BOOKS: "The Holy Longing" by Ronald Rolheiser

Have any of you good peoples read “The Holy Longing” by Ronald Rolheiser?

Are you familiar with the content and the author’s overall message?

I have some questions! Please respond if you know the book and I’ll post my questions.

Thanks and have a blessed day!

I wouldn’t read anything by him. I am pretty sure he has made it on the Vatican bad list.

Pretty sure? How could one find out?

The overall message of the book is beautiful, but…

I have some concerns over some parts that I have read in this book, specifically in section 3, and I need a strict Catholic interpretation/ perspective on the content. We are reading it as part of a spiritual growth class in our Diaconate formation program.

Should I submit to the “Ask An Apologist” forum?

Thanks for your reply!

Red flags are up! On the writings of Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

Went there…read that, thank you!


I have found Ronald Rolheiser’s works to be overall positive and insightful with psychological considerations, although some may find parts of it skirt the edges of orthodoxy. Its been a long time since I read the work, but perhaps I can jump in to your concern regarding an item in Ch 3.

Hmm when I went to confession last tuesday at st peters, reading this book was my penence. If its really that bad, and on
Vatican do no read list, I wonder why I was givin it to read. Kinda scary if its really on the do not read list.

Could someone help me with this? It has me kinda scared that I’ve read something I should never of read. If that be the case, I need to know so that I can attend another church.

Other than those two reviews, which, let’s face it are the opinions of 2 people, I can’t find anything else negative about him. “The Holy Longing” is part of the curriculum for certain courses given through St.Paul University school of Theology. Feel free to accept what he said, or not accept it but I don’t think you have to run for the hills.

Thank you, Phemie. You have let my mind rest a lot easier.

I think it would be best to stay away from controversial writings. The Church is rich with approved faith building literature.

Does the Vatican have a “do not read” list any more?

Surely you should follow the penance imposed by your parish priest and not the opinions of random people on the Internet. (Though I do know how nutty some Catholic priests can be.)


The book tells us how we are holy because Christ dwells within us and as a result, since he dwells in us, we are holy and we incarnate Christ for the world. I have no problem with this theme…


The author goes on to make some pretty dramatic statements and claims which seem to go against solid Catholic teaching and practices. The following is not taken out of context, the statements stand on their own as part of the whole chapter:

On forgiveness of sin…

“We can forgive each other’s sins; not we, but the power of Christ within us.”

“You can continue to love and forgive them and, insofar as they receive that love and forgiveness from you, they are receiving love and forgiveness from God.”

“If you are a member of the Body of Christ, when you forgive someone, he or she is forgiven; if you hold someone in love, he or she is held to the Body of Christ.”

“Hell is possible only when one has put oneself totally out of the range of love…actively rejected not so much explicit religious or moral teaching and practice as the sincere love of humanity.

"If a child or brother or a sister or a loved one of yours strays from the church in terms of faith practice and morality, as long as you continue to love that person, and hold him or her in union and forgiveness, he or she is touching “the hem of the garment”, is held to the Body of Christ, and is forgiven irrespective of his or her official external relationship to be church and Christian morality.”

“Your touch is Christ’s touch…. If someone close to you dies in a state which, externally at least, has her or him at odds ecclesially and morally with the visible church, your love and forgiveness will continue to bind that person to the Body of Christ and continue to forgive that individual, even after death.”

He even makes a statement that reconciliation is not absolutely necessary…

“We do not, at the most basic of all levels, need explicit confession to a priest to have our sins forgiven.”

Does this not give the reader the impression that all sins are forgiven and salvation is guaranteed without confession to a priest?

He doesn’t differentiate between venial and mortal sins in relating the above. He does go on to say that Catholics do practice reconciliation and that it is an important part of their faith.

Regarding our ability to anoint…

“Thus, any one of us who visits a sick or dying person, regardless of how inadequate and stuttering our words might be, anoints that person, just as a priest does in the sacrament of the sick… It anoints them for their impending death. The incarnation has given us incredible power.”

Does this anointing guarantee salvation? The author seems to imply so- especially in light of the statements regarding forgiveness of sins…

This book appears to be written for all Christians and it seems that the author wants to bridge his writing to be all inclusive and non-offensive which, is the problem I have with the book.

Are we to be Catholics, practicing the Catholic faith and traditions or not? Myself, I want to follow proper Catholic doctrine as closely as possible.

Thanks very much, folks. This book is being taught at our Adult Ed class at St John the Evangelist, Valdosta, Georgia, by a deacon. Because the deacon was a disciple of our former pastor and that pastor was ultra-liberal, I wanted to check on the book before attending the class. I searched in vain for a Catholic review of the book. All I found was an interview with Rolheiser at St Anthony Messenger website. His comments did indeed give me pause. I think, in this day of Hungover Hippies governing so much of the Church, it’s good to remember that although God is indeed Love, that does not mean that love is God. (Rolheiser, if you’d like to understand this distinction, read Deus Caritas Est.)

I believe I am a fairly “orthodox” Catholic. I spent the first 42 years of my life as a Baptist, then I had a supernatural conversion to belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I am happily Catholic now. I am also happy to say that the parish where I went through RCIA was orthodox. When I come in contact with an author I’ve never heard of before, and I know I never have heard of him or her on EWTN or from the reading list in RCIA, I know I need to do a little investigation (Catholic Answers website is good) before I read his or her content.

I think the best defense against heretical and otherwise unorthodox ideas is a thorough understanding (and practice) of our Catholic faith. Then, we can read whatever we choose with a discerning mind, and we can recognize ideas that are not Catholic and need to be thrown out.

Then the question becomes, why even read anything that has any ideas in it that aren’t Catholic? Again, I think that question has to be answered individually, on a “need to know” basis shall I say. I can think of times when an understanding of how “others” think might be good. But caution must be taken to keep our authentic Catholic faith. I personally have dealings with many Anglicans who read or listen to Richard Rolheiser and Richard Rohr and they LOVE both of them. Only after reading a little of both did I realize why. And I realized those two guys are not orthodox. It’s not hard to find information on the internet that can explain this. I did read some of their writing because I wanted to know what kind of ideas I was dealing with, so I could get the respect of my Anglican acquaintances.

Also, for those who are worried they might not have the best discernment, go to the so-called Vatican “bad-list.” Someone there has already done the reading and the thinking, so don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. I mean, as Catholics we believe we can rely on the Vatican in cases of faith and morals, especially when we have trouble discerning for ourselves. I mean, that’s why Jesus wanted ONE shepherd for the flock, right?

Blessings to everyone.

Two major thumbs down on this book.

Our diocesan paper carries Fr. Rohlheiser as a columnist. Ugh!!! Our diocese has been on the liberal side for quite some time (Tabernacle on separate altar and to the side, Eucharistic adoration not encouraged, etc.).

It’s interesting that so many on this thread declare Rolheiser “controversial” and on some proverbial Vatican hit list. I’m curious as to why he is controversial. I’m not interested in “I heard this or that…” Tell me exactly why you find him threatening?

It’s one thing not to appreciate a form of spirituality. We are blessed with many forms of spirituality in Roman Catholicism. It’s quite another to insinuate and point fingers offering no good reasons…

i read it and thought it was good. It’s a book about spirituality rather than one specifically about how “liberals” and cafeteria catholics are ruining the church. because of this, it’s bound to catch some heat around here.


Since you say you are curious, I assume you have not read this book. Please do so and let us know what you think.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit