Pope Francis on the wane?

It’s all a bit confusing isn’t it? The honeymoon with Pope Francis may be drawing to a close. Many of us have been inspired by his character, his teachings and his actions. But is he going too far? We have incidents such as his refusal to judge a homosexual and the tricky problem of someone in a second marriage (given certain circumstances) receiving the Eucharist. A few hundred years ago such views would be a matter for the Inquisition. But he is not a softy – ask the cardinals who have got into his bad books.

While many of us have not been enthusiastic about the way that the Church has rigorously ruled – and particularly in the matter of moral teaching, we may have thought that this was the only way the Church could hold together and evade what we see as the instability of Protestantism. Indeed many converts have been attracted by its certainty. I have a friend, once an Anglican clergyman, who converted to Catholicism for this very reason.

Many have been enthusiastic about a more democratic Church which takes the laity seriously, and is prepared to consult it. We are no longer peasants in the pew. Others argue that this is just spreading confusion and point to the New Testament where Christ gives authority to the Apostles and their successors. Not even his mother gets this.

Recently Pope Francis has visited Myanmar. Many have criticised his failure to condemn the authorities there for their part in the Rohingya crisis. The UN have described this as “ethnic cleansing”. It has been suggested that he was protecting the small proportion of Catholics in the population. Maybe, but others argue that this omission would never have happened in the past: we have to proclaim the truth irrespective of the consequences. We remember how Pius XII was criticised for failing to condemn with clarity the actions of the Nazis against the Jews.

I am describing here views I have heard widely expressed in the Catholic community: I say nothing about my own views. But there is no doubt that the present position is an unsettling one. Will Francis change the Church for the foreseeable future, and his lead continued and strengthened by succeeding popes? Or will his successor be chosen to put things safely back as they were? Francis then becomes an historical anomaly.

What do you think?

About Quentin

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67 Responses to Pope Francis on the wane?

  1. galerimo says:

    Quentin, we are all on the wane!

    My expectations of papacy are very minimal. As a function of unity in a “Catholic” church it appears almost a contradiction in terms. As a “feeding” function it can still inspire and occasionally build up faith. But I need to have affection for the hand before I will let it feed me and Francis, as a humble man of God, has my affection. I still find his encyclicals, Lumen Fidei and Laudato si‘ very nourishing for my contemporary faith.

    Presiding over a church that provides a refuge to others disillusioned with their Church governance or somehow being seen as champion of democracy or exercising diplomatic discretion or even rubbing a few Cardinals up the wrong way certainly gets him a lot of publicity it is true.

    But much more importantly the failure of the Catholic church to root out the corruption within its ranks, the disgrace of our divisions with our Christian brethren, our discrimination against women (the comment about Mary not getting the authority of Apostles and their successors overlooks the Queenship of Mary which includes her role as “Queen of Apostles”) can only be laid at the feet of all of us, not just Francis.

    But in the end things will probably go back “to the way they were”, and the unsettling influence that Francis types bring in the Church will quickly evaporate and all we will have will be all we have ever had which is the hope in Jesus’ words that the no matter how clear the evidence of our failure as His Body the Church, “the gates of hell will not prevail against it”.

    • Nektarios says:

      We knew from the beginning of Pope Francis tenure as Pope, that in his own words would last a short period of time. He mentioned 5 years or so. Who follows will be the one necessary to watch carefully.

      To answer some of Galerimo’s points.
      “Presiding over a church that provides a refuge to others disillusioned with their Church governance or somehow being seen as champion of democracy or exercising diplomatic discretion or even rubbing a few Cardinals up the wrong way certainly gets him a lot of publicity it is true.”

      When does a Christian Church cease to be one? The answer is when it becomes an Institution. The Pope certainly presides.
      What is the difference between a Christian Church and a Religious Institution?
      There are many, but principally, every member of the Church has their gifts of the Spirit,
      every member has a say in every aspect of Church life and practice in line with the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.
      A Religious Institution is very different. As such that Institution rules and the member has no say. A Religious Institution dictates all aspects of Church life while robbing the members of every right as Christians. Ordinary members have no say.
      This is what the Pope presides over.

      Galerimo further says:
      “But much more importantly the failure of the Catholic church to root out the corruption within its ranks, the disgrace of our divisions with our Christian brethren, our discrimination against women (the comment about Mary not getting the authority of Apostles and their successors overlooks the Queenship of Mary which includes her role as “Queen of Apostles”)….

