Sunday, 13 December 2009
My last post, '1 in 5 Christians Believe in Reincarnation', prompted a question from an American reader, Phil, regarding the extent to which the sort of neo-Gnosticism that has existed in the US under different guises over the centuries since 1776 had penetrated Australia.
Generally speaking, Australia is not fertile ground for new religious movements, although there are some notable exceptions which, however, only tend to prove the rule. The 'hothouse' religious atmosphere of the US, where a significant new religious movement seems to spring up every decade or so, is certainly not replicated here. That suggests to me that neo-Gnostic movements in Australia might need to be parasitic on already existing religious institutions if they are to successfully infiltrate Australian society (I don't mean to suggest a conspiracy on the human level is operative here, only that neo-Gnosticism is 'in the air' and spreading like a virus. Of course, there most definitely is a spiritual conspiracy behind this).
Prime candidates for such 'infiltration' would seem to be the mainstream Christian churches in which Biblical and creedal authority has been weakened by decades of use of the historical-critical methods of Bible interpretation (most particularly sachkritik, loosely translated as 'content criticism', in which the 'enlightened' modern interpreter sits in judgment on the content of a Biblical text) and liberal theology generally. In Australia that means primarily the Uniting Church, a body formed in 1977 from de-confessionalised Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists, and, perhaps surprisingly to some readers, the Roman Catholic Church, which in Australia has been ravaged by liberalism in the post-Vatican II period.
Click on the post title to read an article by a conservative Australian Catholic commentator on the now infamous case of St Mary's Catholic parish in my hometown of Brisbane, Queensland, for an insight into the nature of neo-Gnosticism in Roman Catholic circles in Australia. Then reflect on the fact that St Mary's is but a high-profile example of something that is happening quietly in countless parishes across this archdiocese, and has been for decades. My personal observation of this archdiocese suggests to me that it serves as one of the most advanced examples of the infiltration of neo-Gnosticism into a mainstream church in the world, and as an example of the disintegration of Roman Catholic culture, I think it parallels what happened in the Netherlands and Quebec.
The irony in this particular case is that the Archbishop who finally, after prompting from the Vatican, exercised church discipline against the priests involved, has himself dabbled in Buddhism, etc, for decades, and is regarded by those same priests as something of a 'grey eminence' in the movement.
All church bodies in Australia and elsewhere must observe and learn from this example. And yes, the photo does show a Catholic Mass in a Buddhist temple.