Mixing Catholicism with Non-Christian Religions

Mary Ann Collins (A Former Catholic Nun)


One of the documents produced by the Second Vatican Council was Nostra Aetate, "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions." It says that the Catholic Church appreciates "what is true and holy in these religions." It "urges" Catholics to enter into "discussion and collaboration" with people from other religions.[1]
The impact of this call to inter-faith dialog can be seen in the titles of some books written by Catholic priests and monks. Aloysius Pieris wrote Love Meets Wisdom: A Christian Experience of Buddhism. Anthony de Mello wrote Sadhana, A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form. Bede Griffiths wrote Cosmic Revelation: The Hindu Way to God, and The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue. Aelred Graham wrote Zen Catholicism, and Conversations: Christian and Buddhist. George Maloney wrote Mysticism and the New Age. Wayne Teasdale wrote The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World's Religions. John J. Heaney wrote The Sacred and the Psychic: Parapsychology & Christian Theology.
Some members of non-Christian religions are responding in similar ways. For example, a Buddhist monk studied Catholic theology in order to become a better Buddhist.[2] A book about enlightened mystics and masters, with a Foreword by the Dalai Lama, includes St. Catherine of Siena and St. John of the Cross.[3]



In October 1986, Pope John Paul II convened and led a multi-faith service at Assisi, Italy. Leaders of non-Christian religions participated and publicly prayed to their gods. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and Zoroastrians participated in this service. So did an Orthodox patriarch and some Protestant leaders.[4]
The video "Catholicism: Crisis of Faith" has film footage of this service. You can see and hear the Dalai Lama chanting, African shamans calling on their gods, and Muslims chanting from the Koran.[5]
The altar that was used for the service had a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle (an ornate container for consecrated bread). Catholics believe that consecrated bread is literally the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. From a Catholic perspective, putting a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle is, in effect, elevating Buddha above Jesus Christ.[6]
In 2002, John Paul II convened another multi-faith service in Assisi. Leaders of many non-Christian religions participated in the service.[7]
John Paul II visited Benin in Africa. He apologized for the fact that westerners have rejected African religions, including voodoo.[8]



In India there is a monastery named Shantivanam ("Forest of Peace"). Although it is affiliated with a Benedictine community, it is patterned after a Hindu ashram. Bede Griffiths is their guru. Although he is a Catholic priest and a Benedictine monk, he wears saffron robes like those of Indian gurus. He says that Hindu philosophy is "the supreme achievement of the human mind" in seeking to understand God.[9]
Griffiths says that the Hindu temple is a "sacrament." He admires the Hindus who go to the "innermost holy place" in the temple of Shiva (the god of destruction). This contains the lingam (phallus), which worshipers consider to be "the ultimate reality."[10]
According to Griffiths, Hindus are our brothers in Christ. Therefore, there is no need to evangelize them. Rather, we should "discover" that Jesus Christ is "already present and active in the Hindu soul."[11]
Bede Griffiths practiced contemplative prayer and studied mysticism, including Buddhist and Hindu mysticism, the Catholic mystics, and Sufism (Muslim mysticism). He was one of the pioneers in interspirituality (combining the spiritualities of different religions). The interspiritual movement in India is committed to "a careful process of assimilation." Bede Griffith's Catholic/Hindu ashram is "equally Christian and Hindu," thus creating a new culture.[12]



Catholic priests who become gurus is not a phenomenon that is limited to the far east. There are some priest-gurus in the United States. One of them is Edward Hays, a priest in Kansas City. His bishop suggested that he travel and study non-Christian religions, with a view to founding a "house of prayer" when he returned to America. Hays founded a Catholic-Hindu "house of prayer." It is financed by his archdiocese. He named it Shantivanam, the same name as Bede Griffith's Catholic/Hindu ashram in India.[13]
Edward Hays considers Jesus Christ to be like "Buddha and the other holy saviors." His chapel contains a shrine to Shiva (the Hindu god of destruction), a statue of Buddha, a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a crucifix. Hays encourages meditation, the use of mantras, and breathing techniques. Sometimes Celtic festivals are celebrated, including dancing around a fire pit or a may pole. The "house of prayer" is quite popular and is usually filled to capacity.[14]



Thomas Merton is a modern Catholic monk who is admired by some Evangelical leaders. He was a mystic who promoted contemplative prayer. Merton believed that all mystical experiences are valid, no matter what source they come from. He wanted to see all of the religions of the world become united. Merton is widely admired among Buddhists, some of whom consider him to be a reincarnated Buddha. He is also admired by New Agers. One spirit medium believes that Merton has become an Ascended Master.[15]
In discussing one issue, Merton said that the Hindu god Ramakrishna has the answer to the problem. He considered himself to be a Hindu regarding that issue. He praised Sufism (Muslim mysticism) and talked to his religious community about it.[16]
Thomas Merton said that there is "no contradiction" between Catholicism and Buddhism. He went even further, saying "I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can."[17]



