the Vatican on "new age" concepts : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread

I am glad to see the Vatican on top of this!

New Age Seen as Symptom of a Culture in Crisis Vatican Document Critiques the Spiritual Movement

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2003 ( The Vatican published a provisional report on New Age, offering a Christian reflection on a spiritual movement that even seduces Catholics.

Entitled "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age,'" the 90-page document analyzes the context in which the New Age has arisen, as well as its characteristics, and contrasts it with Christian spirituality. The text ends with a glossary of New Age terms.

The report was written by a working group on new religious movements, composed of members of Vatican organizations including the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (the signatories) with the assistance of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The foreword explains the report's objective, stating that "the attraction that New Age religiosity has for some Christians may be due in part to the lack of serious attention to their own communities for themes which are actually part of the Catholic synthesis."

In particular, it mentions "the importance of man's spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life's meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity."

When presenting the document to the press today, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that "the New Age phenomenon, along with many other new religious movements, is one of the most urgent challenges for the Christian faith."

"It is a religious challenge and, at the same time, a cultural challenge," he said. With its doctrines on God, man and the world, which are "incompatible with the Christian faith," the New Age "is at the same time symptom of a culture in profound crisis and a mistaken answer to the present situation of crisis," Cardinal Poupard said.

According to the cardinal, the Church must respond to this situation by proposing Christian doctrine first of all, with "clarity and discernment" and, at the same time, by welcoming "people seeking meaning." This requires "a pastoral program directed to the specific culture of modern and postmodern societies, which give birth to the New Age phenomenon."

For his part, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, acknowledged in statements to the press that "there are positive aspects in New Age, but taken all together it is not in accord with true Christian faith."

"The document seeks to offer keys to understand this somewhat nebulous phenomenon of the New Age and to illustrate how it differs from the Christian faith," he added.

"It is known that the New Age means the age of Aquarius," the archbishop continued. "It is an astrological concept, according to which the age of Pisces, which was that of Christ, has developed and is now passing to the age of Aquarius, in which everything is gentle, there are no longer the rigors of Christianity, everything is based on harmony with creation, with the cosmos."

"By its title," Archbishop Fitzgerald added, "our document reminds us that Jesus Christ is the authentic bearer of the living water ... he is the one who slakes man's thirst. ... The true Christian finds the fullness of his spiritual life in Christ, without the need to seek it elsewhere." ZE03020305

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-- Theresa Huether (, February 04, 2003


Jesus is Lord

-- Theresa Huether (, February 04, 2003.

Theresa, Thanks for passing this along..."Theologian in Training" offered it last night, I think, on the phatmass forum, and I've added the site to My Favorites, so that I may refer to it as often as needed. It is great to have so many Catholics working together ("solidarity!") to build up the Body of Christ! Pax Christi,

-- Anna <>< (, February 04, 2003.

I liked the fact that they didn't just dismiss it all without really looking at it; noting the positive aspects which draw people into these practices; and showing how those things can all be found within Christ if we just look hard enough. :-)

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 04, 2003.

I don't see what some of the fuss is about. I have read books like "Creative Visualization", for example, and as long as you understand that everything comes from God, then use the power of your mind (that God gave you) to help your body heal, or to give yourself a more positive outlook when things aren't going well. Same with doing Yoga or other types of religious (and meditation) exercises. Who says you can't do the exercises while praying to God?

-- GT (, February 04, 2003.

Well, some of the New Age concepts can easily deteriorate into Gnosticism, Paganism, Spiritualism, etc. - so it's best to err on the side of caution.

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 04, 2003.

Dear G.T., yes, I see what you mean, sure, IF we are grounded in our relationship with Jesus, and sure in our faith, it would seem we could use other methods of prayer, knowing the truth. May I add a few thoughts, and concerns? It could be a very big IF, especially with youth involved, who may not be grounded yet in mature faith and personal relationship with the Lord, and good catechisis. This would apply to many adults too.

The expression "Eastern Methods" refers to methods inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism. We are borrowing from these methods to attain union with God and attain certain powers.Some people can become easily misled by these techniques into thinking they own the power, and that they are even the source of the power. Subtley, there is danger of the mindset that says "we don't need a savior because all we have to do is tap into the power that is within."

The Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith says, in a letter to the bishops entitled 'Some aspects of Christian Meditation', "Before one would seek to be enriched by meditation methods developed in other religions and cultures, one must start with a certain clear premise that Christian prayer is a personal, intimate and profound dialogue between man and God".

St. Teresa of Avila warned against some methods of prayer "which are not inspired by the gospels" and which "set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity".

We Catholic Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit don't need to employ open-ended meditations from unknown, possibly dangerous sources.

-- Theresa Huether (, February 04, 2003.

Theresa, I look at "you are the power" type statements more as an affirmation of the old saying, "God helps those who help themselves". I do see your point, though.

-- GT (, February 04, 2003.

