A few weeks ago there was a flurry of news around the rather sensational comments made by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, on the diabolical influence in both the Harry Potter series and in the practice of yoga. See for instance the version given at UCA News (a Catholic website in East Asia). I do not know Fr. Amorth, and could not discover on the web an exact transcript of his remarks, and so have been hesitant to comment. Many have, and there is no lack of comments about his comments, on the web.
Many are merely repetitive and seem singularly ill-informed. Some come from more educated Christians who refer to the Church’s record of suspicions about yoga – as in Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1989 letter worrying about the indiscriminate borrowing of Asian spiritualities, or the Vatican document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life – while some come from thoughtful yoga practitioners who, whether Christian or not, fail to see what Satan has to do with yoga.Enough has been said, it seems. But I have been asked both by friends and relatives, and by Hindus in India, about the meaning and significance of the attack on yoga. I think it simplest to make a short series of comments, sketched here and none fully developed (we are at the end of the semester, after all…) First, mere recriminations against the religion of another are just about never acceptable or useful.
No Catholic likes it if the Eucharist is written off as merely “priestcraft” or “patriarchal machinations” or even the venerable “hocus pocus,” and it is hard to imagine that it helps in any way to burden the millennia-old theory and practice of yoga with the deadly charge of being Satanic.And it is a really bad idea to insult a nearly billion Hindus – who see Hinduism as having a special affinity to yoga – by charges of Satanism that echo centuries of heated Christian attacks on Hinduism, and
I hope Church leaders in Rome have instructed Fr. Amorth not to make such sweeping charges. Second, if one is a professional exorcist, one may indeed see everything in light of that profession, and so it is not surprising that Fr. Amorth sees the devil at work everywhere;perhaps it is his default explanation of the woes that afflict us. Others might appeal to literary or philosophical measures of worth, but the exorcist sees things in his own way. To others this will seem odd, exaggerated, and this is all the more reason to be careful when speaking to a wider audience who do not share one's profession or expertise, but see the world through other legitimate lenses.
The Standard of Satan by St. Ignatius of Loyola, S.J. (here)
The Standard of Christ by St. Ignatius of Loyola, S.J. (here)
Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. on Yoga (here)
Fr. John Hardon, S.J. on Yoga (here)
Sacred Cows Make The Best Hamburgers (here)