Pope Benedict XVI on the New Age
LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON
SOME ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION (ORATIONIS FORMAS)
Issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on October 15, 1989
At Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, October 15, 1989, the Feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus.
+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect
+ Alberto Bovone
Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia Secretary
The above Document — not reproduced here — signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, was “approved by Pope John Paul II”. It did not employ the term “New Age” but it was directed against so-called prayer techniques and Eastern methods of meditation like T.M., yoga and Zen which are universally acknowledged as “New Age”.
Like Dominus Iesus  and Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life , it was slammed by progressives and liberals in theological circles. I have provided a number of those reports in my articles on Yoga, etc. and so will avoid repeating them here. On the other hand there were many Catholics who welcomed this landmark Document — which was indisputably a precursor to the one on the New Age — and because of which reason I reproduce a few related reports below — or simply provide their titles and URLs [the stories are available in other reports/articles at this site] — not necessarily in chronological order.
RELIGION: Catholics warned about Yoga
Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1989 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.
Yoga not a Catholic meditation technique
By Marta, 2003
ARE THEY COMPATIBLE?
Yoga and Christianity
By Joel S. Peters,
The Marriage of East and West
By Catholic Evangelist Eddie Russell FMI, September 23, 1998,
Blaze Magazine Online, Flame Ministries International
The Enneagram and ‘Kything’:
Is it really prayer, necromancy
or just damn good marketing?
By Catholic Evangelist Eddie Russell FMI, Blaze Magazine Online, Flame Ministries International
For more Catholic references to the 1989 Document, see page 16.
Pope in 1989 – Eastern Religions are “Moral Deviations”
Posted April 14, 2005 – Various News Sources
1. United Press International December 14, 1989
VATICAN: CHANTING ‘OMMMM’ MAY CAUSE ‘MORAL DEVIATIONS’
By Charles Ridley, Dateline: Vatican City
The Vatican, in a letter approved by Pope John Paul II,
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.
2. Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1989
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.
3. Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1989
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.
4. The San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 1993
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.
A Closer Look at Centering Prayer
By Margaret A. Feaster EXTRACT
What does Pope John Paul II say about this type of prayer?
In Cardinal Ratzinger’s booklet, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, he quotes the Pope. On p. 34, footnote 12, he writes “Pope John Paul II has pointed out to the whole Church the example and doctrine of St. Teresa of Avila who in her life had to reject the temptation of certain methods which proposed a leaving aside of the humanity of Christ in favor of a vague self-immersion in the abyss of divinity. In a homily given on November 1, 1982, he said that the call of St. Teresa of Jesus advocating a prayer completely centered on Christ “is valid even in our day, against some methods of prayer which are not inspired by the gospel and which in practice tend to set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity. Any method of prayer is valid insofar as it is inspired by Christ and leads to Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life” [(cf. John 14:6). See Homilia Abulae habita in honorem Sanctae Teresiae: AAS 75 (1983) 256-257].
What are the warnings on mind-emptying prayer from Cardinal Ratzinger?
Christians dabbling in Eastern religions in the 70s and 80s had become such a problem that the Vatican had to respond. In 1989, Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, put out a document called “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.”
The document states, “With the present diffusion of Eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian.” He goes on to say, “Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ.”11 He says they abandon the Triune God, “in favor of an immersion in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity.” Then he says mixing Christian meditation with Eastern techniques can lead to syncretism (the mixing of religions).
Centring prayer: a new religion
By John B. Shea, MD, FRCP- Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians,
Catholic Insight, June 1, 2006
Is CP an attempt at Pelagian self-salvation?
Some New Agers abolish all thoughts and feelings by the use of mantras or yoga in order to reach an altered level of consciousness, to “discover” their True Self, and find wisdom and knowledge because they consider the True Self to be God. The old heresy of Pelagianism holds that one can save one’s soul without the need for God’s Grace.
Practitioners of CP may be doing the same. Abbot Keating states, “As you go down deeper, you may reach a place where the sacred word disappears altogether and there are no thoughts. This is often experienced as a suspension of consciousness, a space.” (13) The focus of CP is to discover the True Self, which Abbot Keating says is the “same thing” as God. (14)
In a homily on November 1, 1982, Pope John Paul II said that the call of St. Teresa of Avila advocating prayer completely centred on Christ, “is valid even in our day, against some methods of prayer which are not inspired by the Gospel and which, in practice, tend to set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity.”
In 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation stated:
“With the present diffusion of Eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian…. Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ.” (15)
Abbot Keating holds that “if you are aware of no thoughts, you will be aware of something that is a thought. If, at that point, you can lose awareness that you are aware of no thoughts, you will move into pure consciousness.” He also holds that pure consciousness is an intuition of the True Self, and that the True Self and God are the same thing. (16)
Cardinal Ratzinger states, however, that to try as far as possible to put aside everything that is worldly, sense perceptible, or conceptually limited, as an approach to this sort of prayer, may actually be “an attempt to ascend to or immerse oneself in the sphere of the divine, which is as such, neither terrestrial, sense perceptible, nor capable of conceptualization” St. Teresa of Avila said in The Interior Castle, “be careful not to check the movement of the mind … and to remain like a dolt.” Cardinal Ratzinger has further stated: “In order to draw near to the mystery of God, which the Greek Fathers called the ‘divinization’ of man, and to grasp accurately the manner in which this is to be realized, it is necessary in the first place to bear in mind that man is essentially a creature, and remains so for eternity, so that absorbing himself into the divine self is never possible.” (17)
Problems with Zen combined with Christianity
Zen is coming to a Dallas Catholic parish
By Barbara Kralis, February 6, 2006
The expression “eastern methods” is used to refer to methods which are inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism, Zen, Transcendental Meditation or Yoga.
What is going on again in the Dallas diocese, again?
Jesuit speaker Fr. Robert E. Kennedy, S.J. has been invited to be the speaker and the leader of a Zen retreat at St. Joseph’s Parish, Richardson, TX. The talk is scheduled as follows: February 10, 2006, at 7-9 p.m. in the Main Sanctuary, and for February 11th and 12th, in the St. Joseph Room. Poor St. Joseph is rolling over in his grave.
The following is a bio and a photograph of Fr. Kennedy in his Zen kimono on the front page of ‘Morning Star Zendo,’ a center where Kennedy is affiliated:
“Robert Kennedy, S.J., Roshi, is a Jesuit priest and Zen teacher in the White Plum lineage. He studied with Yamada Roshi in Kamakura, Japan, with Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles, and with Glassman Roshi in New York. Glassman Roshi installed Kennedy as sensei in 1991 and conferred Inka (his final seal of approval) in 1997, making him a roshi (master). Kennedy Roshi is the author of Zen Gifts to Christians and Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit…. To date, Kennedy Roshi has installed six dharma successors…and Kevin Hunt Sensei, a Trappist monk from St. Joseph’s Abbey at Spencer, Mass.
“For the occasion of Fr. Hunt’s installation, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., wrote:
Because of the long preparation and training required to become a master of the demanding Zen training, Fr. Hunt’s achievement is one that we can all celebrate in thanksgiving to God … Jesuits and other Christians have found Zen to be a valuable instrument for progressing in the spiritual life. … By coming to focus on the present moment through the practice of the techniques of Zen meditation, the Christian can become aware of God’s immediate loving presence.”
Cardinal Josef Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI] addresses the problems with Zen combined with Christianity in the following [document at the bottom of this page], “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.”
Here we clearly see Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on October 15, 1989, teaching the dangers of Zen, Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation, as well as some other forms of prayer. See excerpt from Section 3, n.12; also see Endnote n.1 below:
12. With the present diffusion of eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, “to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian.” Proposals in this direction are numerous and radical to a greater or lesser extent. Some use eastern methods solely as a psycho-physical preparation for a truly Christian contemplation; others go further and, using different techniques, try to generate spiritual experiences similar to those described in the writings of certain Catholic mystics. Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ, which towers above finite reality. To this end, they make use of a “negative theology,” which transcends every affirmation seeking to express what God is, and denies that the things of this world can offer traces of the infinity of God. Thus they propose abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by the God of the Old and New Covenant, but also the very idea of the One and Triune God, who is Love, in favor of an immersion “in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity.” These and similar proposals to harmonize Christian meditation with eastern techniques need to have their contents and methods ever subjected to a thorough-going examination so as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism.
Why is Bishop Grahmann allowing another questionable speaker priest to come into our diocese? There are excellent books giving wonderful examples of learning ‘contemplative’ Christian prayer, many written by Canonized Saints of the Church.
This is the same pastor, Fr. Fischer of St. Joseph’s Parish in Richardson, TX, who very recently hosted a two days retreat given by dissenter priest, Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. Despite the enormous evidence that Rohr is an unfaithful priest who openly dissents against Humanae vitae, and who promotes homosexuality, the Bishop of Dallas, Bp. Charles V. Grahmann, and the pastor, Fr. Fischer, affirmed their support for this bumfuzzler preacher as well.
NB: Do not ask this writer what all of this Zen terminology means. This writer does not know and does not care to know.
1. The expression “eastern methods” is used to refer to methods which are inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism, such as “Zen,” “Transcendental Meditation” or “Yoga.” Thus, it indicates methods of meditation of the non-Christian Far East which today are not infrequently adopted by some Christians also in their meditation. The orientation of the principles and methods contained in this present document is intended to serve as a reference point not just for this problem, but also, in a more general way, for the different forms of prayer practiced nowadays in ecclesial organizations, particularly in associations, movements and groups.
Barbara Kralis, the article’s author, writes for various Christian and conservative publications. She is a regular columnist at RenewAmerica.us, Catholic Online.com, The Wanderer newspaper, New Oxford Review Magazine, Washington Dispatch, MichNews, Catholic Citizens of Illinois, Phil Brennan’s WOW, ChronWatch, etc. Her first journalism position was with Boston Herald Traveler, 1964. Barbara published/edited ‘Semper Fidelis’ Catholic print newsletter. She and her husband, Mitch, live in the great State of Texas, and co-direct the Jesus Through Mary Catholic Foundation. She can be reached at: Avemaria@earthlink.net.
Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith today
(Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave this address during the meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America, held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in May 1996.) […]
Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis
In order to help us in this effort to penetrate the hidden wisdom contained in the madness of the faith, it will be good for us to try to know the relativist theory of [John] Hick‘s religion better and discover where it leads man. In the end, for Hick, religion means that man goes from “self-centeredness,” as the existence of the old Adam, to “reality-centeredness,” as existence of the new man, thus extending from oneself to the otherness of one’s neighbor. It sounds beautiful, but when it is considered in depth it appears as empty and vacuous as the call to authenticity by
Bultmann, who in turn had taken that concept from Heidegger. For this, religion is not necessary.
Aware of these limits, the former Catholic priest Paul Knitter tried to overcome the void of a theory of religion reduced to the categorical imperative by means of a new synthesis between Asia and Europe that should be more concrete and internally enriched. His proposal tends to give religion a new concrete expression by joining the theology of pluralist religion with the theologies of liberation. Interreligious dialogue must be simplified radically and become practically effective by basing it on only one principle: “the primacy of orthopraxis with regard to orthodoxy.”
Putting praxis above knowledge in this way is also a clearly Marxist inheritance. […]
The relativism of Hick, Knitter and related theories are ultimately based on a rationalism which declares that reason—in the Kantian meaning—is incapable of metaphysical cognition. The new foundation of religion comes about by following a pragmatic path with more ethical or political overtones. However, there is also a consciously anti-rationalist response to the experience of the slogan “Everything is relative,” which comes together under the pluriform denomination of New Age.
For the supporters of the New Age, the solution to the problem of relativity must not be sought in a new encounter of the self with another or others, but by overcoming the subject in an ecstatic return to the cosmic dance. Like the old gnosis, this way pretends to be totally attuned to all the results of science and to be based on all kinds of scientific knowledge (biology, psychology, sociology, physics). But on the basis of this presupposition it offers at the same time a considerably anti-rationalist model of religion, a modern “mystic”: The Absolute is not to be believed, but to be experienced. God is not a person to be distinguished from the world, but a spiritual energy present in the universe. Religion means the harmony of myself with the cosmic whole, the overcoming of all separations.
The new danger, Ratzinger says, is relativism: when Cardinal Ratzinger draws a new target into his sights there are often serious consequences
By John Thavis, National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 1996
VATICAN CITY Early this year, on a plane to Latin America, Pope John Paul II dismissed liberation theology as irrelevant. There were a few howls of protest, but with Marxism rapidly fading as a global ideology, many church thinkers quietly agreed.
Now Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal official, has offered a more definitive obituary for this branch of theological thought — and some words of warning for the future. He explained his position in talks in May to Latin America bishops and in September to some 80 bishops from mission territories.
In the 1980s, the German cardinal said, liberation theology in its more radical forms was the most urgent challenge to the faith. Its appeal collapsed along with Marxist regimes, when people recognized that redemption was not a political process, he said. But that doesn’t mean the sun is now shining on the state of Catholic theology.
For Cardinal Ratzinger, a dark new cloud hangs on the horizon: relativism, or the idea that no one can presume to know the true way. Relativism may ultimately be more dangerous to Catholicism, he said, because it is popularized in efforts to “democratize” the church, to arbitrarily modify the liturgy and to erase differences with other religions.
“Relativism has thus become the central problem for the faith at the present time,” he stated. That’s pretty heavy judgment. When Cardinal Ratzinger draws a new target into his sights there are often serious consequences. Dubbed by the Italian press the “Panzer-Kardinal” — after the German tank — the 69-year-old prelate has summoned a number of theologians to the Vatican in recent years for clarification and, if necessary, correction of their views.
His Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is considered the most powerful at the Vatican, because its authority extends to any question of church teaching. In the name of doctrinal integrity, it can freeze an ecumenical dialogue, remove a Catholic professor or throw out a translation of a catechism. So when Cardinal Ratzinger talks, church people listen. The bishops were an especially attentive audience.
In the cardinal’s view, relativism is a bigger threat than liberation theology was a decade ago largely because its ideas are so embedded in democratic society. The key to successful modern politics, he said, is compromise and a rejection of absolute positions. But now, theologians are mistakenly applying these methods to religion and ethics, he said. As a result, the cardinal said, Jesus is widely seen today as “one religious leader among others” and not as the living God. Likewise, concepts like the church, dogma and the sacraments are also viewed as too “unconditional,” and the church is accused of intransigence and fundamentalism.
Cardinal Ratzinger’s exposition revealed why he and other Vatican officials often bristle at the terms “dialogue,” “pluralism,” “democracy” and “multi-culturalism” when they are applied to the church. All these concepts involve an assumption of equal rank among the participants, he said, yet the church can never accept putting one’s faith on the same level as the convictions of others.
Unfortunately, he added, many Catholics are leaving the church because they think questions of doctrine should be decided by majority vote, as if the faith were some kind of party platform. The relativistic view, he argued, is typically Western, yet it has links to Asian religious philosophy — a dangerous combination. The cardinal warned that some Christian theologians in India, for example, “set aside the image of Christ from its exclusive position” and place it on the same level as Indian saving myths.
Meanwhile, many in the West have embraced New Age beliefs, described by Cardinal Ratzinger as an anti-rationalist manifestation of the “everything is relative” attitude. New Age followers seek a return to the mystery of the whole and the infinite, through “inebriating music, rhythm, dance, frenetic lights and dark shadows, and in the human mass,” he said.
“The gods return. They have become more believable than God” to the New Agers, he said.
Inevitably, Christianity is seen as a “spiritual imperialism” that must be thrown off. The cardinal said the much-reformed Catholic liturgy is especially vulnerable to New Age ideas today. Because some Catholics are weary of the pure, spoken liturgy, they seek what is “inebriating and ecstatic.”
“I admit that I am exaggerating,” he said. “But the tendencies are there.” Cardinal Ratzinger, who once delivered a dour assessment of the post-Vatican II church, is sometimes described as a pessimist. He sees strong opposition to the gospel in the world; he calls it a miracle that the Christian faith survives in the current cultural situation.
But his views on the state of theology are not all doom and gloom. There are hopeful signs, he said, that reason is opening itself up to faith. Interestingly, he avoided crediting church authority for that. Rather, he said, it’s the result of the human being’s natural yearning for the infinite and for a God who enters into our world. This is a thinking man’s faith, not blind belief.
As Cardinal Ratzinger put it: “Reason will not be saved without the faith, but the faith without reason will not be human.”
COMMUNION WITHOUT CONFESSION AND THE 1983 CODE OF CANON LAW [TRADITIONALIST]
Si Si No No
January 1998 No. 24
On Oct. 27, 1996, the Osservatore Romano published Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger‘s conference given to the “presidents of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Latin American Episcopal Conferences (Guadalajara, Mexico, May 1996).” The title of the conference was “Relativism has become today’s main problem as far as Faith and Theology are concerned.”
In the first part of his conference, Card. Ratzinger refers to “liberation theology” and to “theological relativism,” especially those represented by the “American Presbyterian J. Hick” and by “P. Knitter, a former Catholic priest,” as well as by the “New Age” movement.
Regarding “theological relativism,” he tells us that it “starts from Kant’s distinction between phenomena and noumena: we are not able to attain to ultimate reality in itself, since we can only see it through diverse ‘lenses’ by our own way of perception.” Therefore, “the identification of a singular historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, with ‘reality’ itself, that is, with the living God, is rejected out of hand as being a lapse back into myth: Jesus is expressly relativized as just one more religious genius among so many others. That which is absolute, or else He who is absolute, cannot present Himself in history, wherein are to be found only models, only ideal figures which refer us to something utterly different, to that which we cannot apprehend or know as such in history. From this it is clear that the (Catholic) Church also, her dogmas and sacraments, cannot have any value of absolute necessity.”
Regarding P. Knitter’s (a former Catholic priest) “primacy of orthopraxis over orthodoxy,” Card. Ratzinger writes that such a primacy comes as a “logical consequence, once a person abandons metaphysics: if knowledge becomes [more exactly: is erroneously considered] impossible, all that is left is human acts (or behavior).” Then follows Ratzinger’s critique: “But is this allegation true? From where can I get the impression that an action is just, if l have no idea of what is just…Praxis alone is no light…Knitter…asserts that the criterion allowing him to distinguish between orthopraxy and pseudo-praxy, is man’s liberty. But he still must explain, in a practical and persuasive manner, just what is liberty and what it is that leads man to his real liberation.”
Conclusion: “In the last analysis, Hick’s relativism is based upon a rationalism [i.e., the error of those who reject all revelation and give assent to nothing but what can be attained by the natural power of their own reason] which, in the Kantian fashion, pretends that metaphysics [i.e., that branch of philosophy dealing with the first principle of things] cannot be known or grasped by human reason.”
THE RETURN OF PAGANISM, OR “NEW AGE”
Card. Ratzinger has also described remarkably well the neo-paganism of the “New Age,” which “seeks to put forth a completely anti-rationalist model of religion – a modern ‘mystique’: Man cannot believe in the absolute but he may experience. God is not a Person…but consists in the spiritual energy which propagates itself in the Whole…Man’s redemption consists in ridding himself of his I…and returning to the Whole. The (pagan) ‘gods’ are back. They now appear more believable than God. We must bring up to date those primordial [pre-Christian] rites by which the I is initiated into the mystery of the Whole and liberated of itself.” In brief, the New Age says: “Let us now give up the adventure of Christianity which has proven to be a failure, so let us now return to our pagan gods.” Further on, Card. Ratzinger notes the influence that the “New Age” is having on some Catholic “liturgies”: “Nowadays, we have grown weary of wordy liturgies, [but how can one simply reduce Catholic liturgy to words?] approaching New Age orientations: people are now looking for noisy and ecstatic experiences.”
Cardinal Ratzinger Debates Atheist Philosopher (Encounter on Existence of God Draws a Crowd in Rome)
ROME, September 22, 2000 (ZENIT.org) A public debate on the existence of God between Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and an atheist philosopher attracted a packed theater here yesterday.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith squared off against Paolo Flores d’Arcais, philosopher and director of the leftist “MicroMega” magazine. The moderator of the debate was a Jewish journalist, Gad Lerner, director of Italian television channel RAI-Uno.
The debate, in the Quirino Theater, was occasioned by the reissue of a special edition of “MicroMega” dedicated to “Philosophy and Religion,” to which the cardinal and Flores d’Arcais contributed. The special issue has already sold 100,000 copies.
Before the debate, a crowd gathered outside the theater, unable to enter because of lack of space. The theater was overcrowded, with people sitting on the floor. The public followed the dialectic duel intently and intermittently applauded each of the speakers during the two-and-a-quarter-hour debate.
Lerner wanted to know if there are clear-cut boundaries between believers and nonbelievers, and if they have anything in common. Partially answering his own question, he said that both speakers shared in common “the rejection of an accommodating religiosity, with a God made to measure, without measuring oneself against the issue of truth, which is so widespread today, as seen in New Age and in a certain idea of Buddhism.” Lerner then asked the speakers what caused the need to discuss the topic.
Cardinal Ratzinger replied that “it stems from the fact that we believers think that we have something to say to others. We are convinced that man needs to know God. The truth, which must be known, appeared in Jesus. At this time of crisis, we must not live only toward the self.”
In turn, Flores d’Arcais said, “There is great imbalance in a debate of this kind. The believer is interested in converting. The atheist does not have this need.” He questioned why an atheist is interested in faith, and responded that “to be an atheist means to maintain that everything is played out here, in this finite existence. Alliances, solidarities, conflicts and clashes are established on this basis. Coexistence based on tolerance is not indifferent to the type of faith.
“If the faith of a Christian is that of the first generations of Christians, faith that is scandal to reason, there is no conflict with the nonbeliever. However, if faith attempts to be the synthesis and fulfillment of reason, which is most characteristic of man, one can understand the temptation to impose itself. Why don’t you believers renounce the need to demonstrate the truth, why do you pretend rationality?”
Cardinal Ratzinger responded, saying that “the Christians of the first generations did not believe that faith was absurd. Paul spoke in the Areopagus. Paul preached a faith that is scandal, on one hand, but he was convinced that he wasn’t announcing something absurd, but rather a message that could appeal to reason, a religion that is not invented but that is in consonance with our reason. I agree with Flores d’Arcais that this must not be imposed.”