In Indonesia, there is a convent where one of the nuns is both a Roman Catholic and a devout Muslim. Five times a day, she goes to the mosque to pray. She keeps the Ramadan fast, and at the end of Ramadan, her convent has a party. The local imam (Muslim cleric who heads the mosque) was a guest at the post-Ramadan party. The Catholic/Muslim nun hopes to visit Mecca some day.[18]



As a Catholic priest, Matthew Fox promoted goddess worship, Wicca, and paganism in the Catholic Church. He denies the existence of sin, with one exception. He says that it is sinful to fail to embrace the New Age. He encourages the use of drugs as "an aid to prayer."[19]
Fox founded he Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality. It is located at Holy Names College (a Catholic college run by nuns). Staff members of the Institute included a practicing witch named Starhawk, a voodoo priestess, a shaman (an animist who worships nature spirits), and a Jungian psychologist. Starhawk is the high priestess of a witches' coven. The Institute has developed a Catholic liturgy that is based on Wiccan sources.[20]
Fox is the founder, president, and editor-in-chief of a magazine titled Creation. You can get some idea of what he believes by the art work in his magazine. The July/August 1991 issue of Creation featured a picture of Jesus Christ, naked, seated in a lotus position, with antlers on his head. The May/June 1992 issue featured a picture titled "The Qetzalcoatl Christ." It showed the Aztec snake god with the face of Jesus Christ.[21]
Matthew Fox is a popular speaker with great influence. He denies original sin and redemption. He says that we need to "embark on a quest for the Cosmic Christ" and in order to do this, we need to stop seeking the "historical Jesus." He teaches that people of all religions should be united at "a mystical level." He openly promotes witchcraft, shamanism, astrology, and pagan religions. He praises the writings of the witch Starhawk, and her vision of a revival of goddess worship. He says that Christianity that focuses on Jesus Christ as personal Savior is "antimystical" and opposed to a "Cosmic Christ" Christianity.[22]
In 1991, Fox was ordered to leave his Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality (in Oakland, California) and return to Chicago, or else be dismissed by his religious order. He refused, left the Catholic Church, and became an Anglican priest. He founded the University of Creation Spirituality (also located in Oakland) and is its president. Fox, Starhawk, and the voodoo priestess left the Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality (at Holy Names College) in order to join the University of Creation Spirituality.[23]
Although Fox has left, his Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality is still at Holy Names College. However, its name has been changed. It is now called the Sophia Center in Culture and Spirituality. It gives graduate degrees in Creation Spirituality. Judging by its courses, it appears to teach shamanism, African religions, and "eco-feminism." Several courses appear to be Wiccan.[24]
Although he is no longer Catholic, Fox continues to have widespread influence among Catholics through priests and nuns who have been influenced by his teachings. His influence also continues through Catholics who are trained at the Sophia Center in Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names College.
Fox's books are sold in both Catholic and New Age book stores. His books are featured at some Catholic retreat houses. They are used by nuns. This not only influences the nuns, it also influences Catholics who come under the influence of those nuns. (For example, other nuns, or students, or Catholics who attend retreats.)
Some of Matthew Fox's books have unusual titles. One is Whee! We, Wee All the Way Home: A Guide to a Sensual, Prophetic Spirituality. Another is On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American Style. His other books include One River Many Walls: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, and Exploring the Cosmic Christ Archetype.
Because of Fox's teachings, some nuns have incorporated Wiccan rituals into their worship. Some nuns are teaching Fox's "creation spirituality" to young children, and neglecting foundational doctrines such as sin and redemption. (Fox doesn't believe in those doctrines.)[25]



