If some of you don’t pray because you don’t believe or it goes against your conscience, please send positive vibes my way

A light word, in certain circumstances is considered normal, for it’s a natural way of making human relationships more pleasant. But, this jesting must be done with equilibrium and respect. Consequently, it’s easy to understand that certain situations do not permit this means of expression, especially by those who hold more elevated positions. For example, what would we think of a Head of State who cracks a joke at the funeral of a victim of terrorism?

As such, the dignity of the Vicar of Jesus Christ is so high, that his mission has always been surrounded by an elevated degree of solemnity, even on occasions that are apparently informal. That’s why some readers wrote to us a little surprised with Francis’ words (which will be analyzed in this post) that were pronounced in a seemingly restricted, informal milieu, but that ended up touching on quite an important topic, becoming well-known due to the widespread interest that modern means of communication arouse about anything like this.

In any event, we end up having to ask ourselves what level of consciousness can be found in the deeper meaning of these words, considering that the great expansion that various forms of religiosity have had in the past few years has been a cause of real concern for zealous pastors. Who are we to judge? But, we would have hoped for at least a little more circumspection in the pronouncements of he who should be the guide for all Catholics. Above all we can only hope there is no grain of truth in such an unfortunate remark…

Francis

I hope you have a good journalist day. It’s a busy day, but congratulations. May God bless you and don’t forget to pray for me. If some of you don’t pray because you don’t believe or it goes against your conscience, please send positive vibes my way. (To journalists, June 8, 2015)

Pope Francis asked for the crowd to pray for him, but not everyone in attendance was Catholic. So he made a special request for those who do not believe. …Think about me and send good vibes. Thank you. (Bolivia, July 10, 2015)

 

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

I – The New Age Movement: a sect that strays from Christian Doctrine
II – The dignity of the Pope does not permit inappropriate jesting
______________________________________________________________________

I – The New Age Movement: a sect that strays from Christian Doctrine

John Paul II
– A new culture marked by widespread and growing growing religious agnosticism, that is illusory and incapable of satisfying the human heart

Synod of Bishops
– Among the sects there is a current of thought known as ‘New Age’ that is silently leaving its mark on culture

Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
– The concept of matter as waves or energy is central to much of New Age thinking – God is no more than one immense vibration of energy
– The necessity of persons who are capable of critically explaining on New Age thought
– Danger of the so-called New Age ‘prayer groups’: they lure gradually into a form of false worship

XLVIII International Eucharistic Congress
– The New Age constitutes a threat to Eucharistic piety

John Paul II
– The basis of the spread of sects: the tendency to reduce religions and various spiritual experiences to a common denominator

Synod of Bishops
– Syncretism causes believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements

Congregation for the Clergy
– Religious relativism encourages a proliferation of ‘new religious movements’ or sects – they are alien to the Christian faith

Synod of Bishops
– Sects undermine the religious unity of the Catholic people
– Sects aggressively preach against the Catholic Church

John Paul II
– The moral and spiritual Christian patrimony runs risk due to the spread of sects

Synod of Bishops
– Suggestions regarding how to respond to the challenge posed by the ‘New Age’

Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
– Necessity to warn against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith

Synod of Bishops
– When there is a plethora of masters, gurus, sects: we must recall constantly for people that salvation is only in the name of Jesus

II – The dignity of the Pope does not permit inappropriate jesting

Paul VI
– The Vicar of Christ, with the mission of transmitting the Word of God, must give maximum attention to dignity and precision of language

Saint Bernard
– It is not jests or fables but the law of God that is to be sought from the mouth of a priest

John Paul II
– Saint Gregory the Great and the awareness of the dignity of the papacy: will respond before men and before God

I – The New Age Movement: a sect that strays from Christian Doctrine

John Paul II

  • A new culture marked by widespread and growing religious agnosticism, that is illusory and incapable of satisfying the human heart