Questioned as to whether one can live without faith, Flores d’Arcais replied, “It depends on what is meant by faith. If it is understood as a profound existential passion for certain values that make something sensible of life, no. But if it is understood as a religious belief, yes, one can live without faith.”
He continued, “Faith is something more, but also something less. The lucidity of the finite allows one to live the experiences of life with intensity and greater awareness.”
As regards the issue of whether believers and nonbelievers share something in common, Cardinal Ratzinger said that “there is a common ground. There can be agreement on values that make life worthwhile: to combat intolerance, fanaticism; be committed to the dignity of man, to liberty and assistance to the needy. It is a ground in which, despite the division, we share a common responsibility. Love against hatred, truth against lies, is innate to man. Awareness of and commitment to human dignity is a hidden presence of a deeper faith, even if it is not defined in theological terms. It is the common root of good against evil.”
During a debate on the Enlightenment and laicism, in which the cardinal spoke of tolerance, Flores d’Arcais said: “How much you have allowed yourselves as Church to be contaminated by the secular world! The word tolerance is an Enlightenment word.”
Cardinal Ratzinger replied that the word laicism has a meaning in Italy that is different from other countries. He said that “the Christian wanted to be enlightened in a certain sense. It is time to transcend these oppositions.
“The Enlightenment was opposed to Christianity, but there were currents of Christian Enlightenment,” the cardinal said. “Christianity should return to its roots. There is opposition only in certain aspects of the Enlightenment. I would not speak of contamination. I think it is positive that these two currents, which were separated, meet and that each one begins to learn from the other.” The cardinal’s words prompted long applause. As regards the common ground between a believer and an atheist, Flores d’Arcais said, “The common ground is the Gospel and the values of the Gospel. There are two fundamental values: Jesus’ phrase: ‘let your yes be yes, and your no, be no,’ is the idea that all exaggerated diplomacy comes from the devil. The second value is that the sin of sins is privilege, differences of wealth. These two values are often more deeply felt by many who are not believers than by the majority of Christians.” Again came much applause from the audience. ZE00092202
Cardinal Ratzinger Considers Whether Truth, Faith, and Tolerance Are Compatible
Jesus Christ is the only savior, says Christianity. “Can this absolute claim still be maintained today?” That’s the question addressed by the Vatican’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his new book, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions.
When, in 2000, the Catholic Church reiterated its teaching about Jesus in its declaration Dominus Iesus, “a cry of outrage arose from modern society,” notes Ratzinger, “but also from great non-Christian cultures such as that of India: this was said to be a document of intolerance and of religious arrogance that should have no place in the world of today.” Ratzinger argues that the Church’s teaching is not intolerant but true.
How can Christianity insist it is true in the face of other religions and philosophies making competing claims? Do truth and tolerance inevitably conflict with each other? Does respect for others mean all religions are equally true? Does the diversity of religions prove there’s no such thing as religious truth? Or do all religions ultimately teach the same thing? Are all religions capable of saving their adherents?
Truth and Tolerance is Ratzinger’s careful answers to these important questions.
Ratzinger confronts head-on the claim that Christianity has imposed European culture on other peoples. “Christianity … originated, not in Europe, but in the Near East, in the geographical point at which the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe come into contact,” he writes.
Yes, Christianity has a European element. But above all it has a perennial message that comes from God, not from any human culture, argues Ratzinger. While Christians have sometimes pushed their cultures on other peoples, as have non-Christians, Christianity itself is alien to no authentically human culture. Its very nature as a free response to God’s gift of himself in Jesus Christ means that Christianity must propose itself to culture, not impose itself.
The issues of truth and diversity in religion are also tackled by Ratzinger. Some people relegate religion to the realm of feelings and taste. As people’s feelings and tastes vary, so, too, do their religious ideas and practices. Ratzinger responds by presenting what he calls “the inevitability of the question of truth.”
Other people argue that all religions essentially affirm the same things. Truth and Tolerance points to fundamental, non-negotiable differences among religions, as well as certain common elements.
Ratzinger distinguishes two main forms of religion. On the one hand, there is a kind of mysticism in which one seeks to merge into or become identical with everything, in an all-embracing, impersonal unity. Many Eastern religions and the New Age movement are religions of that sort. On the other hand, there is “a personal understanding of God,” in which one is united in love with a personal God and yet remains distinct from him. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are examples of the latter kind of religion.
A first-rate theologian, as well as a church leader, Ratzinger also assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the three main contemporary approaches to a “theology of religions”: exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism.
Exclusivism holds that only those who explicitly accept Christ and the Christian message can be saved. Inclusivism is the view that non-Christian religions implicitly contain Christian truth and therefore that their adherents are “anonymous Christians.” Pluralism holds that there are many valid ways to God among the various religions.
At the heart of the discussion about the diversity of religions, contends Ratzinger, is the identity of Jesus Christ. Is the he the sole savior, prefigured by other religious leaders perhaps but nonetheless unique? Is he one among many religious figures who bring salvation? Is he the one true God in human flesh, rather an avatar or one among many different manifestations of the divine?
Christianity has always held that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is definitive, argues Ratzinger. The divinity of Jesus is “the real dividing line in the history of religions,” which makes sense of “two other fundamental concepts of the Christian faith, which have become unmentionable nowadays: conversion and mission.”
Relativism, which Ratzinger calls “the central problem for faith in our time,” lurks behind most modern mistakes about faith and morality. The net result is a deep skepticism about whether anything is true or can be known to be true.
Christianity can help modern thought overcome its relativism and skepticism by presenting the One who is the truth, Jesus Christ, the one who sets people free by their coming to know, understand and love the truth. Ratzinger explains how tolerance, reason and freedom are not only compatible with truth, but ultimately depend upon it.
With respect to the difficult subject of things interreligious, Ratzinger strongly supports interreligious dialogue, so long as it isn’t understood as assuming all points of view are and must be, in the end, equally valid. About interreligious prayer—understood as prayer together by Christians and non-Christians, with widely different religious views—he is more skeptical. He distinguishes multireligious prayer, where different religious groups come together but pray separate from one another, and interreligious prayer.
Ratzinger doubts whether reasonable conditions for interreligious prayer can generally be met. Still, he lays out careful criteria for such prayer, which include agreement about the nature of God, and the nature and subject of prayer, as well circumstances that don’t lend themselves to misunderstanding such common prayer as relativism or a denial of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith.
Truth and Tolerance is a book for anyone interested in how Christianity, world religions, faith, truth, and freedom fit together.
Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI — and, personally, I couldn’t be happier!
The announcement has just been made. Cardinal Ratzinger is the successor to Pope John Paul II. Personally, I could not be happier about it. Although the New Age Movement was apparently running rampant in the Catholic Church in the earlier 1980s, things started to change in about 1988. That was the year Matthew Fox was “silenced” for one year. Cardinal Ratzinger played a most direct role in the entire change of direction of the Catholic Church from one of toleration to one of opposition to New Age doctrinal heresies.
Cardinal Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. When I started my research on the New Age Movement in 1981, the Archdiocese of Detroit bookstore probably had as many New Age books as the local New Age book dealer. Points south such as Grailville in Loveland, Ohio were strictly New Age. The last I checked, they still were.
