The Priest Who Left His Religion
In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality
The Priest Who Left His Religion follows the life of an ordained of a Catholic priest, idealistically destined by his American family prophecy to be the first American Pope. Ordained in 1965 he quickly becomes caught up by the reversals of the Second Vatican Council which attempt to undo many of the liberalizing movements of the Church. Most importantly he is shocked by the Church’s disavowal of scientific evidence in order to ‘protect the faithful’. Shattered by his discovery of the Church’s dishonesty, he experiences the torment of leaving the priesthood and the Church and embarks on a courageous struggle to make the shift from religion to spirituality. He comes to embrace a life in the world and a spirituality that confirms the union of science and spirit.
John Shields left the priesthood and entered life as a layman at the age of thirty-one with $30 in his pocket. But he quickly adapted to his new life in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, where he rose to become a leader in the Canadian labor union movement. During his intense career, Shields discovered an inner mythology that both guided him to do his best work and intensified his search for a higher consciousness. He became an environmentalist, joined the movement for cosmic spirituality, and eventually retired as the head of British Columbia’s largest union after successfully negotiating equitable salaries for women and instituting nondiscriminatory hiring practices—and by the time of his death in 2017, there was no one who had grown up in Victoria who didn’t know his name. When New York Times reporter Catherine Porter heard that Shields was suffering from a painful terminal illness and planned to become one of Canada’s first legally assisted suicides, she went to Victoria to meet him; she attended the wake Shields hosted for himself on the last day of his life and was present during his death. Porter’s story about Shields appeared on the Times’s front page on Sunday, May 25, 2017, under the headline: “At His Own Wake, Celebrating Life and the Gift of Death: Tormented by an incurable disease, John Shields knew that dying openly and without fear could be his legacy, if his doctor, friends and family helped him.” And they did.