We are witnessing the emergence of a new culture, largely influenced by the mass media, whose content and character are often in conflict with the Gospel and the dignity of the human person. This culture is also marked by a widespread and growing religious agnosticism, connected to a more profound moral and legal relativism rooted in confusion regarding the truth about man as the basis of the inalienable rights of all human beings. At times the signs of a weakening of hope are evident in disturbing forms of what might be called a ‘culture of death’ (cf. Propositio 5a). […] Often those in need of hope believe that they can find peace in fleeting and insubstantial things. In this way, hope, restricted to this world and closed to transcendence, is identified, for example, with the paradise promised by science or technology, with various forms of messianism, with a hedonistic natural felicity brought about by consumerism, or with the imaginary and artificial euphoria produced by drugs, with certain forms of millenarianism, with the attraction of oriental philosophies, with the quest for forms of esoteric spirituality and with the different currents of the New Age movement (Propositio 5a. Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the New Age). All these, however, show themselves profoundly illusory and incapable of satisfying that yearning for happiness which the human heart continues to harbour. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, no. 9-10, June 28, 2003)

Synod of Bishops

  • Among the sects there is a current of thought known as ‘New Age’ that is silently leaving its mark on culture

In addition to the groups identified as religious movements and sects, the responses also speak of the existence of a current of thought known by the name of ‘New Age,’ which is rapidly spreading in the entire hemisphere and has the proportions of a world-wide phenomenon. This philosophy, departing from relativism, proposes overcoming the problematic of the person as a subject through an ecstatic return to a kind of cosmic dance, while offering, at the same time, a totally anti-rationalistic model of religion, a modern ‘mystique’, according to which God is not a person who is distinguished from the world, but rather a spiritual energy which permeates the whole (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Conference to the Presidents of the Episcopal Commissions of Latin America – L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly English Edition, 6/11/1996). In this perspective, a personal encounter with God is simply unthinkable. Even more incomprehensible is the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God. For this reason, the responses express a deep concern with the ‘New Age’ phenomenon, which is negatively affecting the religious identity of America, and more specifically the Christian and Catholic faith. This movement is a ‘contender’ whose features cannot be seen clearly, since it cannot be placed in a defined category of a sect or a group, but is rather a way of thinking which spreads as an intellectual and spiritual current, silently leaving its mark on culture and many of its expressions. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the way to Conversion, Community and Solidarity in America, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 47, September 1, 1997)

Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

  • The concept of matter as waves or energy is central to much of New Age thinking – God is no more than one immense vibration of energy

The move from a mechanistic model of classical physics to the ‘holistic’ one of modern atomic and sub-atomic physics, based on the concept of matter as waves or energy rather than particles, is central to much of New Age thinking. The universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or a network of links. The energy animating the single organism which is the universe is ‘spirit’. There is no alterity between God and the world. The world itself is divine and it undergoes an evolutionary process which leads from inert matter to ‘higher and perfect consciousness’. The world is uncreated, eternal and self-sufficient. The future of the world is based on an inner dynamism which is necessarily positive and leads to the reconciled (divine) unity of all that exists. God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 2.3.4.3, February 3, 2003)

  • The necessity of persons who are capable of critically explaining on New Age thought

Quite a few New Age groups welcome every opportunity to explain their philosophy and activities to others. Encounters with these groups should be approached with care, and should always involve persons who are capable of both explaining Catholic faith and spirituality, and of reflecting critically on New Age thought and practice. It is extremely important to check the credentials of people, groups and institutions claiming to offer guidance and information on New Age. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 6.2, February 3, 2003)

  • Danger of the so-called New Age ‘prayer groups’: they lure gradually into a form of false worship

Some local New Age groups refer to their meetings as ‘prayer groups’. Those people who are invited to such groups need to look for the marks of genuine Christian spirituality, and to be wary if there is any sort of initiation ceremony. Such groups take advantage of a person’s lack of theological or spiritual formation to lure them gradually into what may in fact be a form of false worship. Christians must be taught about the true object and content of prayer – in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, to the Father – in order to judge rightly the intention of a ‘prayer group’. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 6.2, February 3, 2003)

