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Can I Trust the Writings of Fr Anthony de Mello?

Can I Trust the Writings of Fr Anthony de Mello?

Who is Fr Anthony de Mello and can we trust his spiritual writings to lead us to a deeper union with Christ? Dan and Melissa discuss the problems with Fr de Mello’s influential spiritual guidance and the Catholic Church’s position on non-Christian teachings.DivineIntimacyRadioWithDan&Melissa

Topics/Questions covered in the show:

  • Melissa’s experience of spiritual consolation at Mass, and the importance of properly orienting our hearts to God before entering into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
  • Who is Fr Anthony de Mello and why are his writings on spirituality problematic in the Catholic Church?
  • A warning issued by the Vatican regarding Fr de Mello’s writings as “incompatible with the Catholic Faith and can cause grave harm”.
  • The Catholic Church document, Nostra Aetatae – Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, on handling truth found in non-Christian religions as “a reflection of a ray of truth”.
  • No one can be saved outside of the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  (John 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.”)
  • The misleading teachings that led Fr de Mello down the wrongful path of questioning fundamental truths of the Catholic Church.


  • EWTN Religious Catalogue – online
  • Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation
  • EWTN Global Catholic Radio
  • Divine Intimacy – Book of daily devotions by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen
  • Spiritual dictionary terms used in this show from Dan’s book Navigating the Interior Life (click on the term to see the definition):
  • posts on Fr de Mello:
  • Notification Concerning the Writings of Father Anthony de Mello, SJ – from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Nostra Aetate – Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Paragraph 2: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”
  • John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.” – USCCB Bible link
  • Romans 1:20-21 – “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.” [The witness of creation is sufficient for someone to recognize the one true God.] – USCCB Bible link
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay’, but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” – USCCB Bible link
  • Apophaticism or apophatic theology — Orthodox Wiki link
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 – “May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – USCCB Bible link
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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Rafael

    Dan, the man! Thanks to you and Melissa for this great podcast! This topic continues to be a necessary healing for me (as I had previously posted on Part II). One of the expressions I heard that impacted me tremendously when I reverted to the Catholic faith was: “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” In a nut-shell, during my first round at Catholicism in the 70’s- 90’s, I had been exposed to de Mello’s writings and videos, became a HUGE de Mello disciple, and eventually left the faith. Part of the reason – I feel – was that de Mello was saying certain things that were true, that our Catholic faith recognizes as truth (like you and Melissa mentioned in the podcast). However, in accepting those kernels of truth, the danger (and temptation) is to then accept other things that are NOT true. And that’s what de Mello did. Like you Dan, I, too, had a spiritual director who was Jesuit. My spiritual director told me about an encounter he had with de Mello in St. Loius while on retreat back in the 80’s or 90’s, where he confronted de Mello and told him that what he was doing was “dangerous.” This, of course, was before Cardinal Ratzinger had written the warnings on Fr. De Mello. I came to hear about this encounter with de Mello from my spiritual director upon my return to the faith and before my spiritual director passed away. I truly thank God for that. And I thank God for giving me the prompting to ask my spiritual director about de Mello because I would probably had never heard about that encounter if not for that prompting by the Holy Spirit.

  • Rafael

    Thanks to you two, I’m happy to say that I NOW have a new expression to add to my list and collection of impacting expressions: “Reflection of the ray.” So powerful! Because the reflection of the ray IS NOT the ray itself. And that so appropriately fits here with regards to truth. We have the fullness of the TRUTH: everything else may have a reflection of the TRUTH, but not the whole truth.
    Thankfully, I got to witness the RAY last Friday at Mother Angelica’s funeral while outside at the piazza of the Shire (I can’t believe a week has already passed since the mass). My family and I made the trek from Miami to the Shire to pay our respects to this soon-to-be-saint (hopefully). At the conclusion of the funeral mass, they brought her body outside of the Shrine in procession to the center of the piazza. As you recall, it had been raining and cloudy all morning. So, at the conclusion of the prayer outside, they started the procession back in to the Shire. And while that was occurring, the sun peaked out of the clouds for about 2-3 minutes, and then hid away – never to be seen the rest of the day! For the briefest of moments, that RAY of sunshine shone on all of us, as if to give us that assurance of Mother’s eternal rest with Him.

