Buddhist Catholicism by John Cali

Does that title sound like a contradiction in terms? How can you be Buddhist and Catholic?

The Washington Post has been following the story of a Roman Catholic priest denying communion to a lesbian at her mother’s funeral. And then he walked out on the funeral mass. You can imagine the furor that set off.

Not only was the lady lesbian, but she was also straddling the religious fence between Catholicism and Buddhism. She felt at home in both camps.

Several publications had some fiery comments on the story, and raised interesting questions. Can you practice Catholicism and Buddhism at the same time? Is homosexuality morally wrong? Does any organization, religious or secular, have the right to dictate to its members what they can and cannot do in their private lives?

I grew up Roman Catholic. Back in those days we were taught only Catholics would be permitted into heaven. I know, I know — that sounds so awful in today’s more open spiritual environment. But we all believed it back then.

One of the articles covering this story cited a Pew poll showing 88 percent of white Catholics believed non-Christian religions can also lead to eternal life — not just the Catholic religion. A similar number of black and white Protestants said the same thing.

We have quite a few newsletter readers who are Christian, yet they embrace the teachings of my spirit guides. Most of my family do not. Some of them consider me a heretic, headed for you-know-where.

Is this the kind of spirituality and spiritual environment we want to be fostering today? An environment where we’re pitted against each other, where one side must be right and the other must be wrong?

As Spirit said to me recently, “Religion divides. Spirituality unites.”


Please share your thoughts with us below.

We welcome your comments and thoughtful opinions. Please keep them kind and compassionate. If needed, we’ll edit for clarity. Also, we’ll delete anything we consider inappropriate.

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15 Responses

  1. Joanne Pons

    Hello John,

    Thank you for your thought provoking blog article. I was also raised as a Roman Catholic in a very tight knit Italian family in Chicago. After marrying my French fiancé (we were pen pals) and moving to France 38 years ago I received a big eye opener as part of my cultural shock. Religion and lifestyle are the two things no one should ever tell you how to live. They are personal and and private choices that are no one’s business, least of all religious authorities. Respect and tolerance is sorely missing in some parts of American Catholic society. Neither force nor guilt should be used as the ultimate “raison d’être.” (reason for being) when making choices. As such, personal religious beliefs and lifestyles are protected by law in the French Republic. Most of the population has a healthy Voltaire-like attitude concerning authorities, especially religious, that is, to mistrust any authority that feels obliged to tell you how to live your life. You and you alone are responsible for your choices. Liberty is being able to live one’s life choices freely, not with side blinders like those found on race horses.

    Judgement will get no one anywhere; it belongs to God and God alone. However, tolerance and acceptance of differences, be it religion and/or lifestyle, will go very far. I personally know many who have chosen to live like the young woman in your blog article, both in religious beliefs and in lifestyles; they are happy and at peace with everyone. When the French get together three privately respected topics are never discussed: one’s religion or personal beliefs, one’s lifestyle and one’s salary.

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
    Voltaire (1694-1778)

    Best wishes and spring blessings,

    • John Cali

      Thanks so much, Joanne, for your most thoughtful comments. I did not realize the French were so different from us Americans in the ways you mention. I think they could show us a thing or two about “live and let live.” I love that quote from Voltaire!

      Thanks again.


  2. Judith Anderson

    I find this a fascinating topic as I had three Catholic grandparents, as well as many other family members, my parents were scientific atheists, and if pressed, I identify myself as a Buddhist as of all the major religions that is the only one that really resonates with me.

    I do not really like Religious definitions as I consider myself to be a spiritual person instead of a religious one, non-adherence to any specific theology, and I am a Universalist Minister, my ministry being counseling of bereaved parents. I find it best to accept whatever belief system the people who come to me have so I can try to help them deal with grief through their own belief structures.

    I do not see Science and Spirituality as mutually exclusive at all.

    I do realize that I see everything through my own lens and must remain open to differences. It has also been my experience that many others react as I do – assuming that whatever truth has come to me is THE TRUTH and that through usually good intentions people who have found their truth then want to share/impose it on others.

    I know that my truth of today is not what it was last week, and that the further distant I become the more that truth has changed.

    We live in very different realities.

    At present I am dealing with a group of dear friends who believe that evil space aliens have had a many millennia plot to take over and destroy Earth.

    It does me no good to say that we are all sparks of God expressing and that there is no conscious evil force and God is Love, because it falls on deaf ears who enjoy the battle between good and evil.

    So, my conclusion of the moment is that these dear ones really do live in a Universe with evil space aliens and a devil and that I simply inhabit a different Universe without them, and somehow we are bleeding through and visiting each other’s realities.


    • John Cali

      Thank you, Judith, for your wise comments. Neither do I see science and spirituality as mutually exclusive. I agree that we all live in whatever reality, or belief system, we create for ourselves. As Seth once said, there was an alternate end to World War II where the world was destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. But not everyone experienced that end.


