Irish Bishop Says Yoga & Mindfulness Not Suitable for Catholic Schools

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Bishop Alphonse Cullinan, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in Ireland, has written a letter to all Catholic schools in his diocese to say that yoga and mindfulness are “not suitable for our parish school setting.”

The Irish Examiner is reporting on the letter which was sent on October 10 to all schools in his diocese to extend blessings for the new academic year and address questions about the popular practices that both originate in non-Christian religions.

“I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness,” he said in the letter.

“My question is – ‘Will they bring us closer to Christ, or replace him?’ Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not at religious education time.

“Regarding mindfulness, in a sense, it has been practiced in the Christian tradition since the beginning but Christian mindfulness is not mindlessness but is meditation based on Christ, emptying the mind of everything unnecessary so that we become aware of the presence and love of Christ,” the bishop wrote.

He went on to reference a homily from Pope Francis in 2015 in which the Holy Father made the point that “practices like yoga are not capable of opening our hearts up to God”.

“You can take a million courses in spirituality, a million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things but all of this will never be able to give you freedom,” Pope Francis said.

The Waterford News & Star contacted a number of schools in Waterford who confirmed that they received the letter, confirmed that both the teachers and the pupils practiced yoga and mindfulness at times, but refused to comment publicly about the Bishop’s comments.

The paper interviewed a local yoga instructor named John Stokes who suggested schools forget about religion and focus on the benefits of “spirituality” instead.

“Religious studies and Spirituality are not the same and should be kept separate,” Stokes said. “In an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress we should embrace practices like yoga, meditation and mindfulness. We should consider having an extra class added to the curriculum. Maybe call it Spirituality Studies.”

He goes on to tout yoga’s physical and mental health benefits and the “growing body” of research that proves yoga’s positive effects on children’s memory, focus, self-esteem, etc. Of course, he neglects to add that all exercise has positive effects on children – and adults for that matter – not just yoga.

Bishop Cullinan joins retired Bishop Fabian Bruskewicz of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska who warned Christians to “abstain from yoga” because of its Hindu roots that could place a person’s faith in unnecessary danger.

Bishop Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, also warned the faithful away from the practice of yoga because of its basis in pantheism and poses that were originally designed to invite a god/demon to union with them.

Several exorcists have also spoken about the dangers of the practice, such as Father Chad Ripperger, FSSP who has seen people become possessed as a result of practicing yoga.

Fr Jeremy Davies, the official exorcist for the Westminster archdiocese, warned against the practice of yoga: “Beware of any claims to mediate beneficial energies (e.g. Reiki)…any alternative therapy with its roots in Eastern religion… They are not harmless”, he insists.

Father Gabriele Amorth also said the practice of yoga is satanic and leads to evil.

While there are those who castigate anyone who opposes the introduction of non-Christian practices to the faithful and even dismisses them as “right wing” or “fanatical,” they are speaking in opposition to St. Paul who admonishes us to “resolve never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Rom 14:13). If what we are doing hurts [scandalizes] our brother, whether we agree with them or not, we should refrain from the practice. Otherwise, our conduct is no longer in accord with love.

As these wise shepherds claim, there are plenty of safer forms of exercise for our children than yoga, and Catholic meditation can be even more calming and anxiety-reducing than eastern forms.

Let’s support these brave bishops for defending our right to live like Catholics!

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