Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Disorderly Conduct

It’s not always what you say, but also how you say it.  Even a man like St. Peter, characteristically known for his bluntness, recognized this and cajoled the peddlers of the Good News that while having a ready defense of the reason for their hope, it should always be done with reverence and respect for the other person.  The truth is naturally harmful to error, but it can always be presented in a manner that makes it more palatable to those who hold those errors.  This balance is at the heart of the Church’s pastoral mission.  That is why, when the self-appointed Apostle to the LGBTQ community, Fr. James Martin, says that the Church’s language regarding the homosexual condition is unnecessarily harsh, we ought to take his criticism seriously.

Fr. Martin takes exception to the use of the term disordered.  The Catechism uses the term twice within the context of same sex attraction (SSA)—once when referring to homosexual activity, calling it intrinsically disordered (CCC 2357) and then a second time calling the inclination itself objectively disordered (CCC 2358).  Many people, Fr. Martin included, are quick to point out that the term disordered refers “to the orientation, and not the person” (Building a Bridge, p.46).

Why We Use the Term Disordered

They are correct that in this context the adjective, disordered, is modifying the inclination and the action and not the person.  But this does not mean that the persons themselves are not disordered.  In fact, the Church believes that we are all disordered and those with same sex attraction are no different in that regard.  The particulars of their disorder may be different than mine or yours, but rest assured dear reader that we are all disordered.  If we weren’t then there would be no need for the Church.  The Church is given by Christ so that He might continue His ministry to disordered tax collectors and prostitutes throughout time and space.

The use of the term disordered is really meant to highlight an important aspect of human life, one that truly is Good News.  Life is not just a series of unrelated episodes, but has a specific purpose or end based upon the fact that we have an unchangeable human nature.  Those inclinations and actions which take us towards true fulfillment are said to be ordered to happiness, those which take us off that path are said to be disordered.  In short, homosexual inclinations and actions are only one of a number of things that are disordered; things such as lying and calumny are also classified as being intrinsically disordered by the Catechism (CCC 1753) precisely because they lead us away from a life of true fulfilment and happiness.

Nevertheless, the Catechism does single out the inclination as disordered and this also for a very good reason.  There is only one way in which order can be re-introduced back into our fallen nature—grace.  The Church turns her focus to this inclination rather than the many others because she wants to apply the medicine of grace to those who live with same sex attraction.  She is the lone voice crying out in the desert that SSA is a serious obstacle to the Promised Land.  That is, in their struggle for chastity and rightly ordered love, the person struggling with same sex attraction may unite their suffering with the suffering Christ, sanctifying the whole Church in the process.  This is why we should “build a bridge” to them and invite them in—not just because we want to see them healed, but because of their particular cross they might add to the holiness of all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

The Weight of the Burden

It is worth mentioning as well why so many people who suffer with SSA do read into the Catechism a specific condemnation of their being ontologically disordered—they read it as a noun rather than an adjective.  There is something much more fundamental to each person than their sexual inclinations.  In fact the Church, “refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: a creature of God and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life”(PCHP, 16).  The truth is that no one is ontologically homosexual; there really is no such thing as “homosexuality” or “heterosexuality”.  There are only two sexual identities; male and female.  Our sexuality is the call of men and women to love as God loves in and through their bodies.  The unfortunate reality is that we live in a fallen world where there can be distortions that obscure our sexual identity.

This particular burden is especially difficult because it attacks one’s ability to relate to other people, both of the opposite sex and the same sex.  In other words, it disorders all your relationships.  This leaves the person feeling very isolated and very alone.  When they find a community of like-minded people, whose social action centers on making their inclination and actions ordered it is hard not to fall victim to wearing nothing but the homosexual label.  We are so much more than our feelings and our genitals however.  Even if the inclination were not disordered, wearing the label to the extent that many wear it, would lead to grave unhappiness.  That basket can’t hold the eggs of our identity and the Church wants those who struggle with SSA to know that.

We can see why then the Church might use the term disordered as a way to point out there is an ordered way of life in which things proceed in an ordered fashion towards true human fulfillment, but is the phrase “still needlessly hurtful. Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is ‘disordered’ in itself is needlessly cruel” (p. 46-47), as Fr. Martin suggests?  There might be a gentler term that could be used, but most that I can think of betray the truth.  Fr. Martin’s suggestion that we should call it “differently ordered” is problematic in that it implies that it is ordered.  It is, according to him then one different way of life that when lived out would lead to true personal happiness and thriving.  The Church cannot, as Cardinal Sarah says in referring to Our Lord’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery, be more merciful than her Lord.  The merciful call of the Church always echoes Christ’s compassionate call to conversion.  That is, it always mixes the bad news with the Good News, or rather begins with the bad news (dis) and ends with the Good News (ordered).  Come to think of it, maybe, just maybe, there is wisdom in the use of the term.  It’s not always what you say, but how you say it indeed.