Catholic theologian Richard Grigg believes that Americans should replace the God of the Bible with "the Goddess." He wrote the book, When God Becomes Goddess: The Transformation of American Religion.[26]
At one seminary, the Catholic priest who taught philosophy began each class with a study of the Earth Goddess Gaia and a Buddhist meditation. The seminarians in his class were required to study "situation ethics" and it was "taboo" for them to express orthodox ethical views.[27]
Carmelite nuns are cloistered contemplatives. One Carmelite convent used to be "God oriented" but changed its perspective and now it focusses on mysticism and feminism. A nun from that convent said that the influence of Rosemary Ruether had a lot to do with their change in emphasis.[28]
You can get some idea of Reuther's beliefs from the titles of her books. She wrote Goddesses and the Divine Feminine, and Integrating Ecofeminism, Globalization, and World Religions, and Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.
Mary Jo Weaver is a Catholic feminist theologian who writes about goddess feminism and mysticism.[29] She is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, which puts her in a good position to influence many people who are serious about religion. She said that the Bible is patriarchal and must be radically transformed in order to make it conform to the beliefs of feminists. According to Dr. Weaver, some feminists have rejected Christianity and are trying to replace it with "new religious 'symbol systems'." However, other feminists believe that Christianity can be "corrected" by incorporating the Mother Goddess, and goddess rituals, within it.[30]
Dr. Weaver says that Mary can be a good symbol for goddess feminism. However, rather than seeing Mary as "the handmaid of the Lord" (which is what she calls herself in Luke 1:38), Mary should be seen as revealing "the divine within oneself." Weaver says that feminists can and should "rewrite" Scripture in order to enlarge the roles of women, or even invent female roles.[31]
Madonna Kolbenschlag is a Catholic nun. According to her, the idea of God as Father is a myth. She sees the Genesis account of the fall of Adam and Eve as showing the triumph of the patriarchal God Yahweh over fertility goddesses. She also sees it as condemning female sexuality and power. According to Kolbenschlag, feminist spirituality is "dissolving" the myth of a patriarchal God and reconstructing the "God-myth."As a result, deity is "breaking through" human consciousness as "the Goddess."[32]
Mundelein is a Catholic women's college which is run by nuns. It is affiliated with Loyola University, which is run by Jesuit priests. In March 1985, a conference called "The Goddesses and the Wild Women" was held at Mundelein. This conference was repeated there in 1986. Also in 1986, a program was given at Mundelein titled "Her Holiness: Maiden, Mother, Crone." The program honored the "triple goddess" of witchcraft. It included a croning ritual, which is a witchcraft initiation ritual.[33]
When parents send their daughters to a Catholic college that is run by nuns, they probably expect that their daughters will be taught the Catholic doctrines of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Who would ever think that, in such an environment, their daughters would be exposed to goddess worship and a witchcraft initiation ritual.
In the world of business, this would be called "bait and switch," which is the practice of attracting customers by offering them what they want to get, and then switching them to what you want to sell them. When Catholic parents pay expensive tuition fees to have their daughters be taught Catholicism, then they should get what they paid for.



The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, a country which is 89% Catholic. Mexicans represent about 8.6% of the world's Catholics, so about one out of every twelve Catholics is Mexican.[34] As a result, a significant proportion of Catholics celebrate the Day of the Dead.
This festival was celebrated long before the Spanish came to Mexico. The Tarasco people of Michoacan believed that on one day each year, the dead could return to their homes. Preparations were made to help the spirits find their way home and to make them feel welcome. In each home, an arch made of flowers was put up, symbolizing a doorway from the underworld. Fruit, corn, tamales, salt, and containers of water were placed in front of the arch.[35]
It was believed that the spirits of dead children came on the first night of the festival, and the spirits of dead adults came the following night. The spirits of the dead joined their living relatives to eat, drink, talk and sing. Children are given sugar skulls, chocolate coffins and toy skeletons. After Mexico became Catholic, the people celebrated the Day of the Dead during two Catholic holy days: November 1 (All Saints' Day) and November 2 (All Souls' Day ). In some areas, families spend two whole nights at graveyards (the night of October 31 with the souls of dead children, and the night of November 1 with the souls of dead adults).[36]
Altars are decorated with skulls and bones made out of bread, as offerings for the dead. People visit from house to house, sharing memories about their dead, in the belief that the dead gather to hear what is said about them. Therefore, people are careful not to neglect any dead person, or to say things that might make them angry. The visiting is not only to honor the dead, it is also to placate them. After honoring the dead all night, people go to Mass early the next morning. They believe that the dead then return to their graves. After getting some rest, people go to the cemeteries to share a meal with the dead, so that the dead can rest in peace until next year, when they again rise to mingle with the living.[37]


In some parts of South Africa, animals are sacrificed during Roman Catholic Mass. Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Bloemfontein has actively promoted this practice. Archbishop George Daniel of Pretoria said that animal sacrifice is being done in parishes in his diocese. There is a video showing it. A Catholic priest blessed chickens and goats during Mass. The animals were slaughtered and their blood was poured into a hole outside of the church.[38]
This practice implies that the blood of Jesus Christ was not sufficient, and therefore the blood of animals is also needed. However, the practice is also controversial for other reasons. Andrew Linzey is an Anglican priest. He is also the Oxford University Professor of Theology and Animal Welfare. Prof. Linzey is protesting against the practice of animal sacrifice in South African Catholic churches because he is an animal rights theologian.[39]


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1. "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions," Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, October 28, 1965. In Austin Flannery (editor), Vatican Council II, Volume 1, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (New Revised Edition) (Northport, NY: Dominican Publications, 1998), pp. 738-742.

