Richard Rohr reads “the signs”

When the Roman Catholic  church convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, theological giants walked the land. They all had something n common.They had seen war first hand.They had  experienced the ultimate in scandals, Christians killing Christians in the heart of Christendom. The desiccated neoscholasticism, long on abstractions and intellectual formulations  had replaced ethics with a propositonal faith.The giants knew that this Christianity was dead.And so they went back to the drawing board, Many of them (Rahner, De Lubac, Chenu,Congar etc)  had been silenced earlier in their lives for daring to suggest that the Church was less than a perfect society, that it needed to heed “the signs of the times.” These theologians  had witnessed Nazism and Fascism. Blind obedience had become a cardinal virtue.Way overrated. The great Redemptorist  moralist Bernard Haring began his work on ethics, with responsibility replacing obedience. These church Fathers, having witnessed the liquidation of the human person in Europe then  produced the great breakthrough of the last century—a Council which would set the church on the right track, for a new engagement with the world. This dramatic U turn was halted after 14 years—the pontificate of John Paul ll and his enforcer Josef Ratzinger.

It proved to be too late. The new wine  had spilled into the old wineskins and burst them. Lay citizens were coming of age, the best educated generation o Catholics in history were acquiring voice. They demanded to be heard, to be active and not passive.

Still  prophets of the priestly class were still  around, still flush with the energy the Spirit unleashed. They were not afraid to speak.

One of them is Richard Rohr ofm whose reflection follows.

We must be honest and admit that there are only two remaining large systems in the world that are totally patriarchal in their style and in their leadership: Communist states and the Roman Catholic Church. Ours never looked quite as bad since we at least used the language of Jesus, the symbols of communion, humility, and service, and we men even dress in rather feminine robes. The Communist states make no display of humility themselves or respect for the feminine side of anything. But the real bottom lines in the Roman Church are becoming more and more apparent to thinking and spiritual people in the last decade or so. Despite the very clear reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, 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. (Remember, if you can reject this Council, then you have the basis for rejecting the other 20 Councils of the Church too! The Pope and bishops had better be very careful!)


Deceit and supposed magnanimity are at the heart of all patriarchies, or otherwise their subjects would see what they are actually doing. North Koreans also believe their “Great Father” is protecting them, as did many Filipinos under Marcos, and Russians under their Tsars and Tsaritsas.


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 (“the place that cares for”) 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 all need to sincerely pray – and speak much needed Gospel to very worldly power.


– Richard Rohr, OFM

“Vatican Versus American Nuns”

May 10, 2012


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