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Critiquing Diarmuid O'Murchu's 'New World Order'

Doctrinal Note on the Book "Reframing Religious Life"

ROME, APRIL 16, 2006 (Zenit) - The following statement is a translation of a document from the Doctrinal Commission of the Spanish bishops' conference. It was translated and published by the English edition of L'Osservatore Romano last month.

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Summary: The Doctrinal Commission of the Bishops' Conference of Spain presents this Doctrinal Note in order to bring to public attention the seriously erroneous affirmations found in the book "Reframing Religious Life. An Expanded Vision for the Future," by Father Diarmuid O'Murchu, M.S.C. According to Father O'Murchu, religious men and women "should leave the Church and take on a non-canonical status" since "the values of the Religious life belong to a more ancient pre-religious tradition."

He therefore marginalizes Christian revelation and its ecclesial transmission, abolishes the need for redemption and proposes a non-Christian vision where the "Kingdom" or the "Reign" is a substitute for Jesus Christ and his Church.

Father O'Murchu also disfigures the sense and significance of the religious vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. In the final analysis, the proposals made in his book, far from promoting a renewal of religious life, will rather bring about its destruction.


1. One of the duties of the doctrinal commission is to safeguard Christian doctrine in matters of faith, a duty which is undertaken as a service to the Church and the teaching ministry of her shepherds. In fulfillment of this mission, therefore, and having at heart the common good of the People of God we wish to manifest our concern at the publication by "Publicaciones Claretianas" of the book entitled "Reframing Religious Life. An Expanded Vision for the Future" by Father Diarmuid O'Murchu,[1] an Irish priest of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

In the underlying presuppositions of his book and in some of his explicit affirmations, Father O'Murchu is in open conflict with the teaching of the Church, and for this reason we consider it necessary to issue a doctrinal clarification.

2. The book calls for an urgent reform of religious life. However, notwithstanding its claims to scientific impartiality, it offers an unsubstantiated critique of the very foundations of religious life which will contribute far more to its destruction than to its renewal.

I. An old proposal with the claim of novelty

3. Father O'Murchu's thesis and the language he uses are certainly ambitious;[2] however, beyond all his promises of "planetary" or "holistic" implications, the true content of what he proposes is actually quite simple and primitive. The essence of his thesis can be summarized in the following six points:

a. It is striking that the author explicitly and repeatedly (with slight variations) proposes to religious that "a process of disengagement from the institutional Church is both desirable and necessary" (p. 73); "there seems to be only one authentic response: leave the Church and adopt a non-canonical status" (p. 120).[3]

b. Less explicit, but nonetheless present, is Father O'Murchu's call to abandon the Catholic faith in Jesus Christ as the only full Revelation of God and as the Lord and Savior of all mankind. This is but one of the elements of the thesis that not only systematically obfuscates the true theological significance of Jesus Christ, but which in fact contradicts all that he stands for, thus denigrating and ridiculing him.[4]

c. Father O'Murchu does not speak of the Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ but rather rejects this revelation and suggests a conception of God that fluctuates between pantheism and animism:[5] God can at the most be considered as a "capacity for relatedness." This "capacity for relatedness" is naturally not a God that freely creates the world. The author speaks much of "creation," but the meaning of this concept in the book is not that proper to the Christian faith, since the Creator God in question is identified, in one way or another, with the world. God is envisioned as the internal energy of the cosmos, and the world as the "incarnation" of God.[6]

d. Father O'Murchu places religious life "far beyond" the Church, Jesus Christ and the God revealed in him. Religious life should come back to itself, that is to say, "reincarnate the ever-old in a world that is ever new" (p. 140). The "ever-old" is paganism, or better put, the pre-Christian and pre-religious culture that supposedly existed at the very origins of humanity.[7]

e. According to the author, the "values of the religious life" are anterior to Christianity or any other "formal religion." However, it is difficult to ascertain from Father O'Murchu exactly what these values are. After having gone through the "painful and dislocating" (p. 73) process of ...

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1 - 5 of 5 Comments

  1. Dara Coleman
    2 months ago

    Can you please direct me to the original English translation please.

