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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

Comments

1. Heidi - January 6, 2010

I give up. Rant away.

It’s a good thing you’re changing your header though. Someone might think that moon and stars theme is kind of New Agey.

2. Alison - January 6, 2010

Heidi-
What would be your response if your child’s school let you know that a sex offender had moved into the neighborhood? That you might need to exercise extra caution in assuring that they are safe if they have to walk to school…? Does that make you mad or are you better off to be informed?
OK, now, would you get mad if your child’s school invited the sex offender to come to the school to speak to your child’s class?
As Pope Benedict stated quite clearly to Catholic Educators when he visited the US in April of 2007: If you hang a sign that says Catholic on the outside, be sure it’s Catholic on the inside!
Apostolic visitation of religious orders in the United States shows that this was not an idle threat that the Pope made.
We will see if Catholicity is being maintained.
As EWTN’s 2009 Christmas message stated through the voice of Deacon Bill Steltemeier (but you could hear Mother Angelica’s words), “Jesus is coming! Are you ready?”

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