 

***As a postscript, I would not recommend anyone spend money on Fr. Martin’s book as it is really a veiled attempt to circumvent the Church’s teaching through subterfuge and verbal gymnastics.  His unwillingness to engage any of his critics head-on always makes someone suspect in my mind.  Instead, buy Daniel Mattson’s book Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay.  For anyone trying to aid in the bridge building, this book should be one of the pillars.

Changing the Cultural Smell

Long before it was fashionable to write books whose titles include profanity, philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote an extended essay On Bullsh*t.  Written in 1986, it is as current as ever, explaining why male cow excrement is a fitting metaphor for how Political Correctness spreads like manure, fertilizing our social landscape while carrying with it a noxious stench.  Thanks to its ubiquitous nature, we grow wearing of pinching our noses and eventually let go allowing it to saturate our minds.  Case in point—the recent scandal of sexual impropriety has shown not only that we have been holding our noses to it, but that we may in fact have forgotten how to breathe properly.  It is in that spirit, that I hope to end the bullsh*t by offering an introduction and application of Frankfurt’s work.

When I was in college, we used to play a card game called BS.  It was like Uno, except, rather than picking up cards when you did not have anything to put down, you would attempt to bluff your way out of it.  If another player thought you were bluffing then he would call BS and whoever was right became the owner of the pile.  The really good players were skilled at bluffing that they were bluffing, calling out the wrong number (which was really the right number), thus making it really hard to know what the player actually believed.

BS and Indifference

Nostalgic as I am for that game, it is relevant because it is illustrative of what real BS is like.  It is not really lying, but a form of bluffing.  It is merely an attempt to represent yourself as a certain kind of person.  Whether you are really that way is secondary at best, really inconsequential—it is only the appearance that matters.  As Frankfurt says, BS is really short of lying because it doesn’t really care what the truth is only how what you say makes you appear to be.  Its indifference to the truth makes it, in a certain sense, worse than lying because at least a lie pays a certain deference to the truth, even if it is still trying to deny it.

BS is not so much that someone gets things wrong, but that they are not really even trying to get things right.  The feigned conviction is not grounded in either a belief that what you are saying is true nor, as with a lie, in the belief that it is not true.  This indifference to the truth is really the essence of BS.  In fact we even have a special word for it—Political Correctness.  BS is at the heart of Political Correctness.  Whether or not I actually believe X is wrong or not is inconsequential—only that I say the things that make me appear to think it is wrong.  If tomorrow the court of public opinion changes then I will spout my BS to the contrary.

Frankfurt uses the example of the man leading a July 4th celebration standing up and giving a patriotic speech.  Whether the man is a patriot or not does not matter, his only goal is to appear patriotic because the setting demands it.  The man may be, and probably is, indifferent.  As the BS spreads so does the indifference.  All of the mouth breathing leads to brains that have been deprived of oxygen and no longer know what or why they believe certain things.  They simply become parrots repeating what someone else has said and keeping up appearances.

The BS Meter

The BS meter is maxed out with the latest sexual impropriety scandal.  For years Hollywood and Washington, as hubs of US power, were also seedbeds of exploitation.  Once a few women had the courage to speak up, the BS starting flowing.  Now to be clear, I am not saying they aren’t telling the truth.  I am sure the overwhelming majority of them are and that there are any number of victims who won’t speak up.  What I am saying is the “outraged” response.  One day Actor X is hitting Twitter saying all the PC things.  He doesn’t believe a word of it because the next day we find out he is just as guilty.  Next day Senator Y is condemning Actor X and it turns out there are pictures of him exploiting another woman.  Just as sure as tomorrow will bring another outing, there will be the accompanying BS.  BS kills conviction and once the next scandal hits, the problem creeps back into the shadows.

How do I know this?  Because it isn’t just Actor X and Senator Y that are guilty of it.  We are all complicit.  We may talk about how horrible sexual exploitation is, but it is all BS.  Take a look at your favorite news web site today and glance at the stories.  You will see a story about Al Franken, Roy Moore, and will also find one about some young female teacher arrested for sexual encounters with a teen boy.  Franken and Moore will pass but each day brings another story of a woman (usually a teacher) being arrested for a rendezvous with a male (underage) student.  The numbers are increasing (latest available data, collected in 2014, showed that a third of nearly 800 student-teacher sex prosecutions involved women) and we pretend it is not a problem.  But rather than outrage at this blatant abuse we click on each story to see the mug shot of the latest Mrs. Robinson with the accompanying Facebook or Instagram “sexy” photo.  Barstool Sports (BS), who just got their own SiriusXM radio station, even came out with a Sex Scandal Starting Lineup of the hottest teachers in 2016.  BS needs to keep the cycle of BS going by appealing to “guys.”  After all, what guy didn’t fantasize being with some hot teacher at some point?  Somehow without any basis in truth, these same guys who have bought BS’s BS are supposed to turn around and not sexually exploit women.  BS is dizzying if nothing else.

The examples grow exponentially.  What about the BS of equality?  Or the BS of freedom?  Or the BS of tolerance?  Even the Church is not immune with the BS masquerading as ecumenism.  BS has a funny way of infecting an entire culture.

In our collegiate game of BS there was only one way to win.  Once you got down to one card the other players would always call BS to keep you from winning.  The only way you could win is if you told the truth—that is you actually had the next card in the sequence.  It is only the truth that can set us free from cloud of BS and in the midst of a cultural crisis we as Catholics have a unique gift to offer the world.  We must preach the Good News of who we are as men and women, equal and not, and who we are in light of Christ.  Christ came so we would not have to deal with BS any longer.

Spiritual and Religious

“I am spiritual, but not religious.” It has become the fastest growing religious affiliation.  So popular is it, that it now has its own acronym—SBNR.  Its appeal is that it supposedly frees its adherents from the trappings of organized religion so that they may become more “spiritual.”  What it means to be more “spiritual” remains a mystery because any formal dogma or Creed would signal its death knell.  Usually it is about “connecting to God within.”  Although the popularity of SBNR has grown, it is not something new.  In fact one could say it is the second oldest religion in the world, beginning when Lucifer decided that he too would spend eternity as spiritual but not religious.

Ultimately the fall of Lucifer and his minions was a permanent refusal to have any obligations towards God.  The eternal cry of the demons is “non serviam”—“I will not serve.”  They desire to be like God, but shun religion.  Although their fall was instantaneous, many of the adherents to SBNR slide in the same direction—many not realizing what they are agreeing to when they recite the SBNR mantra.

What is Religion?

Without a doubt, some of the issue has to do with vagaries surrounding the word religious.  The English word religion is derived from the Latin religare, to tie, fasten, bind, or relegere, to gather up or treat.  First and foremost, religion is the moral virtue that consists in giving to God the worship and service He deserves.  It is part of the virtue of justice which consists in rendering to each his due.  Because He is the Creator of all things and has supreme dominion, God in a singular way has a special service due to Him.  This service is worship.

Herein lies a source of confusion, namely why God creates us and then commands that we worship Him.  This is worth investigating because it is often an obstacle for the SBNR congregants.  We offer worship to God, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, not for His sake but for ours.  We cannot give to God anything He doesn’t already have.  Instead He creates us as rational creatures not just because we manifest His goodness or glory, but because we, among all visible creation, have the capacity to appreciate it.  In other words, we worship to both show our appreciation and to grow in the pleasure that His goodness brings to us.

The SBNRer may willingly concede that they do owe something to God in terms of worship, but they prefer to connect to God privately “in their souls.”  This ultimately stems from a denial of what we are as human beings.  As body/spirit composites, we are capable of both internal and external acts of religion.  In a certain sense the internal take precedence, but these internal acts can never be wholly free from the external and must be guided by them.

As human beings, our bodies and our spirits act in unison with each other.  That which is in the mind, must first have been in the senses.  You cannot perform a wholly interior act without also affecting the exterior.  Just the very thought of God or Jesus, invokes an image in our material imaginations.  We worship both from the inside-out and the outside in.  Our external acts of devotion effect our internal acts of devotion.  One is more likely to have increased devotion in their heart to God kneeling (an external sign of supplication) in front of a Crucifix than if they are staring at a blank wall sitting on a bed.

The implications of this are obvious.  There are some external acts that are better than others at increasing devotion.  This is certainly true in the subjective sense—we all have our favorite environments in which to pray—but it is also true in the objective sense.  God is equally present in the bathroom as He is in the chapel, but it is the chapel that has been consecrated (i.e. set aside) as a place of prayer that is objectively better than the bathroom.  This is why praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament is called Adoration.  You can adore God anywhere in spirit, but in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that Adoration occurs in “spirit and truth.”

