NEW WEBSITE: www.ephesians-511.net MAY 5, 2004
A Letter to the Vatican
Subject: ‘New Age’ in the Catholic Church in India
This letter is in connection with the 3rd February 2003 Vatican Document, “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of
Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age'”. I wish to bring to your notice the following:
To the best of my knowledge, the referred Document has not been written about, commented upon or explained to the laity by any of the Indian Bishops even up to a year after its release. This is despite the fact that the secular press, when reporting on the release of this Document, quoted Pope John Paul II as saying that the New Age Movement [NAM] is “one of the greatest threats to Christianity in the third millennium”.
For that matter, Indian Catholics are ignorant of the 15th October 1989 Document, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic
Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” which warns of the spiritual dangers involved in the practice of such Eastern meditations as Transcendental Meditation, Zen and Yoga.
Indian Bishops, who are the official teachers of the Church, have actually written the Forewords for books authored by priests on the very subjects that have been classified by the Document as New Age.
We now have Indian Bishops who have practiced yoga therapy and certain Eastern meditations.
I have written well-researched, detailed analyses on the following serious issues and I have sent them to the concerned Commissions of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India [CBCI] as well as to over half [around 75] of our Bishops, especially those who govern the major dioceses of this country.
Only two Bishops acknowledged receipt of my reports using their official letterheads. Another wrote a personal letter, and one telephoned me.
Every one of these 75 Bishops, even those who have not cared to respond to my letters, has received several follow up communications from me, and a total in weight of from one-half to over a kilogram of my researched reports.
The great majority of priests who I have met could not be less aware or less interested in the New Age Movement. The only priests who have shown awareness of the NAM or concern about its infiltration in the Church are those involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal [CCR].
Consequently, it is these few priests in the CCR who are exposing the dangers of the NAM in the context of the Vatican Documents, and standing for authentic Catholic teaching.
But the fifth columnists in the Church, who maintain that the Document on the NAM is not after all a serious Document but simply a ‘Provisional Report’, scoff at, ridicule and persecute those of their fellow-priests who are proponents of genuine Catholic orthodoxy in the context of the Document, and label them as fundamentalists.
Catholic clergy who unabashedly propagate New Age in their parishes and institutions [and in some Dioceses with the approval of the Bishop] assume [rightly?] that any layperson who objects must be one of ‘those charismatics’.
[I see the CCR in India as the only bulwark against New Age expansionism within the Church].
The reason is not far to seek. One has only to examine the curriculum followed by our seminarians in most houses of formation in India, and the worldviews of their teachers. I have attended the classes of some of these liberal theologians and I have seen and heard for myself that much of their teachings are neither Biblical nor Christian, and sometimes anti-Catholic if it all Christian.
Novices are exposed from their earliest days in the seminary to New Age beliefs and practices. I personally know young men who exited both the seminary and the Church in disgust, one [a convert from Hinduism] who left to look into the possibility of ministry as a layperson, and another whose ordination was deferred for refusing to obey/accept the erroneous instructions/teachings of his religious superiors.
THE CATHOLIC PRESS
In April 2003, I prepared a four-page summary of this Document and sent it to several leading Catholic periodicals. It was accepted for publication by just one of them, ‘The Examiner’, the Archdiocesan weekly of Mumbai.
Later, CHARISINDIA, the monthly publication of the Charismatic Renewal Services in India featured an article, again authored by a layperson, explaining the Document.
Pauline Publications printed a limited edition of the Document and it appeared in a few of their shops. It is now not available in most cities. However, if one would like to buy New Age books, including those of world-famous New Agers like Deepak Chopra and Jose Silva, they are always available at St. Pauls bookstores.
I have published a list of a few hundred such titles which includes books on Jungian philosophy, Alternative Medicine, Enneagrams, Feng Shui, Yoga, Reincarnation etc., all of which are declared in the referred Documents as occult / New Age. St. Pauls/Better Yourself Books not only sell but print and publish dozens of books, most of which are written by priests, on the very issues that are the subject of warning in the said Vatican Documents.
[This list has been circulated to St. Pauls bookstores across the country, to the Bishops and to hundreds of laypersons in ministry in the Church. I have done the same in connection with the other issues following].
The same can be said of other Catholic publications in India. In over a decade, I have never been able to locate even one single authoritative Catholic book against the ‘New Age’ from any Catholic bookshop, whereas I have purchased from these very shops a large number of works written by Catholic priests to enable me to study the ‘New Age’ errors that they are propagating in the Church. And, of course, several titles that rightfully belong in the New Age or Astrology or Occult section of a secular bookstore, for my research purposes.
