Thursday, 19 January 2006

Is the Catholic Church promoting RMT in Australia?

Recovered memory therapy has been evolving in an unexpected way.
In its new form, Theophostic counselling, it is rapidly capturing the imagination of Christian clergy and believers around the world.
According to its supporters: "...Theophostic Prayer Ministry is based both upon biblical and neurological principles. Since God created the mind and how it functions, God is the author of both..."
But some critics point out that "...Theophostic Ministry (TPM) shares most of its fundamental beliefs with recovered memory therapy (RMT)..."
These critics also observe that "...demonic possession, Satanic seduction, hearing the voice of Jesus, and seeing his image during therapy are normal parts of TPM therapy. The mainline mental health movement abandoned the possibility of spirit possession many generations ago..."
Others warn that it is spiritual deception.
One Theophostic enthusiast, John A. Speyrer, claims that most practitioners have previously been from fundamentalist Protestant denominations "...however, an increasing number of Catholic and Episcopal Theophostic ministries are beginning to recognise its usefulness..."
And there are signs that mainstream Catholic groups have been putting a toe in the water as well.
For example, the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Michigan, USA, has been advertising a ...weekend of Inner Healing, Charismatic Prayer, and Theophostic Ministry. This is a Charismatic Weekend. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, one seeks healing from emotional or spiritual wounds. There will be Eucharist and Reconciliation and time for personal prayer and reflection. Experienced teams of healers will be available as well as those trained in theophostic healing prayer...
(The listing has since been revised to remove any Theophostic references, but the retreat program itself appears essentially unchanged.)
It should be noted that the Jesuits are an elite, intellectual order within the Catholic Church. They have been called the footsoldiers of the Pope, and as such, are considered highly influential.
If they’re seen to be experimenting with Theophostic methods, it’s likely that many Catholics would perceive this as an endorsement – "if the Jesuits reckon it’s okay, then why don’t we run a few Theophostic workshops in our parish…"
Of course, it could simply be the case that one Jesuit organisation in America is straying off the approved path.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the Catholic Church in Australia is going to start wholeheartedly embracing Theophostic counselling.
But for Catholics everywhere, alarm bells should be ringing.
Once the idea of 'recovered memories of abuse' takes hold within a group of people or an organisation, there are potentially very serious problems. It becomes very difficult to make the idea – or the 'recovered memories' themselves – go away.
It's not inconceivable that at least some church-endorsed Theophostic retreats or workshops have been conducted in Australia already.
One influential Australian Catholic who needs to focus his attention on these new developments is Tony Abbott, the Federal Health Minister.
Mr Abbott should, by now, be well aware of the great harm that has been caused to Australian families – and to the community – by RMT in its ‘traditional’ form.
RMT's toxic side effects have been well documented – and governments should be working together to prevent its practice by unregulated therapists (or even in some cases by government-sponsored counsellors in Community Health Centres).
Mr Abbott should be extremely concerned about rise of Theophostic ideas, and the effects of this new 'religious' interpretation of RMT.
For it may have long-term implications for the health of his Church, its followers, and the community at large.
It's certainly a matter that he should be raising with his confidant and confessor, Cardinal George Pell.
Much is at stake: Mr Abbott needs to ask Dr Pell some very tough questions indeed.

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