Sunday, November 26, 2023

How to Tell Christian Prayer from New Age Meditation

A "Centering Prayer" group, encrusted with Boomers as to be expected

We live in a world which rejects Catholic tradition while simultaneously professing great interest in spiritualities influenced by the New Age. Christians have been traditionally reluctant to embrace such practices, as they contain elements that are fundamentally opposed to the most basic tenets of Christianity. Some, however, have merged various elements of eastern mysticism and New Age neo-paganism with traditional Catholic spirituality, thrown in some Christian vocabulary and are now peddling these practices as compatible with Catholicism. For example, the method of "Centering Prayer" promoted by the late Cistercian monk Basil Pennington is a good example, but there are others. These practices are promoted as Christian forms of "contemplation", and Catholics are encouraged to participate. In this article we will look at how to discern whether a spiritual practice is authentically Catholic or just New Age esoteric mysticism in a Christian veneer. We will use the 'Centering Prayer' spirituality developed by Fr. Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington as an example, but what we will say can be applied to any questionable spirituality.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

In What Sense is the Pope Above Canon Law?

A common refrain when from hyperpapalists when the pope disregards canon law by his actions is, "So what? He can do that. The pope is not bound by canon law." 

It is, of course, true that the pope is not bound by any human law, including ecclesiastical law. Not only is this due to the pope's status as the supreme juridical authority within the Church, but also because the pope himself is a source of canon law. Since canon law is subject to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, it is clear that is cannot be bound by it in any coercive sense.

Does this literally mean, however, that the pope can break canon law at will as a normal exercise of his authority? When the pope violates canon law, is this to be understood as a legitimate exercise of his juridical authority?

Sunday, November 12, 2023

"Strict Consistency with the Past"

Whilst casually flipping through my old copy of the 1929 New Catholic Dictionary, I looked up its entry for "Pope" and found an interesting little nugget. After a rather boiler-plate explanation of papal authority (universal, immediate, perpertual, etc.), it addresses the question of whether pontifical power is to be understood in an absolutist manner. After discussing the pope's practical dependence on the curia for his governance, the article answers the question in the negative: 

Sunday, November 05, 2023

The Last Gasp of Our Akhenaten

Pope Francis's new motu proprio Ad Theologiam Promovendam has called for a "paradigm shift" in Catholic theology, citing the "profound cultural changes" of the modern world as the justification. The pope insisted on a "courageous cultural revolution" within Catholic thought, calling for our theology to become "fundamentally contextual." Among other things, he called for theology to be primarily "inductive," focused on "dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian confessions and different religions, openly engaging with everyone." He contrasted this new approach with "abstractly re-proposing formulas and themes from the past," which the pope characterized as "desk bound theology."