The few Catholic books that are in my library are courtesy of friends who have visited the United States or Europe. On the other hand Protestant bookstores in India have provided me with a few hundred titles that expose the New Age Movement, oriental meditations, Alternative Medicine and the esoteric, and which have been invaluable in the development of my ministry against the ‘New Age’, which is explained in the acronym of my letterhead above.
Popular Catholic magazines, TEENAGER for example, carry articles that would do a New Age publication proud. The Jesuit monthly JIVAN and a national Catholic fortnightly are examples of periodicals that have featured interviews and write-ups which are New Age in content and contradict Church teaching.
One prominent national Catholic weekly ignores contributions [letters or features] from Catholics who write as I do here, the plain truth about the worsening situation in the Indian Church, for reasons best known to them.
OUR NUNS AND THEIR HOLISTIC HEALTH CENTRES
Over 4 years ago I have submitted to the CBCI and to individual Bishops a detailed report on the occult and New Age philosophies and practices that Catholic religious and laity are being indoctrinated and equipped with at these centres, offered professionally in retreat format round the year in the guise of low-cost holistic healing, and with particular reference to the centres at Chennai and Pune [run by ICM/MMS nuns] which are supported by their religious congregations, CBCI funding and some Bishops.
They continue to function as effectively as before despite the severe cautions of the recent Document against Alternative Therapies and Holistic Health and my repeated letters to the Bishops of the concerned dioceses.
Two years later I prepared another in-depth forty-page report* on the latest occult therapy promoted from Nagercoil/ Kottar Diocese by an ICM nun on behalf of a Vietnamese Master [who possesses a wooden doll that ‘grows’].
Its New Age and overtly anti-Christian [and I can confidently say satanic] philosophies were propagated by her from her stall at the Tenth World Health Day of the Sick celebrations held at Vailankanni in Feb. 2002.
Using the public address [PA] system, I drew the attention of the many Bishops of India gathered there, the Pro Nuncio and the Papal Delegate to the Celebrations to that as well as other occult/New Age goings-on [see below] at the venue, which is also a Catholic Basilica. In reply to me, Fr. Lisbert D’Souza, Jesuit Provincial told the thousands of delegates that it was a matter of discernment, which all mature individuals should be capable of making.
The photograph-supported report has reached the CBCI and all concerned Bishops with no response. Meanwhile the movement promoted by the nun has contaminated thousands of Catholics, mostly nuns. And also a few priests.
The number of nuns programmed in New Age practices is rapidly growing, and they defend the correctness of their positions because many have received their training from priests, and the laity adopt these practices in the conviction that all these learned priests and nuns surely cannot be wrong.
These nuns transfer their acquired New Age ideologies and practices every year to thousands of innocent Catholic children in our educational institutions, more and more of whose premises and facilities are being used to promote New Age activities that are diametrically opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The logo of one such centre is the yin-yang symbol, which the Document classifies as occult/New Age.
The head of the Pranic Healing Foundation of [the predominantly Catholic State of] Kerala is a nun.
*All reports are thoroughly researched and well documented, and based on printed and published evidence.
THE SISTER-DOCTORS FORUM OF INDIA [SDFI]
This organization of highly qualified Catholic nuns who are also eminent medical doctors advertised their mission and goals through charts and posters at the Vailankanni event.
They gave no indication that they were dedicated to practicing allopathic medicine. Instead they propagated Aids prevention through the use of condoms, healing with Universal Life Force Energy, and New Age Alternative Therapies like Pranic Healing and Reiki. I have submitted a photo-report on this too to the Bishops and the CBCI.
THE CONFERENCE OF RELIGIOUS, INDIA [CRI]
Some of its office-bearers are known to favour New Age Alternative Medicine and a syncretistic brand of Christianity. One of them is closely associated with the top echelon of the Pranic Healing Foundation in India and abroad and is herself a proficient pranic healer.
TWO DANGEROUS ORGANIZATIONS
There are two Trojan horses within the Catholic Church in India.
One, a powerful organization, headed by priests and started with CBCI support, is today an authority unto itself and corrupts the Church through its presence in over 3000 Catholic member organizations in the medicare sector.