      Does such a failure as Galerimo outlines surprise anyone? Surely not, not that it matters to the Religious Institution. The members have no say at all.
      And would add, Galerimo, where in all of Scripture do you find any authority for your titles for the Holy Mother Mary such as you say, but there are groups within the Roman Catholic denomination that believe and hold such unscripturally extreme views of her.

      Lastly, Galerimo says:”that the no matter how clear the evidence of our failure as His Body the Church, “the gates of hell will not prevail against it”…..

      It is not the Religious Institution of Roman Catholic denomination, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it – it is the Child of God for that person is truly part of the Body of Christ and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
      I am afraid to tell you the gates of hell has already prevailed against the Roman Catholic Institution, and many others that have turned their particular Christian Church into a Religious Institution too.

      • ignatius says:

        I really do think its time you visited the doctor about these long term obsessions of yours.

      • Nektarios says:


        As you have no answer, the truth hurts dosn’t it, but if I give you the truth all you can do like JN into hurl insults.
        For someone with you with your capacities, you do yourself no favours resorting to childish insults.
        As for being obsessional, the pre-occupation the SS blog has covering often issues of a sexual nature and deviance and morality – well, well, who is obsessional?

  2. John Nolan says:

    I shall forbear to comment on Nektarios’s rant. By the time he reaches the gates of hell he will be in no position to lecture those of us who still sojourn in this vale of tears.

    Regarding Pope Francis, there are questions which can be legitimately asked.

    1. Did those who pushed for his election expect him to ‘change’ the Church? Given that the pope can only defend and uphold tradition, what changes did they have in mind?

    2. The abdication of Benedict XVI took place against a background of scandals in the papal household which would have suggested a reform of the Curia in general was overdue. Yet Bergoglio had next to no Curial experience, and on his own admission was a poor administrator at diocesan level. Is it surprising that any reform has yet to materialize?

    3. The 2014 Synod saw a blatant attempt by Francis and his cronies Baldisseri and Forte to rig the result. Francis was lucky to survive with his credibility intact. Yet it was damaged. By the time that Amoris Laetitia came out in 2016 there were many who treated it with suspicion, and these suspicions were justified when it emerged that the controversial Chapter 8 was ghost-written by Victor Fernandez, a dodgy Argentine theologian who had been a Bergoglio protégé.

    4. Every pope prior to Francis has seen it as his duty to ‘confirm the brethren’. Why has Francis consistently refused to do this, even when senior cardinals have urged him to do so?

    5. There have been many reports of a ‘toxic’ atmosphere in the Vatican, with a culture of bullying and intimidation. On two occasions Francis has appeared to publicly rebuke Cardinal Sarah, a senior dicasterial prefect and one of his own appointees.

    6. Recently the Catholic Herald published extracts from an interview given by Cardinal Gerhard Müller which confirms the above. It suggests that Francis relies on a ‘kitchen Cabinet’ and is susceptible to poison dripped in his ear by ‘spies’ with their own dubious agenda. We certainly saw this in Paul VI’s reign, but hoped it was a thing of the past.

    There may still be ‘peasants’ in the rapidly-emptying pews who know little, and care less about all this. They may confuse ostentatious humility (an oxymoron) with the real thing. The whole of popular culture exalts style over substance, and Francis knows this. Is he about to be hoist with his own petard?

  3. John Thomas says:

    I do not – not being a Catholic – have the kind of information and inner-knowledge, that the other commenters here, or Quentin, have; but my instinct is to resist the importation of so-called “liberalism”. I quite understand that some – many – have joined the Catholic Church because of the devotion to ultimate, eternal truth that has always been found there (as Quentin says) – long may that continue. Will the RCC hold the line against modern Western culture/values? We will see – but if it doesn’t, it will fall. My constant urge to Catholics is that they spend a few minutes looking at the Episcopal Church USA, and see exactly where “liberalism” leads. Also, please read Patrick Sookhdeho’s The Death of Western Christianity (recently published by Barnabas Fund – not a comfortable read, by any means). This book is largely about the Protestant churches – but could a later revised edition include depressing information about the Roman Catholic Church? I hope not!

    • John Nolan says:

      John Thomas

      ‘Liberalism, or Modernism (identified by St Pius X as the synthesis of all heresies) has held sway in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. Its fruits can be seen in all those areas which were a hallmark of vigour in the long history of the Church, but which in the last half century have seen an astonishing decline. Discuss.’

      That is, of course, an opinion which (like all opinions) is open to debate. Yet debate means more than obstinate denial; it requires reasoned counter-argument.

      Between 1961 and 2010 the Archbishopric of Mechelen-Brussels was held by two men, both noted ‘liberals’ – Suenens and Danneels. In that period, Mass attendance in Flanders went from 95 per cent to five per cent. You can’t blame them, of course. It would have happened anyway. No doubt they were not liberal enough …

      • John Thomas says:

        In the Anglican churches (US and UK) many peple believe (about anything) whatever they want to believe. Is that what might happen in the RCC? And the result will be? You can always say, about anything, “it would have happened anyway”. We’ll see …

  4. G.D. says:

    Jesus, according to the gospels we follow, went about his life accepting & healing sinners, sometimes without asking them, or asking from them in return. He also spoke out against those who followed the religious laws of the times (he was a Jew, yes?) and the authorities of that law as not lifting the burden of it from others.

    Yes, there are those that need a rigorous rule – all well and good the church has it and gives that. Francis has not negated it. Has he?
    Maybe he is aware that there are those who sincerely seek love for all (even if they don’t know it) and can’t accept the ‘rule’ of whatever institution claims to have the TRUTH (and all do) and that they are seeking ‘God’.
    I see Francis preaching, and trying to live that message as Jesus did.

    But the whiles of the law, and those who uphold it, will crucify him, just as it did Jesus. And that simple acceptance of love above all else. Yes it may be a short papacy.
    The message is simple what you did to the least (most powerless, ignorant, incapable?) you did to me. Please don’t. Or bring back the inquisition; as the secular world is too willing to do.

  5. G.D. says:

    Oh, by the way John, congratulations ‘on forbear(ing) to comment on Nektarios’s rant…..

    • Nektarios says:

      My comment was not a rant as claimed by JN, more a cautionary note concerning Pope Francis the Catholic Institution and for other Churches who have departed from truly following the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice and turned their faithful denomination into a Religious Institution.
      I pray for Revival for us all including myself. Truly we are living in a wicked and perverse generation where everything and anything is up for grabs as long as it is modern, uptodate and serves the passions and pleasures.
      We really have not learned the lessons that John the Baptist communicated to his followers at the time – “He must increase and I must decrease”.

  6. John Nolan says:


    Our Lord indeed criticized the Scribes and Pharisees, but he most certainly did not suggest that the laws should be set aside. Indeed, he fulfilled them to the end – you are no doubt aware of the lines written by St Thomas in the hymn ‘Pange Lingua’ :

    ‘In supremae nocte cenae, recumbens cum fratribus, observata lege plene cibis in legalibus …’

    If by ‘the law’ you mean Canon Law, the pope has the authority to amend it; indeed any change requires his authority. Francis has so far made one change in the 1983 CIC on the advice of canonists (it concerns eastern-rite Churches).

    What he does not have the authority to do is to change or dispense with what the Church has always taught as to faith or morals. This is a line he knows he cannot cross – doctrine can be explained in different ways, but as John XXIII made clear when he summoned the Council, it must be ‘eodem sensu, eademque sententia’.

  7. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    From where I am standing, it seems with what has been going on for so long within the Roman Catholic Church, that he sets his own house (the RCC ) in order before pontificating on morals to anyone else.

  8. G.D. says:

    John, i didn’t mean to suggest Jesus set law aside. Indeed he does fulfill it.
    I did say ‘Yes, there are those that need a rigorous rule – all well and good the church has it and gives that.’ Which i agree is needed too.
    Also agree the Church, and all who try to follow Christ, have a sacred duty to uphold (defend) his teachings.
    It’s just that i don’t think we ‘know’ enough (are wise enough?) to cast any interpretation in stone (‘doctrine can be explained in different ways’).

    What i was trying to convey was that Jesus simply loved anyone and everyone, and them that accepted his love were ‘cured’. (By the love that is the fulfillment of the law). He didn’t ask them to believe anything of law or doctrine ‘prior’ to offering that ‘fulfillment’ to them.
    (And he didn’t suffer devious fools gladly either! But he could ‘read souls’ so to speak, and ‘discerned’ hard bitter hearts from well intentioned wrongs).
    My Latin is virtually non existent, John, true pleb! Although, strangely, i have been able to sing the Regina Caeli perfectly from the first hearing of it many years ago.

    Nektarios, i too tend to your opinion of the ‘wicked’ ways of the world, and that institutions are full of it. But don’t condemn them out of hand as such. There are sincere seekers of Truth of all persuasions in all of them. We are all misguided in some fashion or other.
    I commented on ‘rant’ as a lighthearted joke, not necessarily agreeing with John – although you do come across rather forcefully with your own ‘doctrine’. That’s not a criticism to put you down, just an opinion.
    (Jesus didn’t suffer devious fools gladly either! But he could ‘read souls’ so to speak, and ‘discerned’ hard bitter hearts from well intentioned ‘wrongs’).

