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.