Catholics, the New Age and Natural Healing
Some of you may have caught a few of my posts here concerning my new job as a holistic health coach or seen my box over to the right mentioning it with a sign up for my wellness newsletter, and a thank you to those who have signed up for it. Health coaching is constantly on my mind these days. Every article I read and every story I hear gives me an idea to write about, and I am very far behind on my writing.
I write this post though to comment on the spiritual nature of my health coaching practice. Many a classmate in my health coaching school, and even much of the school material, has a New Age bent to it, and I have seen many Catholics who have dismissed natural healing because the New Agers have adopted it for themselves. But healing, in all forms, is a gift from God, whether we have to work hard at it or we receive a miracle healing. We can’t throw away natural healing because the New Age Movement has claimed it. We must reclaim it, just as we must reclaim those aspects of the Church that are being swayed by the New Age Movement.
Case in point, I called my parish to ask to have a wellness expo there to introduce parishioners to holistic wellness, i.e. non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical options for regaining health. The coordinator of parish events was cautiously optimistic about having a wellness expo because she was concerned that it might be New Agey. I assured her that I do my best to avoid New Age concepts. She was glad to hear that.
Several weeks went by and a sit down meeting was finally scheduled with her and the parish nurse. All was going well, we agreed that a wellness expo wasn’t the place to have a flu shot booth. But, not realizing the extent of the New Age infiltration in the Catholic Church, I didn’t anticipate the next twist. We got to the part of my presentation that said “The parish and surrounding communities will benefit by being exposed to healthier lifestyle ideas, from food and exercise to green-living. We are to be good stewards of ourselves and all the things that God has given to us. Even little choices that we make create a ripple effect; so we need to treat ourselves and our planet with respect as God intended, and that respect leads to better health for person and planet.” I thought it was clear; we are being good stewards, not elevating the earth (or ourselves) to a deity. One of the ladies said that a nearby retreat house would be a good fit for this event. It was an Eco-House of Prayer, not sure what that meant, and the meeting continued on.
Later, when I had a chance to review the retreat house’s website I find that the home page talks about water, lots of water, with a splash of the divine. No Jesus, no God, no Catholic Church, just water. There on the second page is a foot note stating the order’s name and their affiliation with the Catholic Church. Eco-spirituality takes the center stage though. Sigh, this sounds very New Age to me. Unfortunately the parish coordinator didn’t agree. (I am still waiting to hear what she does consider New Age to be.) (UPDATE 8/18/12: The answer I received was that once you really get to know someone you can “tell” whether they are New Age or not, it appears their message is immaterial. Also, I had a meeting with my pastor and heard from another priest in the vicariate, the Eco-House of Prayer is being investigated at a local level.)
But I was sure of it, and it was confirmed as I finished Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s book, Catholics and the New Age. In fact, the second to the last chapter was about Creation Centered Spirituality, an invention of Fr. Matthew Fox, and his invention has been embraced by many of today’s women religious because it fits their desire for God to have a feminine side, which they have given to Mother Earth.
All of this information took me on an internet search for more information. Could I find out if this order was investigated in the Vatican investigation of women religious? It turns out that the list of orders being investigated is being kept private, but the nature of the investigation fits well with the flavor of this order, radical feminism wrapped up in concern for Mother Earth. How did our women religious go astray like this? A 2009 article from the National Catholic Reporter (yes, I know, it’s the Reporter) has a timeline that provides a very telling bit of information. In “Autumn, 1965 — The Second Vatican Council approves a document addressed only to religious orders: Perfectae Caritatis (“Perfect Love”). It gives permission to each congregation to renew itself as it saw fit.” In the “spirit of Vatican II” they saw fit to do whatever they pleased.
Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council what are we to do about New Age in the Catholic Church? Fr. Pacwa gives us several steps in his book. First, we are to strengthen our life in Christ; an active sacramental life, frequent prayer, reflection on biblical morality and a healthy devotion to our Blessed Mother. Second, we need to address false doctrine by getting to know Catholic theology first. He suggests several lay authors who explain the faith very well; C.S Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Frank Sheed. Only after you are well grounded in Christian theology is it then safe to read New Age material. Third, we need to confront and evangelized New Agers. We need to understand why they chose to believe the in the New Age, and then show them their errors and the Christian response. Always stay calm and explain the reason for your peace. Fourth, we need to work together. Ask questions, offer talks on New Age, and work as a team to educate the community when you see New Age events happening near you.
The theological books Fr. Pacwa suggested are Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, Theology for Beginners and Theology and Sanity. He also suggested the resources at Catholic Answers.