Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Encountering the Living Christ – “OM NAMAH SHIVAYA”

The case against Peter Phan author of the book "Being Religious Interreligiously"
by Paul Dion, STL

Below is an excerpt from a flyer distributed to participants last September during "Catechist Day" at a parish we will keep unnamed. Oh yes, the parish is very real, and this story we are sharing really did happen.

ST. "It will remain unnamed" CHURCH

INTRODUCTION: We meet Christ with joy in our Creation and in each other. Jesus is here, we welcome Him as we journey together in prayer.
+In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(The eternal name of God, being one with His Creation)

Huh? "I bow to Shiva." That's how OM NAMAH SHIVAYA really translates to English.

Some months ago (May, 2007) presented some very clear teachings in line with the official position of the church regarding yoga, New Age and other ancient Asian spiritualities (theosophies). At that time we quoted extensively from a document that had been presented to the Holy See making the point that these ancient Asian spiritualities are at odds with Catholicism. You may refresh your memory by clicking here.

Also at about that time, a Jesuit professor at Georgetown University (Peter Phan) was being investigated by the Holy See because it was then, and still is, suspected that his assertions in his writings are at odds with Catholic doctrine. Specifically there is one book of his that in under very close scrutiny. It is entitled "Being Religious Interreligiously".

In this work Father Phan places several daring propositions on the table, all of which come close to being against Catholic doctrine. They are so close to being erroneous that they have caused the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to put out a statement warning Catholics that "Being Religious Interreligiously" presents Catholic doctrine in a downright confusing fashion and could easily lead the reader into error. This is the link to the USCCB document.

You can also click here to view a news article about the USCCB rebuke of Fr. Phan's assertions in his book.

Why? How?


In the interest of brevity, we will just quote three areas of concern in the thinking of Peter Phan as elucidated by the USCCB.


"In contemporary theological reflection there often emerges an approach to Jesus of Nazareth that considers him a particular, finite, historical figure, who reveals the divine not in an exclusive way, but in a way complementary with other revelatory and salvific figures. The Infinite, the Absolute, the Ultimate Mystery of God would thus manifest itself to humanity in many ways and in many historical figures: Jesus of Nazareth would be one of these." (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus: Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (6 August 2000)
Click here for referenced Vatican document.

Against such a misrepresentation, Dominus Iesus declares: "These theses are in profound conflict with the Christian faith. The doctrine of faith must be firmly believed which proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, and he alone, is the Son and the Word of the Father." (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, no. 10.)

2. THE SALVIFIC SIGNIFICANCE OF NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS (Phan seems to downplay the significance of the Church and overplay the significance of other religions, particularly Asian ones.)

"The Church affirms that non-Christian religions do in fact possess certain elements of truth. Every human being possesses an innate desire to know God, who is the common end and origin of the human race. Those searching for God in other religions have established ways of living and formulated teachings that "often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men." The Church regards these elements of goodness and truth found in other religions as a preparation for the Gospel."

"Being Religious Interreligiously", however, rejects this teaching as an insufficient recognition of the salvific significance of non-Christian religions in themselves: The book defends the view that "the non-Christian religions possess an autonomous function in the history of salvation, different from that of Christianity," and that "they cannot be reduced to Christianity in terms of preparation and fulfillment."

3. THE CHURCH AS THE UNIQUE AND UNIVERSAL INSTRUMENT OF SALVATION (Phan seems to assert that the claim for her uniqueness and universality "should be abandoned altogether.)

Although "Being Religious Interreligiously" does not adequately uphold Jesus' singular and universal significance, it does maintain that one can and should present the claim for the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ in the context of interreligious dialogue, at least in a qualified form.39 As for the Church, however, it argues that the claim for her uniqueness and universality "should be abandoned altogether."

4. CONCLUSION OF THE USCCB (Click on USCCB - the link - for the entire document)

"While "Being Religious Interreligiously" addresses a number of issues that are crucial in the life of the contemporary Church, it contains certain pervading ambiguities and equivocations that could easily confuse or mislead the faithful, as well as statements that, unless properly clarified, are not in accord with Catholic teaching. Therefore we bishops as teachers of the faith are obliged to take action that will help ensure that the singularity of Jesus and the Church be perceived in all clarity and the universal salvific significance of what he has accomplished be acknowledged in the fullness of truth."


