Discussing Oprah and Tolle

Here is my initial e-mail response to the contributor who raised questions about my article on Oprah and Tolle. Following that is the contributor’s e-mail response. Isn’t it wonderful when people can truly dialogue?! I intend to comment on Richard Rohr’s essay on Tolle in the days to come. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers who provide us with God’s compassionate and steadfast love!

 -N-, thanks for your e-mail and for engaging in discussion about Oprah and Tolle. I especially appreciate the attachment from Richard Rohr who is one of my favorites. Can you tell me where this piece from Rohr appeared?

I would like to include your e-mail (anonymously) in my next post with a link to Rohr’s piece and allow people to take that in and then respond over the next couple of days.

Initially, let me say this. I’m disappointed that you found my article condemning because nowhere do I condemn them. The first thing I do is give Oprah credit and thanks. Then, I clarify, pointing out conflicts with Catholic spirituality. Nowhere do I claim that Oprah and Tolle are anti-Christian or anti-Catholic. Rather, I point out that their assurrances of total compatibility with Christianity and Catholicism must be taken with caution. Rohr himself indicates that, “there should be no conflict for a mature Christian.”  However, we cannot assume that all Christians who are pursuing Oprah and Tolle are mature in their spirituality. Rohr is at a level of spirituality (much like Ghandi) where he recognizes the oneness of everything. Many are, as St. Paul said, “infants in Christ” (see 1Cor. 3:1-3). Without spiritual maturity, one can easily succumb to relativism which is not the same as recognizing the oneness of everything. In the end, my article is a lament that the Church is not doing a better job of doing what Oprah and Tolle are succeeding at (see the last 2 paragraphs of my article).

For all of these reasons, I am happy to engage in conversation with you. I’m not interested in telling people what to think…I’m just trying to get them to think! Thanks for writing. -joe

Hi Joe,   I stand corrected.. . .  .     .  thank God!   

I over reacted.  There seems to be so few items that get through to engage the general public on a spiritual level that I’m overjoyed when even my Saturday morning “hair-bender” can excitedly talk about the book and watches the series on the internet with interest and a willingness to engage what she has heard.    If only our Bishops could catch the general public’s interest with like topics.  It’s really sad when only an “Oprah” type of public figure has the standing with a large chunk of the American public to be able to even present topics such as this – and seemingly get folk’s attention and to talk openly to others about what they have been experiencing from this series of talks by Oprah and Tolle.   

I agree with, it’s not optimal – but it appears Tolle is onto something and given the maturity level of spirituality with the general public, it’s worth discussing.    



About Joe Paprocki 2756 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

4 Comments on Discussing Oprah and Tolle

  1. Joe
    After reading both your article and the Rohr article on Tolle I had just a few thoughts.
    I believe I tend to agree with your concern about Tolle’s popular appeal among those without “mature” faith.

    1 thing from the Richard Rhor article that I found particularly troubling was his quote that “He (Tolle) is teaching process not doctrine or dogma.” How hollow and empty to have a process without connecting to a specific meaning. It seems to me that the 2 simply can not be separated. The Sacramental vision that is at the very foundation of our Catholic Christianity does not just call us to recognize generic value in our daily experience. It calls us to recognize that our lives have meaning because of the presence of a God who loves us and wishes to have a personal relationship with us thru the world around us.

    Is our goal as Christians to be “

  2. Maura, thanks so much for your comments. It hits the nail on the head as far as what I wanted to say about Rohr’s article. So much so that I am pasting your comments into my post today to speak for me! Thanks!

  3. Dear Joe,

    As I read your blog I am concerned as a Catholic and as a catechst to hear you articulate Fr. Rohr’s spirituality as seeing the “oneness of everything”. My concern is that this seems to be very close to the philisophical idea of Pantheism. Pantheism as defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia is as follows: “the view according to which God and the world are one. The name pantheist was introduced by John Toland (1670-1722) in his “Socinianism truly Stated” (1705), while pantheism was first used by his opponent Fay in “Defensio Religionis” (1709). Toland published his “Pantheisticon” in 1732. The doctrine itself goes back to the early Indian philosophy; it appears during the course of history in a great variety of forms, and it enters into or draws support from so many other systems that, as Professor Flint says (“Antitheistic Theories”, 334), “there is probably no pure pantheism”. Taken in the strictest sense, i.e. as identifying God and the world, Pantheism is simply Atheism.”

    I’m not sure if Fr. Rohr’s ideas are pantheistic, but the way you describe his spirituality and connecting his depth to Ghandi (a hindu) is problematic when speak of Catholic Spirituality.

    Sincerely in Christ,

  4. William, thanks for your comments. Fr. Rohr is often accused of bordering on Pantheism. I like Fr. Rohr but I didn’t say anything about promoting his approach to spirituality in our catechesis. On the contrary, I was warning about his approach which, for the average Catholic, can be very misleading and confusing. I can like somebody and still find fault with some of the things they say. I like Richard Rohr a lot but I don’t agree with everything he says. I like Ghandi a lot too. I like a lot of Hindus. That doesn’t mean that I equate Hindu spirituality with Catholic spirituality. As for recognizing the oneness of everything, don’t be so quick to jump to the conclusion that it must be equated with everything. Saint Ignatius of Loyola spoke eloquently about “finding God in all things.” This does not mean equating God with the world but recognizing that all of creation reflects the grandeur of God. It’s important to pay attention to these nuances. The realm of spirituality is not so “black and white” and “cut and dry.” Much of our language, when talking about spirituality, borders on poetic, not scientific.

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