12 November 2006

Goofy Theology of "The Monastery"

Anyone else watching The Monastery? I saw just about 45 minutes of it tonight and I was struck by the superficiality of the monks' theology! Just about everything the abbot said was New Agey psychobabble. The Asian monk was speaking Buddhist with a Berekely accent. And Br. Gabriel actually said to the big whiney ex-Catholic, "It's like God needs us." What?! The only one I heard tonight that sounded remotely Catholic was the hermit, Br. Xavier. I have to admit that this is the first time I've seen this show. I haven't seen anything about it on the blogs. Is there anyone out there watching this show and critiquing the goofy theology these guys are preaching?


  1. "A Catholic Life" has been blogging the series, but has concentrated mainly on the participants and he is rather critical of the show.

  2. I completely agree with your words posted here and on the comment's section of my blog. I plan to write a similar post later today.

    I stayed in a Benedictine monastery for several days over teh summer and loved it. It, however, seems that some monasteries are getting too far into the New Age movement. The monastery I visited in Conception, MO was wonderful and actually talked about God - not like the abbot from "The Monastery".

  3. I watched part of it last night, found it to be strange and turned my attention elsewhere. Maybe I'll pay more attention the next time it's on and post my rant on it.

  4. I knew that some of the OSB sisters had gone the way of new-agey gobbledeegook, but I didn't know that some of the monks had as well. Too bad.

  5. Anonymous11:44 AM

    I think it might have helped to watch the show from the start. It is not as bad as some of the quotes you have pulled out. How about Br. Gabriel tell the ex-catholic his marriage was not recognized by the Church? The Abbot explained why he has not yet started talking about God in the way we would expect. Things could be much much worse.

  6. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Have we forgotten the axiom that "grace builds on nature"? Abbot Phillip is doing the best he can given what little "nature" he has to work with in those participants.

  7. Alcuin,

    Grace does build on nature. But I fail to see the grace. Please understand, I saw only one episode of the show...and I admit that this is prejudicing my view. However, in the Catholic monastery one would expect to hear the abbot saying things like, "God takes us where we are and builds us up with our help." In the episode I saw, the abbot was speaking pure 1981 psychobabble. I spent five years working in a variety of psych hospitals, rehab facilities, and group homes. I know psychobabble when I hear it. I understand that the abbot has to meet them where they are in their spiritual growth, but using the language he does he only reinforces the narcissism of yuppie spiritual tourism. John, in particular, is a great example of this.

    Thanks for the comment...Fr. Philip, OP

  8. Anonymous7:47 AM

    Fr. Philip,
    True, a little more "vertical" language would be nice. But it's important to remember that these shows are heavily edited. The monks don't have the final say as to what ends up in the broadcast. They themselves may be cringing at what's being left out. Also, the participants are present at the Liturgy seven times each day. Perhaps the abbot is hoping that this will spark a sense of the Transcendent in them. Who knows? I do know, however, that Abbot Philip is unimpeachable in his orthodoxy. Christ in the Desert is the daughterhouse of the monastery I used to belong to, and Abbot Philip was our guest on several occasions.

  9. Alcuin,

    Maybe I'm holding the abbot to St Dominic's standard of discourse: "Speak only to or about God!" I'll watch again and possibly cut him some slack...

    Fr. Philip

  10. Anonymous7:38 PM

    I've been blogging it and think it's awful: