The complicated connection between religion and the paranormal
Dear Father | Belief in the paranormal is no substitute for true religion
What is the Church’s teaching on the paranormal? Do ghosts or other spirits exist?
Msgr. Matthew Mitas' answer:
When you speak of the "paranormal," you're using an umbrella term that covers many things, including occultism, divination, necromancy, spiritism, Satanism, fetishism, theosophy and outright witchcraft, all of which the Church condemns as either fraudulent or destructive of the soul.
Usually a person involves himself in these things as a substitute for true religion. In true religion, God is recognized as the Lord whom all must serve. The pride that prevents us from bending our stiff necks in homage to Him drives many to seek other gods, false gods, not to serve them but to be served by them. In true religion, the believer says: "Thy will be done." In a false religion, he says: "My will be done." In other words, they are forms of idolatry and a direct violation of the First Commandment.
A spirit is, by definition, a being with intellect and will but without any kind of physical form or substance. Of course, the Church believes in them. God is a spirit, the human soul is a spirit, angels are spirits. Devils, too. Whereas God and the angels never had bodies, our souls are attached to one, making us an interesting hybrid: part animal, part angel. One day, our souls will disjoin from our bodies. That, in fact, is how we define death: the soul's departure from the body. We also believe that at the end of time, our bodies and souls will rejoin, becoming like the glorified figure of the Risen Christ.
The word ghost is now often used to name a disembodied spirit made visible to men. If that were as far as it went, then the Church does acknowledge their existence, inasmuch as there is strong evidence of instances in which a canonized saint appeared to someone still alive, usually to deliver a teaching or warning. This would be by a singular action of Providence to accomplish His own purpose. All too often, however, it's a term given over to wild tales of hauntings and infestations by the restless souls of the unhappily demised. Such things make for great entertainment, but they don't pass theological muster.
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