SBNR and Organized Religion

As you probe more deeply into the motives of the typical SBNRer, you will find that really what SBNR means is that “I am spiritual, but I loathe organized religion.”  They view religion as something wholly personal and subjective.  But if it is really true that we owe God worship and that certain forms of worship are better than others, then a loving Father would teach us what those forms are.  The history of mankind outside of, first Judaism and then Christianity, has been man groping for these forms.  Some of the forms were innocuous like offering incense to the local god, while others commanded human sacrifice.  God commands definitive forms of worship to keep us from falling into two equally dangers traps—one of defect and one of excess.

There is the trap that once we realize that worship is really for us, we will worship in a way most pleasing to ourselves.  This has not only led to the Non-denominational denomination with their mega-churches and “praise and worship services” worthy of a pep-rally, but also the pop music masquerading as liturgical music in Catholic churches.  The second trap is that of excess.   The truth is that no form of worship will ever feel adequate because no merely human form of worship is.  So we keep upping the ante so to speak leading to some of the religious atrocities we still see in certain cults and Middle Eastern religions.  We need God to tell us what is acceptable and what is not.

God does not merely tell us, but He comes and shows us.  Through the sacrifice of His Son, He shows us the most pleasing form of worship—the one act that is enough.  He gives us the power to make that sacrifice our own—both through Faith (subjective) and through the perpetuation of that same Sacrifice in the Sacrifice of the Mass (objective).  The One True Religion is the one that offers that Sacrifice because it is not just any organized religion but the Religion organized by the Holy Spirit Himself.

The Catholic Response to SBNR

SBNR is really a protest movement against religious tolerance. Properly understood, religious tolerance assumes that there is a true religion and that we are willing to tolerate some people who hold only part of that truth. Tolerance respects human freedom to discover the truth. But religious tolerance has come to mean that all religions are equal. If all religions really are the same, then why should I have anything to do with any of them? But, if one of them is different because it is true, then it does matter. As the One True Religion is only the Catholic religion that can lead the SBNR away from sliding down the Luciferian slope.

This claim to be the One True Faith may seem arrogant, but it is no more arrogant than the claim that 2+2=4.  It is a statement of truth and it is a truth that has been handed down to us.  I am not the inventor of my religion, but its grateful recipient.

The Inventor died to give this religion to me.  Before dying He deeded it to its caretakers.  As proof, notice the first time that Jesus mentions His suffering on the Cross—it is only after setting up the Church upon Peter the Rock that He tells of His redemptive death (c.f. Mt 16:18-21).  Those same caretakers wore martyrs’ crowns rather so that the Faith was passed on to me.  Thousands upon thousands of martyrs and confessors boldly preached that religion so that I would have it.  Now it is my turn and your turn to pass it on to the next generation.  We cannot hide our light under a bushel.  We should not apologize for being Catholic, but we should apologize for not being Catholic enough.  Only we can show SBNR what it means to truthfully and joyfully be spiritual AND religious.

The Keys of the Kingdom

Pope Pius XI thought that the best way to protect Christian culture was to promote the Kingship of Christ.  With that in mind, he promulgated the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 so that Christ would be venerated as King over all mankind. Certainly the Holy Father was attempting to stem the rising tide of secularism.  But he also had great concerns that many would lose sight of His Kingdom in our midst.  One cannot honor the King while at the same time ignoring His Kingdom.  But what exactly does this Kingdom look like?

Sacred Scripture acts as recorded history of God’s progressive revelation of His Kingdom.  Therefore we should expect an internal coherence that makes it unlike any other book.  This means is that the Old Testament should not be isolated or seen as somehow opposed to the New Testament.  It is the same God, progressively revealing Himself to mankind within a given historical context, until in the “fullness of time” He takes on flesh to fully reveal Himself.  The reverse is also true—no interpretation of the New Testament should be made without reference to the Old Testament.  The Catechism lists this principle, which it calls being “attentive  to the content and unity of the whole Scripture,” first among “three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it” (CCC 111-112).  It is this same principle that Luther had in mind when, in his commentary on the Psalms, he said “the Bible is its own interpreter.