  • Suzette Vallieres

    I am taking a class in prayer and spirituality at St. Paul the 6th Institute. We have just learned about this in class. There are many in the church who think differently and are bringing in great suffering to our fold. I will quote our notes here….The ever more frequent contact with other religions and with their faithful to ask themselves what value non-Christian forms of meditation might have for Christians. Above all Eastern methods. Some people today turn to these methods for therapeutic reasons. The spiritual restlessness arising from a life subjected to the driving pace of technologically advanced society also brings a certain number of Christians to seek in these methods of prayer a path of interior peace and psychic balance. The psychological aspect is not dealt with in the present letter, which instead emphasizes the theological and spiritual implications of the question. I highly disagree with this seeking in other religions…What are we doing? I used to work with the mentally ill and so often it started with a turning away from Jesus and seeking and being led astray to other forms of paganism. The person would end up mentally ill and suffering terribly for having left the protection of Jesus. I am so worried that one girl in the class spoke of them doing Yoga in church as a Lenten practice…and told of a young man who wrote a paper trying to understand the difference in the way Hindu’s look at G-d and Christians and became lost and unable to tell the difference…just horrible

    • Rafael

      Yes, Suzette! I, too, work in mental health and have often seen this pattern. Worse, I believe, is the profession of mental health itself, offering alternative solutions (in the form of therapy, for instance) that don’t include Jesus. It’s almost like “ABC”: Anything But Christ. The DSM is a very political body of “science,” often times defining diagnoses that are actually rooted in sinful behavior (i.e. “Gender Identity Disorder”). And the proposed Christian solutions (i.e. Reparative Therapy) are actually being punished by law if a practitioner implements them therapy it into his/her practice. In fact, it is already illegal in certain states to utilize Reparative Therapy. Another criticism of the modern and current state of mental health practice in the US is that many patients in mental health get on meds and don’t receive therapy – not a good solution because it keeps them dependent on meds and ultimately doesn’t encourage them to seek God. One of the kernels of truth that de Mello DID say was that medication only treated the “symptoms of the problem” and that “most people don’t want to get out of the problem, they only want relief.” I will admit that de Mello did inspire me to enter the mental health profession because of his unique blend – at the time – of psychology, religion, spirituality, etc… And for that I am grateful.

      • LizEst

        There are some therapists that are making a difference. Check out this site:

        • Rafael

          Oh, yes, thank you! I’m very familiar with the web-site. As a Catholic practitioner, this is great. If a secular person attempts to use it, however, they may encounter some problems. And if these ideas are proposed in the secular wing of the profession, they may get shunned or rejected (like Reparative Therapy) because they do not “conform” with the other non-religious therapies. For a Catholic therapist, this web-site is a phenomenal place for Catholic therapists to gather and provide support for one another.

          • LizEst

            Glad to know you are familiar with it. Not sure what you mean by “if a secular person attempts to use it, however, they may encounter some problems.” Would you please clarify this? Thanks, Rafael.

          • Rafael

            Sure (sorry for the delay). What I mean is that if a practitioner who is not Catholic simply proposes these things to a non-Catholic group of practitioners, for instance, they may be shunned or rejected. For example, let’s say a secular therapist goes to the Catholic therapist web-site you sited; sees something that makes sense to them, like Reperative Therapy; utilizes it (because it’s based on common sense and natural law); has some success with it; and then shares it with other non-Catholic therapists, who in turn begin to shun him/her for merely saying the truth. In other words, the secular community already has their bias towards religion. So, anything remotely close to that orientation, is already met with skepticism – unfortunately. The secular community claims to be “open-minded,” yet they are very closed when it comes to anything Christian.

          • LizEst

            So true! I kind of thought that’s what you were saying…but didn’t want assume such. Thanks for clarifying it for me…and also for others. God bless you, Rafael!

          • Rafael

            Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to clarify. It allows me to think of a better way to make the point.

          • LizEst

            You’re quite welcome, Rafael. To God, from whom all good things come, be the glory!

    • marybernadette

      Thank you Suzette
      for sharing this. I hear the words of the Lord ‘My people perish for lack of knowledge. ‘
      The introducing of ‘pagan religions’ has come into every part of our lives ; mental, emotional and spiritual. ‘ people, including many Christians, are being ‘deceived’ and referring to the document, warning of the dangers of so-called ‘new-age’ therapies I.e.
      ‘JESUS CHRIST THE WATER BEARER OF LIFE.’ people are wandering into superstition, practicing ‘all kinds’ of paganism.’ I believe the Lord warns of this in the Book of ‘Deuteronomy and Leviticus. ‘ I know because I went for therapy years ago for a severe mental illness and was harmed.
      Thanks to my Wonderful Lord Jesus Christ I was rescued from the ‘snare of the fowler.’ The Lord made it plain that I was not to blame the therapists because of their ‘ignorance.’ I now am moved by the Holy Spirit to warn people with firmness but, in love.’ Today I tell people it’s important to go to a Catholic Therapist who is mature in the Faith as it’s difficult to go to therapy that is not influenced by ‘paganism.’

  • Ginnie Robertson

    Can you trust the teaching of Fr. Anthony de Mello. The answer is no. The why not is here.

  • olhg1

    For crying out loud, if anyone believes all that the Roman Catholic Church teaches about Dogma and Morals-the majority of which is in the CCC-goes to the Sacrifice of Jesus, and consumes Him; complies with, and performs the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, and maintains this lifestyle until death, does it matter if the “feeling”-not the “loving feeling” no longer exists? IMO, some of us do not have to be “hyped” all the time.

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