Religion as satire

Mainline American religion can sometimes produce real events that even a satirist could not dream up. This post provides an example.

In the city in which I live, a former bishop wrote that Catholics ought not do yoga because that was a “serious sin.” According to the Lincoln paper,

“It would be most desirable for persons who are Catholic to abstain from the practice of yoga and use other methods to exercise … We are never allowed to place our Catholic faith unnecessarily in any danger, and certainly the practice of yoga could be an occasion of serious sin …”

The Women of Grace blog further stated:

“He (Bruskewitz) correctly points out that yoga originated in, and is an important part of, various forms of the Hindu religion which is, in the Catholic perspective, ‘a pagan religion based on heathen beliefs and false doctrine of revelation involving such things as transmigration of souls, and so forth.’”*

This really pissed off the Hindus. Thus:

Hindu cleric Rajan Zed, in a statement issued early Friday morning, urged Pope Francis to discipline Bruskewitz for unnecessary condemnation of yoga. Zed is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, a noted leader in interfaith relations in Nevada and in 2007 was the first person to offer Hindu prayer before the United States Senate.

hinduDespite my agnosticism, I greatly respect Catholics (like my wife and members of her family) and other people of deep faith from America’s mainline religions. That said, the experts who do polling tell us that for Christians in America their share of the population is in sharp decline. I wonder why.


*As the Lincoln paper notes, “Catholicism is not the only religion to take issue with yoga. Some evangelical Christian churches warn congregants that it is incompatible with Christianity. In response, Christian yogis have adapted the stretches and meditations to include Christ-centered prayer and scripture.”

23 responses

  1. While I don’t agree with everything my local archbishop has done during his tenure, at least I can be happy that he hasn’t condemned yoga (or-as far as I know-any other form of stretching).

  2. This story is getting lots of play in the media and it makes Catholics look like nuts. I checked Fabian’s Wiki bio. He is from Milwaukee, but never attended a Jesuit school. That’s all you need to know.

  3. I have to agree with the bishop that we are never allowed to put our Catholic faith in any unnecessary danger. This is perhaps why I’ve stopped attending mass.

    Where I’m from we just had a Monsignor sentenced to five years for running a mail order meth ring. Not long ago another member of the clergy passed while in jail. He had bilked millions of dollars from church funds to live large on extravagant trips to the Caribbean with his boyfriend. My elderly aunt who belonged to his parish was philosophical about the scandal “well, at least now I know where all the money went… He seems to have had a good time with it.”

    We sent our children to parochial school, in order for my wife to participate in after school activities the diocese required “virtus” training. At the training it was brought to everyone’s attention that the pedophile scandal has been greatly exaggerated.

    But let’s concern ourselves with the evils of the practice of Yoga. Deflection is an important tool for avoidance.

  4. People espousing inaccurate church doctrine have done great harm to all peoples throughout time. Its that old ignorance of “I am this and if you aren’t this you are wrong”. The Catholic Church clearly treats all the major religions as salvific (capable of getting its devout practitioners who seek God into heaven). This includes, but not by way of limitation, Buddism, Hinduism, Judaism, and most prominently Islam. The prejudice against these religions comes from aberrant ignorance, not from catholicism itself. I have re-printed below a commentary concerning the Vatican II document on such matters. If the church was different than that, I a (self-proclaimed devout) Catholic would need to look elsewhere than the church for my faith. Dean

    Vatican II on Non-Christian Religions
    By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio – articles – email) | Jul 20, 2010

    By far the shortest document issued by the Second Vatican Council was the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate). The text runs to only about 1,600 words in English, or less than twice the length of this summary. Clearly, then, the Council Fathers did not have in mind a theological treatise, but simply an exhortation on what all men have in common in seeking to answer the questions of life through religion, and how Christians ought to act toward their brothers and sisters who do not share the fullness of Christ. Nostra Aetate was the tenth document issued by the Council, on October 25, 1965. It consists of just five numbered paragraph groups.