I remember that as a conscientious member of Highland Park Baptist Church in Southfield, Michigan, I thought I needed to educate people on the disturbing theological and political developments vis a vis the New Age Movement I was witnessing which could well have prophetic implications. My pastor then was Joseph B. Stowell who later became President of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Hoping he would carry the ball, I would buy duplicate sets of the evidence and hand then to Pastor Stowell. My recollection of those times was that he thereafter preached about 16 sermons on Jonah, looking disturbed as he did. We heard so many sermons on Jonah, various members of the congregation joked that if they heard one more, they would plan on wearing their bathing suits to church! Then one Sunday, the New Year of 1982, he reversed course, brightened and said, “Well, everything’s going to get better and better.” My then young son said, “Mom, it looks like he considered everything you said and has now rejected it.” I will tell you now the word on the New Age Movement got out with little or no thanks to Pastor Stowell. I requested my materials back and disturbed by his telling me he had not quite finished reading a book that he had obviously never opened, we had a meeting at his request in April 1982 just maybe two weeks before the New Agers ran their March 25, 1982 ads reading “The Christ is now here.” I was astounded when he told me that like me, he was very busy and had to delegate. He had asked a number of members of his staff and professional colleagues if they had heard of the New Age Movement. He said they had not and therefore he had to conclude it did not exist.
I told Pastor Stowell of a number of New Agers I knew of personally who had repented and broke from their involvement in the movement after seeing my collected materials. At that point, he said, “Connie, there must be something wrong with your message.” I said, “Why is that, Joe?” (We were on a first name basis!) He said, “Too many Catholics and New Agers are responding to it.” I was astounded. I said, “Joe, when Jesus was here, what was his pet peeve?” He said, “the hypocrites and the Pharisees, why?” I said, “It’s still his pet peeve.” He said, “Oh, no, that applied only to the Jews of Jesus’ day — why they were much more apostate than we are. I’m a child of God — I’ve been transferred to the Kingdom of God.” I said, “Were they? Are you? Have you? If you want my opinion, that’s a pharisaical attitude right there.” He said, “Well, I don’t agree.” That night David Bryant treated the congregation to a shameless display of what I consider New Age proselytizing. I mentioned it in my first book, THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF THE RAINBOW. I will tell you right now that I got the word out on the New Age Movement with precious little help from Pastor Stowell.
Given the lack of evangelical concern at that point in time, I decided it would be more profitable to educate my client base — those who respected me enough to pay for advice — on the New Age Movement and its subtle threats both to their souls and to society in general. One day in September, 1981, I had a call from a young local priest, Fr. Eduard Perrone (not to be confused with the published Italian Theosophist of the same name) wanting to know just what I had shown a former lapsed Catholic, a childhood friend of the priest, who came back to church after many years away, and then sought him out, telling him what he saw in my office. I invited that priest to come take a look. He came in early October of 1981, reviewed my materials and then said, “I can hardly believe I’m holding this in my hand.” He finally said, “I have to accept the truth of what you have told me — I saw too much of this going through the seminary to ignore it.” He said something I will never forget: “We have a terrible job facing us — how to wake people up without scaring them to death.” I have tried never to forget that wise advice!
To make a long story very short, Fr. Perrone brought MANY people to see me at the office all with their own collections of prophetic fulfillment they were seeing. He and the fine ladies of his parish eventually organized regular Saturday afternoon speaking sessions for me at his church school’s library. They taped my speeches and disseminated those tapes. After a Detroit Free Press reporter converted of her own New Age involvement and wrote a very picture essay story about my work, my work became international.
There was then the disturbing aspect of tremendous infiltration of the Roman Catholic Church which still exists on some levels. (There was tremendous Protestant infiltration as well — much of it coming from Jeremy Rifkin.)
In the fall of 1983, I spoke in Seattle. Afterwards, at the request of some who contacted me in Detroit, I furnished Seattle Catholic activists materials proving a Catholic priest, Fr. Matthew Fox (excommunicated as of 1993), was giving seminars with self-confessed witches, with headlines of “Starhawk teaches at Holy Name’s.” A Seattle banker who was present said he thought the Vatican should be notified. I said imprudently “save your breath – I’m sure they must know.” Nevertheless he sent the materials to Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome who according to Kitty Muggeridge’s book, YOUR HOUSE IS LEFT DESOLATE, as well as Matthew Fox’s very bitter autobiography (incidentally which also assigns some blame to yours truly for his woes) thereafter opened a file on Matthew Fox and began his long investigation. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote beautiful detailed papers on the spiritual evils of the New Age Movement, carefully citing the Alice Bailey references, that others giving probable disinformation (e.g., Fr. Pacwa) were saying to disregard.
I was told that teaching about the New Age Movement was now mandatory in the Italian seminaries, at least. I had a priest walk up to me in southern California when I was speaking at a Human Life International Conference in the early 1990s and ask me, “How does it feel to be the first Protestant to start a serious in-house Roman Catholic reformation.”
Just as the New Agers were ‘ecumenical,’ in short time we had our own ecumenical movement of sorts going — we had regular meetings at the church school library of that priest with local pastors from many local denominations joining the discussion and warning their respective congregations about just what the New Age Movement is. I had support from out everywhere and opposition from about everywhere, and had long discussions of the threats this movement posed both to Christianity and to the world at large. A local newspaper reporter converted out of the New Age Movement, running from it as though she had seen the devil. She wrote a major article on my work complete with pictures which ran on May 5, 1982, just a few days after the April 25th ads ran from New Agers proclaiming their “Christ is now here”. From then on, I was called by Southwest Radio Church, Trinity Broadcasting and spent close to seven full years on the national lecture circuit, returning to my law practice in December 1988.
Along the way, I had encounters with Matthew Fox, who was successfully working Catholic circles, both liturgical and educational with his New Age agenda. I sent materials to Catholics who attended my lectures at Seattle University in November, 1983. The materials were copies of Circle Network News headlined “Starhawk teaches at Holy Name’s.” It was about her work with Matthew Fox’s Institute for Creation Centered Spirituality. She wrote “we danced the spiral, jumped the cauldron and found other new and innovative ways to express ourselves. Isn’t it wonderful to find such a sympathetic spirit to paganism in the Christian world?”
The Seattle Catholics United for the Faith people sent the materials to Cardinal Ratzinger against my advice. (I was convinced everybody had to know and nobody would do anything about it.) Cardinal Ratzinger, I later learned both from Kitty Muggeridge’s book about the crisis of faith in the Catholic Church, Your House is Left Desolate, and Matthew Fox’s autobiography that this was when the Catholic Church began to investigate and then clamp down on the New Age Movement. Cardinal Ratzinger has taken, at least in the past, a firm stand against the New Age Movement and its denials of the exclusive divinity in Christ in “whom we alone have salvation.” I have no reason to suspect he has backed away from these truths.
For those and many more reasons, I am happy that he, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is the new Pope Benedict XVI. My prayers are with him and the church he will now be heading in what increasingly appears more and more to be apocalyptic times.
Thank you and good night.
Constance E. Cumbey
April 19, 2005
I reproduce below a letter that I received from Constance Cumbey.
Subject: Keep up your good work
I was so very happy to learn about your excellent work warning about the errors of the New Age Movement.
CONSTANCE E. CUMBEY
Constance E. Cumbey, Attorney at Law, 2525 S. Telegraph, Suite 304, Bloomfield Hills, MI, USA 48302 (248) 253-0333; 253-9037
Ms. Cumbey must have come across my work on the Internet.
She is the author of “The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism“, 1983, Huntingdon House Inc., ISBN Number 0-910311-03-X. I first got a second hand copy in 1998 and I have cited her in several of my articles.
