short, it gives him a chance to "get even" with his perceived superiors. What is so embarrassingly obvious is that someone who looks like Artie would never dare use words like "sissy boy," "coward," and "yellow" to another man’s face in a private room with no one else around—that would be far too harrowing an experience for him. But he is quite willing to do it from cyberspace where no harm can be done to him for spouting such nonsense. Artie Sippo is a very sick, very disturbed individual who is obviously still working through a good deal of baggage that he brought in from childhood. He is to be pitied, and I feel sorry for him.

Just to correct a few of Artie's misinformed statements above:

Initial Contact with Artie Sippo

Art Sippo, with his bombastic style and ad hominem attacks, has gained quite a reputation among Evangelical apologists as the quintessential "Jack Chick" of Roman Catholic apologetics. To give the reader a sense of what I mean, I offer the following (sometimes humorous) excerpts from one such recent, unprovoked attack by Art on yours truly. This attack came completely by surprise, and the reader needs to understand that I had never had a conversation of any kind with Art Sippo before this. I simply opened my email one day, and this was there:

Artie: "It has come to my attention that the honor of Our Lady is being desecrated by the poltroon Eric Svendsen. Much as I loath to soil myself by dealing with him, I give him the following open challenge. . . . I am waiting. God is watching. Put up or shut up, Eric.

After several days had passed, I wrote back informing Art that I had no desire to debate the Jack Chick of Roman apologetics, and that his comments demonstrated that he was imminently unqualified for a constructive dialogue on any issue. I suggested that he go to my web site and read the first three chapters of my dissertation which address in depth his specific issues. I further told him that if he could understand the issues presented there, then I would be happy to have a dialogue with him. Since Art had cc’d his letter to a dozen or so of his cronies, I thought I’d include a few of mine in that cc list. To which Art replied:

Artie:: "Cut the nonsense, Eric. Put up or shut up. I have no desire to trade insults with you and I am even less inclined to read your ignorant ravings. . . . You know, Eric, if you were a man and not a coward, a liar, and a poltroon, you would answer my challenge. Running to others of your ilk to brag about your inability to answer a simple question just goes to show how desperate you are."

Then the fray began. Almost all of Art’s cronies on the list began emailing me and joining in Art’s attack. It was reminiscent of a group of thugs beating up on a single person. I made the mistake of answering one or two of them, who then felt obligated to respond to the response, which emboldened the rest of the thugs to join in the beating—talk about a mob mentality! It was literally a feeding frenzy! In response to one Roman Catholic (Mark Bonocore—see above) who wondered whether I would care to look at contrary evidence to my view of Mary, and asked why I would not "stand up to the bully," I responded as follows:

I Write: I'd be glad to see whatever contrary evidence you may have. I will consider it and interact with it in my dissertation, as I have done with all contrary evidence. But that is not the same thing as taking weeks and months out of my schedule to engage in an online debate. That's not something I do, and I am not about to make an exception. Yes, every now and then I pop my head into a current discussion and add my two cents; but that is far different than making a long-term commitment to debate an issue online. What is so difficult to understand about that? This is really nothing personal. It's just not something I have time to do anymore. And before someone who has failed to read what I just said pipes in and says, "Well, you sure had time to write all these posts," remember what I said--read it slowly to yourself: l-o-n-g t-e-r-m commitment, which is what this would surely turn into (I've been involved in these far too long to know better than that there would be just a few short exchanges). What I am simply amazed at is not only the unsolicited rank hatred and vitriolic attack I received from a gang of thugs, but that those same thugs have absolutely no consideration of people--made in the image of God, remember? If a person says he is not interested--for whatever reason; who cares what it is--then the matter is closed, period. Do you all actually treat people this way in real life? If they say, "no thanks, I don't want any more dessert," do you respond by saying, "YOU COWARD, YOU'LL TAKE MORE DESSERT AND YOU'LL EAT IT LIKE A MAN!" Where do you get these cave-man, pseudo-macho tactics? Is that what you think a real man does? Threaten and call someone names? Is this how you are making your "gospel"
attractive to those of us who are "lost"? And we have all seen--indeed, it has been beautifully illustrated--that it doesn't stop with one. Oh no--the whole gang must jump in and gang up on one person. And of course this is just what I knew would happen. It's not enough that I respond to one person; everyone has to respond to the response. Did we
on the Evangelical side do that, even though we had ample opportunity? Of course not. And do you know why? Because we're not interested in a brawl. We're interested in truth. Usually truth is not magnified in a brawl. Why didn't I "stand up to the bully"? The question simply betrays a lack of understanding on how these things are best handled.

However, all the while I refused even to recognize Art’s contributions to this frenzy; instead, I simply ignored him—which, of course, infuriated him! Here’s how he responded to this:

Artie: "C'mon young man. Put me in my place. Show me the quotation. If you can't do that, then even these people will be embarrassed for you. Quit stalling. Put up or shut up. . . . Eric, I asked a question. All you are doing is finding creative ways to refuse to answer it. You are insulting and arrogant. I am only giving you back the same guff you give everyone else who opposes you. I am afraid that you can dish it out but you just can't take it."

