Questions About the late Fr. John Powell, SJ

CB writes: “I would appreciate if you could give me any information you have on the books by Fr. John Powell S.J. I see from the website that allegations of child abuse were made against him. I don’t know if these have been proven. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Also, what about Anthony DeMello S.J. I know a lot of people who recommend his books, but I think he was into the New Age.”

I am not able to comment on the contents of Fr. Powell’s books because I have not read them; however, because he wrote more than two dozen books primarily on the subject of psychology and/or love and relationships, I can only wonder why anyone would want to read books on this subject by an author who was credibly accused of sexually abusing women. (Powell admitted to the abuse.) This is hardly the kind of person who should be sought for advice!

According to the public record, Powell, a former University professor who died in 2009, was accused of sexually abusing seven women in the 1960’s and early 1970s. Several of the cases against Fr. Powell were settled by the Jesuits in 2005.

You are correct about the late Anthony DeMello, S.J. He liked to combine the teachings of various religions in his writings, which often found him straying beyond the boundaries of authentic Christianity. More detailed information about DeMello can be found here.

We need to keep the souls of these priests in our prayers!

8 Response to “Questions About the late Fr. John Powell, SJ

  1. I am a conservative Christian mother of 4 and have been happily married for 32 years. John Powell’s book “Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I am”, was transformational for me as a teenager. I read most of his books on relationships as a young married woman with my husband. Through the years, I have referred to them often, and always find their time tested Gospel truths to continue to be fresh and life giving. I have certainly read many other authors through the years, and have benefitted from those too , but when I hear friends having communication and love issues, I find myself going first to the Bible and then to John Powell. I decided (after ordering 13 copies of John Powell books from Amazon to share with my newlywed sons) that I would google him and see what became of him. I am shocked and greatly saddened to hear of his abusive lifestyle! After considerable prayer and soul searching I have come to the personal decision that God’s truths as communicated through John Powell’s books are still valid, even though Powell himself did the opposite of what he preached by using and abusing people. I guess the question is, “Can God use horribly imperfect vessels to do His work?”. I pray that he can.

    • Here here….NO JUDGEMENT is what Jesus teaches me. I will pray along with these other people for the souls of these priests. How tortured they must have been leading a double life such as theirs.
      As far as not reading his books,….I too work with many women and I have lots of defects of character. Does that make me less able to talk about my love for Jesus and God? Never………God loves me and my imperfections. They are what draw me to him.

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  3. Johnnette

    His books were fantastic and beautiful. Anyone of the 12 million people who bought his books would agree with me. He helped me a lot especially in the 1970s when my faith was weak. We can’t judge him but only pray for him, anyone who could write such wonderful books had goodness within.a

  4. I can tell you from personal experience that committing heinous sin does not necessarily mean that one doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say, nor that God won’t use that person. Remember King David! I’ve just started Fully Human Fully Alive, and have read only 10 pages, but I’ve found them to be insightful and valuable, as I recover from homosexual infidelity to my wife of more than three decades.

    Fran is so right about the torture of living a double life. As a conservative Christian pastor, I was painfully aware of the sinfulness of my activities, but felt unable to fight off the feelings. As it turns out, I knew next to nothing about feelings until I had this “fall” and started looking into the subject, as well as entering therapy.

    It’s sad that you (the blogger) can’t see past Fr. Powell’s transgressions to honor the work that God did in him despite his failings. After all, are you so pure that God hasn’t had to look beyond your faults in order to use you? Dare we put sins in an order of importance? Dare we say that God can only use those with the “lesser” sins? I, for one, won’t be telling God how to run the universe, nor will I miss out on learning from the hard lessons that some of His children have endured.

  5. Look at how much Abraham and Isaac lied about their wives being their sister yet God Used them!
    In Him,

  6. I agree with the sentiments expressed here. Of course I’m saddened to hear about his sexual sins. But there again, think of the millions who have been so enriched by his preaching and writing. I thank God for Grace – without which none of us would be here.

  7. What saddens me most is not one of the comments referenced the young woman that were abused ….. those young woman had to endure his wrath here on earth ….. Have we forgotten Judgement Day ….. God will judge John Powell ….. His works do have great lessons ….. but ….. John Powell had free will ….. which he abused ….. and ….. “how tortured they must have been” ….. are you kidding me ….. I’ll pray for the abused ….. and ….. John Powell ….. and ….. God will take care of the rest …..