RENEW’s connection with
the "New Age" movement is
clearly brought out in this article, written against a
RENEW: Rooted in Modernism and the "New Age" Movement
CORNELIA R. FERREIRA
RENEW is a programme developed under Newark's Archbishop Peter Gerety in 1978 in order to renew parishes by invovling parishioners in church and community. Extending over three and one-half years, RENEW offers "formation in prayer, community-building, justice, liturgy and evangelization".
Spreadng through North America and abroad, RENEW has been used in Ontario from the start. Montreal endorsed the programme in 1986, but according to Vice-Chancellor Monsignor Alan McCormack, although "permitted" in Toronto, there is "no Archdiocesan sponsorship or mandate for all parishes". Cardinal Ratzinger has indicated that Rome is studying the programme.
Claims by RENEW
RENEW raves about its success in building a more communal parish; taking "liturgical and homiletic preparations to new levels"; "calling forth unparalleled prayer" - "very possibly more, than at any previous point in time"; - and returning droves of inactive parishioners to church. Further claims are that the programme will develop new leaders for "parish ministries" and will be "a unifying force promoting compatibility between young and old, liberals and conservatives, and peoples of different cultures and languages". RENEW will heal family relationships and make people more concerned about social justice. It will also provide "a strong sense that the diocese is moving forward". Not only will "Church devotions sharply increase"; but so too will Sunday collections.[Introduction, RENEW :Large Group Activities, p. 7 ; Seven Questions about RENEW, p.6 ; and promotional pamphlets]
Such ambitions claims make one interested in studying the programme's philosophy and methodology before commitment. However, RENEW publications are not forthcoming. Neither the Canadian Office of RENEW nor the Toronto Coordinator could provide me with materials and I eventually obtained them from the publisher. Parish priests seem to sign up on the basis of "witness talks", whilst ignoring criticisms pouring in from priests and laity. These question RENEW's lack of Catholicity and promotion of Modernist error as well as its tampering with the Liturgy of the Mass (forbidden by Vatican II in Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22:30). Examples given include the rewriting of Mass prayers, encouragement to stand during the entire Eucharistic Prayer and to receive Holy Communion under both species at all Masses; and the incorporation of dance into the Liturgy.
Criticisms and Critique
Critics also note RENEW's promotion of Modernism and Marxist-leaning Socialism which seem incongruous in a programme of spiritual renewal. They also disapprove of RENEW's methodology as it involves Values Clarification and Sensitivity Training, techniques which lead to a loss of moral absolutes.
In December 1986, the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine issued a critique of RENEW. They too noted its "generic Christianity" - the lack of Catholic content; its presentation of the Church as a collection of faith communities rather than one structured, hierarchical community bound together by a faith based on Scripture and interpreted by the Magisterium; its promotion of lay ministries and downgrading of the priesthood; its "emphasis on experience as the locus of revelation", thus posing a threat to orthodoxy and unity; and its "preoccupation" with the Eucharist as a community meal, to the exclusion of its sacrifice and worship aspects. These errors are the tenets of Modernism, a heresy condemned by Pope Saint Pius X, that seeks to alter the Church.
RENEW and Christs Divinity
Looking for the reasons for the Bishop's criticisms, we find that, amongst other errors, RENEW indirectly denies Christ's divinity by portraying Him as struggling to solve problems.["Empowerment by the Spirit" RENEW:Home pp.26-27. This is the heresy of Nestorianism] Like Him, we must solve our problems by ourselves: "Our desire to be relieved of ... tensions causes us to create an image of (God) as a miracle worker who will come down from heaven if we cry loud enough and solve all the problems ... (Jesus) understood that it was His responsibility to grapple With (tensions) and try to shape a vision of a better world ... We must believe that we can shape our times..." [Ibid., p.26. This is the heresy of Pelagianism. Pope Pius X called Modernism "The synthesis of all heresies," so it is not surprising to find several heresies in Modernist RENEW.]
Further re-interpreting Jesus' Mission, RENEW's liberationist slant makes solving our problems by ourselves a Christian duty:
Note, firstly, the request for power, not assistance. Secondly, Christ came to liberate us from sin, not from human oppressors. Thirdly, He said that being His follower entails carrying one's cross and suffering with Him (Mk. 8:34-35). There seem to be only three fleeting references to the cross in RENEW, however, and even these are more in the context of the Resurrection than in the redemptive value of suffering.[RENEW: Pastoral Staffbook 2, p.26 ; Large Group, pp.108 and 69]
Christians must, of course, practise charity, helping one's neighbour, but this flows out of the love of God, which comes first. This love is shown by obedience to His will. "Concern for others" is not necessarily charity, as illustrated by the Small Group introduction which says: "The atmosphere should be ... warm and friendly. Ambiguity and difference of opinion should be accepted. There should be an openness to new ideas ... " True concern for the welfare of souls involves teaching the truths of the Catholic faith, which are unambiguous and unchanging!
