Oh Dear…

Fr John Dear

Fr John Dear


Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear…

Intrigued by what on earth a “prophet school” might be, I followed this link from Cathnews this morning. There we are told:

The PROPHET SCHOOL is a 12 month program beginning with a weekend in November 2009 and concludes with a second weekend in late 2010. Both weekend PROPHET SCHOOLS will be led by John Dear S.J. In between the two weekend PROPHET SCHOOLS, participants are expected to commit to developing their prophetic mission. You may choose to do this on your own or take advantage of resources and opportunities that the sponsoring group will provide. The 2009 PROPHET SCHOOL retreat is not a ‘stand alone’ event, it is the beginning of a 12 month journey for participants to embrace their call to be Christian Prophets for the 21st Century. This is a unique opportunity for the Adelaide church.

What a bizarre idea. (I note that the Adelaide Catholic Archdiocese is not among the “prophet school partners”.) A “school” for prophecy? I thought the only thing one required to be a prophet was a call from God and a generous dose of the Holy Spirit as confirmation and empowerment.

Do they not know the distinction between charismatic and institutional gifts? The priesthood, for eg., is an institutional gift. The Church calls and ordains. It takes seven years to prepare, and a lot of study.

No such qualification applies to being a prophet. However, the verification of the call is somewhat more difficult too – precisely because of the non-institutional nature of prophecy. Certainly not all are called to be prophets (1 Cor 12:29). A prophet is verified by what he speaks, not by having done some course or other. As Jeremiah said, the test is whether what they speak proves to be true (cf. Jeremiah 28).

And it is precisely on the basis of their message that future generations of Catholics will judge who and who are not the prophets of today. They may well hold Dom Helder Camara to be a “prophet”, even as many now recognise that Pope Paul VI was being “prophetic” when he wrote Humanae Vitae. But we will have to wait and see whether Fr John Dear earns that title of respect – or whether he goes the way of the Berigan brothers.

In the mean time, I am pretty certain that no amount of “schooling” would have made prophet out of Hananiah.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Oh Dear…

  1. matthias

    I agree Schutz that a prophet has tohave had “a call from God and a generous dose of the Holy Spirit as confirmation and empowerment. ” I look at Danny Nalliah-the retrospective prophet- who supposedly had a vision last year about being surrounded by fire and then he talked about it earlier this year-after black Saturday. If he was truly a prophet then he would have been given the prophetic urgency to have made the dream public. Look at isaiah ” Lord i am a man of unclean lips” .He recognised his inability to be a prophet yet God gave him the gift-not studied for by the Hand of the Living God.

  2. Oh dear, indeed!
    I will resist the temptation to indulge in ecclesiastical schadenfreude on this occasion, and instead note only that the distinction between institutional and charismatic gifts that you mention is one that I have always found very helpful when working through similar issues on the Lutheran side of the fence.

    • The joy of the matter is that the “Prophet School” has nothing to do with the Catholic Church except that it involves a prominent Catholic priest. And there are “Fr Dears” in every camp.

  3. PM

    Is there a touch in this of the megalomania Eammon Duffy detected in the ICEL ‘translation’ which expressed he wish (directed to no-one in particular) that we (repeat we) might bring about justice and peace in the world? I think I’d rather aspire to be a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.

  4. Tom

    What happened to Jesuit orthodoxy?