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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Can Catholics attend seances?/Why can they pray to dead saints?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
                                  and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Short answer: no, Catholics cannot attend seances. 

Slightly longer answer: Seances are an attempt to conjure the dead, which the Catholic Church has always condemned.

From the Catechism:
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

Peter Kreeft in his book Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven says the reason for “this stricture is probably protection against the danger of deception by evil spirits. We are out of our depth, our knowledge, and our control once we open the doors to the supernatural. The only openings that are safe for us are the ones God has approved: revelation, prayer, His own miracles, sacraments, and primarily Christ Himself…The danger is not physical but spiritual, and spiritual danger always centers on deception.”

So the question may arise:  how is it that the Church does not condemn praying to saints?  Is that not "conjuring up the dead"? 

The answer lies in our intentions.  If we are intending to conjure up the dead through, for example, a seance, or the Ouija board, in an attempt to manipulate knowledge and gain information, we are forbidden to do this. 

Praying to saints is simply giving honor to one of God's friends and asking for their intercession. Not to mention, in praying to saints we do not have the expectation of hearing from them and enjoying a dialogue with those who have passed on; while in conjuring up the dead, there is that expectation.

That provides a nice segue into another objection to praying to saints made by some Protestants:  how can the saints hear millions of prayers at the same time? Doesn't that make them omnipotent?  And isn't only God omnipotent?

The simple answer comes from Scripture: "For nothing is impossible with God!"--Luke 1:37. If God wishes to give the saints the power to hear millions of prayers, why couldn't he?  God can empower his saints in heaven with knowledge beyond their natural abilities.  He has done this on earth multiple times (see the numerous Scriptural references* to God granting human beings with supernatural knowledge); he can certainly do it for his beloved saints in heaven!

*Daniel in the OT was given "special knowledge" of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream
*Peter in the NT was given the gift of knowing that Ananias had retained part of his alms-giving for himself, and was struck dead.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Sunday, December 11, 2011

30 second apologetics: What does the word "until" mean in Scripture?

So we're going to hear it sometime during the Christmas Masses:  St. Matthew's gospel says that Joseph "had no relations with her UNTIL she bore a son."

And it will inevitably prompt the question from those who object to the Church's teaching on Mary's perpetual virginity:  why does the Church teach that Mary remained a virgin when it says specifically in Scripture that she and Joseph "had relations"?

In light of  the second reading a few Sundays ago, I thought I'd revisit  this question.

From 1 Corinthians:  For he must reign UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Clearly, when we read this verse we understand that the Scriptures are not saying that Jesus reigns at one point, and then when he has "put all his enemies under his feet", he reigns no more.  There's not a Christian around who believes that the word "until" here indicates a change in an event subsequently. 

Thus, this verse demonstrates that the word "until", at least in Biblical language, is not an indicator of anything happening subsequently, but only verifies a statement before the preposition.

And that is how we are to understand the verse in Matthew. St. Matthew was illustrating a very important point:  Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph.  That is the point of the verse. Not what happened between Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth.