In his Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis, No. 4, Pope John Paul II emphasized that the Church, “...should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity and..should always be very demanding on herself.” Reminding the faithful that constructive criticism has a role within the Church, John Paul says in this same paragraph that such criticism “should have its just limits...otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth.”
But the critical sense called for by Pope John Paul II is not welcome within the Diocese of Worcester. Recently, Stacy Trasancos, a columnist for The “Catholic” Free Press, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester, advanced an erroneous concept of loyalty to the Church’s hierarchy when she asserted that a Bishop should never be criticized . It’s not surprising that Trasancos’ view was published in The “Catholic” Free Press while my rebuttal was censored. For years, diocesan officials have promoted and tolerated dissent from the Magisterial teaching of the Church while welcoming those who advance New Age spirituality.
And these same officials obviously believe that they are “above criticism” or any need for a critical sense.
Pride goeth before a fall.
A few weeks ago, Sister Joyce Rupp, a Servite Sister who promotes New Age spirituality, was once again received by the Diocese with open arms. An article in The “Catholic” Free Press (October 5th edition, p. 8), makes mention of the fact that Joyce Rupp’s books are available at the diocesan book store at the Chancery. This is what happens without the critical sense. No one at the Chancery is concerned over Sister Rupp’s New Age background or the fact that respected Catholic personalities such as Johnette Benkovic have expressed concerns over her troubling views and New Age spirituality.
New Agers will freely admit that Jesus Christ is God but insist that He is no more God than anyone else. They believe that the “Christ” is a divine principle, a “Christ consciousness” attainable by all people. New Age guru Benjamin Creme, in his work entitled “The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom,” writes that, “Christ is not God, he is not coming as God. He is an embodiment of an aspect of God, the love aspect of God. He is the embodied soul of all creation. He embodies the energy which is a consciousness aspect of the Being we call God.” (P. 135).
Catholics and other Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, True God and True Man Who came to Redeem us from our sins and to deliver us from the prince of this world. New Agers hold that Christ is merely an energy force - the basic evolutionary force within creation.
The Bishop of Worcester, The Most Rev. Robert McManus, is deserving of criticism for his decision to carry Sister Rupp’s books at his Chancery. Her writings will only serve to confuse some of the faithful. Even if the specific books being carried by the Chancery bookstore are not objectionable, readers will nevertheless be introduced to a woman whose ideas regarding spirituality (not to mention her attitude toward the Church’s hierarchy) are gravely disturbing.
If only the Diocese of Worcester could learn to be more demanding of itself. Without the critical sense, this is unlikely. It’s far more easy to deflect any criticism, no matter how constructive it may be, and to embrace complacency and a smug, self-satisfied attitude. But just as individual Catholics are required to be honest with themselves when preparing for the Sacrament of Penance, so too it is necessary for the spiritual health of a diocese for its leaders to embrace honesty and the spirit of self-examination.
The darkness spreads. The Man of Sin approaches.