Pope Opposes Harry Potter Novels – Signed Letters from Cardinal Ratzinger Now Online
July 13, 2005
RIMSTING, Germany, July 13, 2005 LifeSiteNews.com has obtained and made available online copies of two letters sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was recently elected Pope, to a German critic of the Harry Potter novels. In March 2003, a month after the English press throughout the world falsely proclaimed that Pope John Paul II approved of Harry Potter, the man who was to become his successor sent a letter to a Gabriele Kuby outlining his agreement with her opposition to J.K. Rowling’s offerings. (See below for links to scanned copies of the letters signed by Cardinal Ratzinger.)
As the sixth issue of Rowling’s Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – is about to be released, the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed serious reservations about the novels is now finally being revealed to the English-speaking world still under the impression the Vatican approves the Potter novels.
In a letter dated March 7, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger thanked Kuby for her “instructive” book Harry Potter – gut oder böse (Harry Potter- good or evil?), in which Kuby says the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy.
“It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger.
The letter also encouraged Kuby to send her book on Potter to the Vatican prelate who quipped about Potter during a press briefing which led to the false press about the Vatican support of Potter. At a Vatican press conference to present a study document on the New Age in April 2003, one of the presenters – Rev. Peter Fleetwood – made a positive comment on the Harry Potter books in response to a question from a reporter. Headlines such as “Pope Approves Potter” (Toronto Star), “Pope Sticks Up for Potter Books” (BBC), “Harry Potter Is Ok with the Pontiff” (Chicago Sun Times) and “Vatican: Harry Potter’s OK with us” (CNN Asia) littered the mainstream media.
In a second letter sent to Kuby on May 27, 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger “gladly” gave his permission to Kuby to make public “my judgement about Harry Potter.”
The most prominent Potter critic in North America, Catholic novelist and painter Michael O’Brien commented to LifeSiteNews.com on the “judgement” of now-Pope Benedict saying, “This discernment on the part of Benedict XVI reveals the Holy Father’s depth and wide ranging gifts of spiritual discernment.” O’Brien, author of a book dealing with fantasy literature for children added, “it is consistent with many of the statements he’s been making since his election to the Chair of Peter, indeed for the past 20 years – a probing accurate read of the massing spiritual warfare that is moving to a new level of struggle in western civilization. He is a man in whom a prodigious intellect is integrated with great spiritual gifts. He is the father of the universal church and we would do well to listen to him.”
English translations of the two letters by Cardinal Ratzinger follow:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
March 7, 2003
Esteemed and dear Ms. Kuby!
Many thanks for your kind letter of February 20th and the informative book which you sent me in the same mail. It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.
I would like to suggest that you write to Mr. Peter Fleetwood, (Pontifical Council of Culture, Piazza S. Calisto 16, 100153 Rome) directly and to send him your book.
Sincere Greetings and Blessings,
+ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
May 27, 2003
Esteemed and dear Ms. Kuby,
Somehow your letter got buried in the large pile of name-day, birthday and Easter mail. Finally this pile is taken care of, so that I can gladly allow you to refer to my judgment about Harry Potter.
Sincere Greetings and Blessings,
+ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Links to the scanned copies of the two signed letters by Cardinal Ratzinger (in German) – In PDF format:
See LifeSite’s Harry Potter resource section at: http://www.lifesite.net/features/harrypotter/
Hidden Dangers of the New Age
‘For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned into fables.‘(From St Paul’s second letter to Timothy, chapter 4, verses 3 and 4)
Fifteen years ago a journalist summed up the accelerating emergence of New Age beliefs and practices in these words: “…..traditional forms of paganism are prospering in the West. In the midst of skyscrapers, computers, television and jets we find flourishing altars of Pantheism, nature worship, Buddhism, astrology and witchcraft.….we find spiritual supermarkets full of ready-wrapped, do-it-yourself meditation religions.” Today, not only are all those activities still prospering, but they are also more widely available. They are accepted as legitimate alternative expressions of ‘spirituality’. They have become part of mainstream culture.
In 1993 Pope John Paul II
issued a warning about New Age spirituality referring to it as “a vague vision of the world expressed in myths and symbols.”
When he was Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI
defined the New Age concisely by describing it as “a multiple and changing phenomenon.” In 2003 the Vatican issued a document entitled Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life – A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’ – in which the following observation is made: “Western culture has taken a step beyond tolerance to a conscious erosion of respect for normality. Normality is presented as a morally loaded concept linked necessarily with absolute norms. For a growing number of people absolute beliefs or norms indicate nothing but an inability to tolerate other people’s views and convictions. In this atmosphere alternative life-styles and theories have really taken off…..”
But, you might say, surely most New Age beliefs and practices are quite harmless, so why do we need to bother about them? A brief and simple question like this deserves a brief and simple answer. However, unfortunately, where the so-called New Age is concerned, brevity and simplicity are rarely possible. It is not just a matter of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example: ‘Is there such a thing as the New Age Movement?’ Well, the answer to that is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Why? Because it depends what is meant by the words ‘New’ and ‘Age’ and ‘Movement’. To explain this we need to look for a moment at the history and aims of what has come to be known as the New Age Movement.
First – it is not ‘New’. It goes back to the Garden of Eden with Satan tempting Eve to the forbidden knowledge which would make her like God if she followed his – that is, Satan’s – instructions. In the Book of Genesis, at the beginning of the third chapter, we have the account of his infamous lies: “You shall not die…… your eyes shall be opened…..you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” In other words: you will have the power to decide what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is evil. Secondly – the ‘Age’ referred to in the term ‘New Age’ is the so-called Age of Aquarius which we have supposedly entered at the beginning of the third millennium. The astrological Aquarian Age is said to represent the age of the spirit and liberated mankind. New Agers see it also as the end of Christianity.
In this context it is worth recalling the musical ‘Hair’ in the late nineteen-sixties and its theme song ‘Aquarius’. The lyrics of this song imprinted themselves on the minds of a whole generation in North America and Western Europe:
“When the Moon is in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then Peace will guide the planets and Love will steer the Stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…Aquarius….Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding; no more falsehoods or derision; golden living, dreams of visions, mystic crystal revelation and the mind’s true liberation. Aquarius……“
Those words sum up what, from then on, began to become known as the New Age.
And the word ‘Movement’? This does not refer to any structured organisation – it has no headquarters, it has no central committee, it has no constitution. To quote again from the Vatican document mentioned above: “New Age is not a single, uniform movement, but rather a loose network of practitioners whose approach is to think globally but act locally.” Around the world millions of men and women are involved in hundreds of groups and activities in which they, with other like-minded people, are promoting beliefs and practices that are in direct opposition to Divine revelation and Christianity. They are opposed to Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Teaching Authority of the Church. So, in that sense it could be called a ‘Movement’.
About a year ago BBC Radio Four broadcast a discussion about why – as the presenter put it – why religion appears to be giving way to ‘spirituality’. In fact, the term ‘a spiritual revolution’ was used. To all intents and purposes it is a revolution – a radical change in the way the world is viewed. Of course, to anyone involved with New Age beliefs and practices (knowingly or otherwise) the word ‘spirituality’ is unlikely to mean the same as it does to a Christian. For the Christian, the spiritual life means the “life of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the souls of the faithful and enabling them to praise and love God and serve Him in the practice of virtue.”
