Ask A Priest

Russians using chickens for divination.

About fifteen years ago I was answering questions to a Winnipeg Archdiocesan website entitled “Ask a Priest”.   I found this an interesting and perceptive question:

 I understand it is against Catholic teaching to contact spirits  or act as mediums. What I don’t understand is what we are indeed doing then by speaking and communicating to both the angels and the dead saints?  By calling on the saints are we not asking for their help here on earth in the same way a medium would do?

Here was my answer:

To pray to saints and guardian angels is quite different from trying to contact spirits through a medium. The latter implies recourse to magic or sorcery such as seeking to conjure up the dead or “other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.”  This is specifically forbidden as are all forms of divination in the Catholic Catechism (see ## 2116-2117)

What is wrong is the desire to seek to control  others or possess a knowledge of the future or tame the occult. Prayer is always submission to God and His will, the latter desire is not.

Jacob wrestles with an angel. Source:

Please note the difference in the situation where God, angels or saints may in rare situations communicate with people on earth directly as we see in the Bible through visions or locutions. That is quite different from persons on earth seeking to “conjure up” communication with others beyond the grave.

We see this clearly condemned in the Old Testament passage where Saul through a medium conjures up the dead spirit of Samuel.( I Samuel 28).

Peter Monty, SJ is Chaplain for the Deaf in Ottawa.

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