Reiki, Yoga good for the soul?- Bishop Julian Porteous, Sydney Auxiliary Bishop


Reiki, Yoga good for the soul?

By Bishop Julian Porteous, Sydney Auxiliary Bishop, April 21, 2010



Yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki, these are now familiar terms to most Australians. They are relatively recent imports into our culture, but they have spread with extraordinary pace across the nation. Yoga has been around the longest, while Reiki is a more recent immigrant.
Coming from Asia, they have been marketed as good for relaxation, fitness and general health. They are widely used, and many speak of their benefits. One could say that they are not viewed as exotic practices but are a part of mainstream Australian life. Sports people use them. Business people turn to them. Many Christians have been drawn to them, seeing them as supplementing Christian spiritual practices.
Despite the large scale acceptance of these practices, we need to ask: are they good for the soul?


The Practice of Yoga
Yoga is well known as the practice of adopting various bodily postures that are intended to help the person enter a “state of inner stillness”. This is seen as a way of de-stressing, for relaxing and restoring a sense of general wellbeing. Hatha Yoga, the most common form, offers 20 basic postures.
Adopting these postures is accompanied by various ways in which the practitioner is guided to be able to be still and empty the mind. The bodily posture needs to work in cooperation with the quietening and steadying of the mind. Thus, each posture is to be accompanied by a control of the breathing, the focus of the mind, and the repetition of a mantra. In other words, there is an inner journey which must be undertaken along with the physical postures.
As the person wishes to move further into yogic practice the teacher may propose that it is necessary to surrender oneself to the prana, or divine energy. A person can go even further on this inner journey towards entering altered states of consciousness. This further development will entail an emptying of the mind so that one becomes more open and passive. The result is that there will be a reduction in logical thought, a lessening of the influence of the emotions and a weakening of the will, so that there is greater freedom for the divine energy to operate. A person must surrender in trust to some real but unknown divine force.
The ultimate goal is to come to a place of oneness with the universe. However, to achieve this goal there is a requirement on the practitioner to dismantle their personality – the philosophy underlying Yoga considers all but the spiritual an illusion. The actual final point of Yoga is an absorption into the divine energy.


The spiritual underpinnings of Yoga
When we consider the goal of Yoga in these terms we have crossed a line. No longer is Yoga simply a relaxation technique, rather it is a path into a spiritual world. This world is the spiritual world of Hinduism. Yoga has been imported from India.
The practitioner, who no doubt has experienced some tangible benefits from using Yoga and wants to know more, is now led into new territory. New concepts and new ways of seeing themselves and reality around them are introduced. They claim that the human body has seven chakras (or energy centres). The student is introduced to existence – they claim of the force called Kundalini – the divine energy that flows within the body. Kundalini is, in fact, a Hindu goddess, designated as a coiled snake.

In this process the person is being offered an alternative view of the nature of the human person and of the character of the divine. These are concepts that are completely at variance with Christianity.
What is the practitioner now coming into touch with? The spiritual belief behind Yoga is that there is an impersonal, infinite energy called Brahman. This energy has created everything and is in everything. Hinduism believes that nature is divine. Thus they say, “All is god, god is all”. We Christians call this pantheism.



Advancing further into the spiritual world behind Yoga one learns of the possibility of developing the ability to exercise psychic powers (or siddhis). This is what the Christian Scriptures call divination. The Catholic Church warns of the dangers of such spiritual activities – “All forms of divination are to be rejected”, teaches the Catechism of the Catholic Church. [CCC 2116] It goes on to specify: “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.” [CCC 2116] This spiritual world offered through Yoga is dangerous territory.
A person advancing in the ways of Yoga is under the direction of a guru who is needed to escort the person into these higher spiritual levels. One has to ask, what does the guru believe? Who is his god? Where is he taking the person?
For the ordinary person who wants a simple system of actions to assist in relaxation, all this may seem far from what they have experienced and they may have no intention of going this far. All they desire is to benefit from the simple practice of the postures. This is quite reasonable. However, someone using Yoga will be exposed to the spiritual world that underpins it. There is a temptation to take on the “spirituality” behind Yoga, albeit inadvertently. A person may find themselves using the Hindu terminology. They may find themselves thinking more about oneness with the universe and less about a personal relationship with God in Christ. Indeed, for the Catholic, the sacramental life may seem prosaic compared with the satisfaction derived through Yoga. What can happen is that there is a subtle shifting of vision – from a Christian faith grounded in a relationship with Christ to a more “enlightened” universal view of reality as professed by Yoga. Somewhere along the line clear Christian faith has dissolved and has been replaced with a new spiritual outlook.


The seemingly graceful art of Tai Chi
With these thoughts in mind let us examine the popular practice of Tai Chi.

The origin of Tai Chi is China. We are familiar with seeing people practise the slow, graceful movements in parks and halls. Once again the movements are associated with other practices which are in common with Yoga. The exercise of Tai Chi requires the control or slowing of breathing. The practitioner will be encouraged to empty the mind so that peace and harmony can be found through the absence of thoughts.
Tai Chi is touted as providing a means for the reduction of stress and generally improving overall health. It is commonly used in schools and businesses, in nursing homes and on Catholic retreats. Tai Chi claims to enhance the spiritual aspect of life. It is also claimed to enable people to experience healing powers. The promotional material is quick to claim, however, that it is not a religion. They propose it as simply a technique.
Those who teach Tai Chi are conscious that there is, in fact, a spiritual philosophy that underpins it. Slowly, this deeper dimension comes to the fore, particularly for those who want to go further with the practice. The ultimate source of this philosophy is Taoism. Tai Chi aims at releasing the Chi, or life force, or divine energy. As with Yoga, various places in the body are understood to be centres of the Chi.
The understanding of the nature of the human person, which is found in Taoism, is quite at variance with the Christian understanding. There is a completely different spiritual worldview.

Having an open mind

To benefit from Tai Chi at a deeper level one is asked to have an “open mind”. It is claimed that the person will only be able to discover the supernatural power within when they let go of rational thought and open themselves to these new realities. 
One of the paths to having an open mind is to be able to move beyond a reliance on the difference between good and evil. In other words, a person has to suspend moral thinking. The reason for this view is found in the Taoist philosophy of the yin and yang. Harmony and stillness are found when the yin and yang are in balance. Thus, there is a requirement to move beyond the use of moral facilities and enter a new realm of free floating openness.
Such a position of radical openness is extremely dangerous. We have abandoned those faculties given to us to direct and protect our lives: our reason, our emotions and our will. The normal use of these faculties assists us in making fully human decisions, and enabling us to be responsible for our actions. Abandoning these faculties in search of a deeper spiritual existence opens the person to all sorts of unknown forces. Our defences are down. It can lead to exposure to demonic powers.
To pursue Tai Chi to its fullest, a person must surrender to the Tao, the supreme creator. Once again we come to realise that something that is declared to have no religious meaning is in fact a path to a new set of religious beliefs. There is a fundamental deception at work.


