Brennan Manning?

I’m interested in a Catholic perspective of the well-known (at least in Protestant circles) writer and retreat director Brennan Manning. Several years ago, when I was considering becoming Catholic, I stumbled across his “Ragamuffin Gospel” and was profoundly moved by most of it. Although I was unable to put my finger on the source, I was also uncomfortable with some of the theology of grace and salvation illustrated therein. The error, as I identified it then, was the proclamation that God’s love and forgiveness was so unconditional that I could accept it without changing my life.

Protestants are quite divided over him–the critics either scapegoat him for his "Catholic-tainted spirituality (he was formerly a Franciscan priest, although he’s quite happy to Catholic-bash on occasion now) while others are furious over his view of salvation. Others, like myself originally, were absolutely floored by the book’s message of God’s unconditional love towards us (We don’t hear enough of that pure, “good news” today, I think.) However, I can’t find a coherent Catholic review of the guy.

So–how’s a Catholic to look at Manning? I’d like responses from those of you who have actually read the book. Is there a way to retain from his writings that message of God’s love and mercy while pointing out the faulty theology? Although I am now happily Catholic, the fact that he’s not doesn’t decided the issue for me at all; I’d like to glean what is true (Catholic) from any source. At the same time, I’d like help in identifying why he seems to be wrong on certain theological points. Yes–God’s love is unconditional and undeserved, but we are called to cooperate in our salvation, no?

Thanks!

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:confused: I’m posting this question of Brennan Manning again with the hopes that someone can help me out! Has no one heard of him? I hear references to him frequently, but not in a Catholic context; hence the question…

Thanks for any replies.

Haven’t heard of this guy. It’s not uncommon to hear teachings from “former” Catholic priests that contradict Catholic teachings. Just look at the early history of the Catholic Church. You will find priest like Arius (author of Arian heresy) and even bishop Nestorius (author of Nestorian heresy)! And the list goes on and on down the centuries. Whew, even Martin Luther was an Augustinian priest!

That’s why you will hear from a certain pope (forgot his name) who told Napoleon Bonaparte that there are priests who tried to destroy the Catholic Church for centuries but they can’t, so neither can he. And to add: Satan had been trying his very best for 2000 years now to destroy the Catholic Church but he can’t–and can never ever for eternity, so neither can any man nor any other religion destroy the Catholic Church.

Pio

I started to read Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” when I found out that it had a deep effect on one of my favorite Christian singers, Rich Mullins (who was in the process of converting to Catholicism when he was killed in a motorcycle accident).

I was quickly turned off when I found that Manning turned out to be an ex-Catholic with an apparent az to grind against the Church. The jabs at the Church were subtle, yet palpable, and as you mentioned, his soteriolgy was overly simplistic.

If you are looking for an inspiring treatment of God’s mercy and unconditional love, you need go no further that St. Faustina’s book, “Divine Mercy in the Soul” and the devotions that come out of this, especially the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

You’re right, Fidelis; thanks. I’m a big Rich Mullins fan and love the Divine Mercy Chaplet!

[quote=Fidelis]I started to read Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” when I found out that it had a deep effect on one of my favorite Christian singers, Rich Mullins (who was in the process of converting to Catholicism when he was killed in a motorcycle accident)…
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[/quote]

i think it was a jeep accident (it rolled over and rich was caught under the bar), but i could be wrong. anyway…

i too have noticed his subtle attacks at the church (his attacks on ceremony, rituals and the like), but i think his point is that if you don’t have the simple faith (faith like a child Jesus commanded us to have) then all the rituals and ceremonies mean nothing (the church teaches this also, without faith, there is no grace, but faith with works is what justifies us). while i don’t agree with everything he says, and i have heard him speak a few times and not heard anything “anti-catholic” (some one can disagree with catholicism and not be anti-catholic :slight_smile: ) i think that he does share some truth. truth can be found in some very obscure places, but that doesn’t make it any less true. he is a decent writer and a good speaker and i would encourage anyone who knows their faith to not steer away because you think he might be anti-catholic. you might learn something (of course you might learn of another argument that you need to defend your faith against, but that is not a bad thing to learn either).

One of my best friends produced a biographical documentary on Brennan Manning, during the course of which he had the opportunity to spend time with Manning. Contrary to the previous posts, Brennan Manning is still Catholic. It’s true that he is an ex-priest, but he is not an ex-Catholic nor an anti-Catholic. If being a little critical of the Church here and there makes one an anti-Catholic then the great majority of Catholics would be anti-Catholics.

Because it is a substantial accusation, we should be careful with the term “anti-Catholic.” People who oppose the Church and what she claims to be true for doctrinal reasons are anti-Catholics. Using “anti-Catholic” to describe anything or anyone who is not explicitly pro-Catholic will, in time, render the term meaningless. It also runs the risk of contributing to a siege mentality that rushes to label all non-Catholics anti-Catholics and this would undermine legitimate ecumenical efforts between Catholics and those from other churches and ecclesiastical communities.

  • JP

[quote=j_arden]One of my best friends produced a biographical documentary on Brennan Manning, during the course of which he had the opportunity to spend time with Manning. Contrary to the previous posts, Brennan Manning is still Catholic. It’s true that he is an ex-priest, but he is not an ex-Catholic nor an anti-Catholic. If being a little critical of the Church here and there makes one an anti-Catholic then the great majority of Catholics would be anti-Catholics.

Because it is a substantial accusation, we should be careful with the term “anti-Catholic.” People who oppose the Church and what she claims to be true for doctrinal reasons are anti-Catholics. Using “anti-Catholic” to describe anything or anyone who is not explicitly pro-Catholic will, in time, render the term meaningless. It also runs the risk of contributing to a siege mentality that rushes to label all non-Catholics anti-Catholics and this would undermine legitimate ecumenical efforts between Catholics and those from other churches and ecclesiastical communities.

  • JP
    [/quote]

Methinks you protest too much. No one that I can see has referrred to Manning as an anti-Catholic. The most anyone has said is that his material contains subtle jabs at Catholilc teaching. While he no doubt has many worthy insights, why spend time reading or listening to someone who feels compelled to express himself in this manner when there is so much good Catholic material available? My impression of Manning is that he not such a unique speaker or writer that by not listening to him or reading his books, a Catholic would be especially spiritually impoverished as a result.

fidelis et al -

My apologies for overreacting. I see that I did misread the posts. I think I let the late hour and my frustration with the misuse of the term “anti-Catholic” in a couple other threads I read through get the best of me.

Also, I wasn’t recommending Manning’s work. I too am not particularly taken with it. In fact, I’m not particularly taken with any writers who are mass marketed to Evangelicals.

  • JP

I wouldn’t say that Manning believes that one ought not to change one’s life (else he’d still be an alcoholic, no?).

Also, I believe that he has a profound reverence for much liturgy and so forth, have you read of his first experience with God during the Stations of the Cross?

Arden, many evangelicals have significant problems with him or haven’t heard of him, mass marketed or not :stuck_out_tongue:

Well if his book attacks the Church than I shan’t be reading it. Tis garbage, so it should go in the garbage.

Personally, I don’t see anything that I could label an attack. His philosophy seems to encompass unity rather than division, and he’d never denounce the Church itself, from what I know of him.

Many years ago, I flirted with what’s now called the Emergent movement and I read many of Manning’s writings. He’s a flaming heretic and I regret having passed those books onto other people. I should have just tossed them.

Why do you say “heretic?”

I just bought this book as it was recommended to me by a friend.

I’m only in the beginning and from what I see, it’s overall a good message. Yeah, he has some discontents with Catholicism’s presentation of things, but he doesn’t disagree with how Catholicism views grace or God.

I think we should be able to read intelligently and merely glean from the book his main point that the Good News is “good” because it’s for everyone and not to get so discouraged in a culture that says you have to earn everything, including love.

I don’t think Brennan Manning is a heretic either. After reading Abba’s Child, I have decided that I want a more intimate relationship with Jesus back when I accepted Him almost 10 years ago. Reading his book and hopefully Henry Nouwen and Mike Yaconelli in the future, maybe I will decide to join the Orthodox or even Catholic church.