  9. John Nolan says:

    Returning to Pope Francis, Fr Hunwicke has the following take.

    ‘It has, I think, become so clear as now to be uncontroversial, that what you get in PF is not what it says on the tin. He is not a kindly humble avuncular figure with a winning smile and a passion for cripples and babies, who spends his days and nights thinking about the poor. He is a hard and determined politician with a vindictive temper and an appetite for power, and a disinclination to let anybody and anything stand in his way.’

    Now one is at liberty to agree or disagree with this summation, although it is based on an increasing body of verifiable evidence from a number of sources. Those who disagree need to do so for better reasons than a simple ‘I don’t believe it because I don’t want to believe it’. The blatant attempt to manipulate the Synod on the family is a case in point. There were those who had convinced themselves that previous Synods had been manipulated by ‘the Curia’ and that this one was going to be different. Yet when the whole sorry saga unfolded before their eyes they pretended not to notice that anything was amiss.

  10. Quentin says:

    There was an interesting survey of the issues around Pope Francis in The Week (25 Nov — originally in The Guardian). I had not read this when I drafted my last post. But I think people will find it interesting. and relevant. And not a little scary. https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-week/20171125/282351155084381

  11. Martha says:

    An article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker in Patheos last September is relevant and interesting.
    Why doesn’t the Pope answer his critics?

    • Nektarios says:


      An interesting article. However they miss the point concerning ‘propositional truth’.
      Let us be clear it is the way of Holy Scriptures, and it was also the way of the Holy Apostles inspired by God to communicate concerning Christ, and the whole of God’s plan
      of Salvation by way of propositional arguments placed before us.

      These doctrines, teaching and the practice were presented to the Early Church then, by way of propositional arguments. This has come down to us in Holy Scriptures and the Apostles were inspired by God to do so, to bring us to an understanding of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit by the means of propositional truth and argument.

      Martha, Far from being constrictive, it leads one into the freedom of the Children of God. These propositional truths or arguments are spiritual in nature and can only be truly understood by those who are born again and truly spiritual. The arguments in the article sited, is very earthy and linear and does not rise to the spiritual level.

      Lastly, The Holy Scriptures of the OT and the NT are the very word of God. The propositional truths or arguments presented therein, is the Eternal word of God also and therefore, to be received.
      By Eternal word of God I mean for all time and Eternity.
      None of us were give the place to write the NT in particular apart from the Apostles.

      How nuanced all the propositional truths are and sufficient for everyone and for all generations to the end of time.
      Presenting such arguments as your sited article suggest puts us in place of the Apostles but not having their God given authority let alone ability nor spiritual understanding.

      We are instructed not to be blown about with every wind of doctrine. One cannot do this without laying hold of the Apostolic doctrines, teaching and practice layed out by God for our benefit by way of propositional truths and arguments which are deeply spiritual and profound and eternal in the application.

    • G.D says:

      Jesus, too, was mostly silent after being taken from the garden. Sometimes it’s not possible to enter into dialogue; sometimes the ‘propositions’ just don’t add up to much.

  12. G.D says:

    Richard Rohr has today posted a ‘meditation’ that speaks into this …………
    ‘Different religious traditions can engage in dialogue with one another in a true spirit of ecumenism. Dialogue can be fruitful and enriching if both sides are truly open. . . . Peace will be a beautiful flower blooming on this field of practice. —Thich Nhat Hanh [2]

    The Perennial Tradition includes truths within Catholic, Franciscan, Episcopalian, Calvinist, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations and orders. It also embraces wisdom within Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. In fact, if we’re honest, each of these faith traditions share something in common with Christianity. We need to honor truth and wisdom’s authority in all its forms. If it’s true, it’s true everywhere. That should make us happy—not defensive or aggressive.
    In discerning truth, our first question should not be, “Who said it? Did a Catholic, Methodist, or Hindu say it?” That should be of little concern. Of greater importance is, “Is it true?” Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Doctor of the Church, held that if it was true, it was always from the one Holy Spirit.
    Notice that two-thirds of the Christian Bible are comprised of the Hebrew Scriptures; and the Old Testament writers themselves built upon stories, traditions, names of God, and practices that existed before Israelite history. Scripture gathers together cumulative visions of the divine. Jesus befriended and affirmed Samaritans, Roman citizens, pagans, and Syrophoenicians, which was shocking to many of his Jewish compatriots. But what’s even more shocking is that, in the name of this entirely inclusive Jewish man, Jesus, we created an exclusionary religion that ended up repeating what he condemned in his lifetime.’

