The Search for the Spiritual and New Religious Movements

Monday, November 24 1997

Vatican City (CCCB) — Archbishop Maurice Couture, R.S.V., of Québec, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America, said the growing popularity of new religious movements reflects a spiritual quest involving “unfamiliar ways.”

Archbishop Couture, who is Primate of Canada, says “it is not uncommon for Catholics to adopt some of these more or less vague theories, unless they recognize specific elements incompatible with the Christian faith, for example, reincarnation.” The Quebec City Archbishop continued that the major challenge facing the Church with new religious movements is “directing the search for the spiritual toward a true encounter with the living Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Couture was intervening at the Special Assembly on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to No. 45 of the Instrumentum Laboris dealing with new religious movements. “The renewed popularity of spirituality in Canada in large measure is inspired by the esoteric, New Age, eastern methods of meditation and so on,” Archbishop Couture told the Synod delegates. “This social phenomenon presents the Church with four challenges,” he said. He listed those challenges as: 1) listening to the spiritual questions evident in new religious movements; 2) responding in a Christian way to today’s new religious movements; 3) opening the door to reconciliation with those who have left the Church to join a new religious movement; and 4) offering adequate assistance to those troubled by new religious movements.

He also indicated a distinction to be made when it comes to talking about new religious movements. He said there are those that merit being called religious while there are others that use a religious label as camouflage for commercial, ideological or pseudo-scientific interests.