I come from the Protestant Foursquare church.

Brennan Manning is very controversial. I don’t think he would call himself a Catholic except in a very general sense that being Christian makes you catholic (or part of a universal religion). He fits right in with those types who think it’s o.k. for non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic church. I’m thinking of Fr. Richard Rohr and the author Ian Morgan Cron. In fact, on the back of Cron’s book Chasing Francis both Rohr and Manning give their endorsements of the book. In Cron’s book, the main character, a burned-out protestant minister, spends time with some goofy Franciscan monks who encourage him to take communion at mass, even though he’s not Catholic. Neither does the character, “Chase”, make a profession of faith as a Catholic nor make any step toward submission to the Magisterium or the Holy Father. (As an aside, Cron doesn’t want to admit in his book that St. Francis was loyal to the magisterium.)

After reading a couple of Brennan Manning’s books, I think he would sound a lot like the main character in Cron’s book who might say that God loves us unconditionally therefore, personal holiness, and sacrifice is unnecessary, and by extension, a firm purpose of amendment is unnecessary. Those who admire Brennan usually do so because of his perceived “brokenness,” although the brokenness doesn’t seem to create true change in him, in fact, his brokenness seems to be a badge of honor (or pride?) in some evangelical circles. (There is also the dynamic of the priestly “mystique.” Protestants who like Brennan think it’s cool he was a former Franciscan priest.)

However, other evangelicals seem to think he is leading people straight to hell, for one of two reasons: either they are anti-catholic themselves and because of their own ignorance they see Brennan as a faithful Catholic no matter what, and Catholics are always suspect, or they think he is simply not preaching the gospel faithfully, (that is, not telling the whole story).

It is true that he was once a Franciscan priest. I don’t know the circumstances of his leaving the preisthood. It is also true that he was married for some time, but is not married now. The circumstances of his marriage are unknown to me too. I used to hang out with people who believed like Brennan, in fact, I myself read his books with relish for a time. Now, I’m Catholic and I realize that although God does in fact love everyone, we do have a responsibility to cooperate with him to grow in holiness if we want to live with God eternally in heaven. Salvation is free, but it’s not automatic, even though that’s the way people like Rohr, Cron and Brennan would have it.

As far as the fruit of his ministry, please don’t be deceived. Satan loves to present lies as partial truth. If you can get the whole truth from orthodox Catholic sources, then that would be the best course to take, in my opinion.

I just came home from a parish mission where the priest quoted one of Brennan Manning’s stories from one of his books. None of the cradle Catholics knew who he was, but, as a convert, I did. The first thought in my head was, “Why does that darned man follow me around! I can’t get away from him!” I thought I’d gotten away from him when I became Catholic. Now, I’m gonna have to have a polite conversation with the priest about his understanding of Brennan’s teaching. It will be interesting to hear the priest’s reply. Pray for me, and for the priest.

He is a well known writer and had profound impact on people like Rich Mullins (who was attracted to Franciscan theology). Mannings Franciscan thelogy comes through in his writings as does his questioning the status quo. In that sense he is a thought provoking writer.

I sense his liturgical/Catholic background in his works. I have a few of his books and have found some of them very moving and they have helped to deepen my spirituality.

The axe to grind many Protestants would have is the lack of depth in terms of biblical theology (systematic). It can veer too much towards what we today might consider emergent church stuff (which does not have a solid biblical foundation). Frankly, one could say the same about a number of Catholic spiritual writers of the past but then that genre often is about a more mystical experience of God than the typical Protestant emphasis on spirituality heavily informed by an intellectual (academic) understanding of scripture. In other words Dr. John MacArthur is probably not lining up to by Brennan Mannings books.

Jebeau,

Thanks for making me hate myself because I like to read anything by Brennan Manning and want a deeper relationship with God -

You’re a stupid F.U.C.K.!

I do know Peyton Manning but he’s gone into seclusion and a deep depression over not getting coronated :smiley:

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