Monday, April 28, 2014

Susan Bailey of the Worcester Commission for Women and Richard Rohr

Susan W. Bailey, of the Worcester Diocese 'Commission for Women," [the same dissent group which has heavily promoted the work of Joyce Rupp and other well-known dissidents], writes, "Today I started reading a book entitled The Naked Now by Richard Rohr. I originally planned on reading it because a group I belong to, the Commission of Women of the Diocese of Worcester, chose this book as the one they wished to study this year. A dear friend of mine, a deacon in the Catholic Church, had also highly recommended it.

Rohr aims to teach the reader to see as the mystics see.

I have long resisted the notion of being a mystic though this same friend insisted that I be open to the idea. The pragmatist in me, the one who is unimpressed with splashy theatrics and celebrity, would have nothing to do with it. I saw no connection between my earthly life and supposed “heavenly visions.” I mistakenly connected mysticism with crying statues; I wanted nothing to do with it.
However, the creative in me, now being regularly exercised with reading and study, began to speak up and say,

“Hold on a minute. Maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.”

And my inner self, also exercised daily with prayer and reflection, objected too.
The Naked Now is now affirming something I’ve been experiencing ever since I started all this exercising: this newfound ability to “read between the lines,” and it is growing exponentially.
Rohr spells out three ways to view the world through a simple example: how three people view a sunset. One simply enjoys the beauty, nothing more. A second enjoys the beauty and understands the science behind a sunset, giving him extra insight.

The third not only appreciates the beauty and perhaps the science, but also “tastes” the experience. His vision enables him to transcend the physical experience to something mystical.

Rohr calls this seeing with the “third eye.” And I knew exactly what he meant.

I experienced that kind of vision all summer long in my lunchtime walks through the woods, past streams and alongside the lake at Wellesley College. Some of these experiences were quite intense, most especially my kayak trip on Lake Waban.

And I had noticed this vision even before the summer.

Reading the Bible had always been a difficult and dry experience. I simply could not understand what it was trying to tell me. However, last year I began to experience a strange sensation while reading: my mind and my heart would be literally flooded with ideas and insights. It was thrilling and a little scary. It was like God was chattering at me!

I don’t remember when I began acquiring this “third eye” but I am guessing it is connected to a few newer habits in my life: challenging reading, journaling and blogging, and set times for prayer. (This blog is a result of those new habits.)

I allowed myself to be carried in the flow of God’s will, just like my kayak floats down river. I went with the flow and without realizing it, accepted an invitation from God to go deeper with my faith.

I didn’t really know what was happening but had a sense that it was better to just “go with it” rather than to question.

And now, I have a book that will explain what’s been happening.

And the best part is, you can experience this too.

Everyone is called to be a mystic. It’s what Jesus intended. It was not just for those saints we see commemorated in statues and prayer cards.

Jesus means for each of us to experience this “third eye,” a direct result of a close, intimate relationship with Him.

The closer we get, the better we see.

And that’s when life really starts to take off. Surrounded by and immersed fully in this Divine love, we can experience what Henri Nouwen wrote in that post I highlighted the other day, “It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realisation of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated.”  See here for full article.

Susan Bailey's belief in a "Third Eye" is very disturbing.  It is a concept rooted in New Age occultism.  See here for example.  But then, the Worcester "Commission for Women" has long promoted New Age spirituality.  See here, here and here for example.

Nor is it surprising that Bailey would promote the work of Fr. Richard Rohr.  As Bryce Andrew Sibley explains:

