Pope in 1989 - Eastern Religions are "Moral Deviations"
Posted April 14, 2005
Various News Sources
United Press International December 14, 1989, BC cycle
Copyright 1989 U.P.I.
VATICAN: CHANTING 'OMMMM' MAY CAUSE 'MORAL DEVIATIONS'
By Charles Ridley, Dateline: Vatican City
The Vatican, in a letter approved by Pope John Paul II, warned Christians Thursday against spiritual dangers deriving from Eastern methods of contemplative meditation used in yoga and Zen Buddhism.
It said the symbolism and body postures in such meditation ''can even become an idol and thus an obstacle to the raising up of the spirit of God.''
It warned that to give ''a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience'' to sensations of well-being from meditation can lead to ''a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.''
The warnings were contained in a 25-page paper, titled ''Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,'' issued by the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith with the full approval of the pope.
The letter analyzed the history and significance of Christian prayer and stressed the need to stick by its established methods.
''Many Christians today have a keen desire to learn how to experience a deeper and authentic prayer life despite the not inconsiderable difficulties which modern culture places in the way of the need for silence, recollection and meditation,'' the document said.
''The interest which in recent years has been awakened also among some Christians by forms of meditation associated with some Eastern religions and their particular methods of prayer is a significant sign of this need for spiritual recollection and a deep contact with the divine mystery,'' it said.
But while conceding Eastern methods of contemplative meditation have some benefit for those who practice it, the document warned against attaching too much importance to its symbolism.
''The Eastern masters themselves have noted that not everyone is equally suited to make use of this symbolism, since not everybody is able to pass from the material sign to the spiritual reality that is being sought,'' the letter to the bishops said.
''Understood in an inadequate and incorrect way, the symbolism can even become an idol, and thus an obstacle to the raising up of the spirit of God,'' it said.
''To live out in one's prayer the full awareness of one's body as a symbol is even more difficult: it can degenerate into a cult of the body and can lead surreptitiously to considering all body sensations as spiritual experiences.
Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1989
Copyright 1989 The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times
Part P; Page 2; Column 1; Late Final Desk
RELIGION: CATHOLICS WARNED ABOUT YOGA
From Times wire services, Dateline: Vatican City
The Vatican today cautioned Roman Catholics that such Eastern meditation practices as Zen and yoga can "degenerate into a cult of the body" that debases Christian prayer.
"The love of God, the sole object of Christian contemplation, is a reality which cannot be 'mastered' by any method or technique," said a document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The document, approved by Pope John Paul II and addressed to bishops, said attempts to combine Christian meditation with Eastern techniques were fraught with danger although they can have positive uses.
The 23-page document was believed to be the first effort by the Vatican to respond to the pull of Eastern religious practices.
Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1989
Copyright 1989 The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times
Part A; Page 22; Column 1; Foreign Desk
ZEN AND YOGA NO SUBSTITUTES FOR PRAYER, VATICAN SAYS;
Religion: Meditation as Physical Therapy Is Distinguished from Spiritual Enrichment
By William D. Montalbano, Times Staff Writer
Dateline: Vatican City
Urging Catholics to distinguish between spiritual form and substance, the Vatican warned Thursday against substituting Eastern methods of meditation such as Zen and yoga for Christian prayer.
In a 7,000-word letter to bishops approved by Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made a firm distinction between meditation as physical or psychic therapy, and spiritual enrichment.
"Prayer without faith becomes blind, faith without prayer disintegrates," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the congregation, said in presenting a document he said was intended not to condemn the meditative practices of other religions but to reaffirm guidelines for Christian prayer.
Ratzinger's congregation defends doctrinal orthodoxy, and its letter to 3,000 Roman Catholic bishops around the world was apparently written to answer complaints from some of them about the growing popularity of mixing Christian meditation with practices common to Hinduism and Buddhism. It apparently was the first time that the Vatican has issued a warning on this topic.
The letter declared that "the love of God, the sole object of Christian contemplation, is a reality which cannot be 'mastered' by any method or technique."
Like the Catholic church, other religions specify how to achieve "union with God in prayer," the letter noted. "Just as the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions, neither should these ways be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian. On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements, are never obscured."
Some Catholics, the letter noted, believe their prayer is enhanced by techniques borrowed from "various religions and cultures." It said, though, that such practices "can degenerate into a cult of the body and can lead surreptitiously to considering all bodily sensations as spiritual experiences."
Attempts to integrate Christian meditation with Eastern techniques that use breath control and prescribed postures like the lotus position can be successful, Ratzinger said, but they are "not free from dangers and errors," and may boomerang.
"Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience," the letter continued, "would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbances and, at times, to moral deviations."
Some forms of Eastern Christian meditation have "valued psychophysical symbolism, often absent in Western forms of prayer," the letter noted. "On the other hand, the Eastern masters themselves have also noted that not everyone is equally suited to make use of this symbolism, since not everybody is able to pass from the material sign to the spiritual reality that is being sought. Understood in an inadequate and incorrect way, the symbolism can even become an idol and, thus an obstacle to the raising up of the spirit to God," the letter asserted.
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (LONDON) November 25, 2001, Pg. 23
Copyright 2001 The Telegraph Group Limited
IS YOGA THE NEW RELIGION? After a vicar last week banned a class from his church hall, Jenny McCartney examines the attraction of toned muscles with a dash of spiritual serenity thrown in
By Jenny McCartney
The Reverend Richard Farr, the vicar of St Mary's church in Henham, took a decision last week that has made him the talk of the Essex village and beyond: he banned a 16-strong group of yoga enthusiasts from taking lessons in his church hall. Yoga was, he said, an un-Christian practice: "I accept that, for some people, it is simply an exercise. But it is also often a gateway into other spiritualities, including eastern mysticism."
