Father Paolo Scarafoni of the Academy of Theology
ROME, 2 MARCH 2004 (ZENIT).
for spirituality and a good dose of distress can even lead Catholics to the New
Age, says a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology.
The Church can counter that phenomenon, says Legionary Father Paolo Scarafoni,
by proclaiming Jesus Christ "living and risen," "whose person has greater
fascination than any other" and who fills life with meaning.
Father Scarafoni, who is also rector of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical
Athenaeum, was one of the speakers at last Friday's worldwide videoconference on
"The Church, New Age and Sects," organized by the Congregation for Clergy (www.clerus.org).
"New Age does not consider original sin and tends not to consider man's sin and,
therefore, not to make man responsible for his actions," Father Scarafoni
explains in this interview with ZENIT. "New Age is nourished by Jung's
psychology, whose approach is clearly anti-Christian."
Despite its name, New Age ideas "derive from ancient religions and cultures.
What is genuinely new is the conscious search for an alternative to Western
culture and its Judeo-Christian roots," the priest says, referring to the
document of the pontifical councils for culture
and for interreligious dialogue: "Jesus Christ, Bearer of Living Water: A
Christian Reflection on the New Age."
Q: How can the success of New Age be explained, even among Christians and
Father Scarafoni: It depends at least on three elements: an essential element in
the yearning for spirituality and prayer; an existential element
the desire to be rid of the distress that many experience in present-day Western
society, which does not guarantee stability or a future; and a psychological
element, that is, the proposal of a spirituality that springs from the encounter
between esoteric culture and psychology to verify the transformation and peace
obtained through techniques.
Q: How does New Age propose peace to escape from the division and distress of
Father Scarafoni: In several ways
all far from the Christian experience. The fad of trips to India; the search for
mystical experiences; the experience of drugs that produce states of
consciousness that enable one to perceive the unity of reality; "sexual
mysticism," which would allow for profoundly loving relations only after full
liberation from sexual taboos; recourse to esoteric traditions
Gnosticism, alchemy, astrology, magic, spiritism, witchcraft, religions oriented
to mystery; Satanism and occult sciences. Crystal-therapy is very widespread.
Some New Age books argue that crystals have a hidden intelligence capable of
influencing our lives, and they teach how to enter into contact with their
Q: Followers of New Age often talk about the angels.
Father Scarafoni: There is a genuine fixation with angels, which the followers
of Aquarius see everywhere.
But their angels have nothing in common with those of Christians. They have
strange names and powers similar to those of talismans and amulets. To them are
added many other popular figures of the New Age, such as "guiding spirits" and
Q: Peace and happiness are the feelings New Age proposes.
Father Scarafoni: It's true, but they are aspirations whose way of fulfillment
goes against the Catholic Church.
The conclusions shared by these and other ways of searching for peace and
happiness are: the need to abolish truths and dogmas that break and divide the
vision of reality, and refuge in intuition and in the irrational mysterious; the
need to suppress churches or forms of stable organization of religions,
especially the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; the search for a new mysticism
accessible to all.
Q: Of what does the new mysticism consist, which they propose?
Father Scarafoni: The new mysticism, also practiced by many Catholics, is
nourished by the most varied traditions of prayer, especially Eastern.
It rejects the vision of a transcendent God, separated and far from us. It
provides for inner purification, signs and wonders, a phase of interior
emptiness and, finally the attainment of an encounter with "oneself," the real
self, which is one with God, with the universe, and with all that exists.
Q: How does the Church plan to address the challenge posed by this movement?
Father Scarafoni: The pastoral principles to address the New Age phenomenon are:
the confident presentation of the relation between faith and reason; the school
of Christian prayer and of active participation in the sacraments, appealing
also to the great tradition of the Christian heritage; the proclamation of Jesus
Christ, living and risen and at present in communication with us, whose person
has a fascination that is greater than any other and whose presence fills with
meaning the life of every man; the view of the world as creation that is loved
by God, Creator, and that is led to fulfillment by him.