Another way to look at the whole thing is that the "New Age" folks have taken good and beautiful devotions, music, prayer methods, etc., out of the context of Christianity. They remain good and beautiful, but their primary purpose - to lead us closer to Christ - has been changed or twisted in some way.

What we might want to do - and what I think the Holy Father was trying to do here - is look at how these things were *originally* supposed to work, and return all these jewels to their natural setting. :-)

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 05, 2003.

Here's one excellent example - look at the way Gregorian Chant has become a staple of "New Age" music. I have even heard a Weird Al Yankovic parody in Gregorian Chant! (an experience not to be missed, nyuk nyuk!)

But as beautiful as the Chant is, it definitely loses something when it's taken out of the setting of the Church and used simply as a means of "relaxing" or "communing with your inner self". The music itself hasn't changed, but its purpose has been changed or twisted.

The solution is NOT to stop listening to Gregorian Chant - heaven forbid! - but to return it to its rightful place of honor within the Mass.

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 05, 2003.

Christine, I'm willing to bet that there are some who have never heard Gregorian Chant before who may be drawn to God through the beauty of the music, even if they heard it first on that awful commercial that was running for a while. I didn't hear the Weird Al one yet--I really like his music. Unfortunately we do not get Dr. Demento where we are ;- (

-- GT (, February 05, 2003.

GT, of course you're right - God can and does use any and all means to draw souls to Him. Remember the movie "Last Temptation of Christ"? It's considered blasphemous by the Church. Yet when I saw it I was still thinking of myself as an Atheist, and couldn't figure out why the scene in which Christ died made me feel so sad - hadn't I gotten over all that religious stuff yet?? Apparently not. :-)

Sorry you can't get Dr. Demento, but did you know he has a website where you can listen to his older shows? The URL is:

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 05, 2003.

Thank you Christine!

We once had the opportunity to see the good Doctor in person (signed autographs and posed for pictures, very nice man), and in the lecture he mentioned that, unlike others who do parodies, Weird Al not only secures permission, he also pays royalties to the original artists, even though parody is covered under "fair use" in the copyright laws so he legally is not required to.

It would be great to hear Chant during Mass--especially during Communion. Many people don't sing anyway because they haven't figured out how to tuck the songbook under their arm while receiving, and it is disruptive when the musicians receive Communion before everyone else, and then you have this long silence while they have a chance to get their music ready.

If they just put on a recording at this time, then everyone could receive Communion and have a chance to prayerfully reflect.

-- GT (, February 05, 2003.

And before my friend Ed pops in to make an anti-Novus Ordo comment (just teasin' ya a little there, Ed!) - I was once told to LEAVE a Tridentine Mass because I was singing along with the choir! Apparently that's a no-no! Mind you, they didn't kick me out because I was off-key, but just because I was singing, period! "EVERYONE knows the congregation is not permitted to sing!" huffed the lady who escorted me to the door. Seriously! Made me wonder if she'd ever "made a joyful noise unto the Lord" in her life, nyuk nyuk!

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 05, 2003.

You're kidding, right? Please say you're joking....

If I'm not allowed to sing, it darn well better be a totally music-less Mass (or I'd be finding another parish).

I'm not against choirs, per se, but I do think they tend to have a "dampening" effect, in that it DISCOURAGES people from participating at all, and they *really* sit back and allow the choir to entertain them-- I've seen it. When I used to be a song leader, I used to ask people why they didn't sing, and their response was invariably, "well, I don't sing so good", and my response is always "God wants to hear everyone, he gave you a voice, use it".

-- GT (, February 05, 2003.

Very true! Say what you want about the guitar masses of the '70's, it did get us kids into the habit of bawling out hymns (granted, they were more likely to be "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" than "Panis Angelicus", but still ...

You're so right about the choirs, which is what really annoyed me at this particular church (and once again, for those who're keeping score, it was a TRIDENTINE MASS Church) - they actually told people that if they wanted to sing during the Mass, they had to go up into the choir loft! No amateurs, puhleez !

-- Christine L. :-) (, February 05, 2003.

Christine, I think that's very sad indeed. The church is supposed to be the Body of Christ with all the members functioning. To disallow the congregation to sing is to basically cut off what little function they had. Very sad indeed. Very unscriptural too. I doubt the Lord would be happy.

-- Oliver Fischer (, February 08, 2003.

GT, I think one of the things this document points out is that "not everything comes God." Some forms of New Age practices are occultic in nature, as they presume to give to humans certain supernatural powers which belong to God. If God isn't giving these powers, then where are they coming from? See the reiki thread, for instance. Pax Christi

-- Anna <>< (, February 08, 2003.