If, when we encounter difficult passages, we allow Scripture to interpret itself by examining it for parallels, then we will find the passage interpreting itself.  In this regard, Matthew 16 is a great Kingdom text.  The passage commends to the astute reader two very important Old Testament texts.  Unless we are aware of them, we are likely to miss what Jesus was actually doing when He declared Peter to be the Rock upon which He would build His Church.Peter Keys

First, it must be admitted that Jesus intended to form a kingdom.  St. Gabriel announces Him to Mary as a king, “the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).  Likewise, it is the accusation of kingship that is leveled against Jesus and against which He defends Himself against Pilate saying although He is a King, His Kingdom “did not belong to this world” (John 18:36).

Even though it did not belong to this world, anyone who reads the Kingdom parables of Matthew 13 knows that knows that we should expect to find the Kingdom of Heaven present in this world.  St. Gabriel gives us the interpretive key to recognizing the Kingdom in the world when he tells us that He will inherit the throne of David.  In other words, the Kingdom of God is prefigured by the kingdom of David.  The Davidic monarch was “the Lord’s anointed” (the literal meaning of the word Christ) who is the adopted son of God (Ps 2:7) and is the only human kingdom to enjoy the privilege of being founded upon a covenant (2 Sam 7:8-16); all of which point to Jesus.  But the Davidic Kingdom also has roles of administration in it for both the Queen Mother (1 Kings 2:19-20) and the Royal Steward (1 Kgs 4:6).  If Jesus really is the King, sitting on the throne of David, then we should expect those administrative roles to be filled.

How would one recognize the royal steward or “over the household” in the Davidic Kingdom? He would be the one on whom the king had bestowed his keys.  In Isaiah 22:15-22, we find an example of this:

Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here and whom have you here that you have hewn here a tomb for yourself, you who hew a tomb on the height, and carve a habitation for yourself in the rock?  Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you, and whirl you round and round, and throw you like a ball into a wide land; there you shall die, and there shall be your splendid chariots, you shame of your master’s house.  I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station.  In that day I will call my servant Eli’akim the son of Hilki’ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

The royal steward, Shebna, is being thrust from his office and is being replaced by Eliakim.  Eliakim will be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah and will be given the key to the house of David as a sign of his authority.

One cannot help but see the parallels between this passage and Matthew 16:19 where Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  As the rightful heir to the Davidic Kingdom, Jesus is appointing His royal steward by bestowing upon him as a sign of investiture the keys to the Kingdom.  These keys are no mere symbol but carry with them an authority (binding and loosing are legal terms) to act on behalf of the King.

joseph_reunited_with_his_brothers

What were the limits to the authority of the royal steward?  Turning to the second important text,  Genesis 41:40, we can see that Joseph, Pharaoh’s royal steward, is given absolute power with only the limitation of the throne itself.  He was not the King and all his authority came from the King, but still his authority was absolute.  Christ the King likewise gave Peter such authority when He said whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  The difference of course is that in the case of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus offers divine protection to Peter against making any errors which is why we say that Peter was infallible in his office as royal steward or “father to the inhabitants” of the Kingdom of Heaven (the title Pope or Papa is just Italian for father).

Although this seems obvious from what has been said so far, it bears mention that the power rested not with the person holding the office of steward, but with the office itself.  This means that there was succession in the office.  Recall that Shebna is being replaced in his office by Eliakim and the keys that symbolized the office were passed along as well.

In short, it is the Church that is the Kingdom of God in our midst.  The Second Vatican Council calls the Church “the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery” and “strains toward the completed kingdom” (LG 15).  It is Christ who rules from His Eucharistic throne and the successor of Peter, the Pope that acts as His royal steward.  You cannot have the King while simultaneously rejecting His kingdom.

Stretching Beyond Our Limits

If you ever want to understand what it was like for St. Paul when he was preaching to the Corinthians about the dangers of meat sacrificed to idols, then you should try convincing another Christian not to practice yoga.  Convincing people of the serious threat that yoga poses is often very difficult.  Most of the time, you can tell who is practicing yoga by the great flexibility they show by rolling their eyeballs.  Most of them can roll them quickly into the heads while a few more seasoned practitioners (with some help) are able to roll them even deeper.  As Fr. Gabriele Amorth, former Chief Exorcist of Rome and author of a number of books on demonology has said, “(Y)oga is the work of the devil.”  So when he calls yoga “devious and dangerous” we ought to take him seriously and seek to understand why he says what he says.

To begin it is a necessary reminder that a person is a body/soul composite.  There are two important implications to this.  First, whatever we do with our bodies, it is the person who does it.  Likewise, whatever we do with our souls, it is the person that does it.  Second, those things that we do with our bodies have an effect on our souls and those things we do with our souls have an effect on our bodies.