XLVIII International Eucharistic Congress

  • The New Age constitutes a threat to Eucharistic piety

There exists another threat to Eucharistic piety. It is derived from the anti-sacramental character of fundamentalist protestant groups and sects, which, unfortunately, have opened a path among the peoples of America. While some of them adhere solely to the belief in Christ as Lord and Savior and a personal interpretation of Sacred Scripture, other sects are formed by more or less heterodox Christians or are spiritualisms that are completely New Age. Only a profound catechesis regarding the Eucharist may be a remedy for the erosion that these groups produce in the faith of our Catholic people. (Theological-Pastoral Symposium, 48th International Eucharistic Congress, no. 2, October 6, 2004)

John Paul II

  • The basis of the spread of sects: the tendency to reduce religions and various spiritual experiences to a common denominator

You know well that the basis of the spread of the sects is often a great lack of religious formation, consequently leading to uncertainty about the need to believe in Christ and to belong to the Church he has established. The tendency is to reduce religions and the various spiritual experiences to a least common denominator that makes them practically equivalent, with the result that everyone would be free to follow any of the various paths proposed to reach the goal of salvation. If, in addition, one adds the brazen proselytism which is the hallmark of certain particularly active and invasive groups of these sects, one understands right away how urgently necessary it is today to support the faith of Christians, and to give them an opportunity for ongoing religious formation to deepen their personal relationship with Christ. Your endeavours must give priority to preventing this danger, consolidating in the faithful the practice of the Christian life and fostering the growth of a truly fraternal spirit in the heart of each of your ecclesial communities. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Brazil from the First Southern Region on their ad limina visit, no. 2, January 23, 2003)

Synod of Bishops

  • Syncretism causes believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements

Indeed, in the piety of the people of America there are oftentimes many elements at odds with Christianity. These elements occasionally lead to a syncretism constructed on the basis of popular beliefs, or, in some cases, they cause believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements. […] The increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder. These are human dispositions which predispose a person to dialogue and to an encounter with God. Such indifference almost inevitably leads to a false moral autonomy and a secularistic life-style which excludes God. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, no. 18-19, Lineamenta, August 1, 1996)

Congregation for the Clergy

  • Religious relativism encourages a proliferation of ‘new religious movements’ or sects – they are alien to the Christian faith

In a climate of cultural and religious relativism, and sometime because of the inappropriate conduct of Christians, a proliferation of ‘new religious movements’ has occurred. These are sometimes called sects or cults but, because of the abundance of names and tendencies, are difficult to categorize in a comprehensive and precise framework. From available data, movements of Christian origin can be identified, while others derive from oriental religions, and others again appear to be connected with esoteric traditions. Their doctrines and their practices are of concern because they are alien to the content of the Christian faith. (Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, Ch. IV, no. 201, April 17, 1998)

Synod of Bishops

  • Sects undermine the religious unity of the Catholic people

Indeed, religious sects and pseudo-spiritual movements are undermining the religious and cultural unity of the Catholic people of America. Through the use of abundant economic and technical resources, they proselytize in a manner which often manipulates consciences. In Latin America these sects frequently attack the identity of a nation, an identity which is closely linked to the Catholic faith. In the area of religious formation, this constitutes another challenge for the Church in America. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, no. 61, Lineamenta, August 1, 1996)

