Albert Nolan, OP, Prophetic Activist & Author, continued

I am recalling my encounter with my Dominican brother Albert Nolan on the occasion of my dismissal from the Order under pressure from Cardinal Ratzinger, a story I tell in my autobiography, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest.

Thoughts and Dreams of an Old Theologian, by Leonardo Boff, another prophetic theologian and priest who was silenced along with Matthew Fox.

In our one conversation together, he told me that the Vatican’s intention was to isolate me, that I should do whatever it takes to stay with a larger community.  The Episcopal decision made all the sense in the world.  Indeed, he was excited about that possibility!

This very much confirmed my own convictions, and at the same time it reminded me of a statement to me from Cardinal Arns when I had a private 45 minute meeting with him in Brazil and he said to me: “the future of the church is in ecumenism” 275f  Cardinal Arns was a holy and intelligent man who stood up against the military dictatorship of Brazil for years.  He also supported liberation theologians like Leonardo Boff for years against Vatican attacks.

Albert Nolan was deeply involved in ecumenical work among churches and other religions in his activism and in his writings.

Video segment from Reality Asserts Itself with Matthew Fox sharing about his experience being targeted by the Vatican. Originally posted to YouTube by The Real News Network.

Albert Nolan also taught me another and very blunt lesson born no doubt from his experience fighting apartheid and powers that be in South Africa for years.  He said that the reason for my marginalization by the American Dominicans was that “North Americans don’t know a goddamn thing about solidarity.”   

This was a lesson that is very much worth meditating on in the current crisis of fascism vs. democracy in America.  How schooled are we in solidarity?  (as opposed to power-over and patriarchal dynamics whether in religion or economics or politics?)  Is Individualism a more important value in America than solidarity?

Are we more schooled in competition and envy than in compassion?

Father Albert Nolan, OP. Unattributed photo from

Albert Nolan’s witness and actions as well as his writings tell us a lot of how we might be behaving at this perilous time for democracy in the United States.

Among his teachings are these:

Jesus set out to liberate Israel from Rome by persuading Israel to change.  Without a change of heart within Israel itself, liberation from imperialism of any kind would be impossible…. As Jesus saw it, the only way to be liberated from your enemies was to love your enemies, to do good to those who hate you, to pray for those who treat you badly (6:27-28).

This is not a matter of resigning oneself to Roman oppression; nor is it a matter of trying to kill them with kindness.  It is a matter of reaching down to the root cause of all oppression and domination: man’s lack of compassion….If the Jews continued to live off the world values of money, prestige, group solidarity and power, would the Roman oppression not be replaced by an equally loveless Jewish oppression?

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 275f., 438f.

See also, Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion

See Albert Nolan, Jesus before Christianity, pp. 92-95.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: A Scene in Johannesburg with poster of Nelson Mandela, a leader in the anti-apartheid movement, a struggle that Fr. Albert Nolan was involved in. Photo by Gregory Fullard on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Is it your experience that Americans are very weak when it comes to solidarity?  And that individualism reigns supreme for many?  And that “man’s lack of compassion” lies at the root cause of all oppression and domination?

Recommended Reading

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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8 thoughts on “Albert Nolan, OP, Prophetic Activist & Author, continued”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Yesterday you told us about the death of your Dominican brother, Albert Nolan, a how his book on Jesus and his example of justice making made you respect him. And also, how he was there to support you when the Vatican was against you, and you were soon to be expelled from the Dominicans. I wrote then as a United Christ minister on your behalf to the master general of your order: “Please give careful consideration to how this issue is handled–not only will Catholics be affected by your decision, but many Christians of other traditions as well as many non-Christians who have seen hope in his message.” But now as a Catholic myself, I’m surprised and pleased that you made it as long as you did! Nolan said that “the reason for my marginalization by the American Dominicans was that “North Americans don’t know a goddamn thing about solidarity.” So, you ask us how we are schooled in solidarity? Maybe in sports, and the military, but in most cases, Americans have a sense of rugged individualism. This idea about the issue of individualism and solidarity, is something we need to think about now, while the crisis in democracy is beginning to happen before our eyes. We need to put our heads together in solidarity to unite around the cause of the earth (Order of the Sacred Earth) and always keep in mind ‘man’s lack of compassion’ lies at the root cause of all oppression and domination?

