Q. Within the context of exhorting Catholics ever deeper into the ecumenical program, Pope Francis says: “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the Sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Romans 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept His revealed word.” I do not understand this papal statement. If the covenant has not been fulfilled, does that mean they can stand at Judgment, deny Christ, and gain salvation? This is confusing to me. I suspect the discussion needs to be reopened. — S.M., Minnesota.
A. In his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis did not say that the covenant has not been fulfilled; he knows that it was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. What he did say, in quoting from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, is that the covenant God established with the people of Israel cannot be revoked. That covenant, the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium explained, was a preparation for the “new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ. . . . Christ instituted the New Covenant, that is to say, the New Testament, in His Blood (cf. 1 Cor. 11:25) by calling together a people made up of Jew and Gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God” (n. 9).
In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis also said that “while it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity that allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word” (n. 249).
Writing about this matter and about her own conversion some years ago (cf. This Rock, October 2002), Rosalind Moss said that “in becoming a Christian, my Jewish faith was not absorbed into Christianity. It was transformed into the fullness of what was promised to the Jews by the One who promised. Often, as I travel and teach our glorious faith, I tell people that the most Jewish thing a person can do is to become Catholic.”
Q. What is your take on Richard Rohr, O.F.M., who runs the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico? He has authored several books promoting his ideas. Some of my Catholic friends speak well of him; others say that his views are in conflict with the Magisterium of the Church. Can you enlighten us? — C.P., New York.
A. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar who was born in 1943 and ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He is an internationally known speaker and author who has published numerous talks and books. In 1986, Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, and he currently serves as its founding director and as academic dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation, which is part of the Rohr Institute and is located at the Center for Action and Contemplation. According to the web site of the CAC, the mission of the Rohr Institute “is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings.”
Writing in the pages of The Wanderer back in 1997, Stephanie Block pointed out that the CAC had become a hub for “progressive Catholics,” with retreats and workshops promoting Call to Action personalities, such as Rosemary Radford Ruether and other radical feminists; the Enneagram, which Fr. Mitch Pacwa exposed in his book Catholics and the New Age; Albuquerque Interfaith, an affiliate of Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago (Alinsky dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer”); and the Bridge Building Community’s gatherings that “have addressed the homosexual’s role in the Church, celebration of the gift of homosexuality, coming out, and spirituality; and relationships, commitment, and roles.”
In the conclusion of her article, Mrs. Block said that “it is apparent that the Center for Action and Contemplation has become a magnet for the dissenting elements of the Catholic Church, particularly in Albuquerque.” She said that parishioners at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church had circulated a petition challenging the parish’s distribution of the CAC publication Radical Grace on church property. “Petitioners,” she reported, “were extremely disturbed by elements of the publication which they perceived as a distortion of Scripture, an affront to doctrine, and a perversion of their Catholic call to holiness. They referred specifically to the Enneagram, to the We Are Church referendum, and to the teaching that Scripture does not condemn homosexuality, all of which they had read within the pages of Radical Grace.”
In January of 2006, Mitch and Barbara Kralis of the Jesus Through Mary Foundation in Texas wrote to Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas asking him to cancel a scheduled retreat in the diocese by Fr. Rohr because of his support in 2000 for Soulforce, a homosexual advocacy group. The Kralis letter cited a column by Fr. Bryce Sibley, S.T.L., of the Diocese of Lafayette, LA, who wrote:
“Fr. 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 alienating and condemning homosexual acts and homosexual marriage. He writes: ‘At last we have a group of dedicated Christians who are willing to use disciplined and Christian means of nonviolent protest against its Church’s failure to live the Gospel.’ 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 his realm of grace for far too long.’ ”
The Kralis letter also mentioned Fr. Rohr’s “Wild Man Retreats,” where men take their clothes off. The Franciscan priest has said that he does not encourage nakedness at these retreats, that “this nudity occurs spontaneously” as the men seek to get rid of “all this stuff you have to live up to — you pay a big price for being a patriarch. And feminism has sometimes not been sympathetic enough with that. You pay a big price for having roles and titles and importance and power and significance, and the male is just finding every way he can to take it off, to take it off. They always tell me they had to do it, and it’s amazing how often some wonderful things happen in this sitting there in the sunlight naked — exposed, as it were.”
Commenting in May 2012 about the Vatican’s attempt to reign in nuns who had long dissented from Church teachings, Fr. Rohr said that “the Roman patriarchy, a closed system that allows no prophetic critique, and their branch appointed officers (bishops) are step by step rolling back both the spirit and the letter of the Vatican II reforms, while pretending and saying they are not.” He then made this demonstrably false statement:
“No group accepted the reforms and tried to renew itself following the council like the American Sisters. Yes, they made their mistakes, and also enjoyed certain matriarchal benefits over the laity. Nevertheless, this cruel, humiliating, and intimidating attempt by the Roman Curia . . . to punish and control the American Sisters is being seen for what it is, and what it is not: It is male patriarchal control, hurt feelings because they are not that much in control any more, and it is certainly NOT anything like Jesus or the Gospel. Patriarchal systems normally engineer their own demise by such gross misuse of power. We need to sincerely pray and speak much-needed Gospel to very worldly power.”