  • Sects aggressively preach against the Catholic Church

In general, the religious movements and sects aggressively preach against the Catholic Church. Moreover, they direct their campaigns of proselytism towards the marginalized of society, immigrants, prisoners, the sick in hospitals and generally towards all who live on the periphery of the big cities, where the presence of the Catholic Church sometimes is not very strong. Some propagators of the sects interpret the Bible in a fundamentalist way, providing pat answers to people who find themselves in situations of great uncertainty. They organize groups for the study of the Bible, give speeches in town-squares and invite people to frequent the sect’s places of cult. In general, the sects appeal to people’s emotions and superficial sensitivities in order to develop their propaganda activities. In many groups coordinated by these movements, the physical cure of the sick is prayed for and alms are distributed to attract people. Lured by these tactics, many Catholics in recent years have abandoned the practice of their faith to enter the religious movements and the sects. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the way to Conversion, Community and Solidarity in America, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 46, September 1, 1997)

John Paul II

  • The moral and spiritual Christian patrimony runs risk due to the spread of sects

On the other hand, in other regions or nations many vital traditions of piety and popular forms of Christian religion are still conserved; but today this moral and spiritual patrimony runs the risk of being dispersed under the impact of a multiplicity of processes, including secularization and the spread of sects. Only a re-evangelization can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom. Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations. At this moment the lay faithful, in virtue of their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, are fully part of this work of the Church. Their responsibility, in particular, is to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response-consciously perceived and stated by all in varying degrees-to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, no. 34, December 30, 1988)

Synod of Bishops

  • Suggestions regarding how to respond to the challenge posed by the New Age

There are many suggestions regarding how to respond to the challenge posed by the religious movements, sects and other currents such as ‘New Age’. In the IV General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, a series of specific measures were proposed which, in a certain way, have already begun to be put into practice in various parts of the hemisphere, for example: improving formation through catechesis; greater attention to liturgical celebrations, especially in the preparation of the homily; greater collaboration between priests and laity so as to bring about a more personalized evangelization (especially in the family and among young people); purification and promotion of popular piety, more emphasis on those aspects most identified with the Catholic Church (Eucharistic devotion, Marian piety, communion with the Roman Pontiff and with the local bishop), etc. In general, there is unanimous consensus as to the opportuneness of strengthening the Catholic community at all levels by renewing the structures of communion and mission, as well as maintaining a living faith in Jesus Christ through meditation and reflection on the Word of God, prayer (personal and communal), the practice of the sacraments (especially the Eucharist) and popular devotion. An effective instrument in overcoming these challenges is the collaboration of bishops among themselves (at the level of bishops’ conferences and regional meetings of metropolitan archbishops with their respective suffragant bishops) so as to develop an organic pastoral plan on this subject, which can have concrete results in an effective joint-action. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the way to Conversion, Community and Solidarity in America, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 48, September 1, 1997)

Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

  • Necessity to warn against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith

In a cultural environment, marked by religious relativism, it is necessary to signal a warning against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith, making the difference between faith and belief seem relative, thus creating greater confusion for the unwary. In this regard, it is useful to remember the exhortation of Saint Paul ‘to instruct certain people not to teach false doctrine or to concern themselves with myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the plan of God that is to be received by faith’ (1 Tim 1:3-4). Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview. This only adds to the confusion. It is therefore necessary to accurately identify those elements which belong to the New Age movement, and which cannot be accepted by those who are faithful to Christ and his Church. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 4, February 3, 2003)

Synod of Bishops

  • When there is a plethora of masters, gurus, sects: we must recall constantly for people that salvation is only in the name of Jesus

As in the time of Saint Paul in the areopagus of Athens or in the Roman forum, there is also today an abundance of idols and divinities, a plethora of masters, gurus, sects, obscure movements and secular wisdom, all of which promise people a sure plan for happiness and a utopia. In light of this situation, it is essential to recall constantly for people that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12), except the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The salvation which Christ’s way offers is fundamental and universal, because it forgives and wipes away the sins of all those who receive it with a sincere heart (cf. Lk 1:77; 3:3; 4:18; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:17-18). (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, no. 10-11, Lineamenta, August 1, 1996)

II – The dignity of the Pope does not permit inappropriate jesting

Paul VI

  • The Vicar of Christ, with the mission of transmitting the Word of God, must give maximum attention to dignity and precision of language

