What to do About Fr. Richard Rohr?


Father Richard Rohr, OFM (Wikicommons)

Anonymous 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 Magesterium? 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.). He is also involved with the homosexual advocacy group, Soul Force.

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. In the 2016 version of his book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, he puts forth the erroneous idea that this personality typing system, which has roots in Sufi mysticism, actually has Christian roots. Although this claim has little credibility, it has contributed to a resurgence of interest in the Enneagram among Christians even though the pontifical document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, specifically warns against its use for spiritual direction. (See Section 1:4).

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.

In a recent article appearing in The New Yorker, the theme of creating a new version of Christ and the Church remains very much a part of Rohr’s teaching. He even goes so far as to refer to conservative Christianity as a “toxic religion” and espouses a belief in the Cosmic Christ who is “the spirit that is embedded in—and makes up—everything in the universe, and Jesus is the embodied version of that spirit that we can fall in love with and relate to.”

Not surprisingly, Rohr also teaches that we don’t need to follow Jesus or practice the tenets of any formal religion in order to be saved. A person just has to “fall in love with the divine presence, under whatever name.”

A prolific writer, Rohr and his dozens of books have attracted a large following of mostly millennials who are more interested in exploring various forms of spirituality which they find more relevant than practices associated with mainstream religion. Unfortunately, they are being exposed to a variety of errors about the person of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Rohr speaking at the Center for Action and Contemplation (courtesy of Wikicommons Dmckee2020 lic https://bit.ly/2KNo2Mt)

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 this 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.”

In his most recent book, The Universal Christ, which Evangelical Christian writer Michael McClymond describes as being full of “muddled messages” based on the “Everything is Christ” theme, Rohr’s aim in the book is to distinguish “Jesus” from “Christ.” As McClymond explains, Rohr refers to Jesus as “limited particular, and earthbound, while ‘Christ’ is unlimited, universal, and cosmic…He holds that ‘Jesus’ must vanish that ‘Christ’ may come forth.”

As Catholic Answers apologist Tom Nash sums up: “The Christ whom Rohr preaches is not the authentic Jesus, and his related proclamation of the gospel is not the one that that the Church has proclaimed and safeguarded for 2,000 years with the power of Holy Spirit. As a result, Rohr remains an unreliable and spiritually dangerous guide for Catholic and non-Catholic alike.”

Richard Rohr’s long history of preaching error has left many Catholics wondering how he has been allowed to practice his version of spirituality as a Catholic priest for so many years without censure?

Rohr confronted this question with Griswold during the interview when he told the story of a group of Catholics who tried to get him excommunicated in the seventies. The group sent secretly recorded tapes of his sermons to the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then the Archbishop of Cincinnati, who reviewed them and found them to be in line with Church teaching. However, as Griswold confirms, “the current office of the Archdiocese had no knowledge of the incident.” Rohr acknowledges that complaints against him continue but says, “I’m too old for them to bother me anymore.”

Three years ago, Rohr, 76, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer which is currently in remission. He has also suffered a serious heart attack in recent years.

Needless to say, he is in dire need of prayer.

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