Monday, October 24, 2011

The Category Is Catholic Potpourri

One can imagine a conversation between Thomas Merton and Dalai Lama on the compatibility of resurrection and reincarnation.

There really is a slew of interesting Catholic stories this Monday.  Here are three of them.

As expected the Australian bishops have told us all that Rome was right and Bishop Morris was intransigent in his misguided understanding of the Catholic 'communion'. They will now commit themselves to fixing the disunity in Australian Catholicism so that no one can question whether Australian Catholics are in communion with Rome. Additionally they will offer their fraternal care to Bishop Morris:

"What was at stake was the church's unity in faith and the ecclesial communion between the pope and the other bishops in the College of Bishops," the statement said. "Eventually Bishop Morris was unable to agree to what this communion requires and at that point the pope acted as the successor of Peter, who has the task of deciding what constitutes unity and communion in the church."
The Australian bishops said they accept the pope's exercise of his ministry and they reaffirm their communion with him.
"We return to Australia determined to do whatever we can to heal any wounds of division, to extend our fraternal care to Bishop Morris and to strengthen the bonds of charity in the church in Australia," it said.

I suspect their attempts to heal the wounds of division have been thoroughly hamstrung by their obedient deference to Rome.  The healing most likely will consist of giving the dissenters the option of leaving their parishes so the Temple Police can have their pews unpolluted by those who are not in full communion with Rome.  Good Oh.

In other news, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has released a document on the current global financial mess.  It calls for a global regulatory body which includes input from emerging countries. Fr Frederico Lombardi, papal spokesman, wanted us all to know this is not a document from Pope Benedict but from a Vatican agency and is there for not an authoritative expression of papal magisterium.  Which I guess is Benedict's way of telling those mega wealthy devout members of Legatus that they can ignore the mere 'authoritative note of a Vatican agency'.  Good Oh.

Finally, The National Catholic Reporter has an extensive series of articles based on the just released study of American Catholics under the direction of William V D'Antonio.  This is some fascinating reading and some of it is quite surprising.  The following is an excerpt from an article written by Michelle Dillon who was part of D'Antonio's research team.  Her topic is Catholics and spirituality:

.....Additionally, large numbers of Catholics say that they believe in various aspects of New Age spirituality. Forty-two percent believe that there is spiritual energy located in physical things such as mountains, trees or crystals; over one-third (37 percent) believes in reincarnation; and just less than a third (32 percent) believes in yoga, not just as exercise, but as a spiritual practice (see Figure 8). Not surprisingly, highly committed Catholics are less likely than less committed Catholics to believe in spiritual energy, reincarnation, and yoga. It is noteworthy, nonetheless, that between one-fifth and one-third of highly committed Catholics express such beliefs.

The more striking variation comes from ethnicity. Hispanic Catholics are significantly more likely than non-Hispanic Catholics to believe in reincarnation (53 percent versus 29 percent), the presence of spiritual energy in physical things (52 percent versus 38 percent), and in yoga as a spiritual practice (42 percent versus 27 percent). Moreover, among Hispanic Catholics, the highly committed are almost as likely as their least committed peers to believe in reincarnation (43 percent versus 47 percent) and spiritual energy (46 percent versus 52 percent), though they are comparatively less likely to believe in yoga as a spiritual practice (33 percent versus 46 percent). Among non-Hispanic Catholics, women are more likely than men to believe in spiritual energy (44 percent versus 31 percent), and in yoga as a spiritual practice (31 percent versus 23 percent).

These numbers make me wonder why Cardinal Rode went after the LCWR for their 'new ageism' when the real problem appears to be with Hispanic Catholics, both devout and not so devout.  No matter how one slices up these numbers, over half of Hispanic Catholics believe in reincarnation and spiritually energized physical things.  I can get why the latter belief, blessed rosaries and medals and such,  but the reincarnation thing is pretty amazing.  There is a great deal I would like to know about how Hispanic Catholics see reincarnation and how they fit it into a Catholic tradition which has no such belief.  I highly doubt it's all about some sort of vestigial pagan belief structure.  In any event, these are fascinating statistics, and probably will induce some more heartburn in the USCCB.  The New Evangelization it seems, will have more on it's plate than just selfish Western agnostic secularists.   Good Oh.



  1. Great post -thanks Colleen. Fascinating stuff on the survey in particular.
    I would like a similar survey of African Catholics - they would no doubt find that most have no problem reconciling their Catholic belief in the resurrection with their belief in the spirits of their ancestors intervening in their daily lives as well as possession by animal spirits and a vitalistic belief in inaminate objects too. When I was Malawi many some time ago it was amazing how much the indigenous beliefs based on sorcerers and traditional healing practices invoked not just the Holy Spirit but also possesion of people by biblical figures like John the Baptist. Mainstream churches in Africa are challenged by the more "spiritually led churches" which regularly deal with the expectations in African theism where people expect God to "touch them ". I did my thesis on this for my Post Grad Diploma Psychotherapy and Counselling, so am particularly interested in it.