RENEW is "sold" to parishes much like vacuum cleaners sold door-to-door. As described in the green Leadership Book [there are two Leadership Manuals, one red, the other green], at an overnight training session the "sales staff" (Core Group) sign a "Sacred Contract", pledging "to carry through the renewal programme". Contracts are offered up with the gifts at Mass, then returned to signers with the Commission, "go out and bear fruit that will last".[p.41] The coordinator is enjoined to keep RENEW moving forward when problems arise.[p.21] Since opposition is a "problem", is this why critics are often ostracized for being "negative" in spite of the open-mindedness the programme supposedly generates?
RENEW and the Parish Priest
Guideline Thoughts: The Priest and RENEW outlines how the parish priest can become redundant [see especially pp.1-4, 7-8]. First, the busy pastor is recruited by promises that RENEW will create "many new ministerial workers" to "relieve the already overburdened staff " and his contribution will return many to the sacraments. Then he is used as a salesman. A day's training motivates him to "communicate enthusiasm" to parishioners. After the programme starts, everyone will, "understand" if he is too busy to attend all events. At meetings he "need not feel the pressure of being an expert in Scripture or prayer" or of offering "verbal leadership". He should be an "ordinary member" rather than an "answer man" because RENEW is not so much a matter of determining the right and wrong of a series of theological questions, as much as it is an experience of sharing the faith (emphasis added).
Small Groups will supposedly convince the priest to co-operate in making himself less necessary as he will see "how effectively people can minister to one another." Further, in relating to group leaders,
With such a golden carrot dangled in front of him, it is not surprising if an overworked parish priest is tempted to relinquish his authority.
RENEW's Large-Group pseudo-liturgical rituals can also help reduce the priest's importance. Theatrical lighting and music and the use of symbols such as oil, bread, wine and (home-made) ashes in ceremonies that include blessings, anointings and processionals can make parishioners feel they are experiencing "authentic" liturgies without a priest.
RENEW's Socio-Political Outlook and Trend
The political agenda mentioned by critics is introduced in RENEW's green Leadership training manual. The Church "stands at the end of an age", it proclaims, and Vatican II brought it into a "new age". "The revolution is upon us and old ways of thinking and acting will no longer do." "Old age" characteristics include: "rugged individualism - every man for himself; power belonging to a minority."[p.5]
Now, individualism, the social theory underlying democracy, advocates the rights or free action of the individual, but the word "rugged" is used by its enemies to denigrate American democracy (which is built on Judeo-Christian principles). The opposite of individualism is collectivism which denies the divinely-ordained right to private ownership and leads to a collectivist theory of morality. Further, power inescapably belongs to a minority in every group or society - even Christ established a hierarchy for His Church - so disapproval of "minority power" actually is an attack on authority, giving significance to the word "revolution", used several times in this RENEW section.
RENEW's third semester ("Empowerment by the Spirit") develops the Leadership Book's non-spiritual agenda: the involvement of participants in political activism against perceived "injustices". One such "injustice" is women's "inequality" in the Church, so RENEW supports feminism. For example, mini-seminar topics "to heighten awareness which may result in an interest in changing unfair systems" include "Women's Rights" and "Sexual Minorities" (homo-sexuality?)".[Large Group, pp.148-49] A Prayer of the Faithful "experience" asks "That those whose human development is being stunted, due to sex or race discrimination, bring us to a greater realization of our Gospel mission…" with the response, "Give us the strength to make the church (sic) a model of equality."[Ibid., p.155]
Further, RENEW's list of ninety-three organisations to help one "strive to live justly" includes militantly pro-feminist groups like the Center for Concern, the Quixote Center, the Leadership Conference of Women (LCWR), the National Assembly of Women Religions, the Global Education Associates and NETWORK."[Ibid., p.168-74] The first five groups have actively supported all the radical Christian feminist conferences. The LCWR has also publicly supported the nuns who signed the 1984 pro-abortion New York Times advertisement, whilst NETWORK, the LCWR lobbying arm, has been promoting the political involvement of nuns as agents of social change. The Jesuit-sponsored Center for Concern and its spin-off, the Quixote Center, heavily promote women's ordination and other peace and justice issues, such as disarmament, "economic alternatives" and "social theology".