  2. Ed Dructor
    1 year ago

    Well good for him for staying true to what exists in his heart and for not letting the often oppressive nature of an organized faith trump the truth. I often wonder if some of these clergy ever read the scriptures to figure out the meaning for themselves rather than just going by what they have been taught by men. O’Murchu exhibits the same humility and piety yet keeps the revolutionary and anti-religious spiritual nature of Jesus alive in a world the desperately needs it more than ever. The people who wrote this article sound like a modern intellectualized version of The Pharisees preaching man made critiques ignoring the divine information god has place directly in front of them. As for my own personal experience, I grew up in a catholic church and never was truly taught the real meaning nor did I ever experience the true nature of Jesus until after I shed the restrictive dogma of rigid elitism and took a step into the real world of Spirituality without religion hindering its expansion. I was always taught that only those who believe in Jesus get to heaven yet was never given a real explanation of what believing in Jesus actually means. Instead as a child, I was fed preposterous contradictory fairy tales and doctrines created by men that hold no precedence to our modern reality. Only through life experience and the loving kindness of this universe ”god” and of strangers(most of which were not “Christian”)did I come to understand what believing in Jesus really means. O’Murchu’s book Quantum Theology is the most comprehensive combination of Science and Spirituality I have ever read. Notice I used the word spirituality instead of religion because nothing can combine with an elitist religion except an initiate because its collective mind is clouded by its own judgments and preoccupation with perpetuating its own gains.

  3. Carlton Chase
    5 years ago

    I think that the appeal of Diarmuid O'Murchu among many Catholics comes from an inner hunger for writings and a sincere dialogue on theology and on practice that dogma 'by rote', that is stale, that has no sense of the exploration, that has, in past times, graced the works of saints and of doctors.

    In these times, there is a need for theology, for guides, for artists, that do not merely present some form of faith like some "big electric blanket", to quote Flannery O'Connor. The Church "is not an Elks club."

    She, and Henri Le Saux, and Teilhard de Chardin, and Thomas Merton, stood tall as guides and as explorers of faith in the middle of the last century, on the eve of the arrival of the Blessed John XXIII. They, along with many others, Dorothy Day, Edith Stein, Paul Claudel, and so forth, hewed a path through the forest of the Twentieth Century. They never abandoned the historical continuum of their Church. They relished their Latin traditions, and found in this sacred arena, great strength and inspiration.

    I think the Church now needs to be a good gardener. To find the rare orchids of today, and to tend to them. If they do not take a more committed sponsorship of scholarship and inquiry, thus grooming the guides for the faithful for this century, the Church will in this manner contribute to the temptations from such heresies.

  4. Michael Wood
    5 years ago

    240/12/09. Jordi Sole - well said and a timely defense in the face of shameless pack attack, by the so called Bishops commission of Spain. As if these busy bodies had nothing better to deal with in their institution.- "Let the bishops without sin throw the first stone'. O'murchu is the least of there problems, I say to bring it on. Stop arguing over pedantic issues and listen to the prophetic voice and gift he is giving the church in the day and age. God bless and sustain O'Murchu, he makes sense and resonates more with the untold multitudes, than those 'faceless heroes', hiding behind this desperate gang attack.- Michael Wood. Australia.

  5. Jordi Sole
    7 years ago

    I knew Father O'Murchu in 1996. I was fortunate: he was my novice master for an entire year. He always acknowledged that his works didn't intend to become part of the official Church theological doctrine. They were reflections, suggestions, essays based on his many readings and vast experience on the social psichology field. But mainly, his language is often poetical, metaphoric, open to different interpretations, and deeply rooted in the search for justice and peace. His language can be confusing for the Church, because he speaks to all peoples, whatever their faith is, even agnostic. Some don't like the idea of him being a catholic priest, but he trascends that in his books -he has the right to do so!-.

    In no way my faith was threatened, but became adult and rooted in honesty and common sense. I was enthusiastic about returning religious life to those who should drive it to the future: the religious men and women who lived IN THIS world and tried to make real Christ's Kingdom of God. I have a deep faith in people who honestly want the Church to evolve in authenticity towards a better world: integrating, not excluding, respecting , not rejecting, listening, not threatening. And, although speaking in new terms and concepts, sharing one same ideal. Does the Spanish Conference share this ideal?

    I am Spanish. I feel sad for the severe and humbleless attitude of the Spanish conference, which is not precisely the best one to judge the works of Father O'Murchu. Why is the faith of many Spanish people still based on fear, popular and semi-pagan traditions, and -sadly- politically influenced?
    Maybe when the Spanish Conference shows a more evangelical attitude in the media they control -not nurturing hatred between cultures and political options- and their doubtful financial investments, they will have the authority to speak fairly. Are they afraid that religious think by themselves? See what unites us, not what separates us.

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