The Guardian (England), Jan. 31, 2003
Sophie Arie in Rome
The Vatican is to urge Catholics to resist experimenting in cranky “alternative” lifestyles, in an attempt to prevent its flock being led astray by the growing popularity of New Age spiritualism.
Vatican officials, including the British archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who is president of the pontifical council for inter-religious dialogue, will publish a document on Monday of nearly 100 pages called Christian Reflection on the New Age.
The church’s “reflection” comes less that two months after Cherie Blair, the prime minister’s wife and one of Britain’s most prominent Roman Catholics, was drew the scorn of the British tabloid newspapers for dabbling in anti-stress techniques under the guidance of her lifestyle guru, Carole Caplin.
Under the headline Vatican “Excommunicates” New Age, the leftwing Italian newspaper Messagero said the Vatican document would outline why New Age practices are incompatible with Catholic faith.
Vatican experts said they were particularly ruffled by the phenomenon because, unlike cults and sects, it was an “umbrella-like”, amorphous, indefinable movement which might not be as harmless as it appears.
New Age thinking, inspired by eastern philosophies and religions, rejects the traditional concept of God in the belief that the self is what really matters.
It proposes that individuals tune into a universal consciousness using any method that works, from crystals and pyramids to the occult, drugs and scream therapy.
Originally associated with 1960s hippy culture, it has inspired the boom of more widespread alternative therapies for healing stressed western minds and souls, such as yoga, massage and acupuncture.
Cardinal Poupard, the Vatican’s minister of culture, has warned that the phenomenon, based on “weak thinking”, is drawing Catholics from the path.
Catholics would be better off believing in “encounters with aliens” than being sucked into the New Age movement, he said.