Yoga & Christianity
Regarding "Yoga & Christianity: Are They Compatible?" by Joel S. Peters (Feb.): I have been practicing yoga for over 10 years with beneficial results. It keeps my blood pressure down, my body in shape, and it prepares me for prayer. A Christian monk, J.M. Dechanet, wrote two books, Christian Yoga and Yoga in Ten Lessons, which have guided me well. As long as a person avoids yoga's meditations and relations to deity, and uses the breathing and physical exercises, it is safe and helpful. I have a recumbent bike that does the same for me as yoga.
Peters's article has provided for greater understanding of the true nature of Yoga, a pagan practice. I would like to add but one point. In addition to the dangers Peters listed, there is the danger of demonic possession. Yoga is a diabolic practice ("For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils" -- Psalm 95:5, Douay-Rheims). The danger of Yoga results from violating the First Commandment.
I am aware of one individual who was so devout in the practice of Yoga that he spent a year in India to study it. Within months of returning, he fell into despair. Through one of his Yoga techniques, he invited a "snake" to crawl up his spine into his mind, where it took control of his body, by his own account.
Through this, he found his damnation: while giving false worship through Yoga from atop a bridge, he was flung to his death from the devil which had dwelt within his body.
Yoga's "transcendence" causes the soul to withdraw from the body enough that devils have an opportunity to fill the void.
G.K. Chesterton once made the point that while we need to make sure we do not worship false gods, we also need to make sure we do not erect false devils either. This is exactly the mistake that Peters makes.
He rightly condemns those who worship the false gods of Hinduism, the divine universe, and that whole theology. He makes an error, however, when he condemns the physical exercises of Yoga too. Alcohol has been linked to drunkenness for an even longer time than these physical exercises have been linked to Hinduism, but does that mean alcohol can't be used to good effect? No. Many more people have achieved an "altered state of consciousness" using booze rather than Yoga; but that doesn't mean the act in itself is evil. Neither act is intrinsically evil; it depends on the intention (and circumstances too). Drinking wine to get plastered is evil; drinking wine to help your heart is not. Stretching (doing the physical side of Yoga) to help one become more flexible, relax, relieve stress, and build core strength is good; doing it to enter into the divine all of the universe is wrong.
The key mistake Peters makes is proposing that the physical postures -- irrespective of intent -- are anti-Christian. He tries to equate an atheist receiving Communion with a Christian doing the physical motions of Yoga. First of all, the Eucharist is real-- you are actually encountering the whole person of Christ; whereas you don't encounter a Hindu god in Yoga. In receiving Communion, the act, irrespective of intention, is a contact with divinity. In the physical acts of Yoga we aren't doing anything spiritual -- unless we intentionally make it some kind of spiritual act. For example, kneeling is something Christians do when they pray (well, unless you're possessed by the Spirit of Vatican II), but the act of kneeling isn't inherently Christian. A Muslim who kneels to pray, an atheist kneeling to propose to his future wife, or a Jewish mother kneeling to play with her children aren't going to have the Catholic worldview creep into their outlook on life. It's the same with the physical exercises in Yoga.
Look, we've all had enough of the bizarre mixing of the completely opposing types of spirituality of Eastern religions and Christian prayer -- as Peters so rightly pointed out. Condemn the false gods, but don't make the mistake of trotting out false devils. The good Lord knows we already have enough true devils to fight.
Peters rightly cautions us about becoming involved with the Hindu religious practice of Yoga. I wish he had similarly cautioned Bishop Robert Brom and Fr. Ronald Cochran here in San Diego. For almost simultaneous with your publication of Peters's article, the February 23 issue of The Southern Cross, our diocesan newspaper published by Bishop Brom, happily reported that, under the leadership of Fr. Cochran, St. Michael Parish in Paradise Hills has added Yoga to its bereavement ministry.
You will recall that Bishop Brom is the prelate who, only a year ago, abjectly apologized to the family of openly homosexual John McCusker for denying him a funeral Mass and a Catholic burial, and then promised to personally preside at a Mass in his memory. The same Bishop Brom now seems to approve of Yoga, a practice specifically cautioned against by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Fr. Cochran could have added basic aerobics, step exercises, aquatics, dancing, Pilates, or any one of a number of other exercise classes. But he chose Yoga, an exercise grounded in the Hindu worldview. May God protect us from our priests and prelates.
