Every Sunday Z has a Sunday Faith Post on her blog GeeeeeZ!. This Sunday she asked the question, do you believe in ghosts? Or Spirits?
There is at least one reason that I do believe in ghosts. The first is because I grew up near a haunted forest, the Pocomoke Forest in Md, and some eerily creepy experiences when visiting there. After thinking a bit I wondered what the Church has to say on ghosts. Secondly, after reading on what the Church teaches on ghosts or Spirits it totally makes sense that spirits exist.
Jimmy Akin says the following on ghosts:
- “Ghost” is simply the German-derived equivalent of the Latin-derived word “Spirit.” That’s why the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the Holy Ghost. Originally in English “ghost” and “spirit” referred to the same thing. Indeed, in German the word for “spirit” is still “geist.” Rather than get hung up on semantics, we may wish to analyze claims about ghosts in terms of what we know about spirits.
- First, spirits exist. This is a truth of the faith.
- Second, spirits can sometimes manifest themselves to those in this life, as in the apparitions of the saints.
- Third, there are even reports in Catholic history that spirits in purgatory have–by God’s will–occasionally manifested themselves to those on earth. In these cases, those on earth may see the spirits experiencing their purgation in some way.
- Therefore, if these reports are true, God may at times allow spirits to manifest to those on earth in a way that might lead folks to describe them as “ghosts.”
On Catholic Answers someone asked, What’s the Catholic Theory Behind Such Phenomena as Ghosts? Peggy Frye gave an answer quoting Peter Kreeft in his book Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven.
First, the Church forbids us to conjure up the dead (Catechism 2116-2117). Peter Kreeft in his book Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven (pgs 34-35) 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.”
“Nevertheless, without our action or invitation, the dead often do appear to the living. There is enormous evidence of “ghosts” in all cultures. What are we to make of them?” He goes on to say “We can distinguish three kinds of ghosts, I believe. First, the most familiar kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones. They seem to be working out some unfinished earthly business, or suffering some purgatorial purification until released from their earthly business. These ghosts would seem to be the ones who just barely made it to Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to learn many painful lessons about their past lives on earth.
Second, there are malicious and deceptive spirits—and since they are deceptive, they hardly ever appear malicious. These are probably the ones who respond to conjurings at seances. They probably come from Hell. Even the chance of that happening should be sufficient to terrify away all temptations to necromancy.”
“Third, there are bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family, especially spouses, who appear unbidden, at God’s will, not ours, with messages of hope and love. They seem to come from Heaven. Unlike the purgatorial ghosts who come back primarily for their own sakes, these bright spirits come back for the sake of us the living, to tell us all is well. They are aped by evil spirits who say the same, who speak ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace’. But the deception works only one way: the fake can deceive by appearing genuine, but the genuine never deceives by appearing fake. Heavenly spirits always convince us that they are genuinely good. Even the bright spirits appear ghost like to us because a ghost of any type is one whose substance does not belong in or come from this world. In Heaven these spirits are not ghosts but real, solid and substantial because they are at home there: One can’t be a ghost in one’s own country.”
“That there are all three kinds of ghosts is enormously likely. Even taking into account our penchant to deceive and be deceived, our credulity and fakery, there remain so many trustworthy accounts of all three types of ghosts – trustworthy by every ordinary empirical and psychological standard – that only a dogmatic prejudice against them could prevent us from believing they exist. As Chesterton says, ‘We believe an old apple woman when she says she ate an apple; but when she says she saw a ghost, we say ‘But she’s only an old apple woman.’ A most undemocratic and unscientific prejudice.”
The blog Imprimatur! quotes from Exorcism and the Church Militant by Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer:
“Most pagan societies believe in the separation of the soul from the body and an afterlife. This includes the idea that souls may “linger” after death due to “unfinished business” such as unbroken attachments to the earth, to unreconciled relationships or to the affairs of men that supposedly last beyond the grave. In this view, the souls can be benign or malicious; often pagan traditions of ancestor worship or appeasement of the dead are the result of these beliefs.
“The Roman Catholic belief is categorically different from these pagan beliefs, however. The theological tradition concerning souls in purgatory is based on the belief that bodily death constitutes a definitive entrance into an afterlife which is either a temporal purification followed by heaven, or an eternal damnation. Thus, for Catholics there is no such thing as a “lingering” or “wandering” soul who has “not cut the bonds of this earthly life.” For Catholics, there is another way to explain these things than the standard pagan reasoning.
“A strong theological tradition recognizes that deceased human souls can and do visit the living after death for various reasons and in various modes. It is clear that this is only done “according to the disposition of Divine providence” and not as a common occurrence. St. Thomas Aquinas says that “separated souls sometimes come forth from their abode and appear to men…”, and this can be both for “intimidation” (i.e., damned souls) or for “instruction” (i.e., redeemed souls). He also claims that souls may appear to others “in order to seek our suffrages” (i.e., souls in purgatory). Such apparitions can also be due to a special intervention into the human sphere by a demon creating a deception or an angel appearing in human form to communicate a message.
“Some people call these various apparitions “ghosts.” In light of the tradition above, these can be either disembodied human souls or evil spirits. In Catholic thought, however, if such appearances happen, they are always limited and marked by truth, simplicity and utter clarity to distinguish a holy apparition from a demonic one, which is always marked by confusion, discord, chaos, fear and anxiety. Thus, there is no strictly theological basis for believing that there are souls “wandering” around in the world communicating with loved ones, or “haunting” places, but Catholics do believe that the deceased can appear after death in a strictly limited fashion and only with God’s permission for some greater reason.
“What has been absolutely forbidden by the Church from the beginning is the attempt to conjure deceased souls from the grave or to communicate with the dead, a dark art known as necromancy. This prohibition is from Scripture. In the Christian tradition, we honor the dead and pray for them- we even consider ourselves in communion with them- but we do not conjure them up or attempt to dialogue with them. All such practices open us up to demonic deception and infestation.”
After seeing a few Catholic perspectives on ghosts and whether they exist I have one question: Do you believe in ghosts or spirits?