The Successor of Peter is thus, by the will of Christ, entrusted with the preeminent ministry of teaching the revealed truth. The New Testament often shows Peter ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ speaking in the name of all (Acts 4:8; cf. 2:14; 3:12). It is precisely for this reason that Saint Leo the Great describes him as he who has merited the primacy of the apostolate’ (cf. Saint Leo the Great, Sermo 69, 3; Sermo 70, 1-3; Sermo 94, 3; Sermo 95 2). This is also why the voice of the Church shows the Pope ‘at the highest point- in apice, in specula– of the apostolate’ (cf. First Ecumenical Council of Lyons, Constitution Ad apostolicae dignitaties: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta,; Ecumenical Council of Vienne, Constitution Ad providam Christi; Fifth Lateran Ecumenical Council, Constitution In apostolici culminis; Constitution Postquam ad universalis; Constitution Divina disponente clementia). The Second Vatican Council wished to reaffirm this when it declared that ‘Christ’s mandate to preach the Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15) primarily and immediately concerns the bishops with Peter and under Peter’ (Ad Gentes, 38). The full, supreme and universal power (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 22) which Christ gives to His Vicar for the pastoral government of His Church is this especially exercised by the Pope in the activity of preaching and causing to be preached the Good News of salvation. […] Being animated by the conviction, ceaselessly deepened, of the greatness and riches of the Word of God, those who have the mission of transmitting it must give the maximum attention to the dignity, precision and adaptation of their language. (Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 67; 73, December 8, 1975)

Saint Bernard

  • It is not jests or fables but the law of God that is to be sought from the mouth of a priest

Amongst laymen frivolous language is only frivolity: but it is blasphemy when it comes from the mouth of a priest. […] Thy lips have been consecrated to the Gospel of Christ. Therefore it is unlawful for thee now to use them for jesting, and a sacrilege to have them thus habitually employed. ‘The lips of the priest,’ says the Prophet, ‘shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth’ (Mal 2:7). Observe that it is not jests or fables but the law of God that is to be sought from the mouth of a priest. With regard to scurrility, it is not enough to banish that from thy mouth: it must also be banished from thine ear. To allow thyself to laugh at such jokes would be a scandal; but it would be a greater scandal to repeat them for the amusement of others. (Saint Bernard. Treatise on Consideration to Pope Eugene III, Ch. XIII, 68-69)

John Paul II

  • Saint Gregory the Great and the awareness of the dignity of the papacy: will respond before men and before God

Servus servorum Dei’: it is known that this title, chosen by him [Saint Gregory the Great] ever since he was a deacon – and used not a few of his letters – gradually became a traditional title and almost a definition of the person of the Bishop of Rome. It is also certain, that from sincere humility, he made it the motto of his ministry and that, precisely because of his universal function in the Church of Christ, he always considered and showed himself to be the maximum and primary servant – the servant of the servants of God – servant of all, following the example of Christ himself, who had explicitly affirmed that he ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mt 20:28). Most profound was, therefore, his consciousness of the dignity [of the Papacy], which he accepted with great trepidation after having unsuccessfully tried to remain hidden in an attempt to avoid it; but, at the same time, possessing a clear awareness of his duty to serve, convinced himself and attempting to instill in the others the conviction that all authority, above all within the Church, is essentially service. The awareness of his own pontifical office and, proportionally, of all pastoral ministry, is condensed in the word ‘responsibility’: he who exercises an ecclesiastical ministry should respond for what he does, not only to men, not only to the souls that were confided to him, but also and in the first place to God and to his Son, in whose name he acts each time he distributes the supernatural treasures of grace, announces the truths of the Gospel and undertakes activities of legislation and of government. (John Paul II. Letter Plurimum Significans on the 14th centenary of the elevation of Saint Gregory the Great to the Papacy, June 29, 1990)

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