Controversial priest to lecture in New Orleans with blessing of local Catholic bishop

religion | Mar 29, 2011 | By Martin Barillas

Rev. Richard Rohr OFM

According to the official newspaper of the Catholic diocese of New Orleans, famed ecumenical lecturer and Catholic priest Richard Rohr will be featured at a diocesan event this spring. The Clarion-Herald noted on March 19 that Father Rohr, a member of the Franciscan order, “will explore ways to contemplate the presence of God in our frantic daily lives in three talks in New Orleans on April 5 and 6.” The huge metropolitan diocese is led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who will offer opening remarks and prayer at the event that will be held at New Orleans’ Loyola University, a Jesuit institution.

The diocesan paper notes that Rev. Rohr will also speak at non-Catholic churches in the area. In the past, Rev. Rohr has preached at Episcopalian and non-Christian venues. On his visit to the Big Easy, Rev. Rohr is scheduled to speak at the Parker United Methodist Church on the theme “Practicing the Presence of God in Spiritual Leadership,” while at Rayne Memorial Methodist Church he will speak on “Practicing the Presence of God: Bridging the Divides, Healing the Wounds. According to the Clarion-Herald, Rev. Rohr seeks to advance, “the union of contemplation and active service, address how living in the presence of God can help create bridges for our polarized world and help us heal those wounds,” while sharing insights from his book “The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.”

While Rev. Rohr has gained a wide audience on the Net and at the various churches and retreats where he preaches, in New Orleans there may be dissidents on hand to signal their disagreement with him on points of theology and morality. According to reports received by Spero, a protest is also planned by Catholics on Sunday, April 3.

Critics have noted that the Center for Action and Contemplation, founded by Rev. Rohr, has participated in various gay pride marches, including one in Albuquerque NM in 2001. In a 1997 article in the lay Catholic newspaper, The Wanderer, Rev. Rohr was quoted on his experience of one of the various retreats he offers as part of introducing men to spirituality: “We often have campfires, and I know some of you have been at these where it happens, so you know what I’m talking about. Always, always, there’s some guys - I mean, is it in their hard wiring? - they’ll strip and have to leap over that fire, burning their balls…I don’t know what it is. They’re the “real” men, who can leap over the fire, naked.”

A prolific author and speaker, Rev. Rohr is due to release another book following his New Orleans appearance, “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.”  He co-authored “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,” with Andreas Ebert, which has had a wide acceptance even outside of Catholic readership. The Enneagram of Personality was developed by the Bolivian Oscar Ichazo, who founded the Arica Institute,  which is movement to promote human potential, and Claudio Naranjo, a psychiatrist from Chile who was an early member of the Gestalt Therapy movement at the Esalen Institute in California. 

As for Archbishop Aymond, he was ordained to the episcopacy by Pope John Paul II in 1996, serving the New Orleans archdiocese as an auxiliary.  He then served as Bishop of Austin TX, returning to New Orleans in 2009 as its first native-son occupying the archiepiscopal see. He was among  80 bishops who requested Notre Dame University in Indiana to rescind its invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the 2010 commencement, while noting the former Illinois senator’s outspoken advocacy of abortion.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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