Why is this simple reminder necessary?  Because the most common objection goes something like this: “I just do it for the stretching and I don’t do any of the other stuff.”  While that may be true, the poses in themselves mean something.  After all, I may merely be extending and stretching my middle finger as a police officer goes by, but extending it means something even if I was only stretching.  If you need to stretch your middle finger you will likely find another way to do it rather than risk being misunderstood.  Likewise there are many other ways to get the physical benefits of stretching that do not involve yoga poses.  This is the same point that St. Paul makes to the Corinthians when he tells them that they cannot “drink of the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons” (1 Cor 10:21).  While I certainly advocate extending your middle finger to the devil as much as possible, I suggest you avoid anything resembling yoga at all costs because it might “provoke the jealous anger of the Lord” (1 Cor 10:22) (i.e. He may allow us to be given over to the demons that we are inadvertently worshipping).

With this in mind, let’s examine the underlying philosophy of yoga.  While there are many forms of yoga (including hatha and raja—two of the most popular in the West), they all have a number of things in common.  First and foremost they are inextricably linked to the religious beliefs of Hinduism, most of which is absolutely incompatible with Christian beliefs.  In addition each of them in practice attempts to create an altered state of consciousness (ASCs) by focusing on the breathing, the body position, and a mantra.  The controlled breathing is thought to be a means of absorbing prana (divine energy) from the air (since nature is divine).  When combined with the poses performed slowly and the repetition of a mantra, this easily creates an effective means to an altered state of consciousness.  One learns by these means to direct the prana to different parts of the body by willpower and visualization.  The peak of achievement is when the mind can become a void for extended periods and one becomes aware he is divine and completely one with the universe.  One of the reasons why the Church has always rejected means of ASCs both natural and un-natural (like drugs) is because it opens one up to the demonic.  Our minds are meant to know (especially to know God) and not to become blank slates.

Unfortunately, that is not all.  The goal of yoga is the realization of one’s own divinity.  A key Hindu belief is in the goddess Kundalini that is represented as a coiled snake sleeping at the base of the spine.  Every posture is designed to stimulate Kundalini, which seeks to pass from the first chakra or energy depot (in the pelvic area) to the four chakras in the spine.  It then travels to the two in the head with the goal of spreading the sexual energy (seen as divine energy) to each of the other chakras, gaining spiritual power and enlightenment.  Finally it reaches the crown chakra where one is made karma-free and immortal.  One does not need much of a Christian imagination to understand where this newfound “spiritual power and enlightenment” that many experienced practitioners of yoga have comes from.

There is great ignorance about what Yoga actually is by those in the West.  Western teachers in promoting it tend to gloss over the religious system of belief and many practice it unquestioningly.  The teachers invite the students to “invite surrender” in the corpse pose at the end of the session without ever discussing what they are actually surrendering to.  The Sun Salutation, one of the most common sequences, is meant to “adore the sun.”   Even the word “Namaste” means “I bow to the divine essence which is your true nature.”  In each case, it is “worshipping the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25).

This inherent religious nature of the poses also causes a problem.  In addressing the continued practice of the ceremonies of the Old Law, St Thomas articulates a principle that is particularly apt–our external acts of worship should always be proportional to our internal beliefs.  His point is that regardless of what we believe, we can lie with our bodies by performing certain external acts.   He labels this as an act of superstition and, at least objectively speaking, a grave sin.

Instinctively we already know this, although it may not be immediately obvious.  Many martyrs are martyrs because they refused to make an external religious act of worship to the pagan gods.  They knew that their internal beliefs must always be reflected in their external acts and were willing to die for truth.

The Church too bears some responsibility in the widespread ignorance.  Certainly, the Magisterium has been rather vocal in warning the Faithful about its dangers.  The Vatican issued a key documents on the so-called “New Age” practices (of which it includes Yoga) in 2003 called Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life.  The Church cautions against the mind explanding techniques of yoga which “are meant to reveal to people their divine power; by using this power, people prepare the way for the Age of Enlightenment. This exaltation of humanity overturns the correct relationship between Creator and creature…”(Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life,2.3.4.1 ).  The testimony of Exorcists also speaks of the dangers of Yoga, especially considering that demon of Yoga is one of the demons they attempt to expel.

Unfortunately, these teachings have failed to make their way to the ears of the Faithful.  In fact there are many parishes that host things like “Mommy’s Morning-Out Yoga” and the like.  Clearly we have work to do to get the word out and keep our fellow Christians from stretching beyond their limits.