    (And i read somewhere that the Israelites [who became the Jewish race?] were not a ‘nation’ of one peoples, but were made up of many different races all with their own belief systems.

  13. Nektarios says:


    There is such a hotpotch of erroneous ideas G.D, mostly from the liberal camp in your posting.

    Christianity, is not one religion among many. The main ones like Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are not co equal at all. Christianity stands alone.

    There are not two or more eternal Son’s of God, only one, who is co equal with the Father.
    The message of Christ and His Apostles is a Gospel for the whole of humanity.
    It is pure, undefiled and unique.
    Christianity with its Gospel is inclusive to all. It is a far cry to say, these religious bodies/faiths are equal or indeed have anything to do with Christianity or Christ.

    Again G.D, there is one one body, not umpteen of them, Only one body, the body of Christ which is the Church, and Christ the head of the Body, not many heads.

    There is only one Lord, and only one God, not many.

    There is no basis for fellowship with WCC. for they would have all religions, even pagan ones included and equal with Christianity when clearly they are not.
    But know this, G.D, God is not in it, The Holy Spirit is not in it.

  14. G.D says:

    I agree with you ‘theology’ about God and Christ (mostly) .
    But that doesn’t equate that others, non-Christians, can’t worship in Spirit & Truth.

    • Nektarios says:

      Does the NT not teach us that, the Holy Spirit shall not speak of Himself but shall glorify Me. He shall take of the things that are mine and show them unto you.

      Who is the you He is talking about?
      Don’t you see, God is holy and that is God’s standard. He will have all His children Holy
      and so the Holy Spirt communicates that standrd and produces that standard that are the hallmark of His people. They will indeed love the Lord God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength.

      Christianity is not one among many as I have said in an earlier posting. Non-Christians don’t have God’s standard, but their own. Unfortunately G.D, that exists in the Church too is all too evident.This was the problem with the Pharisees of old whom our Lord had the severest censure…..’ they are an abomination to God.

      If one will follow ones own standard, ones own morality and not God’s, they, sad to disillusion you G.D. can be religious as they like, mystical as they like, opinionated as they like, and it would be delusional to let them think they are worshipping God in Spirit and Truth.

      • G.D says:

        Once again, i agree with the ‘propositions’ you put forward.
        But he conclusions you come to, it seems to me, have no validity.
        All of creation has the Spirit, given freely, or else it would not exist. All have the ability to live from and with that Spirit. Just as all, baptised Christians included, have the ability to refuse it. As we all do to certain extents in many selfish ways.

        I have no monopoly on what constitutes a true follower of God. Only a duty to love in imitation of Christ Jesus, as far as the grace is given to do so.
        Don’t be sad, you don’t disillusion me. The only delusion i see is of those selective fanatics (of any and all persuasions) that need to alleviate their own insecurities by being the only chosen people who worship God. And need to convince others of that. As the Pharisees did. And still do.

  15. Ann says:

    I meant I had just read it previous to you posting it!

  16. Martin says:

    Any long-standing institution, even the Church, will experience revolution if it fails to evolve (witness the Reformation). Pope Francis sees this and is valiantly trying to avoid this happening. But age is against him, unfortunately, and so are the seemingly closed minds by which he is surrounded in the Vatican.
    Let us all pray to the Holy Spirit that the Pope’s vision will come to fruition.

    • G.D says:

      Good point Martin, hadn’t seen that aspect of his papacy.
      His vision (now obvious to me) sees beyond the ‘right’ and ‘left’ of things to reconciliation & unity. A hard and narrow path to tread!

  17. John Nolan says:

    Nektarios, for all his fundamentalism, is closer to the truth than is G.D. on this issue. Does anyone actually take Richard Rohr’s syncretism seriously?

    If Martin knows what the Pope’s ‘vision’ is, perhaps he would enlighten those of us who supposedly have closed minds. We can then decide whether to pray for it to succeed or to fail.

    I find it difficult to believe that Francis knows better than all his predecessors. The frightening thing is that, surrounded by sycophants, he may come to believe in it himself.

    • G.D says:

      Yes John, lots of people take Rohr’s preaching seriously. And that of many others like him.

      As for it being syncretism …. ‘Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Doctor of the Church, held that if it was true, it was always from the one Holy Spirit.’ and is perennially so … so, it is.

      That doesn’t belie any of the Truth of God. Wherever it is found.