"Rohr makes it very clear that he does not want to be limited to having to call God "Father." He writes in Adam's Return (which was the basis for his presentations) that we must "find public ways to recognize, honor, and name the feminine nature of God...."
Rohr bases this claim on his belief that "God is the ultimate combination of whatever it means to be male and whatever it means to be female." He asserts that God is in no way sexed, and here he seems to be in agreement with the Catechism, which states: "In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes" (#370). However, this does not mean that it would be proper to refer to God as "Mother." Rohr's thesis runs into the problem of Divine Revelation: Christ has definitively revealed God as Father. To say that God could just as easily be called "Mother" is in direct contradiction to Divine Revelation. As the Catechism states, "Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: He is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father..." (#240).
Rohr's problem also extends to his vision of the Church. During his presentations, he made several negative references to patriarchy, particularly to the Church as a patriarchal institution (patriarchy finding its roots in the Latin word pater, meaning "father"). The vague references he made during the conference become clearer when seen in relation to what he writes about the patriarchal dimension of the Church in his book Simplicity, in the first chapter, titled, "God the Father -- God the Mother?" Here Rohr describes the structure of Catholicism as patriarchal. Jesus was happy to call God "father," but "presumably that has something to do with his patriarchal culture." The Gospel text then "reveals the beginnings of the bias against women," and the beginnings of patriarchy. Our "liturgical texts are almost completely patriarchal, and they perpetuate this narrow image of God." But fortunately (according to Rohr), "we belong to the first generation of the Church that has come to consciously recognize our patriarchal biases."
Like many others today, Rohr thinks that patriarchy carries a negative connotation. Once again, however, he runs into the problem of Revelation. It was Christ who became incarnate as male, who deliberately chose men to lead His Church.
Although the Church is patriarchal by structure and office, the true symbol of the Church is not Peter, but Mary. Maybe having a more developed image of the Church as feminine would assuage Rohr's desire to have God reveal Himself in feminine terms.
The ultimate irony here is that, while concentrating on the problem of rejecting our earthly fathers, Fr. Rohr rejects his heavenly Father. He also rejects the spiritual fathers whom God has called to be representatives of His paternal authority on earth. It follows logically that if someone rejects the definitive Revelation of God as Father, then it is very difficult to teach men to be good Christian fathers (or males) themselves.

Homosexual Advocacy   The reality of sexual difference -- that man was created as male and female by God for a reason -- is a basic teaching of Catholic anthropology and theology. Pope John Paul II wrote beautifully about the significance of sexual difference in his apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, in which he calls the reality of man being created as male and female a "truth which is immutably fixed in human experience" (#2). At first, I was encouraged to see that Rohr appeared to ground his "male spirituality" in the reality of sexual difference as one truly positive aspect of his presentation. However, when I took a closer look at some of his other writings, particularly those dealing with homosexuality, I began to question whether Rohr really holds a strong belief in the importance of sexual difference.
The website of Soulforce, a homosexual advocacy group, carries a letter written by Fr. Rohr (dated 2000) supporting this organization's mission. Soulforce claims that its purpose is non-violent resistance to the "spiritual violence" perpetrated against "gay," lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons by social and religious groups. The Soulforce website defines spiritual violence as "the misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God's children." Soulforce claims that spiritual violence is a misuse of God and religion to perpetuate society's prejudices against "gays," lesbians, etc. Needless to say, Soulforce protests the condemnation of homosexual activity and homosexual "marriages" by the Church and other religious organizations.
Rohr's support of Soulforce and its goals is rooted in his interpretation of Jesus' all-inclusive love. He writes that the Church has failed to live up to the Gospel values by "judging" and "excluding" homosexuals. He hopes that the Church will realize the error of her ways, but until she does he hopes that Soulforce will maintain its loving, inclusive position because "our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered brothers and sisters have been left outside of [Christ's] realm of grace for far too long."
Since homosexual activity is the ultimate denial of sexual difference, Rohr's support of homosexual-advocacy groups such as Soulforce (and thus his implicit support of homosexual activity) is a radical contradiction of the apparent importance he places on sexual difference in his presentation on "male spirituality." As the Catechism states, "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved" (#2357). "They do not proceed from a genuine sexual complementarity" clearly states that homosexual activity runs counter to the God-given meaning of sexual difference.
There is yet another irony. While Rohr endorses the work of a homosexual advocacy group (on that group's website), he criticizes political conservatives active in the 2004 presidential election for their preoccupation with what he refers to as a "body oriented morality." He writes in an essay posted on the website of his Center for Action and Contemplation, "In the upcoming years we must find ways to address this ‘body oriented' morality, which has always held churchy people captive, but now seems to be widespread. The body holds human shame and inferiority, and people can be most controlled at that level.... We [i.e., political conservatives] want body morality, not really a demanding Biblical morality. No concern about social values, or justice values, or basic truthfulness, just puritanical concern for keeping human bodies so called ‘pure,' by preoccupation with issues like abortion, those terrible gays, and stem cell research. All of which can be addressed by a more nuanced morality. But America does not like nuance or compassion.... These body issues, these pretensions at being pro-life, demand very little change of 90% of the population, but allow us to remain preoccupied with trying to change others. How convenient for the ego. How disturbing for the future of religion and state." Rohr echoed these same sentiments in his conference when he said that religious people often use religion to condemn others, particularly those who participate in abortion and homosexual activity. Religious people do this, he claimed, so that they do not have to hear the Gospel message and transform themselves. (Of course, Rohr is condemning those who condemn.)
So, if Rohr thinks we should look beyond these "body issues" to a more "demanding Biblical morality" why is he so concerned with the "body issue" of homosexuality?