Reiki – “an ancient healing art”
Reiki healing has come on the scene in recent years. It hails from Japan. It is described as “an ancient healing art”. In fact Reiki, as we know it, is just over a century old. It was developed by Mikao Usui and is grounded in Buddhism. It is sometimes called, “The Usui System of Natural Healing”.

Reiki uses a gentle “hands on” technique. The person seeking healing lays on a table, clothed. Hands are placed on or just above key locations of the body: the head, the heart, the navel, the groin. People speak of experiences like a strong surge of energy through the body; they can find themselves relaxed and some speak of strong emotional release. Reiki thus works on the emotions, the mind and the spirit as well as the body. It is often described as providing holistic healing.
Reiki has its particular spiritual aspects. It has four sacred symbols. These Usui symbols are directly connected with the exercise of the healing power.


Stages of Initiation
To become a practitioner of Reiki there are three levels of initiation, or “attunement”. These are supervised by a Reiki Master. There is a requirement of a spiritual preparation for each level. This preparation includes fasting (from sugar, smoking, alcohol and TV), engaging in some time of meditation and of seeking an inner cleansing from negative emotions like anger, fear or jealousy. It is clearly a religious rite of passage.
The Master traces symbols over the initiate, invoking power to the chakra centres. The initiate adopts postures of prayer as the Master performs his liturgy. This religious rite aims to channel divine energy to the person which they can then use in healing. There is a transmission of power taking place in these rites. But what is the origin of this power?
Moving to higher levels of Reiki opens the person to psychic powers. They become capable of channelling spirits and clairvoyance. Thus, they have moved into the world of the occult. For the person to be able to receive these psychic powers it is necessary to deny the reality of evil. Nothing is evil, Reiki Masters declare. The mind is to adopt a position of passive openness. Again, we can ask: open to what?
There are documented accounts of some of the dangers that a person engaged seriously with Reiki can experience – a release of powerful forces of lust, for instance. Moving into these realms when one’s normal defences are neutralised allows spiritual forces complete freedom to move. These forces can quickly reveal themselves as dark and threatening.
In March 2009, the US Bishops produced a document: Guidelines for evaluating Reiki as an alternative therapy. The Bishops state, “To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification, either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith nor science”.
The document states categorically, “Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centres, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy”.


Not good for the soul
Entering into the spiritual world beyond the simple practices is clearly not good for the soul. They are particularly inimical to Christian faith. While they may offer practices that can be helpful at a superficial level they are a Trojan horse for dangerous spiritual infiltration. Engaging in them opens the person, in their desire to know more of the technique, to the possible exposure to demonic powers. Indeed, a person who follows these religious philosophies to their full extent find themselves worshipping of a false God.
There are a number of common elements to Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki. They all offer a physical practice that is readily accessible. They claim to offer methods that achieve relaxation and offer paths to greater wellbeing and healing. Many people find this to be the case. At the superficial level of these systems there may be no more than providing a source of simple benefit for the person – being able to de-stress, being able to relax and experiencing some personal healing. However, these experiences can be seductive.
The advocates of these practices declare that the practices are not religious. They clearly want to re-assure people that they are not being duped into another religion. Yet, each of these practices has a strong “theological” basis. They carry a vision of the human person and clear understanding of the nature of the divine. Each of them, in fact, has a spiritual origin and can easily draw practitioners into these religious philosophies. They all offer an alternative understanding of the make-up human person and they invite people to discover their view of divine reality.
By their nature they do not stop with the simple physical exercises – their advocates know the deeper spiritual meaning of what they are doing. They can’t help but promote this deeper reality. They want to lead people to the truth as they see it. Thus people are drawn into this new and exotic spiritual realm. This is at odds with Christian faith and belief.
The divine, as they see it, is an impersonal force – and not the personal God revealed in Christianity. The practitioner, fascinated with the discovery of new powers, is drawn to surrender to this divine force. Simple exercises of relaxation have led to idolatry!
Having said this, it is important to state that it is not an inevitable process for everyone who uses Yoga or Tai Chi or seeks some healing through Reiki. These practices can be used simply as physical exercises that are helpful. If a person is wary of getting caught up in the spiritual philosophies, then they can be used with no detrimental effect at the moral or spiritual level. Indeed, it may be possible for the development of similar techniques grounded in a healthy Christian spirituality. As the Church has done in past times it is possible to find ways in which they can be “baptised” and integrated into the Christian faith.
However, an understanding of the spiritual roots to these practices is necessary to ensure that prudence accompanies their use. These practices can be dangerous at the spiritual level. In this sense they can be not good for the soul.

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Do Twilight, Harry Potter open door to the Devil?

By Linda Morris, March 21, 2010

The appointment of a new exorcist by Sydney’s Catholic Church precedes a warning by a senior clergyman that generation Y risks a dangerous fascination with the occult fuelled by the Twilight and
Harry Potter



Julian Porteous, the auxiliary bishop of Sydney, warns that pursuing such ”alternative” relaxation techniques as yoga, reiki massages and tai chi may encourage experimentation with ”deep and dark spiritual ideas and traditions”.

Bishop Porteous, who is second to Cardinal George Pell in the Sydney Archdiocese, told The Sun-Herald the Twilight and Harry Potter books and films ”are attractive to adolescents and can be innocent enough.

”However, they can open up a fascination with this mysterious world and invite exploration of various phenomena through the use of occult practices like séances.”

Exorcism is no fantasy according to the church, with the Sydney archdiocese last month appointing an as-yet unnamed priest, suitably ”endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life” to conduct exorcisms, as required by Catholic canon law.

In Rome, the Vatican is preparing its first official English translation of the rite of exorcism, which was promulgated in 1614 and reissued in 1999. Its chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, claimed this month to have carried out 70,000 exorcisms.

Bishop Porteous – who has stood in as exorcist for the Sydney archdiocese over the past five years – warns that yoga, reiki massages and tai chi can lead to people being in the grip of ”demonic forces”.

”A person can move from the use of a simple practice to de-stress to embracing the underlining theory and religious beliefs because these all come out of religious traditions of the East and people can then find themselves in the grip of demonic forces,” he said. ”People can be naive in that regard.”

But David Tacey, associate professor of English at La Trobe University, said demonic possession was an archaism long discredited by science, psychology and modern theology. Any suggestion that reiki massage, yoga and tai chi could have evil influence were ”expressions of Western ignorance about Eastern practices”, he said. ”This is an example of how certain voices in the church have no idea about other cultures and religions,” Professor Tacey said. ”To argue that only Christianity can rescue people from these supposed ‘demonic’ forces is a wonderful evangelical trick. The arrogance and ignorance … is … transparent, and anyone can see through it as an attempt to recruit people to the failing mainstream religion.”

The main signs of ”diabolical influence” recognised by the Catholic Church include speaking in unknown languages, including ancient tongues, and exhibiting superhuman strength.

Some victims have spoken to Bishop Porteous of feeling an evil presence around them or of feeling an oppressive force bearing down on their chest.

Bishop Porteous has been verbally abused during exorcisms yet he says he does not fear the Devil. ”You’re conscious the powers of Christ are greater than the powers of evil,” he said.



The minor rite can be done by any priest and provides prayers of protection and assistance for people who fear they are being tempted by the devil. Prayers of minor exorcism are built in to the rite of baptism.

The major rite applies to cases of full demonic possession. The priest wears a purple stole, representing his role as a leader of the church. He carries holy water which he sprinkles over the victim during prayers. The crucifix is held aloft, representing the most potent symbol of Christ’s victory over evil. Prayers are either dedicative or indicative. During dedicative prayer, the exorcist asks God to drive out an evil spirit. The indicative prayer directly commands the demon to leave: ”I command you evil spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, begone.”

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The Church, the New Age phenomenon and sects

By His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal DARÍO CASTRILLÓN HOYOS,

Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy

International Theological Video Conference 27 February 2004

General Topic: The Church, New Age and Sects

G. Diffused Religiosity – how do sects react to this phenomenon in the first world?

S.E. Prof. Julian Porteous, Sydney

The drama of atheism was lived out in the twentieth century, although its root extends back into the centuries before. Bishop Walter Kasper notes that “atheism in the proper sense, which denies everything divine, became possible only in the modern age. It presupposes Christianity and to that extent is a post-Christian phenomenon. The biblical faith in creation had broken with the numinous conception of the world that was current in antiquity and had effected a dehumanisation of reality by distinguishing clearly and unambiguously between God the creator and the world as his creation.”

Once Nietzsche’s mantra that God is dead was embraced and lived existentially in the first world, a paradigm shift in culture occurred. Gaudium et Spes noted the essential shift: “When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible” (n. 36). The first world experienced a haemorrhage of meaning to life itself. The communion of civilisation built on Christian structures is fragmented.



The Tower of Babel is experienced once again. This is experienced particularly strongly by the young. The Christian culture of life is being replaced with a morbid culture of self(fulfilment). This culture gives rise to the incapacity to donate oneself to the other and so the person experiences to be alone, and through this, alienation. Yet the truth remains that we are creature and so have a natural orientation towards the Creator. “Nature abhors a vacuum” and so the first world, especially the young, are searching for the meaning to life and are searching for communion with others and with the Divine.

It is into this restlessness, the same restlessness that sent St Augustine on his search for the meaning to his life, that the sects tap into. The post-Christian culture of the first world has left a suspicion, if not hostility towards the Church. The sects offer an experience of the numinous and of ‘belonging’ but without perceived atrophied established structures or organisation, without ‘Church’.

If Creator and world are not distinct then all means are permissible to arrive at the experience of the numinous for one’s own self-fulfilment. Hence as the document Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life notes the sects, in as much as they fall under the umbrella of New Age draw from many traditions, from ancient Egyptian occult practices to contemporary practice of Zen Buddhism and Yoga (cf. 2.1).

The sects offer to answer the most basic, primordial desires of the post-Christian man and woman. They offer a return to paganism. The clear, life giving water of Jesus Christ is held suspect and people willingly drink from the muddied waters of the sects.

The Church can engage with people in their searching for true life: to present to them the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the bearer of the Water of Life and an invitation to meet Jesus Christ “will carry more weight if it is made by someone who has clearly been profoundly affected by his or her own encounter with Jesus, because it is made not by someone who has simply heard about him, but by someone who can be sure that he really is the saviour of the world” (Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life no. 5).


Bishop warns against graphic video games

February 28, 2008

Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Julian Porteous says desensitisation to violence or sexual imagery does not promote the dignity of the human person and is not in the best interest of society.
While Bishop Porteous believes the causes of violence and crime in society is a very complex problem, the problem should not be compounded by video games that “numb our natural repulsion to violence”, he told The
Catholic Weekly.
“In regard to sexually explicit games, it reduces women in particular to mere objects of instant self gratification,” Bishop Porteous said. “We know from psychological research that exposure to violent video games can desensitise people to real-life violence,” he said.
The most violent video games on the market could soon be sold in Australia after the Federal Government said it was considering updating the classification system for games to include an R18+ rating.
Unlike films, magazines and other publications, there is no adult classification for games in Australia, so any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard are simply banned. A spokeswoman for the NSW Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus confirmed that the issue of whether to allow an R18+ classification for games would be discussed by censorship ministers at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting on March 28.
Bishop warns on video violence (Catholic Weekly 02/03/08)


Universal Orlando to Open Immersive ‘Harry Potter World’

Follows One Month After Michael O’Brien Book Release EXTRACT

ORLANDO, Florida, May 19, 2010 (

Bishop Julian Porteous, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, and a practicing exorcist, in a review for the book noted that he has “long had serious reservations about the spiritual underpinning to the Harry Potter series.” Bishop Porteous told The Sun-Herald in March that the Harry Potter books and films ”are attractive to adolescents and can be innocent enough,” but “can open up a fascination with this mysterious world and invite exploration of various phenomena through the use of occult practices like séances.”


Australians turning to exorcisms, church claims Harry Potter and new age spirituality to blame

By Cameron Stewart, The Australian, December 11, 2010

“Many of these people who approach the church for exorcism have got involved with various new-age or occult practices,” says Bishop Porteous. “What starts off seeming innocuous and not creating any difficulties at some stage turns dark. They start to experience quite frightening personal phenomena and it is at this stage that they turn for help.”

Bishop Porteous sees a link between the growing demand for exorcisms and the spiritual adventurism of young Australians. He says the growth of non-Christian alternative relaxation techniques such as yoga and reiki, as well as forms of divination such as tarot cards, fortune-telling and séances, pose temptations that could invite demonic trouble.


He also points his finger at popular culture, saying the Harry Potter books and films, and the vampire-themed Twilight series, have revived curiosity with the supernatural.

“While Twilight and Harry Potter are not in themselves demonic, they can lead to a fascination in this world and young people can be drawn and become more attracted to these things.”

Critics scoff at such claims and say the church is simply trying to discredit rival forms of spirituality.

But Bishop Porteous believes the challenge is real and says the church needs to respond by training more exorcists. “I would like to normalise, rather than sensationalise, the ministry of exorcism,” says Bishop Porteous, who performed dozens of exorcisms himself before recently appointing an official exorcist to his Sydney Archdiocese.


Bishop pays tribute to saint who annoyed politicians, October 24, 2007
On the 1600th anniversary of St John Chrysostom’s death, Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous referred to his “fearless preaching of the truth, even when it stirred anger from the highest in the land”.
Bishop Porteous was speaking last week at celebrations of the Melkite Catholic Church at Greenacre in Sydney.
St John Chrysostom (c.347-407) was regarded as the greatest of the Greek Fathers of the Church.
Bishop Porteous observed that he also provoked members of the horseracing fraternity, asserting: “My sermons are applauded merely from custom, then everyone runs off to [horse racing] again and give much more applause to the jockeys, showing indeed unrestrained passion for them.
Archbishop Darwish said the Melkite Church honours St John Chrysostom as a great Saint and counts him among the Three Holy Hierarchs together with Saints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian. “He used his eloquence to defend the rights of the people and to call on them to become true Christians,” Archbishop Darwish said.


My Interview with Bishop Julian Porteous

By David Schütz, October 4, 2010

Bishop Porteous discusses his latest publication
Bishop Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and Episcopal Vicar for Renewal and Evangelisation, has just published his latest book, A New Wine and Fresh Skins.

While in Melbourne recently, he spoke to me about the book and its subject – ecclesial movements.

Firstly, I want to congratulate you on your seventh anniversary of ordination as a bishop. What are some of the really great things of the last seven years that stick out in your mind in your ministry as a bishop?

I’d always envisaged my life as a priest in a parish, and so becoming bishop was really a surprise and took me into a new level that I had never really anticipated or given much thought to. And initially, I found it quite an overwhelming thought just coming into that sense of the identity of being a bishop, being a successor of the Apostles. But since then my life as a bishop has been a position where you can in one sense contribute more directly to the direction of the church, to fostering the church’s ongoing life and growth, and development, whereas in a parish you tend to be pastorally caring for a community. Now as a bishop your horizons broaden, and your perspective is enhanced considerably. So I find now that my role is a bishop has in one sense expanded my mind and caused me to look at the broader issues of the church. One of the phrases that really touched me about being a bishop was that a bishop is not only to have pastoral concern for his immediate diocese but is also to have “solicitude for the churches”. This book is a product of that, of moving away from a focus on the immediate, to looking at the broader question of what is happening in the church, how the spirit of God is active in church.

Your new book is about “ecclesial movements”. What is an “ecclesial movement”?

There are many movements in the church. There are spiritual movements, religious movements, and apostolic movements, such as St Vincent De Paul and things like that, a whole range of movements. But an “ecclesial movement” is a movement which involves not just lay people, not just religious, nor a purely clerical movement (like the Jesuits). You’re looking at all three, and single life as well: the four basic states of life being realised within a single movement. People either join the movement and then pursue a particular vocation within the movement, or people in a particular vocation will become a part of it. So priests could join a movement or a young man could be involved in a movement and then discover his vocation to be a priest in the movement. Ecclesial movements will give witness to all states of life.

The key thing about the movements is there is very evidently a grace that carries them, something which is new, a new conversion, something which animates people’s faith to a new discovery of the way in which they can live their faith. So this takes a whole new focus. A whole range of things can happen which bring about some degree of inner conversion, some experience of grace in the person.

Many movements are identified around the charismatic founder, such as Monsignor Escriva and Opus Dei. You’ve got these people who have a particular charism and a kind of vision of the Christian life and a vision for apostolic activities, mission and evangelisation, and they somehow encapsulate a particular charism with a clear and quite explicit direction.

Were the movements something you are interested in parish ministry or is this something which has come with your new perspective as a bishop?

I think my own personal journey has been closely associated with ecclesial movements. I’ve had a close association with them as they have developed in Australia. But then, as a bishop, it has caused me to again think even more broadly than the couple of movements I have been aware of and had some association with, to look more generally the reality of the church today. What is happening? Why has there been this proliferation of new movements emerging in the last 40 or 50 years in the church?


Could you just name so movements that it actually had some personal experience of?

In terms of my own personal journey there was an encounter with the Charismatic Renewal in the early 70s, and then with Covenant Communities (particularly with the Disciples of Jesus community, the Emmanuel community in Brisbane), subsequently with the Emmanuel community from France, which I have had a lot of association with for quite a while, and through that through meeting up with other communities and suddenly becoming conscious of a lot of other movements.

The title of the book is A New Wine and Fresh Skins. I was wondering whether Old Wine in New Skins might not have been a better title, especially as you go to into some detail about the historical precedents to these ecclesial movements.

I think that always the vitality and youth of the church is always found through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always able to generate new life. So I think there is a “new wine”, it’s like a new vintage I suppose, of a wine that has been there throughout the Church’s history, on an old vine. The Spirit is ever fresh in the church. And so I think that there is a fresh movement of the Spirit and it’s given expressions that are distinctive to this moment in history. So you could call that a “new wine” even though the source of that is the one Spirit that’s been throughout the churches history.

In your book you explain that the Holy Spirit is the “soul” of the church. Can you expand a little on what that means?

I think I would attribute that back to Pope Paul VI, who had a particularly fine appreciation of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the church. Certainly the real history of the church is a spiritual journey not a political one. I mean it has a political life and social life, it has institutions and agencies and activities and so forth and these are all the physical manifestations of the church – but the animating principle behind all this is its spiritual life. And the church has a spiritual life, and at times the spiritual life of the church is very vibrant and out of that richness and vitality of the spiritual life comes the institutions or the activities or the movements or great theology or great spiritual classics. But really the heart of the church is its spiritual life and I think that’s often not recognised enough, and often people think, oh, this person did a great thing or this institution achieved great results or this Pope was a great leader. We often think of it at that human level, but don’t give enough consciousness to the fact that the church in the end is a work of God, is the work of the Holy Spirit.

In his book “The Future Church” John L. Allen Jr. talks about the emergence of “evangelical Catholicism”, particularly characterised by a strong Catholic identity and a strong mission focus. Are the movements part of that?

I am in the process of reading Allen’s book at the moment. One of the things about the ecclesial movements is that along with some sort of evangelical renewal, some sort of discovery of the gospel as a spiritual regeneration taking place in the hearts and lives of the members of the movement, has gone a drawing through Catholic identity to linking clearly with the Pope, the bishops with a sense of the church. Now that’s a very significant fact because historically there have been movements that have developed but have stood on the periphery of the church, to criticise the church, and often gone and broken away from the church because these movements have felt that the church hasn’t met up to their standards.

