Action Alert!

Website Review: Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.

A review based on:


Contemplative Outreach defines itself as "a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life through the practice of Centering Prayer. . . . We identify with the Christian Contemplative Heritage . . . and affirm our solidarity with the contemplative dimension of other religions and sacred traditions, with the needs and rights of the whole human family, and with all creation."

Fr. Thomas Keating is a monk, priest, and abbot, and is the founder of the Centering Prayer movement. It originated in St. Joseph's Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts. During the twenty years (1961-1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph's held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives. Keating went even further by inviting a Zen master to give a week-long retreat to the monks.

Centering prayer is not compatible with Catholic tradition; its techniques are neither Christian nor prayer. They are at the level of human faculties and as such are an operation of man, not of God. The deception and dangers can be grave. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned about the dangers of blending Christian prayer and Eastern methods of meditation (e.g., Zen, Transcendental Meditation and yoga). Although Some Aspects of Christian Meditation does not single out any persons or schools of thought by name, many of its warnings apply to the centering-prayer literature, including the writings of Abbot Keating and his spiritual disciple Father Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.

The Vatican also released the document called Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life. It specifically identifies the following as New Age: Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, Enneagram, Wicca, the Higher Self, the True Self, ALC's, the "god within," and TM (Transcendental Meditation).

The similarities between centering prayer and Transcendental Meditation are striking. "As an ex-TM mediator," says Fr. Finbarr Flanagan, O.F.M., "I find it hard to see any differences between centering prayer and Transcendental Meditation." Frs. Keating, Menninger, and Pennington authored centering prayer at a time when St. Joseph Abbey had received several retreats involving Eastern religions, including Transcendental Meditation. This involvement in eclecticism has continued. Fr. Pennington has not just attended an e.s.t (Erhard Sensitivity Training) session but has served on its board. Frs. Keating and Pennington gave endorsements, appearing on the dust jacket, for Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey in Christian Hermeticism. The tarot is a deck of cards used in fortune telling. Fr. Keating calls the book "the greatest contribution to date toward the rediscovery and renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition." Fr. Pennington says it is "without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read." Amity House, the publisher, is heavily New Age. The Library of Congress has classified the book under "occult sciences" and "cartomancy."

Review Ratings what do these ratings mean?

First Evaluated: 05/09/2006; Last Updated: 06/14/2012

  1. Fidelity: Danger!
  2. Resources: Fair
  3. Useability: Normal


None Reported.


  • Fidelity: Questionable links Example(s)
  • Fidelity: Questionable books Example(s)
  • Fidelity: Promotes religious indifferentism Example(s)
  • Fidelity: New Age spirituality Example(s)
  • Fidelity: Erroneous approach to contemplative prayer Example(s)
  • Fidelity: Implies that it is permitted to practice psychic powers under an "approved master" Example(s)


Issues > Cults/New Age
Catholicism > Spiritual Life

More Information

Contemplative Outreach Ltd.
10 Park Place, 2nd Floor, Suite 2B
Butler, NJ 07405
973-492-5795 (fax)
[email protected]

NB: All reviews are current as of the Evaluation or Update Date cited above. If you notice that a review contains information that is no longer accurate, please contact us and we will be happy to amend our review.