"He Was Paying No Debt"   And so our discussion of the body brings us to Rohr's thinking on the Redemption that Christ brought about in His body. In the first chapter of Adam's Return, Rohr makes this very puzzling assertion regarding the Incarnation: "‘Incarnation is already redemption,' and you do not need any blood sacrifice to display God's commitment to humanity. Once God says yes to flesh, then flesh is no longer bad but the very ‘hiding and revealing' place of God." Rohr is saying that the crucifixion of our Lord was not necessary for redemption; that the Incarnation already brought about redemption. This is made more evident in this passage from his critique of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, supposedly taking the teaching of John Duns Scotus as his justification: "As many of you know, I am a strong proponent of the Franciscan understanding of the redemption, based on the teaching of Blessed John Duns Scotus in the 13th century. He did not believe in any ‘substitutionary atonement theory' of the cross: Jesus did not have to die to make God love us, he was paying no debt, He was changing no Divine mind. Jesus was only given to change our mind about the nature of God! (Imagine what we are saying about the Father, if he needed blood from his son to decide to love us! It is an incoherent world with no organic union between Creator and creature. No wonder so few Christians have gone on the mystical path of love, since God is basically untrustworthy and more than a little dangerous.) For Duns Scotus, Jesus was the ‘image of the invisible God' who revealed to us a God's eternal suffering love for humanity, in an iconic form that we could not forget. He was not ‘necessary,' but a pure gift. The suffering was simply to open our hearts, not to open God's -- which was always open."
I will not belabor arguing the point in detail that the crucifixion and death of our Lord was not only part of God's eternal plan but also necessary for the atonement of sins. I would hope all faithful Catholics already know this. Rohr's teaching here is at best confused. It does not seem clear to me that the "substitutionary atonement theory" teaches that the death of Christ was necessary for God to love us or to change His mind about us. What the atonement theory does teach, however, is that there is a real debt rendered to God when we sin, which is our death. How can we, of ourselves, mend a relationship initiated freely by God Himself? How could our sin, our rejection of the free friendship offered us by God at the creation, result in anything else but our death? In terms of our sinfulness, only God can fix what we broke, and He did. Christ died in our place. He himself suffered the real punishment for our real sins -- He paid the debt -- and therefore those who accept Christ have access to divine life.
Instead of focusing on Rohr's error in claiming that Christ's death was not necessary for redemption, let's look at his teaching on Original Sin and how his teaching leads to an erroneous proposition. In the section on Original Sin in Adam's Return, Rohr says that Original Sin "names the ‘corporate body pain' that we all suffer from together." It is the "tragic flaw in all of us" and we should not "waste time blaming anybody" for its existence. It is the collective hurts that have been passed on to us by our parents, just as they were passed on to them. Baptism washes away this "original wound" and "our endless capacity for self-rejection and self-hatred" by "situating one's life in a much bigger picture." For Rohr, Original Sin is the "original wounding," it is the "shadow self that you do not understand," "the dark side that seems to be in everything," "the common pain of being human." "It does not deserve punishment. It deserves tears."
Clearly, Rohr has a very weak understanding of Original Sin. Once again, I do not think it necessary to go into great detail about the teaching of the Church on Original Sin (see the Catechism, #388-421). It should suffice to say that Original Sin comes as the result of the sin of the first man. It resulted in the loss of the state of grace and a tendency toward sin that is passed on through human nature. It is more than just a "tragic flaw" or an "original wound" -- it is a loss of grace and divine friendship, which is what necessitates a Messiah and Redeemer. One paragraph from the Catechism explains this point particularly well: "The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the ‘reverse side' of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ, knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ" (#389).
Here we see the real root of Rohr's redemptive theology. His "tampering" with the correct understanding of Original Sin truly leads to an undermining of the saving mystery of Christ. If Original Sin is nothing more than a "tragic flaw" or "shadow side," if Original Sin is not seen from the perspective of the fall from grace, then the just penalty due for that, and hence the necessity of salvation, of Christ, His message, His death and Resurrection are all meaningless. As the above quote from the Catechism points out, one cannot have the Good News of salvation that comes through Christ without the bad news of condemnation that comes through Adam. 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."

