A Questionable Catechist and Spiritual Guide

Philip St. Romain has been a well-known writer specializing in "Personal Growth Issues" and has served as an assistant director of the Religious Studies Program at the 'Spiritual Life Center' in Wichita, Kansas. He has taught such courses as "Living Together, Loving Together", providing the opportunity for married couples to focus on their relationships, with discussions on such topics as communication, personality types, spirituality, sexuality, and daily living.

Before he moved to Wichita from his native Louisiana, he had his own non-profit corporation, "Personal Growth Services", and began a career as an author with such books and booklets as "Preparing the Daily Gospels: A Guide to Meditation"; "Becoming a New Person"; "Twelve Steps to Christian Growth"; "Catholic Answers to Fundamentalists' Questions"; "How To Form a Christian Growth Support Group"; "Faith and Doubt Today"; and "Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality".

This last book has an introduction by Centering Prayer' advocate Thomas Keating who commends the author for his experience of the Kundalini phenomenon which is known to practitioners of yoga and various forms of New Age spirituality. As an acclaimed expert on "Wellness and Holistic Health", St. Romain himself leaves no doubt that New Age teachings and practices can be beneficial to "discerning, discriminating Christians" and that "Fundamentalist Catholics" resist the "Growth Experiences" he has found so rewarding.

Some of his books and booklets have sold over 200,000 copies though he has not escaped controversy regarding his views on the New Age Movement, Centering Prayer, the Enneagram, and certain Catholic doctrines.

As a spiritual guide, St. Romain has strongly favored Christians utilizing:

  1. Transpersonal Psychology,
  2. Jungian Psychology,
  3. Twelve Step spirituality,
  4. the Women's Movement,
  5. Transcendental Meditation,
  6. the Enneagram,
  7. and a "macrobiotic diet".

Whatever positive elements may be found in these non-Christian techniques and methods, one may doubt that St. Romain has been himself sufficiently critical and discerning in evaluating practices which can be more of a danger than an "enrichment" to Christian spirituality. In 1992 he wrote that:

"It may well be... that a fearful bigotry and judgmentalism toward the New Age is as bad as the New Age itself. Many good Christians are being condemned these days because they are associated with the New Age. This is wrong — even unchristian!
Something of a "witch-hunt" mentality can be found in certain circles like Catholics United for the Faith. Anyone associated with New Age is soundly condemned — often without a hearing. Conspiracy theories are formulated. Paranoia abounds! Obsession with being dogmatically correct follows, giving birth to a polemic, triumphalistic spirit. These reactionary tendencies are as harmful to Christian spirituality as many New Age practices".
(Statement issued at the 'Spiritual Life Center', Diocese of Wichita)

Mr. St. Romain must have swallowed hard upon reading Pope John Paul II's warnings directed against gullible Catholics uncritically accepting New Age concepts:

New Age ideas sometimes find their way into preaching, catechesis, workshops and retreats, and influence even practicing Catholics, who perhaps are unaware of the incompatibility of those ideas with the Church's faith. In their syncretistic and immanent outlook, these para-religious movements pay little heed to Revelation, and instead try to come to God through knowledge and experience based on elements borrowed from Eastern spirituality or from psychological techniques. They tend to relativize religious doctrine, in favor of a vague world view expressed as a system of myths and symbols dressed in religious language.
(Address to U.S. Bishops, May 28,1993)

It is in his widely circulated booklet "Catholic Answers to Fundamentalist' Questions" (Liguorian Press 1984, with Imprimatur) that anyone can see "Human Potential psychology" and "neo-Modernist theology" have adversely affected St. Romain's presentation of the Church's infallibility, the obligation of conscience to assent to Magisterial teachings, and what constitutes orthodox Christian spirituality.

  • He asserts the supremacy of conscience over the Magisterium of the Church as justification for dissent on page 20.
  • Not only does he allege that all of the early churches of the Catholic communion did not submit to the authority of the Bishop of Rome (page 18) but he expresses his pleasure that:

"The Catholic clergy and laity discuss the doctrine of infallibility very seldom. It is important that a Catholic recognize the special role of the Pope in shepherding the Church, but it is unlikely that good or bad standing would ever hinge solely upon the issue. There is much more involved in being a faithful Catholic than understanding the doctrine of infallibility in all its profound ramifications and giving formal assent to it."
(page 21)

Shades of Hans Küng and other dissenters!   But wait, there is more.

  • The Church's doctrine of Original Sin is gravely undermined with St. Romain's conviction that "God's love and grace are with us from the first moment of our existence" (p. 31).
  • The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is jeopardized by such ambiguous statements as "A very important point about Real Presence is that it is not limited to the Mass and, at Mass, is not limited to Christ present as bread and wine." (p. 34)
  • St. Romain thinks that a "healthier Christology" is at work when "more Catholics than ever are turning directly to Jesus in prayer instead of going through Mary and other saints." (p. 44)
  • He asserts that "the fall (of the human race) came through two people only is not an essential part of the Church's understanding of Divine Revelation." (p. 48)
  • He has no hesitation to heartily recommend dissident Richard P. McBrien's 'Catholicism' as "a thorough review of Catholic beliefs and history; highly readable to the lay person as well as the scholar". (p. 60)
    (Our readers are aware that McBrien's major work 'Catholicism' has been twice severely censured by the U.S. Bishops.)

As should be apparent, Philip St. Roamin's competence as a catechist and spiritual guide leaves much to be desired. If some have ventured to question the defective catechesis and "therapeutic spirituality" in evidence at the 'Spiritual Life Center' in Wichita, it is because they have rightly sensed that the Center has been a source of doctrinal syncretism and spiritual confusion for area Catholics.

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage