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Putting it all together, pt. 2 January 6, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, North Deanery, scandals.
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Yesterday, I went in depth discussing the beliefs of the host of the upcoming women’s retreat at St. Elizabeth Seton parish in Plano, TX, Sr. Joyce Rupp.  I think there is much compelling evidence establishing Sr. Rupp’s New Age beliefs.   Unfortunately, that is not the extent of Sr. Rupp’s unorthodox, problematical beliefs.  As I reference in a previous post, I have found increasing indications that Sr. Rupp holds beliefs that enter the area of wiccanism.  I want to be clear that I am not stating that Sr. Rupp is a wiccan, but only that there is increasing evidence of either wicca influence in her work, or that she coincidentally shares some of the same beliefs as wiccans.

Again, I will first define wicca, for those who are unfamiliar with it.  From Wikipedia, hardly an organization dominated by political or theological conservatives, wicca is defined thusly: “Wicca  is a Neopagan religion that is also often referred to as Witchcraft or the Craft  by its adherents, who are known as Wiccans or Witches.”  Practices associated with wicca include:

1. a ritual observance of seasonal and/or life cycles, typically emphasized as being circular,
2. the belief that the Universe is the living body of the God/dess or ‘Holy One’,
3. the absence of a concept of sin, or, we are all inherently good in what we think and do,
4. tolerance for other faiths, a belief that all religions are likely valid paths to the divine,
5. a belief in a specific ritual structure.

Once again, we will turn to Sr. Rupp’s books.  One of them, Circle of Life, specifically ties cycles of life with cycles of the seasons, emphasizing a circular nature of each.  While this is by no means original, when viewed through some of her other beliefs, it causes some alarm.  In a speech given at a reward ceremony for the publication US Catholic, Sr. Rupp stated: ” I have had the privilege of entering many other circles of women…..circles of women joining together to celebrate the sacred seasons of Earth, croning circles, dancing circles, spiritual book club circles, and many others.”  Throughout Sr. Rupp’s published works and recorded speeches, she constantly identifies with these circular relationships.  Most problematic of all in the above is the reference to croning circles.   Croning circles are referenced repeatedly on wicca related websites, and  Wisegeek, a general purpose reference site, describes it as  having wicca origins.  While some other, not-clearly wicca religious groups have started using croning circles in the last few years as a right of passage for older women, the origins of the practice are not in doubt.  Tied with Sr. Rupp’s strong focus on circular rituals (she begins her open door talk with ladies facing and praying in the four directions of the compass), her adoration of nature (which I discussed in my previous post), and her ideology that we are all inherently, innately good, it’s a troubling connection, because all of the above are wicca beliefs. 

I think it important to also note the importance that rituals and rights of passage play in wicca.  These rituals often involve groups of people, usually women, gathering into circles and chanting various prayers and engaging in certain ritualized acts.  These rituals often involve dance and other activities.  Sr. Rupp stated in an interview that “I like doing things with posture, such as facing the four directions or standing in a circle. Even “breath prayer,” just paying attention to our breath. It really helps us to center and focus,” and she incorporates all of these types of activity into her seminars/retreats.

Yesterday, I touched on the fact that Sr. Rupp feels that our souls are innately perfect, that only the outside world corrupts us.  Rupp assiduously avoids mention of sin in her works, which is odd, as sin and redemption from our sinful natures is absolutely central to Catholic theology.   Ginger Hutton, who writes for the newspaper of the Diocese of Knoxville, writes that during Rupp’s ‘Open Door’ retreat (the same one she will give at St. Elizabeth Seton), Sr. Rupp stated: “I think our soul is the essence of who we are.  It’s our core goodness…. No matter what happens in our life, we have this essence of goodness, which is our soul.”  This is completely contrary to Roman Catholic belief.  In addition, as Ms. Hutton goes on to state: “What was being presented here is the transpersonal rather than Christian concept of the human person. Rather than viewing the person as the unity of body and soul, where the state of the soul and the actions of the body are intimately linked, we are offered an idea of the soul as an inherent inner good, more or less expressed through the actions of the body. In other words, the state of the soul is not affected by our actions. Sr. Rupp made this clear when she spoke of salvation: ‘We don’t talk about our soul nearly enough in the Church. We talk about saving our soul. Our soul doesn’t need saving…'” Again, denial of original sin, and, it would appear, that there is even such a thing as sin, is heretical from a Roman Catholic viewpoint.  This rejection of sin as an undeniable aspect of human life, the key aspect that cuts us off from God, means that Christ’s death on the cross was for nothing, as there was no sin from which to save us.  I don’t think I need to stress that this is absolutely contrary to Catholic belief.