    First, the Council affirms that “all men form but one community”. This is so because they “all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth” and they “all share a common destiny, namely God”, whose “providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all men”. The Fathers then set the stage for the rest of the document by noting that men look to different religions for an answer to the “riddles of human existence”—the nature of man, the purpose of life, moral concerns, the problem of suffering, the meaning of death, and questions of judgment, reward and punishment.

    Second, the Fathers note that one finds in every people “a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life”, and sometimes one even finds recognition of “a supreme being or still more of a Father.” This awareness and recognition “results in a way of life imbued with a deep religious sense.” Two examples of this basic sort of religiosity are given: Hinduism, with its exploration of divine mystery in both myth and philosophy; and Buddhism, which “testifies to the essential inadequacy of this changing world.” Both religions propose means of escape from the trials of life into some sort of superior illumination. The Council then makes the point that the Church “rejects nothing of what is true and holy” in these religions; she has a high regard for anything which may “reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.” Yet the Church remains duty-bound to “proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.” As God has reconciled all things to himself in Christ, it is only in Him that “men find the fullness of their religious life.”

    Though the text does not say so, it contains a clear progression (also used in some other documents) from religions which have not benefitted from revelation to those that have, among which Islam has benefited by borrowing elements of Judaism and Christianity. Thus, in the third place, the Council states the Church’s high regard for Muslims, because they worship “God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth” and they strive to do His will. Muslims also have some recognition of Jesus and His mother. Moreover, because they await the day of judgment following the resurrection of the dead, they value an upright life in worship, alms-giving and fasting. Therefore, the Fathers ask all to forget past quarrels and to make a sincere effort at mutual understanding: “For the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.”

    Fourth, the Council acknowledges the special ties which link “the people of the New Covenant to the stock of Abraham”, and so explores briefly the relationship of the Church to Judaism. The Church understands that “the beginning of her faith and election is to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets” and that the salvation of the Church is mystically prefigured in the exodus. She realizes she received the revelation of the Old testament through the Jews, and that the “she draws nourishment from that good olive tree onto which the wild olive branches of the Gentiles have been grafted” (cf. Rom. 11:17-24), because Christ has reconciled Jews and Gentiles through His cross. She also knows that the apostles and Mary were Jews, as were many pillars of the early Church.

    Although the Church holds “as holy Scripture testifies” that “Jerusalem did not recognize God’s moment when it came” (cf. Lk 19:42), she recognizes with St. Paul that the “Jews remain very dear to God” and that God “does not take back the gifts He bestowed or the choice he made.” Therefore, “the Church awaits the day, known to God alone, when all peoples will call on God with one voice.” Since all this is so, the “Council wishes to encourage and further mutual understanding and appreciation”. In particular the Fathers note that “neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during the passion.” Moreover, although “it is true that the Church is the new people of God”, yet “the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.” Thus the Church opposes every form of persecution, and deplores all anti-Semitism. To the contrary, “it is the duty of the Church…to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God’s universal love and the source of all grace.”

    Fifth—and bringing the discussion full circle—the Council declares that it is impossible to “truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people in other than brotherly fashion, for all men are created in God’s image”. Citing 1 John 4:8, the Fathers affirm that “he who does not love does not know God”. The text closes with this statement:

    Therefore, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion. Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the sacred Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to “conduct themselves well among the Gentiles” (1 Pet 2:12) and if possible, as far as depends on them, to be at peace with all men (cf. Rom 12:18) and in that way to be true sons of the Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt. 5:45).

  5. I was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools. I don’t know from yoga and Church doctrine, but I know I like to watch women doing yoga.

  6. Dean,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to provide this information. I really appreciate it.

    All the best.


  7. Congratulations on your successful deportation, Rich. I hope you made a video. Namaste.

  8. Scandals like you describe have done immeasurable damage to the Catholic Church. Your thoughts and feelings reflect that of many. My first thought was, Why didn’t the bishops call the cops and fire the sexual predators? What were their lawyers telling them? Coverups never work. And there was too much money to be made suing a deep pocket with great insurance.

    I was lucky as I went to Jesuit schools and that made all the difference in the world. Other than in the Oregon Province, the Jesuits were mostly spared of scandal.

