A funny thing happened on the way to publishing this column. I discovered that the person I was writing about, a former-priest who had authored a series of books about the healing power of meditation and prayer, had been credibly named as a child molester.
His name is Ron Roth and he served as a priest for 25 years, primarily in the Catholic Church Archdiocese and Dioceses of Illinois. A self-described mystic, he once appeared on “The Joan Rivers Show” and knew the spiritual author Caroline Myss, who wrote the introduction to one of his books. He later formed an independent ministry where he served until his death at age 71 in 2009.
Doing a Google search of Ron Roth to try and determine why he left the priesthood, I found his name in a local 1993 news report, where he was accused of sexually abusing two children. I then found him listed in a shockingly large compendium of clergy sex abusers in Illinois, published in 2019, where additional incidents of abuse are reported. (Link here, see page 104.) Which got me wondering…
Is it possible to separate the teacher from the teachings?
The past half-century is littered with gurus and clergy, spiritual teachers and religious leaders, who have abused their positions of power, betraying their calling and harming the very people they should have been serving. Most despicable is the sexual abuse of children, a plague in the Catholic Church I once called home.
Yet, when we look at these miscreants, in some cases we must ask: do the spiritual lessons they taught still have merit? Is the message spoiled because the messenger is rotten? Ultimately, you, the reader must be the judge of that, but in Roth’s case, it may be worth trying to separate the teachings from the teacher.
Roth believed there was a common thread that ran through all religions. That thread is a “Divine light” that radiates within all of us, regardless of our race, age, sex or faith. By tapping into this light/energy, we have direct access to the “Divine Source” or God and the love that God has to bestow upon us. Writing in his 1997 book The Healing Path of Prayer, Roth explains:
The essence of God is light; the essence of God is energy. So when God said, “Let there be light,” He created from the essence of his own being a process through which all of creation would contain the essence and the life of God. Through the spoken word, energy was created. Everything created from that point on was created out of light, out of energy.
While Roth believed in the power of prayer, he also believed that meditation provided us with an alternate way to connect us with the light of the Divine. For Roth, the light/energy is “all around us and we haven’t tapped into it.” He claimed that when we learn to tap into this energy through prayer or meditation, “it will work wonders” for us.
What follows is a lightly edited version of one of Roth’s meditations, a way to access the energy and light of God he writes about. While unnamed in the book, I’m calling it:
The 10-Step “Loving God” Meditation
- Gently close your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths and release yourself from the thoughts and concerns of your day.
- Spend a few minutes focusing on your breath as a way of grounding yourself, observing your breath coming in and out of your body. As you breathe in, you breathe in the light and breath of God. As you exhale, the light is returned to the world.
- When you have settled in, begin to envision a glowing light surrounding your heart. Think of that light as the essence and presence of God.
- Envision this merciful and loving light of God moving through every part of your body, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your torso, your legs, your feet, your eyes, your ears, your throat, the crown of your head, until your whole body is engulfed in light.
- As your body is being flooded with light, envision your entire being engulfed by the energy that is the love and mercy of God.
- Imagine a powerful ray of light moving from the center of your body to the top of your head and out your body. You are now in the very presence of God whose spirit is everywhere.
- Allow the spirit of God to conjure up someone in your life who is in need of love or prayer. Imagine the light surrounding that person with the presence of God which is light.
- Continue to allow the Holy Spirit of God, the breath of life, to engulf you. Feel that the energy is coming to you. Allow the spirit to fill you with light.
- Allow that light, the presence of God, to move out of you. As it energizes and heals others, it returns to you.
- When you are done, take 3 deep breaths. Remain quiet for a few moments as you let God love you. Open your eyes.
Was Ron Roth a charlatan? Or simply a broken, damaged man who, while having the ability to write and preach convincingly about the power of prayer, had sinister urges he could not control? Is it possible that great goodness and great evil can simultaneously exist in the same person? Did his double life, one that swung between light and deep darkness, trouble him? If he was alive and confronted today, what would he have to say?