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What goes on in the Church?

Much, these days. Historic canonizations. Winds of change. U.N. panels.

Anyway, a few issues come to us in the mailbag. One such:

In the U.S., we still struggle with the issue of selling Church property, including old churches that in some cases have been transformed into secular use, even in one instance a nightclub, or, as in the Diocese of Albany, New York, Buddhist prayer centers.

We're told that a former Catholic retreat house at the top of a hill overlooking the major but financially-desperate Shrine to the North American Martyrs in Auriesville was sold to a Buddhist-based guru. The Buddhist group also owns what once was St. Casmir's Church in nearby Amsterdam, New York.

We're not out to besmirch other religions. Good people -- very good people -- are involved in various approaches to belief. Only God judges. And there are certain moral truths and guidelines in most major religions. Our Popes have prayed with those of other faith, including Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, focusing on what they have in common instead underscoring the stark differences.

But the Catholic Church is built on the Rock of Peter (the Vatican was literally constructed on Saint Peter's ossified bones), and other approaches can have inherent and even serious problems -- particularly if there is the use of a "mantra" (invoking a "god" or "goddess') or esoteric energies (magic) and most notably if a religion does not acknowledge Jesus as Son of God.

In the Albany area, the "holy master" is Ziguang Shang Shi, also known as Lucas Wang, leader of the World Peace and Health Organization. According to the Albany Times-Union, "[In 2002], Wang said God appeared to him in another dream and said his true home should be mountains in the northeastern United States. On a visit to New York, Wang recognized the Amsterdam area from the prophecy and soon moved his community across the country. When Wang settled in Montgomery County, he purchased the former retreat house at Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. The community maintained a quiet presence and purchased two Catholic churches in Amsterdam -- the former St. Michael's Church, for $100,000" (as well as the former St. Casimir's Church for $180,000).

"Holy Ziguang Shang Shi set up the Western Shrine in Upstate New York as a base for training qualified preachers and instructors who can help to disseminate Buddhism and benefit people in the world, and founded Guang Huan Mi Zong Buddhism Research Institute for those who are interested in Buddhism and pursuing a cultivation path towards enlightenment," says a website devoted to this technique, which is described as almost miraculous.

We are not out to attack Buddhists. But isn't there a better way to deal with financially-strapped parishes -- and shrines? Auriesville is a huge shrine associated with four canonized saints -- and yet is all but destitute. Yes, there are parishes in nearly abandoned inner-city neighborhoods that no longer come close to being able to support a church. But can't we find a use that keeps them in the Catholic fold? These places have been consecrated. They are on hallowed ground. In Youngstown, New York, Our Lady of Fatima Shrine is languishing.

[see also: Are Hindu gods Divine manifestations?]

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Philadelphia-New Jersey]

[Michael Brown's books]

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