RENEW's Supposed "New Age" for the Church
Besides supporting radical Christian feminism, RENEW also attempts to restructure the Church by presenting sought-after changes as a fait accompli. The green Leadership Book says the Church in the "new age" is "changing in its understanding of dogma and structure". Seemingly, it no longer sees itself as an "organization"; its structure is changing to "authority as collegial"; its mission is "holiness, striving for justice and peace". This striving "must be equated with preaching the word (sic) of God and administering the sacrements"[p.6] (the priest's duties).
Pope John XXIII and Vatican II supposedly ushered in these "new age" changes, although Pope John, in his opening message to the Council, declared, "Under no circumstances may the Church turn away from the sacred patrimony handed down by our ancestors", i.e., change dogma or structure. The Council document Lumen Gentium [1, 18, 22], affirmed this position; re-confirmed the Church's divinely-instituted hierarchical nature; and re-stated that the episcopate only has authority if united with the Pope (no structural change in authority). The Church's mission is actually "proclaiming and spreading the Kingdom of Christ (already present in the faithful) and serving "as an instrument for the redemption of all" -redemption from sin.[see 2,3,5 and 9. Cf. Heb. 2 :17 and 7 :27]
Further, Lumen Gentium says holiness consists in obeying God.[see 41] Since this is done through His Church, those who disobey God's Magisterium cannot achieve holiness - is this why holiness gets redefined as "striving for justice and peace?" The dissident feminist movement, which claims a "justice-based spirituality", illustrates how, if "striving for justice" involves disobeying God, it generates discord, not holiness, and it can never be equated with the duties of the ministerial priesthood.
New-Age Movement and Global Revolutionary Stirring
There is a deeper dimension to RENEW's political agenda, made evident by its use of the term "new age" in the context of "revolution." In existence today is a growing revolutionary global stirring called the New Age movement because of its continual references to an enlightened New Age. Rooted in the occult and using sophisticated methods of mind control, it seeks the total destruction of Christianity and democracy and the establishment of a Luciferian world religion and a new world order - classless, except for its self-appointed rulers. It promises a just and peaceful world. Also known as futurism, the movement includes the tenets of secular humanism.
RENEW an Experiential Religion
Preaching that inner reform precedes social reform, New Age leaders use psychological "self-help" groups to facilitate their followers' entry into the occult. Experiental religion is vital to the movement. (Recall that RENEW uses group therapy-like techniques and, as the Bishops' critique noted, promotes experiential religion). Operating through a network of organisations, the movement recruits unsuspecting Catholics by using Christian-sounding language whilst also seeming to be very concerned with helping similar to RENEW's Leadership Book statements
The following lines from a New Age brochure are startingly similar to RENEW's Leadership Book statements:
The destruction of old attitudes equals their death, which, of course, is the necessary antecedent to pallbearers.
For the New-Age "Christ", Justice and Freedom Alone Suffice
Appealing to Christian sentiments, the brochure reports that the New-Age "Christ" (not Jesus) says he will "show men that the way forward requires only the acceptance of justice and freedom".
This "Christ" will "appear" when we "demonstrate our willingness to rebuild our world along more just lines through sharing and co-operation on an international scale".
The phrase, "a call to action", provides a RENEW-New Age linkage as in 1976 the American bishops sponsored "A Call to Action" conference (quoted by RENEW – "Empowerment, ibid., pp.23-4) which sought to create a democratic, classless Church in five years. One of the organizers of this conference was Archbishop Peter Gerety whose RENEW "process" was born two years later. The conference recommended women's ordination and married priests and the acceptance of abortion, homosexuality and Marxism. Considering anti-Communists statements "too negative", it yet blamed the Church and the United States for the world's problems.[Vincent J. Miceli, SJ, "Detroit: A Call to Revolution in the Church," Homiletic and Pastoral Review, March 1977]
RENEW and Promotion of New-Age Groups
Besides sharing New Age terrninology and philosophy, RENEW also promotes several well-known New Age groups through its organizational list, including the very important Bread for the World (BFTW). New Agers urge Christians to support BFTW, so half of the radical 1986 "Women in the Church" Conference's offertory collection went to this organisation. However, BFTW is not involved in hunger relief but only in creating global reserves and agencies to control the distribution of world assets to effect a new world order. Although aware of BFTW’s real goal,"["Empowerment," ibid., pp.23-4] RENEW nevertheless heavily promotes it as an example of its own agenda to move Catholics from "direct action" (the volunteer work characteristic of Christian charity) to "social change" (political action "to change unfair sytems").[In "Empowerment," Home, pp.10-25 and in other parts of RENEW]
Adam Finnerty: RENEW Contributor
One formally-acknowledged RENEW contributor is Adam Finnerty, a Quaker who was part of the Sixties' hippie/activist scene. His book, No More Plastic Jesus: Global Justice and Christian Lifestyle, is quoted extensively in Semester 3. Finnerty supports Fidel Castro and commends Red China’s collective systems. He tears down American governmental policy and the Christian Churches, blaming them for the world's ills; his solution is a global world order. Strangely, neither Finnerty nor RENEW mentions Russia's flagrant violations of justice and peace - which Our Lady of Fatima said would be the cause of the world's problems if her requests went unheeded.
