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A confused religious landscape December 14, 2009

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic.

A new poll examining religious habits of Americans has revealed some interesting information.  The poll examines the religious beliefs of a wide cross section of Americans, from evangelical Christians to Catholics and Orthodox, etc.  Among the findings is that a large percentage of self-identified Christians engage in pratices such as astrology, contacting the dead, or believe in things like reincarnation.  If you look more closely at the details, you find that, among Catholics, 1 in 5 Catholics at least somewhat regularly attend non-Catholic worship services, almost 1 in every 3 Catholics believes in reincarnation (perhaps a poorly formed view of the Resurrection?), more than 1 in 4 use yoga as something more than exercise, and almost 1 in 3 regularly use astrology.  Even those who attend Mass weekly, around 1 in 5 of such Catholics, use astrology or believe in the spiritual power of yoga.

Some may be saying, so what, right?   Who cares if Catholics believe such things?  Well, for one, the Church does.  The Church has specifically warned against, if not outright condemned, all of the practices listed in the survey.  This is not because the Church hierarchy consists of uptight, narrow-minded old men in Rome.  It is because the Church, after long examination of these practices and discernment guided by the Holy Spirit, has determined that these practices are very dangerous for the immortal souls of the faithful.  While engaging in any one of these practices from time to time may not necessarily cause someone to separate themselves from the Body of Christ, they all pose the possibility of leading the faithful seriously astray, and the danger they pose grows significantly with increased use. 

Which leads me to the main point of this post – all of these practices (yoga, ‘spiritual energy,’ belief in reincarnation, and astrology), are all commonly considered to be part of ‘New Age’ religions.  As I have mentioned in previous posts , here, and here, Sr. Joyce Rupp, conducting a women’s retreat at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Plano in February, is strongly influenced by New Age practices and uses such practices as the basis of both her books and her lectures.  Sr. Rupp’s lectures deal strongly with the examination of dreams as a means of achieving spiritual growth (another New Age practice), the channeling of spiritual energy, and have at times dealt with communication with the dead and a certain, non-Christian and decidedly non-Catholic view of reincarnation. 

The Catholic Church in the United States has serious problems with very poor formation (lack of understanding of the faith), which has led to a huge reduction in regular Mass attendance (less than 1/3 of Catholics attend Mass on any given Sunday), among many other problems (lack of vocations, inadequate material support for most parishes, etc.).  The single largest religious denomination in the United States today is former Catholics.  Many of these former Catholics left the faith because, a) they didn’t understand the incredible richness and beauty of their faith because they had never been taught it properly, and b), they were led astray within the Church by various heterodox priests, religious, and lay people who have been confusing Catholics beliefs with those of the New Age movement, protestant denominations, and eastern religions for decades. 

After reading more of Sr. Rupp’s work since my original posts, I am becoming increasingly convinced that Sr. Rupp will continue this process of confusing and badly mixed messages.   By mixing strongly New Age beliefs with a weak and poorly formed Catholic theology, she will sow further confusion regarding the faith among a large number of Catholic women who are probably not terribly well formed in the faith to begin with.   To quote one critic of Sr. Rupp, “people who are well formed in the faith don’t usually attend Sr. Rupp’s lectures.”  Thus, we have a situation where a number well meaning, but not necessarily well formed* women will be exposed to a mashup of weak Catholic theology with strong New Age overtones.  What conclusions will they draw from this lecture?  Will the lecture lead them to a stronger Catholic faith, or will it lead them away from the Church? 

This is my concern.  I am very worried that a number of women in the Dallas Diocese could be, will be, led seriously astray by attending this conference. 

I pray that those who are reading this post will take the time to contact the staff responsible for this retreat, below. 

Cecilia Ladda, Director of Adult Education at St. Elizabeth Seton: cladda@eseton.org  972-596-5505 x4247. 

Judy Clark Family and Adult Ministry at St. Mark  jpclark@stmarkplano.org 

Mary Edlund   Chancellor, Dallas Diocese   chancellor@cathdal.org 214-379-2819


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