  3. anny

    I grew up as a Protestant with at first no contact to any other church even. Of course we were the one true church, which we seem to have shared with just about everybody else. Later I got into contact with other churches and then with Judaism and still later Islam. That was very enriching so when I started my search, I searched for the truth within religion, any religion, instead of for the true religion, which does not exist.
    Still later I also learned about Hinduism and got into contact with Buddhism when our son married a Buddhist girl in Vietnam. I know that Thich Nhat Hanh, of whom you showed a video in one of your blogs, advises Vietnamese young people of whom one is a Buddhist and the other a Catholic, to raise their children in both traditions. He himself studied theology in the USA and keeps an image of both Buddha and Christ on his altar. He calls Jesus and Buddha brothers who came to earth in different places and different times but more or less taught the same things. I totally agree.
    Even if you are still a member of one of the religions it is so enriching to see how others deal with the subjects that are important in your own religion. It gives you a much broader view on things.
    As far as posing Religion and Spirituality opposite each other, I am not sure I totally agree. When taken in their pure form I think both of them are splendid but man being man, we always seem to be able to spoil a good thing. This certainly happened to religions, I think almost all of them, but I think that spirituality also has been misused (if that is the correct term) by some.



    • John Cali

      Thank you, Anny, for your comments. I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice — to raise your children in both traditions — Buddhist and Catholic.

      I don’t expect everyone to agree with Spirit’s comment that “Religion divides. Spirituality unites.” As you said, “When taken in their pure form…both of them are splendid….” I do agree with you on that.

      Perhaps where Spirit was coming from in that comment was their awareness that I was raised in a conservative Catholic tradition, which was very exclusive and divisive. In hindsight these many years later, I cannot believe that kind of religion, Catholic or any other, does anything but divide us.

      Thanks again, Anny.


      • anny

        I do agree that Spirit’s statement about religion and spirituality must have been made within the context you mention. In a sense that is true about most of the statements people make too. I think we should be aware of that more.



  4. Jeannie

    I have never understood the concept of heaven and hell. In heaven everything is perfect. That could prove boring. In hell, you are in constant pain and suffering for deeds whether you did them or thought them……..that sounds rather mean. Where would redemption come in?

    to me living in the now contains both heaven and hell as we perceive our life to be. Don’t have to make a transition of leaving your body…..your there wherever you believe you are to be. Life being eternal we choose where we are, when we are and it is how we deem ourselves whether it is heaven and hell. The key to the locks on both doors is in our thoughts , beliefs and expectations.

    good topic!

    love and hugs

  5. Shirl

    Very well said, Stephanie. I so totally agree: spirituality is love of self. . .love of all
    And indeed we are all ONE.

    Hugs and blessings

  6. Stephanie

    “Religion divides. Spirituality unites.” .. pretty much says it all.

    If we all are creations of the one God/Source .. then we are all equally loved and valued.
    We are as loved and valued as we BELIEVE ourselves to be.
    Unfortunately … many religions teach us to feel vulnerable, dependent and judgmental of self and others.

    I love that the emphasis of spirituality is love of self .. love of all … because we are all from the ONE.

    • John Cali

      Thank you very much, Stephanie, for your comments. You said it perfectly — “spirituality is love of self .. love of all … because we are all from the ONE.”


  7. Shirl

    Although I didn’t consciously know it at the time, I began a very serious spiritual quest and study when I was a teen by first intensely and thoroughly studying the religion I was raised in. Once I found enough inconsistencies and unsatisfactory answers to my ever growing questions, I moved on to a study of all major religions.

    By the time I was 30 I was convinced we all associated our spirituality or religious feelings with the same Higher Being, the same “God,” I then became much more allowing of all others’ beliefs and choices of spiritual fulfillment. Once I arrived at that space I became very deeply driven to discover a spiritual path that felt “right” for me, one that would offer me the fulfillment I needed and wanted in my life.

    So now from these very many years of perspective I can say that I have spent my entire lifetime searching for that connection to source that sustains me and directs my purpose in this life. I had no idea as a teenager that is what it would become, but I have been abundantly blessed by my searching, studying and seeking the higher truths that speak to me.

    So can one find satisfaction and personal truth in Buddhism and Christianity at the same time? Absolutely. One can find many combinations of practice that may satisfy their desire and need for spiritual connection. All religions. . . .ALL RELIGIONS have elements of truth in them. One must discern for themselves what those truths are and be open and aware of where those truths may lead them. No one can give them to you by edict, nor tell you what is truth for you. There is NO ONE GREAT TRUTH WRITTEN IN STONE anywhere about anything. We are evolving beings in an evolving Universe. . .there will ever be newer, higher perspectives to reach for and grasp as they speak to our deepest spiritual being.

    The wonderful and exciting thing about this journey (for me) is that wherever expanding consciousness leads there is a new understanding and a greater perspective of all things and that expansion is eternal. . . never ending. One could call this a total focus on the spiritual, but I will tell you what I have learned is that IT IS ALL SPIRITUAL. There is not an everyday, physical, 3d, mundane human life and then a separate spiritual life. IT IS ALL SPIRITUAL. We are indeed Spiritual Beings having a human experience, nothing is not connected to our spiritual existence. Spirit is truly all there is and it is never ending and forever.

    One of my favorite sayings: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

    Blessings and hugs

    • John Cali

      Thank you very much, Shirl. My early spiritual path pretty much parallels yours. It was many years later I discovered the truth of what you said — ” All religions. . . .ALL RELIGIONS have elements of truth in them.” And “IT IS ALL SPIRITUAL.” Amen! 🙂

      Big hugs,

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