Thoughts on Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon?

For the last few years, I have been reading some of the material written by/ about Fr. John Hardon.

I understand he is considered very saintly in Detroit (although his sainthood cause seems unlikely to anywhere since he made a poor recommendation in a clergy sexual abuse case involving bad acts committed by another priest), and that he generally led a holy life and contributed much useful theology. I find his teachings on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and on Grace to be very edifying, although they are pretty complicated and hard to read.

I understand he was shunned by the Jesuits for strongly opposing the use of enneagrams as being “new age”. This seems to me like a ridiculous reason to shun someone; regardless of what one thinks of enneagrams, they aren’t essential for Catholics. But given that I have heard other stories from persons who were involved with the Jesuits in that part of the country at the time, it doesn’t surprise me, and it seems like there were a lot of very questionable things going on with both the Jesuits and seminaries in general back in that era as I have heard stories firsthand from men who were there at the time.

However, there are parts of his teachings that bug me a bit. He seems to have a real problem with Thomas Merton, and with some private revelations that are not yet officially approved (so I can’t discuss them here) but they came from other people on the path to sainthood and there is a reasonable belief that the person might be beatified. I imagine if I read more, I will run into more stuff this priest found objectionable.

Again, I understand perhaps his objections were a reaction against some of the rot he personally saw going on, other stuff could be labeled “one priest’s opinion”, and it doesn’t make him less holy as holy people are human and they have opinions which are sometimes fallible.
But just wondering about others’ thoughts on him.

I feel a bit odd praying for his sainthood and the sainthood of Merton and other candidates he disagreed with, in the same prayer session, but then again there have been bishops and theologians who vehemently disagreed on some matters, and still both of them ended up saints in the end.

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One bad call does not condemn a man. You can rest assured that every Deacon, every Priest, every Bishop and every Pope (and all of the laity) have made bad calls. As well we are not in possession of all the facts in that case, or the reasoning. The recent emphasis on one questionable decision may itself not be complete or accurate, and may reflect a certain agenda on the parts of the author(s).

Fr. Hardon is widely regarded as the greatest dogmatic theologian of the 20th century. He was asked by Pope Paul VI to write a catechism, and he did - as well as many other publications. He is 100% solid. Ever watch his vids on the 'Tube?


I’ve been reading through his book “Theology of Prayer” these past few weeks, and I love it. I also have his Catholic Catechism from the 70’s which is sort of a breath of fresh air at a time when catechesis wasn’t know to be strong and the universal Catechism hadn’t been written yet.

I guess I’m used to hearing theologians that are critical of Merton, so that doesn’t bother me personally. As you said, there have been disagreements among bishops and theologians in the past and both of them end up canonized. To me, it illustrates that holiness doesn’t mean you have to like and agree with everyone. :slight_smile:


" Before I had retrieved one-half of the heretical books, I had become the agent of orthodoxy and therefore the sworn enemy of the modernists, who were updating the Catholic faith to its modernist theology. I had doors slammed in my face. I lost friends whom I had considered believers…[this experience] taught me that the faith I had so casually learned could be preserved only by the price of a living martyrdom. This faith, I was to find out, is a precious treasure that cannot be preserved except at a heavy price. The price is nothing less than to confess what so many others either openly or covertly denied"

He sounds like a Saint to me.


In some quarters - especially within the Church - he was rejected nearly as much as the Lord He so loves. That alone is evidence of sanctity.

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The only reason I bring it up is that given what happened to Archbishop Sheen for (so far) much less, the Vatican is likely not going to rush to advance the cause of anyone with this on their record.
I personally see it as an understandable mistake given that all throughout society, all kinds of authorities including the courts, the police, the public schools etc made similar mistakes.

It’s perfectly plausible that his cause will advance 100 or 200 or 500 years from now, when people have more perspective, if Jesus hasn’t returned on a cloud by then. Most canonizations don’t happen very fast in any event. Sheen was an exception.

And yes, I have watched some of his videos. As I mentioned on the thread, I have been perusing his stuff off and on for a couple of years. Fr. Heilman is big on him, which doesn’t surprise me as Fr. Heilman is very traditional and has spoken of bad conditions in the seminaries when he was in formation.

In closing, I would add only that, IMO, it is far better to read him than to read about him. The horse’s mouth, so to speak. In our age, what is written of him may more closely resemble the opposite end of the animal.

I think my critical reasoning skills are good enough at my age to accept that someone is a human being and therefore is going to have some imperfections, and also to see when a source might be biased.
I apply the same standard to reading about Merton, with his well-known foibles.

I hope that you are not offended. Sometimes, my 2¢ is not even worth that. I should have made it clear that I was addressing lurkers more than you. My bad stems from the fact that I post much more frequently as of late on cancer forums, where I post with lurkers in mind.

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Controversy has followed him because he opposed certain issues within the Jesuit and wider community. He also gave a bad call about a Priest who was later convicted of sexual abuse.

He did a lot of work with Pope Paul during and after Vatican II and from watching him talk on youtube, has strict and firm adherence to Catholic teaching.
Thomas Merton gravitated towards the Eastern religions a bit in his later years. That put him in opposition to a few different sectors of the Catholic Community. Fr John Hardon does not put much faith in the revelations of the Marian movement of Priests either. He says, that perhaps the original Priest was having mystical experiences, but that notoriety interfered with the business. Fr John Hardon met him a few times and discussed the issue, as did Pope Paul.

Fr Hardon does object to a lot of the rot that went on, and discusses how it is due to misinterpretation and human running with a theme that might not be right.

Fr Hardon is not the first priest and won’t be the last to discuss Merton’s eastern influences, and they did know each.

I think all these great and wise men can teach us about the faith. AS one of them said, know Catholicism well , so that we can discern the truth.

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I think Fr John Hardon is a saint. I have learned so much from him. Cardinal Burke thinks that he lived the life of a martyr. I believe and trust Cardinal Burke.

No one says that a saint is right in every opinion he gives. Saints are not infallible. As Fr Hardon says, sanctity consists in giving up our will, and replacing it with the will of God. That is a very hard thing to do and that is why it takes a saint to do it.

I agree with him in his opinion regarding the later actions of Thomas Merton. Fr Hardon liked his initial writings but not what he got into later on. Just because a person is saintly during some part of their life, does not guarantee that they will be saintly till death. Origen and Tertullian are known examples. I read (saw) a lot about Thomas Merton and what I read was not good.

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