  2. Avatar

    From outside the USA, I see the USA as a place of rampant individualism, of 300 million “I”s rather than “We”s.
    It as though people have made the proper (I think) statement of faith: “I believe” (which, while we may come to it through a community, we make of our own individual volition) – and then fail to step into the next place, that of the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer, as I see it, every reference to God is in the singular, every reference to humans in the plural. We make the statement of faith as individuals. We are then immediately connected to a family, a community, where we speak of “Our” Father, ask that “our” bread for the day be given to “us”, that the sins of all of “us” be forgiven as “we” forgive “them”, etc.
    It seems to me that the USA has not made that step from I to We, has remained stuck in individualism, of “me and Jesus” – and without that change, the USA can never fully be the light on the hill which it wants and claims to be. And without that, it will fail, it’s Constitution having reached its ‘best before’ date.

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    Mathew stated, that his journey wasn’t about getting the Catholic out of himself, as this was apart of his psychy, his soul; but rather his journey was about seeking the hidden truth and giving voice to this, through which he discovered the liberation theology of the Original Blessing; which leads one into healing the souls psychological wound we’ve inherited throughout the Catholic Church, due to St Augustine’s delusional teachings of original sin. Mathew’s seeking of this hidden truth and giving voice to this liberation theology of the Original Blessing, has not only helped me to understand my own souls journey, but this revelation has also assisted me in healing this collective soul wound within myself. It’s as if I have become set free, from the chains of false religion that bind, and I am now on the spiritual journey of reconciliation, restoration, rediscoverance, and redemption; reclaiming and resurrecting all the lost and hidden parts of my soul sense of self, that had been oppressed and suppressed, which are now being woven into a unified state of becoming and being made whole and oned with the Original Blessing, Beauty and Goodness… the true inheritance within my soul, as a Beloved creation, expression, reflection and manifestation; unfolding, evolving and emerging, in solidarity with the One Soul of the Great Mystery, the Great Spirit, God/Goddess… that I AM THAT I AM, IS, WAS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Today you write: “Mathew stated, that his journey wasn’t about getting the Catholic out of himself, as this was apart of his psychy, his soul; but rather his journey was about seeking the hidden truth and giving voice to this, through which he discovered the liberation theology of the Original Blessing…” and I might add, he also discovered “deep ecumenism,” panentheism and the Cosmic Christ and so much more. Matthew wasn’t trying to get the Catholic out of himself, but rather the Church was pushing him out because of the God of “Orthodoxy.” Matthew was teaching thing that were new to the Church and demanding that he only teach what was orthodox. He wasn’t allowed to be his kind of Catholic. You either believe ALL that the Church teaches–nothing more or nothing less–or else !!!

  4. Avatar

    Rugged individualism seems baked into some folks psyche however we currently see quite a bit of solidarity as the two political parties speak to their bases and fight for power. Greed and lack of compassion is evident on a daily basis . What now? The future is up to each of us .

  5. Avatar

    Matthew, I enjoyed your very open and honest interview on video in the enclosed DM about the circumstances around the patriarchal church hierarchy pressuring you for many years until finally they formally forced (‘fired’) you to leave the institutional patriarchal ‘catholic church.’ I loved the way you explained that you remained a true Christian (also in the ‘catholic’ universal tradition) by becoming an episcopal priest after discernment and wise counsel. By developing the tradition of Creation Spirituality, I and others feel that your prophetic, contemplative, and activist theology is deep ecumenism or universal interspiritualty, in which many spiritual people historically around the world, especially the mystics and Indigenous peoples, faithfully value the sacredness of Mother Earth, Justice, Truth, Compassion, the Divine Feminine, and our Living multidimensional co-Creation~Cosmos in Loving Diverse Oneness….

  6. Avatar
    Dr Celia Simpson

    Thank you Matthew for this meditation, rich on so many levels.
    I particularly like the example of the post-modern ritual using dance and spirit that young people in Sheffield developed. And as you say, dance is pre-modern. It is, I believe, and a deeply human way of belonging and finding harmony. It cuts across the layers of societal conditioning.
    Movement is for so many of us a liberating force, one that supports our embodiment and self-awareness. I’ve personally found such awareness, expression and growth in somatic awareness, 5 Rhythms dance, Authentic Movement, as well as circle dances from all over the world and modern ones, and Dances for Universal Peace which include mantras with the movements.
    With love

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