After I had decided enough was enough, I sent an email to all involved telling them to remove my name from their cc list or be endangered of being reported to AOL for harassment (most of the contributors had AOL accounts). To which Art replied:

Artie: "Wait a minute there, sissy-boy. You have been called out. You don't get to be removed without either answering the challenge or conceding. I am giving you the opportunity to do the right thing or to be branded as coward. If you want to run away, it just proves that you can't defend your position, and you lose by default. You can lose with grace or disgrace. Which will it be?"

I will conclude with some other interesting miscellaneous excerpts from Art during this episode. Regarding my decision to ignore him, Art replied:

Artie: "We see the same thing in the professional anti-Catholic bigots. They will do anything to avoid treating us with courtesy and dignity."

The irony and hypocrisy of such a statement is amazing given the "courtesy and dignity" with which I was treated by Art throughout this episode! Here’s another one:

Artie: "I praise God that I am not lost in the darkness of the protestant lie and that I live in the light of Catholic truth. At least I can face my opponents with integrity and answer their questions honestly. It is what my religion has taught me to do."

With "integrity"? Again, the statement is comical given the dialogue above. Here’s another one:

Artie: "He is making a big deal out of a simple question. I am sorry if he gets offended by being challenged, but that is what happens when you strut around the net acting tough. Someone asks you to step outside and settle the matter man-to-man."

The humor in this statement will be clearly seen below when we discuss Art’s ability to "step outside." In the meantime:

Artie: "As a soldier, I must live in a differnet [sic] world than Eric does. By running away and avoiding the issue, he is acting like a coward. He should just answer the question and be done with it. It is making him look bad."

Again, the utter irony of that last statement is glaring. Here’s another one:

Artie: "I know I won't ever take him seriously again. . . .The coward dies a thousand deaths; the brave man only one. . .The coward always hides behind his ego when ther [sic] real issue is the truth."

Art’s obsession with "cowardice" and "bravery" will be explained shortly when (as above) we discuss his ability to "step outside." Meantime:

Artie: "Anyone pretending to be a Christian has a moral obligation to treat an inquirer with respect until it is evident that respectful discourse in not possible. I have asked you to act like a man and a Christian. It is obvious that you are neither."

Once again, irony of ironies. This from the man whose very first correspondence with me included words lie "coward," "poltroon," "sissy boy," etc. Art’s "moral obligation" to treat me with "respect" seems to have completely failed. Here’s another:

Artie: "Go slink off in the darkness of your satanic Lord's protection and hide from me, you coward. My challenge stands and you have run away shamfully [sic]. Now everyone knows what kind of creature you really are. I pity you and will pray for your conversion. . . . This whole charade of bullying Catholics in the name of evangelism is merely for your self agrandizement [sic] and egotism, isn't it? And you wonder why I have no respect for you and your fellow bigots? . . . I know who my Savior is and who is his enemy. You are in serious need of repentence [sic] before it is too late."

This irony would be comical if it didn’t reveal the sick, sick psyche of a very disturbed Roman Catholic e-pologist. Here’s Art’s response to my second warning to all on the cc list to remove my name:

Artie: "Hey Eric! I got a better idea. Why don't you go tell your Mama on us and REALLY get us in trouble. Got news for you, bud. You are a public figure and you spout your nonsense on the open web. You are fair game. If you don't want to hear from me,
fine. You have 2 choices. Either answer my challenge like a man, or block me with your mail controls. Meanwhile, I remain undefeated, while you...well he who snivels and runs away gets to snivel another day."

At this point, James White (whose email address I placed on the cc list) submitted an entry that pointed out the obvious hypocrisy; to which Art replied as follows:

Artie: "Oooo...Pseudopodeo slithers out to insult, defame, deceive, and confuse once again! The stars are right and dead Cthulhu lies dreaming... James, give it a rest. Your little protégé, Eric the Yellow, (whom you are making twice as fit for...well you know) can fight his own battles without your mindless babbling. Until you are man enough to face me on the dais and debate mano-a-mano, I can't be bothered with you."

Art eventually reaches the point at which he can no longer restrain his vulgarity:

Artie: "Of course. Bill Jefferson Clinton (let's just call him BJ) is a good prot[estant]. . . . Art Sippo MD, Anathema, sit! Good Dog, My Anathema AMDG"

**************************

As I’ve already said, all of this would be quite humorous if it weren’t so sad. Artie is portly little fellow, who bears an uncanny resemblance to "Radar" in the hit TV series M.A.S.H., as well as to a well-known stuttering cartoon character (see his photo above). His physical description would be completely irrelevant were it not for his "brave" comments above. Why a man would call someone else a "sissy boy," a "coward and poltroon," and "yellow" over the Internet begins to make profound sense once we take into consideration his physical appearance. I have seen this phenomenon quite a bit on the Internet. Those who are the most bombastic, the most threatening, those who engage in the most swaggering and in the most bravado, and those who claim to be the "bravest" on the Internet, usually turn out to look a lot like Artie. My personal theory is that it’s an alter-ego issue. Men who look like Art were usually the victims of bullies in childhood. Now that Artie is grown up, he must redeem himself for having allowed bullies to push him around in school the way they did. He feels guilty and angry for not sticking up for himself then; and he has resolved that he will not allow it anymore. To compensate for being bullied, he has now become the bully. The Internet provides Art with a faceless forum in which to swagger and threaten with impunity; in which to live his dream of being a real "macho-man," completely without fear of the physical retribution he so dreaded as a child. In short, it gives him a chance to "get even" with his perceived superiors. What is so embarrassingly obvious is that someone who looks like Artie would never dare use words like "sissy boy," "coward," and "yellow" to another man’s face in a private room with no one else around—that would be far too harrowing an experience for him. But he is quite willing to do it from cyberspace where no harm can be done to him for spouting such nonsense.