And now I think that the great grace of these ecclesial movements is that they haven’t done that. They’ve actually come about through individual process of interior renewal and revitalisation of faith. There is a strong evangelical spiritual dimension. At the same time they have wanted to be correctly linked and have embraced the church and haven’t seen the two in conflict with each other. That has been a very significant thing because the opposite has been the case in a lot of evangelical movements. St Francis is an excellent example. Historically you have Waldensians, the Poor Men of Lyons, all sorts of groups, the Brogomils, the Albigensians that actually have been clearly striving for renewal, but placed themselves in opposition to the Church as an institution, and often have taken theological positions and so forth which just put themselves outside the church.

You write about the emerging realisation of the importance of the vocation of the lay person in the world. Why has this understanding just emerging in recent times?

One of the comments I have often made is that the renewal movements in the past have often started with lay people (the Franciscans are a good example) but ended up being a religious order. The desert fathers started as a lay movement, then a lot of them become clericalised over time and took on the form of religious life. So the Catholic experience has often been one where religious movements are explicitly connected to the mission of the church. A lot of spiritual movements which touched lay people have nurtured people interiorly, such as prayer movements and things like that, but in terms of actual apostolic movements you don’t have many instances of that.

In an Address to the Pastoral Convention of the Diocese of Rome in May 2009, Pope Benedict called for “a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people”. He said that “They must no longer be viewed as “collaborators” of the clergy but truly recognized as “co-responsible”, for the Church’s being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity.” Do you think this change in mindset is actually happening and what part do the ecclesial movements play in this development?

In the book I do try to trace very simply a couple of key moments and of course the second Vatican Council and its “people of God” ecclesiology really set the scene for the development. I think it meant that movements had a far greater possibility of emerging and being recognised and appreciated by the church because of that ecclesiology. A good example would be Frank Duff establishing the Legion of Mary. At first it was very much about assisting the parish priest, “we are there to help Father, and we’ll visit people in the homes, and we’ll do certain things”, but it was always sort of seen as the extension of the role of the priest. Now to a certain extent Duff was ahead of his time. He promoted the lay apostolate but at the same time he was tied to the ecclesiology prior to the 2nd Vatican Council. Since the Council, the capacity to say that the lay person engages in the mission of the church, not just by living the Catholic life but by being in the mission of the church by virtue of their baptism, laid the ground for a movement to develop which lay people could lead. This is especially the case of some of the later movements, for instance Focolari, which will always be led by a woman. That was Chiara Lubich’s decision and Pope John Paul supported her in this. He was very strong about that. “Yes, yes”, he said, not only to be a lay person but to be a woman. There will be a priest responsible for those who are priests in the movement, but that was no problem. Whereas I think prior to the council it was “no-no”: if priests are involved priests have to run it. After the Vatican Council the development of ecclesiology just freed up the whole environment for the nurturing of these movements which could have lay leadership – priests involved, but the priests aren’t automatically the leaders.



You must have a vast experience of individual stories, of people whose lives have been changed through involvement in the movements. Could you just share perhaps one or two stories personal stories that strike you as demonstrating what life is like for someone in the movements?

In the book I comment on the fact that I think the movements are going to give rise to a whole lot of new saints. This will be something that will bring about a lot of lay saints, and married saints. One example: I’ve just read a story, about a young woman called Chiara Luce. As a young woman, she and her parents were involved in the Focolare movement, and she was involved with the Gen 3′s, which is the junior, the young 8 to 16-year-olds group, and she was stricken down with cancer. She died at the age of 18, but her testimony and her whole spirit was an extraordinary one of just living in profound union of Christ and her whole desire was to bring love, the love of God, into every relationship, which is one of the components of the Focolare spirituality. Now she is about to be beatified, I think in the next few months, even before Chiara Lubich who founded Focolare. So she’s one of the first, not even one of the founders, but one of the first members of the movements, that I know of, at least in the movements in the last 50 years, to be raised to the altar.

What about married couples? Do you know married couples involved in the movements how it affects their faith?

It would be hard to single out one, you see so many. One of the things the ecclesial movement does is bring to married couples and families a way of actually living the Catholic life with intense authenticity. I think that one of the challenges of family life now is helping parents are Catholic in finding ways of actually bringing the faith alive in family life. The new movements often provide not only formation of the parents but also provide formation to children, and help nurture an environment in which you have other couples who are also striving, not just to have a personal spirituality but to actually live the Christian life within the family. I think the movements are very important because they actually help Christian family life be realised more effectively. I visited a family of a movement in Sydney a couple months back and just to see the way that the children, towards the end of the meal before they went off to bed, went with their parents to that part of the lounge room where they had a shrine, a statue of our Lady and candles, and the whole family gathered in front. These are primary schoolchildren, mum and dad, and there was a whole period of prayer. This is a family saying that our faith will be lived in a very real way. So I think movements have been very important in assisting couples in the way they develop true Christian family life.

What happens with community when the founder dies? You’ve quoted John Paul II saying “the passage from the original charism to the movement happens through the mysterious attraction that the founder holds for all those who become involved in his spiritual experiences.”

This is an issue that I think a lot of communities are now having to confront particularly in the last 40 year period. A good example would be Chiara Lubich, who died just a few years ago now. You’ve got the state now where communities have been clearly founded around the charism of the founder and have found themselves as the carrier of the leader’s charism whose word and vision are quite sacrosanct. But then when the founder dies or when he steps aside a new leadership comes up and that can be a difficult phase for a community. Sometimes these communities have gone through particularly difficult phase of transition. And to a certain extent the second generation of leadership cannot be the same, the second leader is not the founder. They may be a part of the founding group, they may be the key person in the organisation, but they don’t have the same authority, the same spiritual authority, if you like, as the founder.

So one of the things I talk about in the book is the whole question of leadership because it’s a critical issue. Movements need to have a transition from focus on the leader to leaders who may have been elected by some groups in the community and, I think preferably, should have terms of office so they’re not going to have a lifetime. Whereas the founder can have a lifetime leadership role, at the next level of leadership there needs to be statues that capture the charism and the structure of the community. Whereas with the founder you can rely on the founder’s vision to carry things, when you move to the next generation you really need to rely upon some rule of life or some description of the nature of the community and you need to look at structures the leadership and election of leaders and terms of office and so on. So that may not be an easy process within many movements. The movements are coming across difficulties.

I know that in some parts of the world the movements are actually a major focus of church life, such as in Italy and France, but what is the situation of the movements in the life in the church in Australia?