Finnerty aligns himself with New Age leaders and organizations. He devotes a whole chapter to the World Servers, a pivotal New Age group, whom he describes as "catalysts" of the global justice movement and who "challenge institutions like the church". Not surprisingly, this brand of social justice appeals to Christian feminists and so arch-radical Rosemary Ruether praises Finnerty for showing Christians how to commit themselves "to creating a new world order".
Finnerty hopes his book will be "a call to action" (that phrase again!), bringing in "a multitude of new adherents to our movement". To facilitate this, he co-authored "The Shakertown Pledge", named after the Shaker sect which worshipped a bisexual God and believed in lives of "creative simplicity". RENEW furthers Finnerty's futurist goals by including the Shakertown Pledge in Semester 3.["Empowerment", Small Group Sharing Option 7, pp.20-21] Amongst other things, signers commit themselves, as Finnerty tells us, to give their wealth to groups working for "better standards of living for the deprived"; to personal renewal through any type of spiritual discipline, to participation in a faith community ; and to change economic systems. The New Age aim, promoted by Finnerty, is that we must "live simply", preferably commune-style, donating our money to organisations (seemingly) working for the poor; the Church should become propertyless. RENEW seems partial to this idea.[cf. Ibid., pp.9,20]
RENEW Tainted with Occultism
Since RENEW is tied to the occult-based New Age movement, it is not surprising to find it tainted with occultism – thinly disguised as "Christian". Without mentioning All Saints' Day, RENEW implies that a Holy Hour "activity" from 11pm to midnight on "All-Hallows Eve, October 31st", is a "vigil for an important feast". No such vigil exists in traditional Catholicity - but All Hallows Eve is a very important occult feastday. In a "Healing Prayer", participants are led step-by-step into the trance state to visualize themselves "healing" relationships.[Ibid., pp.144-45] Mastering the technique of visualizing is a necessity for those wishing occult success, according to Psychic Experience for You by Rodney Marsden, but since it involves the trance state, visualisation opens one to hypnotic suggestion and mind control. New agers use this method to recruit self-improvers, teaching that our thoughts create our world (thus deifying man).
This leads to the occult doctrine of "wholeness", central to a belief in the evolution of man toward his own deification. In a "Reconciliaton Service", RENEW states: "Personal hurts must be healed to free the disciple for his/her journey towards greater wholeness. This journey requires overcoming the fear of change in our lives . . ."[Ibid., p.207] Compare this with New Age leader David Spangler's sentiments on Lucifer:
Thus, acceptance of the doctrine of wholeness is one’s initiation into the Lucerific New Age, called by Spangler, "the age of man's wholeness".
RENEW's Hidden Intent: Our Answer
As RENEW itself states, the revolution is upon us. RENEW has the potential for making the vision of "The Call to Action" Conference a reality, producing a neo-Catholic Church that is independent of Rome. It is thought that replacement of objectionable material by correct doctrine would make the programme acceptable. However, even if it were possible to completely launder a programme fraught with error from beginning to end (in which case it would no longer be RENEW), the hidden intent of RENEW should make the programme inadmissible.
But why do we need RENEW? Our Lady of Fatima gave us God's precise plan for achieving world peace and ending world hunger, a plan involving "sound theology based on tradition … absolute union with the Pope … and deep interior devotion to Mary"[the Bishop of Fatima, as reported in Francis Johnston, Fatima : The Great Sign," TAN, 1980, p.93] Could a man-made programme, inimical to her Son's Church, ever be superior? We can indeed help transform the face of the earth - by embracing with humility the Queen of Peace’s programme for the conversion of self, Russia and the world.