However, for those involved in the New Age it is more likely to imply an esoteric perception of the world, an altered state of consciousness (such as transcendental meditation) or some vague concept of ‘enlightenment’. In this context we are likely to hear the words ‘paradigm shift’. This phrase relates to the whole range of beliefs, values, and techniques shared by members of any given community – and it involves a complete change of perspective, a different view of the world. But, as one writer has put it: “…the insidious danger of the New Age is its view of the nature of reality, which admits to no absolutes. History provides evidence that relative standards of morality breed chaos and – ultimately the downfall of society.”
It should be should pointed out that although the term ‘New Age’ only became part of common parlance in the mid-seventies it was a term used some fifty years earlier by Alice Bailey, a New Age ‘guru’ and founder of the Lucis Trust (formerly the Lucifer Trust). The Lucis Trust shares the aims of the Theosophical Society (established in 1875) which is committed to bringing about a universal brotherhood, a one-world religion and the development of the psychic powers in man. These objectives are known collectively as the Plan. It is interesting to note that when the Plan was drawn up in 1875 the founders of the Theosophical Society decreed that it should be kept secret for one hundred years. And that is exactly what happened.
To see how the New Age manifests itself in relation to our faith we need look no further than Modernism, which became known as such in the late nineteenth century and was condemned by Pope St. Pius X in 1907. Modernism rejects objective revelation and regards religion as essentially a matter of experience – personal and collective experience. Faith is from within – a part of human nature hidden and unconscious – a natural instinct belonging to the emotions – a sort of feeling for the divine. Clearly, this is at odds with the Catechism of the Catholic Church which teaches that faith is a supernatural gift from God enabling us to believe without doubting all that God has revealed. Modernism therefore, by the definition just given, can be seen as one of the means by which New Age ideas can infiltrate the Church.
Alongside this we have the present-day liberality of Secular Humanism which focuses on the self-reliance of man and dispenses entirely with the divine and supernatural. It calls for a secular system of world law and order as well as freedom of choice in matters such as abortion, divorce and sexual exploration. This is the false ‘creed’ which leads to despair and emptiness for many young people – as a result of which they are an easy target for New Age ‘spirituality’. For most of them, sadly, organised religion is seen as irrelevant.
Another ‘…ism’ that should be mentioned here is Gnosticism, that heresy which was widespread in the second and third centuries, and which has re-surfaced repeatedly ever since, albeit under different disguises – the present one being the New Age Movement. (Incidentally, Gnosticism is also the ‘religion’ of the Da Vinci Code which is currently doing irreparable harm to the faith of millions – young and old alike – by means of both the book and the film).
The writings of many New Age authors contain Christian terminology and quotations from Sacred Scripture. This gives the writings a cloak of authenticity which they do not deserve. An example of this is a programme called ‘A Course in Miracles’ promoted by the Institute for Teaching Inner Peace. They have an impressive website offering a range of books, CD’s, DVD’s, audio and video tapes and a free quarterly magazine. The purpose of this self-study course is to change one’s perceptions. The late author, Dr Helen Shucman, claimed that the course was given to her as an inner dictation. Some of it is written as though the words come directly from Jesus. The unwary may be taken in by this, but the ‘Course in Miracles’ has been described as a modern version of Gnosticism. It is counterfeit Christianity.
It is interesting to note that in Volume One of his ‘History of the Church’ Philip Hughes states that the Gnostic movement became ‘a rich and confused amalgam of rituals and beliefs, magical practices and theories, which attracted many followers.’ That would be a suitable description for much of the New Age Movement today.
Those whom we might call ‘New Agers’ share a conviction about many of the characteristics of Gnosticism: a suspicion of tradition; a distrust of authority; a dislike of objective statements of faith; the need for ‘freedom’ from the ‘stifling effects’ of doctrine and dogma; and the claim that orthodox Christianity, by being too rigid, keeps people from making their own choices about good and evil. In other words, it prevents them from making up their own minds about truth and falsehood. So, we are back to Satan in the Garden of Eden again. Add to that the promise of enlightenment that goes beyond normality, and we have the New Age in a nutshell. The Vatican document, referred to earlier, mentions ‘a widely-held perception that the time is ripe for a fundamental change in individuals, in society and in the world.’
Clearly, then, if this perception is coupled with evidence of a desire for a fulfilling and healthy existence for the human race and for the planet (and through the media we are bombarded with the so-called ‘evidence’) then the stage is set for New Age beliefs and practices to flourish. Contrast that with just one traditional reference point: the beautiful Novena in Honour of the Holy Ghost. The opening meditation for Day One reminds us that: “Only one thing is important – eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared – sin.” Compare that to what many of our young people are being told in their Catholic schools today. There, it is much more likely to be: ‘Only one thing is important – saving the Earth. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared – pollution.’ Or, for ‘pollution’ perhaps ‘population growth’ might be substituted.
There are two key characteristics which are present to a greater or lesser extent in all New Age aims and activities: Evolutionary Divinity and Global Unity. These twin ideas suggest that the human race is evolving spiritually towards a unified global ‘consciousness’. The idea of Evolutionary Divinity includes: altered states of consciousness; spirit guides; visualisation; reincarnation (the law of rebirth) and karma (the law of cause and effect). Evolutionary divinity claims that the essential nature of man is good and divine – therefore, no sin; no need for confession or forgiveness; no need for salvation. We create our own reality, and our own heaven. The idea of Global Unity embraces: creation-centred spirituality – now becoming more widely known as ‘greenspirit’; the pantheistic belief that God is everything and everything is God; and, of course, the universal brotherhood envisaged by the Theosophical Society. In this concept there is no distinction between Creator and creature – we are one with nature and man is god.
So, why has interest in the New Age grown so rapidly and spread so effectively? That is a question addressed by the Vatican document which tells us that the New Age operates more often than not on the level of feelings, instincts and emotions. That, of course, ties in with the work of the Modernists and plays into the hands of the promoters of many New Age ideas, beliefs and practices.
But, in charity, it has to be said that most people who are involved in the New Age have little, if any, conscious awareness of potential dangers of the activities in which they are participating. Activities such as Yoga and Reiki – virtually unheard of forty years ago – are now regarded as almost essential for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. No danger is seen in the spiritual philosophy upon which such activities are based, although it is clear that New Age beliefs and practices are incompatible with Christianity.
Is yoga a suitable activity for Christians? The simple answer to that question is – no! Why?? Because the practice of yoga could undermine the Faith of any unsuspecting Christian.
There are many forms of physical exercise which can be undertaken without putting oneself in regular contact with a practice which is based on, and rooted in, a non-Christian, Eastern spiritual philosophy and lifestyle. In this, as in all matters concerning the Faith, the authoritative voice of the Church must be heard and acted upon. Remember the Penny Catechism question: “Of which must you take most care, your body or your soul? Answer: I must take most care of my soul.”
‘Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life‘ traces the development of the New Age movement and the current widespread acceptance of many elements of New Age ‘spirituality‘. In the part headed ‘New Age Spirituality‘ it states: ‘Some of the traditions which flow into the New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult practices, Cabbalism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Druidic lore, Celtic Christianity, mediaeval alchemy… Zen Buddhism, Yoga and so on.’‘ And in the same section it is pointed out that: ‘There is talk of God among New Age practitioners but it is not a personal, transcendent God. Nor is it the Creator and sustainer of the universe, but an ‘impersonal energy‘ with which it forms a ‘cosmic unity’. This is the spiritual ‘philosophy’‘ of which yoga is a part.