Liturgical music at Mass is used to glorify God and to edify the faithful. All music which praises God is prayer. To forbid someone to sing who is not disrupting others, regrettably is to prevent them from praying and thus cuts off all redemptive power being derived therefrom. When we sing together at Mass it unites the members of the Body of Christ as one. That alone is sanctifying. After all, isn’t one of the reasons we attend Mass regularly - to make us more like Jesus - to make us more holy? Singing at Mass places man in the proper context of worshipper to a God who should be worshipped. It is man’s natural instinct to joyously sing out to that which makes him happy. To cut off this outward expression of love for God is in fact, anti-God and therefore anti-Catholic, whether the perpetrator realizes it or not. The catechism has this to say about the faithful singing at Mass:

“The harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who celebrate. Hence religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services, in conformity with the Church's norms, the voices of the faithful may be heard.” (CCC 1158)

“How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face - tears that did me good.” - St. Augustine

-- Ed Lauzon (, February 08, 2003.

I'm almost rendered speehless when I hear/read about some churches, or perhaps I should say some people within those churches, who actively discourage the congregation to participate in the Mass. We do not, and should not, go to Mass to observe. We are called upon to participate as fully as possible, be it in prayer or in the signing of hymns, which is simply another form of prayer. If I wanted to attend a concert to listen to a choir sing then I would buy a ticket, go along and sit quietly enjoying the choir's expertise. However, in going to Mass I am there as a part of the Body of Christ, and this Body needs all of the parts to 'perform' to glorify the Head! It doesn't matter if I sing off-key or if I sing like a nightingale, it is all to the glory of God!!!

p.s. as my friends would tell you, it takes something special to render me almost speechless!

-- Sara (, February 08, 2003.

Anna, what I was saying is that yes, the mind (for example) can do wondrous things, but the mind was created by God, so use what He gave you.

I don't even pay attention to the occultic stuff--I like horror movies and such, but only for entertainment.

-- GT (, February 09, 2003.

GT I'm sure you don't (dabble). My comment was referencing why I think the document was written: to clarify a few things to the faithful as well as the clergy regarding neopagan and christopagan practices which are creeping into the Church as New Age practices. There is soooo much of that stuff going on in the Church, it is mind boggling... I believe the document specifically mentions enneagram, for instance, which is widespread. I'd have to read it over again before commenting further; I only scanned it, but I felt it was very timely! I had only recently asked my pastor about a particular practice, and he was completely unfamiliar with it (as was I!) So I think it is wonderful that we have guidance from the Vatican on such matters. That's all!

-- Anna <>< (, February 09, 2003.

...another great recent interview clarifies more...

Christianity Refutes the New Age Interview with Teresa Osorio of the Pontifical Council for Inter- Religious Dialogue

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2003 ( A new Vatican document on the New Age movement has stirred up great interest in the media.

The report, entitled "Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age,'" was presented Feb. 3 by a team of members of different Vatican organizations, including the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Inter- Religious Dialogue. The signatories acted with the assistance of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

To lend a greater appreciation of this important document, ZENIT interviewed one of its authors, Dr. Teresa Osorio Goncalves, of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, coordinator of the working group on Sects and New Religious Movements.

Q: In facing an umbrella movement such as the New Age, where spiritism, occultism, theosophy, black and white magic, pantheism, and neo-paganism converge, and where many groups and associations use "New Age" techniques to some extent, could you point out the principal differences between New Age and Christianity?

Osorio: Above all, we Catholics believe in a Creator God, a God who freely creates out of love and who creates man free. God is not identified with the universe (pantheism), nor has the universe issued from him by emanation. From the Christian perspective, it is equally false to say that God is identified with man. Certainly, he dwells in man, but he is at the same time his creator, Lord, and savior. Through a plan of love, God has made man his interlocutor. Otherness preserves personal dignity and man's freedom.

We engage in dialogue with this God through prayer. Prayer is not the simple rediscovery of one's most profound self, but presupposes the meeting of two persons: it is to place oneself freely in adoration, in thanksgiving, in supplication. It is to be in harmony with the will of the Father.

Q: Followers of New Age seek liberating techniques...

Osorio: We are in need of Christ's redemption, because we are sinners. The Christian sees man as fundamentally good, but wounded by original sin. No technique of liberation, no personal effort of concentration, no harmony of millions of consciences, can save man. Christ, the Son of God made man, who "entered" history to save us, is our only way of salvation.

Q: What is the meaning of death and suffering?

Osorio: Followers of the New Age movement do not accept suffering or death. Redemption comes to them through techniques of expansion of conscience, rebirth, journeys to death's doors; redemption is also obtained with any method that helps one to relax, to increase one's vital energies.

Instead, for Christians, suffering, lived in union with Jesus crucified, who revealed his love for men on the cross, is the source of salvation. Death is also a unique event: it is not access to a new reincarnation that will be followed by others, but the obligatory step to enter eternal life.

Q: Does New Age speak about changing the world?

Osorio: A pamphlet of the Indian Brahma Kumaris movement says: "Something is going to happen ... You can make it happen by associating at the same time with millions of others, gathered in a type of new communion of saints, who by their strength and intrinsic creativity have the force capable of tipping the world over to the side of righteousness." But will thought be enough to change the world?

The way proposed to us by Jesus Christ is far more exacting and fascinating: it is the one of reciprocal love, that is translated into concrete works and creates living communities that build a new world.

-- Theresa Huether (, February 10, 2003.

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