The fact that Susan Bailey would promote this deeply confused and troubled priest should concern Worcester diocesan officials.  But no doubt they are far more concerned with banning orthodox, heterosexual candidates to the priesthood while ensuring that speakers like Robert Spencer never see the light of day within the Diocese.

Never mind that Fr. Richard Rohr is a heretic who promotes New Age spirituality and presided over a "lesbian wedding."  See here.  No, the Diocese is bent on pursuing its mission of ostracizing those who defend orthodoxy and stand up for Magisterial teaching.  Just a couple of weeks ago I was told that I would be ostracized for standing up for sound liturgical rubrics.

As Michael Brown would say: Our sad time!


Michael Cole said...

Right.....Robert Spencer's views are deemed "problematic" because he wants to simply tell the truth about Islam and violence. But Rohr's homosexuality and New Age advocacy are deemed "acceptable."

A diocese in disarray.

Jonathan said...

Michael, as long as we have the "leadership" we have in Worcester, nothing is going to change. Dissent is fully enshrined and orthodoxy is the enemy. Anyone who dares to oppose this institutionalized dissent is relegated to the margins while those who promote any form of deviancy or doctrinal dissent are lauded and given top positions and salaries to go along with them.

I don't hold out much hope for the Worcester Church. At least not in the short term.

It has become a garbage heap.

Tom said...

[More on Fr. Rohr from an orthodox Catholic bookseller; follow the referencesat the end of the article]

Why We Don't and Won't Ever Carry Richard Rohr

by Ianon March 16, 2011

At Aquinas and More we have always had a policy that we will only carry product that is true to Catholic teaching. Why carry product that undermines the Church unless you want to destroy your own business? Could you imagine Coke or Pepsi selling literature or sending out spokesmen that praise the competition as being just as good as their product or mislead people about what their product is? For some reason there are wildly popular authors who do just that within the Catholic Church.

One such author is Richard Rohr. He is a staple for St. Anthony Messenger Press and gives retreats across the country. I'll be blunt. Fr. Rohr's ideas about salvation are heretical. He just published a new book, Why Be Catholic, which I spent some time looking through. I may have missed it, but amid all of the talk about the need for community and the Church's position on social justice I couldn't find anything about Truth or salvation. It seems to me that any discussion of "Why be Catholic"? needs to start and end with salvation and Truth. Otherwise, the Church is just a social club like the Elks.

Here are some links explaining Father Rohr's "theology". Richard Rohr is a new-age heretic who wraps his heresy in biblical quotes. Here are some samples:
■Denial of hell, dismissal of "the fetus", caricature of pro-lifers, caricature of people who go to confession (article now removed from Fr. Rohr's website)

■Serious theological problems with his writings

Rita Jeannine Melanson said...

And all of this with the Bishop's blessing. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on the Diocese of Worcester.

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