2. Robert Blair Kaiser, A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), pp. 164-165.

3. Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, Mystics, Masters, Saints, and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment (Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 2001).

4. "October 1986: The Day Assisi Became the 'Peace Capitol' of the World," American Catholic, January 1987.
John Cotter, "Assisi Assessed." (Accessed 8/26/08) If the link for this article doesn't work, then do an Internet search for John Cotter + Assisi.
http://www.catholicism.org/assisi assessed.html

5. You can see Pope John Paul II lead the multi faith service at Assisi in the video "Catholicism: Crisis of Faith." You can also see and hear Muslims, shamans, Hindus, and the Dalai Lama call on their gods. You can get the DVD at D&K Press (800 777 8839) and at Amazon.com.

6. A picture of the altar that was used for the religious service in Assisi. There is a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle (an ornate container for consecrated bread). (Accessed 8/26/08)

7. "Pope's Assisi Prayers for Peace," CNN.com, January 24, 2002. (Accessed 8/26/08)

8. N. Adu Kwabena-Essem, "A New Look at 'JuJu': The Pope's Apology to Africa," Djembe Magazine, No. 13, July 1995. (Accessed 8/26/08)

9. Randy England, The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church, pp. 70-71, op. cit.

10. Ibid., p. 71.

11. Ibid., p. 72.

12. Wayne Teasdale, Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to His Interspritual Thought (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2003), pp. xiv-xv.

13. Randy England, The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church, pp. 72-73, op. cit.

14. Ibid., pp. 73-74.

15. Ibid., pp. 75-76.

16. Patrick Hart (editor), Thomas Merton/Monk: A Monastic Tribute (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1983), pp. 89, 212.

17. Ibid., p. 88.

18. Robert Blair Kaiser, A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), p. 159.

19. Randy England, The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church, pp. 118-128, op. cit.

20. Mitchell Pacwa, "Catholicism for the New Age: Matthew Fox and Creation-Centered Spirituality," Creation Research Journal (Fall 1992), p. 14. (Accessed 9/27/08) The author is a Catholic priest.
http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri jrnl/web/crj0001c.html

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. The website of the University of Creation Spirituality. (Accessed 9/27/08)
http://www.matthewfox.org/sys tmpl/htmlpage9/

24. The website of the Sophia Center in Culture and Spirituality. (Accessed 9/27/08)

25. Mitchell Pacwa, "Catholicism for the New Age: Matthew Fox and Creation-Centered Spirituality," Creation Research Journal (Fall 1992), p. 14, op. cit. (Accessed 9/27/08)
http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri jrnl/web/crj0001c.html

26. Peter Jones, Pagans in the Pews: How the New Spirituality Is Invading Your Home, Church and Community (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001), p. 127.

27. Michael S. Rose, Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002), p. 113.

28. Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press,1992), pp. 182-183.

29. "Mary Jo Weaver." (Accessed 9/28/08)

30. Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, pp. 145-146, op. cit.

31. Ibid., pp. 146-147.

32. Ibid., pp. 148-150.

33. Ibid., pp. 79-91.

34. Our Sunday Visitor's 2007 Catholic Almanac (Matthew Bunson, general editor) (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006), pp. 333, 454-455. According to the 2007 Catholic Almanac, there are 94,964,000 Catholics in Mexico and 1,098,366,000 Catholics in the world. That makes Mexican Catholics about 8.6 percent of the world's Catholic population. Actually, the figure should be somewhat higher because it doesn't take into account the Mexican Catholics who live in the United States.

35. Lonely Planet, Mexico (Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications, 2006), p. 63.

36. Ibid.

37. Theresa Cheung, The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World: The Ultimate A-Z of Spirits, Mysteries and the Paranormal (London: HarperElement, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), p. 148.

38. Noel Bruyns, "Let Africans Honor Ancestors with Blood Libations in Mass, Says Bishop," Christianity Today, April 10, 2000. (Accessed 9/28/08)
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/aprilweb only/46.0a.html

39. Cedric Pulford, "Debate Continues on Incorporating Animal Sacrifices in Worship," Christianity Today, October 1, 2000. (Accessed 9/28/08)
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/octoberweb only/34.0c.html

Copyright 2008 by Mary Ann Collins.




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