Answer from: Fr. Mike Bombak
I have a question about mediums/spiritists. My mother-in-law claims to be a medium. She has many times, “spoken with the dead”, on behalf of others. We, lovingly, engaged her on this, providing numerous scriptural references, explaining that it is forbidden.
As we are protestant (my wife and I), she just dismissed our references and stated that her Roman Catholic upbringing made clear that these activities were acceptable.
While I am aware that there are seven books in the Bible of Catholicism that is not in the protestant version, I have a hard time believing (and yes, I speak out of ignorance) that those seven books contradict the other condemnations of this activity.
To make things more muddled, she claims that a local Catholic priest condones her behavior. Although, we suspect that this “priest” is a figure she has made up to bolster her view.
Could you please clarify the Catholic doctrine concerning mediums/spiritists?
Thank you for your time
Thanks for your question! I’m happy you mentioned the keyword in your response of “lovingly” engaging her. It is always a difficult path to walk with loving correction. I hope that my answer can help you to “speak the truth in love” as St. Paul enjoins us to!
You are correct, the Scriptures are unanimous in condemning the practice of invoking spirits, sometimes called divination. The one which is probably easiest to point to and is common to both Bibles is Deuteronomy 18:10-12:
Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, and because of such abominations the LORD, your God, is dispossessing them before you.
As for the seven books in the Catholic Bible that are not in the Protestant version, there are no references that would allow for the practice consulting mediums.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone (CCC 2116).
So in other words, this practice and the others listed above remain wrong in that they forget that God is the Lord of life and death and seek to have power in a source who is not God. The evil one and his servants can take advantage of this desire for their own ends, and because of this, it should be avoided.
All this being said however, we Catholics (Eastern and Western) believe that our prayers are efficacious for those who have “fallen asleep in the Lord.” Our lives here are not the end of the story and so we sing “eternal memory,” a special prayer for the dead, asking God for His eternal remembrance of our departed loved ones. We also pray for the forgiveness of their sins in the hope that we will see them once again in the Lord’s coming Kingdom. Christ has destroyed death by His death and therefore we are given the possibility of not being separated from Him even in death, as well as the special obligation to pray for our family and friends who have died.
I hope this helps clarify things a little bit! Thanks for the question and God bless you and your family!