There are many movements present in Australia. Most of them are relatively small so they don’t have the capacity for large scale activities, like the Emanuel community in France which has now spread across the world. For instance, they’ll bring together 30,000 people over the summer sessions. We have no community that can bring anywhere near that here; if you got 500 to an event that would be a major achievement. So we don’t have the numbers, we don’t have the strength of presence in the church that we have in the other parts of the world. We also have a wide proliferation of communities, so there’s no one community or no particular style of community that is dominant in Australia. We have quite an array of them. But that does mean that there is a diversity within the Church in Australia and that the movements are making a contribution not so much as movements as such but as the members of the movements in one way or another contribute to the Church. They come to positions of leadership or diocesan positions, and other certain activities. But you have to say for a lot of ordinary Catholics there wouldn’t be a lot of awareness of their presence or their contribution to the Church in Australia. At the same time we should not underestimate the fact that the movements that are in Australia are making a significant contribution and there would be thousands of Catholics in Australia whose life in the Church and whose contribution to the life of the Church and mission of the Church has been animated by participation.

What is the greatest gift that you think the new movements have the church?

I think at the present moment the Catholic Church in a country like Australia is struggling to come to grips with changes in society mainly influenced by the rise of secularism. Or another way of putting it would be to say that there has been significant loss of faith. We can point to the next generation of young people who are not drawn tour attracted to the church, but even a lot of older Catholics who are traditionally Catholics have developed a slightly jaundiced view of the Church and have taken on board a bit of the secular mindset.



They may be tribally Catholic but a lot of their thoughts about the church are formed by their society rather than by their Catholic faith. This is a particular challenge and a lot of the institutions and structures that exist within the church (the local parish, schools and so on) are not effectively able to address this.

I think movements are key because they are actually touching individual Catholics and bringing about a significant revitalisation of their faith and drawing them back into the heart of the church. And so I would see that the movements are really a pretty good presence for the church in this moment of our history because there aren’t a lot of other things that are terribly effective in being able to address the challenges that are facing the Church, especially secularisation. So I think they are of vital importance, and clearly this was what was said by John Paul II, and so that’s why they do deserve at least more recognition and appreciation for the fact that they are a gift of God for the church in our time.

I wrote the book because a lot of people just don’t know [about the movements], so I put a lot of stories and a lot of information to help people understand what the movements really are. With just about all of them I have had personal connections; in most cases I was able to talk to people [directly involved]. I knew them, and because I had a long association [with them] I would often come across people from, for instance, the Beatitudes community and sit down and have a cup of coffee with them and find out what they’re doing. So I got to know the communities over the years just by virtue of my interest in them.

So a lot of the information is actually gleaned personally from the members, did you find much secondary material written on the movements as you were preparing the book?

You will see that my bibliography is very short. There’s not much written at all and very little is written in English. I thought I needed to be descriptive because I felt we needed to get basic information and provide a source of people to get basic information about the movements. The rights have already been sold to the UK and the Emanuel community is publishing it in France. They’re doing a French edition, so there seems to be a worldwide demand, and there’ll be a fair demand in the US too. I haven’t found anything remotely close to this in terms of English writing.


Q & A with Bishop Julian – An exorcist tells his story

Books and films such as The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Rite are testament to mainstream culture’s long-held fascination with the demonic. How accurate are these representations and what is the ministry of exorcism all about? Bishop Julian Porteous was invited by the University of Sydney Chaplaincy to share his experience as an exorcist in this Q&A session.

 Listen Now


Yoga and Christianity: More than what Meets the Eye – New Book Warns of Possible Dangers,

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, November 30, 2012 ( The popularity of yoga and various forms of Eastern philosophies and meditation methods has grown enormously in recent years. Questions remain, however, as to what extent they are compatible with Christianity.

The latest contribution to the debate over this topic is a book just published by an Australian De La Salle brother, Max Sculley, titled “Yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki: A Guide for Christians” (Connor Court Publishing).

These techniques are widely recommended as being good for fitness and relaxation, and few would at first see anything dangerous about them, Bishop Julian Porteous, one of Sydney’s auxiliary bishops, commented in his foreword to the book.

However, he warned, “The world into which the practitioner is introduced is inimical to the Christian faith.”

While some of the practices they promote may be helpful at a superficial level they are, Bishop Porteous adverted, “a Trojan horse for dangerous spiritual infiltration.”

Brother Sculley explained that one of the main problems lies in the promotion of altered states of conscience. This, he noted, is a practice designed to lead people to experience a sense of oneness with the cosmos and the divine and to enable feelings of bliss. It brings with it, however, dangers ranging from mental illness to demonic influence.



Many Christians who practice yoga, tai chi and similar techniques do so without any desire to embrace the underlying philosophy or spiritual beliefs, yet, he commented, the mind-altering techniques in themselves bring with them serious spiritual risks.

In the section on yoga he explained that it is inextricably linked to the religious beliefs of Hinduism, which is in contradiction with Christianity on many fundamental points.


Pantheism, belief in reincarnation, and the idea that this mortal life is not worth living are just some of the non-Christian aspects of yoga, Brother Sculley noted. Karma, he added, is also a very non-Christian concept as it involves the concept of a strict justice based on an impersonal god, with no place for forgiveness or mercy. “This is in complete contrast to Christianity in which Jesus Christ through his suffering, death and resurrection atones for our sins,” he commented.

In addition, the belief in yoga that the only reality is the divine essence in all created things, and that whatever is visible is just a passing mirage, is in stark contrast to the Christian belief of a cosmos being created by God.

Brother Sculley quoted one of the best-known promoters of yoga, Deepak Chopra, who said that performing yoga on a regular basis will lead to a change in the mind and emotions.

Passing on to tai chi, the author commented that this too is often considered to be a means to good health and reducing stress. In common with what underlies yoga, however, it also involves altered states of conscience and the belief that one can become divine.

Tai chi teachers, he explained, affirm that it is based on the philosophy of Taoism and not on religion. What this fails to explain, he added, is that Taoist philosophy is itself a system of religious beliefs that are in conflict with the beliefs of Christianity. Chi is presented as some kind of life-force, but according to the underlying philosophy all created things are divine manifestations of chi and the ultimate purpose of tai chi is to enable the practitioner to become divine, Brother Sculley affirmed. He also pointed out that Taoism seeks to explain all reality in terms of yin and yang. What this means is that there are no moral absolutes, all is relative and the Christian terms of good and evil have no place. “Even if one seeks to distance oneself from the chi philosophy, the techniques involved in this meditation in movement are such as to significantly alter the practitioner’s state of consciousness,” he argued. Some Christians, he admitted, do not accept the philosophy behind it or any of the mind-altering techniques. “Any tai chi master would deplore such a hollowed out version of the art,” which he added, would not be tai chi but just a form of calisthenics.


Reiki is another widespread practice, promoted as a healing technique. It is, he explained, composed of two Japanese words that mean literally universal divine energy.