      • G.D says:

        ‘We need to honor truth and wisdom’s authority in all its forms. If it’s true, it’s true everywhere. That should make us happy—not defensive or aggressive.’

  18. Nektarios says:


    You said,’We need to honor truth and wisdom’s authority in all its forms. If it’s true, it’s true everywhere. That should make us happy—not defensive or aggressive.’

    What you say, declares where you stand, very shaky ground in my view. And still in the realm, like the Pharisees could see and appreciate what Christ said and did, but not Him as the Messiah spoken of By Moses and the prophets.
    As Christ said, Ye honour me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me.

    Truth is a matter of revelation to the individual, and because God is personal.
    Does the world, let alone many within the Church accept truth. Since the fall in never has and never will.
    If one could accept truth by ones own efforts and will, do you think the Son of God would have been sent? It was because mankind was dead in trespasses and sin, Man cannot respond to truth of God unless it is revealed to them and a new life given and produced in us by the Holy Spirit, there is no other way.

  19. G.D says:

    You do realise Moses and the prophets were not Christians

    • Nektarios says:


      They were the people of God. They were often referred to as the Church in the Wilderness at that time. They were as much the people of God as true Christians are today.

  20. G.D says:

    So people that are not Christians, CAN be people who worship God

    • Nektarios says:

      They can, but they won’t. Without God saving the person, which God predetermined in Himself from before the foundations of the world.
      One cannot worship God anyway one wishes. Those who are or will be His people will worship indeed now or eventually Worship God.
      Worshipping God is not on our terms, but on His terms.
      Without Christ they cannot come to or know God. The only access is through the Son. Without Him, it is impossible.

      • G.D. says:

        ……. ‘They can, but they won’t’ ….???
        And where the Spirit is the Son is and the Father is … they can … simply because … God is with them (us), or they (we) won’t exist … they (we) can and just might .. don’t know for sure they (we) won’t.
        On God’s terms. Of course! Not ours.

        I don’t presume to know God’s terms for others, only for myself in relationship to God. As it happened to me that was through Christ in the Catholic Church.

        And in God’s good ‘time’ all will be well.
        And will not presume to guess the who or the how about that for others. Will leave that to God.

        As i said – I have no monopoly on what constitutes a true follower of God.
        And wish for none.
        Just assume God’s mercy is all encompassing for all eternity, for all God created as good. …… If that isn’t so, then so be it.

  21. John Nolan says:

    For those who are interested, here is a sample of Richard Rohr’s ‘theology’, taken from his 2016 book ‘The Divine Dance’.

    ‘I think the spaces in between the members of the Trinity are unmistakeably feminine … the diffused, intuitive, mysterious and wonderful unconscious in-between, that’s the feminine. And that’s where the essential power is – the space between the persons rather than the persons individually.’

    Part syncretist, part Jungian, part gnostic, with New Age Californian wackiness thrown into the mix; that’s RR for you. Of course he has a large fan base. So does Erich von Däniken, another charlatan.

    Nektarios is positively orthodox in comparison!

    • ignatius says:

      John Nolan,
      Be honest now, how much of him have you actually read and considered? Seems to me here you have just leaped upon one of the dodgy paragraphs in the book and are now busily waving it around the place. Like you I have my concerns for Richard Rohr in terrms of the direction / trajectory he seems set upon, but I don’t think he is a charlatan and nor does he claim any infallibility, happy to state that his thinking is pretty much his own as far as I can see.
      A patient of mine gave me a copy of ‘The Divine Dance’ awhile ago as a present so I read it and found much of it to be quite refreshing in it own way, but no one suggests his book should have the Nihil Obstat do they?

      • John Nolan says:


        One can hardly review a whole book in a blog post. Suffice it to say that I have read enough to form an opinion, and have also read reviews of his work from both Catholic and Protestant theologians.

        It’s one thing for those with theological training to be entertained by eccentric opinions but Rohr is a Catholic priest and some may be led to believe that he is expounding Catholic doctrine. The Nihil Obstat served a useful purpose.

  22. Nektarios says:

    Positively Christian that’s for sure!

  23. G.D says:

    Ah, well …. one has to be willing to accept they can’t rationalise or conceptualise the inexplicable to appreciate allegorical expressions.

    Spaces between the three persons of the Trinity, United an One God, as a feminine SYMBOL of birth & new life. Creation. Wonderful grasp of the concept. Not definitive by any means; God forbid!

    One must remember those of us who know that all we know is mere symbol (and reality is far beyond our rational understanding, therefore unconscious if it exists at all) have no need, or desire to conclusively define God. Or try and own a water tight boxed belief to put God (and all else) into.
    I can live with that in good faith, relish it in fact, it’s ever new, ever creative, as i assume God Is.

