The Problem with Sister Joyce Rupp

We have received several questions regarding the orthodoxy of a Servite nun and author named Joyce Rupp who is a popular speaker on the Catholic retreat circuit these days. The following information should prove helpful.

There are some very serious issues with Sister Rupp.

Let’s begin with her authorship of several books about a quasi-divine entity named Sophia, which she describes in her article “Desperately Seeking Sophia” as being “another word for the radiant presence of the Holy One.” Sophia is supposedly derived from the Greek translation of the word “wisdom” in Scripture – which is Hagia Sophia.

Rupp treats Sophia as a kind of goddess of inner wisdom in her books, and even admits to struggling with the question of whether or not Sophia is Divine. Apparently, she never really answers that question for herself because although she refers to Sophia as another name for God, she treats this “person” as someone we’re supposed to discover, open ourselves to, pray to and turn to for all our needs in life – sort of like what most of us do with God.

“I count on Sophia to influence my attitudes, values, and beliefs, to help me make good choices and decisions,” she writes. “I pray to her each day to guide me as I try to reflect her love in all I am and all I do. Whenever I am in doubt as to how to proceed in my work and relationships, I turn to Sophia for wisdom and courage. She has never failed to be there for me.”

This very troublesome presentation of God, which could easily lead those of weak faith into idolatry, comes from Rupp’s own dislike of Church hierarchy, something she does nothing to hide. For instance, this edited acceptance speech for a 2011 U.S. Catholic Award reeks with anger at the Church for the way she perceives it to be treating women.

That she is heavily invested in the New Age is beyond doubt. First, it should be noted that she holds a degree in transpersonal psychology from the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology describes transpersonal psychology as “the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness” (Lajoie and Shapiro, 1992:91).

If this definition sounds a bit “iffy” – it is! Transpersonal psychology, which attempts to bridge the gap between science and spirituality, has received no serious recognition from the scientific community and was described by the authors of the Pontifical document, “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life” as “the classic approach to the New Age.”

It’s interesting to note that the Institute where Sr. Rupp received this “prestigious” degree also offers classes in shamanism, the goddess, ESP and Eastern spirituality.

Sr. Rupp is also known to speak at conferences where occult practices are featured, such as the 27th Annual Women and Spirituality Conference that was held in 2008 at the Minnesota State University-Mankato. During this conference, classes were offered in tarot, astrology, communicating with the dead, yoga and psychic powers.

In the 2020 celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination, Sr. Rupp’s Magnificat to the God of Dawn, in which she refers to God as “she” is included in the program.

In this video by Catholic Apologist and speaker Bryan Mercier, he details the many problems with the writings of Joyce Rupp, which he says are mostly filled with teachings that are drawn from a wide variety of non-Christian spiritualities.

For example, he cites a prayer which she addresses to the spirits of the north, south, east and west. “The reality is that this is Native American spirituality and even pagan spirituality is known for praying to the north, south, east, and west,” Mercier says. “For her to be pulling from all these different sources that are against the Catholic Church is extremely problematic.”

He is also concerned with how openly she admits that she is trying to expand our awareness of who God is. To do this, she pulls from different religions, “Including one prayer in which she addresses God as ‘the spinning woman god…whatever that means,” Mercier said.

There’s much more that could be written about Sister Joyce Rupp, but I think you get the idea. Regardless of how popular she is, or how many books she write and sells, anyone who is looking for authentic Catholic mysticism won’t find it in the works of this sister.

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