Tom Newstead, the yoga instructor ... said: "What they have done is tunnel-visioned and I am staggered. Would Christ refuse me entrance to his house if I am teaching people how to eat properly, keep fit and free of disease?"
Mr Newstead, who used to be an alcoholic and a drug addict, said yoga had transformed his life: "If it wasn't for yoga I would probably not even be here." He intends to return to the church, to press his case for use of the hall. But Rev Farr - who says that he has received "hundreds of letters" of support for his stand - seems unlikely to budge, to the quiet dismay of some parishioners who were rather taken with the banned diversion. ...
Traditionalists within the Church argue that yoga is based on Hindu teaching and is, therefore, incompatible with Christianity: this is not the first time that it has been exiled from a church hall. Disquieted members of the clergy, however, may find it increasingly difficult to avoid the sight of their flock in the lotus position. ...
It may be the spiritual dimension of yoga, the way in which purists claim that it "takes over your life", that leads some churchmen to be wary. There is even, perhaps, a spark of envy in their condemnation: attendances at the established churches in Britain are falling, even as people flock to practices such as yoga with fresh enthusiasm. ...
Christianity offers a solution for the everlasting soul, but not the flabby, disintegrating body. ...
Serious teachers of yoga, however, argue that the philosophy is no threat to the Christian faith, and can actually enhance it. Simon Low, a director of the Triyoga centre in Primrose Hill, London, said: "There is nothing in yoga that suggests it should be practised as a religion: it is a science. Patanjali, whose sutras are the foundation of classical yoga, had a concept called isvara: it describes how the practice of yoga can take you closer to whatever your God or spirit is. If you are a Christian, it could bring you closer to a Christian God.
"I often read out a poem called The Shores of Silence in my class, which was written by Pope John Paul II. Every time I read it, I credit the Pope and I always get a host of people saying how much it helped them. Yoga teaching draws on a huge number of writings and poems from different religions: what they have in common is the fundamental human search for peace and love."
The San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 1993
Copyright 1993 the Chronicle Publishing Co.
Section: News; Pg. A1
A Smorgasbord of Spirituality
Baby boomers eschew name-brand religion to create new rituals
Series: Religion a La Carte / Spiritual Wandering in the West
By: Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer
Although the United States has always been a spiritual melting pot, the declining influence of mainline churches, along with the coming to power of the '60s generation, has made the nation's religious _expression more eclectic than ever.
Organized religion has responded to rising religious syncretism in two markedly different ways.
Some church leaders, especially those in fundamentalist and Pentecostal churches, have attacked this trend as at best selfish, at worst satanic.
Other churches have welcomed Buddhism, yoga and New Age spiritualities with open arms -- conducting workshops at Catholic retreat centers and in Episcopal cathedrals that are barely distinguishable from those offered at Esalen Institute and other ''growth movement'' spas.
Only last month, Pope John Paul II warned a group of U.S. bishops visiting him in Rome about the dangers of the New Age movement.
''This religious reawakening includes some very ambiguous elements which are incompatible with the Christian faith,'' the pope said. ''Their syncretistic and immanent outlook (tends to) relativize religious doctrine in favor of a vague world view expressed as a system of myths and symbols dressed in religious language.''
But the pope's warning may be falling upon deaf ears, particularly among baby boomers.
The Washington Post July 18, 2004
Copyright 2004 The Washington Post
Section: Outlook; B01
What Would Jesus Weigh?;
In the Church, the Body's Back in Vogue
By: Henry G. Brinton
Suddenly we have churches offering "Christian Yoga," which presents elements of the Hindu practice of hatha yoga in an intentionally Christ-centered setting. Others feature weight-loss classes ... and, yes, having sex.
While some of this is just a fad and a reflection of our weight-, diet- and sex-obsessed culture -- and thus an attractive way to expand church membership and sell books -- I believe it also reflects a very positive development in religious thought. After 2,000 years of being largely separated, spirit and body are finally coming back together.
Neither Jesus nor the Jews wanted this split to exist, but a group of Greek thinkers in the early church introduced a dualistic philosophy that had a negative view of the body and a positive view of the spirit. Later theologians developed this theme: Saint Augustine believed that the soul makes war with the body, and the Protestant reformer John Calvin saw earthly human existence as "a rottenness and a worm." But recently, theologians and religious scholars have rediscovered the value of the flesh. No less an authority than Pope John Paul II has given a series of strikingly positive talks on the theology of the body.
There's ample precedent for this. Jesus, like his Jewish colleagues, saw the flesh as a good gift of God, and he rejoiced in the pleasures of touch and taste and other bodily sensations. ...
The reunion of spirit and body carries with it the possibility of integrity -- that is, the bringing together of different parts into a unified whole. As human beings, we long to be complete and undivided, enjoying integrity as physical, emotional, intellectual, sexual and spiritual creatures. ...
... Integrity of body and spirit is healthy, but idolatry of the body is not. ...
National Public Radio (NPR) April 7, 2005
Copyright 2005 National Public Radio
Morning Edition 10:00 AM EST
Church in Europe to assess changing demographics of Catholicism
Anchors: Renee Montagne, Reporters: Sylvia Poggioli
Poggioli: ... I once asked a French bishop, `Where have all the Catholics gone?' And he told me they've become kind of like religious pagans, picking a little bit of Jesus, a little bit of yoga, a little bit of that. And you know, while churches in Europe are getting emptier and emptier, more and more makeshift mosques are cropping up as the influx of Muslim immigrants continues. ...