    And i can accept those who need the concept of a definite belief to support faith in God. I can give them that ‘space’ and still relate to them.
    Alas, they don’t seem to be able to allow others NOT too need the specific boxes they need. As ridicule of any expression that differs from their own would seem to indicate; seems a bit Pharisaical to me.
    Too threatening to orthodoxy and self assertion maybe? Or just that they have no concept of anything that isn’t of a recognised self (man’s) referenced nature.

    ‘the diffused, intuitive, mysterious and wonderful’ Awe of God, what more can one need as a foundation for conceptualising the inexplicable nature of God?

    But at least warring factions have found some common ground to agree on; and direct their ire towards another scapegoat. Let’s hope they can give each other space to manoeuvre between the differences on that ground.

  24. G.D says:

    Who’s Erich von Däniken?

    • Ann says:

      Erich Anton Paul von Däniken is a Swiss author of several books which make claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, including the best-selling Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968. Von Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the “paleo-contact” and ancient astronauts hypotheses. The ideas put forth in his books are rejected by a majority of scientists and academics, who categorize his work as pseudohistory, pseudoarchaeology, and pseudoscience.(wikipedia)

      He was brought up a Catholic.

      I have read one of his books, Chariots of the gods. I find it all fascinating, there are lot’s of talks on youtube if you like this sort of thing.

      • G.D says:

        Ah, yes i recall him now (couldn’t bothered to google) from my youth in the 60’/70’s. Um …. Maybe i was abducted by aliens and that’s why i’m so out of the box …. syncretist … lol

  25. John Nolan says:

    Another of the same ilk was John Allegro. When I was at university, students at the High Anglican college of St Chad’s, Durham, referred to their newly-erected free-standing altar as a ‘sacred mushroom’.

  26. John Nolan says:

    When I read that bit about feminine spaces, it rang a bell. Of course, the ‘Da Vinci Code’! I’ll give this guy Rohr his due, he sure is eclectic. A lot of gullible people believe Dan Brown, too.

  27. tim says:

    Pope Francis worries me, which may be all to the good. What worries me most are things I know something about, rather than doubtless more important things, like marriage laws.

    So Laudato Si is a concern. Few will deny that the ‘environment’ is important. I put the term in quotes, because it is vague, and means different things to different people. That makes it difficult to discuss how important it is, and what care for it involves, and how much weight this should be given compared with other vital objectives.
    Francis tells us (surely) that helping the poor must be a priority. The most effective way of doing this is economic growth (look at China). There are associated evils (again, look at China!). But making the poor richer (through economic growth) gives them power to overcome all kinds of problems including hunger, disease, even drought. Depriving them of cheap power from fossil fuels makes them worse off, not better.
    The agreed science is important. But it is may not be what you think. It is agreed that CO2 emissions cause warming – but not how much. Estimates of effects vary considerably – from mild improvement to catastrophe. Deciding what to do is a political decision – not a scientific or ethical one, though both science and ethics are relevant. One question is whether we have the power to ‘limit global warming to 1.5 (or 2) degrees C.? How confident are we that we can do it, even if we want to?
    No doubt drastic ‘global warming’ (were it to happen) would hurt the poor worse than the rich. Being poor means that you always suffer worse than the rich when troubles come. Equally the poor suffer more than the rich from attempts (very expensive, perhaps pointless, perhaps futile) to prevent it.

  28. ignatius says:

    John Nolan,
    I agree with you completely about the value of the nihil obstat and never use, for teaching or personal instruction, anything that does not have that mark (apart from scripture and the classics of course) But I notice you say the nihil obstat SERVED a useful purpose. Is it no longer applied?

  29. John Nolan says:

    Apparently not, since Rohr’s works don’t have one. BTW, I hope you’re not into Enneagrams. Most of RR’s disciples swear by them.

    • G.D says:

      Prefer the Myers Briggs myself such a wonderful tool discovered by the wonderfully wise and spiritual Guru Carl Jung … course the enneagram has it’s value … but better still is the messages from outter space all those extra terrestrials …. wonderful bunch. Then of course you have Disneyland what more can one want …

  30. ignatius says:

    Nay lad, and I’m definitely NOT one of Rohr’s ‘disciples’ by the way but I think he has a point in his writings about the Trinity. It’s easy to worship an Emperor God without even knowing that you are doing so, a stern monotheistic God with a frown. I see an awful lot of this in prison and it has very harmful effects on the person. Rohr has been good at articulating this danger. Of course he is merely reiterating basic theology, not a new issue at all. You are right of course about his achieving guru status, which is a shame. I would think that no one has considered his works worthy of the nihil obstat though, either that or the publishing world has no interest in such things. Have you read the Dutch Catechism by the way?