It involves a pantheistic belief and the affirmation that all humans have the capacity to become divine. Moreover, Reiki promotes reincarnation and the concept of a supreme divinity essentially different from that of the Christian faith.

Christian healing, Brother Sculley explained, takes place in an atmosphere of faith in the healing power of Christ and is accompanied by the confession of sin. In Reiki no faith is required, and sin and evil do not exist.

Not for nothing, he added, in 2009 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published a statement explaining that Reiki healing is not Christian and that it contains elements of a religion.

Brother Sculley’s book provides a thoughtful reflection on what lies behind practices that are widely accepted by many Christians, who are unaware of what underlies them.

Statement on Reiki from the Catholic bishops

Blogwatcher: No place for the Enneagram in Catholic spirituality

June 13, 2013

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous writes:

The Enneagram is claimed to have origins in the Sufi religion. However the Sufis, who are a mystical offshoot of Islam, did not develop it as it is known today. It was developed by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, an Armenian occultist who lived in Russia from 1877 to 1947. The system was promoted by his student Piotr Ouspensky, and later by Oscar Ichazo from Chile who, in the 1960s, introduced it to the West.




It is helpful nonetheless to understand something of Sufi teaching because it does underpin the approach of the Enneagram. Sufis believe in the notion of the “Design”. This “Design” is what they consider to be God’s plan for mankind: the direction God wishes human development to take. Sufi masters claim to have access to this secret design. As Catholics we would define the Sufis as Gnostics in the sense that they believe in esoteric knowledge. They believe the “Design” is hidden underneath outward appearances which they consider to be false reality.


The Enneagram and Catholic spirituality

By Bishop Julian Porteous, Sydney, June 14, 2013



The Enneagram is claimed to have origins in the Sufi religion. However the Sufis, who are a mystical offshoot of Islam, did not develop it as it is known today. It was developed by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, an Armenian occultist who lived in Russia from 1877 to 1947. The system was promoted by his student Piotr Ouspensky, and later by Oscar Ichazo from Chile who, in the 1960s, introduced it to the West.

It is helpful nonetheless to understand something of Sufi teaching because it does underpin the approach of the Enneagram. Sufis believe in the notion of the “Design”. This “Design” is what they consider to be God’s plan for mankind: the direction God wishes human development to take. Sufi masters claim to have access to this secret design. As Catholics we would define the Sufis as Gnostics in the sense that they believe in esoteric knowledge. They believe the “Design” is hidden underneath outward appearances which they consider to be false reality.

The Enneagram is a system of assigning a number from 1 to 9 to human personalities. Each person is assisted in identifying their particular number. This number is said to reveal the hidden motivation for everything a person does. The Enneagram is supposed to enable a person to gain knowledge of his true self, exposing the true motivations for their actions. It also help a person discover the illusions under which a person may operate. Simply put it helps a person deal with the world. The Enneagram symbol itself is a nine-sided figure.

In 2000, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared a draft statement, “A Brief Report on the Origins of the Enneagram,” cautioning against its use. The document has not been published. In 2003, the Vatican released a document entitled “Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life” which was a discussion on the dangers of New Age spirituality. It mentioned the Enneagram in its glossary. In 2004, the US Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine released “Report on the Use of the Enneagram: Can It Serve as a True Instrument of Christian Spiritual Growth?” for the conference’s internal use.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami wrote an online column titled, “New Age is Old Gnosticism” (February 10, 2011). There he described the Enneagram is a “pseudo-psychological exercise supposedly based on Eastern mysticism, [which] introduces ambiguity into the doctrine and life of the Christian faith and therefore cannot be happily used to promote growth in an authentic Christian spirituality.”

Some of the issues he raises include the way that the Enneagram redefines sin by simply associating faults with personality types. It encourages, he says, an unhealthy self-absorption about one’s own “type,” so that the type is at fault rather than the person. This gives rise to a deterministic mindset at odds with Christian freedom.

Archbishop Wenski describes the Enneagram as fundamentally Gnostic, a form of numerology and divination of the type that the Lord forbids among the Israelites (Deuteronomy 18:10-14). Unlike many personality tests, the Enneagram claims a profound, transcendent meaning, as well as a scientific one. This claim is challenged, especially when its links with Sufi spirituality are marginal.

Fr Mitch Pacwa’s 1992 book “Catholics and the New Age” is one of the best treatments on the subject. Fr Pacwa discusses his own involvement with the Enneagram, because as a spiritual director he once proposed and taught it. The more he researched it, however, the more disillusioned he became. He decided the Enneagram was a dangerous fraud. “Fitting someone into one mold or another seemed like fun,” he wrote. “…however, after incorrectly typing some friends, I eventually dropped the Enneagram from my repertoire of spiritual direction tools.”

While there are real issues of conflict with Christian teaching, there is also the question of the accuracy of enneagram teaching from the perspective of modern science. The Enneagram shares little with the methods and criteria of modern science.



The American Bishops state in their document: “An examination of the origins of enneagram teaching reveals that it does not have credibility as an instrument of scientific psychology and that the philosophical and religious ideas of its creators are out of keeping with basic elements of Christian faith on several points. Consequently, the attempt to adapt the enneagram to Christianity as a tool for personal spiritual development shows little promise of providing substantial benefit to the Christian community”.

Catholics using the Enneagram talk about things like saints and sin and faith and “fruits of the spirit” but they have very different meanings from those commonly accepted by the Catholic tradition. For example, the word “saint” is used in the Sufi religion: a Sufi “saint” (“wali”) is a person who is illuminated. Thus, a “saint” is a person who overcomes his false self and knows and acts according to his true self. It has nothing to do with holiness and relationship with God.

The “fruits of the spirit” is also used in “Catholic” presentations of the Enneagram. These have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. In the Enneagram, the fruits of the spirit are good inclinations a person gets according to his number in the Enneagram. Prayer is talked about as part of the Enneagram, but their definition of prayer has nothing to do with God: prayer is absorbing elements from the environment into oneself, or projecting oneself into the environment, or delving into Nothingness.

Taking words from the Catholic tradition and changing their meanings can give things the outward appearance of being Catholic and Catholics can be lulled into the belief that it is consistent with the Catholic faith. It is in this area that the Enneagram is particularly dangerous. It can easily become a path that leads to a loss of faith.

OCTOBER 2012/JUNE 2013



One Prakash Lasrado from Mangalore, a protagonist of yoga, Bharatanatyam, homoeopathy, etc., has been of late attacking this ministry’s credibility by emailing pro-yoga information to over a hundred Catholics. This information is partly secular and partly Catholic. Of course there are Catholics, including priests, who deny the spiritual dangers of yoga, and practise and propagate it. It is one of the reasons for this ministry.

