Author Tags: Religion
Gabriola Island-based author of:
The Priest Who Left His Religion - In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality (Cowichan Bay: Influence Books, 2011)
From Catholic priest to spiritual cosmologist
from Gabriola Sounder
By Rachelle Stein-Wotten
At 31, with only $30 to his name, John Shields left the Catholic church after living in a religious community for 15 years. He grew up in a devout Irish Catholic family and became a priest, but dishonesty within the church led him to break away.
He has published a memoir on his journey from a religious man to his new spiritual identity. The Priest Who Left His Religion - In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality, launches Thursday, Dec. 8 at Mad Rona’s Coffee Bar, 7-9 p.m. John will give a talk followed by a Q-and-A.
In the 1960s, John was shocked at then Pope Paul VI’s betrayal of scientific insights into the Bible. John, along with others who believed in teaching these new perspectives, were told to leave the church. “When they gave me the choice of going back and teaching what I knew not to be true ... in integrity I couldn’t do that.
“So I left ... because the whole structure began to fall apart for me.”
He struggled to find a spiritual connection, but an image of the origin of the world released by NASA prompted a new way of thinking about his existence. “They suddenly had scientific evidence of the nature of the universe that human beings never had before and part of that was that [everyone is] deeply interconnected.
“Instead of a view of creation requiring a god to be in control of everything, [scientists discovered] that the universe is self-generating ... and expanding with purpose.”
Nevertheless, John sees flaws in both the religious perspective and the scientific, materialistic view and considers himself a “pioneer” in that he is bridging the gap between both areas of thought. He said his theological training and his immersion into the science of the last 20 years enables this.
John was president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union for 14 years. He has lived on Gabriola since 2007 and taught labour relations at VIU for the last three years. He’s recently retired and is moving to Victoria in the following months.
[Published in the Gabriola Sounder December 2011]