We are using the example of the "Catechist Day"event at our unnamed parish to drive home one important point - Jesus Christ is the unique and universal savior of all mankind and the Church is the unique and universal instrument of salvation. The USCCB statement reprimands Dr. Phan and those like him - including the leaders of this Catechist Day in question - for either consciously or unconsciously not abiding by the unique role that Christ and His Church play in mankind's salvation.

On the flyer that was distributed to the participants of the CATECHIST DAY mentioned in the header of this article, the mantra OM NAMAH SHIVAYAH appeared above a parenthetical statement which reads: "The Eternal name of God, being one with His Creation."

It is perhaps impossible from this distance to assert that this parenthetical is meant to translate the mantra. If it is, it is completely erroneous. The translation of the mantra is, "Bow down to Shiva."

And who is Shiva? How is he related to Christ? Shiva is a male god in the panoply of old Indian religions. He is the tough "hombre" known as the god of destruction. does not think that this is a fair representation of the stated theme of the CATECHIST DAY" "ENCOUNTERING THE LIVING CHRIST."

In the light of this confusion between Shiva and Christ, we cannot help but to ask ourselves what is meant by the statement, "The Eternal name of God, being one with His Creation." Does it mean that "God is one with His Creation?"

Does it mean, "would that the Eternal name of God be one with His Creation?" Does it mean that the Eternal name of God is "other" than God Himself?" Does this erroneous translation (paraphrase?) refer to Shiva or to Christ?

Finally, in the name of the axiom, "as we believe, so we pray" (Lex credendi; lex orandi) it seems to be fair to ask, "For whom was the CATECHIST DAY organized?" The followers of Shiva or the disciples of Christ? If the answer is for Christ, didn't the leaders of the "DAY" trust in the strength of the divinity of Christ to provide the grace needed to help His disciples "encounter" Him through prayer?

It also seems fair to ask, "Why go to ancient Asian deities and spiritualities when our tradition goes back at least 3,000 years including the Essenes?" "is there not enough fodder for mantras in the Psalms?" Maybe like psalm 42, "My soul thirsts for God"? Or maybe psalm 69, "Help me Lord, I'm up to my neck in the swamp!" Or maybe, Jesus on the Cross, "I thirst?"

Oh, sorry, you want something in a Middle Eastern language, you know, something exotic. Why not "Marana-tha!" Or, facing Jerusalem, "Hallel!" Maybe a little Greek would have worked nicely, "Kyrie Eleison?"


Incidents like this have been known to transpire in one form or another in many parishes worldwide over the years. And since is a global publication, we thought keeping the parish name "hypothetical" in this story would make for a more effective teaching opportunity. Who knows, it could very well happen - albeit unintentionally - in a parish close to yours.

We came to know about this specific event because some of our readers – a few of whom are personally known to us - were present at the event and they provided the facts discussed here. They were of Indian descent and understood what the mantra really meant. They were offended by this brazen insult to our Catholic Faith. They are dismayed at the fact that it happened during a spiritual event for catechists which was being led by delegates from the diocesan office. has covered this topic before. If you haven't done so yet, click here to refresh your memory.


And now, the bishops of the United States have joined the Holy See in sending out a warning about the confusion that exists in the minds of many about the relationship between Christ and other gods like Shiva.

Maybe the Catechist Day incident we described happened because the leaders were not fully aware of the meaning of the mantra they urged the participants to chant. We would like to think that is the case here. In any case, it is our hope that this article will drive our parish leaders to become more wary and aware of the true meaning of things before jumping into them.

We pray that you will heed the clarifications of the Holy See and the bishops of the United States and make them a part of your Catholic zeal. If you do, you will understand why you do not have to cry at my funeral.

CLICK HERE to view "Controversial Theologian Fr. Peter Phan rapped by Catholic bishops."

Post a Comment