Luv, Luv, Luv
Murdering an innocent unborn child is the most cruel, sadistic act one can imagine. When will we hear from bishops and priests about the sin of abortion? When will they preach from the pulpit about this sin? In fact, when will they preach from the pulpit about any sin? For over 40 years we have heard of God's love, with little mention of God's justice and the consequence of unrepented sin.
Andrew B. Williams Jr.
What Would Jesus Do?
What would Jesus do with the priest scoundrels who molest children? According to Mark 9:42: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." Muslims have no molesters because they kill them, as Jesus commanded.
Clergy Abuse Victim
What to Do With the Other 29.5 Days?
I value orthodoxy very much, especially in the style of the NOR. I get through the NOR in less than half a day. The question is what to do with the other 29.5 days. It would appear that there are others among your subscribers who are in similar circumstances. Perhaps, some of these would like to hear from other voices in the local wilderness.
What if there was a way for your subscribers to join forces, and endeavor to discuss, advance, and promote the issues of the NOR and its website initiate? What if there was an association of NOR reading clubs? Associating with other like-minded people in the same region who read the same Catholic literature, may give many of us additional hope, strength, and unity in promoting the good and fighting the secular culture, instead of attempting to do these things alone. Some might wish to meet for lunch somewhere and possibly evolve into a regular association.
If other subscribers think that the above has some value and would like more information, they may contact me.
Lake Grove, New York
Boozing to Make Babies
Regarding J.W. McKernan's letter titled "You Parrot Pope John Paul" (March): He gives guidance to the NOR, so I will give him some guidance -- even though it's probably too late.
McKernan says, "Let's get off birth control...." He says it ruined his first (of three) marriages. He says about his first wife: "She never enjoyed making love and...she decided to stop having a sex life altogether. We agreed to it and she slowly sank into an alcoholic bliss. She became impossible to live with." Perhaps McKernan should have considered "boozing" it up with his first wife in order to make love, which of course leads to making babies.
Emil J. Bodart
Marion Station, Pennsylvania
Distractions In the Liturgy
In response to the letter from Crescente Villahermosa titled "Dumbing Down the Liturgy" (Dec. 2005): The Church, at least in America, over the course of the last 40 years, has apparently forgotten her roots. Why all the changes? The "spirit of Vatican II" is attempting to Protestantize the Mass, removing our sacred images and replacing them with gaudy banners, and removing the mysterium of the Mass. What else did we lose? Well, a quarter of the nuns we had before Vatican II, and half of the priests we had back then too.
The Mass is not a performance; it is not a country club where people socialize. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The actual Sacrifice of Calvary, made present to us by the powers granted to the priest by his sacred ordination. We are there, not to be entertained, but to be fed.
The mystery, the sacredness, the sacred silence, and the reverence are no longer emphasized at the Novus Ordo Mass. Even I am hard-pressed to contemplate the mystery and awe of the Mass while over-amplified guitars are blasting in my ears and rude talk accosts me from just a few pews down.
Attend the Tridentine Latin Mass or Eastern Divine Liturgy, and you will know what I mean. The feelings that are stirred up at these Masses are not artificial or temporal. They are not phony feelings of "Awww, Jesus loves me, I love you too buddy." They are "God, Your Majesty is Infinite, I am Your lowly creation, I live only to serve and praise You."
Listen to a Gregorian chant in a church, and compare it to "liturgical" rock 'n' roll. Gregorian chant takes our senses and lifts us up to the realm of the divine.
Laurence A. Gonzaga
San Bernardino, California
Being a Woman
When the NOR arrives, I have to exert extreme self-discipline to not drop whatever I'm doing and read it all, right away. I find your viewpoint to be orthodox, stimulating, and generally in line with mine, although generally put more forcefully than I can manage. Sometimes you get more scathing than I think necessary.
In Thomas Storck's guest column (Jan.), he points out the disappearance of the word "Protestant" among Protestants. I would like to see him explore the implications of Catholics calling themselves "Christian" rather than "Catholic," which I've noticed on Catholic radio and at the parish level.