Other problematical areas of Sr. Rupp’s beliefs  are her adoration of nature and her attraction to Celtic traditions.  With regard to the adoration of nature, Sr. Rupp describes her book Cosmic Dance  thusly: “It is a book about what I have learned from this great attraction to creation. My three discoveries have changed the way I look at everything and the way I relate to everyone. I see that I am not a separate entity, and never could be, because the tiny particles of my body are dancing, intermingling with the particles of life around me. It is not a matter of “them” and “me”, …….rather, it is a matter of “us….””.   Having a great attraction to God’s creation is not exactly problematical, but feeling that we are all one through this creation, and that all of creation is equal, is inimical to Catholic belief.   And, Celtic traditions, derived from pagan druidism and other pre-Christian beliefs, are also rather suspect.  Again, it is not so much the individual practice, as much as it is a continued embracing of many of the beliefs listed above.

Tied with all this is Rupp’s feminization of the divine.  The divine goddess, while not only being something believed in by many wiccans, is undeniably a gnostic belief.   Rupp repeatedly feminizes God in her work, which she refers to almost exclusively as the ‘Holy One’ or ‘Sophia.’   Rupp wrote a book entitled Prayers to Sophia, which, in addition to Star  In My Heart, details her view of God as feminine..

I must highlight a key difference here. God’s Wisdom is glorified and is definitely a part of Christian belief.  A very key component in Eastern Orthodox mysticism is associated with Holy Wisdom.  But in Christian belief, this wisdom is an aspect of God and sexless.  But, Sr. Rupp believes, and it is a subtle but key difference, is the Gnostic, feminine view of Sophia as both a component of the human soul, while also being a feminine version of God, and that the two are inseparable.   Her idealization of this aspect of God is out of bounds with how the Church defines God and appears to be informed by a Gnostic perspective. In addition, in an article written in US Catholic, Sr. Rupp states that ” There is much about Jesus that is like Sophia.”  This is definitely a Gnostic view, that of Jesus and Sophia as two sides of the same coin.  This is not a view shared by the Church, and Sr. Rupp’s historical view of ‘Sophia-worship’ and the Church’s relationship with Gnosticism leaves out much and confuses other things, but the core point is that all of Gnosticism, including the aspects related to Sophia, was condemned by the early Christian Church, and has remained condemned. 

 That Sr. Rupp subscribes to Gnostic beliefs should not be surprising, given the statements I highlighted yesterday which confirmed her Buddhist, Sufist, Hindu, and Native American influences.  This embrace of other religions is not a Roman Catholic view.  A few years ago, the Church held that anyone outside the Church was without the possibility of eternal salvation, and the Church still holds that salvation outside the Church is difficult, as only Roman Catholicism possesses the fullness of revealed Truth.  By drawing extensively from other religions, Sr. Rupp appears to be rejecting this Truth. 

Again, I am not trying to establish that Sr.Rupp is directly involved in wicca, only that there is much in her theology that is shared between the two and that many of Sr. Rupp’s beliefs are not in communion with the doctrine of the Church.  Given this deviance from established Church doctrine, Sr. Rupp makes a poor choice to lead a Catholic women’s retreat.   Her views are definitely strongly New Age, and I think the elements of wicca are sufficient to give pause.    All of this is not meant to say that Sr. Rupp is a bad person or to impugn her personally, it is only to highlight her deviance from accepted Catholic doctrine and to stress that she is far from the best choice to lead a Catholic retreat at a Catholic church.

UPDATE: You can find the contact information for the staff at the parishes involved, and at the Diocese, at the bottom of the post here.

Pastor contact information for St. Mark and St. Elizabeth Seton, the two main sponsoring churches, is here.

Two notes: Be polite!  Going over the top with emotion won’t help anyone.  And if you do contact these folks, be concise and to the point. 

Putting it all together, pt. 1 January 6, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, North Deanery, scandals.
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I’ve posted several times on the upcoming retreat at St. Elizabeth Seton parish in Plano, TX, featuring Sr. Joyce Rupp.  I want to try to compile all the information I have and try to put it all together in one place, in a more formal sense, for I have come to the conclusion that this retreat is inappropriate for a Catholic Church to host. 

In 2003, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released a document, Jesus Christ: The Bearer of Water and Life, concerning the Church’s view of New Age practices and beliefs.  This document warns, very plainly, that “From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good – thereby negating the revealed contents of Christian faith – it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous.”  So, according to the Magisterium of the Church, any dabbling in New Age practices is dangerous to the faith of a person and could lead one down a path both away from the Church and away from God’s grace. 

What is New Age?  It’s a very fuzzy concept, but some of the practices most often associated with New Age, as related in a piece by John Shea for Catholic Insight include:

· Dreams and dream analysis
· Focusing:  Doorway to the body-life of spirit – focus on cosmic ‘doorways’
· Reiki training
· Eco-Spirituality – a focus on being in communion with elements of nature
· Star in My Heart with Sophia and She is God – an internally focused view of the self as ‘god’ and female-oriented
· Reflexology
· Praying with Kabir
· Centering Prayer
· The Enneagram
· Dancing with the Cosmos
· Yoga and eastern religions

All of the above is problematic.  As Shea says: ” The central question about the New Age movement is how it defines spirituality. For the New Age devotee, spirituality means the use of the powers of nature and of an imaginary cosmic “energy” to communicate with another world and to discover the fate of an individual, or to help to make the most of oneself. Christianity, on the other hand, is an invitation to look outwards and beyond, to the “new Advent” of the God who calls us to live in the dialogue of love. The New Age does not believe in a God who transcends His creation, does not believe in good or evil, has no room for judgment or blame, and  holds that belief in evil is negative and causes only fear. It also fails to distinguish between God who created the universe and the universe He has created.”

Having established in a brief way what New Age is, and why it is dangerous for Catholics to engage in New Age practices, we need to now turn to the work of Sr. Rupp.  Does her work contain elements of New Age?  The following review of her printed works, speeches, and classes will make this clear. 

Sister Rupp has written many books.  One of the most popular is called, ‘Cosmic Dance.’  In this book, Sr. Rupp relates “…my experience of being one with the cosmic dance, how I have fallen in love with Earth and how I have been enthralled with the mystery of Moon, Sun, and the Galaxies. It is a book about what I have learned from this great attraction to creation……I see that I am not a separate entity, and never could be, because the tiny particles of my body are dancing, intermingling with the particles of life around me. It is not a matter of “them” and “me”, whether this be people, rocks, sea anemones, clouds, or rabbits on the run. Rather, it is a matter of ‘us.'” 

This is very problematic, from a Catholic perspective.  Sr. Rupp, by her own words, is equating human life, unique and created in God’s image as revealed by Catholic doctrine, with lower forms of life.  This is a tenet that runs through New Age thought – that of an almost worshiping of nature and an equivalence between human life and animals, plants, and even rocks. 

I her books Prayers to Sophia  and Star in my Heart, Rupp establishes her view of god as a feminine entity.  In addition, she relates ” I share my discovered wisdoms with you in order to encourage you on your own inner way and to spark the recognition of your wisdoms that are waiting to be welcomed by you…. My hope is that you will gather the gift of time and take the journey to the inner world where Sophia (Wisdom) waits for you.”   Sr. Rupp feels that all of us are inately good.  That we are born with a soul that is perfect, and it is only the world that corrupts us.  Writing in Church Times, Mike Starkey finds that “Rupp’s is a spirituality where the only journey worth taking goes inward towards buried treasure, where the faith that really counts is ‘faith to believe in our inner beautifulness’.”  This is manifestly heretical from a Catholic viewpoint, as it denies the key concept of original sin.   By original sin our humanity was so disfigured, so corrupted, that any notion of a beautiful, innately good inner self is simply heretical.  In addition, the theology for the self related in these books is manifestly turned inwards.  While Rupp will say that it is important to turn ourselves to the world, the effect of her work, its essence, is to turn one inwards to find that ‘voice’ that will help one attain spiritual growth.  Again, a tendency to perfect the self, and to turn inwards to find perfection, are very strongly associated with New Age beliefs.  “It is a spirituality with no apparent need for a cross or a Savior,” where even the Resurrection is reduced to a metaphor for our inherent wonderfulness.

But this is not all.  In addition to her published works, Sr. Rupp created, with her religious order, ‘The Servite Center of Compassion.’  Here, Sr. Rupp and her fellow sisters provide training in yoga, enneagrams,  dream analysis, and ‘wisdom circles.’  From the list above provided by John Shea, we can see that all of these training programs are strongly associated with New Age. 

Sr. Rupp has also spoken at conferences where even more bizaare beliefs are shared and taught.   In 2008, Sr. Rupp spoke at the ’27th Annual Women and Spirituality Conference’ at Minnesota State University-Mankato.  At this conference, there were classes offered on tarot, astrology, dream analysis, communicating with the dead, communicating with animals, yoga, and numerous explorations of eastern religions and even ‘psychic powers.’  At this conference, Sr. Rupp gave her ‘Open Door’ lecture, which she will present at St. Elizabeth Seton on Feb. 20.  Again, we see a virtual panoply of New Age beliefs, including Sr. Rupp’s inwardly focused ‘Open Door’ lecture .  Regarding her lecture, Sr. Rupp has stated: “When we open the door and go inside, God is there in the temple of our soul, in the ashram of our heart, in the cathedral of our being. Which is not to dismiss the reality of this same loving presence being fully alive in our external world.  The Holy One is with us in all of life. Our purpose for opening the door inward is to help us know and claim who we are so we can more completely join with God in expressing this love in every part of our external world.”  Here again we see the reference to eastern religions (ashram), and the inward-focus on improving self-awareness in order to find God.  When coupled with Rupp’s view of every soul being innately perfect, we see a troubling trend towards an unhealthy focus on the self as the way to commune with God, as opposed to being turned outwards to receive God’s grace and to share it in the world. 

There are many other examples. I think from the above, we can see that Sr. Rupp is not only tilted somewhat towards New Age, it infuses everything she does, it is who she is.  Sr. Rupp’s Catholicism is almost incidental at this  point, as she states here: “I am in tune with a lot from Native American spirituality, partly because of the way it connects with nature. I also like it because it brings the body into prayer, for example, standing and praying toward the four directions. I’ve also learned a lot from the Bud-dhist perspective about compassion, and it has greatly enhanced my Christian compassion. And I resonate with the Sufi tradition, the mystical branch of Islam. I find that it connects very much with the Roman Catholic mystical tradition of lover and beloved. The Sufis started the Dances of Universal Peace, which have been very important in my spiritual life. They are simple movements with prayers from different traditions that are chanted and danced in a circle. I find that very compelling and a wonderful way to connect with people. From Buddhism, I value the practice of mindfulness, being aware and present to the moment.”  With so many spiritual influences, it is little wonder that whatever Roman Catholic theology Sr. Rupp once embraced, it has been lost in the sea of competing religious beliefs.  This is another aspect of New Age belief – that all religions are essentially equal and worship the same ‘higher being.’  As Catholics, we are called to believe that Jesus Christ came to Earth, suffered and died for our sins, and established on, true Church when he said to Sr. Peter, “You are Cephas, and on this rock I will build My Church.”  Catholics who embrace Sr. Rupp’s theology will not be embracing a Catholic view, but a New Age one. 

I wish that were all.  Unfortunately, over the past few days, I have uncovered aspects of Sr. Rupp’s beliefs that are even more disconcerting.  I will cover this additional aspect in a separate post, tomorrow.

UPDATE: 

If you want to contact  the diocese, the contact info is below.

Again, be brief, polite, direct, and to the point. 

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

Elsa Espinoza, Secretary, Bishop Kevin Farrell: eespinoz@cathdal.org 214-379-2816