  2. Apologies for mistakes in grammar in my previous comments- I was rushing !

  3. On the Bishop Morris case I found this article from the Australian Eureka Street consulting editor valuable extension to the discussion.


  4. Could it be that there is simply a dearth of spiritualism in the Roman church, and maybe, in many of the mainline protestant churches too? If you think about it, could the resurrection of the body and the concept of reincarnation be talking about the same spritual event? I don't know but I think all religions have something to offer the search for God. It is hard for the material world to find words to express the spiritual; now we see through a glass darkly, but not in the life to come. Is this too new age?

  5. I find it amazing that so many Catholics believe in reincarnation? Where in the world did this come from? Also, I don't understand the idea of spiritual energy in physical things such as mountains, trees or crystals. I could understand more of a spiritual energy in some animals such as horses, dolphins, dogs or cats in that people can have relationships with these intelligent animals. Mark

  6. Phil, I'd love to read your thesis. I saw the same combination of spiritual practices when I was living in New Mexico. The Pueblo and Navajo Natives had a wonderful combination of Catholic practices mixed with ancestral spiritual traditions. Their idea of the Lords and Ladies of Light was not a strictly Catholic pantheon.

    I suspect in the end this will all be explained by the potential of human consciousness and the many inventive ways humanity has for tapping into different expressions and abilities. I never forget that what Navajos may call a Crystal Gazer is synonymous with what NSA types call a Remote Viewer.

    Searcher, I tend to think that back in the day Catholicism opted to stress sacramentality over spirituality. Any male could be ordained into a sacramental priesthood, but that's not true for systems which are based in spiritual phenomenon. Those systems demand their leaders actually demonstrate they are in touch with the supernatural. So in that sense, Catholicism and it's mainline protestant derivatives do have a dearth of spiritualism.

    As for resurrection vs reincarnation, I think the best explanation I've heard came from a Navajo Holy Man. He felt resurrection/ascension was the end point of the reincarnational cycle. At this point a human had brought enough of his/her original spirit into matter that they transcended their material incarnation. Interesting concept fer sure.

  7. Mark, when it comes to places having spiritual energy, it's probably that the geophysics of certain places makes some phenomenon easier to replicate. I've seen helicopters trailing geophysics equipment circling over native ceremonies being enacted on traditional ancestral lands in New Mexico. I recognized the equipment because we did similar kinds of geophysical exploration in the gold fields of Nevada.

    I've written before that quantum physics is becoming the universal language of spirituality. A lot of what passes for spiritual or supernatural events may not be supernatural as much as the effect of consciousness interacting on the quantum level. It would only stand to reason that different geological areas may make those kinds of happenings easier to enact. The same is true for areas or buildings which have a long history of purposeful and dedicated human meditation, prayer, or religious/spiritual practice. These places literally feel different.

  8. Sedona Arizona: New Age energy center.
    Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres: Roman Catholic energy centre.

    Crystals possess spiritual power: New Age belief
    Saying the rosary has immense spiritual power: Roman Catholic belief

    Appreciation of the spiritual power of nature: New Age Value
    Appreciation of the spiritual power of nature: Roman Catholic Value especially through St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the Environment since 1979

    Reincarnation: Buddhist belief in life after death
    Resurrection: Roman Catholic belief in life after death

    I really don't think we are too far apart. Many of the "Hispanic" in the Americas are racially or ethnically native people. Roman Catholicism has a long history of religious appropriation.

    Why would anyone be surprised?


  9. I guess that would make crystal rosaries the best kind of rosary----of course I have one. LOL

  10. As you know many RC churches have been built on the temple sites that predate them. Often the sites were chosen by ancient peoples for their spiritual power. Such is the case at Chartres, for example.

    Catholics believe in transubstantiation of bread and wine. (That's "and wine" for certain USCCB bishops who drop by.) Many Catholics believe their rosaries have been transubstantiated from silver links to gold. I have such a friend who claims her rosary changed when she visited a major Marian shrine in Europe.

    I don't know about the crystals.


  11. Good God, you're on rosary roll. I too had a rosary that changed from silver links to gold. I gave it to a Native friend of mine who was convinced Catholicism had no innate spiritual ability. When I gave it to her she asked, "Are you sure the devil didn't do this?" I laughed out loud then too.