The other, founded by a well-meaning layman [whose wife has since left him], has slowly secured the recognition and support of the CBCI and several Bishops while assimilating New Age ideologies and a brand of Indian syncretism, both of which combine to form a new religion which is inimical to Catholicism and the Bible, but which is being injected into the Church of the future in and through our educational institutions:
THE CATHOLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF INDIA [CHAI]
It is also over 4 years since I completed my research and submitted to the CBCI and individual Bishops my reports on the anti-Christian activities of this organization and the Alternative Therapies promoted by them through their ‘Health Action’ magazine, a monthly that reaches Bishops’ houses, parish libraries, seminaries and all our medical institutions and which features articles on issues that the Document has branded as New Age Alternative Medicine. ‘Health Action’ brazenly advertises for books authored by the founder of Pranic Healing and one written a century ago by a 33rd degree Freemason and founder of an esoteric church called the Liberal Catholic Church which is located locally in the premises of the Theosophical Society, an organization whose founders [with whom that author was closely associated] are declared by the Document to be the modern initiators of the New Age Movement.
My above-mentioned report to the Bishops on the Vailankanni event also carried an extensive story with photo coverage of the CHAI stall at the venue that exhibited around 40 esoteric titles, every single one of which was written either by pranic healers, Freemasons or Theosophists.
I had also announced this over the PA system to the assembled ecclesiastical delegates and Church dignitaries in case they had somehow missed the exhibition.
I conducted one Bishop on a personal tour of this and the other stalls, but he was, typically, non-committal.
I have submitted two detailed reports to the Bishops and to the concerned CBCI Commissions concerning this organization whose founder and leaders [which include priests] are ‘Hindu-ising’ Catholic schools and colleges across the nation in the guise of inculturation and the New Age ideals of a syncretistic oneness and secular peace. Important goals are the compulsory introduction in Catholic schools and colleges of yoga, chanting of mantras like ‘om’, and inter-faith prayer with the replacement [or placing on par] of the Bible by texts of scriptures [also considered to be equally divinely inspired] of other world religions.
The original Dharma Bharathi which, I have shown in my reports, has first-hand connections with modern New Agers in the West, soon split. A rival Dharma Bharathi emerged, its founder a priest, who with the help of a nun hijacked the name, goodwill and properties of the founder-organization in which they were serving. Legal action by the original organization has been considered but avoided only to preclude a public scandal, since both Dharma Bharathis tout a solution to the communal disharmony in India, a new world order of peace and harmony through their almost identical programmes. This second Dharma Bharathi [name recently changed] was not slow in obtaining the support of some Bishops. As a clone of the original, its goals are not very much different either.
Earlier connected with the original founder, an eminent educationist-priest has founded a third Dharma Bharathi with the blessing of his Bishop.
The Dharma Bharathis have virtually served notice on the Church that she must cease, in secular India, to evangelize [read as preach Jesus and His Gospel], or to insist that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life [Jn. 14:6], in defiance of the teaching of the Document ‘Dominus Iesus’ and Pope John’s directives in Ecclesia in Asia etc.
ASHRAMS & THE NATIONAL BIBLICAL CATECHETICAL AND LITURGICAL CENTRE [NBCLC]
The Ashram culture was originally meant to be or projected as an Indian Christian way of life and worship that would find mass appeal, and remove the impression that has been created that Christianity is a ‘foreign’ religion, in a country where just over 2% of the population has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord.
But the actual history [as seen from the true believer’s point of view] is sadly different, and warrants close scrutiny from Rome. What it is now can be easily seen from the writings of any of the Benedictine or Jesuit priests or RSCJ nuns connected with the ‘Ashram Movement’. It is difficult to see the unique dualistic theism of the Bible in the different shades of advaitic monism that colour all their ‘Christian’ writings.
From there it was just a short step to the New Age. One of the pioneers Fr. Bede Griffiths not only ended up as a yogi but also opened his center to New Agers from the West [one of whom wrote his famous New Age thesis in the Ashram]. Bede also traveled to Europe to participate in an international New Age conference. His teachings greatly influenced many people who, along with some of his former disciples, are today influential in the major religious congregations and Church hierarchy and who continue to promote the Hindu-isation of the Catholic Church in India.
It is no coincidence that the founder of DHARMA BHARATHI is one of these disciples. He met his first New Agers from the West at Bede’s Ashram. They have influenced his beliefs and his vision and he in turn now passes it on to our children through his organization with the recognition of the CBCI.
These Ashrams have not brought anyone to a saving knowledge of the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Rather, the use of gross iconology, cross-breeding of sacred religious symbols, yogic exercises, temple-dances and dubious rituals and liturgies of an inculturation gone awry that emerged from the Ashram culture and were disseminated in the Church through the NBCLC continues to be one of the major reasons for Catholics leaving the Church.
The Ashram movement is nothing but a Hindu way of life thinly disguised as Christianity. It has opened the door to a multitude of evils which, as in the case of the other issues here already reported on by me, will be the subject of a detailed report from this writer in the near future.
While my reports have not received the slightest attention from the Bishops who are the guardians of authentic Church teaching, I have been served a warning notice threatening me with legal action for defamation and libel, and issued other written and verbal threats by some of the organizations and persons whom I have referred to in this letter. To be fair, I must mention that an Archbishop and his Auxiliary both wrote to me, independent of each other, [one, officially] that they have referred my reports to the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI. But that was the first and the last that I heard from them in a long time.
If the articles contributed by dissenting and liberal theologians to THE NEW LEADER and JIVAN [they disagree with accepted Christian beliefs] are any indication of the state of the Indian Church, I am certain to be branded as a fundamentalist [which title I have received five years ago against my first report, from a theologian at the local major seminary]. Many Indian theologians are so far to the left that a layman like me standing at the centre on the Word of God [Scripture and Church teaching] would appear to them to be a right extremist.
It would be my great pleasure to send to you at the Vatican, a complete set of my reports in the hope that someone, somewhere, will wake up to the reality and gravity of what is happening in and to the Church in India. And do something about it. Since a complete set would consist of over 300 A4 sheets and weigh over 1.5 kilograms, it would be very expensive. Hence this comparatively ‘short’ four-page letter.
However, in case I do receive a positive reply from you assuring me that you would read my reports, or at least some selected ones, it will be my privilege to send them to you. Over the last four and a half years of this ministry, I have mailed out or distributed around 170,000 copies/pages of these letters and reports. It has been made possible by the financial and material contributions of other laypersons, a few priests, and one Bishop all of whom have the same burden for Mother Church as I have, and which I am sure that you do too.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
In Jesus’ Name
05. 05. 2004
Copies to the Bishops, Priests, Religious and Lay Leaders of the Church in India
RESPONSE FROM ROME
LETTER FROM THE PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM DE CULTURA, VATICAN CITY
From the Vatican, 7 September 2004
Prot. n. 962/04
Dear Mr. Michael Prabhu,
Thank you for your letter of 5 May 2004 addressing New Age issues in India. I read with interest your interpretation of Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life and some practices in India which may be confusing the People of God.
You are right to note that it is only with great care, sensitivity and charity that people can further enter into the mystery of Truth.
While I appreciate your offer of sending me your detailed reports alleging various abuses, I must turn you down.
The task of this Pontifical Council for Culture has never been that of condemning the New Age as a whole, but instead of encouraging dialogue in a charitable way with non-believers and the religiously indifferent who are exposed to contemporary cultural trends, and at the same time ensuring that believers take every opportunity to promote proper inculturation of the faith into today’s cultures. Part of this task requires awareness of the world in which we are living and discernment of where the Spirit is or isn’t moving.
In this way the fullness of Truth is handed on to future generations in a language they will understand, but outright condemnation and wholesale rejection of a current of thought, even one that effects [sic] whole swathes of the population, is rarely productive.
Believe me, I do share your concerns, but my task is to provoke charitable reflection on the cultural signs of the times – I have no interest in launching a new inquisition. Perhaps I can sign off by referring you, as the provisional document does, to I Peter 3:15, and by assuring you of my sincerest respect for Cardinal Dias, Member of this Council, who might appreciate your insights if they are expressed in a more charitable tone. Sincerely in Christ,
Melchor Sanchez de Toca, Undersecretary,
Pontifical Council for Culture
To, Most Rev. Melchor Sanchez de Toca,
Undersecretary, Pontificium Consilium de Cultura, Piazza San Calisto, 16 00120 CITTA DEL VATICANO 1st January, 2005
Subject : Your letter ref. no. Prot. n. 962/04 dated 7th September, 2004 in response to my letter dated 5th May 2004 to the Holy See on the ‘New Age’ in the Church in India.