The following quotation is from the 2003 part work called ‘Enhancing your Mind, Body, Spirit’ (currently being re-published): ‘The physical postures that form the core of any Yoga session, invigorate the body and mind. These physical exercises are called ‘asanas’. The word ‘asana’ means ‘steady pose’ (each posture is meant to be held for some time). The Asanas help to redress the body’s harmony by helping to align the spine and head, improve blood flow, induce a state of relaxation, energise glands and organs and enhance well-being. This is the result of the seven major centres of energy (the Chakras) being brought into balance.’
In the programme of the 2005 National Conference of the ‘Call to Action’ organisation (a dissident ‘Catholic’ group) in Milwaukee, USA there was this announcement: ‘Carol will lead morning prayer of gentle yoga and pranayama. Yoga is a sacrament, a symphony of soul and motion that emerges from the inside out. We bless the new day through sun salutation, half moon, mountain and other yoga postures.’ (n.b. ‘pranayama’ means breathing) Referring back to the ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ part work we read that: ‘The Sun salutation is a sequence of 12 Yogic postures performed in a continuous flowing motion, punctuated by six deep breaths. It can be thought of as a slow Yoga dance – almost a meditation in its own right. Saluting the Sun originates from the ancient practice of divine prostration – an act of bowing down in homage to the Sun, the creative life-force of the universe that exists within all of us.’
Whether one realises it or not, Yoga is a combination of physical exercises and the spiritual. No part of yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it. One commentator on the New Age – someone who was deeply involved in New Age practices – says this: ‘Often it is thought that Hatha Yoga (the physical exercise form of Yoga) is benign and somehow disassociated from the rest of the total Yoga system. This is a potentially dangerous fallacy. Hatha Yoga is part and parcel of the whole of yoga, with many of the same dangers. In addition, it also functions as a door through which the curious sometimes walk to explore other aspects of the New Age.’
Another example is Reiki – a practice which is becoming very widespread in private clinics – and in the Heath Service. Here is an extract from the programme of a clinic in Berkshire which offers medical and surgical rehabilitation combined with, what they call holistic excellence. The clinic claims that its programme is accredited by The Royal College of Nursing: ‘Reiki is a Japanese word that means Universal Life Energy. As children we know this source, we are one with it, but as we grow up we forget and feel separated. One of the gifts of Reiki is a feeling of being reconnected. Reiki is neither a religion nor a belief system. It opens the way to new depths of spiritual experience and understanding. Once you have been initiated, Reiki is activated by placing your hands on yourself or another person. The Reiki energy is then drawn through the body and will go to the level where the energy is blocked, charging it with loving energy and raising the vibrational frequency.’
Reiki is said to have been developed by a Buddhist monk by the name of Mikao Usui in the latter part of the nineteenth century. He claimed to have spent many years evolving a healing system based on ancient Buddhist teachings written in Sanskrit, the ancient and sacred language of Hindus in India. Mr Usui spent the rest of his life practising and teaching this method of healing. It is claimed by practitioners that Reiki raises our ‘vibrational frequencies’ and, as more and more people become initiated and attuned, so our planet’s ‘vibrations’ are lifted also. Now, it is obvious that this practice is not compatible with Christianity and should be avoided. But, in case we needed any further convincing, we can refer to a warning intended for health professionals and patients that was circulated three years ago by a team of nine highly qualified doctors and a mental nurse. Their joint statement makes sombre reading. Among other things, they point out that: ‘Reiki is an exclusively spiritual technique which connects the recipient to spiritual powers or ‘spirit guides’ whether they realise it or not.’ And that: ‘recipients are usually unaware that the practitioners are spiritist mediums who channel spiritual powers in the same way as mediums in séances.’ New Age beliefs, practices and products are no longer regarded as ‘fringe’, ‘weird’ or ‘eccentric’. In the main, they are accepted unquestioningly by modern Western society. They are promoted widely through magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television programmes and in the many public exhibitions and shows. Workshops encompass ‘personal growth’, ‘spiritual awareness’ and training in complementary therapies, whilst exhibitors offer crystals, hypnotherapy, meditation, numerology, reiki, tarot, yoga and much more.
The annual ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ Festivals, which were launched in London in 1977, have spawned many smaller ‘psychic fairs’ around the country enabling clairvoyants, spiritual healers and mediums to have direct contact with the unsuspecting public in cosy local surroundings. This year, for the first time, six ‘Mind, Body, Soul’ exhibitions are taking place in London and the Home Counties. Another ‘first’ for 2006 is the two-day ‘Mystic Arts Show’ at Olympia which covers “mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge” and includes stands for exhibitors featuring: shamanism, divination, channelling, spells, Wicca, cosmic energies and reincarnation.
The New Age Movement has even attempted to hijack the angels. Typical New Age books on angels refer to ‘energy fields’, astrological connections, the healing power of colour and luck management techniques such as Feng Shui. Most large bookstores now have many shelves stocked with books on the development of psychic powers, casting spells and learning witchcraft. These are often low-cost, how-to-do-it books easily accessible to impressionable teenagers whose curiosity has been aroused by films, television programmes or magazine articles. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, of course, specifically forbids all forms of divination and magic as sins against the First Commandment (paras. 2115-2117).
Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life reminds us that: “New Age ‘truth’ is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondences, harmony and ecstasy, in general pleasant experiences. It is a matter of finding one’s own truth in accordance with the feel-good factor…. relative to one’s own feelings and experiences.” It is clear that many New Age practices seem, to those involved in them, not to raise doctrinal questions. But these practices communicate, directly or indirectly, a mentality which can influence thinking and lead to false beliefs – beliefs which are opposed to the Truth of Divine Revelation as expressed in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church.
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Last Things: The Event That Is Christianity
James V. Schall, S.J.
May 14, 2008
“In his funeral eulogy for Gussiani, Ratzinger praised him for understanding that ‘Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story; it is an event.’
This, in a nutshell, is the message of Deus Caritas Est.”
—Tracey Rowland, Ratzinger’s Faith
“At the level of praxis Ratzinger has also warned the faithful not to get mixed up in interfaith situations which require them implicitly to deny their belief in the Trinitarian God.”
—Tracey Rowland, Ratzinger’s Faith
It is a most welcome initiative that Tracey Rowland, the Australian scholar, should provide us with an accurate and relatively brief guide (the text of the book is a mere 155 pages) to the major themes and issues that have concerned the academic and ecclesiastical career of the Bavarian theologian, Joseph Ratzinger. […]
“The New Age movement is the best contemporary example of a mystical religion,” Ratzinger wrote. In this context Ratzinger is referring to Albert Görres’ concept of the “Hinduization of the faith.”
This occurs when doctrinal propositions no longer matter because the important thing is contact with a spiritual atmosphere which leads beyond everything that can be said. Against this kind of approach Ratzinger has quipped that “Jesus had no intention of producing some content-less state of exaltation.” . . . [F]or a reduction to the mystical way means that the world of the senses, particularly the work of the intellectual faculty, drops out of our relation to the divine. Religion loses its power to form a communion of mind and will and becomes a mere therapy.
While Ratzinger spends a good deal of time on materialism and relativism, it is refreshing to notice that he is also aware that the greatest temptations to faith and reason itself do not come from the sins of the flesh but from the aberrations of the mind in its efforts to explain things exclusively by itself and its own powers.
More Catholic references to the 1989 Document continued from page 2.
Why New Age is a Challenge for Christianity – Father Alessandro Olivieri Pennesi Responds
VATICAN CITY, June 30, 2004
Sixty-eight, mysticism, Satanism
Published in 30 Giorni, May 2003, Rome