In your letters section, there are letters saying that God loves unrepentant sinners. However, you say God hates unrepentant sinners. I think it is erroneous to say that God hates unrepentant sinners; God does not hate them. I think this is sound theology, but being a woman and not a warrior like you, I have an intuitive reason for my opinion: Sometimes we human parents are rejected by our children too. Nevertheless, we still love them.
Battle Creek, Michigan
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
We haven't noticed Catholics calling themselves "Christians," but we have noticed the widespread use of the term "Catholic Christians" -- which is, of course, redundant.
My wife's love for our children, she says, is unconditional. The Editor's love for our children is conditional, and they know it. Perhaps this is the yin and the yang -- the yin being the passive female principle and the yang being the active male principle.
As we should all know, God is always referred to as He. And as Scriptures say, God's love is conditional (see our April issue, pp. 15-17). There are those who try to refer to God as She. The inevitable result would be that God's love is unconditional (She loves you just as you are, no repentance needed), which would lead us down the path to the false doctrine of universal salvation.
Don't Blame President Bush
Don't blame George Bush for the disaster in Iraq. He's just taking plutocratic orders, like every president has since Woodrow Wilson. Instead, blame these same avaricious plutocrats, who also control big oil, for resorting to war when Saddam Hussein rejected their extortion.
Years ago, the sheiks of Saudi Arabia agreed to guarantee petroleum for big oil, in exchange for U.S. military protection and a modernization of their country, exemplified by the most technically advanced cities rising out of the desert. The same could have happened in Iraq and "Saddam would still be in charge if he had played the game as the Saudis had" (John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p. 214).
Now Iraq is on the verge of a civil war, and U.S. taxpayers must spend billions of dollars building 14 military bases there to protect oil facilities. The chaos resulting from an Iraq governed by Washington and its puppets in Baghdad is making Saddam look like a master statesman.
Robert J. Kendra
Saddam Needed to Get Whacked
The NOR has got an abundance of testosterone. I love the NOR, and when it arrives I can't wait to read it.
You take a lot of flack for your opposition to the Iraq War. Even people who write to you must know that the war doesn't measure up to Just War standards. Like other readers, I think that Saddam needed to get whacked. No, we didn't have a smoking gun. But, by the time anyone sees the smoke from the gun, the bullet has already left the back of your head. No one who lives on this planet believes that Saddam wasn't at least seeking WMDs. But as Catholics, we cannot justify a good result attained by evil means. So, as usual, the NOR is right. Go it alone if you have to. Here's a few bucks to help out.
James Patrick Richardson
Moral Clarity in the Fog of War
My heart goes out to Col. Mark E. Medvetz, USMC (letters, Feb.). I understand where he is coming from and how hard it is to accept the fact that our beloved United States has committed dreadfully evil deeds. Many of us, including me, have had to struggle through this same difficult dilemma.
I honor his service as a Marine. Although my family is Army (I was in the Army as was my older brother, John, a career officer who served in the Pacific and retired as a Lt. Colonel, now buried in Arlington), I have a high regard for the Corps. When I attended Villanova University, one of my good friends there was in the Marine ROTC; he eventually became a Brigadier General before his retirement. P.X. Kelly, later Commandant of the Corps, was also at Villanova about this time. A couple of years ago, I spoke with him at a dinner and we rehashed some of our student hijinks. One of my grandnephews is currently in his third year in Villanova's Marine ROTC. Our young Michael will make a great "gung ho" Marine.
However, to address the concerns of Col. Medvetz, the objective reality of the serious war crimes committed by both the Americans and Brits and the subjective guilt of those who participated in these crimes: The deliberate murder of innocent, helpless civilians was recognized as a crime under international law for centuries long before the Geneva Convention, which merely codified it. Not only is it wrong under the Natural Law, but our own Catholic Church has explicitly denounced it repeatedly from the very beginning, as well as at the Second Vatican Council: "Every act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities is a crime against God and against humanity itself and merits unequivocal condemnation" (Gaudium et Spes, #80). This is again spelled out in the Catechism (#2313 and 2314). Of course, this prohibition is as old as the Church; we recall St. Ambrose (Bishop of Milan and baptizer of St. Augustine) who, in the year A.D. 390, excommunicated the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius for the crime of ordering his legions to massacre some 7,000 innocent civilians (including women and children). It was wrong and sinful to do this in the fourth century; it was just as wrong and sinful in the 20th century.
