Can I Trust Fr. Richard Rohr? – Part I

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Numerous readers have asked, “Can I trust Fr. Richard Rohr?” As long time subscribers to Catholic Spiritual Direction know, we prefer to focus on the positive side of spirituality and to leave the apologetics and correction of false and otherwise dangerous teachings to those who are called to that emphasis. Even so, we regularly get emails asking if a particular author is trustworthy or not and in a few cases we feel obligated to respond. All of these posts can be found by searching “Can I Trust”. Our readers ask us about these matters because they know that our apostolate is well grounded in magisterium faithful Catholic theology and that we would never knowingly publish any writer or perspective that is not similarly disposed.

Our friends at Women of Grace have also received questions about Fr. Richard Rohr and have given us permission to provide their response here which I have edited. It is important to note that I am familiar with Fr. Rohr’s writings and what you will read below is an accurate and trustworthy account of his teachings.

An anonymous writer asks: “I have a Protestant friend who is very interested in the writings/teachings of Fr. Richard Rohr. I’m afraid my friend may be getting wrong ideas about our Church. I don’t know why I have a strange feeling about this Priest, when I really know next to nothing about what he teaches. Do you know if his writings are orthodox and loyal to the Magisterium? Am I completely off-base, or should my friend be warned about Fr. Rohr?”

This writer has a very keen spiritual sense, because there are indeed problems with Fr. Richard Rohr that the faithful should be aware of.

Fr. Rohr is deeply involved in the New Age. On the website for his Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), a “training and formation center” based in Albuquerque, New Mexico that he founded in 1987, he says the purpose of his work is to provide “a faith alternative to the dominant consciousness” (whatever that means).

The CAC was a well-known hub for the Church’s premier dissent group in the U.S., better known as Call to Action (endorses women’s ordination, homosexuality, goddess worship, etc.).

Fr. Rohr has also been a long-time teacher of the Enneagram, an enormously popular New Age gimmick used for discerning one’s personality type. A specific warning against the use of the Enneagram for spiritual direction is included in the pontifical document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life.

Another area where he is heavily involved is in the Emerging Church Movement, which consists of a diverse group of people who identify with Christianity but think its beliefs and teachings need to be “updated” to better conform to modern society (read compromise the faith).

Fr. Rohr participates in Emerging Church conferences and workshops alongside the leaders of this movement, such as Brian McClaren, a “theologian” who thinks the current version of Christianity only partially reflects the truth. Another player, Phyllis Tickle, recently told an audience that “By eating the body and blood of our God, we are feeding the god within us . . .”

I think you get the drift.

Unfortunately, Fr. Rohr is able to promulgate his questionable belief system by being a prolific writer, publishing a quarterly journal, Radical Grace, and authoring more than 15 books thus far.

This translates into a wide audience for a version of Catholicism that does not conform to the Magisterium.

Fr. Bryce Sibley, STL, after having read one of his books, concluded that “Fr. Richard Rohr adheres to some very questionable, if not dangerous, beliefs.” In [a Catholic Culture article], he lists several serious flaws in Fr. Rohr’s teachings, such as his assertion that the crucifixion wasn’t necessary because the Incarnation was all that was needed to redeem humanity.

Fr. Rohr also has a “weak understanding” of original sin, Fr. Sibley said, noting that “without a proper understanding of Original Sin, Christ is reduced to nothing more than a prophet who teaches us to love ourselves, and this is unfortunately who Rohr’s Christ turns out to be.”

I could go on and on, but I think you have the general idea that this is a priest in need of prayer whose writings and activities do not reflect the true teachings of the Church. Please pray for him!

Originally published by Women of Grace on March 10, 2010 by Sue Brinkmann. Edited and Used with permission.

Editors’ Note: There are a number of writers and teachers in the Church who sometimes stray to the outer boundaries of theological propriety. In the case of Fr. Rohr, he seems to spend all of his time and energies drawing faithful Catholics well outside of the heart of the Church in down a path of spiritual destruction. Without exception, his writings should be completely avoided. To learn more you can find a trustworthy review, examples, and links via Catholic Culture’s review on Fr. Rohr’s “Center for Action and Contemplation” site here.

You can find Part II here: Can I Trust Fr. Richard Rohr? Part II-Book Review: Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer here.

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Photography: Richard Rohr, Svobodat, 2004?, PD-Worldwide self, Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: A listing of all our “Can I Trust” Posts can be found here: “Can I Trust” Series.

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