Bishop cautions against yoga, saying it conflicts with Catholic doctrine – Michael O’Connor

Michael O'Connor“The blog also quotes from the bishop’s letter that ‘Certainly, if one wants to engage in physical exercises to strengthen one’s body, such a practice would be morally neutral, and would not, in itself, involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith. However, the practice of yoga most often, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters, that are distant from Catholic truth, and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation.'” – Michael O’Connor

Fabian BruskewitzCatholics are used to debates over issues like birth control and divorce.

But what about yoga?

Retired Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz stirred up debate this month with a letter he wrote to Women of Grace, a Florida-based Catholic organization.

The organization wrote a blog post that says the letter advised “Catholics to steer clear of yoga because of its basis in Hinduism and to take up other methods of exercise that don’t place the faith in unnecessary danger.”

Women of Grace describes itself as Catholic apostolate “whose mission is to transform the world one woman at a time.” The organization lists Bruskewitz as a member of its board of directors.

J.D. Flynn, spokesman for the Diocese of Lincoln, said Friday that Bruskewitz was not available for comment. The diocese declined to provide a copy of the bishop’s letter.

Flynn said that the diocese has not disputed the blog or how it quoted the bishop’s letter.

Flynn said the bishop’s comments are “drawn from the Church’s teaching on Eastern religion and Eastern meditation practices.”

“Those practices are different from Christianity and come from a different philosophical perspective,” Flynn said.

Bruskewitz retired from the Diocese of Lincoln in 2012. During his 20 years leading the diocese, he developed a national reputation as a traditionalist in the church.

Prof Eileen Burke-SullivanEileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, said Bruskewitz’s comments on Catholics doing yoga reflect a “very traditionalist position not part of mainstream Catholic teaching today.”

“I know of very few Catholic bishops who would take this kind of posture,” she said.

She said yoga as practiced in the United States generally has been stripped of its religious aspects.

The blog also quotes from the letter that “Certainly, if one wants to engage in physical exercises to strengthen one’s body, such a practice would be morally neutral, and would not, in itself, involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith. However, the practice of yoga most often, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters, that are distant from Catholic truth, and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation.”

Jagdish Nijhawan, a founding member of Omaha’s Hindu Temple, said that while yoga historically has ties to Hinduism, it has become, for most Americans who practice it, a form of exercise and a way to become peaceful and relaxed.

Elaine Ayers, a Omaha Catholic, said she started doing yoga five years ago to build muscle and relieve chronic shoulder and neck pain.

“My commitment to yoga is a physical one, not a spiritual practice,” said Ayers, who teaches at Creighton Prep. “I don’t feel at all conflicted between my life as a Catholic and somebody who practices yoga.” – Omaha.com, 29 May 2015

» Michael O’Connor writes human interest reports for the Omaha World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska.

Omaha Hindu Temple

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