The Boston Archdiocese is offering a yoga class at the Pastoral Center.
The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on the Hindu concept of divinity or Brahman. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Here is the email notice sent to Pastoral Center employees promoting the program:
Subject: yoga sessions at the Pastoral Center
Good morning – following up on the wellness theme presented at this month’s staff meeting, and in honor of Richard Ely, who was a dedicated student of yoga, we hope to have a series of yoga sessions starting at the Pastoral Center in the near future. The proposed structure is as follows:
*4-6 sessions (approximately one hour each) on Tuesday evenings at 5:00 pm
*instruction provided by a local yoga instructor
*fees to be paid directly to the instructor in advance to cover all sessions; approximate amount $10/session
*bring your own mat and other optional equipment
No prior yoga experience is required, just an interest in increasing the fitness level of your body and mind. If you have an interest in joining us for this series, please let me know by Friday, March 2. Once we have a headcount, we will determine the actual cost and the start date for the sessions.
It should be noted that the current pope, Benedict XVI, previously issued a document in 1999, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999) stating that “Eastern” practices such as yoga, Zen, and transcendental meditation posed a danger, in that they could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that edged out “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit.” Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said.
This article, by the late Fr. John Hardon entitled, “Why is yoga incompatible with Catholicism” says:
Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. “Inner” Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing.
Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist has said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation.” “Practising yoga is Satanic,” he said.
This article at Catholic Culture, “Yoga — Health or Stealth?” by a former advanced yoga practitioner merits reading:
At its best, yoga is a very beautiful and intricate system devised thousands of years ago to mimic the states and powers of saints in order to attain their virtue. At its worst, it is a tool of hidden and dangerous power that destroys minds and lives. At its heart, it is nothing more than a flawed shadow of the truth in comparison to the power of the Paschal Mystery and the sacraments. In any light, it is now incontrovertibly incompatible with and antithetical to the Christian walk.
In closing, yoga and all New Age practices have filled the void that exists because we abandoned the greatest source of bliss and comfort, the Eucharist. A return to the Eucharist and a renewed program of instruction on contemplative prayer will bring many Catholics back from these deceptively beautiful practices and philosophies.
BCI could go on and on about why offering yoga at the Pastoral Center is a bad idea. Defenders and sponsors will say they have a “Catholic” yoga instructor, they have removed any poses or references to Buddhism, and are doing this for health and wellness purposes.
Bull. That is merely perfuming the pig, as it were. If they want relaxation for all of the stressed-out Pastoral Center employees making $150K+/year or the dozens who are underpaid, then offer something other than yoga.
BCI consulted a prominent Catholic exorcist regarding the situation and got a response that relaxation is not bad, but, “The trouble is if invoked beings, energies, and especially if we put our heart, our trust in anything, as more effective than God, there the devil can infiltrate and mislead, pushing people away from God, and bringing them to sin. I do not see it, personally, that the Catholic Church should be used for other purposes outside of prayer, meditation of the word, etc.”
As an aside, we are troubled by the U.S. Government imposing a requirement to pay for contraception on Catholic organizations against our consciences, but it is somehow OK to voluntarily bring yoga into the Pastoral Center, which the CDF warned, could “degenerate into a cult of the body”?