  31. John Nolan says:

    ‘It has the nihil obstat’. In other words it was acceptable to the Dutch hierarchy. However, according to Paul VI and the commission of cardinals he assembled in 1967 to review the work, it was more a question of ‘multum obstat’ and in their report they listed under ten headings how it diverged from Catholic doctrine.

    The authors of the Catechism, Edward Schillebeecks OP and Piet Schoonenberg SJ were controversial modernist theologians whose Christology incurred the censure of the CDF.

    • ignatius says:

      Hmmm…tricky blighter this Nihil Obstat chap..Anycase I really like it.. Now tell me John, did you know all the above already or did you have to look it up?

      • John Nolan says:

        I was aware of the controversy at the time, but as a 15-year-old I had other fish to fry. In the 1950s the Dutch Church appeared to be in rude health; by the end of the 1970s it had collapsed. Whether the heretical catechism was a cause or a symptom of this precipitous decline is a matter for conjecture. And given that it became a best seller in many languages might explain the dramatic decline elsewhere. Or again, it might not.

        My own view is that these opinions, plus the ‘disintegration of the liturgy’ (Ratzinger) represent a symptom rather than a cause. However, we are still living with the consequences.

  32. Nektarios says:

    Just thought I would mention the main Objections to the Dutch Catechism:

    Ten of the Many Heresies in the Dutch Catechism

    Among other heresies found in the Dutch Catechism are the following ten. And, the clever thing was that the heresies were not issued so much as propositions, but as questions placing doubt on definitive teaching. To achieve this, the format of the Catechism is not by way of Q’s and A’s. In fact, the Catechism doesn’t give answers at all. As one of Schillebeeckx’s defenders, Cornelius Ernst, O.P., put it, “Answers kill thought.”

    (1) God as Creator. Why must we believe that God created out of nothing, or is this even important?

    (2) The Fall of Adam. Denial of original sin.

    (3) The virginal birth of Jesus and the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why is this important? Is it necessary to the gospel message that Mary be ever-virgin? Why place such a stumbling block before our Protestant brethren? Nothing irritated Pope Paul VI more than this blasphemy.

    (4) The satisfaction made by Christ. Since original sin is denied, the Redemption itself becomes questionable.

    (5) The Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass. Is the Mass Calvary re-presented in an unbloody manner? Or is it rather a commemoration, just a meal, eaten in commemoration of Christ’s passion?

    (6) The Eucharistic Presence and the change of the species of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Again, questions are raised about traditional teaching. A new way of speaking about the Eucharist is suggested. Transubstantiation means nothing to today’s faithful, and is totally unintelligible to Protestants.

    (7) The personal infallibility of the pope and that of the solemn magisterium of the Church, denied outright.

    (8) The hierarchical priesthood and the power of teaching and ruling in the Church. Why can’t a priest or lay people lay on hands and ordain a chosen one from the community? Apostolic succession is unnecessary to the priesthood.

    (9) Promotion of artificial birth control.

    (10) The existence of angels.

    • John Nolan says:

      Nektarios, you are spot on. As are the Protestant theologians who have criticized mountebanks like Richard Rohr.

      Unfortunately, most Catholics nowadays have not the slightest idea what constitutes their faith, a faith that is based on Scripture and Tradition. They have never been taught it. The fact that they are attracted to enneagrams, ‘new age’ philosophies which any Classical philosopher, Pagan or Christian, would have dismissed out of hand, is hardly surprising. They go to church to be exposed to a self-centred ‘liturgy’ which makes them feel good about themselves.

      It’s sad, heartbreaking even, but it is a fact.

  33. ignatius says:

    Having actually read The New Catechism and The Divine Dance I am inclined to agree. Were these two texts the only available guides to truth then we would be in a parlous state, thankfully they are not. Personally speaking I quite like both books and am not threatened by them. Both contain good writing and well expressed thought being as such quite helpful in their own way.

    Having gone through the Dutch Catechism though I am surprised it ever gained a nihil obstat in the first place on account of its distinctly humanist tilt. In a sense one sees the fate of the unitarian church here, one which attempted to redefine itself in accord with a kind of ‘reason’ rather than revealed truth. Why the Catholic church in the Netherlands collapsed may well have been part of a slide into relativism, I am no expert on these things though and simply do not know.

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