    What I would say is that the Catholic Church is a human institution and, as such, is imperfect. Focus on the message and the good things. Ignatius Loyola said to see God in all things.

  9. As an ex-Catholic, I get your point. Catholic doctrine as codified in Vatican II expresses the essential humility of an institution comprised of human beings trying to follow the will of God as expressed in the Gospels. If the Church had practiced that doctrine, ecumenical discussions with the other apostolic churches would be much further advanced than they are.

    The problem is that, after Vatican II, the church leadership put those doctrines to the side and reverted back to the pre-Vatican II absolutism of the sort that leads a bishop to condemn the practice of yoga. I have hopes that the new Pope actually intends to follow Vatican II (unlike three of his four predecessors). But I don’t think this bishop is ignorant of the Church’s teachings. It’s that Vatican II really does not reflect the Church’s teachings for most of the past 40 years.

  10. Anon Both the now merged Chicago and Detroit Provinces had their share of problems. Still I am thankful for my Jesuit education and my years as one of those who as an employee kept their vow of poverty. On the other hand the preVatican II ecclesiology of the perfect society contributed to an unreasonable view off the Church and the bishops which contributed to the disillusion reflected in other comments and in the recent death of Catholic Ireland.

  11. The former Bishop of Lincoln is a rather odd character even by the standard of bishops I think too much is being made of his silly comments, though you are right about the narrow reading of Vatican II.

  12. I have been a follower of your blog for a short time and greatly appreciate your frank point of view. Although no where as intelligent as you, I understand your well stated point above without question. As I make the decision to respond, not for transformational purposes of anyone’s personal beliefs, but clarity alone, I can suffice the short segments you quoted above as a much deeper/in depth topic than either side reflects. Concerning the current demise of faith, I believe there are so many reasons: one of which points to our society’s misunderstanding of what’s in mainstream media due to a lack of education/understanding of any faith. Although I don’t personally participate in yoga, I would never base my decisions on anything misquoted by the media. I look forward to your next post!

  13. Especially the death cults:

    Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts says lawmakers’ repeal of the death penalty won’t stop his administration from proceeding with executions of 10 people already sentenced to death.

    Ricketts said Friday that he doesn’t plan to cancel a shipment of lethal injection drugs that the state bought earlier this month.

    The GOP-controlled Legislature this week approved a law repealing the death penalty over the governor’s veto. The law doesn’t go into effect for three months.

    Attorney General Doug Peterson has raised questions about whether it unconstitutionally changes the sentences of current death row inmates to life in prison.

    Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, the law’s lead sponsor, has said it’s constitutional. Chambers says the Legislature can’t change a prisoner’s sentence, but his law eliminates the state’s authority to carry out executions.

    (Nebraska’s Governor Vows To Proceed With Executions Despite Death Penalty Repeal).

  14. Theresa,

    I agree that religion is often an easy target for a media driven nearly mad by the competition to provide readers with lurid stories. That,however,is not the case in this instance. But you are right to read into the post my own concerns about the stability of America as formally dominant and accepted traditions fade way. It is not so much that I fear a wide diversity of beliefs, but that I fear the unknown.

    All the best.


  15. Judge, given the long history of antiCatholocism and anti-Semitism in American religious history, the irenic picture of main stream religion you and Theresa mourn was a product of post World War II America and has fallen apart as much because of hostility between religious conservative and moderenists as anything else. Blaming the media is to blamed the messenger instead of understanding the message Any decent history of American religion would ease your anxiety. The Holland Tunnel did not reach Rome and we were never forced to learn Irish.

  16. Repentinglawyer,

    I might also add to your list of victims, the Germans. The nativist streak runs deep on matters other than religion–Catholics and Jews don’t have the corner on the grievance market.

    All the best.


  17. Bruskewitz’s yoga logic would potentially imply that there will be more people converted to Judaism due to the large BAGEL consumption in the US. I am sure my Rabbi would love to know it is so EASY to get Jewish butts to synagogue! Ridiculous. P.S. I am Jewish and I take yoga…and I eat bagels. Maybe the bagels counteract the effects of “religious lure of the yoga.” SMH.

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