    Many of our cathedrals and churches have been built on sites sacred to indigenous people. I don't think it was just to 'Christianize' pagan places of worship.

  12. Do you really think that all our Christian, Catholic or Protestant, beliefs - originally laid out in the Jewish Bible and passed on to us usually by our parents, relatives, teachers, priests, pastors, etc are any more plausible than those held by "los Indios", our neighbors to the south? Really we do not KNOW anymore than they do about the true nature of reality or GOD...what beliefs or understandings we and they have are accepted on FAITH...they are accepted as an ACT OF FAITH on our part....which is the acceptance of something we can't prove, one way or another, but fervently believe to be true because we CHOOSE to believe it...native people here in the Pacific NW believe that Old Creator is embodied in Mt. Rainier...we identify God as a triune entity- Father, Son and Holy Spirit...that God impregnated a Jewish virgin and was born into a human one of these scenarios any more scientifically provable than the other?...of course not...isn't each scenario just as fantastic a story as the other?...of course it is....but we are taught that OUR story, OUR faith is the ONE TRUE story/ says so in the our faith is true, right?...their story, their faith is not Biblically based so it is not true or cannot be understood by our logic....believing in spiritual power in geological formations must be wrong or at least incomprehensible to us....the problem is we all too often forget that our beliefs, our faith, are CHOSEN....we choose to accept all of the teachings on faith...and until God speaks or shows himself to us directly we are operating on FAITH....we need to remember this when we judge or try to understand other's chosen beliefs...there is a lack of humility and arrogance in our Abrahamic tradition that has caused untold suffering to humanity over thousands of years....Michael Ferri

  13. I don't disagree with you at all Michael. Especially your last line. Just what is it about the Abrahamic traditions--most especially Christianity and Islam that has precipitated this kind of our way or the highway kind of arrogance. Maybe it's because they started this kind of thing on each other.

  14. Sorry Colleen, didn't mean to address this to you personally - should have said in the very beginning: Do WE really think that our was a generalized question/statement...

    The ancient Hebrews slaughtered the priests of Baal and temple prostitutes, both male and female of competing religious cults of the Canaanites and Philistines...and we have inherited our negative views of these peoples - Canaanites, Edomites, Philistines, pagans, etc from the Hebrew Bible, some of which we have transferred to the modern day Arabs. Of course the conflicting history of Christianity and Islam still continues. The Jews have their conflicts in Israel today - secular vs religious Jews - in both the religious and political spheres of their society. Fundamentalist Protestants, Dominionists and most but not all Protestant Evangelicals by and large believe that they are the true inheritors of Christianity - but of course the Popes have claimed that there is no salvation outside of the CHURCH for millenia. Both will condemn you to hell for not believing as they believe. So each one of us must come to terms with this, what I consider the most dangerous arrogance of our day, in our own spiritual journey in our time.

    I was fortunate to have had three native teachers, Lakota and Chipewa, whose genuine connection to the Mystery has helped restore my connection to God that I lost in my teens. I read Black Elk Speaks in the 70s and his wisdom that he sent out into the world in 1930s as an old man touched my heart and helped heal a wound. He was a shaman of the old traditional Lakota religion but not always as well known, he was also a Roman Catholic catechist. He gave up the old religion and followed a Catholic path for the greater part of his life until he died. He taught me that as long as one honored and kept a connection to GOD that one could be a Catholic or a follower of the traditional Lakota path. He saw the circle of his people and the circle of white people as being, not separate but as part of a larger circle of life that was connected to the Great Mystery, whom we call God.

    Don't get me wrong though. I still make judgments about various religions but they are based on other premises - whether they are tolerant of other religions, how they treat women, gays, poor people, etc.
    I don't condemn them to hell just because that don't believe what I believe. I struggle against their political power when they enter the public arena. And try to separate their ideas from them as people - very difficult proposition. I hope that all of them strive toward becoming a path with a heart as Don Juan, the Yaqui Indian from northern Mexico would say. .....Michael Ferri

  15. I'm actually quite familiar with Black Elk, but more familiar with Frank Fool's Crow and followers of his tradition--which is actually Black Elk's. Spent many interesting nights around Lakota campfires at Sun Dance in the Fool's Crow/Black Elk tradition. I remember at the first one I attended I was very struck with what I took to be a Catholic influence. Turns out I was right.

    You might find this post from two years ago interesting.

  16. Colleen,
    Had forgotten your connection to the I envy your experience with the Lakota...thank you for reminding me...I plan on making a pilgrimage to Harney's peak on my own within the next few years...will keep you posted......and thank you for your continued sharing here....Michael

  17. PS...couldn't access your suggested previous 2009 post....Michael