A few years ago, I received an email from Iona University with their unmistakable letterhead which gave the impression that the university was sponsoring a retreat being sold by the pseudo-Buddhist “Schola Ministries”―a dubious and scurrilous organization that promoted “double-belonging”―the idea that one can be both Catholic and Buddhist simultaneously.
When I questioned Iona as to this alarming relationship, their representative assured me their letterhead was misappropriated. I believed them. However, I still wanted to get to the bottom of this charlatanism as the electronic brochure described the indoctrination “retreat” thusly:
This retreat offers the opportunity for us to deepen our experience of Christ as Buddha, as brothers and as spiritual teachers. Through the practice of mindfulness as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, we will explore our deep connection to both of these teachers. In the words of Catholic theologian Paul Knitter, we find greater strength and meaning through our experience of “double-belonging.”
First, it should be noted that “Catholic theologian Paul Knitter” is another ex-Catholic priest who advocates for the wonders of abortion and for the democratization of dogma—the belief that everyone should get a vote in what the Catholic Church believes.
The indoctrination “retreat” was led by Adrian Aloysius Stier, a native Minnesotan and a laicized Catholic priest, who pretentiously goes by the name “Dharma Teacher Thay Phap De.” (This name is Vietnamese for “young brother” and is, by his own admission, the negation of his former priestly title.) According to the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, Stier had been a priest for eight years before requesting laicization. After he left the priesthood, he worked with prisoners and ex-cons for five-years, as a real estate agent for ten years and as a stockbroker for fifteen-years. None of which qualifies him as a Buddhist priest or retreat master and, in fact, certainly raises many red flags, as these professions aren't ones one normally associates with “enlightenment.”
Stier became a “Buddhist monk” in July 2003 and was “ordained” [sic] a novice. He's a follower of Vietnamese “Zen Master” Thich Nhat Hanh who purportedly has written 100 books.
A charlatan led by yet another charlatan.
The first clue that I was dealing a charlatan was that he introduced himself as a “Zen Master.” Charlatans are always “masters” of something esoteric and exotic. It's the way they pump money out of people.
Charlatans never offer anything original—it's simply poorly understood, rehashed, recycled pseudo-spiritual, ostensibly “Asian” pablum good enough for yokels who refuse to read books on their own. They flash shiny objects and then congratulate you for “seeing the truth” as you unthinkingly grab for them. They spend the rest of their time making fun of those who disagree with them because they aren't “enlightened” as did the infamous Slyvia Browne―the grand-mère of modern charlatans.
Scam artists always use the standard and hackneyed “Kung Fu” enlightenment-speak―“Grasp-the-pebble-from-my-hand-Grasshopper” nonsense—and Stier constantly referred to himself in the third person which I find annoyingly pretentiousness. He also became annoyed when I didn't refer to him by the “title” bestowed upon by his “master.” Most Catholic priests won't belabor the point if a non-Catholic doesn't call them “Father.”
Like a true charlatan, Stier never answered my questions directly. In fact, he unsuccessfully tried to commandeer the conversation by interviewing me but I've had many years of dealing with charlatans and so am impervious to even their best attempts.
By his own admission, Stier focused his attacks on “So many disgruntled and ‘fallen away’ Catholics who have discovered and celebrated ‘Double Belonging’―a realization of their connection with the Risen Body of Christ and their ancient spiritual ancestors via the Mindfulness Meditation practice taught by the Buddha.”
If the goal was to “double-belonging,” I told Stier I'd gladly offer my services as a Christian catechist to make sure the participants of this “retreat” were actually belonging “doubly” rather than being Buddhist and simply giving lip service to Jesus.
The conversation ended very quickly.
And, to all of this obvious nonsense, I reply with Christ's words:
You cannot be a slave of two masters; you will hate one and love the other; you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Mat 6:24)
In recommending “double-belonging,” Stier is promoting a stifling pridefulness. People who want to accept both religions are now placing themselves as the judge of both traditions and final arbiter as to which parts will be filtered out. But, if one is good enough to judge what is and what isn't acceptable, then one clearly doesn’t need a guru―you are your own guru. But, if you are a guru, what do you have left to learn?
In addition, how does one rightfully chose which ideas to cobble together into a Franken-religion? It's impossible to reconcile reincarnation and Christ's Passion for the sake of our salvation. Why would Christ sacrifice Himself if we are automatically condemned to an infinite number of reincarnations until “we finally get it right?” Which one is embraced and which one is abandoned? I doubt Stier's retreatants give a great deal of thought involved in this one―reincarnation simply sounds cooler to those who want to believe in that nonsense.