Fr Thomas [Tom] Ryan, CSP, a Paulist priest in Washington, DC is one such yoga enthusiast. Scouring the Internet for such a priest, Prakash Lasrado located his email id — as did I at — and wrote to him to get his response and circulate it. He also wrote to Bishop Julian Porteous. Their replies:


1. From: Sent: Wednesday, 3 July 2013 11:34 PM
To:; Bishop Julian Porteous;
Subject: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?

Rev. Fr. Tom Ryan,

Greetings from India

I have read an article about you below in the American Catholic.

Reiki as an alternative therapy has been banned by the USCCB below.

Is there an official ban by the USCCB on yoga or has the USCCB allowed it?

According to Bishop Porteous of Sydney below, yoga is incompatible with Christianity. What are your thoughts?

Rev. Bishop Porteous,

Greetings from India.

What are your thoughts on Fr. Tom Ryan’s yoga classes?

Has the Australian Bishops Conference banned yoga?

Please reply to me with cc to each other.

Regards, Prakash    


Bishop Julian Porteous <> Date: Wed, Jul 3, 2013 at 4:26 PM
Subject: Re: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?

Dear Prakash, 

I read the report on Fr Ryan’s classes and his comments.

One of the issues is that Yoga has as its key spiritual aspect the emptying of the mind. A number of the practitioners interviewed spoke about this when they said how the practice of yoga helped them calm down. Yoga by its very nature is not just a physical exercise, but it has a spiritual dimension, even if not connected with a particular religion. One of the problems then is that people get into the habit of seeing spirituality as the emptying of the mind. The focus is on self.  

The Christian tradition is very different. It is about engaging with God. It is an active process. It is the desire for union with God. The focus is not on subjective feelings but growing in a relationship.

The Church has not formally taught on the status of yoga. The Australian bishops have not addressed the issue.

I advise people to develop forms of prayer that have been part of the Catholic tradition. This is the safer way.

+ Julian.

Bishop Julian Porteous DD VG

44 Abbotsford Road, Homebush NSW 2140, Australia, T. +61 (2) 9764 6499, F. + 61 (2) 8756 5837




2. From:
Date: Wed, Jul 3, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Subject: Re: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?
Rev. Bishop Porteous,

Thanks for your prompt reply

Since you are an exorcist, have you come across people being possessed by demons because of hatha yoga and/or spiritual yoga?

It seems Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist is against Harry Potter and yoga.

Regards, Prakash


Bishop Julian Porteous <> Date: Thu, Jul 4, 2013 at 2:35 AM

Subject: Re: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?
Dear Prakash,  

I have had to deal with people who have got deeply involved with Yoga and have come under demonic affliction.

+ Julian.

Bishop Julian Porteous DD VG


Tom Ryan <> Date: Thu, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:36 AM
Julian Porteous <>

Subject: Re: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?
Dear Prakas, 

We certainly do want to teach our church members traditional Catholic practices. The question is, however, if we want to take the new evangelization seriously, what do we do when we find millions of our church members engaging in a practice like yoga and finding value in various ways? That there are some beneficial aspects to the practice is indisputable scientifically as various studies have shown. 

First, there are so many different kinds of yoga “out there” today that one needs to at least recognize a broad distinction between “contemporary” yoga which focuses on the fitness aspects, and the classical tradition of hatha yoga which essentially developed certain physical postures to strengthen people’s backs and knees and focus their minds to enable them to meditate better. 

In general, for those interested in the spiritual dimension, my response has been to try to help them work with this practice in a way that is coherent with their Christian faith. What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source but its intent. Intentionality, working in tandem with intelligence and freedom, is key. 

As Bishop Porteous has noted, one of the effects of yoga is the quieting of the mind. Consistent with what I have expressed above, we teach people a form of Christian meditation to engage in during this time of quiet sitting, taking up the names, for example of Jesus/Abba, and praying them with faith and love. 

As Christians, we have the highest theology of the body among the religions of the world as expressed in our religious festivals of the Incarnation, the bodily Resurrection and Ascension, the outpouring of God’s own life into the vessels of clay that we are at Pentecost. But we also have one of the lowest levels of actually attributing any significant role to our bodies in our spiritual practice. The physical practice of yoga which, like it or not, has gone mainstream in our culture, presents us with an opportunity/challenge to help our own people to wake up to the incarnational dimension of our faith, inviting them to work with this practice in ways consistent with their faith, seeing it it a way to go to God the way God came to us: in and through a human body. 

We can take an adversarial approach of condemnation, or an approach of mutual enrichment, noting, as does Nostra Aetate, that there are positive things to be found in other spiritual practices, but we will need to work with them selectively, focusing on what is consistent with our own faith understanding. 

I leave today for some summer holidays hiking in the mountains, so if you don’t hear from me, that’s why.

Grace and peace,

Fr. Tom 


prakash lasrado
prabhu ; Archie Sodder
Cc: [100 others] Sent: Thursday, July 04, 2013 8:36 AM

Subject: Bishop Porteous of Sydney responds to me on yoga query

Bishop Porteous responds to me on yoga query. I am waiting for Fr. Tom Ryan’s reply who is a yoga enthusiast.

Bishop Porteous is wary of yoga as expected. One thing is clear. The Church has not formally banned yoga in Australia.

prakash lasrado
arcanjo sodder ; prabhu
Cardinal Oswald Gracious(Private) ; Archbishop Oswald Gracias PVT ; zezie sodder ; [100 others] Sent: Thursday, July 04, 2013 9:57 PM

Subject: Fr. Tom Ryan’s reply supporting yoga & Bishop Porteous’ reply denouncing yoga

As you can see Bishop Porteous denounces yoga and Fr. Tom supports yoga. Clergy is heavily divided on this issue.

Bishop Julian‘s
warnings do not suffice for
Lasrado. He is relieved that yoga is not banned by the Australian Bishops’ Conference and suddenly ‘discovers’ that the clergy is divided on the issue. How convenient!




October 29, 2011, 8:00 PM IST

Your Grace,

I received information that in an article in the “Messenger of Saint Anthony” of September 2011 you wrote thatyoga can be utilized as a physical exercise. I cannot ascertain how accurate that information is.

Your own article at
states the very opposite.

So does the report citing you at


Yoga is not compatible with Christianity. I should know:

1. I am Indian, living in India among Hindus.

2. I have been battling New Age in the Indian church for years.

3. I have written/compiled hundreds of pages of evidence/information on the dangers of doing yoga.

I only hope that my informant misunderstood or misquoted you. Could you please let me know what you were saying in the referred article?

Thank you and God bless,

Michael Prabhu, Catholic apologist, INDIA

Categories: new age

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EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai – 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai - 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

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