I have much respect for the many Roman Catholic priests who have answered the call and dedicated themselves to their communities, sacrificing the joys of family life and physical companionship in the pursuit of vocation.
But occasionally one of these kindly men comes out with something which defies common sense, one such outburst in recent weeks being a declaration to the effect that as followers of Jesus Christ we should not partake in deeds that go against our religion, Accordingly, you should do not take part in yoga, thai chai or Reiki…Do not put your soul in jeopardy for the sake of these contemptible things.
A friend of mine, always quick to see the humour in any situation, promptly enquired if Jeopardy was situated somewhere between Purgatory and Limbo.
I believe the good father is way off the mark in his observations. Jeopardy has been shown in recent days to be where young children are happily playing on a beach and blown to kingdom come. Jeopardy is when a group of travellers sitting back in a passenger plane are hit by a missile before their bodies and belongings fall to earth in a hellish rain. Jeopardy is what faces homeless people sleeping on the streets of a reasonably prosperous modern country. Jeopardy has women trafficked and held in primitive bondage. Jeopardy meets out an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
I do not see people in jeopardy as they relax and seek physical mobility in a yoga class. Tai chi and Reiki seem every bit as innocent.
It is unfortunate that pronouncements such as this come out and find their way into the media when so many exhortations are waiting to be issued on the real injustices of the day, homelessness, hopelessness and the growing unacceptable gulf between the few who have so much and the many who have so little.
It does no credit to religion of any kind to see concentration focused on trivialities of this sort when the world is calling out for ethical guidance.
But if course this is none of my business as the good man’s urging for abstinence in these matters is not directed at me. Nevertheless I dislike seeing pronouncements which tend to bring religion into disrepute when over the centuries people look to religious advisors for guidance in matters of ethics.
Fortunately the Buddha offers advice when confronted with ideas which conflict with common sense which is said to translate as follows:
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
I can live with that.