Within hours after this final attack from Art, I discovered that the whole rancid dialogue had been preserved and posted for all to see—like some perverted badge of "honor" and "courage"—by a Sippo groupie who no doubt was simply carrying out the orders of his hero.  

Art Sippo is a very sick, very disturbed individual who is obviously still working through a good deal of baggage that he brought in from childhood. He is to be pitied, and I feel sorry for him. And, apparently, I am not the only one who does. After this fiasco with Art, I received two separate emails from Roman Catholics who had seen the posting on the aforementioned web site and graciously took it upon themselves to apologize for Art’s bad behavior. What follows is the text of both letters:

*****************

Subj: An Apology for Art Sippo's Behavior

Date: 2/13/00 1:04:06 PM Mountain Standard Time

From: wfrohnhoefer@hotmail.com (William Frohnhoefer)

To: NTRN@aol.com

This email is intended for Mr. Eric Svendsen.

My name is William and I am a Roman Catholic. I would like to apologize for the childish and insulting behavior of Mr. Art Sippo. I am merely a layman and hold no theological degree or ecclesiastical faculties of any kind. Neither does Art Sippo. He is not a theologian, nor does he hold any advanced degree even remotely related to the fields of scriptural or dogmatic theology. He does not speak for the Roman Catholic Church in any official capacity, and his public tirades have been a constant source of embarrassment for many.

I write this to let you know two things: 1) Mr. Sippo's lack of charity is not recognized as a virtue by anyone except himself and a small clique of his accomplices, and 2) Mr. Sippo's lack of theological acumen or good manners does not impair in any way the truth of the Catholic faith. I would like very much to see you embrace that truth one day, and I sincerely hope that Mr. Sippo's ranting does not impair your ability to approach Catholicism on an intellectual level.

As I've mentioned above, I have no particular qualifications for apologetics, but I am obliged like all Catholics to tell the truth in season and out of season. If I can help you examine the truths of the Catholic faith in any way, I would be happy to engage in a civil discussion with you regarding these matters. I will remember you and yours in my prayers.

Peace of Christ,

William

***************

Subj: Art Sippo's appalling behavior

Date: 2/13/00 3:38:08 PM Mountain Standard Time

From: akolasinski@hotmail.com (Adam Kolasinski)

To: NTRN@aol.com

Dear Eric,

I recently stumbled upon a dialogue that Art had with you about Our Lady's perpetual virginity, and I was truly saddened and embarrassed by my fellow Catholic's behavior. Let me assure you that he is in no way in keeping with the Church's standards of charity. Let me assure you that the vicious, hostile, adolescent, and pride-filled rhetoric of him and his cadre at "Catholic Apologetics International" (Mark Bonocore, etc.) is an embarassment to the Church, and to all loyal Catholics everywhere. I will be sure to let him know my opinion, but I doubt he will heed my words. I have only become more aware of this problem after having just finished a debate with him myself. He used the same kind of uncharitable ad-hominem methods on me. If you are interested, the URL is as follows: http://www.cathinsight.com/apologetics/debates/sippo/index.htm

Pax Christi,

Adam

**********************

I wrote back to each of these gentlemen letting them know that I appreciated their stance against a fellow apologists, and that it was good to know that there are still decent Roman Catholics in spite of the Art Sippo’s of the world. Now, why do I bother to post this essay in the first place? After all, so much time has passed. For this simple reason; the perverted "badge" remains to this day. I requested Bob Sungenis long ago to correct his staff and act with integrity. He assured me then that he would have a "pow wow" with them and talk through these issues. Yet the web site referenced above still contains the demented ramblings of Art Sippo in that dialog. The whole sad, sorted episode can still be viewed at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/3517/eric.html. Bob Sungenis eventually told me that he wasn’t responsible for what his staff did on their own time, and essentially washed his hands of it. That’s unacceptable. Sungenis is the president of his organization. He has the power and authority to determine who is in and who is out. He has an ethical responsibility to ensure that he and his staff are above reproach. The fact that he has retained a man on his staff who has proven to be . . . well, what he is, suggests that Sungenis has placed his stamp of approval on that kind of behavior. I have exercised much patience and have given him ample time to correct the wrongs committed by his staff, but he refuses to do so. Hence, the current exposé is more than justified and more than fair. I can only hope that Bob Sungenis comes to his senses and is more discerning in the future about just who he chooses to be on his staff, and with whom he wishes to be associated.

Eric Svendsen