Pope Francis has caused quite a stir for being “liberal” on subjects the Catholic Church is traditionally conservative or silent about, like homosexuality and feminism. So commenting on yoga was the only obvious next step in his liberal agenda. But did he go ahead and diss it? In a January 9th Vatican Radio address, Pope Francis spoketh:
“You can follow thousands of catechism courses, thousands of spirituality courses, thousands of yoga or zen courses and all these things,” his papalsty said. “But none of this will be able to give you the freedom as a child (of God). Only the Holy Spirit can prompt your heart to say ‘Father.’ Only the Holy Spirit is capable of banishing, of breaking that hardness of heart and making it … ‘docile’. Docile towards the Lord. Docile when it comes to the freedom to love.”
The gist of his address was more or less that obstructions like vanity, narcissism and insecurities lead us to a hardened heart, and even super religious or pious devotees can seem free and open to love but they’re actually hardened of heart “religious narcissists” who are “closed in on themselves,” because they haven’t let in the Holy Spirit.
So no amount of yoga classes or meditation can open us up to love and free our hearts – only the Holy Spirit can, etc. It’s a subtle diss, but a diss nonetheless, though more or less innocuous. But some folks have taken his words and twisted them to suit their own agenda. His Popeness also mentioned that tons of catechism classes won’t do it either, but nevermind that. What some people actually heard was – The Pope says don’t practice yoga, it’s evil!
On February 8, almost on cue, a Catholic priest in Northern Ireland preached about the connection between yoga and Satanism citing the Pope’s words as his source material. Reverand Roland Colhoun told his congregation that practicing yoga would lead to the unsavory “Kingdom of Darkness.”
Quoted in the Derry Journal, Calhoun went on to expand on this Satanic-Yogaism:
“Pope Francis said ‘do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes’. Yoga is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk,” he told the Derry Journal.
Translation: This “spiritual health risk” is basically Satanic demons seeping into your soul and damning you to hell during yoga.
“The bad spirit can be communicated in a variety of ways,” Colhoun added. “I’m not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly, but there’s always a risk and that’s why the Pope mentioned it and that’s why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear.”
Oh, we’re scared, all right. We should note we know this is not the collective thought of the entire Catholic Church and not all Christians think yoga is on par with voodoo, but when the Pope speaketh, people listen, and some will hear what they want to hear.
In response to Rev. Calhoun’s completely twisted perspective, a group of Hindus have spoken out in objection calling for Pope Francis to step in and set the record straight as only the Pope can. Led by Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, the group is combating Calhoun’s message and the general yogaphobia that’s been occurring within certain religious groups who’ve said the practice has to do with evil demons and spooky spirits. (For real.)
Mr. Zed, who is THE go-to Hindu spokesperson, noted in a statement that the Vatican Library itself actually has various yoga-related books and ancient texts. He added that yoga, “although introduced and nourished by Hinduism,” was a “world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all.”