I am very grateful to you for having responded to me, considering that the other 15 or so Congregations and Dicasteries in Rome and the Vatican, to whom I had also simultaneously written, did not extend to me the courtesy of a reply. However, a careful scrutiny of your choice of words and your comments gives me the impression that you vaguely commend this ministry [and my referred ‘Letter to the Vatican’] to a very minimal extent, and then proceed to qualify these virtual encouragements with several statements that I can only describe as ‘negative’. It is difficult for me to accept your remark concerning what you perceive is my interpretation of the Vatican’s Provisional Report [PR] on the New Age [3rd February 2003]. I strictly adhere to Church interpretation of the Bible as well as to Vatican documents and encyclicals. Thousands of deeply concerned Catholics agree with me, as do similar Catholic ministries all over the world [several of whom are in touch with me, and most of which are conducted by LAY PERSONS].
The purpose of this ministry is not to highlight the “good” in the New Age [the PR itself acknowledges its ‘good’ points but warns of its spiritual pitfalls in no uncertain terms], as there are enough and more of clergy and religious already engaged in doing so, even as apostolates, but to create an awareness among Catholics about its dangers especially in the context of Alternative Medicine and Eastern Meditations. Again, the purpose of my writing to you was not to influence you into “launching a new inquisition” [to quote you].
Considering that, from your viewpoint, I am probably an uninformed and over-enthusiastic layman, I am not surprised that you had really nothing positive at all to say about this ministry in pursuing which there is not much to gain from the hierarchy [whom we greatly revere], but rejection. A Jesuit priest once told me that there are two types of laypersons who write to the Bishops out of concern for their Church, and the letters of both are consigned to the trash bin. That held true in my case for over four years, but the response from the Indian Bishops over the last six months has been, to put it simply, overwhelming.
As advised by you, I referred to 1 Peter 3:15, but am unable to find any understanding of the verse to connect it with my Letter, and the issues in question in my Letter. It is a matter of regret that you think that the “outright condemnation and wholesale rejection of a current of thought… is rarely productive”. Do you mean the ‘New Age’? If the “fullness of the Truth” that you write of is to be “handed on to future generations in a language they will understand“, then ministries such as this, that defend the unicity of Jesus [re.: Dominus Iesus, which as you know many Indian theologians have lambasted as absolutist and exclusivist] as in John 14:6, are the dire need of the hour.
I sincerely hope that I have not misinterpreted your letter, as one seminarian remarked to me that for a layperson to even get a response from the Vatican is a lifetime achievement.
I wholeheartedly agree with your view that we should “encourage dialogue in a charitable way with non-believers and the religiously indifferent who are exposed to contemporary cultural trends” while attempting to “promote proper inculturation of the faith into today’s cultures”. But instead of turning down my offer [again, quoting you] to send you detailed reports on my findings, if you had asked for them and read them, you would know [I am sure you DO] where inculturation and interfaith dialogue is heading in India, spearheaded by dissenters, rebels and liberal theologians. The Truth is a bitter pill to swallow.
The evangelization that our Pope repeatedly talks about has almost come to a halt [details in future reports],
for example: the pilot letter on the report of my visit to a ‘Catholic’ ashram which has been sent to you by email as well as by post. A number of reports will continuously follow this year including an assessment of 12 Indian theologians’ responses to the New Age PR in which they dismiss it and the Church as archaic, patriarchal, monolithic, colonial, self-righteous and so on. Surely you are not in agreement with them?
I have much confidence in and respect for in the pastors of the Catholic Church in India. To respond to your advice that “Cardinal Dias, member of this Council” might appreciate my “insights if they are expressed in a more charitable tone“, I must ask you if it is the Truth of an issue that matters in the final analysis, or the way that one expresses it? Though I find my referred Letter to be nowhere uncharitable, the respected Cardinal has never responded to any one of my other letters and reports over the past 3 years whereas dozens of other Bishops have welcomed them. I am enclosing in my letter to you a picture of an Archbishop “lighting a lamp at the inauguration of an international seminar on Hindu-Christian Cosmology” on 7th October 1997 before a large idol of the Hindu elephant-god Ganesha [courtesy Indian Express]. I rest my case.
If Your Grace can respond to this letter, it will be reflection only of your own greatness as a genuine Catholic pastor.
Yours obediently, Michael Prabhu
Read the Bishops’ responses to the above in a separate paper titled CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE BISHOPS –
LETTERS RECEIVED BY THIS MINISTRY FROM THE APOSTOLIC NUNCIO, CARDINALS, ARCHBISHOPS AND BISHOPS