As for those soldiers who carried out these orders in World War II, they did so in good faith; invincible ignorance is a valid defense. Remember, these were lads in their early 20s, some only in their late teens. None of their leaders -- military, civil, or spiritual -- told them they were doing wrong. What do you expect from a bunch of kids, barely out of school?
When we get to the top leadership, military and civil, it's a different story. The generals, as professional officers, should have been aware of the Geneva Convention and carried out their duties in accordance with it. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, they went along with the immoral orders of their civilian bosses, much the way their opposite numbers on the German side did. As for the political leadership, both Roosevelt and Churchill were secular-humanists. Churchill bragged that he was "a materialist down to his fingertips." During World War II, he recommended that the Royal Air Force "use poison gas.... we could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany." This barbaric proposal was turned down by the General Staff as being a bit much. Clearly, we should not be surprised that Winnie and FDR waged war pitilessly, without regard to civilized, let alone Christian, norms; after all, their great ally in this Crusade was good old Uncle Joe Stalin, a worse tyrant than Hitler.
As for spiritual leadership, which for us means the bishops, none of them, to my knowledge, addressed the immorality of the terror bombing of German and Japanese cities. I know that I, for one, never heard anything from them on this. This was a huge failure of spiritual leadership on their part, a failure to teach basic morality to those given over to their charge. I would add that there was at least one exception to this thunderous silence by the bishops. One George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, England, spoke out publicly against the Allied bombing holocaust. He arose in the House of Lords and denounced it, an act for which he, in turn, was roundly denounced. He could do this because, as an Anglican Bishop, he was a member of the House of Lords (Lords Spiritual and Temporal, remember). Other than he (again, to my knowledge) there was nothing but silence.
Perhaps Col. Medvetz is familiar with Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (ret.), whose recently published book, Battle Ready, is a stirring account of his forty years in the Corps. "Tony" Zinni is one of my heroes, as well as being a fellow Villanova alumnus. He has served his country well on many battlefields, beginning with Vietnam (where he was badly wounded). He is not only a man of great courage and ability but also a man of honor. During his time at Villanova he learned, not just military tactics, but Catholic morality.
Not long ago, Gen. Zinni addressed the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. He told them that "Speaking the truth could be painful and costly, but it was a duty. There are times when you disagree and you have to speak out, even at the cost of your career. If you are a general, you might have to throw your stars on the table...and resign for the sake of some principle or truth." He added, "Careerism is corrosive to the principle of truth telling. So is political expediency. In both cases, the hope of personal gain outweighs personal integrity and honor." Might I suggest to Col. Medvetz that Gen. Zinni, a brave and moral man, is a better role model for military men of any rank, from private to general, to follow, than the lock-step rubric of "don't think, just follow orders."
The bottom line is that it is wrong and immoral to kill innocent human beings, whether they be German and Japanese civilians or American unborn children, regardless of the excuses given. You can't do evil that good may come of it.
A Clarification From Fr. Sibley
I would like to make a clarification to my article, "The Richard Rohr Phenomenon" (March 2006). In the section titled "He Was Paying No Debt," I said that Christ's crucifixion and death was necessary to bring about redemption and atonement of sin. My use of the word "necessary" seems to have caused some confusion. This statement was based on the thought of Aquinas (ST III, q46, a1), which explains that for man to be redeemed it was necessary for God's plan of redemption to be carried out and that this plan necessarily included the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. I did not mean to imply that the Father or the Son were in any way compelled from outside of themselves to bring about redemption in this manner. Nor did I intend to get into varying discussions about theories of atonement. With his denial of a proper understanding of Original Sin, Fr. Rohr would appear to have a problem with the necessity of atonement and the nature and purpose of Christ's passion and death. My point here was that atonement was indeed necessary for sin and that according to the Father's plan, Christ achieved it through His suffering and death.
The Rev. Bryce Sibley, STL
St. Joseph Catholic Church